A Little Book of Wicca

The latest offering from TDM Publishing is A Little Book of Wicca.

Consisting of some 60 pages, this short guide to Wicca, contemporary witchcraft, aims to be a perfect introduction to this earth-centric spiritual belief.

Commencing with a brief history of how Wicca came into being, it also covers the common beliefs and ethics found within Wicca, the perception of a dual deity (a God and a Goddess), sacred days and seasonal festivals, as well as information specifically to the Southern Hemisphere that is often overlooked in other books. A glossary containing some of the more commonly used terms is included as well as a recommended reading list.

A Little Book of Wicca is a perfectly priced introduction book for anyone interested in learning more about Wicca, or to being used as a guide to be given to family and friends in order to explain what this earth-centric spiritual belief is truly about.

Details:
ISBN: 9780244863067
Dimensions: A5 (5.83 x 8.27 in / 148 x 210 mm)

Cost: $15.99 (includes postage within Australia) available direct from TDM Publishing.

Some Myths about the Witch Trials

A 1655 pamphlet illustration of witches being hanged
In England witches were hanged, not burned. This illustration is taken from a 1655 pamphlet by Ralph Gardiner© Bettmann/Getty

Today I was rather surprised to be reminded of one of the misconceptions about the witch trials (or the “Burning Times” as it is often referred to within Pagan circles) that I had thought had been debunked by the 20th century – that some nine million people lost their lives after being accused of witchcraft. Apparently not.

As such, I thought I would share four of the more common misconceptions about the witch trials as discovered by Professor Diane Purkiss (Professor of English Literature at Keble College, University of Oxford).

1. Nine million witches died in the years of the witch persecutions: It is estimated that a more accurate figure is from 30,000 to 60,000 people were executed in the whole of the main era of witchcraft persecutions, from the commencement in 1427–36 in Savoy (in the western Alps) to the execution of Anna Goldi in the Swiss canton of Glarus in 1782. These figures include estimates for cases where no records exist.

Colour drawing showing people being burned in a public square as part of the Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition persecuted those perceived as heretics by the Catholic Church, but witchcraft was largely regarded as a superstition, and wasn’t pursued as a heresy by officials except in rare cases© Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

2. Witches were burned at the stake: While people found guilty of practicing witchcraft were burnt at the stake across Europe and in Scotland, they were actually hung in England and America. In Scotland, they were straggled first before being burnt.

3. The Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic Church instigated the witch trials: Four of the major western Christian denominations (the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican churches) persecuted witches to some degree, while the Eastern Christian, or Orthodox, churches carried out almost no witch-hunting. In England, Scotland, Scandinavia and Geneva, witch trials were carried out by Protestant states. The Spanish Inquisition executed only two witches in total.

4. King James I was terrified of witches and was responsible for their hunting and execution: More accused witches were executed in the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603) than under her successor, James I (1603–25). The first Witchcraft Act was passed under Henry VIII, in 1542, and made all pact witchcraft (in which a deal is made with the Devil) or summoning of spirits a capital crime. The 1604 Witchcraft Act under James could be described as a reversion to that status quo rather than an innovation.

In Scotland, where he had ruled as James VI since 1587, James had personally intervened in the 1590 trial of the North Berwick witches, who were accused of attempting to kill him. He wrote the treatise Daemonologie, published in 1597. However, when King of England, James spent some time exposing fraudulent cases of demonic possession, rather than finding and prosecuting witches.

Sources:
Witch: Eight Myths and Misconceptions by Professor Diana Purkiss
“Witch Hunts”: Now and Then, Myths and Realities by Morgan Lamkin
Professor Pavlac’s Witch Hunts by Brian A. Pavlac

Further Reading:
The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press, 2018)
A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B Russell and Brooks Alexander (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2007)
Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors (editor), Edward Peters (editor) (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)
The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic by Owen Davies (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century by Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1996)
Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 4: The Period of the Witch Trials by Bengt Ankarloo (editor), Stuart Clark (editor) (University of Pennsylvania, 2002)

A Witch’s Familiar

In European folklore and folk-belief from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, witches and cunning folk were believed to assisted by certain supernatural entities that were known as “familiars”. These spirits would appear in numerous guises, including as in a humanoid figure, but more commonly as an animal. When they served cunning folk, familiars were often thought to be somewhat benevolent, however when they were in the service of witches, familiars were considered to be rather malevolent.

The role of the familiar is the topic that will be discussed during the July Gathering Around the Cauldron which will be taking place in the format of a Zoom call on Thursday, 2 July 2020 at 7pm ACST.

If you would like to participate, you will need to register through Paypal in order to receive the Zoom meeting code. The meeting cost is $10 AUD.

Alternatively, you can email our High Priestess for the appropriate bank account details. Your payment must be received by 1 July 2020.

All participants will be receive a detailed fact sheet about the topic as well as go into the draw to win a prize.

Cosmic Happenings in June 2020

We are already two weeks into the month of June so the timing of this article may appear somewhat irrelevant. According to many astrologers, however, there are still more pertinent cosmic activity to come, so the following incorporates a reminder of this journey that many of us are undergoing, starting at the lunar eclipse that coincided with the full moon back on 6 June 2020.

As a number of sources were used in the compilation of this article, please refer to these listed at the end of the article.

There is a lot of cosmic activity occurring throughout June 2020, especially with there being a rather powerful solar eclipse taking place at the winter solstice and six planets in retrograde.  It is almost as if the universe is asking us to assess the paths in front of us, for there are many options being presented. As this month progresses we need to keep in mind that each and every one of us has their own route to follow.  As such, this is the month of becoming aware of our own personal path and not to be distracted by what other people are choosing to do.

June is the month where we may feel a pull to judge others or deem things as good or bad. Instead of jumping to conclusions, the astrology of June is like a light turning on that shows all the dust that has been collecting. Many things are coming to light this month. It is important to remain passionate and take action. But it is also important to stay true to the peace that exists in our hearts

Friday, 6 June 2020 (4:42 am ACST) – Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Sagittarius
This full moon lunar eclipse kicked off a month of transformation. It was the beginning of a new journey, and was the first eclipse of a series of three that will occur. This is a time of feeling our limits. Even though we might be ready to expand there are still some things that need tuning. During this full moon eclipse we should allow ourselves to become aware of our limitations and learning from them, instead of ignoring or fighting against them. We have to be willing to expand our opinions or perceptions; while knowing that growth takes commitment and dedication.  The full moon coupled with the lunar eclipse in Sagittarius is a great time to see where you’re at and make an inventory of your assets. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 – Sun Conjunct North Node
With the Sun is our identity and the North Node is our purpose in life, on 19 June the sun will be conjunct the North Node at 29° Gemini.  This event occurs only once a year and as such it is the best time to ask:  “Who am I really?” “What is my true purpose? What is my life path?”

When you ask yourself these questions, become aware of the very first answer that comes to you. Gemini has a curious, open-minded vibe. It is important that you don’t try to seek confirmations or validations to existing assumptions during this time.  Like Gemini, be open minded and welcome new perspectives. Now is the time to also accept that you do not yet have all the answers. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 (2:29 am ACST) to 12 July 2020 – Mercury Retrograde in Cancer
Mercury retrograde is nothing to fear or worry about. It is a time to get in tune with ourselves and our thoughts. This Mercury retrograde will be occurring in the sign of Cancer, which invites us to become kinder with ourselves and others. This cycle will show us where we can nurture ourselves, but also where we need to step up our self care.

With Mercury turning retrograde this means that four out of the five planets visible to us (being Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn) are all now retrograde, which is rather unusual. This is a time of deep introspection.  As a Mercury cycle lasts for 116 days, this means that during the next four months it is a favourable time to start a project that connects the qualities of Mercury (writing, communication, learning, commerce, DIY) with the qualities of Chiron (healing, spirituality, astrology, herbs, alternative healing, shamanism, working on the family/karmic wound).

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (7:14 am ACST) – Cancer Season
As the sun travels through Cancer for 30 days we are all washed with the light of this sensitive sign. It is a time to listen to our feelings and our emotions. This means acknowledging what we are sensing. It is been a massive year of shifts and changes. We are like caterpillars that have transformed into butterflies. This Cancer season is our first chance at spreading these new wings. However, we have had to say goodbye to the caterpillar which can bring up grief. Honouring our emotions and letting them flow like the tides of the ocean is the key.

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (4:11pm ACST) – Solar Eclipse Solstice in Cancer
This solar eclipse is occurring in tandem with the solstice, which sets the scene for the next three months.  (This is something that occurs at each solstice and equinox).  This winter solstice however coincides with what is considered to be the most powerful eclipse for 2020.  The impact of this eclipse will be that the upcoming three months will have a fated flavour. The solar eclipse in Cancer is a North Node eclipse which offers opportunities to rewrite the script of our destiny. South Node eclipses on the other hand tend to have a more karmic flavour.

The North Node is like a vortex and with a North Node eclipse, anything is possible.  Be mindful however of what you do as there is always a reaction – usually occurring at a future South Node eclipse.  We may feel like a crab, with one foot we go in one direction, and with another foot in another.  This push and pull Cancerian approach give s us room and time to assess the environment, to take calculated risks, and still get to our destination. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 (2:02pm ACST) until 28 November 2020 – Neptune Retrograde
Outer planets such as Neptune are at their most powerful when they change direction, ie more keen to implement their “agenda”.  As such, Neptune wants to dissolve our ego so we can be at one with the source. Neptune’s message is that separation is an illusion and that we are all one.

This transit is very spiritual and invites us to explore the magic within ourselves. The inner realms are fertile and ripe with miracles. It is when we look outside of ourselves for hope that we might be disappointed. Instead this is about having faith in our inner universes.

When Neptune is direct, we look for experiences of “oneness” outside ourselves. When Neptune is retrograde, we seek oneness within ourselves.  At the Neptune station, you may have some experiences, insights, or intuitive messages (pay attention to your dreams) that will reveal how you can access those Neptunian resources within yourself.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 (4:18pm ACST) – Venus Stations Direct
Venus ends her retrograde which began on 13 May 2020. Even though this cycle is ending, there are ample amounts of wisdom to carry forward. This is the time to walk our talk and make the changes we know we need to make. Venus wants us to stay true to our hearts and not fall back into old patterns. If you have been feeling confused, emotional, divided, torn between different directions, Venus direct will come with the much-needed relief and clarity.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 (11:15am ACST) – Mars in Aries
Mars enters Aries where it will remain for the rest of the year. Usually Mars speeds through a sign, but because of a Mars retrograde occurring from 9 September 2020 to 13 November 2020, the planet of action will have an extended stay in Aries. This means there is no rush or urgency. In fact the lesson is to become patient, calm down and prioritize peace.  Now is a great time to take bold action on any projects you are wanting to undertake.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 (3:16pm ACST) – Jupiter Conjunct Pluto
This is the sequel to the Pluto and Jupiter conjunction on 4 April 2020. The systems of planet Earth are changing and transforming. We can see it in our individual lives and on a collective level. Things are not the same as they were and there is a lot of room for improvement. Because both Jupiter and Pluto are retrograde during this conjunction it is time for us to make changes within ourselves. The new paradigm is born when we take responsibility for ourselves and the worlds we are creating.

This is the second of three occasions where Jupiter is conjunct with Pluto.  The first conjunction occurred on 4 April 2020 when the Corona virus was in full swing, and the final conjunction will occur on 12 November 2020.

Pluto had been in Capricorn since 2008.  While Pluto has a reputation of being overly secretive and working behind the scenes, Jupiter has the reputation of exposing, magnifying and inflating. We have a conflict of interest. In 2020, Jupiter is asking Pluto to do what he dreads the most: to reveal his hidden agenda.

Both Jupiter and Pluto are known for blowing things out of proportion. However there is always a positive side to everything. This second conjunction will likely come with a solution or alternative route to the problems that have been brought to our attention at the time of the first conjunction.

It is up to us to do our homework and act from our highest selves. Because the third conjunction in November will come with the final outcome. The good news is that Jupiter and Pluto have a reputation of being extremely generous. Now is the time to act wisely in order to reap the rewards later this year.

Source:
Moon Omens
Astrology King
Refinery29
AstrologyZone


Why Samhain is not the “New Year”

The following is adapted from Dancing the Sacred Wheel where I brought to the reader’s attention that the assumption that Samhain was the Celtic “new year” and therefore has been adapted as such into modern paganism.

The “new year” assumption is believed to have originated from an interpretation made by 19th century antiquarian, Sir John Rhys, in his “Hibbert Lectures” presented in 1886. In these lecture, Sir John interpreted comments made by Julius Caesar on Gaulish Druidic timekeeping as Samhain being perceived as the Celtic New Year due to “the Celts reckoned Dis the father of all and regarded darkness and death as taking precedence over light and life.  So in their computation of time, they began with night and winter and not with daylight and summer.  This is probably the key to reckoning years as winter.”

Being the first scholar of Celtic studies at Oxford University, Sir John’s interpretation does not appear to have been questioned, despite P.W. Joyce commenting in A Social History of Ancient Ireland (1903) that “O’Donovan stated in 1847 (Book of Rights 1ii) that the season with which the Pagan Irish began their year could not be (then) determined”.

Sir John’s incorrect interpretation was never challenged resulting it appearing in what today are now considered to be “classical” works, including The Golden Bough where Sir James Frazer recorded that “… the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from [Samhain] rather than Bealtane.”  Sir James also concluded that “ … we may with some probability infer that [the Celts] reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane.”

By the 1950s, this inaccuracy was considered fact, as pointed out in T.G.E. Powell’s The Celts (1958). 

Jon Bonsing of Caer Australis however has not only queried Sir John’s assertion but also attempts to correct it by pointing out that was no indication whatsoever of Caesar stating that the Celts considered “that winter, death and darkness took any precedence over summer, life or light” as Sir John talked about in his “Hibbert Lectures”.

Caer Australis further indicate that there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that Bealtaine was actually considered to be the start of the Celtic year, at least within the Irish tradition.  It was on the eve of Bealtaine that the Tuatha de Danaan arrived on Irish shores, as well as being the time when the great gathering of chiefs occurred at Uisneach, Co. Westmeath.  In 405 CE, during the reign of Dathi, conflict arose between the Pagan Irish and the Christians, resulting in St Patrick lighting his famous Paschal fire at Slane just prior to the lighting of the sacred Bealtaine fires.

Various Celtic heroes were believed to have been born around Bealtaine, providing further evidence of the importance of this festival, and in particular that of the “divine son”.  For example, within the Mabinogian, an entire episode is devoted to the birth of Gwri Golden Hair at Calan Mai (the first day of summer).  Caer Australis indicate that this epithet for Pwyll was given “ … because ‘what hair was on his head was as yellow as gold’.  No wonder his hair is ‘golden’, for no other imagery would be appropriate for the symbolic birth of the sun.”

If that is not evidence enough to at least query the assumption of any historical evidence of Samhain being the Celtic New Year, within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft relating to the sabbats do not allow for this. The sabbats, as I explained in Dancing the Sacred Wheel, follow the journey of the God. It is at Samhain when the God descends into the Underworld take up his guise as the Dreaded Lord of the Shadows at Samhain. As his rebirth occurs at the winter solstice coinciding with the renewal of the solar cycle, it makes more sense for the winter solstice to be considered the “new year”.

Weathering the Storm – A Free ebook for Uncertain Times

If this year is really straining your inner reserves, then Weathering the Storm may be just what you need. This free ebook has been complied by a collective of authors (including yours truly) as well as the publishing team behind Moon Books as a “compendium of hope”.

Written in three parts, psychological, spiritual and practical, this unique anthology offers support for anyone interested in Mind, Body Spirit matters, alternative lifestyles and spiritualities, as well as those with a Pagan focus.

Weathering the Storm covers areas from loneliness and anxiety, self-care and gardening, to cooking and crystals. My own contribution, “Bobbing in the Sea of Uncertainty”, is a recount of an extremely sole changing experience that left me feeling as if I was in the deepest pit of disappear, and the lessons gained from that experience.

Described as “A treasure-trove of advice and inspiration for all of us living through difficult times”, Weathering the Storm is available as a free ebook through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, and for £0.99 on Amazon UK.

Exploring the Concept of Deity

The June Gathering Around the Cauldron will once again take place in the form of a discussion that will be live streamed on the Temple of the Dark Moon‘s Facebook page. This month we will be looking at the concept of deity as it appears within contemporary witchcraft, and in respect to the perception held by the Temple.

In my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, I explain how the belief in deity is central to contemporary witchcraft. is the belief in deity. 

What sets contemporary witchcraft apart from some other forms of witchcraft is that we believe our gods to be real. They go beyond the concept of “archetypes” and often manifest as entities in their own right.  It is believed that all historical deities are facets of the divine in that they each represent someone’s understanding of divinity, and all are valid in their own way. 

The June Gathering Around the Cauldron will be taking place from 7pm ACST on Thursday, 4 June 2020. If you have any specific questions that you would like be to discuss, these can be left on the Facebook events page.

The Power of Language

Having worked over 60 hours for the last couple of weeks, I find myself with the rarity of having a free weekend, resulting in finally catching up with emails, blog postings and other outstanding projections, including finalising the upcoming Encountering the Dark Goddess month long “sadhana” (spiritual journey) that will be commencing on 6 June 2020.

One of the blog posting that took interest was John Beckett’s The Power of Language and the Dangers of its Misuse. To know what you are doing (which includes the use of language) is one of the four powers of the sphinx which are taught within the Temple of the Dark Moon’s Outer Court training. As Beckett points out in his blog, “there is power in ritual language”, yet increasingly people often mistake what may be foreign to them as being “inherently deep and meaningful” without thinking about what they’re doing.

From a devotional perspective, there tends to be a difference in opinion as to whether you should communicate with deity in their cultural language, ie addressing prayers to Greek Gods in Greek, or mantras to Hindu deities in Sanskrit. While this maybe possible in some cases, as language is a human invention as a means of communication, many have evolved over time so would a devotee address Demeter, Hermes or Zeus in ancient or modern Greek? Surely being divine beings, deity (in whatever guise we mortals attach to them), have the ability to transcend language. Beckett offers examples of his experience as an American devotee of the Celtic God Cernunnos in his aforementioned blog.

Probably one of the more important comments Beckett makes is the reminder that there IS POWER in ritual language, especially if you are using something that taps into the collective unconscious that has been built up since its initial use. For example, the Latin Mass or the Islamic Call to Prayer. At the end of the day, ritual language does not need to be foreign or archaic, but you should know what the words means and when spoken, that your intent is appropriate. If you are going to use non-English words in your rituals, then put some effort into pronouncing them correctly.

Within contemporary witchcraft there is one such chant that debate still ensues today as to its meaning, and that is what is often referred to as “The Bagabi Incantation”:

Bagahi laca bachahé,
Lamac cahi achabahé,

Karrelyos.
Lamac lamec bachalyos,
Cabahagi sabalyos,

Baryolas.
Lagozatha cabyolas,
Samahac et famyolas,

Harrahya.

In the 1970s Michael Harrison allegedly examined the etymology and concluded that the words derived from the old Basque language, and was in effect some kind of witch rallying cry to gather for the work of the slaughter and harvest before feasting. Harrison provided a possible English interpretation:

Kill (or the Feast) in November; kill!
I shall transport thee there myself,
and without the aid of a sieve,
to scour the plates and dishes with sand:
work (which must be done) with those plates and dishes.
(We shall meet our friends) ready for the drinking-cup
if they shall go (to the Feast), their bellies full with
quaffing from the drinking-cup.
O Sons (of the Master) with your Families (shout His praises with the cry)’.
‘HURRAHYA’!

More recently, Sorita d’Este and David Rankine concluded that the Bagabi incantation had no actual linguistic equivalent in any language, barbarous version in grimoires, or old magickal papyri, and as such, “considering the villain in the original tale of Theophilus is a Jewish Magician, it is possible that the Bagabi is in fact a corrupted Hebrew Chant.”

Alternatively, it may have originated from a 13th century French religious drama, Le Miracle de Théophile by the Trouvère Rutebeuf that “refers to the legendary history of St Theophilus of Adana, who according to traditional saints’ legends made a pact with the Devil and repented of it … This play is the original source of an influential invocation to the Devil (in an unknown language) … given to the character Salatin … labelled a sorcerer.” The words that Salatin used to invoke the devil are those of the Bagabi incantation.

For those contemporary witchcraft practitioners who have used the Bagabi incantation in their rites, experiences similar to the Thelemic concept of the Barbarous Names of Power have been recorded. Aleister Crowley advised that “the most potent conjurations are those in an ancient and perhaps forgotten language, or even those couched in a corrupt and possibly meaningless jargon.” When used in evocation, barbarous names serve the purpose of exalting the mind from the vulgar world through a release from rational, discursive thought. They are used as a mechanism for provoking ecstatic consciousness, and therefore further indicating the power that language has within magical ritual.

The Anatomy of the Soul in Nordic Traditions (Dr Hawk)

The parts of the construct we call the “self” in Norse traditions are actually very advanced and complex, difficult to translate into modern English . Our language is very cold and rigid, theirs was full of feeling and conviction, but also with an odd fluidity where words related to many other words and the collective concepts all had something to do with one another. This later facet is seen in what the Nords called “kennings” and is the basis of much rune lore and galdr magick, but that is a whole other subject. This article taken from Dr Hawk’s Conjure Kitchen explains some of the more advanced concepts behind the various parts of what makes us human from the Old Norse perspective.

The accepted parts of the human in Norse tradition are Líkamr and Hamr, Hugr and Munr, The Fylgja, and The Hamingja.

Ǫnd, óð, lá, læti and litr are all part of the likamr. These roughly translate to “breath”, “inspiration”, “form”, “movement” and “health” respectively and are listed as the gifts of Odin (and his brothers) when He (they) created the first humans out of an ash and an elm tree. Of course, these too are more complex concepts. Ond, for instance, is probably best described as equivalent to the Hindu concept of Prana. it is both the physical breath and the life-force of the universe as transmitted through breath while óð (also written odhr) is strangely translated as both “sense” and “madness” depending on context and is probably better described with the Welsh word awen or the Old Irish Imbas and refers to the Divine Will as transmitted from God through mankind.

Lá, læti and litr link the Likamr with the Hamr. Lá is the actual physical form or shape, læti is movement and force or energy as transferred via the body, and litr is the vital essence which gives the color and “spark” of life to living flesh. These combined manifest the Hamr which is the personal sphere of existence, the “analog” if you will between the self and the world around you. The interesting thing about Hamr is that while it is generally regarded as the physical body, it is very much a changeable thing. Hamr can be thought of as how others perceive you and, through certain spiritual and physical disciplines, can be altered so that one is perceived in different ways. The ancient notion of “shape-shifting” is rooted in this discipline. Modern witches may refer to it as “glamour” or a form of telepathic suggestion wherein another perceives what one wills them to perceive.

Hugr and Munr are best known through the names of Odin’s ravens “Hugn” and “Munin” or “thought” and “memory” which is satisfactory, but still falls short. Hugr is the analytical part of the brain, the rational, reasoning, logical form of thought. Munr is the artistic, emotional, and intuitive side of the mind, which is seen to be rooted in past experiences, but also in connection with Divine Will. As such, it is translated as “memory” but it is also the bridge which connects the mind and spirit by way of the óð, thus linking past, present and future through thoughts, memories and actions. The Fylgja and The Hamingja are the most esoteric.

The Fylgja is often modernized as “fetch” and is seen as a sort of “familiar” or “totem” when it is perhaps best described as the astral body… yet, still, this is not completely accurate. Fylgja is sometimes translated as “follower” though, more often than not, it precedes the physical body. I often think of the scene in “Donnie Darkko” when the eponymous character sees the odd orb of viscous, shimmery, substance which leads him through the house to his father’s gun. Fylgja is the outer manifestation of will before it comes into formation. It is the “quantum observer” if you will, that which influences the outcome as an extension of what is expected. There is another word, “Mægen” commonly translated as “might” but is really the active force or collective power of an individual and all their various parts as discussed herein. Mægen is that which connects the Fylgja and the Hamr. It is the collective energies of all the other parts of the self which the Fylgja then seeks out the best match for. Mægen is therefore translated into “might” because the more all of those energies are in alignment, the more focused and potent the Fylgja which, in turn, makes the will all the more difficult to overcome. A Fylgja with potent Mægen is practically an unstoppable force.

Then there is the Hamingja. It is commonly described as “luck” though, in reality, it is more likely that what we call “luck” is more a byproduct of the Hamingja and Fylgja. Hamingja is connected with the ancestors, their collective deeds, as well as your own. Hamingja can be made stronger or weaker by way of right or wrong actions and mindfulness. It is embodied in the rune “ēðel” or “othila” which is translated as “estate” which itself is the physical embodiment of the legacy of a family and its name. Hamingja, therefore, is sometimes regarded as a sort of guardian spirit which hovers over and guides the individual in life. Like the Fylgja, it could be regarded as having a mind of its own, but it is important to remember it is not exactly conscious. Like a computer program, its actions are determined by the energies or “code” put into it. If there is a lot of “bad juju” in your family history, it then falls to you to balance out and contribute good energy to your Hamingja and to overcome that which guides you down the same paths as your ancestors. In this way, Hamingja is somewhat linked with the concept of “karma” which the Norse also have some interesting concepts for.

Wyrd and Ørlög make up what we might call “karma” and, like everything else discussed here, are unique to Norse ontology. Both can be described as “fate” but Wyrd is the fate that you weave through words and deeds while Ørlög is the predetermined and inescapable product of natural law. To draw a parallel with Hinduism they would be like karma and dharma respectively, but, again, they are not exactly the same. Everything you do and say affects your Wyrd, which in turn affects your luck and the ongoing flow of your life. Ørlög is more primal, less defined, and less changeable. Ørlög extends quite a lot from your Hamingja while Wyrd can be seen more as an extension of Hamr. The relationship between the words “Hamingja” and “Hamr” is apparent and Wyrd and Ørlög are the bridges between them and between the energetic world of the Divine with the physical world of mundane life. If Hamr is the self in the current form and Hamingja the self, or selves, which manifest this current form, then wyrd is the fate shaped by this form and Ørlög the fate shaped by the other.

In later day traditions there is a sort of “demon” or spirit called “Loke” who can be appealed to in various ways to influence luck as evidenced by a variety of later day staves or sigils designed to bring luck in various ways such as at market or fishing. The spirit is associated in many ways with “shimmering” things, light, fire, etc. There is every likelihood that this spirit is Derrived from the “trickster” God, and Odin’s blood-brother, Loki. It is also interesting that the descriptions and etymologies of various words related to “Loke” bear a striking resemblance to those of the name “Lucifer” the fallen angel and erstwhile God of various denominations and lineages of traditional, old-world, witchcraft. It may be that when one must overcome their Hamingja, or perhaps attempt to influence their Ørlög, that this is the spirit to which one must appeal.

How to Be a Better Beginner (Thorn Mooney)

A new year has commenced and while I am taking a bit of time away from the coven to finalise a number of outstanding writing projects, I came across the following article by Thorn Mooney which really struck a cord, considering the less than satisfactory outcome from last year’s Outer Court training. This resulted in a considerable amount of contemplation around future training structures, not only of the particular tradition of contemporary witchcraft that the Temple of the Dark Moon is aligned with, but indeed providing any degree of training in general when it comes to witchcraft in this Instragram image driven modern world where anyone tends to classify themselves as a “witch”.

A result of the contemplation undertaken is to offer training via a new format, Gathering around the Cauldron, where the focus will be a balance between the practical and theory. Should there be enough genuine seekers, then The Wytch’s Circle may be held at a later stage.

Back to Thorn’s article where she addresses the issue of how a seeker can simply be a good beginner! Her entire article can be found here.

We’re living in a moment—and I’m turning into my father as I say this—where a lot of people want things done for them. It’s not really our fault (I’m including myself in this, because let’s be real, my father was talking to me, too). Culturally, we’ve become accustomed to being able to just Google answers, to download an app for whatever our problem is, and to receive twenty-four hour customer service, whatever sort of customer we are.

I see similar patterns in many of the spaces occupied by beginners in Pagan and witch communities. People don’t want to read multiple books, they want to read one perfect one. Lots of people don’t even want to do that: why read a book when you can just DM [direct message] an author and ask them to explain what witchcraft is? Even using Google is too much to ask. When the going gets tough, the tough abandon ship and then complain that there aren’t any good resources available.

Beyond books, this applies to my own experiences with inquiries to my coven. These days, my group’s exclusivity has less to do with our tradition and more to do with the reality that people are just less willing to travel more than 15 miles, to compromise their personal schedules, or to do the work they’ve asked for (reading, contemplating, working ritual, attending coven meetings, etc.). I want to be clear: there’s a very important conversation here about inclusivity and ableism that’s ongoing in many magical communities (including my own coven), but I’m not talking about people who need consideration. I’m talking about people who are just entitled and lazy, or at least unaccustomed to putting forth the individual effort required for anything beyond mediocrity (who then complain as though the fault for their mediocrity lies elsewhere).

How do you not become one of these people? Well, the good news is that if you’re worried about it, you almost surely aren’t. But just in case:

1. Read everything, regardless of what the Internet says. Go to a library, use interlibrary loan, and get your hands on as much text as possible. Then actually read and think about the material critically. No book is perfect. No author knows everything, no matter how solid their bio sounds or how many social media followers they have.  Do some comparison! Does this text largely agree with other texts on the same subject? If they’re saying something bananas, look for confirmation elsewhere! And remember that just because something is repeated often, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

2. Ask better questions. My ninth grade geometry teacher told us on the first day that there were, in fact, stupid questions. A while ago, I wrote a blog that mentioned the failing utility of the question, “Is this book any good,” but there are others I’ll address here.

Broad questions and questions that reveal you haven’t done any legwork on your own are the main culprits. The one that plagues my inbox personally is, “What’s a traditional Wiccan?” Here’s why that question is frustrating: first, I literally wrote a book about what that means. I run a website about it. I write a blog about it and make videos about it. Most of these things are available for free. A ten second Google search will turn up, not only an answer to that question, but my answer to that question. If you can answer it with a Google search, do that first.

“But Thorn, you know Google isn’t always reliable! How can you tell people to rely on Google?” Thanks for pointing that out—yes, you’re correct. And I’m not. We’ll use the unreliability of Google to craft better questions. Like so: “I read on Google about traditional Wicca. Is true?” This is a much better question. It’s more specific, and it demonstrates you’ve put forth an effort. It requires less time to answer, and is therefore more likely to receive a response. This isn’t just me being weird and picky, this is true for most people who find themselves in the position of answering questions (see, Steve O’Keefe). Here’s another good one: “What does traditional Wicca mean to you?” A very similar question, but with the nuance that you understand you’re talking to one person and that mileage will vary. You can improve practically any question with some variation on, “But what do you think?”

If you learn to ask more specific, thoughtful questions, you will get better answers.

3. Get uncomfortable. I’m not saying throw out your personal boundaries or disregard your safety, but any time you’re doing something new you’re going to be dealing with a learning curve. You’ll hit a wall at some point and progress will get slow. It’ll happen. Sometimes the wall is running out of low-hanging fruit and suddenly having to seek out more advanced material, or new people who can guide you. Sometimes the wall is conflicts with other parts of your life, which you can either ignore or work through. Ignoring inconsistencies, conflicts, or other uncomfortable places will result in the wall not moving, and in no progress happening either way. You’ll sit right where you are. When you choose to work through something, you may still decide that the thing is wrong, irresolvable, or worth walking away over, but at least you’ll come by those conclusion honestly and on your own terms. When things become difficult, keep going. That’s usually means you’re making progress.

4. Be okay with being a beginner. In fact, rejoice in it. You know what I find exhausting? Social media accounts and blogs run by beginners that purport to be resources for others, when really they’re just plagiarized from books or other websites. Everyone wants to set themselves up as an expert as quickly as possible. Aside from things being exciting and new, there are resources everywhere, lots of people who want to help you, and every damn day can feel like a discovery of something magical. There’s nothing sillier than watching beginners fight online over who’s right, what’s authoritative, what terms really mean. Enjoy the learning process, and take advantage of this time where people expect you to not know. Don’t try to bullshit people, have some modesty, be kind, and do more listening than talking.

5. Take action. Reading and hoarding information is all well and good, but you have to do something with it. It’s true that witchcraft and magic are serious arts, and it’s also true that you can do foolish things and get hurt along the way. Let’s be real: someone who just read their first book and has never worked ritual magic is disproportionately unlikely to successfully invoke something genuinely harmful or to successfully pull off a working that is truly destructive. More than likely, nothing at all will happen, except for whatever internal emotional experience results. Witchcraft isn’t skydiving. A beginner and an expert skydiver both jump out of a plane, and they both have to equally deal with the fact that they’re falling. In magic, however, things don’t work just because you say the words and do the motions. You’re not just jumping and falling. There’s effort, intention, connection, and skill behind it. Those things develop in time, with work. For most people, success rates increase with time and practice. So start!

6. Don’t hang your hat on any one teacher, and don’t pick a hill to die on. I have my favorite writers and teachers, as well as religious narratives, traditions, and perspectives that are dear to me. However, I try not to model my practice after any one of those exclusively. Witchcraft isn’t a cult of personality, and it’s also not static. Don’t pin yourself to any one person or perspective, especially in an era when so many of our heroes and ideas seem to be made of straw. Community leaders are ousted, change their minds, convert, retract their positions, and are human just like everyone else. At the very least, they’re going to die eventually. If your practice is all about someone else, where will you be when that person isn’t there anymore? The same is true for ideas. Witches who began practicing in the 60s and 70s (and earlier) had to watch while their understanding of history was ruthlessly dismantled by scholars in the 90s and later. Witches who began their practice before social media had to readjust with the development of the Internet, and all of the changes that brought. In the last decade, some of our most cherished teachers have revealed themselves to be bigots, sex-offenders, and plenty else besides. Life gets messy and history keeps moving, without much care for your feelings. Explore, be open. You have to keep enough distance so that when it’s time to let something go, you can.

7. Do the work you say you want. If you say you want to be psychic, and every book and teacher out there says similar, core things about how to develop your psychic abilities, and you don’t do them because they’re time consuming or difficult, you don’t then get to complain about not progressing as a psychic. Magic, spiritual development, witchcraft, tarot reading, group leadership, and pretty much anything else worthwhile you can name requires actual work. That means time, commitment, effort, reflection, and repeated failure (after which you get up and try again). If you want to do the thing, and especially if you ask for help to do the thing, then you have to actually do that work that you said you wanted to do. Buying a book is not the same thing as reading a book, and it’s definitely not the same thing as doing the exercises in the book. So how badly do you want it? Prove it.