The simple Pagan

Paganism seems to be so full of stuff – have you noticed this?

And Paganism – and Wicca in particular – attracts the stuff collectors. You know the type. I call them Gear Witches. They have to have the right cape, the right robes, the right wand, the right blade.

Druids at Stonehenge. They look the part, don't they?
Druids at Stonehenge. They look the part, don’t they?

They look terrific, and have all the trappings, and every book ever published about new age anything sits proudly on their shelf at home.

But the heart of worship, and of dedication to a God or Goddess, isn’t about stuff. It’s nothing to do with what you have, or buy. It’s about intent and what you do.

In fact, I’d argue that the more stuff you have, the more you’re distracted from what you should be doing – which is honouring the Deity you have chosen to honour, in every single act of your life.

Simplify, simplify, simplify…

So I’m saying, throw it all away.

Give it all away. You don’t need it all.

You don’t need books to tell you what to do. You don’t need the right cape, or fancy robes. You don’t need a Hollywood-style setting to be an effective servant of the Divine.

Finding yourself is often more about casting off the trappings of consumerism than enveloping yourself in them.

For example, marking the elements can be as simple as filling four plain glasses:

Earth, Air, Fire and Water: capturing the four elements in simple glasses. Paganism doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. It doesn't have to be about *stuff*.
Earth, Air, Fire and Water: capturing the four elements in simple glasses. Paganism doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. It doesn’t have to be about *stuff*.

And dedicating yourself to a powerful Goddess can require nothing more than an apple.

SONY DSC

Sometimes learning takes time

I speak from experience on this. Because I used to be the Queen of the Gear Witches. LOL.

I had everything you could name, and more. I spent a lot of money on having the right stuff. I think I somehow figured that if I looked more like someone else’s idea of what a Pagan should be, that would make me more Pagan-ish.

Or something.

Of course I was wrong.

And you’ll see Gear Witches at every event. They’re there, in their floaty robes, with their long, flowing hair. They look the part.

But looks can be deceiving.

Ask yourself: are they looking the part to convince you? Or perhaps to convince themselves?

Don’t get me wrong: if you choose to wear clothes of a certain style because that’s what you like to wear, then that’s absolutely fine.

But if you’re wearing a look in order to somehow fit a part, to become a role, or to attract attention, then you’re fooling nobody in the end, except yourself.

Return, return, return…

I think the time has come to bring Paganism back to its roots. If we’re about being in tune with nature, and in tune with ourselves, how can buying a truckload of stuff be the right thing to do?

Shouldn’t Pagans be living lightly and simply on the earth? Honouring the Gods with our deeds, spending our time and energy on doing what is their work, rather than time and energy on buying stuff that creates an image?

I think so.

So what I’m saying is, don’t buy the books. Don’t spend your dollars. Don’t collect the stuff.

Instead, spend your short time on this beautiful earth being what you will, not spending your money trying to be something others expect.

I’m a newbie – so where do I start?

The Pagan community is a pretty closed community. It can be hard finding a teacher, if that’s what you’re after, or a group to work with, if that’s what you’re looking for.


Or sometimes you find a group or a teacher, and they turn out to be exactly WRONG for you?
But how do you know what’s right and wrong? Where do you begin? Paganism isn’t like organised religions, where there’s a Holy Writ (like the Bible) and a well-established organisation(s) (The CHURCH) telling you what to do.

It can be confusing and lonely at first, and you wonder if you’re “doing it right”.

But the truth is, there is no “right” way for everyone. It’s about what works for you. What feels right for you. What brings the magic through you and into you, and helps you channel power and health and vibrancy into the world.

That’s why I love Paganism, and why it is right for me. And if you’re a thinker and an independent mind, the independence of Paganism will probably come to be seen as a good thing for you too.

After all, when it comes down to it, we’re all just humans, muddling along in this world the best way we know how. Sometimes we screw up. But I believe that NONE of us have the right to tell others what to believe.

Leaders, Teachers and Guides

In your journey, you’ll come across a lot of leaders, teachers and guides. Some will be self-taught, others will have been taught by others, through traditions that are starting to become more solidly defined.

And you’ll probably come across a few complete nutjobs too. Most will be completely harmless, but some can be dangerous.

In Paganism, as in all of life, your best Guide is your gut. Go with what feels right. If someone feels dangerous or insane, or even just wrong in some way you can’t quite define, walk away. No matter what they claim, or how important they’re supposed to be.

And if something seems foolish and silly to you, don’t do it. You don’t have to believe or practice in a particular way, just because somebody tells you to. That’s why I made a lousy Christian – the whole “Jesus is God” thing just sounded like rubbish to me. Okay, there were other reasons as well (the misogyny was a large part of it, as well as the traditionally anti-gay stance), but I chose to walk away because my gut told me to.

Safety with strangers

Likewise, your safety is of absolute importance. NEVER go to someone’s house or establishment alone, if you don’t know their full name, where they live, and someone who cares about you knows where you are.

If you’re going to meet someone for the first time, a pub or cafe is a great option. If you have no money, just get some water. But that way you’re safe.

To establish someone’s identity before furthering a friendship or relationship, ask to see their driver’s license, or similar photo ID. Take a photo of it, and send it to your email address AND that of a friend. That way, there is evidence of who you are with.

Don’t think this is odd or embarrassing: I’m 41 years old, I’m nearly six feet tall, and a bodybuilder (i.e. I have muscle and know how to defend myself) and I STILL do this if I’m going off with someone I’m not 100% sure about. It’s common sense. I always leave a trail about where I am and who I am with and when I will be back.

Remember – if the person is genuine, they won’t be offended. They’ll understand that you take your safety seriously, and be fine with your precautions. I teach and take classes from time to time, and would NEVER be offended by a request like this.

Established public events, websites and groups

Established public events can be a good way to meet people, as can be classes that are offered through local “Pagan” shops. Look around. Here in New Zealand, where I live, there is an annual Witches Ball that is well attended and a great way to meet people.

There are also Pagan groups on Facebook and in similar forums. The Witches Voice is one place to connect with others in your area. There are others.

Finding good books

The publishing world is awash in Pagan books, and not all of them are good. I’d advise against buying too many, but if you want to invest in a couple, Bucky’s Big Blue Book and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance are two classics that are worth a look. Google them.

Trust yourself

Like any community, the Pagan community doesn’t appreciate or want needy people. Be adventurous. Experiment, study, learn and grow. Be a self-starter. Don’t cling on to others – instead, find your own path with courage and conviction.

Good luck!

Open-mindedness and Paganism

I like to think that the Pagan community is more open-minded, loving and welcoming than just about any other community on earth.

If I had my way in describing who we are and what we’re about, it would be “a group of friendly people who want everyone to be able to be exactly who they are, and practice exactly as they wish, as long as they don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights.”

I’d like to think we’re especially welcoming to people of all sexualities, and of all races. I’d like to think that we support same-sex marriage, and freedom of speech, and equal rights for all people. And that we’re true advocates of democracy.

I’d like to think that we really do believe that all people are equal, and of equal value.

Above all, I’d like to think that Paganism is about honouring our world, and recognising that we’re just a small, rather stupid part of something incredibly complex and wonderful. And that what we can see with our open eyes is only a tiny part of what exists in this beautiful Universe.

I guess, saying everything above that I’ve just said, I’m coming across as one of those whacked-out Hippies!

Our magical world

But the world really is magical. I’m not talking Harry Potter-style, EXPECTO PATRONUM! type magic – although that would be pretty cool if it did exist.

I’m talking about the magic that we feel in some of the simplest, most natural acts humans can participate in:

Swimming naked in the sea, and feeling the cold water all around our body.

Feeling the spring grass between our toes.

The intense shock and taste and texture of fresh, ripe mango.

The intense closeness with another person when we make love.

Circle magic

The magic of being in Circle is another level of experience.

Raising and directing energy with our minds, our voices and our bodies can be an exhiliarating experience – a working of trust and honesty and openness between members of a group that nothing else can replicate.

Seeing the results of our work within Circle is liberating, intoxicating – and sometimes scary! The “be careful what you wish for” rule is a wise one to follow! At first you’re skeptical – how can this stuff possibly work? But working with a powerful group soon dismisses the skepticism.

When we join a Circle, or become a member of a Coven, we are asked to do so “with open mind and open heart”. The only way to work closely together with others is in honesty and truth.

I believe this is why the only successful, long-term Pagans are those who have come to accept who they are, their flaws and strengths, warts and all. And when you see yourself as you truly are, it makes it easier to accept others in all their shades, shapes and colours.

Instead of pre-defining roles for others to play that fit with society’s well-defined goals of monogamy, patriarchy and consumerism, we see others simply as – people. All with weaknesses. All with strengths. All with beauty and frailty.

And with our open mind comes a love for others, and an acceptance, that is a gift within itself. Because sometimes the best friends come in the most unexpected packages. And sometimes love appears where you don’t expect to find it.

Happy Beltane, everyone 🙂

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Ostara ritual – group ritual for coven

Spring Equinox is a time when day and night is of equal length. Traditionally, this is the time of the year when the Crone departs, and we welcome the prospect of new life and new beginnings.

This ritual focuses on the transformation of the Maiden into the Mother, and welcomes in the new phase of a woman’s life when she prepares for motherhood. The ritual also honours the time of Maidenhood – in particular, the Maiden in her role as Warrior (Athene) and the Maiden in her role as Huntress (Diana).

For this ritual you will need:

  • A handful of white flowers or rose petals
  • A handful of withered leaves
  • Four white quarter candles
  • A lighter (or matches)
  • The Sword of the Maiden Warrior (sword)
  • The Knife of the Maiden Huntress (blade)
  • Small pieces of red paper, on which the Maidens have written their wishes for the Mother in childbirth.
  • Cauldron, methylated spirits, epsoms salts
  • Cakes and Ale.

Prior to the ritual:

  • The cauldron should be set in the middle of the Circle in front of the altar, with epsom salts and methylated spirits within, ready to burn.
  • At each quarter a white candle should be set ready to light, honouring the time of Imbolc which is passing, and the Maidens who preside over this time.
  • Two bowls – one containing white flowers or rose petals, the other containing withered leaves – should be ready on the altar.
  • Small pieces of red paper, with the wishes of the Maidens for the Mother, should be ready on the altar.
  • The Sword of the Maiden Warrior, and the Knife of the Maiden Huntress should reside on the Eastern side of the altar.
  • Cakes and ale should be ready on the altar for Feasting.

The Maiden Warrior takes up the lighter/matches from the altar, and lights the Eastern candle.

Maiden Warrior:

I light the candle of the East
The Dawn, new beginnings, new life…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Air)

Maiden Huntress:

I light the candle of the North
The Midday sun, passions, sexuality, lust…
(The Maiden Huntress free-forms on the Element of Fire)

Maiden Warrior:

I light the candle of the West
The Dusk, emotion, the family…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Water)

Maiden Huntress:

I light the candle of the South
The Midnight Hour, the silence, the strength…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Earth)

Maiden Warrior:

Imbolc is ending
The time of the Maiden is passing
The darkness is over
And hope is reborn in the Mother…

Maiden Huntress:

Winter has ended
The Crone departs, her cold touch leaves us
I honour her in her strength and wisdom
Watch over our sister in the trials of birth that await her!

Maiden Warrior: (takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother)

I salute and honour the Mother
Our sister, our friend…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)

Maiden Huntress: (takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother)

I salute and honour the Mother
Our sister, our friend…
(The Maiden Huntress free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)

Mother: (moving into the centre of the Circle, and lighting the Cauldron)

I light the Cauldron of Akasha
The Spirit, the Soul, the web
Maiden, Mother, Crone.

The Maiden Warrior takes up the white flowers / rose petals from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the transformation from Maiden to Mother. She then takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).

The Maiden Huntress takes up the withered leaves from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the passing of the Crone as winter ends. She then takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).

The Maidens now take up from the altar their pieces of red paper upon which their wishes are written, and cast them into the Cauldron, with any appropriate words they might like to say.

The Mother kneels in front of the Cauldron, and expresses her thanks, and asks for a safe and joyous birth, and for a healthy and happy child.

All: (chanting)

Time is change, change is time,
Change is the way of the Goddess…

The Maidens now close the Circle, blow out the white quarter candles, and the Coven move inside for Cakes and Ale.


Image of eggs by Thorskegga

Ostara ritual 2 – solitary ritual

The following is a beautiful and simple ritual that can be performed by a solitary practitioner to celebrate and welcome the arrival of Ostara, the time of rebirth and new life.

You will need:

  • A yellow candle
  • Rosewater or rose oil
  • A slip of pastel paper (preferably handmade) Your favourite pen
  • A piece of rose quartz
  • String (optional)
  • Your cauldron set to light
  • Matches or a lighter
  • A bowl of rain or spring water
  • Some flower bulbs or seeds.

Cast a Circle in your preferred way.

Anoint the candle with the rosewater/oil. As you do so, meditate on the year to come, on the new life springing from the earth, and give thanks to the Lord and the Lady for their gifts.

Next, write your goals for the year to come on the slip of paper, and wrap it around the rose quartz, to form a small package. If necessary, tie it with string. Anoint the package containing the rose quartz with rosewater/oil as well.

Next, place the package containing the quartz into the cauldron. Light the yellow candle and, while focussing on its flame and meditating on your goals that have been written on the slip of paper, begin the Ostara chant slowly:

Ostara, ostara
Time of rebirth
Time of new life
echoing, echoing…

While continuing the chant, light the cauldron from the candle flame, and focus on the cauldron fire, directing your will into its flames and using its energy to focus your goal.

Focus your thoughts on achieving your goal as you chant the Ostara chant and as the flames in the cauldron burn the quartz package.

When the fire at last has died down and the cauldron contents have cooled, lift the quartz (the paper will have burned away) out of the cauldron, and rinse it in the bowl or rain/spring water. Take cakes and ale, and close the Circle.

In the morning, bury the quartz with the flower bulbs or seeds. As the flowers grow, your goals will come to pass.


Egg image by Thorskegga

Ostara ritual 1 – large group ritual

Akasha WitchCraft – Ostara ritual (group ritual)

Introduction

Spring Equinox is a time when day and night is of equal length. Traditionally, this is the time of the year when the Crone departs, and we welcome in the Maiden as a recognition of renewed life. Spring Equinox is all about celebrating new life, and working with the power of the Green Man to welcome the Maiden back into the world.

Spring Equinox is a time when we can plant new goals, hopes and wishes for the future.

Requirements for the ritual

  • Candelabras or candle holders; lighter
  • Pure white candle (for the Maiden)
  • Small candles (tealights are suitable)
  • Crown of withered leaves (for the Crone)
  • Cauldron with lid
  • Heat-proof mat for cauldron (if ritual is performed indoors); or fire-safe space cleared for cauldron in center of circle
  • Singing bowls or bells for raising musical energy
  • Small slips of paper and pens / pencils (enough for attendees)
  • Cakes and ale.

The ritual

The Spring Equinox (Ostara) ritual starts with a ‘Meet and Greet’ session, in which new attendees gave a brief intoduction about who they were and a little about their life. They can say as much or as little as they wished, and both magickal and / or non-magickal names may be used.

When we are ready, one Covener outlines what will happen throughout the evening. Then the lights are dimmed and general lighting candles (candlabras) are lit.

Next, slips of paper and pens are passed around, and people are asked write down a goal, a wish or a hope that they want to see come about through the strength of the Maiden. Small candles should also given to everyone. Once this is done, people are asked to hold on to the papers until the Crone collects them later in the ritual. Their candles will be lit later in the ritual.

Lights are turned off completely, and the quarter candles lit.

The CRONE, veiled in black, with a crown of withered leaves and a staff of dried pine, casts the Circle, thumping her staff in each of the quarters and calling the Elements in. In the background, ritual singing bowls hum eerily, helping people to establish a trancelike state and heighten the energy within the Circle.

Then the GREEN MAN, at the South of the Circle, speaks the following:

GREEN MAN: The Green Man is awake!
The Green Man is alive! I wait for the Maiden to join in the Dance!

The Green Man then starts moving deosil (anti-clockwise) around the Circle, whispering “Awake! Alive! Alive! Awake!” and touching people to join them. Eventually the whole Circle is moving deosil, chanting “Awake! Alive! Alive! Awake!” and gradually getting louder, building the energy within the Circle.

At this point, two Coveners moved into the Eastern quarter of the Circle, and formed an archway with their hands, creating a gateway into the Circle.

1ST COVENER: We welcome the Maiden into the Circle
We welcome the Maiden into the Dance
Life and warmth are renewed.

2ND COVENER: She wakens the green leaves
She touches the living earth
She kisses the dawn and embraces the fiery dusk
She is awake once more
Light and life are renewed!

The MAIDEN, dressed in white and carrying a pure white lit candle, starts approaching the Circle from the East.

The Maiden enters the Circle, and is welcomed by the Green Man, who kisses her and places a wreath of flowers on her hair. She then moves deosil about the circle, lighting the candles of the Circle members in turn, and bringing light and warmth to the Circle.

As the Maiden moves around the Circle, the Crone follows her, collecting people’s wishes on their slips of paper in a brass bowl.

Once all the candles are lit, and the Circle is ablaze with light, the Crone passes the wishes to the Maiden, and throws down her crown of withered leaves, signifying that Winter is indeed ended.

The Maiden raises the bowl of wishes up to the sky, blesses them, then bends to place them in the cauldron. She then sets the cauldron alight with blue flames, and finally puts the lid on the cauldron, closing the flames and sealing the wishes.

Cakes and ale (bread and juice) are then shared, with the traditional greetings of “May you never hunger” and “May you never thirst”. This helps to ground people, and signifies the end of the ritual. After cakes and ale the Crone closes the circle.


Egg image by Thorskegga