Thursday, August 23, 2012

Q is also for ... The Quarters

Calling the Quarters.  It's a staple in many rituals.  But, what exactly is it?  What does it mean?  And, why do we do it?  There are no "one-size-fits-all" answers, but I can tell you briefly how it works for me.

I view the Quarters as "guardians", but not necessarily as physical guardians of the directions; more as the "gatekeepers" to the qualities or characteristic represented by each element.  Some Traditions call them Watchtowers, but that has never really resonated with me.  When I call the Quarters, I am invoking the qualities associated with each element, in an effort to make myself more aware of, and better able to focus on those characteristics to aid me in my work.

The East is associated with intellectual persuits, clear thinking and communication.  By recognizing the Guardians of the East, I am focusing my attention on these qualities and opening myself to receiving inspiration and guidance along those lines throughout my ritual working.  The same holds true for South (passion, determination), West (emotions, love, memories, mental health) and North (stability, grounding, physical health).  Which element you associate with the directions may vary by Tradition, and therefore the qualities associated with the directions may change.  This is fine.  Really, it is all symbolic and merely acts as a reference for us, rather than representing any actual, physical relationship.

There is contention on how best to release the Guardians when a ritual is completed and the Circle is being opened.  It is popular to end with a line similar to "stay if you will, go if you must".  Some sources contend that you should send the Quarters on their way with no invitation to stay, stating that it is just asking for trouble.  While it is true that the Guardians are not human, and cannot be expected to act/react the same as we do, it does not necessarily follow that they will wreak havoc by being allowed to stick around.  Personally, I have found that rather than banishing them (which seems a bit rude), if I give them the freedom to choose whether to remain present or not they do not cause any problems.  They are not infantile, as has been suggested; rather they are a different sort of being that recognizes friendship and respect and responds in kind.

And on that note, here are sample Quarter Calls for casting and opening the Circle:

"Spirits of _________, Guardians of the _________, I(We) invite you here to this Circle to witness what I(We) do and lend what aid you may.  Hail and Welcome."

"Spirits of _________, Guardians of the _________, I(We) thank you for your presence and assistance in my(our) work this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Q is for ... Q and A

Q is one of those letters that is really difficult to write for. So, as I was asking the question what starts with "Q"?, I realized "question" was the perfect word.

There are so many questions asked, by those who are new to the Craft and even some who have been doing this for awhile. I'm going to just focus on some of the most commonly asked questions that I see, and my own personal take on them. 

This list is not exhaustive; nor are my answers definitive.  :)

Q:  What is Paganism/Witchcraft/Wicca and how are they different? 

A:        Paganism is an umbrella term encompassing the earth-based religions. 

            Witchcraft is the practice of magic either in a religious sense or not. 

            Wicca is a modern religion, based on ancient pagan beliefs that incorporates the Goddess             and God, practice of magic and reverence for nature.             

Q:  What is a witch/warlock/wizard?

A:  A witch is a magic practitioner.  While I am sure some traditions/people use the term wizard, I personally do not.  Warlock is not often used, being considered an insult as in some cultures it means "oath-breaker".   

Q:  Are all Pagans witches/are all witches Wiccan/are all witches Pagan...? 

A:  No.  Not all Pagans would appreciate being call a witch, and not all those who consider themselves a witch are Wiccan.  There are also Christian witches, who blend the paths of mainstream Christian faiths with earth-based observances. 

Q:  Do Pagans worship Satan?   

A:  No.  Satan is a construct of the Christian myths; therefore most Pagans not only do not worship any deity by that name, they do not even believe he exists. 

Q:  Is Witchcraft evil? 

A:  Again, no.  Witchcraft itself is the practice of magic, or manipulation of energy, to achieve some goal.  It is the intent of the practitioner that can be good or evil. 

Q:  Do you believe in God? 

A:  Yes, I believe in many.  Goddesses, too.  I believe there is a unifying Oneness with multiple facets that no-one can possibly fully comprehend; thus resulting in the myriad deities and pantheons we are familiar with. 

Q:  What is a coven? 

A:  A coven is a group of witches, as close as or closer than, family, who meet regularly to recognize, celebrate and worship nature and deity. 

Q:  How do I find pagans/witches/covens/teachers, etc in my area? 

A:  There are various websites, such as The Witch's Voice, where groups and individuals can post information about meetings, classes, etc. is another place where groups will advertise, and checking the bulletin board at your local metaphysical shop can be an invaluable resource.  Just be smart and exercise caution when meeting new people for the first time, and keep it in a public venue. 

Q:  How do I become a Pagan/Witch? 

A:  Study, read, learn and ask questions.  If it is right for you, you will know. 

Q:  What book should I read? 

A:  There are so many good books, by many different authors.  My best suggestion would be to go to your local library first and read any books they have on Paganism, Wicca or Witchcraft (usually found in the area devoted to books on religion).  Then, head to your bookstore.  There is also quite a bit of information available on the internet.  Take everything you read with a grain of salt.  It is not all correct information, and you want to be sure you don't get taken advantage of.   Also, keep in mind, there is no "one true" anything when it comes to Paganism, and so you will sometimes find conflicting points of view.   

Q:  Is Witchcraft/Wicca/Paganism a real religion and is it legal? 

A:  Yes, and yes.  Whichever variety of Paganism a person chooses to follow, as long as they are not breaking any existing laws, is legal.  It is as real and legitimate as any other religion, mainstream or not. 

Q:  Do you have to be part of a coven to be a witch? 

A:  No, being in a coven is not a requirement of being a witch, or pagan.  There are many solitary practitioners, either by choice or because there are no compatible groups in their area. 

Q:  What does it Solitary mean? 

A:  A Solitary is a person, who for one reason or another, practices their Craft on their own.  There are several reason one might choose to be Solitary, including personal preference of working alone, there are no other Pagans in the area, there are no groups whose tenets and ideals reflect the beliefs of a practitioner, or they simply haven't found a group with the right fit yet.

Q:  Do Pagans go to church? 

A:  Yes, and at the same time, no.  Some groups do have brick and mortar buildings (temples) in which they hold services.  Others meet at coven members' homes or a pagan-friendly establishment.  However, most, if not all, Pagans are more comfortable outside, and prefer to hold circles and rituals outdoors when the weather permits and if they have a safe location to do so. 

Q:  What is a spell/do you cast spells/can I cast a spell/will you cast a spell for me? 

A:  A spell can be described as a petition to the gods or other higher power to effect a specific change.  In working a spell, a witch is adding their own energy and exerting their will to create this change.

            Yes, I do cast spells, when the needs arises.  It is not done frivolously, though, and I make an effort to either exhaust mundane solutions or to have the spell work in tandem with more mundane efforts.

            Anyone can attempt to cast a spell, however, usually only one who has a proper understanding of how to construct and carry out a spell may do so successfully.

            No, I probably will not cast a spell for you.  In some instances I may help someone (a friend or family member) write a spell or ritual, and give  information and resources that may be beneficial, so that person can cast the spell themselves.  Or, I may do a healing spell on behalf of a sick family member at their request, but that is definitely a case-by-case type of situation.  I certainly am not going to advertise to cast spells for people- with guaranteed results, no less- and expect payment, as is frequently seen around the internet.  If the person wanting the spell done does not invest some part of themselves into it, it cannot be successful. 

Q:  What is a Tradition and how many are there? 

A:  A Tradition is a specific sect, usually of Wicca, with a particular set of rules and dogma.  Some examples are Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic and Faery, to name a few.  It is impossible to know exactly how many there are, especially as there are many groups that begin as Eclectic and evolve into something more lasting.

Q:  What is magic?  What is white/black magic? 

A:  Magic is the process by which a person exerts his or her energy and will to manifest a change.  There is, in my opinion, no such thing as "white" or "black" magic; this goes back to the intent of the practitioner. 

Q:  Are Pagans anti-Christian? 

A:  Not really.  There are some extremists in every religion, though, so I'm sure there are some Pagans who truly are anti-Christian.  In general, though, Pagans promote tolerance of all religions. 

Q:  Do you follow the Wiccan Rede?  What does it mean? 

A:  This usually means "An' it harm none, do what ye will".  Essentially, this is a rule that says your actions should not cause harm.  It is a reminder to be mindful of what you do and the consequences thereof.   And, yes, I do try to follow this in principle; meaning that I do not (usually) intend harm to come from my actions.  There is somewhat of a fine line, here, though.  At what point does it become more harmful to try to avoid causing harm?  Sometimes, inaction may be worse than intending harm, as in the case of a violent crime, to use an extreme example, when may be required to defend oneself.  Not causing harm applies not only to your actions concerning others, but yourself, as well. 

We have to also beware of taking this too literally; after all, even the smallest of actions or inaction may cause unintended harm.  For example, when we eat, we, in effect, cause harm to the plant or animal that is providing our meal - on the flip side, if we refuse to eat to avoid harming plants & animals, we would cause harm to our own bodies. 

I prefer "and it harm none, do what ye will. And it cause harm, do as ye must." 

Plus, keep in mind that not all witches follow the Wiccan Rede. 

Q:  Is Witchcraft/Wicca a cult? 

A:  No.  A cult is when there is one supreme leader, in whom the followers blindly believe. There is no room for free-thinkers and non-conformists.  Paganism, on the other hand, is almost entirely made up of non-conformists; those who have been drawn to this path are the ones who never accepted that there is one, and only one, right or true way to believe. 

Q:  Why are rituals held at night/in secret?

A:  There are many reasons this might be true.  Historically, witches were hunted and burned or drowned for their beliefs, and that is the reason the Craft was kept secret and rituals were done away from prying eyes.  Nowadays, busy work schedules often mean evenings are the only free time many practitioners. Also, many Pagans feel closer to the Goddess at night when the moon is out.  Not to mention, there is still widespread fear and ridicule of Paganism, leading some practitioners to practice in secret as a means of self-preservation.

Q:  What is a Book of Shadows?

A:  It is a book, or books, containing a witch's rituals, spells, correspondences and other information important to his or her path.

Q:  Can only women be witches?

A:  No, the term "witch" applies equally to women and to men who follow a Pagan path and practice magic.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

P is for ... Paganing Ceremony

This is the ritual I wrote for my children, which we performed at our Lughnassa celebration on August 4, 2012.  It didn't play out exactly as written below, but with kids, it never does :)  One difference I did make here is for the elemental blessings where it says "HPS", in actuality, each of my coven sisters and I volunteered for one, spoke for and presented the gifts of that element.  Each sister chose their own gift to represent their element, which to me made it more personal.  One of my sisters also gave each of the kids something extra-special after the ritual was complete to keep in their altar boxes.

Feel free to adapt this for your own use, keeping in mind that the children it was written for are 7, 4 and 2 months, which is why the older two had participatory parts.

Paganing Dedication Ritual
High Priestess Dydan Presiding

Materials needed
Dish of salt
Incense (Artemis blend)
Red candle
Bowl of water
Silver and gold candles
Goddess image
Cakes and Ale - don't laugh, we're having grape juice and Nilla wafers
Offering dish
candle holders
Rose oil (for kids' ritual baths)
Altar boxes and contents

Bathe kids with rose oil before everyone arrives.  Set up altar before hand, too. 

When everyone is ready, begin ritual.  Briefly explain to kids what is expected.  (i.e. We're going to cast the circle, say our parts, then have a little bit to eat/drink before ending the ritual.  We can eat more after.)
Cast the Circle

East:  Light the incense and say, "Spirits of Air, Guardians of the East, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

South:  Light the candle and say, "Spirits of Fire, Guardians of the South, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

West: Scatter drops of water about the Circle and say, "Spirits of Water, Guardians of the West, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

North: Sprinkle salt around the Circle and say, "Spirits of Earth, Guardians of the North, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

Center:  Lighting each candle in turn say, "Goddess, please hear us and attend our Circle, with your Consort, to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

"The Circle is cast in this sacred space between the worlds."

HPS: We have come together for a very special ritual, a Paganing for (children's names).  While this ceremony will dedicate the Children to the path of the Mother, Goddess of All, and Her Consort, the Father God, it is not binding, and the children remain free to choose their own path when they are of age to do so; knowing that all paths lead to the same destination.

HPS:  (mom), as the mother of these children, is it your desire to have them Dedicated to the Goddess and Her Consort?

Mom:  Yes, it is.

HPS:  And do you promise to teach then and guide them on this Path your have chosen?

Mom:  I do.

HPS:  Will you love your children unconditionally, support them throughout their lives, and be the disciplinarian, friend and confidante they need?

Mom:  Always.

HPS:  (dad), (mom) has expressed and affirmed her desire to raise the children on a Pagan path.  Do you accept and support her in this?

Dad:  Yes, I do.

HPS:  You have chosen (child's name) to be your son and (child's name) to be your daughter, along with your son (child's name).  Do you promise to protect your children from what threatens them to the best of your ability, and to teach them to protect themselves?

Dad:  Yes.

HPS:  And will you love your children unconditionally, support them throughout their lives, and be the disciplinarian, friend and confidante they need?

Dad:  Always.

HPS:  (children's names), you have heard your parents' promises.  They want only the best for each of you.  Now, (children's names), it is time for you to make promises of your own.  Are you ready?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  (children's names), do you promise to love and respect your parents, to listen when they teach and do your best to obey?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Do you accept the presence of the Goddess and God in your lives?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Do you promise to learn what you can about religions that interest you as you grow, so that when you are old enough you can choose the best path for you?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Who stands as witness to the Dedication of these children?

Coven:  We do.

HPS:  It is now time to greet and receive the blessings of the Elements.

face the children to the East

HPS:  In the name of Air, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Air.

HPS:  From Air come the gifts of intellect and communication.  May you always have clear thought, wise judgment and eloquent expression.  I bestow upon you the gift of raven feathers so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children South

HPS:  In the name of Fire, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Fire.
HPS:  From Fire come the gifts of passion and strength.  May you be blessed with strong bodies and strength of character, and experience life fully.  I bestow upon you the gift of candles so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children West

HPS:  In the name of Water, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Water.

HPS:  From Water come the gifts of emotion and health.  May you find happiness, love and be loved always, and enjoy good health.  I bestow upon you the gift of abalone shells so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children North

HPS:  In the name of Earth, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Earth.

HPS:  From Earth come the gifts of stability and balance.  May you always feel secure in your environment, satisfied with your routines and centered within yourselves.  I bestow upon you the gift of pentacles so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children Center

HPS:  The final element is Spirit, that which is found within.  As you learn and grow you will come to understand that the answers to all we seek may be found within ourselves.  The Goddess and God reside inside each and every one of us  We are the containers for all we will ever need.  In recognition of this, we now present you each with an altar box, in which you may keep the elemental gifts you have just received, as well as any other altar items you make or acquire.  Like you, the box is only the container, and you will find what you need inside.

kids:  Thank you.

HPS:  (children's names), you have now been recognized by the elemental spirits.  When you have need, you may call upon them and you will be heard.  You have been presented to the Goddess and God, and they will be with you always.

HPS:  The children have been Dedicated to this path their mother walks.  As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure they are given the proper guidance to learn and develop as they grow.  Who will pledge their support to the parents in their endeavor to raise their children with respect to their  chosen path?

Individual Coven members:  I will.

HPS:  So it is witnessed and so it is done.  So mote it be.

Coven:   So mote it be.

Cakes and Ale, with offering.  (Brief explanation for kids.)

Open Circle.

North:  "Spirits of Earth, Guardians of the North, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

West:  "Spirits of Water, Guardians of the West, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

South:  "Spirits of Fire, Guardians of the South, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

East:  "Spirits of Air, Guardians of the East, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

"The Circle is open, but never broken."

Monday, August 6, 2012

L is for ... Life

The last two months have been super busy.  My last post was done two days before my son decided to be born 2 1/2 weeks early :)  Since then, everything has been go-go-go seemingly without a minute to rest.  Needless to say, I have seriously fallen behind on the PBP, and haven't quite gotten around to catching up.  I hope to begin rectifying that.  I have recently found myself with 6 hours a week in which I do next to nothing, and I am planning to put this time to good use.

So what have I been doing?  Besides trying to keep up with the house chores, as I mentioned my baby was born.  The week we went home we ended up back at the hospital lab the day after, and the pediatrician's office the next two days for his bili tests.  His levels continued to rise, and we ended up in the hospital when he was 5 days old for phototherapy.  Luckily, it was just one night and his levels dropped and became manageably safe so we could go home again.  Oh, and I should mention my a/c quit the day after we went home the first time.  About a week later, the a/c completely died, and we had to install a brand-new system, indoors and out.  Yikes.

Of course, I kept my commitments to my Coven, and hosted the last several Esbats/Sabbats due to my pregnancy and then the birth.

July was spent attending family events, including planning and carrying out my daughter's birthday party.  As far as she's concerned, it was a success, which is good.  I was a little bummed because two of my closest friends in San Antonio weren't able to make it, and they are the only friends I have with kids around my own kids' ages.  However, some of my fiance's cousin's kids came, so it's all good.

On top of that, my fiance and I made the decision (a very hard decision for me to accept) to send our (well, my) older son to public school at the end of the month.  He'll be going into second grade and I am positively terrified that we're going to run into all the same problems we had the first time he went to school.  Crossing my fingers that this school is better equipped to handle him.  My daughter also wanted to go to school, so I signed her up for the pre-k program, which is a half-day class.  I have no worries about how she'll do.

Throughout July, we continued having multiple appointments, both for the kids and myself.  My son (7) has been in speech, occupational and physical therapy for awhile now, and for some reason the insurance decided to nix his approval.  We had to get a new referral, go to a new agency, and redo all the evals to qualify him for the services he needs.  They're still arguing the PT, but did give approval for about 6wks of sessions.  They approved the ST and OT with no problems.  This is where I found my 6 hours of "down-time".  We go 2 days a week, for about 3 hours each for his therapy sessions which are currently back-to-back-to-back, at least until school starts.  Then, I imagine we will be going 4 days a week to get the sessions in after school, or we will be missing some (or alot of) school.  We're still waiting for the official Autism screening, with a different facility.

Now we're into August, and I'm wondering where on earth the summer went!  I was just thinking that I haven't really done anything "witchy" for so long... Then I realized that I have celebrated each Esbat and Sabbat, I wrote several rituals for a friend of mine (healing, travel, new home), as well as writing and planning a Paganing ceremony for my children, which we did at our Lughnassah celebration this past Saturday.

I anticipate the rest of the month being just as busy, what with our almost daily appointments, and plans for every weekend, I don't foresee life settling down anytime soon.

So when I think I'm not "doing enough", I just have to remember I'm doing all I can and then some.  I'm sure the Goddess understands.  After all, she wouldn't have given me more than I could handle, right?