The element of Earth is the basis of the physical universe. Working with Earth requires an understanding of it's physical nature and experience of the importance of matter on our planet, in our universe and our lives. Its presence is most obvious to us in the spectacular side of nature; in mountain ranges and canyons, earthquakes or erupting volcanoes. But it is evident in less dramatic ways, in our everyday experience. It forms the matter of bones in our own bodies, the ground on which we walk, and feeds the vegetation that keeps our planet green and living
The spiritual properites of Earth are manifestation, fruition, fertility, embodiment and solidity. It's physical gifts are sensation, physicality, food, shelter and the shield of protection.
Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is generally celebrated on October 31st.
The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of The Third (and final) Harvest, it marks the end of Summer, the beginning of Winter. It is a time marked by death when the Dead are honored - a time to celebrate and "study" the Dark Mysteries. "Samhain" means "End of Summer" and its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. For it is believed that on this night, the veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest point, making this an excellent time to communicate with the Other Side. Samhain is considered by many Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches (especially those of Celtic heritage) to be the date of the Witches' New Year, representing one full turn of the Wheel of the Year. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire
Yule (EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider.The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift... it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze be a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.
A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine, and flatten one side so it sets upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green, and white (season), green, gold, and black (the Sun God), or white, red, and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds, cloves, and dust with flour.
Imbolc ("IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk"), also called Candlemas is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth. The Maiden is honored, as the Bride, on this Sabbat. Straw Brideo'gas (corn dollies) are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry the Brideo'gas door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. Afterwards at the traditional feast, the older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold, and in the morning the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. Brighid's Crosses are fashioned from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year. Home hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and a besom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun.
Spring Equinox (Ostara) As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. This is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.
The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit.
The Christian religion adopted these symbols for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25th - "Old Lady Day", the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.
Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. Beltane means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times.
In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods "A-Maying," and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.
Ancient Pagan traditions say that Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared. Let Them guide you! Breads and cereals are popular. Try oatmeal cakes or cookies sweetened with a dab of honey. Dairy foods are again appropriate...just make a lovely wedding feast and you are sure to enjoy yourself! An early morning walk through a local park or forest could be fun for everyone. Gather up some plants or flowers to display in your home. Mom and daughter could braid their hair, and weave in a few tender blossoms.
Though Summer Solstice is officially the first day of summer, Wiccan tradition calls it Midsummer likely because by the experience of those who lived in most parts of Europe where holiday festivals celebrated the day, it was definitely "mid-summer." "Solstice," as was said here at Winter Solstice, comes from the Latin words sol for the Sun and sistere, which means, "to cause to stand still." Since Yule the days have been gradually lengthening. Now Sun seems to "stand still" for about three days, and from this point until next Winter Solstice (the shortest day and longest night), the days will gradually shorten. This description fits the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, it happens the other way around. When it is Yule in the north, "down under" it is Midsummer. At southern hemisphere Midsummer, we in the north are celebrating Yule.
Myths of the season depict the culmination of light that is also the onset of increasing darkness. A favorite one from the Norse countries is the challenge to the Oak King (God of the waxing year) by the Holly King (God of the waning year). The two battle and of course, the Holly King wins, for it is he will reign until Yule, when he gives way to the rebirth of the Child of Light, the baby Oak King. The two are alternatively called Bright Lord and Dark Lord in similar enactments of the myth of transition from waxing to waning, light to dark. Though often "played" as two separate god images, the two are but aspects of one, and may alternatively be depicted as a transition from naïve youth to the mature Father God, who recognizes his responsibility to his Goddess and his people, even as he celebrates the culmination of his light and power. He is the youth at Beltane, hormones charged in anticipation. Now he faces a new phase of life. The Goddess, who in her Maiden aspect met the youthful God in sacred marriage at Beltane, has now become Mother, pregnant, just as the Earth is pregnant with the growth that will become the harvest. The Mother reigns as Queen of Summer, and it is through her that her Consort comes to mature realization of his full role, and its ultimate sacrifice. She is the Earth; he is the energy and heat that has gone into the Earth so that together they create new life. His energy will be born within the grains and fruits of the harvest that in the next two turns of the wheel must be reaped and die to feed the people. The God will become a willing sacrifice, falling with the harvest and becoming the seed of his own rebirth as the wheel turns.
Lughnasadh (Loo-nah-sah) or Lammas is the first of the three harvest festivals (Lammas, Autumn Equinox & Samhain). The foods are ripening - fruits, berries, wheat and grain - and it's time to celebrate.
Lughnasadh means the funeral games of Lugh, referring to Lugh, the Irish sun god; however, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. For that reason, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages are celebrated at this time.
As autumn begins, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. The God symbolically loses some of his strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day and the nights grow longer.
Autumnal Equinox (Mabon) When day and night are equal. We pay our respects to the impending dark and give thanks to the waning sunlight. The harvest is peaking and we store our crops for the year. The Goddess passes from Mother to Crone and her consort, the God, prepares for death and re-birth.
At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.
EARTH AIR FIRE WATER SPIRIT.
Some witches today honour the Five Sacred elements of which the universe is composed: Air, Fire, water, earth and spirit. Although these can be seen in their raw form, such as the air we breath the ground we walk on, the first four elements are also experienced as components of complex forms.
A tree for exsample, is composed of earth, water, fire, and air. The fifth element, Spirit- that which connects all things- cause the first four elements to conjoin in particular proportions and forms to produce life and the universe as we know it. Spirit is the sacred weaver of the elements and as the connection is, along with the other four, an equal cause and part of the universe. It is also the great web of life that joins all beings to eachother.
The roots of Wicca can be found all over the UK and Europe, in the spiritual focus of our ancestors and in strands of paganism that have withstood the buffeting of time by disguising themselves as folklore and country wisdom.
The story of modern Wicca's awakening, however is far more recentand began in England in 1951 with the repeal of the 1736 Witchcraft Act, subsequently replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act.
The impetus for it's repeal was it's employment in the prosecution in 1944 of a Medium called Helen Duncan, who attracted the attention of the naval authorities by revealing to the public the sinking of ships whose details had not yet been released.
A number of public figures were concerned that the act and the fact it was still on the statute books, was a slur on the reputation of British law, consequently it was repealed.
The acts repeal effectivly legalised witchcraft in England and enabled the publication of works describing the practices of covens.
Here are a few examples of the key expressions of the many different styles and flavours of wicca, (but remember that a paragraph cann't encapsulate the meaning of a tradition which has its own influences, history and customs.)
Named after Gerald B Gardner, this tradition enfolds elements of ancient traditions and, because of it's local origins, the folklore and customs of English paganism. It uses the basic pattern of a ritual circle, and the elemental quarters for earth, air, fire and water, though the colour symbolism differs from most other traditions in that the colour for air is blue and earth is brown or black and water is green. Gardenrians tend not to emphasize the element of spirit.
Gardnerian Wicca venerates the horned god of the green wood and the goddess of nature.
Named after Alex Sanders. This tradition was developed from the Gardnerian system in the 1960's and it incorporates elements or Judaeo-christain sources, as well as aspects of the Greek and Egyptian mysteries and Celtic traditions.
Alexandrians honour the tripple goddess in all her aspects, maiden, mother and crone and the dual god, though some practitioners are also eclectic in their approach to deities.
It uses the basic layout of the gardnerian system but hopnours the five sacred elements and uses the more widley known colour symbolism.
SAXON or SAEX
Saex Wicca was formulated by Raymond Buckland in the early 1970's. He is also accredited with introducing Wicca to the USA. Seax-wicca is based on the Gardnerian framework, but draws in aspects of English Saxon and Pictish Traditions.
HEDGEWITCHES AND SOLITARIES
The traditions outlined above are generally practised in groups but in wicca there are mant witches who practise on their own. The accurate title of this group is "Solitaries", and they may practise any tradition of wicca; what sets them apart is that they work alone. Solo workers are sometimes called hedgewitches, though strictly speaking Hedgewitchery is the work of a wise woman or cunning man serving a community, knowlegeable in the ways of nature and herbal magic and traditional healing. The nicetiys of distinction are not always observed however, and some city witches are keen to use the term to emphasize the origins of their spiritual path.
In Wicca an hereditary is a witch who has inherited craft knowledge through their own family, or initiation into an hereditary group. Since the practices of such groups will differ according to what has been passed on to them, it is almost impossible to pinpoint what any particular hereditary practises.
All witches are, to some extent eclectic, but eclectics are those who do not align themselves with any particular tradition and instead select, borrow, appropriate and redefine to suit their purpose, elements of other traditions. All done respectfully, of course
In magic there is a principle known as the Law of Threefold Return, or karma! This belief says that whatever you send out is returned to you threefold. It's just a poetic way of saying that your actions will return to you- for good or bad, and that you need to think before you act.
This principle is often quoted for the benefit of people outside of Wicca as a way of dispelling myths about those who "abuse" their power to send out curses.
It is a common-sense way of alerting people to the consequences of their actions & reminding them to pause before deciding what action is really needed. It's not a hard fast law, that what you send out comes back literally threefold, for example: If I give a box of sweets to someone I don't recive three boxes back! However, kind acts make the world kinder, even by a very small amount.
In short the law of return is a spiritual truth and an ethical guideline.
These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"
The "archaically worded" construction "An it harm none, do what ye will," rendered into modern English is literally, "if it doesn't harm anyone, do what you want."
Many modern Wiccans "reverse" the construction, however, taking the first part and putting it after the second to read: "Do what ye will an it harm none," or in modern English "Do what you want if it doesn't harm anyone."
Many give the word "an" or "if" a value of "so long as" - which is acceptable substitution, because it doesn't alter the meaning of the Rede itself. However they then proceed to read "so long as" as "only if," and that is completely different, because the Rede has ceased to be a "wise counsel" (anyone checked the meaning of "Rede" in the dictionary lately?) and become an injunction: prohibitive commandment, rather than permissive advice.
In other words, the original archaic construction actually says "if it is not going to hurt anyone, it is OK to do" - this is not the same as "if it hurts anyone it is "not" OK to do."
What is the significance of the change?
The "actual construction Rede," or AC Rede, says it is OK to do something that won't harm anyone, but it does not say anything about those things which do cause harm, except to set an ethical standard of harmlessness as the criteria to judge by.
The "modern reconstruction Rede" or MR Rede, explicitly says that any and all actions that cause harm are forbidden.
The two constructions do not mean the same thing at all. And it should be obvious that this has implications on our thinking, and discussions of the possibility of "obeying" the Rede.
Most of you will have heard or read, as I have, people saying the Rede is something to strive to live by, even though mundane reality makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to do so to the letter. This is only true of the MR Rede, not the AC Rede!
As examples, they cite situations such as self-defense; this violates the MR Rede. But it does not violate the AC Rede.
Earlier, I stated that the AC Rede does not rule on actions that do cause harm - and this is true. It only rules on those actions which do not, by saying that they are acceptable. This is relevant to "victimless crimes" for example - civil "crimes" may in fact be "ethical," by the judgment of the AC Rede.
What the AC Rede does do, in terms of actions that cause harm, is state an ethical value by which an individual must judge the results of her/his actions before acting. In other words, by stating that a harmless action is ethical, the AC Rede sets harmlessness as the criteria for evaluation. Acting to prevent greater harm - but in the process causing lesser harm - may then be ethical, if there is no harmless, or more harmless, method of preventing that greater harm - because not acting to prevent harm is to cause it, by an act of omission rather than commission.
In short the difference between the AC Rede, and the MR Rede, is that the AC Rede is a perfectly-obeyable ethical standard, but the MR Rede is not, as so many people have pointed out. Do we take as our ethical standard a "counsel" which can be obeyed, or one which necessitates rationalizing in some instances? Which is truer to the Wicca, and to the "real" Rede?
Trinitarian wicca is the correct name of the tradition often generalized into a practice called Christian Wicca. Trinitarian Wicca is a path of American Wicca or Non-British Traditional Wicca that works exclusively with the Christian Pantheon. This tradition is not eclectic nor is it ChristoPagan. Trinitarian practitioners celebrate the Wiccan faith, but cannot be considered ChristoPagan because their devotion lies exclusively with the Christian pantheon and the celebration it's many trinities. There are no church trappings or conflicts with the Bible, because they work directly with the Gods and Goddesses; church dogma does not have a place in there ritual structure. Concepts such as the original sin, salvation, baptism, heaven, hell, and satan have no place in Trinitarian Wicca. There is nothing fundamental about Christian or Trinitarian Wiccans. As for Christian Wicca, the term Christian is used as a modifier for the pantheon observed in this particular practice of Wicca, much like the concept of Celtic Wicca. They as Wiccan practitioners focused on a Goddess-inclusive Christian trinity. Christian Wicca was more descriptive, Trinitarian Wicca is far more accurate and far less controversial but it is hard to express the concepts of Trinitarian Wicca without using the term Christian in the definition.