Thursday, June 26, 2008

You don't have to do drugs to practice Wicca

I was accidentally watching the 700 club yesterday, and they ran a story about a former Wiccan who had turned back to Christianity:

I never watch the 700 club on purpose, I had just finished watching the previous show and hadn't changed the channel yet. They aired a teaser about a Wiccan who had become Christian, so I stayed to hear her story, curious to see how they would portray "all Witches". This lady had a series of hardships in her life, along with bouts of depression and drug and alcohol abuse, and finally decided to "get right with God" after becoming involved with a man that would only stay if she converted to Christianity. So, she of course, was telling her conversion story to a bunch of Christians.

While I was watching this episode, I wondered how it was that I have practiced Wicca for 5 years, and I have NEVER smoked marijuana or tried cocaine, or have even made friends of those who do these things. I think the last time I had an alcoholic beverage was over New Year's Eve, and I'll probably throw back 2-3 Smirnoff's during the entire Fourth of July weekend coming up. I have teen children, and they trust me to set the moral example for them. I practice magic using candles, incense and chants. I also allow each of my children to attend the Christian church of their choice, or none at all. They attend Vacation Bible School with several different friends and come back with several interpretations of Christianity. They ask me questions about the life of Jesus, and why this group believes in the Trinity, and this other one does not. Only two of my children have ever expressed any interest in my practice, and I have only answered their questions, being careful not to press my personal views.

I would be satisfied if my children could find happiness in a Christian setting. I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with any suggestion that true Christians have less strife, less anxiety and depression, and less likelihood of drug or alcohol abuse. I am dismayed that a Christian program portrays all Wiccans as drug abusers, alcoholics, or becoming involved with demonic entities and "selling their souls". It's a fear tactic. It's baseless. I have no interest at all in drugs or dangerous practices like participation in orgies or harming animals during a ritual. These things are just not widely accepted or practiced in the Wiccan communities. Those people that do these things are covering up depression, running from stress or abusive relationships, or are interested in controlling and manipulating others. That's not everyone in Wicca. That's just a small slice, just like there are similar people of Christian faith who also do these things to escape or control others.

I don't even really believe Sheila (or Shalom, as she is called now) really ever was Wiccan. The life she described isn't remotely what Wicca is about, and if she really was a Witch, she wouldn't have given up her self-direction and sovereignty to keep a man. In my point of view, she gave up her true identity to conform to the will of this man's family, and to gain acceptance within the family structure. She sold out, to become the subservient wife in the Christian model.

I was raised Mormon, so I don't have much of a traditional background of Christianity to work from. But I've read books on Gnosticism, studied many theories related to Mary Magdalene as a priestess and a Goddess woman, and even came to understand how the Bible became to be the so-called "word of God". I know that it is an evolved work, changed and rearranged over the centuries, and that it is presented in a way that makes it appear complete. From the very first two chapters of Genesis, I can exclude myself from the binding laws of the Hebrew God, and it is exemplified in an essay written by Oberon Zell, titled "We are the Other People".

I have little faith that every Christian has taken the time to study opposing views and come to the rational decision to chose Christianity. An easy comparison between Jesus, Mithras, and Osiris can be found here. And just the simple fact that there are thousands of denominations of Christianity that actually compete with each other for the number of souls and the amount of offerings generated each year should be enough to at least consider the ol' "what's in it for them" question. I live in a small town of less than 5,000 people, yet sitting here at my desk I can think of at least 15 active "Christian" churches. If everyone went to church, that's about 333 people per church. If everyone gave a dollar each Sunday, then the pastor is making $8.32 an hour for a 40 hour week. That's if ALL 5000 people in this town picked a church and if EVERY man woman and child paid a dollar to do it. So the competition is stiff, to say the least. And the Christians are the biggest fear monger religion (save the radical Muslims) in the world today.

Nothing I have ever experienced with Wicca would even come close to the sense of fear and dread and anxiety that I experienced while I was a Mormon, and even when I was a Baptist child until I was 13. Every sermon, every lesson, every Sunday School Coloring Book was about the fear of Hell, the description of the Devil, the traps that have been set to lure you away from God, the constant review and expungence of sin, and the stress of worrying whether I was good enough, doing enough, contributing enough, striving enough, and practicing enough for God to eventually accept me into his "Heaven". Of course, growing up Mormon had it's own problems, and I was additionally burdened with being "temple worthy" and participating in rituals of the temple in order to demonstrate my obedience to God. So I probably can't contemplate the simplicity of just accepting "Jesus" as my savior, when Osiris and Mithras existed before him.

I still think that this entity "Satan", of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim world, has no power or strength against the Other People. There is no need to be fearful of an entity who has no meaning outside of that pantheon. It's been liberating to me to know that this entity that so many people are afraid of and have lived and died defending against has no place in my consciousness and no power over my soul. No wars were ever fought in the name of Wicca.

I don't mind that people who used to practice Witchcraft or Wicca decide to leave and become Christian. We aren't going door to door announcing our religion and inviting others to join. Most people find it on their own, try it on for size, and if it doesn't suit them, they put it back on the rack. (Or burn it to make sure others don't get in touch with it). I just don't agree with the broad stroke of paint that makes all Wiccans and Witches dark and evil filled, possessed by Satan or trapped in "sin". It's their Hell. Let them spend their lives avoiding it. I have better things to do.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Celebrating Litha (Summer Solstice)

From the book, "Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice" by Anna Franklin.

Midsummer--A Natural Time of Celebration

Every culture has, at some point in its history, marked the time of Midsummer and held it to be enchanted.

The Celts, the Norse, and the Slaves believed that there were three "spirit nights" in the year when magic abounded and the Otherworld was near. The first was Halloween, the second was May Eve, and the third was Midsummer Eve. On this night, of all nights, fairies are most active. As the solstice sun rises on its day of greatest power, it draws up with it the power of herbs, standing stones, and crystals. In the shimmering heat-haze on the horizon, its magical energies are almost visible.

The Cold, darks days of winter and blight are far way, and the time of light and warmth, summer and growth, is here. We naturally feel more joyful and want to spend more time in the open air. The crops are planted and growing nicely, and the young animals have been born.

Midsummer is a natural time of celebration.

Midsummer Customs

The Bonfire

Midsummer fires once blazed all across Europe and North Africa. As far east as Siberia, the Buryat tribe jumped over fires to purify and protect themselves. Such ritual fires had the power to protect the revelers from evil spirits, bad fairies, and wicked witches. They also warded off the powers of bane, blight, dark, death, and winter. At one time no self respecting village would be without its Midsummer fire, while in towns and cities the mayor and corporation actually paid for its construction, and the jollities accompanying it were often very elaborate.

The Midsummer fire had particular characteristics. It was constructed in a round shape on a sacred spot near a holy well, on a hilltop, or on a border of some kind. Such liminal sites were sacred to the Celts, who counted any boundary a magical place between places, giving entrance to and from the Otherworld. The fire was lit at sunset on Midsummer Eve, either with needfire kindled by the friction of two pieces of oak, or with a twig of gorse, itself a plant sacred to the sun.

In parts of England it was the convention on St. John's Eve to light large bonfires after sundown to ward off evil spirits. This was known as "setting the watch". A Tudor poem declared:

When midsummer comes, with havens and bromes they do bonefires make,
And swiftly, then, the nimble young men runne leaping over the same.
The women and maydens together do couple their handes.
With bagpipes sounde, they daunce a rounde; no malice among them stands.

Divination at Midsummer

Midsummer is a time for magic and divination, when the Sidhe and the spirits are abroad. Young girls would use the magic of the season to divine their future husbands. According to one charm, a girl should circle three times around the church as midnight strikes, saying:

Hemp seed I sow,
Hemp seed I hoe,
Hoping that my true love will come after me and mow.

Looking over her shoulder, she should see a vision of her lover following her with a scythe. Placing nodules from the root of mugwort under her pillow would enable her to dream of her lover instead. Other less pleasant secrets could also be learned: If you stand in the churchyard on this night, a vision of all those who will die this year will pass before your eyes.

The Midsummer Tree

You might think that the erection of the maypole is a tradition associated exclusively with May Day (Beltane), but you would be wrong. The raising of the Midsummer tree is an authentic Midsummer custom found in many areas, including Wales, England, and Sweden.

The custom was called "raising the birch" in south Wales, and "the summer branch" in the north, and the dancing around it "the dance of the birch". It was decorated with ribbons, flowers and even pictures. A weathercock with gilded feathers surmounted it. The cry of the cock at sunrise indicates the end of the darkness and the start of the day. Celtic festivals were held from dusk till cock crow of the next morning.

Sometimes one village would try to steal another village's pole, and it was considered very ill fated and a disgrace to one in this fashion. The bereft village was not allowed to raise another until they had succeeded in stealing one from elsewhere, and the poles were guarded all night by groups of youths and men.


An image many people associate with Midsummer is that of modern druids practicing their rites at Stonehenge. It is not known whether the ancient druids used this Neolithic temple of the sun, but its power remains intact today, even when surrounded by fences and tourists.

Stonehenge has been describes as an astronomical observatory. It is oriented to the sun at the Summer Solstice, which rises above the heel stone. Some say this should be "heal stone", as the circle was associated with healing at Midsummer.

The Wand

The most propitious time in the year to make a magic wand is at Midsummer. The wand is the tool that joins the physical and spiritual realms and transmits energy from one to the other. The wand relates to the element of fire, creativity, life energy, and the spirit. It focuses and directs the magical will to make it manifest in the world. It is the magical tool connected with the season of summer, noonday, and the direction of the south.

You should cut your own wand from living wood. This is the subject of misunderstanding. Some say that the wood must be taken in such a way as to capture the dryad of the tree, but this is a kind of shorthand for something much more profound. Every plant has its own spirit, which embodies its character, its magical vibration, its lessons and its complex connection within the Web of Life.

You should go out before dawn on Midsummer Day and seek your chosen tree as the sun rises. the wood should be virgin--that is, one year's growth only--and the wand should be cut from the tree at a single stroke. It should measure from elbow to fingertip. If you wish, you can smooth and polish the wand with glasspaper, but do not varnish it.

Consecrating the Wand

The wand is consecrated with incense of bay, cedar, frankincense, hazel and pine, with the following words:

God and Goddess, deign to bless this wand, which I would consecrate and set aside.
Let it obtain the necessary virtues for acts of beauty and love in the names of the Lord and Lady.

Pass it through the elements in the following manner: Push the tip into the earth, through a candle flame, into the dish of water, and through the air in the sign of the pentacle, and then say:

God and Goddess, I call upon you to bless this instrument, which I have prepared in your honor.

Hold it high in the air and say:

Let blessing be.

Midsummer Spells

Sweetheart's Blossom Spell

Take a lily bulb and plant it in a clean pot that has never been used before. While you plant it, repeat the name of the one you love, and then say:

As this root grows
And as this blossom blows,
May his (her) heart be
Turned unto me.

Midsummer Candle Spell

For a general well-being and prosperity spell, take a yellow or gold candle and anoint it with marigold oil, saying:

In honor of the Lord and Lady on this Eve of St. John, grant me fruitfulness and profit of my planting and my work. In the name of the Lady and her Lord. So mote it be.

Burning away Negativity

Throw into the fire all things that represent things that have negative associations for you. You might take the opportunity to give up smoking, for example, by throwing a pack of cigarettes into the flames. Old magical tools and books that are no longer needed or that are broken can be disposed of in the Midsummer fire.