Main The Modern Guide to Witchcraft: Your Complete Guide to Witches, Covens, and Spells
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Acknowledgments I wish to thank my editors Tom Hardej and Peter Archer, and all the other talented folks at Adams Media for making this book possible. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Skye Alexander is the award-winning author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books, including The Everything® Wicca & Witchcraft Book, 2nd Edition; The Everything® Spells & Charms Book, 2nd Edition; Naughty Spells/Nice Spells; Good Spells for Bad Days; The Secret Power of Spirit Animals; and The Everything® Tarot Book, 2nd Edition. Her stories have been published in anthologies internationally, and her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. The Discovery Channel featured her in the TV special Secret Stonehenge. She divides her time between Texas and Massachusetts. Chapter 1 WHAT IS WITCHCRAFT? Snow White, Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, Star Wars. Most of us first discovered wizards and witches, spells and potions, and the never-ending struggle between good and evil through these stories. Fairy tales showed us a world filled with magick—one where inanimate objects like mirrors, stones, and gems can have special powers; animals can talk; plants can think; and with a sprinkling of dust, kids can fly. Then we grew up and forgot about magick. Our lives became a little less rich and our imaginations started to shrivel as we got mired in the mundane details of our daily lives. But every now and then, we recapture some of that early magick through books and movies like ET, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. We find ourselves fascinated once again by the supernatural world and eager to reawaken the magick within us. COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WITCHES Before we go any further, let’s get rid of those ridiculous ideas some people still hold about witches. Misconceptions about witches come from ignorance and fear. For centuries, mainstream religions have encouraged negative images about witches—and during a period known as “The Burning Times” these fal; se ideas led to the deaths of countless innocent people in Europe and the New World. In recent times, the media continue to present a distorted picture of witches and magick, further confusing the issue. For the record: Witches do not steal or eat babies—this idea comes from old folklore, and fairies were often blamed for doing the same thing. Witches are not Satanists who sell their souls to the devil in return for special powers. Lots of witches don’t even believe in Satan—he’s a Christian conception. Witches don’t ride brooms—they get around in cars, trains, and airplanes just like everyone else. (You might see a bumper sticker that says, “I’m driving this car because my broom’s in the shop” but that’s just a joke.) Witches prefer pizza over eye of newt any day. Witches don’t inherit magickal powers from mysterious ancestors, although if Grandma was a witch and trained you in the Craft from childhood, you’ll have a head start on other wannabe witches. Not all witches possess remarkable psychic powers, nor do they have the gift of prophecy. Some psychics may be witches, and many witches develop their intuition through practice. But the truth is, everyone has psychic ability, including you. Witches don’t consort with or battle demons, vampires, zombies, or other monsters—they have better things to do. Not all witches worship ancient gods and goddesses—some don’t believe in any type of deity. Witches aren’t immortal; they live ordinary lifespans just like other humans. Witches aren’t ugly old hags, they can be young and incredibly beautiful, but most of them are just average people like you and me. Witches don’t engage in rivalries and conflicts with other magickal practitioners. The witches in Salem, Massachusetts, for example, don’t have a long-standing rivalry with New Orleans’s voodoo priestesses. Trust me on this. I’ve been a witch for twenty-five years and lived in Salem for eight—and I get along with people from New Orleans just fine. If you choose to become a witch, you’ll have to throw out all the silly and sensational things you’ve seen, heard, and read about witchcraft. At least for the time being, you’ll have to live with being constantly offended by the ignorance of people who would never think of insulting blacks, Jews, or other folks so outrageously as they do witches. Just put on your magick, protective shield and get on with practicing the real deal. Wizards, Sorcerers, and Magicians The words wizard and sorcerer can be used for either a man or a woman. Wizard derives from a term meaning “wise,” and sorcerer means “witch” or “diviner.” The word magician is also appropriate for both sexes and for witches of all stripes. Depending on the cultural setting, the term magician came to describe people adept in astrology, sorcery, divination, spellcasting, or other magickal arts. In this book, we’ll use some terms repeatedly. Let’s clarify a few of them in order to avoid confusion: A witch is someone who uses his or her power along with the natural laws of the universe to shape reality in accordance with his/her purposes. Witchcraft is the practice of manipulating energy through various means to produce a desired result. Magick is the transformation that occurs when a witch/magician bends or shapes energy using paranormal techniques. The “k” at the end of the word distinguishes it from magic tricks and stage illusion (or sleight of hand). As we go along, you’ll see that witches follow any number of paths and use lots of different methods in the practice of their craft. They also perform many types of magick for a variety of reasons. As you explore the art of the witch and learn to use your own magickal ability, you’ll discover what suits you best and what direction you wish to take in your own journey. WITCHCRAFT AND RELIGION Like people from other walks of life, witches share some concepts and disagree on others—we’ll discuss some of these as we go along. Their ideas may be influenced by their cultural traditions and backgrounds, personal life experiences, or individual temperaments. That’s okay. You don’t have to subscribe to any particular belief system or set of rules to be a witch. In the past, many witches learned their craft as part of a family tradition in which they were carefully trained, just as other people might learn carpentry or masonry. Villages had “cunning folk” to whom people turned for all kinds of help, from encouraging crops to grow to fixing a broken heart. Healing made up a large part of the witch’s work, and many witches were knowledgeable herbalists and midwives. In exchange for such services, the witch might receive a chicken, a measure of grain, or other necessities. Religious concepts weren’t linked with the practice of witchcraft itself, though individual witches often embraced the beliefs of their families or culture. That’s still true today. If you belong to a certain religion or are on a specific spiritual path, you needn’t give it up to become a witch. In fact, you may choose to incorporate the ideas of your faith into your magickal practice. If you don’t hold to any belief system at all, that’s fine too. Witches can follow any religion or none. However, the lack of rules, dogma, or religious affiliation does not mean witches lack ethics. Wicca and Witchcraft People sometimes confuse the terms witch and Wicca. Witchcraft is a methodology, a skill, a way of working with energy to produce a result. Wicca is a spiritual philosophy, with its own code of ethics, concepts, rituals, deities, etc. Yes, many witches in the West today consider themselves Wiccan, and Wiccans generally practice witchcraft, but witches are not necessarily Wiccan. Other Worlds of Existence Many witches accept that one or more realms beyond our earth exist and that nonphysical beings share the cosmos with us. Some honor certain gods or goddesses, and we’ll take a look at these in Chapter 6. Other witches converse with angels, fairies, and nature spirits. Still others believe that everything on earth—animals, plants, stones—possesses a divine essence or soul. But witches do not need to believe in divine beings in order to perform their work, just as computer programmers, electricians, and dental hygienists don’t have to be members of a particular faith to do their jobs. Life after Death and Reincarnation The cycle of birth–life–death is obvious to all of us, but for many witches the cycle does not stop there. Instead of life ending when the body dies, they believe an individual’s soul, spirit, or personal energy travels to a realm beyond the physical one and will eventually be reborn in another body in another time and place. Many of them view earth as a “school” and believe we come here as human beings to learn. This cycle continues until the soul has worked through all the lessons it set out to learn. Having completed the cycle, the soul retires to a place of joy and regeneration. Of course, this idea isn’t unique to witches. Christians, Muslims, and people of many other faiths believe our souls continue on after our bodies die, and Hindus have believed in reincarnation for thousands of years. Where Do Witches Go When They Die? Christianity has its heaven. Buddhism has nirvana. Where do witches go when they die? Many Wiccans believe that their souls go to the Summerland, a resting place before reincarnation into new bodies, in an ongoing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. THE WITCH’S CONNECTION WITH NATURE Despite their differences and individual ways of practicing their craft, modern witches share some common ground. One of these is a respect for nature. This involves honoring the earth, attuning themselves to her cycles and seasons, and tapping natural forces in magickal workings. Like shamans, witches see the earth as a living, breathing entity, their home to honor and protect, not a place to conquer and control. Witches regard the earth, its creatures, and everything that exists on our planet as teachers and part of the divine plan. From the witch’s perspective, the planet itself and every living thing in this world has a spirit, a unique energy pattern. As a result, witches tend to think globally, mindful of nature and the cosmos. Living in Harmony with the Earth Witches celebrate life, and without our beautiful planet life as we know it could not exist. Therefore, witches attempt to establish a dialogue with Mother Nature. Yes, some of them may actually talk to trees, birds, animals, and stones, but more than that they try to observe and listen in order to understand their place in the natural order of things. Witches realize that we are dependent on the earth and therefore it makes sense to engage in practices that enrich both ourselves and the earth. “It’s sacred ground we walk upon with every step we take,” some witches sing. They seek to live in harmony with all of nature and to balance energies that have gone askew in our technology-driven society. We often refer to our planet as Mother Earth, and indeed she is mother to us all. In a sense, that makes everyone and everything on earth part of a huge, extended family. When you know that you are a part of a greater whole it becomes more difficult to act against that whole. To do so would be counterproductive and would harm your kin, your friends, and yourself. Witches try to move gently, to respect all life, and to honor the sacredness in all things and in each other. If we can do this, we can heal the earth and the earth will heal us. Green witches, in particular, devote themselves to this path. (You’ll find out more about this in Chapter 7.) Some witches may work to protect endangered lands and wildlife, feeling that the loss of these would be a crime against Gaia (one name for the earth’s spirit; in Greek mythology, goddess of the earth). Others donate money or time to ecological causes, and they often send out positive energy through spells and rituals. Later on, you’ll learn more about how to do your part to create greater health, peace, and well-being in your own part of the world and beyond. Signs and Omens in Nature A rock, a flower, an herb, a tree, or an animal may hold special meaning for a witch, depending on when and where it appears and what’s going on in her life at the time. For example, if a wild rose suddenly blossoms in her yard, she might take it as a positive omen of love growing in the home. A clever witch will take this one step further: She’ll thank nature for its gift, dry some of those petals, and turn this little treasure into love-inspiring incense. In this manner, a witch may find herself re-inspired by a childlike wonder toward the planet and the small things that we often overlook in our busy lives. Natural Magick If you are serious about being a witch and doing magick, you’ll need to get in touch with the natural world around you—it has much to teach you and many gifts to offer you. Today, most of us are more familiar with computers and smartphones, offices and shopping malls sealed against the weather, than we are with the sight of crops growing in the fields, the sound of streams rippling over rocks, or the scent of moist leaves on the forest floor. Go for a walk outdoors. Reconnect with the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair. Listen to the birds that live in a tree in your yard. Watch the sunset. Take time to smell the flowers that bloom in the park during the summer. The natural world is just as natural as it ever was, except there’s less of it than there was twenty-five years ago—and most of us don’t make a point of enjoying it often enough. As you begin to rediscover the natural rhythms around you, you’ll also start to notice how they affect the flow of your inner life. When you become accustomed to doing this, you’ll find that you feel more in sync with everything around you, and with yourself. You may not be able to align your life with the changing seasons the way our ancestors did—nor is it really necessary. However, expanding your awareness of the cycles of the earth and the cosmos will put you in touch with powerful energies beyond your own immediate skills and enable you to do magick more effectively. In later chapters, we’ll talk more about tapping into the magick of the natural world around you. You’ll learn to make potions, conduct rituals, and cast spells for a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life. GOOD WITCH, BAD WITCH: WHICH IS WHICH? Despite the ugly face that religions have tried to put on witches, historically most have been concerned with helping individuals and communities. As we’ve already said, fear and misunderstanding underlie the foolish ideas many people hold about witches. Once you get to know them, witches are pretty much like everyone else; they just see the world a little differently. Are there “bad” witches who use their knowledge and power for personal gain and ill will? Yes, of course, just as there are “bad” Christians, “bad” Muslims, and so on. Witches are people. If you shake any figurative tree hard enough, a couple rotten apples are likely to fall off. That’s just human nature. The good news is that these rotten apples are the exception, not the rule. Witchcraft and Ethics Just like everyone else, witches confront issues that require them to make ethical choices. For instance, should magick be used as a weapon, even if it’s only to fight back? Should you use magick to get what you want, even if that means you put someone else at a disadvantage? And where do you draw the line between white and black magick? Some witches may not concern themselves with the ethical results of a spell or ritual—what counts is that the spell works. With a spell, you’re attempting to stack the odds in your favor—or in another person’s favor, if the spell is for someone else. You’re attempting to influence something in the future. We all do this constantly, of course, in various ways, but when a witch casts a spell she brings her full conscious and creative awareness to the process. Wiccans and some other witches believe that magick has a boomerang effect: Whatever you do comes back to you. If you do a spell that hurts someone else, you’ll hurt yourself in the process or attract someone to you who will cause you harm. For that reason, witches often follow a version of the Golden Rule when doing spells: Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. Magicians recognize that even though the human mind and spirit have unlimited potential, we can’t possibly foresee all the possible outcomes of a spell. Human beings are not omniscient, and sometimes even good intentions lead to terrible results. Just to be on the safe side, you might want to end a spell or ritual with a phrase such as “This is done for the greatest good of all and may it harm none.” In essence, this turns over responsibility for the outcome to higher (and wiser) powers who have a better understanding of how to bring about the best possible outcome. What If Someone Important to You Is Opposed to Witchcraft? Arguing about it is the worst thing to do. You’re not going to change anyone’s opinions about spells or anything else. Your best bet is to follow your practice in private. If possible, step back from the situation and try to look at the other person as a teacher. What lesson can you learn from this opposition? Your Personal Code Every magickal tradition, from the Druids to Wicca to Santería, has its own code—principles that guide the practitioner, boundaries that she won’t cross, a core set of beliefs that permeate everything she does. These core beliefs define an individual’s magickal practice. In Wicca, for instance, the primary principle is to harm nothing and no one. But people also develop their own personal codes. Have you defined yours? As previously noted, cultural differences play a part in sculpting a particular individual’s beliefs. In the end, however, each of us must refine our own codes as we evolve from children to adults. What’s right for one person might not be okay for another. At the heart of any belief system lies a code by which you live your life, and it may not have any connection to what other people consider good and bad. Following your own truth will become ever more important as you develop your magickal ability and grow more adept at using your powers. Each witch relies on her inner voice (or conscience, if you will) in determining how she wields magick. There is no cut-and-dried answer to whether anyone is a good or a bad witch. As a beginner to the wonderful world of witchcraft, you will learn something new every day and experience new sensations and feelings as you explore your newfound path. Some may surprise you, some will challenge you, and lots will fascinate and excite you. One thing you can be sure of now that you’ve started down this road: You’ll never be quite the same again. Chapter 2 MAGICK AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU Have you ever wondered why some days you seem to breeze through life, but on other days nothing goes right? Why it is that when things start sliding downhill, they seem to go from bad to worse? How can you keep the good times rolling and prevent the bad ones from getting a foothold? Is there a way to turn your luck around? Absolutely! That’s what magick spells are for—to give you power over your destiny. Rather than being a victim of circumstances beyond your control, with magick you control the circumstances. Once you start viewing the world from a magickal perspective, you’ll be able to see beyond everyday frustrations, disappointments, and aggravations. You’ll maneuver around the obstacles that pop up in your path. It’s similar to what athletes call being “in the zone.” Considering all the curves life throws us, it only makes sense to use whatever tools are available to give yourself an advantage. Magick spells are just that: tools to help you avoid pitfalls and attract blessings. For thousands of years people have been doing magick. You can, too, and once you start doing spells, you’ll never want to stop! Perhaps you’re skeptical. You may be wondering, what’s this magick stuff all about anyway? More important, can it really help me? The answer is yes. If you didn’t believe in magick (at least a little bit), you wouldn’t be reading this book. YOU’RE ALREADY A MAGICIAN You may not realize it yet, but you’re already a magician. You’ve already done lots of magick spells without even knowing it. Now you’re going to learn how to perform magick purposefully, to turn your luck around. Once you discover the secret, you’ll be able to chart your own destiny, avoiding the pitfalls and setbacks that seemed inevitable before. The word “magician” derives from the Latin magi meaning wise men or women (singular magus). Remember the wise men in the Christmas story? They were also called magi, or magicians, and they followed a star they’d seen that foretold of Jesus’ birth, which suggests they knew astrology, too. Every culture, stretching back long before the advent of written history, has had its magicians: medicine men, cunning folk, kahunas, Druids, witches, and shamans. By choosing a magickal path, you are following in the footsteps of ancient seers and healers who knew how to shape the forces of the universe with their intentions. Simply put, magick is the act of consciously creating circumstances using methods that defy scientific logic. The notorious British magician Aleister Crowley said, “Every intentional act is a Magickal Act.” Whenever you form an objective in your mind, then fuel it with willpower, you’re doing magick. TEN GOOD THINGS MAGICK CAN DO FOR YOU Before we get into how, let’s consider why learning to do magick is worth your time and effort. Here are ten ways magick can help to make your life better. It can: Improve your love life Attract prosperity Keep you and your loved ones safe from harm Enhance your health Protect your home and personal property Open up new career opportunities Give you more control over your life Improve interactions with family, friends, and coworkers Ward off problems and enemies Strengthen your intuition and psychic skills People who don’t understand magick have made it seem weird or evil, and Hollywood sensationalizes it to the point of absurdity. Actually, there’s nothing scary, strange, or silly about magick—it’s a natural ability you were born with, a talent you can develop just like musical or mathematical talent. All it takes is desire, a little training, and practice. THE POWER BEHIND MAGICK Fortunately, you don’t really need any special tools to practice witchcraft. Yes, witches frequently do use a variety of tools to enhance their magickal workings—you’ll learn about these later. The tools, however, aren’t the source of power, the witch is. The truth is, magick is all in the mind—mostly the tools just help you to stay focused. Thinking Makes It So In the movie What Dreams May Come, the character played by Robin Williams dies and then wakes up in the afterlife. The place looks, smells, tastes, and feels more or less like the so-called real world. But he quickly learns that in this place, whatever he thinks or desires manifests instantly. All of it is a construct of consciousness. Magick works in the same way. What you think is what you get. The manifestation may not be immediate—although it can be. If your belief and your intent are strong enough, if you bring passion to your spell, and if you can focus your energy clearly toward a specific goal, then you have a good chance of achieving what you want. Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and stating your intention with absolute clarity is essential whenever you perform a spell. Otherwise, your spell could backfire. The fact is, you’re doing magick all the time, whether or not you realize it. As noted later, the Law of Attraction states that your thoughts, emotions, and actions affect the energetic patterns around you, and the most significant “tools” in magick are your thoughts and feelings. That’s why it’s important to use your magickal power with clear intent, so you can produce the results you truly desire. Underlying all magick is a simple principle of physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that old computer axiom, garbage in, garbage out? Magick is like that, too: If you put bad thoughts and feelings in, you’ll get bad stuff back and vice versa. So, be careful what you ask for! What You Believe Is What You’ll Get Belief is the core of magick. Without it, all you have are words and gestures, light and dust, nothing but bluster—rather like the Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that Dorothy and her companions exposed as just an ordinary man behind a curtain. But what, exactly, is meant by belief? Go back to Oz. The Lion sought courage because he believed he was cowardly. That belief ruled his life until the Wizard pointed out how courageous he actually was. The Lion experienced a radical shift in his beliefs about himself when he realized that he had possessed what he desired most all along. Believing he didn’t have courage was what crippled him. Most of us are just like the Cowardly Lion. We let fear, doubt, and erroneous beliefs limit our power and our ability to create what we desire most in life. Let’s say you want abundance. To you, that means financial abundance, money in the bank, freedom from worrying whether the next check you write is going to bounce. However, to those around you, your life appears to be incredibly abundant—you have a loving family, wonderful friends, good health. Sometimes a shift in our deepest beliefs happens because someone whose opinion we respect points out that we really do have what we desire. Other times, we reach the same conclusion on our own. One thing you can count on: When your beliefs change, so will your life circumstances. When you do magick, you must believe in yourself and your ability to produce the result you seek. Doubt pours water on your creative fire. If you doubt you can achieve your goal, you won’t. That’s true whether you’re playing a sport or casting a spell. The Power of Your Beliefs A belief is an acceptance of something as true. Thousands of years ago, people believed the world was flat. In the 1600s, men and women were burned at the stake because people in power believed they were evil and consorted with the devil. (You’d be surprised to discover how many people still believe witches are the devil’s disciples—more about this later.) On a more personal level, all of us face the consequences of our personal beliefs in all areas of our lives, every day. Your experiences, the people around you, your personal and professional environments—every facet of your existence, in fact—is a faithful reflection of a belief. Some common ingrained, self-limiting beliefs that many people hold on to include: I’m not worthy (of love, wealth, a great job, whatever). My relationships stink. I’ll never amount to anything. People are out to get me. Life is a struggle. You can’t be rich and spiritual. I live in an unsafe world. The foundations for many of these notions are laid in childhood, when we adopt the beliefs of our parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Childhood conditioning can be immensely powerful. Inside the man or woman who lacks a sense of self-worth lurks a small child who may believe he or she is a sinner, unworthy, or not good enough. On a larger scale, our beliefs also come from the cultures and societies in which we live. A woman living in the West, for example, is unlikely to have the same core beliefs about being female as a woman in, say, a Muslim country. A belief system usually evolves over time. It’s something that we grow into, as our needs and goals develop and change. Even when we find a system of beliefs that works for us, we hone and fine-tune it, working our way deeper and deeper into its essential truth. Everything we experience, every thought we have, every desire, need, action, and reaction—everything we perceive with our senses goes into our personal databank and helps to create the belief systems that we hold now. Nothing is lost or forgotten in our lives. You don’t have to remain a victim of your conditioning, however. You can choose for yourself what you believe or don’t believe, what you desire and don’t desire. You can define your own parameters. Once you do that, you can start consciously creating your destiny according to your own vision—and keying into your magickal nature to make that happen. THE LAW OF ATTRACTION Have you heard of something called the Law of Attraction? Actually, it’s an ancient concept, but in recent years Esther and Jerry Hicks have popularized and expanded it so that now millions of people around the world are familiar with the idea. At its core, the Law says that you attract whatever you put your mind on. In their best-selling book Money, and the Law of Attraction the Hickses wrote, “Each and every component that makes up your life experience is drawn to you by the powerful Law of Attraction’s response to the thoughts you think and the story you tell about your life.” In The Secret, Rhonda Byrne explained that “Your life right now is a reflection of your past thoughts.” What they’re saying is, you create your own reality. Your thoughts and feelings generate energy, and they interact with the energy all around you in your environment. Over time, your ideas—especially the ones you feel passionate about—produce “thought forms,” which serve as patterns that eventually become physical forms. You could look at it this way: Let’s say you’re a fashion designer and in your mind you envision a fabulous dress. That creative idea or “thought form” must exist before you can start to develop the physical object. You keep refining your design, doing drawings and maybe even stitching a sample, and eventually produce the dress you’d imagined. Magick works in essentially the same way. First you create an image in your mind of what you desire and then imbue that image with energy and emotion. In time, what you conjured up mentally will emerge into the material world. A big part of becoming a powerful witch and performing effective magick is training your mind. This means focusing your thoughts, raising your energy to the highest level you can, and using your will to bring your intentions into fruition. Later in this book, we’ll talk more about how to do this—and the more you practice, the better results you’ll achieve. One Thing at a Time Most of us have grown accustomed to doing several things at once. While eating dinner we also watch TV, send texts to our friends, and make notes of things we need to remember to take care of tomorrow. When you do magick, however, multitasking actually diminishes your returns. As Esther and Jerry Hicks explain in Money, and the Law of Attraction, “When you consider many subjects at the same time, you generally do not move forward strongly toward any of them, for your focus and your power is [sic] diffused.” Start paying attention to your thoughts. Are you focusing on what you lack? If so, you’ll continue to experience lack. Do you spend time lamenting the problems in your life? If so, you’ll keep making more problems for yourself. Whenever you catch yourself thinking something that’s not what you want, do a mental 180 and start thinking about what you do want instead. MAGICK ISN’T JUST BLACK AND WHITE Magick is ethically neutral, just like electricity is neutral. Both magick and electricity can be used to help or to harm. Magick is simply the intentional use of energy. Casting a magick spell is simply a means to an end. A witch uses willpower to direct energy toward a particular goal. Her intention is what colors the magick white, black, or gray. You’ve probably heard people describe themselves as white witches, meaning they uphold the “do no harm” rule. The truth, though, is that most magick isn’t black or white, it’s gray—including the magick most self-proclaimed white witches perform. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or harmful, however. In fact, the spells of most witches and magicians fall into the gray area. White, Black, or Gray? Not every witch will agree with the following definitions of white, black, and gray magick. However, these guidelines can help you sort out the differences: White magick’s purpose is to further spiritual growth, by strengthening your connection with the divine realm and/or gaining wisdom from a higher source. Black magick intends to harm or manipulate another person, or to interfere with his/her free will. Every other kind of magick is a shade of gray. This means that if you do a spell to get a better job or to attract a lover you’re operating in the gray zone. Nothing wrong with that. It’s easy, though, to stray from the path and inadvertently cast a questionable spell—especially when you’re having a bad day or dealing with difficult people. Let’s say a coworker is a real pain in the neck and you do a spell to get even with her for a dirty deed. Your revenge may seem justifiable, but it’s still black magick. Here’s another little-known fact: Most black magick isn’t performed by evil sorcerers or wicked wizards, it’s done by ordinary people who don’t even realize what they’re up to. Have you ever cursed some jerk for stealing your parking space or cutting in front of you in a long supermarket line? That’s black magick, too. Why Doing Black Magick Isn’t Such a Good Idea Maybe you’re wondering, why not use magick to put someone who’s wronged you in his place? It’s tempting, for sure. Except remember that in the world of magick, whatever you do returns to you like a boomerang. Indeed, many magicians say it comes back magnified threefold. That’s a good reason for keeping your thoughts focused on positive stuff. It’s also why usually the best way to get what you want—especially on days when everything seems to be going wrong—is to bless instead of curse. INTENTION IS EVERYTHING Admittedly, it can be hard sometimes to determine if you’re treading on the dark side of Magick Street. For many people, love spells seem to raise the most questions. What if you want to do a spell to get your yoga instructor to fall for you? Is that okay? It all depends on your intention. If he already has a partner and your goal is to win him away from her, obviously that’s not a good idea. Good spells respect other people’s free will and right to make their own choices in life. Even if your yoga teacher isn’t romantically involved with anybody else, it’s manipulative to cast a spell to coerce him into doing something he wouldn’t want to do otherwise. How would you feel if someone did that to you? There’s another reason, too, to think carefully before casting a spell to win a person’s heart. A well-executed love spell creates a strong bond between you and someone else. Later on, if you change your mind, breaking the bond could be tough, to say the least. Instead, try another angle to accomplish your goal. You could magickally enhance your own attractiveness. You could do magick to remove any obstacles existing between you and the other person. You could do a spell to attract a lover who’s right for you, rather than targeting a particular individual. Or you could turn the final decision over to a higher power and let your favorite god/dess, angel, or spirit guide find the perfect partner for you. This kicks your ego out of the driver’s seat and lets the universe guide you toward an outcome that’s right for you. Maybe you and your yoga teacher would live happily ever after together. On the other hand, maybe you’d be better off with somebody else, perhaps someone you haven’t met yet. Chapter 3 A CONCISE HISTORY OF WITCHCRAFT IN THE WEST Witches have a rich cultural heritage that they continue celebrating today. Although witchcraft’s origins are hidden in antiquity, most likely, people around the world have practiced magick and witchcraft in some form since the beginning of time. Anthropologists speculate that Stonehenge may have been a sacred site where magick rituals were performed thousands of years ago. The famous paintings on the Trois Frères cave walls in Montesquieu-Avantès, France, which date back 15,000 years, may have been put there by Paleolithic peoples as a form of sympathetic magick—by painting these images, cave dwellers sought the aid of spirit animals to help them succeed at hunting. Today contemporary witches are reviving interest in the Craft. As you join their leagues, you’ll become part of the new wave of magicians who are putting a modern spin on an ancient worldview. How exciting is that? THE OLD RELIGION Magick and witchcraft go hand in hand. Although not all magick falls under the broad heading of witchcraft, all witches practice magick in one form or another. At the dawn of the human race, when people first came to understand cause and effect, they began trying to explain the mysteries of earth and the heavens. If a wind blew down a tree and hurt someone, the wind might be thought of as “angry” or considered to be a spirit that needed appeasement. In this manner, people began to anthropomorphize aspects of nature. They imagined that gods and goddesses, spirits and demons, and all sorts of fantastic creatures lived in the unseen realms, where they governed everything that happened on earth. Magickal thinking was born. Magickal Beginnings As civilizations developed, each brought a new flavor and tone to magickal ideas. One of these ideas was that the universe is a huge web made up of all kinds of invisible interlocking strands. Everything is connected to everything else. If humans could learn to influence one of these connections, they could affect the whole web. At first, these attempts to influence the world were very simple: one action to produce one result. The action usually corresponded symbolically to the desired result. For example, let’s say someone wanted to bind an angry spirit and limit its power. He might tie a knot in a piece of rope and imagine that he’d caught the spirit in that knot. If the action worked, or seemed to work, it was used again. Eventually a tradition developed. Wise Men and Women Over time, attempts at guiding “fate” became more elaborate. Our ancestors delegated the tasks of influencing the universe to a few wise individuals, and elevated them to positions of authority in their community. They called these wise men and women shamans, priests and priestesses, magi, or witches. Their job included performing spells and rituals to coerce the ancestors, powerful spirits, or deities into doing their bidding. Although these witches all performed essentially the same basic functions—healing the sick, encouraging crops to grow, predicting the future—how they went about it depended on the culture and era in which they lived. In early Celtic communities, for example, the Druids served as seers, healers, advisors, astrologers, and spiritual leaders. Their power was second only to the clan’s chieftain. An ancient Norse text called the Poetic Edda, written in the tenth century, uses the term völva to describe a wise woman who did prophecies, cast spells, and performed healing for the community. Modern witches no longer hand over magickal authority to a select few. Today, everyone is welcome to explore these paths and practices, not just an elite group. Using your personal power is encouraged. Each one of us has a special talent or skill, and ultimately that gift can benefit everyone. Every individual brings something unique to the Craft, which has caused the field of magick to evolve and expand greatly. WITCHCRAFT IN EUROPE It’s been said that history is written by the victors. History is imperfect and is often clouded by societal, personal, or political agendas; therefore, the study of magickal history is no easy task. To trace the course of events from ancient times to the modern day, let’s begin by examining the early practice of witchcraft in Europe. Not everyone agrees about the evolution of witchcraft in Europe. Some historians believe it developed out of the old fertility cults that worshipped a mother goddess. Others think that the idea of witchcraft was all superstition—when people could not explain an unpleasant event, they blamed it on someone whom they labeled a witch. Still other researchers say witchcraft stemmed from a wide variety of practices and customs including Paganism, Hebrew mysticism, Celtic tradition, and ancient Greek folklore. As people traveled from one country to another, they influenced the beliefs and practices of the native culture. When the Vikings and the Romans invaded the British Isles, for example, their legends, gods, and goddesses mixed with those of the indigenous people. Traders and travelers, too, brought stories and ideas to the lands they visited. All this cross-pollination had an impact on the way witchcraft evolved. Additionally, because most people in earlier centuries couldn’t read or write, magickal traditions were handed down through generations by oral teaching. The few literate individuals probably recorded information according to their own views. Therefore, it’s difficult to figure out what’s true and what’s fantasy regarding long-ago witchcraft. Fairy-Tale Witches Witches show up frequently in our favorite fairy tales, where they’re sometimes referred to as fairy godmothers. Certain of these witches can’t resist putting enchantments on humans, turning them into hideous beasts (“Beauty and the Beast”) or frogs (“The Frog Prince”), or condemning them to unpleasant plights (“Sleeping Beauty”). Others, however, such as the one in “Cinderella,” wave their magick wands and make wishes come true. Some of these fairy-tale witches derive from old goddesses in ancient myths, such as the witch in “Hansel and Gretel” who originated in the Baltic fertility goddess Baba Yaga. In old French romance stories, witches and women who practiced magick were called “fairies.” CRIMINALIZING WITCHCRAFT During the eighth and ninth centuries, the powers-that-be started laying down laws against witchcraft and linking age-old practices with evil doing. As the Christian Church gained power, it attacked the “old religion,” which was based in nature and folk traditions. For example, the common people had a custom of leaving offerings for spirits—until 743, when the Synod of Rome declared it a crime. In 829, the Synod of Paris passed a decree against reciting incantations (simple verbal spells for good luck) and idolatry (worshipping the old gods and goddesses). By 900, Christian scholars were promoting the idea that the devil was leading women astray. These events helped prepare the scene for the fury of the Inquisition. Between the 1100s and 1300s, the Church continued to hammer away at witches. Christian zealots presented a picture of witches as evil creatures who cavorted with the devil, ate children, and held wild orgies to seduce innocents. Witchcraft became a crime against God and the Church. In 1317, Pope John XXII authorized a religious court, known as the Inquisition, to go after anyone who was believed to have made a pact with the devil. Thousands of trials proceeded. Punishments included burning, hanging, and excommunication. The interrogation process involved torturing people to get them to confess the “truth”—that is, to force them to admit to whatever the inquisitor wished—and to point a finger at other witches. “In 1484, the Papal Bull of Innocent VIII unleashed the power of the Inquisition against the Old Religion. With the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum, ‘The Hammer of the Witches,’ by Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger in 1486, the groundwork was laid for a reign of terror that was to hold all of Europe in its grip until well into the seventeenth century.” —Starhawk, The Spiral Dance Accusing someone of witchcraft also became a bureaucratic convenience. Not only those who actually practiced the Craft were tortured, imprisoned, and killed—anyone whom the authorities disliked or feared was accused of being a witch. Conviction rates soared as many “undesirables” fell prey to the inquisitors. The atmosphere in England was less radical than on the continent. Because Henry VIII had separated from the Catholic Church, practicing witchcraft in Britain was regarded as a civil violation, and courts handed down fewer death sentences. In part, this may have been due to the influence of John Dee, a well-known wizard who served as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. THE BURNING TIMES The witch-hunt craze picked up speed in the sixteenth century, during the Reformation period. The public, confused by the religious changes going on, was only too willing to blame anyone whose ideas seemed “different.” If someone had a grudge against a neighbor, he could denounce her as a witch. It was the perfect environment for mass persecution. The legal sanctions against witches became even harsher than before, and the tortures inflicted grew crueler. To force people to confess to witchcraft, inquisitors strapped them to the “rack” and pulled them apart limb by limb, crushed their hands and feet with thumbscrews and “boots,” and placed hot coals on their bare skin. If found guilty, the alleged “witches” were burned at the stake. During the so-called “Burning Times” in Europe, which lasted from the fourteenth until the eighteenth centuries, tens of thousands and possibly millions of people (depending on which source you choose to believe) were executed as witches—most of them women and girls. So thorough were the exterminations that after Germany’s witch trials of 1585 two villages in the Bishopric of Trier were left with only one woman surviving in each. Cats and Rats During the Burning Times, cats were thought to be witches’ familiars and zealots destroyed them by the thousands. It’s theorized by some that the Black Plague, which devastated Europe’s human population in the fourteenth century, resulted in part because the rat population increased and spread disease once their natural predators were eliminated. As occurs in all tragedies, some individuals profited from the witch hunts. Payments were given to informants and witch hunters who produced victims. In some instances, male doctors benefited financially when their competitors—female midwives and herbalists—were condemned as witches. Powerful authorities confiscated the property of the victims. It’s hard to know for certain why the witch hysteria finally subsided. Perhaps people grew weary of the violence. In England, the hunts declined after the early 1700s, when the witch statute was finally repealed. The last recorded execution occurred in Germany in 1775. WITCHCRAFT IN THE NEW WORLD In the New World, witchcraft evolved as a patchwork quilt of beliefs and practices. Many different concepts, cultures, and customs existed side by side, sometimes overlapping and influencing one another. Each new group of immigrants brought with them their individual views and traditions. Over time, they produced a rich body of magickal thought. Medicine men and women of the native tribes in North, Central, and South America had engaged in various forms of witchcraft and shamanism for centuries. They tapped the plant kingdom for healing purposes and to see the future. They communed with spirits, ancestors, and other nonphysical beings, seeking supernatural aid in crop growing and hunting. Like witches in other lands, these indigenous people honored Mother Earth and all her creatures. And, like magicians everywhere, they worked with the forces of nature to produce results. When European settlers migrated to the New World, they brought their customs with them. Not all of these early immigrants were Christians. Some followed the Old Religion and sought freedom to practice their beliefs in a new land. Evidence suggests that some of these people joined Indian tribes whose ideas were compatible with their own. The slave trade introduced the traditions of African witches to the Americas. Followers of voudon (voodoo), Santería, macumba, and other faiths carried their beliefs and rituals with them to the Caribbean and the southern states of the United States, where they continue to flourish today. Witchcraft in Salem When William Griggs, the village doctor in colonial Salem Village (now Salem), Massachusetts, couldn’t heal the ailing daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, he claimed the girls had been bewitched. Thus began the infamous Salem witch hunt, which remains one of America’s great tragedies. Soon girls in Salem and surrounding communities were “crying out” the names of “witches” who had supposedly caused their illnesses. Between June and October 1692, nineteen men and women were hung and another man was crushed to death for the crime of witchcraft. Authorities threw more than 150 other victims into prison, where several died, on charges of being in league with the devil. Religious and political factors combined to create the witch craze in Salem. A recent smallpox epidemic and attacks by Indian tribes had left the community deeply fearful. Competition between rivals Rev. James Bayley of neighboring Salem Town (now Danvers) and Rev. Parris exacerbated the tension as both ministers capitalized on their Puritan parishioners’ fear of Satan to boost their own popularity. The hysteria also enabled local authorities to rid the community of undesirables and dissidents. Economic interests, too, played a role in the condemnation of Salem’s “witches”—those convicted had their assets confiscated and their property was added to the town’s coffers. A number of the executed and accused women owned property and were not governed by either husbands or male relatives, which didn’t sit well with the male-dominated society of the time. Putting these independent women in their place may have been part of the motive behind the Salem witch trials. Today, Salem commemorates the victims of the Salem Witch Trials with engraved stones nestled in a small, tree-shaded park off Derby Street, near the city’s waterfront and tourist district. Visitors can walk through the memorial and remember Salem’s darkest hour. Hallucinating Witches One theory suggests that the people supposedly afflicted by witchcraft in Salem were actually “high” on a fungus called ergot that grows on rye bread. The hallucinogen LSD was first derived from ergot. Therefore, the strange behavior exhibited by the “victims” was probably due to eating this psychedelic substance, not demonic possession. WITCHCRAFT’S REBIRTH Despite centuries of persecution, witchcraft never died. It just went underground. Witches continued to hand down teachings from mother to daughter, father to son, in secret. Through oral tradition, rituals, codes, and symbols, magickal information passed from generation to generation, at every level of society. Some parts of the world, of course, never experienced the witch hysteria that infested Europe and Salem, Massachusetts. But even in those places where persecution once raged, witchcraft and magick reawakened during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Magick in the Victorian Era Interest in magick, mysticism, spiritualism, and the occult in general blossomed toward the end of the nineteenth century, perhaps as a reaction to the Age of Reason’s emphasis on logic and science. The magicians of this era had a strong impact on the evolution of contemporary witchcraft and magick. One noted figure of the time was Charles Godfrey Leland, a Pennsylvania scholar and writer who traveled widely studying the folklore of numerous cultures. His most famous book, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches became an important text that influenced the development of Neopaganism and modern-day witchcraft. Another was Madame Helena Blavatsky, a Russian-born medium and occultist who moved to New York and founded the Theosophical Society with Henry Steel Olcott. Theosophy, which means “divine wisdom,” combines ideas from the Greek mystery schools, the Gnostics, Hindus, and others. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, begun by Englishmen William Westcott, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, and William Woodman, was the most important magickal order to arise in the West during the Victorian period. All three men were Freemasons and members of the Rosicrucian Society, which influenced their beliefs and practices. The order’s complex teachings drew upon the ideas and traditions of numerous ancient cultures and melded them into an intricate system of ceremonial magick (more about this in Chapter 7). The Poetry of Ritual The Golden Dawn’s magick rituals were written by the noted British poet and mystic, William Butler Yeats, who was one of the order’s most prominent members, in collaboration with founding father S.L. MacGregor Mathers. The most notorious member of the Golden Dawn was Aleister Crowley, a controversial and charismatic figure who many say was the greatest magician of the twentieth century. After breaking with the Golden Dawn, he formed his own secret society, called Argenteum Astrum, or Silver Star, and later became the head of the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Templars of the Orient or OTO). Much of his magick centered upon the use of sexual energy, which outraged the stuffy, uptight Victorians. The author of numerous books on magick and the occult, Crowley also created one of the most popular tarot decks with Lady Frieda Harris, known as the Thoth Deck. Neopaganism Pagan was originally a derogatory term used by the Church to refer to people, often rural folk, who had not converted to Christianity. Generally speaking, today’s Neopagans can be described as individuals who uphold an earth-honoring philosophy and attempt to live in harmony with all life on the planet as well as with the cosmos. Pagans tend to be polytheistic, meaning they acknowledge many deities rather than a single god or goddess, although some Pagans may not honor any particular higher being. The Pagan and Wiccan communities overlap a great deal and share many beliefs, interests, and practices. Not all Pagans are witches or Wiccans, although Wiccans and witches are usually considered Pagans. Because of the similarities between them, they often combine their resources for political, humanitarian, environmental, and educational objectives. WITCHCRAFT TODAY In the past few decades, the ranks of witches have swelled rapidly. Although it’s impossible to accurately determine how many people practice witchcraft, a study done in 2001 by City University of New York found 134,000 self-described Wiccans in the United States. Certainly, that number has increased since then. The American Academy of Religions now includes panels on Wicca and witchcraft. The U.S. Defense Department recognizes Wicca as an official religion and allows Wiccan soldiers to state their belief on their dog tags. As of 2006, an estimated 1,800 Wiccans were serving in the U.S. military. Undoubtedly, the Internet has helped to spread information about the Craft. By enabling witches around the world to connect with one another in a safe and anonymous manner, the Internet has extended witchcraft’s influence to all corners of the globe. Today you’ll find thousands of websites and blog sites devoted to the subjects of Paganism, Wicca, witchcraft, and magick, along with lots of intelligent, thought-provoking ideas and scholarship. Witchcraft isn’t a static belief system or rigid body of rules and rituals; it’s a living entity that’s continually evolving and expanding. As education dissolves fear and misconceptions, magickal thinking and practices will gain greater acceptance among the general populace and influence the spiritual growth of all people, regardless of their specific faiths. Chapter 4 THE MAGICKAL UNIVERSE IN WHICH WE LIVE We live in a magickal universe. Children often understand this quite clearly, even if adults don’t. To a child, the world is alive with possibilities. Most people miss this wondrous fact because they’ve been trained to look only at the physical world and to focus on the mundane aspects of daily life. Magick, however, teaches that the world most of us see is only the tip of the iceberg. As you develop your magickal abilities, you’ll rediscover the awesome power that abides in the universe—and in you. Maybe, in the deepest recesses of your mind, you have shadowy memories of an ancient time when you lived in constant contact with the earth, the cosmos, and your own instinctual nature. As you strengthen your relationship with nature and the universe, you may reawaken these memories. Perhaps you’ll realize that you’re a witch in your heart of hearts—and always have been. There are many ways to tap your magickal power and many ways to harness the creative energy of the universe. This book introduces a number of philosophies, paths, and practices. Some will appeal to you, and some won’t. Take what you like and leave the rest. Regardless of which course you choose to follow, when you become a witch and do magick, you enter into an agreement with the universe that if you do your part, the rest will unfold. THE COSMIC WEB From the perspective of science, everything is energy. Magicians see the world as surrounded by an energetic matrix that connects everything to everything else. This matrix, or “cosmic web,” envelops our earth like a big bubble. It also permeates all things that exist here and extends throughout the solar system and beyond. The web pulses with subtle vibrations that magicians, psychics, and other sensitive individuals can feel. Regardless of whether you are consciously aware of these vibrations, you are affected by them—and your own personal energy vibrations continually affect the matrix. Energy, Energy Everywhere Everything in the world emits an energy vibration of some kind. Different things have different energy patterns, resonances, or “signatures.” These resonances reach out to touch one another in a series of crisscrossing lines all around the world, rather like a big spider web. They also connect the physical and nonphysical worlds. These energetic connections are what enable witches and wizards to work magick—even over a long distance. You simply send a thought or emotion along one of these energy lines to wherever or whomever you wish to reach—it works faster than sending a text. Consider this: How many times have you gotten a phone call from someone you were just thinking about? It’s not an accident. Your thoughts and the other person’s connected in the cosmic web before you spoke to one another in the physical realm. When you do magick, you purposefully tap into this infinite web. You tug a little on one of the lines. As you become skilled at using magick, you’ll learn to navigate the cosmic web just as easily as you surf the Internet. The first step is to sensitize yourself to these vibrations and become aware of the energetic field around you. Sensing Energy Currents Try these simple exercises to start becoming aware of your own energy and the energy around you. If you like, you can do these exercises with a friend. Close your eyes and hold your palms up in front of you, facing each other, about a foot or so apart. Slowly move your palms closer together but don’t actually let them touch. Can you sense the energy flowing between your palms? You may feel warmth or coolness, various degrees of tingling, or something else. You might even sense a color or feel an emotion. Does the feeling grow stronger as your hands get closer together? Choose an object, preferably a natural one such as a stone or plant. Run your hands around the object without touching it physically, trying to feel the energy it possesses. What do you sense? Can you feel warmth, coolness, or any other sensation coming from the object? Do you get any impressions or thoughts? Don’t discount them, even if they seem weird. Ask a friend to do this exercise with you. Sit with your eyes closed, while your friend stands behind you. Slowly, your friend moves her hand toward your head, without ever actually touching you. When you sense the energy from her hand, say so. Then switch places and try the exercise again. Write down what you experienced in what will become your “grimoire” or “book of shadows,” a journal of your magick spells and experiences. These notes will help you as you continue working with different energies, and as you grow more aware of how your own energies fluctuate with your mood, your health, and your circumstances. THE COSMIC INFORMATION REPOSITORY Like the Worldwide Web, the cosmic web teems with information. All ideas, words, actions, and emotions—going all the way back to the beginning of time—are stored in this energetic matrix. Anyone who knows the password can access this vast storehouse of knowledge. Maybe you’ve heard of a psychic named Edgar Cayce, sometimes called the “Sleeping Prophet.” Although he had little formal education or medical training, Cayce could go into a trance and discover cures for the thousands of sick people who sought his aid. How did he do it? He psychically “downloaded” wisdom that great minds before him had “blogged” into the cosmic web. Not only psychics can access information in this way—lots of people do. They just don’t realize it. Inventors, artists, musicians, and other creative people often claim to get insights without really knowing where they came from. Mozart didn’t plan, structure, or analyze his compositions—he just listened to the music playing in his head and then wrote it down. Van Gogh said, “I dream of painting, and then I paint my dream.” Scientific people, too, report having epiphanies that lead to new discoveries in technology, medicine, and other areas. All these people are connecting to the cosmic web and drawing knowledge from it. Meditate to Quiet Your Mind You, too, can tap into this awesome repository of information. Being able to key into the wisdom of the ages is a terrific asset to a witch. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have the great wizard Merlin guiding you as you cast a spell? First, you’ll need to learn to quiet your mind. Most of us have minds that race like a hamster in a treadmill. In the world of magick, that’s counterproductive. You can’t “hear” the masters’ advice if you’re thinking about a zillion other things. One of the best ways to still the inner chatter is to meditate. If you’ve never meditated, you may think you have to sit in lotus position and chant “Oooommm” for hours. Not true. You can take a walk outside, listen to soothing music (without lyrics), watch the sunset, weed your garden, take a relaxing bath, or fold laundry. The point is to put all your attention on whatever you’re doing, without letting distractions interfere. (My book The Best Meditations on the Planet includes 100 different meditations—something for everyone.) Meditation enables you to clear the clutter from your mind and focus your thinking. It also opens the channels of communication between you and the cosmos. Because the mind is the force behind magick, it stands to reason that the more mastery you gain over your thoughts, the more effective your spells will be. Trust Your Intuition Whether you call it ESP, a hunch, a gut reaction, an inner knowing, or psychic power, everyone has intuition. It may raise hairs on the back of your neck, cause a twinge in your solar plexus, or make you feel lightheaded. It may speak to you in moments of crisis or utter calm, in the middle of a city traffic jam or while you’re taking a shower. Regardless of how your intuition communicates with you, it’s important to remember that your so-called sixth sense is just as normal and important as the other five senses. Think how much you’d miss out on if you lacked the sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell, or touch. The world would be a much duller place. Now try to imagine how much more you could get out of life if you had another sense on top of those five. The good news is that you do! Because intuition doesn’t “make sense” (that is, it doesn’t rely on our five physical senses), people tend to discount its validity. Yet many noted scientists have acknowledged that intuition played a significant part in their discoveries. In his later years, Nobel laureate Jonas Salk, who found a vaccine for polio, wrote a book about intuition titled Anatomy of Reality. In it he proposed that creativity resulted from the union of intuition and reasoning. Bill Gates said, “Often you have to rely on intuition.” Albert Einstein believed “the only real valuable thing is intuition.” What we call intuition is the connection between your conscious mind and the cosmic web. Intuition is a witch’s best friend. Sometimes intuition is the most important factor in spell-working. You can memorize the properties of different herbs, gemstones, or colors. You can follow all the prescribed steps in a ritual. But if you don’t trust your intuition to guide you, you’ll never develop your full potential. To connect with your intuition: Listen to the “voice within.” Pay attention to hunches. Pay attention to your dreams and what they’re trying to tell you. Notice “coincidences.” Write down impressions and insights that you receive, even if they don’t make sense in the moment—they may turn out to mean something more in the future. As you start paying attention to your intuition, it will grow stronger and begin funneling more useful information your way. Being able to draw on your intuition will enrich your life and enhance your magickal ability in countless ways. THE MOON AND YOU One of the most important connections we have in the magickal universe in which we live—and one of the most obvious—is earth’s closest neighbor: the moon. We can easily see the impact the moon has on our planet and its inhabitants. For example, the moon’s twenty-eight-day cycle influences the oceans’ tides; higher tides usually occur during the full moon. It also affects the weather, crop growth, animal and human fertility—as the Farmers’ Almanac has professed for two centuries—as well as the way we feel and behave. More babies come into this world during the full moon than at other times of the month. Ask police officers or hospital workers about the full moon and they’ll tell you they see more crises, more crimes, and more activity in general when the moon is full. No, the full moon won’t turn you into a werewolf, but it might bring out your wild side. Astrologers associate the moon with emotion, intuition, and creativity—the very things that witches rely on when they do magick. So, if you want your spells to be more powerful and effective, pay attention to the moon’s cycles and learn to draw upon lunar energy. Connecting with the Moon Since ancient times, the moon has fascinated earthlings. Poets, artists, musicians, lovers, astrologers, and magicians all find the moon juicy subject matter for study and inspiration. “Evidence of Moon worship is found in such widely varied cultures as those of the Anasazi Indians of New Mexico, the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, pre-Columbian Peruvians, Burmese, Phoenicians, and Egyptians. In the Craft, when we refer to the great god by the Hebrew names El or Elohim, we borrow terms that entered Hebrew from Arabic, where the god name ‘Ilah’ derives from a word that means ‘moon.’” —MORWYN, SECRETS OF A WITCH’S COVEN Because the moon plays such an important role in magick—and in our lives—you might want to consider getting on closer terms with our planet’s satellite. In a practice known as “drawing down the moon,” a priestess goes into a trance and invites the goddess (or Divine Feminine energy) to enter her body. While the priestess is in the trance, the goddess speaks through her. Margot Adler wrote in depth about this in her book Drawing Down the Moon, but beginners can connect with lunar energy in simpler ways: Go outside at night and observe the moon. Let its silvery light wash over you. How do you feel standing in the moonlight, under the dark bowl of the night sky? How is this different from how you feel in the daytime? Follow the moon’s passage through the heavens, from new to full and back to new again. Pay attention to how you feel during different phases of the moon. Many people feel more energized during the full moon and less vital during the last three days before the new moon. The moon moves into a different sign of the zodiac approximately every two and a half days. You might notice that your moods and feelings change every time the moon passes through a different astrological sign—you may feel more impulsive when the moon is in Aries, more sensitive when it’s in Cancer, for instance. Keep notes of what you experience, so you can refer back to them later. What you learn from strengthening your connection with the moon will be useful to you when you start casting spells and doing rituals. The Moon and Magick You’re more likely to reap the rewards you desire if you do magick during favorable phases of the moon. When casting spells, pay particular attention to the new moon, full moon, the waxing and waning phases. Each has its own unique energy that can add to the power of your spells: The new moon, as you might expect, encourages beginnings. Are you looking for a new job? A new romance? A new home? The best time to start anything is during the new moon. As the moon grows in light (and seemingly in size), your undertaking will grow too. The waxing moon—the two weeks after the new moon and leading up to the full moon—supports growth and expansion. Do you want to boost your income? Turn up the heat in a relationship? Get a promotion at work? Cast your spell while the moon’s light is increasing to generate growth in your worldly affairs. The full moon marks a time of culmination. It allows you to start seeing the results of whatever you began on the new moon. Want to bring a project to a successful conclusion? Receive rewards, recognition, or payments that are due to you? Do a spell while the moon is full for best results. The full moon’s bright glow can also put you in the spotlight or shed light on murky issues. If your goal is to attract attention—from a lover, boss, or the public—the full moon helps illuminate you favorably. The full moon can also shine light on secrets and deception to let you get to the truth of a shady situation. The waning moon—the two weeks after the full moon and before the new moon—encourages decrease. Do you want to lose weight? End a bad relationship? Cut your expenses? Cast your spell while the moon is diminishing in light (and size) to diminish the impact of something in your life. When two new moons occur in the same month, the second one is called the black moon. It is considerably more powerful than a regular new moon, so any seeding spells you do under a black moon might manifest more quickly. When two full moons occur in the same month, the second is dubbed a blue moon. During the blue moon, you may find you get bigger or better results than on an ordinary full moon, or that you experience a lot more activity or vitality. THE FOUR DIRECTIONS You’re familiar with the four compass directions: north, south, east, and west. In magick, the four directions are more than mere geographical designations. They have special meanings and associations. Hindu mandalas, Native American medicine wheels, and Celtic stone circles all depict the four directions. Later on, when you learn to cast a circle before performing spells and rituals, you’ll work with the four directions in greater depth. For now, let’s just look at the directions in a way you’ve probably never considered them before. Angelic Connections Perhaps you’ve heard of four archangels known as Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. According to some schools of magickal thought, these archangels (an order of divine beings above angels) guard the four directions: Raphael guards the east. Michael watches over the south. Gabriel presides over the west. Uriel governs the north. You can call upon these guardians and ask them to lend their assistance to your rituals and rites. Connecting with them and drawing upon their powers can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your magickal work. Elemental Connections When magicians speak of the elements, they’re not referring to the periodic table you learned about in school. They mean the four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. These elements are the energetic building blocks that make up our world. We’ll go into more detail and depth about the elements later on, but for now let’s just note their relationships with the four directions: Air relates to the east. Fire is associated with the south. Water corresponds to the west. Earth is linked with the north. Each has its own connections with the zodiac signs, the suits of the tarot, spirits and angels, the tools a magician uses, and lots of other things. The more you get into magick, the more you’ll find yourself working with the elements. Color Correspondences Each of the four directions resonates with a certain color. Magickal art, including tarot cards, often depicts these color connections. You might also choose to incorporate them into spells. (Note, however, that Native American medicine wheels do not use these same color correspondences.) Yellow relates to the east. Red is associated with the south. Blue corresponds to the west. Green is linked with the north. Learning to sense the four directions will give you a better understanding of your place in the cosmos. Working with these energies will strengthen your connection to both the earth and to the magickal universe around you. Three More Directions In addition to the four compass points, you’ll want to consider three other directions when you do magick. The first of these, Above, refers to the heavenly realm and all the beings that live there: God, Goddess, angels, spirit guides, ancestors, and so on. The second, Below, corresponds to Mother Earth, the foundation of physical existence. Within means your own inner self. It’s important to align yourself with all seven of these directions and to balance their energies when you’re doing magick. They are all sources of power, and they all influence outcomes. SENSING THE DIRECTIONS You’re going to work with the four directions and their correspondences a lot as your magickal practice expands. Before you actually start using these energies in spells and rituals, practice sensing what the energies feel like. If possible, try doing these exercises outside as well as inside your home. Many witches prefer to do magick while surrounded by nature whenever they can. Stand facing east and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths to quiet your thoughts. Keep an open mind as you try to sense the energy at this compass point. This is the energy of dawn, birth, and beginnings. It might take a few minutes, so give yourself time to receive the universe’s vibrations. You might feel a slight tingling, warmth or coolness, a subtle emotional shift, or something else. Turn to face south and, again, try to sense the energy flowing toward you. This is the energy of fullness and maturity. Does it seem any different from what you felt when you faced the east? Turn to face west and, again, try to sense the energy flowing toward you. This is the energy of winding down and letting go. How does it seem to you? Turn to face north and, again, try to sense the energy flowing toward you. This is the energy of turning inward, silence, and endings. What do you feel? If at first you don’t succeed in sensing these energies, remember the advice: Try, try again. With practice, you’ll learn to pick up on the different resonances and attune yourself to them. Be sure to write down what you experience in your grimoire. As you continue strengthening your magickal muscles, you’ll come to a keen awareness of how intertwined you are with everything else in the cosmos. You’ll realize that you can create your own reality by aligning yourself with the dynamic, magickal forces that exist all around you. And you’ll notice that possibilities you never imagined before now open up for you. Chapter 5 THE ELEMENTS OF THE WITCH’S PATH Wiccans, green witches, shamans, and many other magicians believe that all things in nature—animals, plants, rocks, streams, hills— possess a type of consciousness. The term animism refers to this belief. The consciousness within even seemingly inanimate objects enables witches to use them in spellworking. The term pantheism is sometimes used to describe Neopagan paths. Often the term is misunderstood as meaning the worship of nature, but it actually means to recognize the Divine in all places, or to identify the Divine with the universe. The root word pan means “everywhere,” and earth-honoring people believe that their deities are accessible in all places, at all times. This doesn’t mean that witches worship trees, rivers, and stones, any more than astrologers worship the sun, moon, and planets. It means they believe that the entire world, material and nonmaterial, possesses sacred energy, and that each of us holds a spark of divine energy within us. In the previous chapter, we talked briefly about the four elements. Now let’s examine the elements more fully, because earth, air, fire, and water are the four primary substances of creation—not only in nature and the material world, but magickally as well. EARTH: THE SOLID ELEMENT Planet Earth is the home of humans and other creatures, as well as a school for learning all kinds of spiritual lessons. When witches speak of the earth element, however, they don’t mean simply the physical ground on which we stand. “Earth” in a magickal sense is also an energetic property. In early agrarian cultures, farmers gave offerings of bread or mead to the soil to ensure a good crop. Soil also served as a component in many old spells. People buried symbolic items in the ground to banish something or to encourage growth. For example, to remove sickness, one healing spell instructs a sick person to spit in the soil and then cover that spot and walk away without looking back. To speed recovery from illness, patients were encouraged to grow health-promoting plants in the soil from their footprints. If you wanted to make sure your lover didn’t cheat on you, you’d gather a little soil from beneath your foot and place it in a white cloth bag. From the Womb of Gaia Native American stories tell us that the soul waits for rebirth in the earth’s womb (under the soil). You’ll find dozens of myths, including those of ancient Sumer and Guatemala, that say humankind was shaped from soil. According to the ancient Greeks, the heavens were born into existence from the womb of Gaia, the mother who oversees all the earth’s abundance. Characteristics of the Earth Element In the material sense, earth serves as our foundation. Thus it corresponds to the characteristics of stability, permanence, groundedness, security, and endurance. Earth energy moves slowly and steadily, so it’s good to draw on when a situation or spell requires patience and/or gradual development. Magicians link the earth element with financial matters, material abundance, and fertility. People who have a lot of earth energy in their makeup tend to be practical, reliable, determined, tenacious, sensual, hard-working, cautious, no-nonsense individuals. Earth Correspondences Lots and lots of things correspond to the earth element, such as the direction north as you learned in the previous chapter. We’ll discuss more as we go along, but here are some that you’ll most likely use in your spellworking: Zodiac Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn Tarot Suit: Pentacles/Coins/Discs Magickal Tools: Pentagram, Salt, Stones Colors: Brown, Green, Gray Stones: Opaque Stones (such as hematite, onyx, and agate) AIR: THE ELUSIVE ELEMENT Air is the most elusive of the elements because it is invisible, intangible, and changeable. The ancients believed that the wind is influenced by the direction from which it originates. This idea translated into magickal methods quite nicely. For example, if a wind blows from the south it can generate passion, warmth, or enthusiasm in spellcraft. If a wind moves from the west it stimulates intuition and imagination. The Wind Beneath Your Spells We see a fair amount of directional wind work in spellcraft. For example, always scatter components in a wind moving away from you to carry a message or to take away a problem. Perform magick for new projects with the “wind at your back,” for good fortune. When trying to quell anger, opening a window to “air out” the negative energy has great symbolic value. Think, too, of how the wind scatters pollen to fertilize plants. In a similar way, the air element describes how words are spread far and wide, fertilizing our minds and cross-pollinating our societies with new ideas. Air can be gentle or fierce, damp or dry, hot or cold, and each of these “moods” has slightly different magickal connotations. For example, a damp wind combines the power of water and air to raise energy that is dreamy and nourishing. Characteristics of the Air Element The air element relates to flexibility, instability, intellect, and detachment. Air energy moves quickly, so it’s good to draw on when a situation or spell involves change, movement, or you want things to happen fast. You can also use air energy to contact spirits or other nonphysical beings. Magicians link the air element with mental activity, communication, the world of ideas, and social interaction—use it for spells that involve these things. People who have a lot of air energy in their makeup tend to be friendly, curious, fickle, adaptable, idealistic, talkative, and interested in all sorts of ideas. Air Correspondences As you continue your magickal studies, you’ll find many things correspond to the air element, such as the direction east as you learned in the previous chapter. We’ll discuss more as we go along, but here are some that you’ll most likely use in your spellworking: Zodiac Signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius Tarot Suit: Swords/Daggers Magickal Tools: Athame, Incense Colors: Yellow, Pale Blue, White Stones: Transparent Stones (such as aquamarine, diamond, and clear quartz) FIRE: THE ELEMENT OF CLARITY For millennia, our ancestors gathered around fires to cook, tell stories, and celebrate life. Because of its warmth, fire represents our passions, enthusiasm, and kinship. Fire also allowed early people to see in the darkness, therefore, magicians connect it with clarity, vision, and enlightenment. When humans discovered fire and learned how to use it, their lives were transformed; thus the fire element is associated with transformation. Think of the mythical phoenix rising from the flames—a symbol of fiery transformation. Characteristics of the Fire Element The fire element conveys inspiration, enthusiasm, vitality, and daring. Fire energy moves rapidly; it’s volatile and unpredictable—think of how a wildfire can rage out of control or how lightning bursts in the sky. You can draw on the element of fire when you want to kick your spell’s power up a notch or you want to see rapid results. Of course, if you seek to transform something in your life—a relationship, career path, or health condition—you can tap into fire’s dynamic power. Magicians link the fire element with creativity, action, and the will to make things happen. You can also employ fire energy to banish fear, see the future, or in purification spells and rituals. People who have a lot of fire energy in their makeup tend to be self-confident, passionate, impulsive, outgoing, vigorous, and courageous individuals. Your Power Element Each witch has one element to which she most strongly responds, called a power element. By working with and tapping into that element, a witch can energize herself and her magickal processes. Determine your power element by going to places where you can experience each element intimately. For example, sit beside a stream, lake, or ocean to connect with the water element; stand high on a windswept hill to feel the air element. Pay attention to your reactions. Once you determine which element energizes you, find ways to expose yourself to it regularly, to refill your inner well. Fire Correspondences You’ll discover many more things that correspond to the fire element as you progress in your magickal studies. We’ll discuss more as we go along, but here are some that you’ll use often in your spellworking: Zodiac Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius Tarot Suit: Wands/Rods/Staves Magickal Tools: Wand, Candles Colors: Red, Orange Stones: Stones that contain sparks of light or rutiles, such as fire opals, star sapphires, and red phantom quartz WATER: THE ELEMENT OF MOVEMENT Water comprises more than 70 percent of our earth’s surface and about 60 percent of our bodies. Of course, water is essential for life. Consequently, we associate the water element with nourishment. Water moves constantly—the oceans’ shifting tides, the rolling rivers and rippling streams, the rains that fall to earth—and so we sense change and movement in this element. Because we wash in water, we think of this element as cleansing, clearing, and healing. Even today, people go to hot springs and spas to “take the waters.” Since ancient times, people have gathered at sacred wells and reported seeing holy visions in streams and other bodies of water. Thus, water relates to spirituality and mysticism. Ancient Water Healing Practices According to an old European custom, dew gathered at dawn banishes illness, making it a good base for curative potions. Bathing in the water from a sacred well, dipping your hands into the ocean’s water three times and then pouring it behind you so the sickness is likewise “behind” you, or releasing a token that represents your sickness into the waves are old spells that you can still use today. Characteristics of the Water Element The water element embodies the characteristics of nourishment, healing, purification (physically and spiritually), intuition, emotion, and creativity. Tap this element to “water” spells for growth and abundance, or to nurture your creativity. Water energy is changeable and unpredictable—it can manifest as a gentle rain or a typhoon. Thus, it’s a good energy to draw upon when you’re doing spells for change or to stimulate movement—the trick is to control the energy so you get just the right amount. Because the moon affects the tides, it has connections with the water element. Purification spells and rituals also draw upon the water element. Magicians often take ritual baths before doing spells and wash magick tools with water to purify them. People who have a lot of water energy in their makeup tend to be emotional, sensitive, intuitive, imaginative, and compassionate individuals. Water Correspondences We’ve already talked a bit about the use of lunar energy and intuition in spellwork, and you’ll learn more as you go along. We’ll discuss the water element in later chapters, but for now make note of these correspondences that you’ll most likely use in your spellworking: Zodiac Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces Tarot Suit: Cups/Chalices Magickal Tools: Chalice, Cauldron Colors: Blue, Aqua, Indigo, Purple Stones: Translucent stones and gems such as pearls, opals, moonstones, and rose quartz SPIRIT: THE FIFTH ELEMENT? Spirit (also known as ether) isn’t an element per se, but you’ll often see it included in a list of magickal elements as the fifth point of the pentagram. It’s even harder to define than air. Spirit links the four quarters of creation and thus is the source of magick. Spirit resides within and without, around, above, and below all things. Although we can experience earth, air, fire, and water directly with our physical senses, spirit is elusive. You can only engage it with your spiritual senses. In spells and rituals, spirit usually comes into play if a witch chooses to call upon a divine figure to bless and energize her magick. Or, it may become part of the equation if you invite devic entities (nature fairies) to work in harmony with you. NATURE SPIRITS: THE WITCH’S ALLIES No matter how much access a witch has to nature, she’s likely to work closely with the earth. You can live on the forty-seventh floor of a high-rise apartment building in the middle of a metropolis and still have a meaningful relationship with the earth. Among the witch’s allies in the magickal world are the nature spirits. Sometimes called devas, elementals, or fairies, these spirits can be valuable partners and aides in your practice. Although most people don’t see them, you can think of these spirits as the intelligence or awareness attached to a particular place, a plant or tree, a natural object such as a rock or stream, or a specific type of weather. They are not deities. Do all witches work with nature spirits? No. Most do recognize that nature has an intelligence, or a sense of spirit, that varies according to the location. How each witch relates to these spirits or forces depends on how she perceives them. How you visualize these spirits is completely up to you. You may see them as tiny people or orbs of light. You may not see them at all but experience emotions or sensations when you are near the tree, flower, standing stone, or phenomenon with which the spirit is associated. Whether your visualization matches the visualizations of other witches is unimportant. What is important is that if you choose to work with them, you must honor the spirits as allies and work with them to heal and harmonize the earth and its inhabitants. You can encounter nature spirits in many places and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is to reach out and connect with the spirit of a single plant, then ask the plant spirit for information on the plant’s uses and properties. In his book Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan stresses that the energy possessed by each individual plant is entirely personal. The information and/or gift the spirit of that plant offers to you is exactly what you need at that moment. This gift is not necessarily an energy traditionally associated with the plant. For example, the energy you receive from a rose bush will not necessarily be love, even though we usually connect roses with love and romance. The spirit of the rose bush may perceive that you require something different and offer it to you. The key to working with nature spirits like this is to remain open to what they bring to you, without expectations or preconceived ideas. ELEMENTALS Since ancient times, myths and legends have spoken about supernatural beings who fly through the air, burrow beneath the earth, or swim in the ocean’s depths. But these magickal creatures don’t simply reside in these regions; they serve as guardians and ambassadors of their respective realms. Some people might describe them as energetic forces, rather than specific entities, and they go by different names in different mystical traditions. Witches often choose to work with four elementals known as gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines. These elementals correspond to the four elements: Gnomes are earth elementals, sylphs are air spirits, salamanders abide in the fire element, and undines are found in water. The Earth Spirits at Findhorn In the early 1960s, Eileen and Peter Caddy and their associate Dorothy Maclean founded a spiritual community in a wild and windswept area of northern Scotland known as Findhorn. Even though the soil there was mostly sand and the climate inhospitable, Findhorn became famous for its amazing gardens, which produced tropical flowers and forty-two-pound cabbages. How could this happen? According to Dorothy, the elementals who govern plant growth—she described them as “living forces of creative intelligence that work behind the scene”—guided Findhorn’s founders in planting and maintaining the incredible gardens. In his book Faces of Findhorn, Professor R. Lindsay Robb of the Soil Association writes, “The vigor, health and bloom of the plants in this garden in midwinter, on land which is almost barren, powdery sand, cannot be explained …” Well, not by ordinary thinking anyway! Gnomes: Earth Elementals Those little green guys you see in the garden might be gnomes, though not all gnomes are green or little. Some of them look like leprechauns or trolls. Known as sprites or dryads in some cultures, these nature spirits aid the growth of flowers, trees, and other plants—if you look closely, you might spot them sitting in a tree or resting beneath a blackberry bush. When autumn comes, they change the leaves from green to red, orange, and gold. Earth elementals also play an important role in helping the earth heal from the effects of pollution, deforestation, mining, and other forms of destruction. Practical, no-nonsense beings, they can seem a little gruff at times. However, they have a wonderful appreciation for material things and wealth—remember the leprechaun’s pot of gold? Ask the earth elementals to lend a hand with prosperity spells. Sylphs: Air Elementals Most people think of fairies as small, flying creatures like Tinker Bell, but these are probably air elementals. Sylphs aren’t just cute and delicate winged beings, as contemporary films and children’s books portray them—they handle lots of things related to the air and sky. They have the power to manipulate the winds, influence air quality, and help earthlings breathe. They also assist birds and flying insects. In magickal work, sylphs can help you with verbal spells such as incantations. If you want to ace a test, learn a new subject or skill, or communicate clearly with someone, ask a sylph for assistance. Air spirits also like to get involved with legal matters and contracts. Salamanders: Fire Elementals No, we’re not talking about a type of lizard. Salamanders, in the magickal sense, are the fire elementals. You may see these shining beings in a candle flame or the sun’s rays, and they abide in all types of fire. They stimulate inspiration—when you have an Aha! moment and suddenly “see the light” you may have connected with a fire elemental. Salamanders like to work with people who have a spiritual bent and with those who exhibit initiative or daring. Invite them to join you when you do spells that involve passion, vitality, courage, or action. Undines: Water Elementals These spirits splash about in the waters of the world. The Greeks’ water nymphs and mermaids fall into this category, too. Usually depicted as beautiful young females, undines perform a variety of tasks, from nourishing life on earth to regulating the tides to inspiring artists and poets. They also protect fish and aquatic creatures, and—if they choose—guide humans on sea voyages. In recent times, these elementals have been working hard to offset the effects of water pollution and the destruction of marine habitat. Capricious creatures, they gravitate toward sensitive, artistic people and you can call upon them if you need help with a creative project. Want to get in touch with your psychic ability? Ask an undine for assistance. These elementals will also come to your aid when you’re doing love spells. Always remember to thank the elementals that assist you in your spellworking. These beings enjoy receiving small gifts that express your appreciation: Gnomes adore jewelry and crystals. Bury a token in the ground as a way of saying “Thanks.” Sylphs enjoy flowers. Place fresh blossoms on your altar or lay them in a sacred spot outdoors as an offering. Salamanders like candles and incense. Burn these to honor your fiery helpers. Undines are fond of perfume. Pour some in a stream, lake, or other body of water. If you behave disrespectfully toward the elementals, they may retaliate by playing nasty tricks on you. Be generous, however, and your elemental friends will continue to serve you faithfully. Chapter 6 GODS AND GODDESSES How do you envision the Divine? How do you integrate sacred energy into your own life? Do you believe in many gods and goddesses, one deity with many faces, or a single Supreme Being? Throughout history, virtually every culture has entertained visions of a divine realm populated by one or more beings with supernatural powers. Early people who lived close to nature often revered female creator/fertility figures. A great Mother Goddess shows up in many different civilizations as Mary, Demeter, Ceres, Isis, and various other deities. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Norse worshipped numerous gods and goddesses. The Hindu pantheon includes many diverse spiritual beings, too. Witches, Wiccans, and Neopagans—just like followers of other belief systems—often disagree about the nature of the Divine. Some follow a specific faith and worship one or more gods or goddesses; some aren’t religious at all. Wiccans honor a Goddess and a God as her consort; Neopagans often recognize a number of deities. Many witches consider all spiritual paths equally valid and that all lead to the same place. Who or what you believe in—if anything—is totally up to you. FACETS OF THE DIVINE Early people connected spirits with the wind, nature, the stars, and the forces behind phenomena they couldn’t explain in other ways. These divine beings were said to watch over creation and guide human destiny. As the earth’s population grew and cultures interacted with one another—through war, trade, and migration—our conceptions of the heavenly realm evolved. Some spirits fell out of favor as our ancestors learned more about the actual workings of the physical world and the universe. In some instances, minor tribal gods and goddesses merged with or gave way to deities with greater powers. Some deities went by different names and faces in different countries—Venus in Rome, Aphrodite in Greece, Amaterasu in Japan—although their attributes were essentially the same. A popular metaphor describes divine energy as a gemstone, and every facet on that gemstone as a different manifestation of the core energy. These manifestations present themselves differently, but they are all, in the end, from the same divine source. Some witches naturally relate to the gods and goddesses that are part of their personal heritage. Scandinavians might gravitate to Freya, Greeks to Sophia, Irish to Brigid. Santeríans combine Catholicism with African Paganism, and honor deities from both traditions. One Deity or Many? Monotheism means a belief in a single supreme being. A dualist believes in two deities; in a Wiccan context, this would be God and Goddess. Polytheism is the belief in many separate gods. Henotheists believe in one god without denying the existence of others. DUAL FORCES IN THE UNIVERSE Wiccans believe that instead of one divine source or entity, there are two distinct deities—Goddess and God—and they in turn manifest as the gender-related god-forms. But the concept of dual forces operating in the universe isn’t limited to Wiccans. Many cultures speak of a feminine and a masculine principle that exist in and around us. The Chinese refer to these two energies as yin (feminine) and yang (masculine). Native Americans respect Mother Earth and Father Sky. These two polarities function in tandem to balance one another and create wholeness. The Divine Feminine When we talk about feminine and masculine, we don’t mean woman and man. Think energies instead. Receptivity, emotion, passivity, and intuition are all expressions of feminine energy. You can see it operating in water, earth, the moon, darkness, night, silence, cool colors, and lots of other things. When you do magick, you use these ingredients in order to bring a specific energy into your spells and rituals. (In later chapters you’ll learn ways to combine certain ingredients to produce the outcome you seek.) The Goddess is merely a depiction of the feminine force—the face we put on the energy to personify it. The Earth Mother Perhaps the most omnipresent symbol of the Divine Feminine is Mother Earth herself. Concern for the environment and “green” practices show respect for the Goddess, who appears in all of nature. It’s no accident that movements honoring the earth and the Goddess evolved simultaneously. Indeed, many witches believe that unless Goddess energy reawakens within each of us and in the world as a whole, the planet may be destroyed. The Divine Masculine The feminine is not complete without the masculine; together, these energetic polarities form a whole. Go online and look at the yin-yang symbol. The white part represents the masculine force, the black side the feminine. Notice how, when joined, they form a circle, the symbol of wholeness. Masculine energy expresses itself outwardly as action and assertiveness. You can see this principle operating in fire, wind, the sun, light, daytime, noise, warm colors, and many other things—and you’ll use these in specific ways when you do magick. Gods such as Thor, god of thunder and lightning, and the war god Mars symbolize the qualities of the masculine force. Tripartite Deities Sometimes the God and Goddess are shown as tripartite beings. This means that they are represented by three different images that signify the three stages of human life. The Goddess is frequently depicted in three aspects—maiden, mother, and crone—that signify the three phases of womanhood. Likewise, witches often see the God as having three faces, which represent the stages of a human’s life: youth, maturity, and old age. Depending on the type of magick you’re doing, you might choose to call upon a certain aspect of the God or Goddess. For instance, if you need extra vitality to win a big ballgame, invite the youthful side of the Divine Masculine to assist you. If you’re trying to get pregnant, ask the mother aspect of the Divine Feminine to lend you her fertility.