Pagan, Wiccan or Witch???

Today I wanted to share a little more about some of the things I do on a daily basis (or as close as possible) regarding my beliefs and practices.  However, I realized that before I delved into that perhaps a discussion and personal breakdown of the concepts out there was in order.

Often the three words above are used synonymously.  While most of us who live the life understand those outside don’t know the difference, there are those who become highly indignant or offended when someone refers to them as one of the others. While I am not one of those, I felt that, before I could begin talking about my own practice, I need to clarify what each of them entails and holds.

First, let’s start with some simple definitions (from The Celtic Connection):

Wicca:   A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes.

Witch:   A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves. This term has nothing to do with Satanism.

Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Paganism:   General term for followers of Wicca and other magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic Earth-based religions. Also used to refer to pre-Christian religious and Spiritual belief systems.

So, as you can see each of these has some overlap, and yet is unique in its own right.  I will try to expand a little bit in regards to Sacred Mists as a school as well as to my own practice.  I want to start by saying that one of the things I like most about Sacred Mists, is that while they do follow a traditional Celtic base, they allow their students the freedom and flexibility to follow their own beliefs as well.

Now, on to a deeper definitions so to speak.  Wicca:   A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. The Modern Wiccan Tradition is attributed, usually, to Gerald Gardner.  He was initiated into a traditional coven and then began supplementing with other “non-traditional” belief systems (Free Masonry, writings of Alastair Crowley and others).  While he claimed to stay true to the traditional pre-Christian beliefs, he supplemented the traditional pagan beliefs creating Modern Wicca.  Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes. All of this holds true for Sacred Mists as well as within my personal belief.  In addition, the Goddess and God are embodiments of all Goddesses and Gods as well as Mother Earth and Mother Moon. So there isn’t any single deity focus.  All historical beliefs and “religions” are called upon depending on  your need, desire, want, area of focus.  Celtic, English, Norse, Egyptian, Japanese…all Gods and Goddesses become available to you. 

Witch:   A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. So this is where it can get sticky.  There are many Wiccans who use natural items in their practice, but don’t necessarily consider themselves a Witch. I, however, am not one of them.  I use stones, candles, water, food, herbs, colors and even nature itself on a regular basis in my daily practice of the craft.  I am a Witch and I will stand by that.   It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves. This is often where those who practice, or don’t, get offended.  There are many Wiccans who are not Witches, and there are some Witches that are not Wiccan (that is their belief is not necessarily that of following the Rule of Three, or of staying within the boundaries of “white magick”).  This term has nothing to do with Satanism. The last sentence is by far one of the most important.  There is nothing Satan related in Wicca or Witchcraft.  One has to believe in the conventional idea of “Satan” before there can be any relation to him. This is not to say all Witches are good and work only for the good of all.  There are many who practice beyond the scope of what is Grey or White magick.  However, their belief is that what they are doing may be the right things. 

Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Paganism:   General term for followers of Wicca and other magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic Earth-based religions. Here are all the sticky widgets.  You DO NOT have to be Wiccan to be Pagan.  There are many other traditions that you could follow that make you Pagan.  Often people will refer to themselves as Pagan as general term that allows those who aren’t sure of the definitions to understand they don’t follow a modern religion.   Also used to refer to pre-Christian religious and Spiritual belief systems. The link here is back to the Nature Based Religions and Beliefs.  Those that are not necessarily monotheistic and have no single deity that is worshipped. 

I hope that these help you understand some of the overlap as well as some of the differences.  I think these are important to see and be able to reference prior to reading about specific rituals, practices or ideas.

 

Esbats

What???!!! Huh???!!! That’s not a word Heather.  You’re making stuff up.  LOL. Nope.  Esbats, the ritual used to celebrate the Full and New Moons each month. For the longest time at Sacred Mists I got to write them and then hold the rituals.  I loved that.  I still get to do the solitary rituals, as we post those on months where there are Sabbats (major Pagan holidays). I don’t write and hold the Esbats anymore because now I facilitate the program and help others grow by writing their own and hosting the rituals.  Growth is a necessity.

So what is an Esbat?  Well it is a celebration ritual that is held on the New Moon or on the Full Moon.  The ritual is different depending on the time of month.  A New Moon is a cleansing, new beginning ritual and the Full Moon is a completion, thankful ritual. Often the ceremonies will be tied together based on the Magick of the Month.

Each month has a particularly named Moon Cycle:

January – Wolf Moon, February – Snow Moon, March – Worm Moon, April – Pink Moon, May – Flower Moon, June – Strawberry Moon, July – Buck Moon, August – Sturgeon Moon, September – Corn Moon, October – Harvest Moon, November – Beaver Moon and December – Cold Moon

These names all come from the Native American Tradition and follow the Moon and Seasons.  In addition, there are Gods and Goddesses associated with each Moon Cycle as well as other correspondences.  If there is a particular month you would like more information on, please just leave me a message here and I will get you all the information you need for the Moon Cycle you are asking about.

While Full Moons are amazing to look at and it is a perfect time to bathe your crystals and Draw Down the Moon, I love New Moons.  The new beginning that happens every month, the ability to cleanse and start again, no matter what else is going on, appeals to me at a very basic level.  Not everyone agrees, as it is a dark night to start on, but the shadow side of me likes being out and loves being refreshed.

So tell me, do you celebrate the New Moon or the Full Moon? Did you know that these were celebrated regularly by Pagans and Wiccans?  Which moon is your favorite?

The Wiccan Rede and What It Means To Me

The Wiccan Rede…the tenet by which those who practice most forms of Wicca try their best to stay within. Not everyone, not daily, but as a principal in general to live by, it isn’t too bad. I have pasted it here for you to look at before I go into some areas ca little deeper:

The Wiccan Rede

(Full Version)

Bide the Wiccan Laws we must In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

Live and let live. Fairly take and fairly give.

Cast the Circle thrice about to keep the evil spirits out.

To bind the spell every time let the spell be spake in rhyme.

Soft of eye and light of touch, Speak little, listen much.

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the Witches’ Rune.

Widdershins go by the waning moon, chanting out the baneful rune.

When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss the hand to her, times two.

When the moon rides at her peak, then your hearts desire seek.

Heed the North wind’s mighty gale, lock the door and drop the sail.

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth.

When the wind blows from the West, departed souls will have no rest.

When the wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

Nine woods in the cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.

Elder be the Lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed you’ll be.

When the Wheel begins to turn, let the Beltane fires burn.

When the Wheel has turned to Yule, light the log and the Horned One rules.

Heed ye flower, Bush and Tree, by the Lady, blessed be.

Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone and truth you’ll know.

When ye have a true need, hearken not to others’ greed.

With a fool no season spend, lest ye be counted as his friend.

Merry meet and merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind the Threefold Law you should, three times bad and three times good.

When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow.

True in love ever be, lest thy lover’s false to thee.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An ye harm none, do what ye will.

If I look at the Wiccan Rede just in aesthetics it is one of the most beautiful poems you will ever come across and there are significant pieces to it that can be applied to the seasonal world, to the secular world, to everyday living for everyone. As a piece of literature this is full of symbolism and rhyme and it has a great theme. There are things here that appeal to the English teacher and writer within.

As someone who follows pagan and Wiccan beliefs this beautiful poem is one I try to love by, most importantly the last eight words. As we look over those it appears they should be easy: An ye harm none, do as ye will. Well I can do what I want so long as I don’t hurt anyone. Wait…what if I say something but it gets misconstrued? Now someone’s feelings are hurt.  Or maybe I pulled into a parking spot right before someone else and they are hurt. Did I break the Rede?

Like any spiritual or religious doctrine the Rede needs to be looked at as a guideline to do your best to try and be the best, kindest person you can be. Realistically there is no way to ever ensure that every action you do will not hurt someone, even down the road. However, if you are coming at or from a positive, no harm intent, you will mitigate any possible harm.

The other part of the Rede to pay close attention to if you are following it is The Threefold Rule. You may better know it as… Karma. Have you ever heard someone say it comes back to you times three? Well that concept comes from the Wiccan Rede. The idea that the energy, attitude and actions you present will come back to you three times is a thoughtful way to live your life. Do you want good things or bad things coming back at you? This is something I try to live by on a daily basis. It helps me mitigate the harm I may do accidentally or from being unaware. I truly believe the better my intentions and actions the better the energy return.

What about you? Do you believe in karma? Do you believe that a tenant like harming none is one you could live with?

Planning, Planning, Planning

As someone who works hard to be organized, I have discovered some things work and some things don’t.  I can plan all I want, but if I don’t follow through with the planning it just looks pretty.  So I continue to search for a method, a planner, a thought process that will help me actually follow through.  It takes 21 days to set a habit, so I need to follow-through for 21 days to set the habit of continuing to follow through.

With that in mind I have ordered 3 new planners.  I have an amazing one now done by Personal Planner (personal-planner.com) that I love.  You can customize it beyond belief.  It is one of the only places I have discovered you have over how your planner looks.  The only thing is it doesn’t do is make me want to follow through.  I want to fill full of things, stickers, pretty colors, but then I close it up and put it away.  I am going to take it to my classroom where I think it will help me better (along with my Happy Planner and my Erin Condren). Then will make 3 planners and 2 lesson planners in the classroom, so I should be good there.

Now for home, and blogging and cooking and exercising and all the other stuff that happens not in the classroom, where I need more focus.  The 3 new planners I have ordered are the Danielle LaPorte The Desire Map Planner.  I am hoping that the prompts for goals, the easy schedule, how am I doing check-ins will help me.

I am also going to try the Panda Planner.  This is a startup company that I found accidentally when searching Amazon for something that could arrive quickly! I ordered both the Daily Planner and the Weekly Planner.  I am going to use the Weekly Planner for here at home, the blog topics, the times, the exercise, the meal planning and the chores.  I keep thinking if I plan it all I can check it off.  I like the weekly review.  I think that looking back at how well I accomplished what I had planned will help me stay accountable.

I am going to use the daily planner like the weekly except for…well…daily. It again has the week in review as well as daily goals and check ins.  It has some similarities to the Danielle LaPorte, but it has a focus more on positive aspects and outlooks.  What I’m grateful for, what my focus word for the day is.  It has not just the weekly review, but a daily review as well.  Again, hoping that the review piece holds me accountable.  I want to make sure I make all the Sabbats and Esbats, I want to be sure I am on track for my studies for my third degree Priestess graduation as well as my spiritual counseling masters. Goals, plans and life…here we come.

I hope this helps you some.  I will be updating as I go through.  One of the things, not on the goals list, but that will be happening come summer, is one of my closest friends and I are going to start creating pagan/Wicca stickers for planners.  WE are excited about the planning stage, and like with everything else, I am hoping that these planners keep that on track as well.

How are you planning on staying on track this year?  What do you used to keep yourself organized and reach your goals?