These Blogs are relevent to the training group and include information about the main topic or about side topics which are not directly covered in the sessions. We hope you enjoy them.
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
Witchcraft works best in small intimate groups where people know and like each other. These small groups are called covens and by their very nature they are hard to get into. Ronald Hutton said that genuine Witches’ covens are like lobster pots in reverse. They are hard to get into but easy to get out of. In this session we examined what a coven is, the expectation a coven has for its members and the pros and cons of being a member. We also discussed the roles of the coven officers such as the high priestess, the high priest, maid and elders.
Due to the emotional nature of the rites in order to effect changes in our consciousness and thus in our phenomenal reality, the Craft works best in small intimate groups. This is for two reasons. Firstly it is difficult to let go of ourselves emotionally to the degree required in magical work in front of people we do not know. And secondly, when people are in rapport they tend to mirror and then experience their peers’ emotional states. In a way emotions and feelings (like sexuality) occur between people. This means that an experienced and effective high priestess can skilfully evoke the appropriate emotions to the rite, but invoking them within herself.
This means that Witches covens differ significantly to other pagan groups in important ways. Most importantly their membership is relatively constant. It rare for people to leave and to join the group, although this does not mean that there is no through traffic of people. Joining a coven is through a formal ceremony called initiation. This rite not only inducts the new member into the group but also changes the status of the individual from a cowen (a non-witch) into a witch. It also initiates the newcomer into the priesthood of the mysteries. Essentially it introduces them to a certain experiential mystery in a way, when done well, is life changing.
With this in mind the coven has a responsibility to ensure that the new initiate is ready to undergo that experience, is able to partake and make active contributions to coven life, and is liked and can fit in with the group. A coven is only as strong as it weakest link and being a member of a Witches’ coven means more than just turning up once a month to rituals. It means fully taking part and contributing. Likewise if members of the coven feel that they do not like a potential newcomer than it will be difficult for them to trust that person enough to let go to partake in the emotions and feelings central to Craft rites. It only takes one bad egg to spoil a coven for everyone, so a responsible coven will only take on new initiates once they have gotten to know them and their motives well. This takes a minimum of one year, and we would suggest much longer. It is also a test of commitment. If a potential initiate waits two years before being initiated then they are obviously committed. The responsibility of the coven is then to be worthy of that commitment.
Likewise the potential new initiate has a responsibility to ensure that the coven is really for them. They need to honestly ask themselves whether they can make a contribution to coven life, commitment to regular attendence and whether they will be able to fit in with the rest of the group. Having a long period of training allows the potential new initiate to ask these questions and get to know some of the members of the coven. They may not know the practices of the coven, or perhaps all the members but there is a role for trust and taking a leap into the dark as well.
Covens have to be careful about new membership as it can take time for a new person to become established in a coven and its practices. However, new initiates are often thrown in at the deep end and are expected to hit the floor running.
Because Craft works best in small intimate groups, covens are loath to take on new members. If a coven grows too big it loses its intimacy and rapport. It becomes harder to lead the rituals and for people to let go. Thirteen is often quoted as the maximum number of people in a coven. Any more than this and cliques begin to form. A coven should be one clique. I would suggest that even thirteen is pushing it in size and that nine makes for a more realistic maximum number with somewhere around six to eight being ideal.
There are several advantages to being a member of a coven. The first is that it gives you access to the expertise of other people. You can learn from others and from the living tradition itself. This means that you don’t have to be an expert at everything and this allows you to develop your own area of expertise. In covens you will find people who are good at writing or leading rituals, people who are good at divination, and people who are good at winemaking etc., etc. Being a member of a living tradition gives you access to techniques and practices that you would not otherwise have. It gives you the opportunity to take part in structured and tested training that will facilitate your magical career. This means that you will be helped to avoid the common pitfalls in occult practice. Ultimately, once you have made it your own, it also gives you the opportunity to add to the tradition, moving it forward so it meets the demands of the future.
The second advantage is that being a member of a coven helps to prevent glamour. In a good coven there will always be someone who is prepared to tell you that you are off with the fairies. Working in a group keeps you grounded. When you are working in the occult it is a good idea to have a stable benchmark for reality and sadly such a bench mark is lacking in the wider pagan scene.
Thirdly, in magic you will be able to achieve more in a coven than you can alone. While in many ways it is easier to get into the emotional states numinously experienced and altered states of consciousness when you are alone, being in a small intimate group where the other members are also in that state has been shown to heighten the emotions felt and deepen consciousness states. We are after all group animals. When combined with the authority that is derived from the coven and from the tradition, it makes the manipulation of meaning, leading to the changes of belief far easier to achieve. Hence a coven, anecdotally, at least has more success as magic than a person working by themselves. That being said, one skilful operator will have more success than an unskilful and ignorant group.
Fourthly, covens impose a certain discipline of practice. You will be expected to write and take part in pathworking and rituals, to turn up on time to ritual dates. You may also be asked to practice certain techniques as part of a structured program of training, with feedback given. While there may be some that baulk at the idea of discipline it is a necessity of progress in magic. If magic is a set of skills then it follows that skills improve with practice. We require self-discipline or an imposed discipline in order to practice those skills and a coven provides this through its expectations. When working on our own we have to rely on our own self-discipline.
The fifth reason for working in a coven is back up. When things go wrong you will have your friends to back you up. You will have the coven to give you honest advice as well as to support you through times of difficulty. It will also give you the opportunity to provide the same service to others.
Sixth, it gives you access to a lovig tradiution. This savs you time and efort as you don't have to reinvent the wheel and can enage with the wisdom and experinece of the tradition.
The last reason for coven work is that it is very difficult to have a party if you are on your own. The Sabbats and the Esbats are times of merriment and fun, as it says in the charge, “mirth and reverence”, and good company is admirably conducive to merriment.
Sir Terry Pratchett is well known for saying in his Discworld series that the natural number of a coven is one. The point he was trying to make was that his Discworld witches are the kind of people inclined to be very opinionated and natural leaders. If we assume that witches are or work towards self-actualization then perhaps there is some truth to this. However we also need to remember that self-actualizers, if Maslow is to be believed, enjoy the company of other self-actualizers. Self-actualizing people often have strong opinions but rather than being devastated when their opinions are challenged, as a personal attack, actually enjoy the debate and may secretly hope that their opinion is changed (this is called learning).
The Pratchett quote is often used by solitary and hedge witches as a reason for not working in a coven. Debates about whether it is best to work in a coven or alone are on the whole a good distraction from the business of getting on with the Craft so I shan’t say too much about it. While it is up to these people to decisions for themselves on how they work it is worth remembering that the coven Witch has the opportunity to have their cake and eat it. They can have all the benefits (and pitfalls- after all we are only human) of working in a coven while enjoying all the benefits of working alone. What is more coven work actually mitigates some of the danger, such as glamour and lack of self-discipline, which are some of the possible drawbacks of working alone. Every coven Witch is also a solitary one most of the time.
It is a fact of life that every functional and effective human group needs to have a hierarchy. When I first entered the Craft there was a vogue of having groups with no hierarchy, or where people took it in turns to be in charge. None of those groups now exist, having fallen into infighting and backbiting, whilst the coven I joined has endured. There has to be a clear if loose hierarchy to give the group direction and so that decisions can be made. A good leadership is the servant of the coven who will do all the organising such as setting dates for meetings, deciding who will bring the food, wine and incense, who will write the pathworking, as well as dealing with any coven problems that crop up. Coven leadership is a far from glamorous job. It means being available at all times to help coveners with problems and support, it may mean asking people to leave the group who are not up to it or bring discord to the group. Coven leaders are where the buck stops and require both compassion and ruthlessness.
The leadership of Witch covens is through the High Priestess, High Priest, Maid and Elders or equivalent jobs names for equivalent job descriptions. It is important to bear in mind that these are job descriptions which are earned through service and are not titles.
The High Priestess along with the High Priest is the leader of the coven. Their jobs are to act as coven organiser and leaders during ritual. The feel of the ritual comes primarily from the High priestess in the summer and autumn and from the High priest during winter and spring. The High priestess personifies the Goddess during ritual and in the circle her word is ‘law’ (assuming she is a reasonable person). If the High Priestess asks you to do something in ritual, within reason, you need to do it and the discussion comes later on. Much of the ritual is led by the High Priestess and the High priest often plays a supporting role. Although the High Priestess may ask other coveners to perform part or all of the ritual on the evening, so always be prepared (she lets newcomers settle into coven first).
Typically the High Priestess is like the hostess at a party. She is the servant of the coven who runs around making sure that everything is organised and making sure that the other coveners are having a good experience. As such she has to be sensitive to the needs of the coven and as such needs to be regarded with the respect that her service and hard work entails. The High Priestess and High Priest are responsible for discpline with the coven. and may sometimes be called upon to have difficult conversations and make difficult decsions.
In general the High Priest is a secondary role to the High Priestess. Although the emphasis is on the male during the winter months, the High Priestess still performs the lion share of the doing and saying in ritual. The High Priest often has an organisation role with the setting of dates, perhaps organising a training program and he generally brings wine and incense to the ritual, although he may well nominate others.
The maid is a High priestess in training and acts as her lieutenant. The maid has a role in ritual and she also performs a pastoral role within the coven. It is her job to look after new initiates and to make sure that any concerns and problems come to the immediate attention to the high priestess before they become big problems. The maid may also be responsible for sending out birthday cards and networking. In many ways he maid is a high pristess in training.
Elders are older people who have spent a considerable amount of time in the Craft. They may well have served as High Priestess and High Priest but have retired to allow younger people to take those roles. They tend to have a pastoral, advisory and teaching role. Elders who have made a considerable contribution to the Craft may be Witch Masters. There only tends to be on or two Witch masters in a county.
|Posted on February 13, 2017 at 3:50 AM||comments (0)|
What is integrity?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “integrity” means “the condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting; undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness; completeness; entirety”
Or better still, “The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted; a condition of soundness.”
You have to know what it is you believe, before you can make a decision on what is right or wrong for you.
Many problems that now exist in the Pagan community would probably never have come about if some people had taken the time and made the effort to find out if Witchcraft really was for them BEFORE they made a commitment to it.
Instead they find themselves in situations where they have to either, 1. Admit they made a wrong choice or 2. Try to change the Craft to suit them.
So instead of transforming then, some attempt to transform the Craft to suit their particular needs and desires. They are continually re-inventing Witchcraft to suit themselves!
A Promise is a Promise
If you have decided that Craft is your path of choice, you have to commit yourself to following its basic principles.
One of these principles is of course, the Rede. If you are going to promise to abide by the precepts of ‘And it harm none’, have you worked out what you would do if someone attacked you? Or your child?
Do you think that it is even possible to ‘harm none?’.
Well that is what you are promising to do isn’t it?
Too often people make a promise in haste and then spend countless hours justifying why they had to break that promise “just this once” because of “conditions beyond their control”. They have their reasons, lots and lots of reasons.
The truth is they just didn’t give enough thought to their commitment BEFORE they made it. Unless you have given serious thought and reflection to both the results and obligations contained in a promise, do not make one! And certainly not to the Gods…….
Integrity Requires Three Things
1. The ability to discern what is right and what is wrong
This requires reflection, time and effort.
It is a difficult process, but one which cannot be avoided by anyone who truly wants to be a better person.
How much easier it is to find someone else to tell us what to do, what to read, what to think and how to act!
But then, who would actually be living you life?
Who would be in control?
Who is pulling the strings?
If you don’t think that you would enjoy being a puppet, then you simply must find out what your limits are, what you believe to be correct behaviour, and what you yourself are willing and unwilling to do.
Whether there is an ‘absolute’ right or wrong is something theologians and philosophers have been puzzling about for centuries.
The fact that very thought that they could be wrong keeps many people from being willing to take a stand on anything at all!
Carefully study, investigation, and thought, lessen the possibility of being wrong. Of course, you may be honest about a belief. Later you many find out that you were honestly wrong!
However, approaching each subject with an open mind; examining all the possibilities, answering all the ‘what ifs’ will help you sort this out.
Most people and societies do agree that some things are just ‘more right’ than others are. You need to find out the measure of your ‘rightness quotient’. You need to do the work of creating your own personal code of behaviour and ethics. Then you can use that as a standard for decisions for what Path, or group, is correct for you.
Maybe you thought that just finding a coven was hard! Finding the right coven, the right place, the right path can change your life for the better. The wrong choice can be devastating.
If you have not done this work, then you are basically leaving yourself open to follow anything, or anyone, and do anything that they tell you.
Witchcraft is a path of personal power and responsibility. If you are not willing to do the work of discernment and introspection – to formulate a set of integrated values for yourself then- the Witchcraft is probably not for you.
2. Acting on what you have discerned even at personal cost
Suppose the trainer that you have been studying with begins to introduce issues or behaviours that you just don’t feel are right. Suppose that you now find that having sexual relations are a part of this group’s workings? What is suddenly this loving coven wants you to do a death spell against someone who has given another covener a hard time? What about that ‘harm none’ thing? What if you don’t want to participate in this activity? But what if, by refusing to participate, you can no longer be part of this group? What will you do?
These people are your friends- maybe you even think of them as your ‘family’. Now you face losing all this and starting over. This group may say bad things about you if you leave. You may lose your friends and their support. You have to decide, do you stay and compromise your own code of right and wrong? Do you leave?
Where is your soundness, your faculty of judgement, your integrity now?
The truth is that most of us cannot say whether we really possess integrity until we are tested on it. Doing what we believe to be right as determined by the hard work of reflective discernment, even when it becomes personally painful, tells us if we have it or not.
This is a test. There will be others. Get use to it. Witchcraft is a way that requires that we as Witches are equal to the challenges that life brings our way. If you can easily compromise your ethical principles or can turn your back to what you know to be the right action, then this Way is not for you.
3. Integrity means keeping your promises. You openly declare where you stand.
Now we get to the Horned God and the Goddess (whatever or whoever They may be or however you perceive Them). Do you still think that you are prepared to stand before Them and pledge your life, your heart and your hands to Their service? For that is what the journey of the Craft is all about- SERVICE.
It is not about gaining power- although that will certainly be part of your magical life. It is about enabling others to learn ways to empower themselves.
It is not about ‘getting more’ for you- although you will benefit in untold ways. It is about ‘giving more’ to others in their Names.
It is not about changing others to suit you- it is about changing yourself, so you are better equipped to do the work of the Old Ones on this Earth.
It is not about fame, although others may seek you out. It is about being available to help those in need.
It is not about pulling others down- although what is not working will fall before you.
You are stepping out into a Path which will change your Life and not only your life. It can drastically alter your outlook on life, your relationships, your personal desires and objectives. It can lead you into lonely ways, along paths of despair, scorn and derision, rejection by those you love and isolate you form the familiar.
It can guide you to wondrous places, but it can show you madness.
You may well find loving companionship but equally you may have to walk alone up the treacherous path of knowledge.
Magic of any sort requires commitment and just like taking on a new job or house you will be sensible if you check out the terms and conditions of any agreement you make and this is especially true of any involvement in the Occult world.
There are several levels of commitment and you will be wise to look at these in turn as all of them have some effect on your life and ambition.
The first commitment is to yourself, which has several levels in itself.
There is the practical matter of your job, your family, your home and your circumstances. How will you be able to share out your time between things already established and the new time consuming things such as meditation, study and attending meetings?
What are your family’s views on Witchcraft? If they fear or distrust or openly object, what are you going to do about it?
Are you going to ride roughshod over their feelings, however valid they may be?
Are you going to demand your ‘rights’ for quiet, for entertaining your weird friends, for spending money n books with strange sounding titles.
Are you going to share your new found views with your nearest and dearest? Will your views upset them?
Do you have the right ti upset others?
If you are sensible you will take your raining period at a steady pace, being certain you have mastered one art or concept before moving on to the next. It is not a race. There is no prize for getting there first. Lay firm foundations on which to build the rest of your magical life.
The skills of the Craft have taken centuries to evolve and cannot be learned in five minutes. Be patient and persevere with the basic before rushing on to the more exciting things like making talismans, casting spells and exciting rituals.
Learn to walk before you run
One of the first lessons you will learn is that of disillusionment.
Magic requires VERY HARD WORK, not just a week or two but for years!
If you want to learn a musical instrument you do not expect to have mastered it after a few lessons, yes you may be able to play a simple tune, but to really exploit the full potential of that instrument takes an awful long time and so it is with the Occult.
You get ow’t for now’t.
If you put in no effort you will get no results, except upset psychic senses and delusions of fear or grandeur. The work is hard and steady but the final results will amaze you.
Take time to choose wisely the Path that you will walk. Think of what it stands for, what it wants of you, and what you want of it before making your commitment. The work will demand time, effort and dedication to the Old Ones, so think and meditate before making any form commitment.
Becoming a member of this group will demand things of you that maybe you have never have to do before. It is more serious a move than getting married. So think before you commit.
Will you be able to keep any promises that you make? Will you be able to sustain your efforts?
Any decent group is choosy about who it asks to join, you have passed the first of many tests. There is no failure, just maybe disappointment if you see initiation. By the way it is Ok to stay and attend the classes without seeking initiation. It’s too far away to even contemplate it yet and I would remind you that it is the Gods who confer this, not us.
You may have to make a decision to change religion, or adopt one if you don’t have one now. Are you ready for that, with all the guilt feelings that will accompany that move? You will have to get to know the Goddess and God of the Craft rather than ‘God the Father’; this will take time and a change of mind set.
You cannot take the Gods for granted and once you have made some sort of promise to them, even a sort of half-hearted dedication or what, they will be there, to talk to, to influence you and perhaps guide you. Do not take the God’s names in vain, and that includes using them as magical names if you are a novice. They have more power than you might think.
You will have to make the commitment to your trainers and to your fellow students. This is not a social club where you can drop in when you fancy it.
If you do not attend on a regular basis you are disrespecting the Craft, your trainers, those who have gone before and your companions here. Not only are you making a commitment to attend but also to participate. No free rides.
Join the discussions; do your homework and the projects. If you don’t you will be the one losing out.
|Posted on January 26, 2017 at 1:40 PM||comments (0)|
Many people are investigating the religions of Witchcraft, Wicca and other Pagan Paths today. There are many books and reference materials available, yet after some self study, there are some folk who would like to meet and perhaps work with a physical teacher. This could be a rewarding learning experience – or it could turn out to be your worst nightmare. As such it is essential at the very start to have some knowledge of what is expected so you can exercise some quality assurance.
There are all kinds of people out there today who may call themselves ‘teachers’ or ‘experts’ in Witchcraft and Wicca. Some advertise in New Age shops and publications or over the internet. Some are well known local personalities who offer regular lectures, workshops or Wicca 101 classes. You may hear of a teacher through networking with other Pagans in your area. How can you know that these people are who they say they are? Or more importantly to you perhaps, how can you know that a teacher will be the right one for you?
There are many paths and many different approaches to passing on the Craft. A little prior research into the various systems or traditions in advance is almost a necessity before making the decision to take training in a particular system. We encourage everyone to do as much reading on the subjects as possible. See what interests you and then try to find a teacher that will help you further develop in these areas of interest.
There are some definitive things that you can do to help insure that you enjoy a positive experience before you spend a lot of money in classes or other training. Remember the Craft tradition that all genuine training is given free of charge. The following information has been developed from personal experiences, the experiences of others and various reference materials that may help you to know what you should be looking for and how to ask the right questions that may help you decide if this is the teacher for you. Some teachers may not exhibit all of the signs listed, but most teachers will fall predominately into one category or another.
Firstly they should have a good sense of humour. Human beings do silly things sometimes, and a good sense of humour can help you keep things in perspective. A good teacher will help you laugh at yourself (and them!) but will not hold you up to ridicule.
Secondly, they should have respect for living things. One need be a vegetarian to care about the lives and welfare of animals. Environmental concerns are also important as Neo-Paganism is a ‘Nature or Earth centred’ path. Therefore the abuse if any living thing is pretty much a ‘no-no’.
It is also important that they have a healthy self image. A teacher who realises that he or she can learn just as much form a novice as a novice may learn from the teacher is probably comfortable in what they know, yet open to new ideas and concepts.
They should be kind and compassionate. This doesn’t mean that you will not be challenged or have to work hard, but it does mean that your honest efforts will be met with encouragement and gentle guidance. A good teacher will not ‘look down their noses’ at your sincere attempts; they realise that experience is necessary to gaining knowledge.
They should tell the truth and be direct. This means that you will not be lead astray either by one who is afraid to confront you when you are heading in the wrong direction, or by one who seeks to manipulate you for unspoken ends. They ‘walk their talk’ and do not have a separate code of conduct for themselves while expecting you to follow another. No 'alternative facts'.
They should be able to teach by example. The good teacher will often tell stories about the time that they really ‘screwed up’. They also can tell you about their successes and failures and do so by neither making excuses nor being overly melodramatic about their experiences. They can offer practical examples and show applications of such examples clearly. They are not ‘mysterious’ so much as they demonstrate the ‘mysteries’ in simple ways to help you understand them.
They should have a global point of view. Local ‘gurus’ may only be interested in making a name or creating a following for themselves. A good teacher will encourage their students to reach beyond the local area and embrace the rest of the world community.
Hopefully they are inclusive rather than exclusive in attitude. Anyone who promotes a ‘them and us’ situation is dangerously close to becoming a cult leader. There are real forces out there to contend with, but a teacher who finds an enemy around every corner should be avoided. Just call them paranoid.
They allow for mistakes and admit they are not perfect. ‘We are all in this together’ is a good statement to hear from a teacher that you are considering working with (although maybe not from the Prime Minister).
They should be flexible, yet honours commitments. Too rigid a set of rules and regulations stifles ‘energy’ flow and the learning experience. Too random a training program may also interfere in the disciplines required for growth. A balance between the two is best.
They should encourage you to do your own research and ask questions. A good teacher wants you to discover and explore new ideas. A good book list should be included in any training program. You should be able to disagree with a teacher without being censored or reprimanded. A well thought out concept should be ‘thought provoking’ however and not just ‘provoking’.
They should gives credit where credit is due. A teacher who is using references or techniques from other sources should plainly state this fact. The use of other people’s work without credit is theft, plain and simple.
They should listen as much as they talk. A good teacher is genuinely interested is your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Feedback is only one way that as teacher can tell how you are absorbing and integrating the materials and lessons. Someone who talks all the time about their experiences is more interested in impressing you with their personal knowledge than helping you to acquire knowledge of your own.
They want you to mature and move on. A good teacher wants his or her students to surpass them. That is the greatest compliment that a teacher can receive. Just as a good parent wants to send mature and well balanced children into the world, so does a good spiritual teacher want their ‘children’ to grow up and leave home.
You should avoid a teacher who:
They should not possess a superior attitude. If a teacher states or implies that they are the sole holder of some sort of ‘special’ or ‘secret’ knowledge disclosed only to a ‘chosen few’, you really don’t want to know what that may be ….really!
They shouldn’t exclude members of any race, sexuality or culture. Bigotry of any kind has no place in spiritual circles.
Avoid people who are attacking or violent. Obviously no more need to be said.
They should not be either overly sensitive or too insensitive. Someone who either sees slights and attacks where there are none or ignores actual tangible problems may not be in touch with ‘reality’. Best to leave them to their own little fantasy world.
Avoid trainers who are ingratiating. Someone who is overly friendly and shares intimate details of their personal life with you immediately may be looking to ‘win you over’. This is a real danger sign that is often overlooked. By ‘bearing their souls’, they encourage you to do the same in return. This ‘instant intimacy’ can leave you vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. It might also be that they are very insecure and need you to prop them up. Go slowly when meeting someone new.
The teacher should not be controlling. No teacher should expect you to abandon your family and friends. Isolation from the rest of society is a classic cult activity. You should not be expected to run errands or perform tasks. Sometimes you and the teacher will work out a ‘fair exchange of energy’ in return for training. Make sure it is fair. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, you probably are.
They should not be continually cancelling classes. This is a classic indication that they no longer care about fulfilling the deal. If they are postponing classes until several months from now, you may well have a problem on your hands.
They should never be-little you or use you as an ‘example’. You deserve to be treated with respect even if you are a novice. No teacher has the right to strip you of your self esteem. You should not be bullied into doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you do not understand. On the other hand, being held up to others as the ‘teacher’s pet’ is also incorrect and this teacher may be setting you up for something you may not want to become involved with.
Be suspicious of those with few or no ‘elders’ in the group. “Where are the people who have been trained before me?” is a good question to ask. Perhaps they did mature and move on…… or perhaps they just ran screaming from the room!!! It pays to check. Talk to anyone you can find who has trained with this teacher before.
Avoid training groups and trainers that have assistants, cohorts or senior students who you are expected to obey. Some groups do have a system of ‘elders’ who deserve respect. However, you are not obliged to accept anyone simply based on their ‘rank’ within a group, at least until you join that circle. If the teacher has an ‘entourage’ which follows them everywhere and seems to ‘cater’ to this teacher’s every whim, watch carefully. You may end up being the next ‘groupie’.
They should not be overly idealistic and impractical. If the teacher has marvellous plans for the world – and especially if they tell you that you will be part of this grand scheme- but they cannot balance their bank account, take care of their children or hold onto a job, you may want to leave now. You may end up not only shoring up these ‘dream castles’, you may end up supporting this person financially and emotionally. Witchcraft is a Path of responsibility and a teacher should be able to manifest this in their own lives.
Avoid teacher who exhibit any of these characteristics…..
Lying, sexual misconduct, theft, physical violence or abuse
Thus the wise man residing in the Tao
Sets an example for all beings.
Because he does not display himself,
People can see his light.
-Tao te Ching
|Posted on January 3, 2017 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
Why train in the Craft?
What has training in initiatory Witchcraft or the Wica got to offer?
It gives the opportunity for the seeker to be involved in the Western Mystery Tradition which dates back 3000 years or more. While Initiatory Witchcraft can only reliably be dated to 1939 and Gerald Gardner and his associates, it is nonetheless one of the modern manifestation of the Western Mysteries, which includes Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Thelema, Mystical Christianity etc., some of which date back into antiquity.
Training in Initiatory Witchcraft gives the seeker the opportunity of participating in the myths of the Lady and Horned Lord- Life and Death and the Wheel of the Year. Myths if they are to be effective in reflecting life, in guiding in us and helping us to relate and give meaning to life's inevitabilities can’t be changed on a whim of what ‘feels’ right. Therefore myths are to be experienced rather than believed allowing scope for personal exploration. By engaging in Craft training the seeker has the opportunity to discover profound meaning and depth.
As part of the Western Mysteries training in Initiatory Witchcraft makes use of time tested techniques for inducing the experience of the mysteries, personal transformation and changing one’s reality. With the advance of sciences such as cognitive science, neuro-science, psychology and anthropology these techniques are now becoming better understood.
Taking a structured approach to participation in the occult with experienced teachers ensures that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and can learn the techniques in a safe way. You will be able to avoid the common pitfalls in esoteric spirituality which saves you both time and energy.
It gives you access to the experience of other people who will challenge you but allow you to make up your own mind and gently guide you to the mysteries. Craft training enables you to participate in a dynamic living tradition and gives you access to a host of techniques and experience not known to exoteric religion. It will allow you to make an informed decision on whether this path is for you before making the commitment of initiation into the mysteries. Most of all it brings the chance to meet, discuss, celebrate and make friends with like minded people.
|Posted on January 3, 2017 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
We recommend that you read as widely as possible.
For those people who are new to the Craft we can recommend the following books.
Doreen Valiente's Witchcraft for Tomorrow, ABC of Witchcraft, Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed (with Evan John Jones) and The Rebirth of Witchcraft
Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today, The Meaning of Witchcraft and High Magic's Aid
Vivianne Crowley's Wicca the Old Religion in the New Millenium
History of the Craft
Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon, Stations of the Sun and Witches, Druids and King Arthur
The books of Phillip Hessleton
Wicca,Magical Beginnings by Sorita D'Este and David Rankine
Magic and Occultism
Dion Fortune's Practical Occultism, Psychic Self Defence, The Sea Priestess and The Mystical Qabbalah
David Conway's Magic an Occult Primer
Ramsey Dukes's SSOTBME, How to See Fairys and Uncle Ramsey's Little Book of Demons
Marian Green's The Gentle Arts of Aquarian Magic and Path through the Labyrinth
Aleister Crowley's Magic in Theory and Practice
Catlin and John Matthew's The Western Way Volume 1 and 2
Meditation and Pathworking
Pete Jennings and Pete Sawyer's Pathworking
Dolores Ashcroft Norwicki's The Shining Paths
Lawerence LeShan's How to Meditate
Religion, Myth and Sprituality
Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Masks of God (Primative Mythology, Occidental Mythology, Oriental Mythology and Creative Mythology), Goddesses
Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth, The History of God and the Case for God
Mircea Eliade's Rites and Symbols of Initiation
Terry Pratchet's Wyrd Sistres, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, A Hat Full of Sky and the Wintersmith
Lucius Apuleius's The Golden Ass
Robert Graves's The White Goddess
Charles Godfrey Leyland's Aradia Gospel of the Witches
|Posted on January 3, 2017 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Initiatory Witchcraft (or the Wicca) is part of the Western Mystery Tradition which seeks to give its practitioners direct experience of the Divine as expressed through the mysteries. The word mystery has several meanings and we mean it not as a problem to be solved which is something scientists are very good at, but rather as something that has to be experienced. For example the mysteries of life or of mortality are not scientific questions, but ones of subjective experience and relationships which invoke wonder. Mysteries can’t be explained only experienced and hinted at through metaphor.
The Craft differs from other forms of the Western Mystery Tradition such as the Hermetic Qabbalah, Sufism or Mystical Christianity in that its myths are based on a seasonal paradigm emphasizing the polarity of masculinity and femininity. The Mysteries are experienced through the Mother Goddess and the Horned God who represent life and death respectively. They are experienced in participating in the Myth of the Wheel of the Year, the myth of the changing seasons which along with the changing moon relates to personal transformation of the Witch as s/he moves through life.
Like other traditions within the Western Mystery Tradition, the Craft also practices magic. According to the occultist Aleister Crowley, magic is the art and science of causing change in accordance with will. We see this change as being that of personal transformation or the transformation of our phenomenal reality. The practice of magic depends on practicing certain techniques and skills hence Witchcraft is more of a craft than a religion.
Where Initiatory Craft differs from the various Pagan traditions and the more exoteric forms of Wicca is that the initiated Witch seeks for answers from within, arising from the experience of the mysteries, where as Pagans and Popular Wicca (which are equally valid but different paths) seek answers from what they perceive as externals such as literal interpretations of Gods.
What is a Witch? The word means different things to different people.
For us:- "Witches are what Witches do" and they:-
1. Celebrate the mysteries through the Wheel of the Year.
2. Engage in the Great Work.
3. Raise power to work magic
4. Practice of the Crafts which integrate us into the world, such as cooking, herbalism, wine-making, gardening etc.
To be in the Initiatory Craft it is also necessary to be initiated as a Priest or Priestess into the mysteries.
|Posted on October 23, 2016 at 6:15 AM||comments (0)|
To those just starting out study, learn and practice. Remember that this is your journey and you must take active responsibility for it. To my mind, taking responsibility for your life is one of the most empowering things you can do.
Some start by using the KISS method. Keep it simple. Choose one topic at a time and methodically work it. Really study it and then work the methods suggested. Submerge yourself in it. Get really acquainted with the techniques, keep what works and discard the rest; but make sure you have experienced it properly first and understand what you are doing. Do not pick and mix and do not hop from subject to subject. Pursue a logical flow to your studies. Believe me, building on firm foundations is a necessity.
This is not a path for everybody and many may explore its ways and then choose to go elsewhere, which is fine. Serious occultism is a difficult multi-discipline subject as we shall see. Not everybody can sustain an interest in a magical path and it can be difficult and time consuming with many hidden pit falls and traps. In magic you are monkeying around with your psyche and perceptions of reality, so this is not a path for those who have mental health problems; it is path suited only for life coping adults.
One of those pitfalls is tools. They are lovely, but remember that they are just that – tools. You are the magic, the Witch is the magic. There is more magic in your mind and body than any handcrafted solid silver, crystal encrusted do-dad that you can buy for a ridiculous price. Are they nice? Of course they are. But I’ll match any found twig endowed in the mind of the Witch with meaning than any crystal tipped stick any day. Remember this is not Harry Potter. Attending a wand making workshop is not the same as practicing the Craft. It is true that Pagan artisans do create beautiful tools, but the beginner need not spend oodles of money to work on this path.
It’s funny, but your tools will be presented to you as you need them, and at the right price. It will be like the floodgates have opened. You will find that shop that you never knew existed. You will find a teacher; you will find that people you have been dealing with are Witches. There is an old occult maxim, “when the pupil is ready the master will appear”. And each are as varied as there are numbers of grains of sand. Your first teacher may not be your only teacher, so keep an open mind. And you may get the answers from unlikely sources, so discount nothing. Listening in the beginning is vital.
As time goes on, keep notes and question, question, question. Accept nothing at face value. Remember this is not a religion with things you must believe, it is a path (your spirituality), it is a questing tradition, it is a craft, it is a practise, it is an art and a way of life. This is a very important road to travel, and only you can be in the driving seat.
Another trap is ritual. Ritual is lovely, but is only a part of the Craft. Remember that Witches usually have only one ritual a month, the official part lasting for perhaps only half an hour. Some people get stuck on ritual—getting it right. It will come. Ritual is like riding a bike or any new task, it gets easier with practice but it is only a part of the Craft. For the time being leave it alone until you know exactly what you are doing. It can be dangerous to play with things you don’t understand or to invoke forces you can’t control.
Mistakes, will you make them? Of course you will; everyone does. Like anything they should be learned from; they are tools too. Actually, this is important in any area of life, not just the Craft. Remember that the clever man learns from his mistakes but the wise man learns from other people’s; hence training. Not only will you learn from them (hopefully), but also you will then have a knowledge base that you can draw from you become teachers. For that is how it works the newcomers become teachers eventually. It is simply natural progression.
The Craft has Elders, listen to them. They have a body of experience and knowledge; experience that you just can’t buy or read, it’s earned and as we know anything that is of value is something that has to be earned. Just like parents, they’ve been round the block and know or thing or two. And sometimes they may need to tell you things that you don’t want to hear (many times and for you own good). It bothers me when I hear people criticize elders, especially on erroneous data. The computer age, while wonderful in many ways, has added to this dilemma. Almost anyone can be an expert- or so they think. As I mentioned earlier, read and question, just because you found it on the web or written in a book for that matter doesn’t make it so. Believe me there are a lot of mistakes in books and this is especially true and goes double for the internet. Remember publishers and authors want to sell books and will tend to appeal to what is popular over what is difficult so make sure you exercise common sense.
It is important to acknowledge that teachers and elders are people too, they are not perfect. It can be devastating to some when they discover that their ‘guru’ is all too human. At times you will learn more from a poor teacher, or experience, than a good one. There is a role for the charlatan in the occult as they teach, all be it indirectly, discernment. It’s extremely helpful to know what not to do, as it is what to do. This all helps build your knowledge base and remember in the Craft we are training to become our own guru- after all it is your life and your spirituality.
So know what you are doing and why you are doing it. You do not need toys (I mean tools!!) or flowing velvet robes and cloaks. They are fun but you don’t need them. You are the magic; you are the only tool you really need. And don’t play with things you don’t understand, the Occult can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, it is the same as anything in life.
If you are asked to do anything illegal or immoral run. Oprah Winfrey has a saying with problems; “you usually get a pebble before you get a brick”. Beware teachers who push toys, or who charge exorbitant fees for training. Remember, you’re asking someone to share their knowledge with you, so pay for it with attention and respect. Some of the poorest things come to us on a silver platter. Listen to your instinct in all matters, it won’t let you down.
Enjoy the journey and don’t rush it. You don’t have to get everything right, right away. This is a lifelong journey, not a six week course. Take your time. Enthusiasm is one thing, but rushing is unnecessary. Don’t run before you can walk.
Trust yourself. This goes from choosing a teacher, to performing magic. Take nothing at face value, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It’s that simple. Nothing should be forced. But does this mean the Craft will be smooth sailing? Hardly, nothing in life is and a valid spirituality is one that acknowledges that fact rather than just looking at just the light. You will be tested, but remember we have greater inner reserves than we realise. Without conflict and hardship there can be no growth. Witchcraft is not static, it grows and evolves.
However a few words of warning are in order for the newcomer. For one thing, as a newbie in the Craft, you may feel wonderful and filled with love for the entire Universe. That is not to say that the Universe necessarily feels the same about you. The Gods, and we shall be discussing exactly what we mean by that term latter, may perceive someone taking their first steps on the path of the Craft and say, “you’ve declared yourself ready to learn and grow- well here is your first lesson!” The Craft is not an answer to all your problems; you can’t just solve them by waving a magic wand.
Maybe that first lesson is to do with love and trust. “Perfect love and perfect trust” does not mean total love and trust. It means that degree of love and trust which is appropriate to the person and the situation. Just because you’ve become an Occultist, don’t let anyone tell you you’ve given up your right to make sure someone is trustworthy before placing anything important in their hands. There are people in the community who play on the theme of ‘perfect love and perfect trust’ to manipulate others to their will. We have a few bad apples in the Pagan community because we are human beings. These bad apples are very few, but they can cause harm far out of proportion to their number. Also many people are well meaning but misguided. They may use the perfect love and trust card to prevent people questioning them, or voicing an opinion that they don’t want to hear or from rocking the boat.
There are many paths in the Occult community, including secret orders, lodges, temples and initiatory traditions. Each of these have their advantages, the main one being structure. When you follow the path delineated by an established group, you will have some idea what lessons are coming your way, and can better prepare yourself to deal with them. But not all groups are reputable or competent. You should never be made to feel uncomfortable in any group. You should never be forced to do anything you find unethical or demeaning. Perfect love and perfect trust does not mean you turn your life and will over to anyone else, even to someone with a grand title and lots of followers.
Reach out and get to know as many different people in the Pagan community as you can. The more people you know, the more people you can talk to, and the more perspective you can tap whenever you have doubts about any person or group. If you have a number of contacts in the community you will always have someone you can ask about ethics and practices that you find questionable. No reputable group will insist that you cut yourself off from your roots, or pull your branches away from the air and light of the world. It they do then they are exhibiting the one of the methods of control used by a Cult; best to leave them now. By getting to know other pagans you can get other people’s ideas on their beliefs and practises even if it challenges your own. You can test if your views stand up to being challenged and constructive criticism, if they don’t you have lost nothing.
Read books by as many different authors as you can. Don’t assume that what is in Starhawk’s book, or the Farrar’s book, or Kate West’s book, is the only way. Most people get involved in the Occult because they find traditional religious concepts unsatisfactory and to get away from fundamentalism. Sadly fundamentalism has reared its ugly head in Paganism, and we need to be careful that we don’t fall into this trap. Also the more you read the more easily you will be able to spot those people who may be in paganism to indulge their egos.
Practise what you read. Do at least a little something to observe the moons and the festivals and life. Do you know what phase of the moon it is? What seasonal tide are we in? By knowing and observing these simple things we are connecting ourselves to the natural cycles of life and death and it helps to give a rhythm to your life.
There is no secret key. No one group has the ‘Ultimate Answer’. You have entered a path that leads to wisdom, balance, understanding, individuation, authenticity and enlightenment, but you have to walk it yourself. You will have lots of company, but no group and no author can carry you to the end of the path. You will have to do your own work and you will never feel ready until you have started.
Treat others as you would want to be treated and remember the words of the dictum of magic, to know, to dare, to will and to keep silent.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 2:00 AM||comments (0)|
The Suffolk Witchcraft Training group was originally started by Dave and Tricia when they hived from a Gardnerian coven that existed in Norfolk a couple of decades ago. They ran the training for considerable amount of time before deciding that they had done their bit for king and country and handed the training onto me. I have facilitated the group since the year 2000 with my wife Martika joining me in the running of the group since 2010, having done the training herself. We both enjoying running the training group as we learn an awful lot from it ourselves and have made some great friends over the years.
Although the training is for the Initiatory Craft, which we shall define in session two, participants need not seek initiation to take part nor does attendance at training guarantee initiation. This is because initiation into a coven is not up to just us (the training facilitators) but rather is a whole coven decision. Everyone in a coven has to be able to feel that they can work comfortably with a new initiate before they are initiated. That being said we are friends with other Witches and Wiccans in the area and we always try our hardest to find a place of people who have earned it if they do not gel with the coven.
The training, like all genuine Craft training is given free of charge; the only fee is you commitment and effort. Witchcraft is not a commodity to be bought and sold but a profound spiritual and mystical tradition and its value is in its practice. By paying a fee the trainers are obliged to ensure that the trainees get what they wish, and for many that is initiation. By giving the Craft training for free, we are only obligated to do our absolute best in honour of the Craft and the trainee to provide the best training we can, not to ensure that the trainee succeeds. That is the trainee’s responsibility and at the end of the day the trainee will get out only what they put in.
We need to begin with a health warning, the training will change you. If it does not than the training is not working. Initiatory Witchcraft is about personal transformation and training will change your beliefs leading to a transformation of your subjective reality. This is something to consider very, very carefully, do you really want to change? What about loved ones, will they want you to change? Is it fair to force this change in yourself upon them? Before you start you should give this serious thought.
This is a powerful journey that will change your life; indeed it has changed my own. It is a journey that leads to self empowerment and will add a richer quality to life. It is the work of the soul, the work of personal transformation as that is what magic is partly about.