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When one defines oneself as Pagan, it means she or he follows an earth or nature religion, one that sees the divine manifest in all creation. The cycles of nature are our holy days, the earth is our temple, its plants and creatures our partners and teachers. We worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be. We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept the sacredness of all creation.
The Wiccan Rede
Bide ye the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love in perfect trust. Ye must live and let live, fairly take and fairly give. Cast the circle thrice about, to keep unwelcome spirits out. To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be spoken in rhyme. Soft of eye and light of touch, speak ye little and listen much. Deosil go by waxing moon, chanting out the Wiccan runes. Widdershins go by waning moon, chanting out the baneful tune. When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to her times two. When the moon rides at her peak, then the heart's desire seek. Heed the North wind's mighty gale: lock the door and trim the sail. When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss the on the mouth. When the Moor wind blows from the West, departed spirits 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 quick and burn them slow. Elder be the Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'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. Hede ye flower, bush and tree, by the Lady, Blessed Be. Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone, the truth to know. When ye have and hold a need, hearken not to others' greed. With a fool no seasons spend, or be counted as his friend. Merry meet and merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart. Mind the Threefold Law ye should, three times bad and three times good. When misfortune is enow, where the blue star on thy brow. True in love ye must ever be, lest thy love be false to thee. These words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An ye harm none, do what ye will.
Wheel of the Year
Yule - December 21st
Imbollic - February 2nd
Ostara - March 21st
Beltane - May 1st
Litha - June 21st
Lughnasadh - August 1st
Mabon - September 21st
Samhain - 31st / November 1st
1. Yule - December 21)
(Winter Solstice, December 20-23 (varies according to the particular date on the standard calendar according to when the Solstice will occur astronomically). Longest night of the year, the turning point when the days shall afterwards grow longer as winter begins its passage into the coming spring. It is, in the Goddess worship, the time when she gives forth again to the birth of the Divine Sun child who shall be both child and eventually lover and father of the next child in the cycle. Winter Solstice for pagans is a time of feasting and the exchanging of gifts and is the original Holiday that the Christian religions modified into their own Christmas, even up to the birth of the child (Most theologians who have spent time studying the birth of Jesus admit he was born in either March or April, not the celebrated Christmas date we all know from the standard calendar - it was moved to this date to help induce Pagans to give up their old ways yet allow them their holidays during the spread of Christianity through Europe and the British Isles). Traditional adornments are a Yule Log, usually of oak, and a combination of mistletoe and holly.
2. Imbolc – (February 2)
(Candlemas, Brigid's Day) Not common to all Pagans, this is very popular with Wiccans and various Celtic sects. Brigid is the Celtic goddess of fire and inspiration (Poetry, smithcraft and healing) as well as yet another representation of the Fertility of Femininity and Love. Brigid had such a strong following among the Celtics that the Christian church decided it was easier to assimilate her into their own system, and so there came about the making of Saint Brigit and all the stories they created about her so that her followers would leave their old beliefs enough so they would not side with the Druids, who were known at that time as 'the snakes' because of their tendency to have tamed snakes that were used to help produce various healing mixtures via their venom, and who were violently opposing the Catholic church. In History, of course, the druids lost against the overwhelming odds presented by the church, led by a man who would then be himself sainted by the church, their Saint Patrick (who was no clergyman but a warrior). Thus Christian rule of various sorts came into Ireland. Handcrafts are often sacrificed to Brigid or dedicated to her as they are started on this day. Its celebration is done with many candles and as usual much feasting. The Christians also took, moved slightly and used this date by creating St. Valentine and using the day for one of chaste love reflections. Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess after birth of the God. The warmth of the power of the God fertilizes the Earth and so the earliest beginnings of spring occur. This is a sabbat of purification, a festival of light and fertility. Tis also a traditional time for initiations into covens and self-dedication rituals. Also known as: Feast of Pan, Feast of Torches, Oimelc.
3. Ostara (March 21)
(Eostar, Spring Equinox, March 20-23 dependent on actual astronomical event) The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility as the God stretches and grows to maturity. The hours of day and night are equal and light is overtaking darkness. This is a time of beginnings, action, planting spells, and of tending the gardens. This is the start in the pagan year of spring, at least among Wiccans and Celtics. The first flowers are praised and the God and Goddess thanked for the true return to happier times for all. Ostara is one of the more colorful holidays, not one of the somber colors found in Yule and Candlemas. Feasting and socializing are the important factors in this holiday as well as the celebration of the return of color to the natural world. In the Christian calendar, again to draw early worshipers, they marked this as the final days and rebirth of Jesus.
4. Beltane (MAY 1)
(May Eve, April 30th-May 1st) Most important to pagans, save for Samhain, I don't know of any Pagan group that doesn't celebrate this holiday in some way. Beltane is the great Fertility rite of life, starting at dusk on the 30th and continuing until the dawn of the 1st. The union of the God and Goddess to conceive the sun-child to be takes place upon this holiday, no matter which tradition of paganism is involved. Beltane is the one holiday most discouraged by the Christians, who didn't even use it as a point for a holiday of their own because the power and nature of the day involved. Still, even in Christianized Ireland the May day dance of the Maypole remained, as did the giving of flowers to those you loved or cared for as friends. The Maypole is a symbol of the union of the God and Goddess to create life, the pole itself a phallic symbol while the dancers and their streamers or vines of flowers represent the fertile womb of the goddess as it takes in the Phallus of the god and takes in his seed. Besides the Maypole often a bonfire is present, and members of the group are encouraged to jump the flames for luck and their own fertility. Food, drink and love are the order of the evening. In most sects the celebration of unions of love are enacted. Beltane is the time of many marriages/handfastings in the pagan community (in some it is the point where one chooses to begin and end relationships of a physical nature). Clothing is very optional in most get-togethers on this holiday, and mostly it is sensual and colorful. Even those sects that are prudish about things tend to accept the rules of the holiday, as it is the holiday of free love. It is said that a child conceived on this day will grow up to wield great power and knowledge and to be healthier than upon any other.
5. Litha (June 21)
(Midsummer, Summer Solstice, June 20-23, dependent on actual astronomical event) Held on the longest day of the year, the Solstice is the celebration of light's triumph over darkness and that of the bountiful beauty that light brings into life. Flowers are common in the circle, roses and bright cheerful wildflowers are upon the altar and usually worn by all. It is the changing point of the year, and the celebration of the spiral dance of the year is common among Wiccans. It a celebration with much joy, and much feasting. Many wiccans will attire themselves in bright colors and equally bright adornments of flowers. Litha's usual food fare may include honeycakes or cornbread. Litha is not celebrated by all sects nor in the same way. In the past, bonfires were leapt to encourage fertility, purification, health and love. Midsummer is a classic time for magick of all kinds.
6. LUGHNASSADH (August 1)
The great corn ritual of Wiccan belief (in Celtic realms this is the celebration of the wheat god, corn is an Americanization and it is possible there is an American Indian traditional holiday near this date that was borrowed by the American Neopagans). This is the big celebration of the harvest (Sort of a Pagan Thanksgiving, but the time clock is different as is that of the Celtics). Much feasting and dancing occur, though it is a bit more somber than many of the other holidays. Some Pagans celebrate this day as mearly the day to bake their bread and cakes for the coming winter and do no actual rituals save that of blessing the foods prepared. Pagans see this as a time when the God loses his strength as the Sun rises farther south each day and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow and joy as she realizes the the God is dying yet lives on inside her as her child. As summer passes, Wiccans remember its warmth and bounty in the food we eat. This sabbat is also called Lammas, August Eve, Feast of Bread.
7. MABON (September 21)
(Fall Equinox, Sept. 20-23, dependent on actual astronomical event) A lesser holiday, this is not widely celebrated and is most come with pure Wiccan groups, especially those who are based in the works of Starhawk and other Dianic sects. This is the weavers festival, and a braiding of cords are done in the process of casting a spell to add to ones life from what it is, each person weaving unto themselves what they wish and the coven as a whole weaving all the cords together to unite the power and efforts symbolically. The autumn equinox is the completion of the harvest begun at Lammas. Once again the day and night are equal as the God prepares to leave the body and the begin the great adventure into the unseen, toward renewal and rebirth of the Goddess.
8. SAMHAIN (October 31)
At Samhain, the Wicca say farewell to the God even though he readies to be reborn at Yule. This grand sabbat, also known as Feast of the Dead ,Feast of Apples, All Hallows, and of course Halloween, once marked the time of sacrifice. This was the time when animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the winter. The God fell as well to ensure our continuing existence. This is a time of reflection and coming to terms with the one thing in life which we have no control - death. Wiccans feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is it's least guarded and it's veil the thinnest. It is a time for dimensional openings and workings, and also the celebration of the death of the year king. It is a somber holiday, one of dark clothes and thoughts for the dead, it is said to be the time when those of necromantic talents can speak with the dead and it is certainly a time to remember ones dead. It is a time of endings of relationships and bad situations and it is the time when one can see the glimmer of hope in the future. There are as many concepts attached to this holiday as any other, truly a time of remembrance of our ancestors and all those who have gone before.
Celtic Tree Calender
The Celtic Tree Calendar is a calendar with thirteen lunar divisions. Most contemporary Pagans use fixed dates for each "month", rather than following the waxing and waning lunar cycle. If this was done, eventually the calendar would fall out of sync with the Gregorian year, because some calendar years have 12 full moons and others have 13. The modern tree calendar is based on a concept that letters in the ancient Celtic Ogham alphabet corresponded to a tree.
We are not evil. We don't harm or seduce people.
We are not dangerous. We are ordinary people like you.
We have families, jobs, hopes, and dreams. We are not a cult. This religion is not a joke. We are not what you think we are from looking at T.V. We are real. We laugh, we cry. We are serious. We have a sense of humor. You don't have to be afraid of us. We don't want to convert you. And please don't try to convert us. Just give us the same right we give you -- to live in peace. We are much more similar than you think.
Earth is the element of form, binding, and manifestation. From an occult perspective the element of Earth is the lowest in vibratory rate of the four elements. Most modern Witchcraft/Wiccan Traditions consider Earth to be a feminine element.
As a magickal agent the element of Earth is symbolized by the ritual tool known as a pentacle. In astrology the zodiac signs Capricorn, Virgo, and Taurus are associated with the element of Earth. Earth is associated with the color green.
Air is commonly associated with mental activity and is considered masculine in nature.
In modern Wicca/Witchcraft the magickal agent of the element of Air is symbolized by a ritual tool. Some traditions assign the wand to Air because it was once a branch moving in the wind. Other traditions assign the element of Air to the ritual blade because of the sound a blade can make when slicing the air.
In astrology, the zodiac signs Aquarius, Libra,
and Gemini are associated with the element
Air is associated with the color yellow.
Fire is sometimes known as the living element. It is perhaps the most ancient symbol of divinity. Fire is a living principle of duality, providing light and heat to aid humankind, while at the same time being a force of death and destruction. The eternal flame is a common theme in ancient Mystery Cults and typically represents the eternal presence of Divinity. Among the ancient Greeks, Hestia symbolized the divine living flame, as did Vesta among the Romans.
The ancients believed that fire could lie hidden in a piece of wood. By rubbing two pieces together the fire could often be coaxed from the wood. Once fire was produced the ancients often transported the flame on the end of a giant fennel stick, a custom that later associated fennel with the forces of light. The connection of fire as the living spirit latent in wood drew worshippers to establish and maintain sanctuaries for their deities within the forests, long after the creation of towns and cities. According to ancient legend, statues of deities were encased in a bundle of branches and transported to a new location when another sacred grove was to be established. In this manner the "fire" of the deities' spirit was conveyed from grove to grove.
In modern Wicca, Fire is one of the four creative elements. It is traditionally linked to the color red, although this does differ among the various traditions. As a magickal agent the element of fire is symbolized by a ritual tool. Some traditions assign elemental Fire to the ritual blade because the blade was forged in Fire. Other traditions assign it to the wand because of the use of wood as a torch. In astrology the zodiac sign Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are associated with Fire.
Water is an element associated with the west quarter. It is a symbol of regeneration, renovation, and dissolution. In occultism beings known as Undines are creatures of this element. Traditionally, the element of Water is associated with the color blue.
In modern Wicca, Water is symbolized by the ritual tool known as the chalice. The chalice contains either water or wine that is used for ritual or magickal purposes. In astrology the zodiac signs Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio are associated with the element of Water.
Akasha meaning pure spirit, is the fifth element. It is the subtle spiritual essence that pervades all space. It is not ether itself, but is an ether-like substance of a spiritual rather than material nature. Essentially, Akasha is to ether what spirit is to physical matter. In ancient writings, such as the Puranas, Akasha is said to operate through sound or vibration. Thus it is identified with the element of Air, and in a spiritual sense with the "breath of god" concept in ancient Hebraic texts. Where we read in the book of Genesis that the "spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," we can see Akasha in action through motion. In occultism, Akasha is considered to be an indispensable element of each magickal act.
To move energy in a ritual, spell, or work of magick is to evoke Akasha. Akasha is an element of the kundalini force as well, lying latent at the base of all magickal operations. The power of Akasha, as it relates to kundalini, is an "occult electricity." This energy rises with our emotions and desires, and is the basis for fertility of mind, body, and spirit. It is the energy of motivation, passion, and determination.
On a larger scale, Akasha is one of the Tattvic Tides of occult philosophy, an energy form that is most active at sunrise. As one of the Tattvic Tides, Akasha emanates the power of spirit to harmonize the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The ancient myths of Western civiliztion tell of a time when the chaos was brought into harmony by the intervention of spirit. This is the symbolism of the pentagram, the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water controlled by spirit. In ancient Roman mythology the four elemental winds were the gods Borus, Eurus, Notus, and Zephyrus. Above them was a higher god, Aeoulus, who kept watch over them.