Sunday, March 15, 2015
Blessed Morning, my Beloveds!
I was raised Catholic. Loosely raised, to say the very least, but Catholic all the same. I went through all the sacraments from baptism to confirmation. I was wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony. So how did I end up here, 20 years later, practicing Wicca?
When we are raised in the religious beliefs of our families, there is a gradual acceptance of what our beliefs should be. Our parents may take us to church, as was true for me. We were taught about prayer, about God, most often, from a monotheistic perspective. Our concept of whether we are spiritually fulfilled was more or less taken for granted. We settled comfortably into the religious path chosen for us by our family. What more can we ask for?
It's when those things, no matter how devout we are in our practices, don't meet our spiritual needs that we are thrown out of balance. We may not even realize that this is the "something missing" from our lives.
Still, those beliefs that were handed down as part of our families heritage may be the hardest to leave behind, no matter how unfulfilled by them we may feel. We may not have a problem with the religion we practice or the Deities we worship, per se. We may feel a sense of loyalty and affection for them and yet, we feel overwhelmingly drawn to something that we can't quite explain. For me, that something was Witchcraft.
That is not to say that this transition was an easy one. I viewed my own "seeking" with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It's a strange feeling to be both absolutely certain and yet conflicted all at the same time. Then there are the questions, "Don't you believe in God?", "Don't you love Jesus Christ? These didn't only come from others, but from my conscience as well. At that time, there were no clearly defined answers. Yes, I believe in a Universal Divine, that is neither male or female, but has aspects of both. Yes, I have a deep affection and respect for Jesus Christ and his teachings, but that has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. I felt as if I was being "unfaithful" to my faith. Holy crap! I was breaking #7 of the Ten Commandments!
Then I got over it :)
It happened one day as I grappled with these internal questions and conflicts. I asked for guidance, although, I wasn't entirely sure whom I was asking. I was late driving to work that morning and as I rushed from my car, I noticed something on the pavement near the door. I didn't really have time to investigate further and had forgotten all about it as I began my day. Later, as I approached my car, I realized it was still there. It was a small black velvet mojo bag. I picked it up and inside was a square silver medallion with the Triquetra embossed on it.
The Triquetra is a Celtic symbol that predates Christianity, but has been used by Christians to represent the Holy Trinity. In Neopaganism, it is used to represent the Triple Goddess; Maiden, Mother and Crone. It also is a symbol of life, death and rebirth.
I felt as though I'd found my answer. Until this writing, I never realized how accurate a message that was.
Having had a passion for root working for quite a while, I rely heavily on the Christian Saints, the Psalms and the Bible in my work. As I become more connected with these practices, I realize the endless possibilities that the Deities offer us, in whatever form they take, when we don't limit them based on our preconceived notions what we can or can not believe. While the Triquetra is considered a "knot", for me it's a symbol of life coming full circle.
No worries. I'm not going to breaking into "The Circle of Life". :)
In Darkness, Light!
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 11:15 AM
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Blessed Frosty Morning, My Beloveds!
Recently, I've read some fairly derogatory comments posted about the Wiccan religion. It's not like Wicca hasn't had it's fair share of negative reviews, but these are coming from within the magical community.
There are some who believe that Wiccans lack the ability to be taken seriously as practitioners. We're too light, too flowery, too fluffy. I'm too amused. I don't think anyone who knows me would describe me that way.
Apparently, if we aren't practicing Goetic magic, drawing on the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon and summoning demons to do our bidding, we are nothing more than amateurs. Not to state the obvious, but Wicca is an Earth based religion that incorporates magic into its practice. It is not, in and of itself, a magical practice. Witchcraft is the practice of magic. If you are part of the Pagan and/or Witchcraft practicing community, this is common knowledge.
Back in the day, Witchcraft was the practice of Shamans, herbalists and other medicine folk. The Native Americans didn't use The Key of Solomon; their magic came from the Earth. They developed a relationship with the land and their deities.
I've read some books on magic that, quite frankly, made my head hurt. Not that they weren't interesting, to be sure. I love learning what others find to be successful in their practices, but at times I've come away with the feeling that the same could have been achieved with a lot less in terms of bells and whistles. To be honest, I know many Witches who use a wide variety of magical techniques and find their practice no more or less effective than my own. Magic is not exact science.
If you claim your practice of magic is more potent or successful than that practiced by anyone else...I call Bullshit! I learned a great acronym recently, K.I.S.S. (Keep it short and simple).
I will say that there are some out there calling themselves Wiccan or Witches, who most definitely make complete and utter asses of themselves. They reflect badly on the rest of us. That said, is this not true of any other religion? Well...is it? Kirk Cameron and Tom Cruz come to mind.
I recently joined a Wicca/Witchcraft group on Facebook, in which this question was posed to it's members, "What is the first thing a new Witch should learn?" Some of the responses made me cringe! I read everything from smudging, to shielding, to casting a circle, to spell casting, creating a Book of Shadows.
The most prominent of answers were "The Threefold Law" and "The Wiccan Rede". While I do believe that these are both important parts of our history, are they the "first" thing any new Witch needs to learn? Not.So.Much.
My personal opinion on both of these is simply this. The "Threefold Law" is nothing more than the basic tenet reflected in almost every other religion, "Harm None", "Do Unto Others, "do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you", "what goes around comes around". I remember reading that this was Gerald Gardner's attempt to have a similar "Golden Rule" for the Wiccan religion and to appease the Christian's concerns about the growing interest in Witchcraft. I don't believe magic, for good or bane, set forth into the World will return times three. I do believe the Threefold Law was meant to be a lesson in common sense and integrity, It's definitely not the first thing one needs to learn as a Witch. It's the first thing one needs to learn as a Human Being. The Wiccan Rede is a lesson in both the lore of the Craft. and personal responsibility. It's a lovely read. Still not the first thing someone new to the Craft needs to learn.
No, in my opinion, the first thing anyone who pursues this path needs to learn is "Know Thy Self". What do you hope to gain by becoming a "Witch/Wiccan?". As with many who come into the Craft, is it something you were drawn to or are you rebelling against a parent, spouse or previously practiced religion? Do you want to cast spells on people or imagine you can? Or do you simply like the idea of referring to yourself as a Witch? Be honest with yourself. I can tell you that if you enter into this Path for the right reasons, you will find fulfillment. If not, you may be quite disenchanted.
Know your craft. No, I don't mean how to cast a spell. This is the last thing you should be focused at this stage of your "career". Read! Read everything! Reading a book or two on Wicca will never make you Wiccan, anymore than reading a book or two on anything will make you a scholar. Learn as much as you can and then you can apply your knowledge.
A true Witch doesn't just choose a title to wear on their sleeve, they strive to earn it. Last most important thing to learn..Patience!
In Darkness, Light!
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 1:17 PM
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 6:41 PM
Saturday, February 14, 2015
That is the question!
Blessings my Beloveds!
The question, I'm afraid, has no simple answer.
I remember when I first began practicing, the thought of engaging in negative magic never even crossed my mind. Wicca's basic tenet of "An It Harm None, Do As Ye Will" and the "Threefold Law" were as clear for me as the Ten Commandments are to any Christian. You reap what you sow.
Let me say, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these concepts, as long as you understand that not everyone follows them. Greed, envy, jealousy, anger, in others, as well as ourselves, are all part of the human condition. For the most part, they are fleeting emotions that we deal with on a mundane level, without ill effects spilling over into our personal or magical lives.
If you are choosing to perform magic to effect change in your life, you are almost always emotionally vested in its outcome. Witchcraft is an empowering and at times, emotionally volatile practice.
There are going to be those situations that push the limits of your ethical patience. It's not a matter of if, but when this will happen. A friend betrays a trust, you are accused of something you didn't do or someone threatens your family. You are not just angry, you're pissed beyond all definition of the word. Your "normal" mundane reaction might include confronting your friend, defending your integrity or filing a restraining order to protect your family. You choose to react magically and you bring "livid pissed" to a whole new level!
There are no "controls" in magic. There are no absolute, predictable outcomes. Magic follows the path of least resistance. It is a matter of will, purpose and intention. If your intention is to cause harm, you better be prepared for the unexpected. This is Witchcraft you are sending forth into the World. A snarky comment on Facebook is not a good reason to use it! It's like opening the Pandora's Box of magical possibilities!
I am the last person you would ever hear lecturing on "Magical Ethics". To do so would prove me a raging hypocrite! Patience is not one of my greatest virtues. I have been known not only to bend the "Rule of Three" on a few occasions, but to break it in half, toss it into a cauldron and burn it...with little regret. The use of Witchcraft is a personal decision that can have serious and devastating implications if used recklessly.
Having said that, the Wiccan Rede, like the Bible is open to interpretation. It is not intended to be taken so literally as to allow its "grey areas" to preclude you from protecting yourself from harm. It is meant to be a guide to personal responsibility. If you feel threatened personally or psychically, it is your personal responsibility is to protect yourself and those that are important in your life. Don't worry that you may be performing "Black Magic". Magic is not defined by color, it's defined by the integrity of the practitioner.
Choose wisely, but never lay your power at the feet of another.
In Darkness, Light!
For your reading pleasure, I would suggest, "Protection and Reversal Magick (Beyond 101)" by Jason Miller.
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 12:25 PM
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Or visa versa...
Blessed Imbolc, my Beloveds!
So...where was I :)
I have taken on the task of inspiring and teaching new Witches! You can find us on Witchvox under, "Circle of the Ancient Ways". That said, this is not a shameless plug for our group, but a guide for those who find themselves drawn to this Path.
People are called to Wicca for many reasons. For some, like myself, it was something that had been calling to me for as long as I can remember. For others, it's a search for spirituality and community. For many, it is an interest in the mystique and magic of Witchcraft. These are all valid reasons, but the Craft, as I have come to know it, is not for everyone.
When I began practicing, some 20 years ago, I took some Wicca 101 classes and from that, a small eclectic group of dear friends began circling together. We called ourselves, "Circle of the Sacred Flame". It was a beautiful and inspiring beginning for me. We practiced for a few years before we all went our separate ways, in love and trust.
I practiced as a solitary for a while, but missed the energy of circling with others. After much meditation and research, I decided that I wanted to pursue a path in British Traditional Gardnerian Wicca. I wanted to be a part of where it all began; with a direct lineage to the teachings of Gerald Gardner, the "Father of Wicca", as he has come to be known. I was blessed to find a experienced High Priestess willing to take me on as a student, whose lineage is five degrees of separation from Gerald's own. I have since become a 2* Initiate in that Tradition. Admittedly, I am the "Black Sheep" of our Coven, a title I hold proudly. :)
But enough about me....
I have had students come to me from different backgrounds, levels of experience and desires for wanting to learn. I ultimately lose some students before or early into their training for one of the following reasons; they don't want to fill out the application, they are only interested in learning about specific aspects of Witchcraft, i.e. casting spells or divination, they realise how much work is actually involved or they learn that some formal covens do, in fact, practice skyclad, a.k.a. "clad by the sky" a.k.a. naked. This is not true of our teaching group, we are robed, but this is the way many formal Gardnerians practice. Just putting it out there.
Our application is short and sweet. We don't want to know your life history, but we would like to learn little bit more about you. If I am meeting you in person and you are going to share my home, I would like to to be secure in the knowledge that you are, at the very least, somewhat sane. It's a small, but not unreasonable request.
If you are looking for a teaching group for the sole purpose of learning spell work or any other specific magical practice, you would definitely lose patience with ours very quickly. Yes, we teach these things, but only after you have a working knowledge of Wicca and Witchcraft. You need to know yourself and your Craft. This can and often does, take years of study and practice. Are there shortcuts? Sure, you can pick up a spell book and hope for the best. I must warn you though, even the most experienced Witch has fucked up even the most well thought out spell. I know, I've done it. Magic is kind of like making toast. When it all goes well, it's delicious. If you burn it...the scent can stay with you, at times, nauseatingly longer than you ever wanted it to.
Then there is the dreaded "book list". I'll be honest, it's daunting! Our reading list is about 70 plus books long, give or take a book, and that's been modified since I began my training. We hold classes, followed by ritual, once a month and give "homework" that needs to be completed. I have had new students talk to me about Initiation a month or so into their training, only to tell me that they couldn't possibly "read all those books". Sure, you can! Every Pagan I know loves to read! If I can, and did, you can! What wouldn't you do for that which you truly desire?
There is a saying that a student must train with a teacher for "a year and a day" before they are formally initiated. I can tell you from experience, this almost never happens. Consider this, when you are learning any new or complex skill, how well do you actually know it in a year? There is a reason why Witchcraft is referred to as an "Art". Do think any of the truly great masters rushed their craft?
Ritual nudity. This the stuff that people are always wondering and whispering about. "Do you dance naked in the forest?", I've been asked more times than I've ever wanted to in this life! No, but sometimes in my bedroom I do! Oooops, outside voice! In all seriousness though, many people let their imaginations run wild with fantasies of us dancing around naked, having wild sexual orgies and worshipping Satan. Cause' that's what Witches are supposed to do, isn't it? Trust me, we never have that much fun! If one does practice skyclad it is an expression of trust, not of sexuality. It is allowing those material things that we use to define ourselves to be stripped away. It is finding strength in one's vulnerability, as well as freedom and beauty in one's own body. No ritual orgies...EVER, sorry.
"And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also: this shall last until
The last of your oppressors shall be dead"
.It is for the benefit of you as a prospective student to our group or any other, that you to do your research. If you are curious about Wicca in general and are seeking the basics, look into Wicca 101 classes, attend some public rituals or attend some Pagan Pride festivals. Witchvox is your friend! If you are looking for training into a specific Wiccan Tradition whether it's Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Minoan, etc; learn as much as you can about that Tradition. Ask questions, be specific. Any true teacher of the Craft will answer you honestly. There are some things that may be oath bound, but there are also things you, as a student, need to be aware of before you dedicate yourself to this path. The last thing you want to do is to diligently train with a group with the intention of being initiated into their formal coven, only to find that they practice skyclad. You should not agree to or feel obligated to do something you do not feel entirely comfortable doing.
I strongly encourage you to read the following Cult Danger Evaluation Frame by our beloved, Isaac Bonewits:
In Darkness, Light!
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 11:34 AM
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Merry Christmas, my Beloveds!
Yes, I went there! So, what's the big deal? Well, for some...it's a HUGE deal! It's politically incorrect to wish some people a Merry Christmas. Many people don't celebrate Christmas, so the term, "Happy Holidays" was adopted. But is that correct, really? Aren't we just presuming that everyone who we wish this greeting upon is happy? I know many people who don't find the holiday happy at all. It's filled with painful memories and/or grief. And yet, it's appropriate at this time of year to bestow this greeting upon them, despite how they might feel about it.
This is true of the Pagan community as well. At this time of year, we have the usual, albeit good-hearted and amusing, disagreement of the origins of Christmas. Who's holiday was it first? Well, some historians tell us that it was originally the Roman Pagan holiday of Saturnalia which was, admittedly, about 8 days of complete and utter debauchery. I'm certain that's a lot funnier now, than it was then. At some point however, the holiday was Christianized to include the Pagan holiday, and the birth of Christ was celebrated on December 25th as Christmas. The rest is and should be history, but it's not.
I am not a scholar on the origins of Christmas. Yes, I know it's origins were Pagan, but more than that, I have not a rat's ass to give. Pagans celebrate Yule at the Winter Solstice on the 21st of December. We have a Christmas tree and a visit from Santa at our Yule celebration. Our Clan children, who are being raised by Pagan parents, are excitedly awaiting a visit from Santa on Christmas morning, just as are most Christian children. On Christmas morning, many of us wish our friends, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, etc., a "Merry Christmas". Is it "politically incorrect?' In my opinion, it's the intention and sentiment that matters, not by what words you choose to deliver the well wishes.
Despite popular belief, Pagans are not "anti-Christ" or anti-Christmas". Many of us incorporate the Christmas holiday into our Pagan lives out of respect for our Christian family members, respect for Deity or just because it's the Season O' Joy! Dammit!
Let's face it, no matter when, where or for whom the holiday is celebrated, one can not deny the magic of the Season. It's the Return of the Light, both literally and spiritually. It's the time when family and friends draw closer, people treat each other a little kinder and are more thankful for what they have and for those in our lives.
So, who's holiday is it? It belongs to the heart whom it touches.
In Darkness, Light!
Posted by Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood at 12:26 PM