Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's in a Name?

[Link provided in the title]

Astarte is also known as Astarat and Astoreth. She is an incarnation of Ishtar and Inanna. This Semitic Goddess was worshipped by the Syrians, Canaanites (today called Palestinians), Phoenicians, Egyptians and other Semitic Tribes. King Solomon built a Temple to Her as Astoreth, near Jerusalem.

Astarte was worshipped as many things, to the Egyptians, She was honored as a Goddess of War and tenacity, to the Semites, She was a Goddess of Love and Fertility. Among the Greeks She was transposed into the Goddess of Love Aphrodite. In the Bible, She is referred to as "the abomination". Considering Her widespread devotion in Biblical times, the attempts to discredit the Goddess are not surprising.

The Bull and the Dove are especially sacred to Astarte and Astoreth. The Goddess is often pictured wearing horns. Astoreth is sometimes pictured wearing the head of a Bull. The Dove is associated with many Middle-Eastern Goddess rites. A Dove perches atop many Asheras, (tall moon poles) that marked the "High Places" were outdoor Goddess rituals were frequently held.

The bountiful qualities of the Great Goddess are reflected in all the principle Goddesses of the Meditteranean and Middle-East. Homage was paid to the Goddesses in the form of honey, beer, wine, incense, and animals. These offerings were an important part of honoring the Goddess and insuring future blessings for self and the community.

The Egg is a sacred symbol of Astarte, representing fecundity, new life and the powers of the Goddess. The Pomegranate, the "fruit bearing eggs" is an important part of Her sacred rites. Pomegranite is also central to the rites of Kore-Persephone, as well as other Goddesses.

The worship of Astarte spread far and wide, and in time, She was worshipped by the Phillistines, the Greeks, the Romans, the Sicilians, and in many parts of Europe and Africa. The Great Goddess Astarte was also worshipped as Freya by the Norse, Indrani by the Hindus, by the Celts as Danu, and by the Egyptians as Hathor.

Like Artemis & Diana, She often carries a bow and arrows, and is the center of many millenia of devotion.

[Information was gathered from:]

Sunday, January 7, 2007

What Is Wicca?

What is Wicca?

There are probably as many definitions of Wicca (also known as "the Craft", Witchcraft, or the Old Religion) as there are practitioners --one of the joys of this path is that there is no "one, true way"; intuition is as valuable as teaching. This then is my personal definition of what Wicca is to me.

First, because there are so many misconceptions about Wicca, let me define that what Wicca is not is Satanism or devil-worship. Wiccans don't believe in an all-evil entity.

Wicca is a religion based on experience of Deity as male and female. It is panentheistic--seeing all things as part of God/dess, and seeing the Earth Herself as a living organism of whom we are part. It is also a religion of immanence--seeing God/dess present here and now, within all things, not "out there somewhere" but part of daily life.

Wiccans reverence Nature in all her forms, and often are active environmentalists. Wiccans celebrate eight major holidays, the beginning and midpoint of each season. Wiccans also celebrate the phases of the moon. Each of these rituals or observances helps us attune with the ever-changing cycles of Nature.

Wicca is also a Craft. We practice magic using meditation, chants, visualization and spells to help focus our will on what we want to happen. Wiccans believe that everything we do, good or ill, comes back to us tripled, which is why we don't hex or curse anyone. We also believe that many psychic talents are real and simply haven't been studied enough by science to be catalogued as such.

Wiccans for the most part accept reincarnation, not as dogma to be believed, but as fact based on personal experience. Many of us remember past lives. As one who has studied science, I know that every atom of my body once was part of something else, and I am continually losing atoms that become part of others. Knowing this, it makes sense that my soul also is "recycled".

Wicca is a positive philosophy. The only law is "An it harm none, do as ye will": Enjoy life to the fullest, and remember to help everyone else enjoy it as well. Wiccans don't preach; Wiccans don't evangelize. Everyone has to find his or her own path, and we welcome the diversity this brings.

So the next time you hear someone called a "wicked witch", think instead of Wiccans all over the world, celebrating the cycles of Nature through the dance of the Lord and the Lady, trying to brighten the world we all share through our cauldron fires in the darkness. Know we are not out to convert you; know we mean you no harm. All we ask for is tolerance, understanding, and the freedom to practice as we choose.

©1998 Cecylyna Dewr
Distribution is welcome; please include this notice

For more information contact
Pagan Pride Project – - (317) 916-9115.
PO Box 441422 Indianapolis, IN 46244

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

I am a Chimera

You Are a Chimera

You are very outgoing and well connected to many people.
Incredibly devoted to your family and friends, you find purpose in nurturing others.
You are rarely alone, and you do best in the company of others.
You are incredibly expressive, and people are sometimes overwhelmed by your strong emotions.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Elemental Tools and the Working of Magic: A Paradigm

(From the Witches' Voice:)

Author: kodama 93
Posted: December 31st. 2006

Disclaimer: Anyone can walk into a high-end bookstore, pull out any Wicca 101 book and read practically this same thing about the tools of Wicca:

The Wand is for directing energy. The Athame is too. (WE DO NOT EVER CUT ANYTHING WITH THE ATHAME!) The Pentacle and the Chalice are used to serve the Cakes and Ale (respectively). Also, some other tools Wiccans use are incense, candles, statues, crystals... (continued digression) It is also perfectly okay to use no tools at all. (My own paraphrase)

This paradigm is completely accurate and useful, particularly in training the would-be clergy to perform community-oriented Wiccan rituals. This is, also, not at all what this article is about.

The Groundwork

Before I begin with the main thrust of the article, there are a few important distinctions that must be made. First, the difference between the tools and the four “Elemental Tools, ” which sometimes are referred to as the “Elemental Weapons.”

For those on a Warrior's Path, the term Weapon may be a useful one, but in this article I will refer to them only as Tools. The Wand, Athame, Chalice and Pentacle are considered the Elemental Tools because of their close association with the Elements. The use of other tools such as incense, candles, cauldrons, etc. is outside the scope of this article.

Secondly, I would like to make a distinction between the physical elements and “The Elements.” Within this article, when I refer to the Element of Earth, I will not be referring to physical dirt, mud, sand, rock, etc. but instead the mysterious force which causes those things and others to exist.

For example, permanence, the fact that something can be the same from one moment to the next, comes from Earth. Variation, the fact that something can be different, comes from Air. Growth comes from Fire. Decline comes from Water. The list of things can go on and on from the most foundational things to the most specific.

When I refer to the Elements I am talking about non-physical forces foundational to both physical and non-physical aspects of reality. Although I will not go into a description of the attributes of the Elements, the clearer you understand the Elements, the clearer your understanding will be of the Tools.

Now, with these distinctions in mind, I would like to make the claim that just as the Elements are more than just their physical manifestations, the Tools can be seen as more than just their physical materials. The Tools are the abilities (derived from the Elements) that are inherent within all people.

Just as Earth is all that is still, quiet, dark and heavy, the Pentacle represents the ability of a person to be still, silent and unmovable. It is my belief that true magical power is derived from understanding and learning how to wield these “internal” Tools in a skillful, elegant way.

The Wand and the Athame

The Wand and the Athame are very peculiar because in Ceremonial Magic and Tarot they are associated with Fire and Air, respectively, while in a Wiccan setting they trade places being Air and Fire, respectively. There is an over-hang, if you will, although I will concern myself predominately with the Wiccan association. There is no doubt, though, that they are both masculine in nature. They both are physically phallic-shaped and concern themselves with powers historically considered “male” (although the Tools represent abilities which all people can and do wield, regardless of sex or gender).

The Wand’s nature is best revealed by some of its more well-known manifestations: the conductor’s baton, the royal scepter, and the old wise-man’s staff. The Wand represents the individual’s ability to communicate, to lead/guide, and to know.

When I was in honors band in high school, I remember playing under the best conductor I’ve ever met. I forget his name, but every mistake I made he knew, somehow, no matter how great or small. I would look up and in an instant our eyes would meet, and in that one moment, in that one gesture he would say, “I heard that, and I want you to fix it next time.” I don’t know how he did it, but once he raised his baton, every person in the orchestra was merely an extension of his will. That is the power of the Wand mastered. Speaking without words. Guiding without coercion. Knowing without asking.

There is one thing that everyone says about the Athame: WE DO NOT EVER CUT WITH IT!! Why do you think people say this? The most obvious answer is its purpose truly isn’t to cut physical things, but also I believe it is to disclaim against troubled teens who want a reason to cut themselves and to distance us from the claims that we perform blood sacrifice. But nonetheless the Athame is a blade, and blades are for cutting.

You cannot travel too far from its essential nature before the Athame transforms from a blade into a mutilated form of Wand. The Athame is principally associated with the act of separation, mirroring the Chalice whose principal action is union.

I want you to do an experiment, right now. Pick up a knife right now, and point it at someone. Not a very sharp knife, and not very close; a butter knife pointed at someone from across the room would be sufficient. (I don’t want you to have an accident.)

What just happened to you emotionally? To the recipient of your pointing? Most likely, you drew back, and they did too. You just created a rift between you and that person. A very small one, but a rift nonetheless. You just cut something with your Athame!

The ability to set limits and boundaries is a powerful skill which some people neglect, especially because of our emphasis upon community and union, trust, love and connection. There are times, though, when we must pick up the Athame and cut things out of our lives or protect our families. Also, when the Athame is seen as the power to separate, the fact that many use the Athame to cast the circle becomes clear. We are literally cutting this place and time off from mundane life.

Before I go on to the other Tools, I would like to touch on the Wand and Athame flipped. Fire is associated with growth, which doesn’t really resonate with the blade symbolism. In that respect I would associate the Wand with Fire; working together and creating new things would be a good example.

Also, when the Athame is seen as Air, we remember that words can cut just as deeply as any sword.

The Chalice and the Pentacle

The Chalice and the Pentacle are more distinctly different than the Wand and Athame, but they too share some things in common. Particularly, many people don’t really know what to “do” with them, other than use them as tableware (and of course, in the Great Rite). Also, where the Wand and Athame are considered masculine, the Chalice and Pentacle are seen as feminine and associated with what are historically considered “women’s powers.” (Again, the Tools represent abilities which are wielded by all people, no matter how sexually dichotomous the language is which describes them.)

The Chalice, in layman’s terms, is a cup. It holds things and it mixes things. Let’s have another experiment. Go find a cup and hold it out to someone (without spilling any of its contents, please).

What happened here? Did the simple act of offering create a desire to give? Did the other person take it? Where the Athame created a rift, the Chalice created a bond. The Chalice is our ability to desire, to give and take, to unite. Love and trust are two of the greatest powers of the Chalice. (Of course, don’t forget obsession and dependence.)

One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to wield both the Athame and the Chalice; to be a Warrior and a Healer.

The Pentacle is by far the most unappreciated Tool of all. What do you do with it? Nothing, it just sits there, and that’s the point. Where the Wand speaks the Pentacle is silent. Where the Wand does, the Pentacle does not. Where the Wand reveals, the Pentacle shields. The Pentacle is silence, self-control and protection. The Athame and the Pentacle work very closely sometimes, especially in the hands of the Warrior. They are the Warrior’s sword and shield. The Pentacle is also the student waiting for the teacher (a Wand figure) to appear.

In Closing

I hope you have noticed that, although I have been focusing on the virtues of the Tools, they also can be used “badly.” Do you try to lead by metaphorically “beating people over the head?” That’s childish use of the Wand.

Do you go around with your Athame metaphorically clutched in your hand at the ready to strike out at anyone who might hurt you? You might need to put it down and work with the Chalice for a bit.

Do you offer yourself to anyone and everyone who may give you some small bit of attention, like a beggar with a cheap tin cup? Do you play Frisbee with your Pentacle? (Of course, I’m asking in a metaphorical sense.) Is your Pentacle 500 pounds and chained to your foot? Use your imagination to learn how to best use your own individual abilities to their fullest.

In the light of this particular paradigm concerning the Tools, the common beginning Wiccan’s exclamation, “I haven’t collected my tools yet!” becomes nonsense. You already have your Tools; you always have and you always will.

No one can give your their power, and no one can take it away from you. When you raise your Wand and call upon the Elements to hear you, you are exerting your will. When you raise your Chalice to the heavens and ask the Gods to fill it with their blessings, you are opening yourself to trust them and connect with them. When you take up your Athame, point it at a criminal on TV and command, “Do not come here, ” you are creating a boundary that cannot be crossed. When you give your daughter a Pentacle to wear, you are giving her a shield to protect her.

These are the true tools behind all magic, from the greatest most wondrous spectacle to the simplest perfect nudge. I hope that you will develop your own understanding of the Tools and how they can be used. My descriptions have only been cursory, and are only my own thoughts derived from what little training I have had.

Author: kodama 93
Posted: December 31st. 2006