Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wiccan Magick Explored: The Essence of Magick

Truly understanding the nature of magick requires that it be practiced to some extent. It is simply one of those odd things in life that cannot be readily explained to another, but must instead be experienced. However, there are some rules that apply when practicing magick, and some ethics that are involved in the practice of Wiccan magick.

How Magick Works

To some, magick appears illogical, as if there are no rules, no way to predict what will occur. This is not the case. Magick does indeed have its own laws and rules, rules which can be predicted and understood, much in the way of physical laws. These laws can help us understand how magick works, and what its limitations really are. Any decent course or book discussing the details of magick will include at least some of these laws.

Some of these laws would seem natural and intuitive to a Wiccan, such as the law that states that everything is linked, either directly or indirectly, since in Wiccan cosmology, that is exactly the case. However, it is important to understand these laws independent of Wiccan theology and cosmology, since regardless of whether or not one is Wiccan, magick operates in essentially the same way.

Magick in Wicca

Fortunately for the practitioner, it is not necessary to understand exactly how magick works. Rather, it is better to understand how to make it work, and this is an infinitely easier task. And remember that there are just as many ways to practice magick as there are practitioners. They range from the simple, such as the use of a crystal for protection, to the elaborate, like the performing of complex rituals and ceremonies.

Most Wiccans do both, using the simple, natural magicks for everyday needs, and employing the use of rituals during those times when it seems necessary, or at certain points of the year, such as the solar festivals or lunar rites.

There are, quite literally, thousands of different magickal systems. Even Wiccans do not have one single system. And sometimes, these systems are combined to create even more systems. Some of these systems use props and other items to accomplish this goal, but props are not absolutely necessary to successful magick. In fact, simply copying the motions and words of a ritual will not result in success. It is necessary to truly connect with the essence of a ritual or spell in order to make it work.

Magick is a positive practice in Wicca. It is not used to destroy, manipulate, or exploit others. While anyone can practice magick, in a religious context or not, Wiccans are careful not to abuse what is viewed as a gift from the divine. Magickal ethics are a powerful part of Wiccan magick.

When practicing magick in Wicca, it is more than acceptable to use spells or rituals best suited to the practitioner and the situation, even if they have to be created from scratch. It is also possible to use those rituals and spells created by others as well, but sometimes it can be difficult to find one suited to a particular situation. Wicca is a fluid tradition, and that extends to its magick, so the creation of new magicks is encouraged.

Ultimately, some type of power, whether it be personal, earth, or divine power, must be focused and released toward a goal for magick to be successful. Sometimes this can sound complex, but it's really quite simple. The only reason magick is not more widely performed is that most people lack the discipline to focus their will upon one true goal. This is the ‘secret’ to magick.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wiccan Magick Explained: The Nature of Magick

It is common knowledge, even amongst those unfamiliar with the true practice of Wicca, that some Wiccans practice magick. Though some of what this entails ideas may be a little misguided, the idea that a Witch practices magick is ingrained in most minds today. Wicca actively embraces the idea and use of magick, and does this openly, though it is often difficult to determine where religion ends and magick begins.

What is Magick?

In Wicca, magick has a very specific role: to improve our lives, develop a relationship with the Goddess and the God, and to return energy to the earth which sustains all life. The ways in which this can be accomplished are many and varied, and each practitioner interprets these purposes for themselves.

Actually defining magick can be surprisingly difficult. The way in which it has been defined has changed drastically over the years. Today, one favorite definition is: “Magick is the focusing of will to use natural energies to achieve a desired goal.”

It’s believed that this natural energy has three main sources – personal power, earth power, and divine power. There are many variations on these three, but essentially, all power comes from the practitioner, the earth, or the divine.

Types of Power

Personal power can be defined by the energy that resides within the body of the practitioner. This energy comes from many sources, and most don’t notice it. This energy is absorbed from the sun, moon, and stars, and we get it from the food we eat and the water we drink. A small amount even comes from the air when it is inhaled, though this is lost during exhale. This energy, whatever its source, is released during movement and exercise. In general, the energy we naturally absorb is much more than the energy we naturally expend, and so is available for use in magick.

Earth power is that energy which resides within the earth and all its products, such as trees, herbs, stones, and water. All these things have their own specific, unique energies which can be accessed. Items may be dipped into water to cleanse them, or herbs can be burned to produce a certain affect, or a simple crystal can be used to effect healing. All of these are examples of earth power, and are common practice within the practice of Wicca.

Divine power is just what it sounds like – power that comes from the divine. Though both personal and earth power are manifestations of divine power, they are not directly divine power. Divine power is, however, quite common in Wiccan magick. Whenever a Wiccan invokes the presences of the God or Goddess during any type of rite, usually asking that a specific need be met, that is divine power at work. It is this type of magick that is considered to be religious magick. Magick that uses personal or earth power, without the direct presence of divine power, is not considered religious in nature.

Magick isn’t ‘supernatural’ in nature. Though it might be an occult practice, meaning that it has been, in the past, a hidden practice, it utilizes energies that are naturally occurring. It is simply that these energies have not been fully explained by science. Some of the energies that Wiccans work with have been explained, to an extent. Hypnotism, for example, is now an accepted practiced, used legitimately throughout the world by many professionals. This was not always the case, and indeed, hypnotism used to be thought of as dark magick, and a form of mind control. Society now accepts this as untrue. This type of misunderstanding has happened many times throughout the history of magick.

Other ‘magickal’ practices may soon also have a scientific explanation. Extra-sensory perception is one of these things, as science comes ever closer to explaining exactly how this may work. Just because magick isn’t fully understood doesn’t mean that it doesn’t operate according to existing universal laws. Correctly performed magick does indeed work, much the way a properly performed science experiment does.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The God in Wicca: The Nature of the Wiccan God

The God has been worshiped and honored since the beginnings of religion, not simply since the rise of Christianity. He is much more than simply the consort of the Goddess. He is Her equal, and Her counterpart. He is the sun, the skies, and the passion of life. He has many forms, and many different names, and it is this variety that allows Wiccans to connect with him on a personal and powerful level.

Facets of the God

Wiccans often see the God as the brilliant sun, rising and setting in an endless cycle, a cycle which controls the lives of every living thing. The sun is life, since most of the life on this planet would not exist without it. In this sense, Wiccans acknowledge that without the God, all that is on the planet would cease to be. It's believed that without Him, the world would die; this makes Him just as important as the Goddess.

All land that has been untouched by human hands is also the dominion of the God. Also, stars, which are but distant suns, are usually connected with Him, though they may be the dominion of the Goddess in some cases. The God is seen as the master of all wild animals, and as such, he is often seen as the Horned One. These horns represent his connection with the wild animals, the stag in particular. The horns in no way indicate evil, but rather an act that sustains and nourishes. Hunting is usually associated with the God, just as the domestication of animals is usually associated with the Goddess. This is not to say that the Goddess cannot be a huntress. It is simply more common for the God of the Hunt to be masculine.

God Symbolism in Wicca

The agricultural cycle, the growing, harvesting, and sowing of crops, is strongly associated with the sun, since it is the sun that makes this process possible. Therefore, it stands to reason that the eight solar holidays, often called the Wheel of the Year, are connected with the God and fall under His domain.

The God, together with the Goddess, rules sex and the rites of procreation. Wicca acknowledges that sex is a natural and accepted part of nature, and is necessary for the continuance of all species. In this way, sex is considered to be sacred, and it is the God who grants the urge to ensure that the species doesn't die out. For Wiccans, the Goddess is the giver of life, but the God is the spark, that which ultimately makes the entire process possible.

The God has many names, as does the Goddess. Many times in Wiccan thought, he is called Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God. His symbols are the sword, spear, arrow, and sickle, as well as the wand, the knife, the staff, and many other phallic symbols. His creatures include, but are not limited to, the dog, the stag, the wolf, the dragon, and the eagle.

The God is not to be ignored in Wiccan spiritual practice. Worshiping only the Goddess, and excluding the richness of the God, is just as unbalanced as excluding the Goddess. His appeal rests in his versatility, in His many different forms and names, which allows Wiccans to personally connect to Him. He is as eternal as the Goddess, existing alongside Her, and a connection to Him is wonderful and fulfilling.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Goddess in Wicca: The Nature of the Wiccan Goddess

Wiccans view the Goddess as everything. She is the consort of the God, She is the earth, the water, and the moon. She has been seen in many different forms, and called by many different names. Her many and varied appearances allow any and all Wiccans to connect to Her in whatever way they feel most appropriate. This allows for an intense and personal connection with this aspect of the divine.

Facets of the Goddess

The Goddess is nature itself. She is the source of all wisdom and fertility for all living things. Wiccans often see her as having three aspects: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Sometimes, she will be personified as four aspects instead, to mirror the four aspects of the God: the Maiden, the Lover, the Mother, and the Crone.

These aspects correspond to the phases of the moon. She is the waxing moon as the Maiden, or as the Maiden and the Lover both, young, strong and vibrant, ready to learn, eager for exploration. She is the full moon as the Mother, loving, nurturing, ready to catch us when we fall, and at the height of her power. She is also the waning moon as the Crone, wise in all ways, willing to guide us and advise us, and guarding the gates of death.

The Goddess has many facets. She is all that is nature, so She is both the violent hurricane that destroys life and the gentle spring rain that gives life. She is the bright green and yellow fields in summer and the frost-covered ground in winter. Her gift is life, but it comes with it a price in the very end — death.

However, in Wicca, death is not oblivion at all, but instead a rest from the toils of physical existence, and a chance to prepare for the next incarnation, whatever it may be. Even though the Goddess is possessed of both light and dark, much as every form of life is, Wiccans worship the side of Her that is love, fertility, and abundance. Her darker side is acknowledged, but rarely worked with directly.

Goddess Symbolism in Wicca

Just as with all gods and goddesses, the Goddess has many different names and titles, and many different forms. In addition to the Triple Goddess, she is also commonly known as the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of the Gods, the Great Mother, and by many other titles. She is present in all pantheons, and has gone by many different names at different points in history: Diana, Isis, Bridget, Hera, Inanna, Hecate, and Dana are but a few examples.

Her symbols include silver (both the metal and the color), the moon, the cauldron or chalice, and those items associated with water, such as seashells, pearls, and the like. She is associated with the earth, sea, and moon, and some of Her creatures include the cat, dolphin, spider, horse, and rabbit. No matter how She is seen, or what is connected with Her, She is eternal.

The Goddess has an integral place in Wiccan spirituality. Her various aspects and facets serve to facilitate a connection to Her, for it is Her versatility that Her greatest strength and appeal is found. She is seen as an ever-present and ever-watching mother, the very essence of nature, and the reason for all life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wiccan Cosmology: The Wiccan View of the Divine

All religions are based upon a reverence or worship of a divine being, and Wicca is no exception. Wicca acknowledges an ultimate divine power from which the universe originally came. However, Wiccans believe that this ultimate divine is so far beyond human comprehension that any connection to it has been nearly lost, simply because of the difficulty in relating to it. If one cannot relate to deity, it is very difficult to have a personal relationship with it, and Wicca depends on a very individual relationship with the divine. So, Wiccans link with this divine power through deities, and just like all else in nature, the divine can be divided into two basic entities: the Goddess and the God.

Every god or goddess that has ever received worship upon the planet, at any point in history, exists with the Goddess and the God. The many different gods and goddesses that exist within each pantheon are simply aspects of the Goddess and the God. In other words, every goddess exists within the Goddess, and every god exists within the God.

Honoring the Goddess and the God

The twin deities, masculine and feminine, are a direct result of Wicca's close link with nature. Since most of nature is divided into gender, it makes sense that the deities would follow a similar pattern. In the very early days of Shamanism, when the Goddess and the God were as real as the earth and the sky, rituals and other rites of worship were unstructured and spontaneous. Later, rituals began to follow the course of the sun throughout the year, as well as the moon through its monthly cycle.

Today, these or similar rites are observed by Wiccans. The regular performance of these rituals is one of the ways in which modern practitioners can create a strong connection to the divine and all the powers associated with the Goddess and the God. Keep in mind, however, that it is not necessary to wait for these rituals to be reminded of the presence of the divine. Everything in nature is a part of the divine, and so connection to the divine is all around and within every living thing. Living in harmony with nature makes every moment a part of a grand ritual.

For many Wiccans, simply watching the sun or moon rise or set is its own ritual. Observing anything in nature can be considered a ritual to one who lives Wiccan ideals. Because of this, many Wiccans are involved in ecology to some extent, whether it be saving the earth from destruction or simply by recycling. Honoring the planet is one of the many ways in which the Goddess and the God can be honored.

Wiccan Theology on the Goddess and God

According the Wiccan theology, the Goddess and the God, and their many incarnations, did not exist until those living in ancient times conceived of them. However, their energies certainly existed, since it was these energies that created life as it exists today.

The earliest worshipers personified these forces as the Goddess and the God in an attempt to understand and relate to them. Once they were worshiped in these forms, the Goddess and the God endured. They did not vanish with the rise of Christianity. Though most of the rites have been lost to time, Wicca and other Pagan religions are alive and well.

When the Goddess and the God are envisioned, what is seen will reflect the experiences of the individual involved. Many Wiccans see them as familiar deities from ancient traditions, such as Diana, Isis, Cerridwen, Bridget, or Artemis for the Goddess, and Pan, Osiris, Lugh, Thoth, or Apollo for the God. Most of these deities have rich histories and mythologies, and this serves to enhance the experience of connecting to the divine for many Wiccans.

Some may feel more comfortable relating to a nameless being, and so worship a generic Goddess and God, instead of a specific incarnation. Either approach is correct, depending greatly upon personal preference. The divine will take whatever form is needed, whatever form we can be most easily related to.

For those completely new to polytheistic religions, it can be difficult to accept the fact that the divine exists as both masculine and feminine. More than that, they are considered equal; neither is higher than the other. Though some Wiccan traditions focus so much on the Goddess that they seem to forget the God completely, this is a reaction to centuries of male-dominated religions. However, religion based solely on the worship of the feminine is just as unbalanced and unnatural as one which focuses totally on the masculine. The ideal is a perfect balance between both male and female — the Goddess and the God.