Ethics and the Craft

In every pagan group I’ve ever belonged to, either in real life, or virtually, there inevitably comes a discussion about magic and “The Wiccan Rede.” The Rede that people tend to quote is attributed to Doreen Valiente and it goes like this: “An it harm none do what ye will.” People seem to be under the impression that these eight words are somehow the Law Of The Wicca™.

I mean, hey, if you want to follow these eight words as a law, by all means, feel free to do so for yourself. Personally, I prefer to read them as they were written: as a rede. That is, as counsel or advice–not a law or proscription. In Trad Craft (both Gardnerian and Minoan, in my case), there is a saying we use: “Be mindful.”

Be mindful of what you’re doing. Be mindful of why you’re doing it. Be mindful of what may be deserved. Be mindful of the repercussions.

If I feel I’m being wronged, I will take action. I will petition my Gods for help, or I will do something more direct, like some kind of spellwork. I have no compunction against doing this–I own my magic and the results thereof. This doesn’t mean I’m evil, or bad. It means I feel I’ve been wronged, and seek a resolution regarding the situation.

My first priestess had very different opinions on this. She felt that no magic could be done for or against someone without their express permission to do so. This would include healing magic, job magic, or other beneficial things for family members who might not understand your religious beliefs.

To me, this means you do not own your magic or the results you seek. You are giving your power away to people who don’t understand what you’re looking to do for them. This is not my view of being a Witch. As a Witch I use my will and my power to change things in the world because that’s what Witches do. For what it’s worth, I do not follow that first priestess’ teachings any longer. I have, instead, formed my opinion on such things by direct experience with my Gods and my co-priests and priestesses.

Ethics are an important part of a Witch’s toolbox. I wouldn’t want to hex somebody because they cut me off on the highway. That would be silly and a waste of time. But if you’re going to spread lies about me, screw with my friends, or otherwise affect my bottom line, then yeah, I’d do something about that.

In the Craft, ethics are a very personal thing. My students and I would certainly discuss ethics, how they affect us, how they affect our magic and our worship. If I have a question about something I’m feeling I want to do, I will turn to my Gods and see what messages I get from them about it. I would scry, do a Tarot reading, or even a pendulum, and see if what I’m doing is needed, or even necessary. Sometimes the Gods have plans beyond ours. Sometimes we are the hands of the Gods. Sometimes we forget that.

So do what thou wilt.

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Beginnings and Endings.

Pagan Blog Project 2014

Pagan Blog Project 2014

I realize the PBP is over and done with, but I’d had this in my drafts, and wasn’t sure how, or if, I would post it. The blog stagnated because of it. I figured I’d post this as my final PBP post, and to try and continue the blog regardless of the existence of the PBP.

Start. Beginning. Onset. Birth. Alpha.

End. Completion. Finale. Death. Omega.

What do these things mean in a Traditional sense? When I was young, and first getting involved with Wicca, I had read a number of books. I thought I was pretty experienced. I met with a coven, joined, and started outer court with them. When it came down to my initiation, I thought it was something that was going to just verify what I already knew. I was a Witch, and this was my validation.

Then I stood at the edge of that Circle. And things would never be the same again. The game had been stepped up to the next level.

I’ve been through a lot since then. I’d left that group, found another, was brought through to my Gardnerian 3°, then later I joined a Minoan Brotherhood grove and was initiated and elevated to 3° there as well.

And I’ll just say, when I stood at the edge of that Minoan Brotherhood Circle that first time… things would change yet again. Things would also never be the same again. The game had been stepped up again.

This path is filled with beginnings. Many might think that “Oh yeah, well, I’ve been initiated|read a book|had my first student” means that they’re done with beginnings. The beginnings never end.

Endings, well, that’s a whole other thing. Ending a relationship (mentor/student/love), ending an association (group/tradition/friends), and then your last ending in this life–death.

Some believe that the end of this life is the beginning of the next. Some believe we go on to other things on a higher plane. Others that there is nothing after we die. A year ago, a friend and Brother passed away. He was an Olorisha as well as a Witch. When he passed, it was mentioned that because he was an Olorisha, he would be going on to become a guide for a new Olorisha. I think that’s a wonderful thing, and whoever happened to get him is greatly blessed.

But, what do you think of beginnings and endings? What kinds of beginnings have you experienced, what kind of endings?

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The Art of Witchcraft

Pagan Blog Project 2014

Pagan Blog Project 2014

Leontes: “Oh, she’s warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating”

— William Shakespeare The Winter’s Tale

(Apologies for the lateness of this post. I’m getting caught up after being struck down with that horrid cold going around like wildfire in the Northeast.)

Witchcraft is frequently referred to as The Art. What do we mean by that? Witchcraft requires a few things of its adherents: Will, Knowledge, Bravery, Silence, as well as Creativity. (The first four comprise the “Witches’ Pyramid: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent.” The last is one of a few “unspoken” requirements.) As an art, Witchcraft has rules, much like other forms of art such as photography, painting, and sculpture, and the expression of those rules is what results in Witchcraft.

You must know how to focus your will. And by will, I do not mean Crowley’s definition of Will (the interplay between the deepest Self and the entire Universe), rather I mean what you want to accomplish. I mean what you will to have happen. This is not nearly as easy as one might think it is. For instance, if I am doing a candle working, while I may very well throw up a Circle and perform magic on the candle, to anoint, charge and prepare it for the Work ahead, that doesn’t mean my job is done once that I place that candle and light it. If I truly want that Work to be successful, I will be focusing on that Work while that candle burns. Sending the candle energy, checking on the candle, making sure it’s burning well, seeing the objective in my mind as often as possible, to help manifest that Work.

Now, I know how to prepare a candle. I know what kind of candle I prefer, what I might want to anoint it with for the job at hand, and how to charge it with my intent. But what if I can’t find the candle I need? Let’s say I’m looking to do a candle for healing work. Personally, I would want a 7 day yellow pullout in glass. Why? Because I find them easier to anoint (or carve if I am so inclined), and I like being able to get my hands all over the candle. But if I cannot find one? I’ll grab a 7 day poured yellow candle. If I can’t find that? a 7 day white. If I can’t find any of those or similar types? Well, Shabbat candles will work. But this is because I know the “rules.” I know what will work and what won’t.

Now, the purpose of this article is not to teach you the rules I’ve learned, but to establish that there are indeed rules in the Art, and like any other form of art, one must know the rules if one desires to break them.

Like other forms of art, creativity is involved in Witchcraft. Yes, even in British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW). In both the Traditions I belong to, we learn how to do things to the specifications of the Tradition. For some examples:

  • How to prepare for Circle.
  • How to erect a Circle.
  • How to do magic in that Circle.
  • How to invoke.
  • How to dismiss.
  • How to open the Circle.

Once I know how to do these things to the specifications I’m taught, then I can play. Because I know what has to be done, and how it should be done. This also means I also know how not to break the rules. This is actually even more important. This is part of To Know. To put it in another perspective:

If you’re a singer, you learn your scales. Yeah, you hate it, but your voice teacher keeps making you do them. Same with any instrument. You learn your fingering, and you get better at it. Once you learn those rules, you can play…learn how to harmonize, how to adjust keys, how to wing it. But you also know what doesn’t work. As a singer, if you’re a tenor, you know you can’t sing a soprano part. But you know you can adapt it to your voice. If you’re a painter, you know that mixing cerulean blue with a lemon yellow makes a different green than if you used a Hansa yellow and a Phthalo blue. But if you don’t know that first, you might end up with colors you weren’t expecting, or wanting. But if you only have the lemon yellow and cerulean blue, when you wanted Hansa and Phthalo, you then know what to expect.

Now, knowing what to do is great. Having the will to do it is also great. But can you Dare to do it? Do you have the moxie, the gumph, the balls, the ovaries, the whatever, to actually do what needs to be done? To make those changes in your life? To send that energy to a friend in need? To put that nasty neighbor or coworker’s name in the freezer to keep them away from you or your loved ones? Do you accept the consequences of your actions? Or lack of actions? It’s not all about just waving a wand, going *puf* and going on with your life. Just like in the physical world…for every action there is a reaction. Knowing that, and knowing what you should expect, how to mitigate it, whether it’s worth it or not. That’s Daring. We Dare all the time. We Dare when we go on a date. Or a job interview. Or even to the supermarket. Because being a Witch isn’t just about Circles and magic and ceremony. It’s about your life. Daring to live it on your terms, in accordance with your beliefs.

Keeping Silent. I never discuss what I do in Circle. Not unless you were there, or unless it especially concerns you. I also don’t discuss magic I do, again, unless you were there, or it concerns you and I feel you need to know something. I see a lot of requests for healing, for help, for prosperity work, and for job work (finding/keeping/help with) for people I love, people I barely know, and for people they’re associated with. I rarely, if ever, say I’m doing magic for them. I just do it if I feel it’s appropriate for me to do so (and admittedly, it usually is).

Now, when you know how things are done, you can get creative with it. Like I mentioned above–no green pullout candles? All you can find is a box of Shabbat candles? OK, then! You’re out of incense? Well, what do you have in the spice cabinet? Maybe even sprinkling a little scented oil in the pooled wax of a burning pillar candle. Sometimes it’s just about what you need to accomplish, and doing what need to with what you have to work with. That’s Art.

Posted in Art, Gardnerian, Minoan Brotherhood, Pagan Blog Project, Ritual, Wicca | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Anointing and Preparing for Ritual

Pagan Blog Project 2014

Pagan Blog Project 2014

Anointing is the act of smearing or rubbing with oil or other unctuous substance (such as a fat like rendered lard or something similar). In a magical tradition, anointing is done to consecrate an object or a person–to make them holy or blessed.

In many traditions, anointing is done as part of preparing for ritual. When I prepare for a ritual, I don’t just put on a robe (or not) and be done with it. There’s a lot more involved. I get into a magical headspace, I let go of the mundane, the stressors of work and home, and prepare to do ritual.

First I would take a ritual bath. (Note that this is not a bath for cleansing my body. This is a bath for cleansing my energy, my mind and my soul. If I feel the need to use soap, I would go do that first, and then take a ritual bath.) I turn off the lights, light a candle and a stick of incense. I will then bless a handful of salt, toss it into a hot bath, consecrate the water, then get in and soak. While I’m soaking, I let everything go into the water and relax. Once I feel that everything has been let go and I am fully relaxed and starting to get more into my magical headspace, I get out of the tub and towel myself dry. Then I drain the tub and let all of those worries and cares drain down with the water.

After I am dry, I will take a small container of oil (olive oil is just fine, but there are other oils I am known to use for their various scents or properties), bless it, then take that oil and anoint myself.

Depending on what I’m doing, I might anoint my whole body, starting at the top of my head and working my way down, or I may just do certain points on my body. The bath has stripped away the outer shell…the accumulation of the day(s) prior. Now I anoint to seal and protect that freshly revealed me. The anointing seals me, protects me, makes me holy. It helps to keep me in that magical mindset.

Now that I’m bathed and anointed, I am ready for the Work ahead!

None of this means that if I get a call at work that someone needs some emergency Work done, that I can’t do without all of this. I can and I have. But I have also had the years of practice to know how to get into that mindset as necessary, having been in that mindset many times over the years.

The rituals of getting ready for ritual can be the ones that make me feel the most connected to my practice. Those little things that just make things fall into place for me magically.

Posted in Anointing, Pagan Blog Project, Preparation, Ritual | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pagan Blog Project

So there’s this Pagan Blog Project. The concept is to get more pagans blogging, so they post a weekly list of words to get inspiration from (going from A-Z, every two weeks a new letter). At the prodding of my friend Bozanfé Bon Oungan, I decided to go ahead and try this out. I certainly need to get some more writing done, and this is not a bad way for me to do it. So I created this WP blog for this purpose.

A little about myself. I’m a 3° Gardnerian and Minoan Brotherhood High Priest. I started down the Gardnerian path in 1993, culminating in my 3rd in 1999. I started down the Minoan Brotherhood path in 2009, culminating in my 3rd in 2011. I did write a short article in 2013-2014 The Witches Almanac on The Hare.

I’m looking forward to what 2014 brings, both to this blog, and to life in general.

Many blessings,
Hermes Adrastos

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