New to the Path

Discussion in 'Pagan' started by fire-nymph, Feb 2, 2004.

  1. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph New Member

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    I'm new to The Path of witchcraft (not wicca) and find myself confronted with a great deal of conflicting information. As the last thread about wicca, I find myself wanting to find the truth behind the modern-myth.

    I have some statements/questions I'd be interested to hear your responses for, as you all seem rather intelligent and open to new ideas, (as opposed to the usual teeny-bopper-turn-my-boyfriend-into-a-frog-type-wiccan!)

    Here goes

    (PS I truly mean no offense, I am just curious and eager to learn.)

    The Pentacle: Nothing much to do with witchcraft, it apparently originates from the Quabbala (sp) and was probably dragged into Wicca by Gardner

    The 'Three Fold Law': More Garenerian hoo-ha, a modern invention based on the Eastern Karmic Laws (where Gardner was formerly a "Government Appointed Opium Plant Inspector" and from where he pulled much of his philosophy.)

    Imbolc: Actually to be celebrated on the first full moon after aquarius (I think that's on Friday here in the UK) as opposed to the rock-solid "2nd of February" by todays Roman (and therefore irrellevant when it comes to pagan holidays?) Calendar.

    Thankyou for your patience xx
     
  2. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph New Member

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    One more...

    One more -

    Moons.
    What is your view on a Dark Moon phase?
    Many paths ignore the Dark Moon in favour of the "New Moon" (which otherwise would be the night following the Dark Moon, yes?)
     
  3. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    There are lots of things that people get confused about when exploring witchcraft and Wicca. And there are lots of rather peculiar ideas that get expressed too which don't always make much sense when they are examined a bit more closely.

    Just to give you some background on where I'm coming from: I've been actively practicing witchcraft for over twenty years now. I consider myself to be a Wiccan. There are poorly-educated Wiccans out there just like there are poorly-educated participants in any group that can be identified. And there are also plenty of well-educated people out there who know what they're talking about too so it's usually not wise to dismiss a group because of a preconception.

    Witchcraft is basically folk-magick practices, in my opinion, which are not tied to any one religious system. You can be a witch and pretty much any religious persuasion, even atheist. The key to being a witch is that you practice some form of magick. While many witches do make magick an integral part of their religious practice it doesn't have to be a religious thing.

    Wicca is a religion, first promoted widely (and very likely invented in its first real form) by Gerald Gardner. It's based on witchcraft practices but tries to draw from pagan religious practices for the spiritual basis. It is very much a product of its time and culture, though, so has a lot of obvious Golden Dawn, theosophical, Thelemic, and even Christian elements in it. And it's a constantly evolving thing with a lot of diversity in its expression today. But at its core, Wicca is a modern Pagan religion that incorporates witchcraft.

    Witches are usually not as structured as other magickal practitioners such as ceremonial magickians. Most witches are very individual and idiosyncratic in what they do. They usually draw from a wide variety of sources and above all else use what they find works personally for them. If something doesn't work for them it is usually left by the wayside. But what works for me might not work for someone else. And what doesn't work for other witches might work very well for me.

    There are different systems/sects called "traditions" which have become established in the Wiccan and larger witchcraft community. These groups usually have formally established ways of training and working, established rules, and established cycles and theology that they use. There are also many many eclectic Wiccans and witches out there which don't follow particular systems, and many many solitaries who don't belong to any formal groups at all.

    The age of something doesn't necessarily determine whether that thing or idea is more useful or less useful to a witch or Wiccan. If it works for you then it works for you; it doesn't really matter if it was invented a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, or yesterday.

    There is a lot of talk about "traditional witchcraft" that goes around. It seems to be a way for people to try and give their ideas or practices a mystique, an aura of authority, by presenting it as being old. The one thing we know about how pre-Gardnerian witches and cunningfolk practiced is that they used what worked for them, and that the methods of one practitioner were not necessarily the same as the next. The idea that there was a coherent "system of witchcraft" that was universally used (even in just one geographical area, like a particular area of England say) is a myth. It looks like Gardner was the first to actually produce anything like a coherent philosophy and religious system that was presented as being "witchcraft" and passed on to others more or less as a system.

    So, what does this all mean?

    It means that if you want to explore witchcraft, realize that it is your own individual and personal path that is important. You are unlikely to find anyone who will practice exactly the same way you do. Sure, there will be overlap with others but everyone is different and finds different things work for them. Use the symbols that seem to be most relevant to you, regardless if they are old or new. Research the history of things, whether they are symbols, prayers, rituals, ideas, and expand your understanding of those things. Get as solid a grounding as you can in the topics that interest you so that you can truly make up your own mind about them based on real information. Finding out how others use ideas and symbols can uncover information that can help you grow. But be creative, too, and invent your own connections, meanings, and relevance. Many Wiccans and witches (and mystics of many religious persuasions) consider the act of creation to be a form of communion with the Divine; be creative! Look for connections, secret sides to things, patterns in the seemingly random. As you learn to open your senses you'll discover layers of connection and meaning that is all around us if we just look for it.

    Read, read, read! Talk with others, listen, but always decide for yourself. What others write or say is always their own opinion on things, and is always subject to bias. There is no such thing as a "one true way" that is correct for all people. The key is to find what is right for you, to follow the path that is yours instead of trying to follow someone else's path.

    I'd like to provide a few links to helpful resources on the internet for exploring Wicca and witchcraft, and indeed anything Pagan.

    http://www.witchvox.com is probably the best website to start with. They have helpful FAQ files, contact info for individuals and groups around the world, essays on a wide variety of topics written by hundreds of participants, info on various groups (the "traditions" articles) and current news of interest to Pagans.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/ is a good interfaith website that includes lots of info on Wicca and witchcraft. (The guy who runs the site is a personal friend of mine I met years ago when I was in university.)

    http://www.selectsmart.com/RELIGION/ is an online quiz that asks relevant questions about religious and spiritual ideas, and then provides a ranked list of religious groups that would likely interest you. It's a good way to find out about religions that might interest you which you might not have known about.

    And for some interesting info on the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do what you will" check out the sites http://www.waningmoon.com/ethics/rede3.shtml and http://www.draknetfree.com/sheathomas/ As is often the case, things are often a bit more sophisticated (or less straightforward) as is often presented.

    Keep an open, yet skeptical, mind about all things!
     
  4. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave: fire-nymph.

    As bgruagach posted, Read, read, read, but (and this is my addendum) be careful of what you read, since there are some real gems of information out there and some worth-less-than-paste information.

    Second, it depends on your Path (a Greco-Roman practitioner wouldn't use the same information as a Celtic practitioner or [in my case] a Judaic/Slavic practitioner.) Also, a Kemetic (I think that's how it's spelled) would use a slightly different set of information than an Egyptian-style witch (who might just use a few of the names of the Egyptian god/desses rather than the "entirety" of the Egyptian pantheon.)

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  5. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    The good in Wicca

    Wicca is connected with witches. Warlocks, these are male witches. Right? OK, not Bush of course, except his being war mad.


    There are things I like about witches. They can take to the air on a broomstick, they can make love potions.

    Modern witches as pictured by Hollywood are lusciously beautiful women. That is also good.


    To make a long story short:

    Wicca enthusiasts, please supply a list in short sentences of what witches can do or are believed to be able to do.

    I particularly am most interested in their flying on broomsticks and their concoctions of love potions. And I will pay good money to master these skills.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  6. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    Umm, Susma....

    Nope, Warlocks are not male witches. Using the term is actually offensive to many Wiccans: (from FAQS.ORG):

    You might find the alt.religion.wicca FAQ of value, rather than asking for yet another summation:

    http://www.faqs.org/faqs/religions/wicca/faq/
     
  7. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph New Member

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    Thankyou, that's very helpful and enlightening. I was beginning to feel bogged down by all that conflicting information, I suppose I had been clinging to the notion that it all came from the same one belief system at one time, and therefore there must be a singular truth behind it. I realise that its what I believe which is the 'truth', because its what works for me.
    I shall be sure to take a look at those links.

    Thanks xx
     
  8. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Hi fire-nymph, and welcome to CR. :)

    And thanks for that post, Ben - very well presented information there. Cleared up a few things for myself even as well. :)
     
  9. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    If we were to judge a group based on the stereotypes and claims spread by those who have a grudge against that group we would end up thinking that the world is filled with cannibalistic baby-killers who are in league with the forces of evil. Horrible things have been said about Jews, about gays, about non-Christians, and in the early days of Christianity, about Christians too. If you look through history a lot of the very same accusations have been made about many different groups.

    Sometimes, though, the stereotypes do have tiny bits of truth in them. For instance, the claims of witches flying on brooms and brewing potions both have some validity.

    In the scientific modern world we've pretty much proven that the mythical "flying ointments" that witches were supposed to rub on their bodies in order to fly through the air are in fact hallucinogenic, which do produce sensations and visions that match the claims. I don't know of any rational modern witches or Wiccans who would claim that anyone really flew around the sky on a broomstick, pitchfork, or in a big pot but there are plenty who have no doubt that "flying ointments" can make you feel like you are doing just that. Popular Wiccan authors like Scott Cunningham (in his book "The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews") discuss the old recipes for "flying ointments" and make it very clear that the reason they produce hallucinations is because the ingredients are so toxic and dangerous. No self-respecting Wiccan would advocate experimenting with dangerous substances like that today.

    Potions meant to speed healing, encourage love, and stimulate psychic senses are not that uncommon in modern Wiccan practice. Many Wiccans (and non-Wiccan witches too of course) study herbalism and do use herbs in a variety of ways in their practice. The Cunningham book I mentioned has lots of recipes for nontoxic herbal mixes whether meant to be burned as incense, used as a bath, or even ingested in some cases to achieve specific goals. If you go to any occult shop you are bound to find premixed products that are sold specifically as love enhancers or love inducers.

    As others have pointed out already, the term "warlock" is rarely used today. Most practitioners prefer to just call themselves "witches" or "Wiccans" regardless of gender. "Warlock" is usually considered to be an insult.
     
  10. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    Well put.

    Thanks sincerely, Begru. Your post has added to my education.

    Potions meant to speed healing, encourage love, and stimulate psychic senses are not that uncommon in modern Wiccan practice. Many Wiccans (and non-Wiccan witches too of course) study herbalism and do use herbs in a variety of ways in their practice.

    Wiccans here, or if you know any who have the knowledge and skill, I am interested in herbal -- and of course non-illegal -- combinations to induce dreams when in sleep. I like dreams, they are entertaining. And if I can dream on will, that's going to be terrific.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  11. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph New Member

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    The only time I've ever had an out of body experience or waking-visions, I've been totally 100% sober/normal - no drugs etc of any type. I shall get back to you if-n-when I find anything good :)

    I did read (I forget where, but it appeared reliable and well-informed) that the whole witches-on-broomstick thing originated from The Burning Times, when witches would hide their wands in the bristles of the brooms in order to better disguise them from any angry mobs which might come a-knocking with big shiny scythes... ;)
     
  12. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    Hi, Susma!

    Not sure if this falls under your definition of "herbal," or not, but it iS legal: try taking a dose of vitamin B-12 or B-12 complex just before bed. This is a technique I learned years ago in my Craft training, and it works for most who try it. I use it off and on when I need to do specific dream-work, and find that I dream more (or remember more, at any rate) and more vividly when I do.

    You might also explore various psychological techniques as well. Just before dropping off to sleep, as you drop deep into the alpha state of twilight sleep, repeat to yourself several times that you WILL dream, and you WILL remember your dreams. Imagine yourself remembering your dreams. Keep the affirmations positive. Also, use a tape recorder or a small pad and pencil to IMMEDIATELY record everything about each dream you remember the moment you wake up. This has the effect of transfering the memories from a kind of temporary memory storage to something more permanent. If you don't, and if you're like me, the first catchy tune or thought or worry that pops into your mind after you wake up will erase it!

    Do this consistantly each night, and you'll find you are training your mind to recall dreams. Your memory of them will become sharper, more complete, more vivid, and more reliable. Use these techniques with the vitamin B-12, and you'll find it even more effective. You will probably see some changes almost immediately; full and reliable lucid dreaming(what you call dreaming on will, I think--being able to control your dreams while inside them?) can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months of regular practice. The more you do it, the better you'll get.

    These are basic self-training steps aimed at developing lucid dreaming and out-of-body work. They work. Good luck!
     
  13. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    Hi, Fire-nymph! Welcome to C-R!

    I've never heard the idea of hiding wands inside the broom's bristles. I suppose it's possible, but I must confess to some doubts.

    The main point of brooms and witches--besoms, as most witches call 'em--is that centuries ago, many of a witch's magical tools were ordinary household items--kitchen broom, cauldron, herbs from the garden, candles, salt. Besoms were seen as a means of implimenting purification magic or of sending ill-luck to someone. (One witch convicted in England, I believe it was, was arrested because she was seen sweeping the street outside her home toward the town, and muttering curses as she did so.) Today, many witches sweep the magick circle as they cast it, from inside to out, cleansing it of bad thoughts, evil intent, anger, or malice.

    The link of witches flying to sabbats with magical ointments is well-attested. Many inquisition records from widely-different locals [a fact that suggests they really were used and were not arising out of the sick imaginings of the inquisitors!] listed the same ingredients, including drugs like belladonna which can cause anything from mild euphoria to hallucinations when applied topically. [Needless to say, do not try this at home, kiddies! The stuff can also kill you!]

    One supposition linking brooms with flying points to some very old European folk rituals for insuring the fertility of crops--either by running and leaping over a freshly plowed field under the moonlight while riding a broom like a hobby horse, or by performing sex magic on said fields by using the broom handle as a rough-and-ready (ouch!) phallus. (Flying indeed!)

    As far as I can tell, magic wands are a relatively new addition to the well-groomed witch's armamentarium, and the popular image of the witch with her magic wand owes much more to Mickey Mouse as the Sorceror's Apprentice and to Hollywood than to fact. They have long been part of the ceremonial magician's tool kit, of course, going back through the sorcerors and necromancers of the Middle Ages to the practitioners of Hermetic magic around the time of Christ (as symbolized by the cadeuceus of Hermes), and, arguably, even earlier to the staff of Moses and the rod of Aaron. Also, wands of specific magical woods for specific purposes were the stock-in-trade of Druid priests, and many shamanic traditions worldwide use magical staffs or wands as well for directing energy, or as a symbol of authority.

    However, as far as I can discover, wands didn't become a part of specifically witchcraft practice until the early 1950s, when Gardner fused various belief systems--including those of the Golden Dawn and other 19th century ceremonial magic systems--into what became Gardnerian Wicca. (The widespread practice within Wicca of calling the quarters and assigning elements, colors, watchtowers, angelic beings, and qualities to each also comes from ceremonial magic--specifically from the Enochian magick of the 1500s, and again to modern times via the Golden Dawn. Linking each quarter with a tool--athame or sword, wand or staff, chalice or cauldron, and pentacle--also derives from ceremonial magick.)

    I could easily be wrong, however. Many shamanic and magical practices appear world-wide and cross many cultural boundaries, because they are based both upon sound magical theory and upon sound psychology. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that witches of centuries ago had picked up on the use of magic wands from any of a number of widespread belief systems.

    And as a good eclectic witch, like Gardner, I'll steal good ideas from anybody!
     
  14. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I'd like to add a few comments. I love the discussion!

    I've read this in at least one book on Wicca, although I'm afraid I can't remember which book at the moment. I thought it might have been a Doreen Valiente book but I didn't find it in my quick search just now. If I can find a reference I'll post it to this thread later.

    WHKeith's explanation of the use of the broom in current witchcraft practices is quite correct. Witchcraft is very much about being practical so it's not really surprising to hear about magickal uses for common household items.

    I would be hesitant to say that information on witchcraft found in the records of the inquisition is correct unless it was possible to verify through other non-inquisitorial sources. My understanding of the process used in the inquisition was that the inquisitor had a standard list of questions that the accused was asked, and the accused was usually tortured until they gave the expected answers. I think just as often a prepared "confession" was presented and the accused was just expected to say, "Yes, I confess to it all." Rossell Hope Robbins' "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology" has a lot of very gruesome detail about the witch hunt periods, in particular about these sorts of processes. Since the inquisitors went into each case with a preconceived set of details that they expected to be corroborated it is not surprising that the details from one case to the next would be similar.

    In more recent times we've had basically the same thing happen with the whole "satanic ritual abuse" panic that swept the UK and North America back in the 1980s and 1990s. Impressionable children in those cases were lead by questioners into producing the most amazing allegations that strangely were all very consistent. There were many families and communities that were devastated by this, with people going to jail over the charges. Today there are more and more instances of these cases being overturned and the accused being set free as the children are admitting that they were just making up stories to please the authorities who were questioning them. And since the authorities already had "the answer" in their minds before they asked the questions, the stuff that the kids ended up admitting rarely disappointed those expectations.

    There are some interesting articles on this "false memory syndrome" and the "satanic ritual abuse" fiasco at:
    http://www.fmsfonline.org/
    http://www.skeptic.com/02.3.hochman-fms.html
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/sra.htm
    http://skepdic.com/satanrit.html

    While information about witchcraft from the inquisition should be considered suspect, there does appear to be evidence for the use of hallucinogenic "flying ointments" as well as the use of hallucinogenic materials in potions or on their own. Many religions, not just purported practitioners of witchcraft, include the use of hallucinogens at some point in their history. And as WHKeith commented, few modern Wiccans or witches would recommend the use of hallucinogens. There are plenty of safer ways to work towards spiritual experiences that are recommended instead.

    I'd like to add that it's a common human desire to want to lump things into nice tidy categories. Unfortunately, life tends to be a lot messier than our categories and labels might lead one to believe. I'm not convinced that there is an easy distinction between practitioners of ceremonial magick and witchcraft, especially in the pre-Gardnerian era. This means I'm not convinced that the wand is a new addition to the witch's magickal toolbox.

    As one example, Dorothy (Clutterbuck) Fordham, the woman who is believed to have initiated Gerald Gardner into witchcraft, is known to have been involved in various groups such as the Rosicrucian Theatre and probably the Co-Masons, as it is known that many of the Rosicrucian Theatre members were also Co-Masons. This is in addition to Clutterbuck's purported involvement in witchcraft. Rosicrucian and Mason/Theosophical-associated groups are usually classified more in the ceremonial magick or occult lodge category than in the witchcraft category. (I recommend Philip Heselton's interesting book "Wiccan Roots" for lots of info on Dorothy Clutterbuck and the people Gerald says he was involved with when he first "discovered" Wicca. It's not necessarily 100% correct on all the conclusions, but there is a lot of interesting factual material presented.)

    Another reason why I doubt that Gerald Gardner was the one to introduce the wand into witchcraft practice is that people who document was is claimed to be non-Gardnerian witchcraft, particularly the practices of the infamous cunningman George Pickingill, count the wand as a standard magickal tool. Gwyn's book "Light from the Shadows: A Mythos of Modern Traditional Witchcraft" includes justifying references to identified witches using wands well before the time of Gerald Gardner.

    One of the few things that does seem to be universal about witchcraft is that witches feel free to use what they have available to them, and use what seems to work for them. It might include snippets of ceremonial magick or things gleaned from ceremonial magick grimoires, it might include Christian or Jewish or Muslim prayers or astrology or science and art. Back before literacy and books were common in the population, I expect that the typical witch, if we were to sit down with them and find out what they did and what they knew, would surprise us with the simplicity of their practice. It's only really since literacy and the easy availability of books and information that witchcraft appears to have become more complex, more detailed, and also in many ways more dogmatic.
     
  15. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph New Member

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    I find it difficult to imagine that wands were 'invented' in the 1950s because, if ancient witches used what was to hand, what's easier than walking a metre out of your front door and snapping a twig off a tree?
     
  16. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I don't think that anyone suggested that wands were "invented in the 1950s." I can understand WHKeith's postulation that wands might have been introduced to witchcraft by Gardner. I don't agree with that postulation though as I've seen references to witches using wands that appear to date prior to Gardner's involvement.
     
  17. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I got some B-complex vitamins yesterday, and took one with my supper. I have to say last night I had some of the most vivid dreams I've had in a long time.

    I will be taking another B-vitamin with supper tonight and hope to have more vivid dreams tonight.

    Thanks, WHKeith, for that B-vitamin tip! I'd heard it before but your post spurred me to actually give it a try.
     
  18. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    You’re very welcome, bgruagach. Happy dreaming!

    And, no, fire-nymph, I didn’t mean to suggest that magick wands were invented in the 1950s . . . only that I, personally, have seen no evidence that they were used by members of the Craft prior to that time. They were definitely part of the altar furniture in ceremonial magical lodges as far back as the 1870s and in stage magic from at least that time. There are woodcuts showing sorcerers using them to herd demons in the 1500s. We know the Druids used them at least a couple of thousand years ago, believing they carried the virtue of the tree they were taken from. Rulers and priests carried wands to show they bore the authority of the gods as far back as ancient Sumer.

    I’d be interested in hearing evidence that witches used them prior to Gardner, though. I am fascinated by the evolution of the Craft, and of other traditions in which humans have attempted to wield subtle or magical energies. We do see the same techniques popping up again and again throughout recorded history. Almost as if there’s something to it which is continually rediscovered or reaffirmed. Mmm. . . .

    The modern Craft is wonderfully eclectic. It is my contention that one of the biggest eclectics of all was Gardner himself, who quite openly borrowed from the Masons, the Golden Dawn and from Crowley himself (their meeting is recorded in one of Crowley’s diaries), the Rosicrucians and the spiritualists (did you know the term “Summerlands” came from the 19th-century spiritualists originally?), Enochian magic (though this may have come to him via the Golden Dawn, which also used that system), Qabbalistic teachings, the writings of Murray, Frazer, and Leland, and the gods know what all else.

    I’m not saying this was a bad thing. Certainly not! I’ll use whatever works. I make and use my own magic wands, in fact, and care not at all when or where witches first used them.

    As ever, I remain convinced that the key to magic has little to do with the outward tool. A wand is just a stick unless the magician’s mind is convinced otherwise. To this end, a witch won’t just snap off a handy branch, but will find the proper tree, ask the tree’s permission (very Druid, that!), harvest the branch at a special time (or harvest only a branch that has fallen) according to moon or stars, consecrate it in-circle, charge it magically . . . all acts that serve to tell the witch’s subconscious mind that there is BIG ju-ju in this stick!

    I believe that all of the mystique, tradition, and tools of the Craft basically echo this same theme: things are sacred or powerful because we believe them to be so, no matter what their origin, or how or when they entered Craft tradition.
     
  19. Johanna

    Johanna New Member

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    The Pentacle, or Pentagram rather, was used before Judaism in Egypt, I think. It was then adopted by pretty much everyone in Europe. I know that Scandinavians used to carve pentagrams into the cribs of their infants to ward of the fay, trolls and the riverman. Pregnant women also wore it as protection and men going to battle sometimes did as well, so that the riverman wouldn't mark them. (The riverman is a mixture of old heathen mythology and Christianity's Satan, i believe. He lures women, and sometimes men, into deadly waters by playing - usually on a violin - beautiful music. If you see him, as himself or in the guise of an old crone, washing your soldier friend/sibling/spouse/parent's clothes in the river, then this person will die in battle).
     
  20. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    WKeith concludes:

    Shouldn't you, WKeith, add the following phrase to the end of the paragraph: or whether they work or don't.

    Susma Rio Sep
     

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