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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Wheel of the Year: Imbolc and Its Lore

Imbolc, also known as Oimelc, the feast of Bride, and Candlemas, takes place around February 1st and is the first day of spring in the Pagan calendar. The first signs of life are seen returning to the earth, the sheep are in lamb, and spring will soon be evident.

Imbolc is also the feast of the Irish Fire Goddess Bride (pronounced "Bre-ed"), known as "Brigantia" to the Celtic Britons; the name evolved into "Bridget" when she was Christianized.

The Themes and Practices of Imbolc

Imbolc is the first rite of spring. The dark of winter is in the past and now the Goddess takes on the robes of the Maiden and the God is seen as a young boy, ready and eager to explore the world. This is a time of initiations, and many Wiccan groups will initiate new members on this day.

There are many ways to celebrate the season of Imbolc. Black or dark red candles (for the Goddess as Wise One) and white candles (for the Goddess as Maiden) can be lit. This can be a part of a greater ritual, or simply a rite of its own. Golden candles, if they can be found, are sometimes used to represent the God as a young boy; otherwise, light green is appropriate. Time should be spent thinking about the season to come as the candles burn down.

An alternative is to make some ice, a large piece if possible, and hold it above a bowl of warm (not boiling) water. After considering what the coming of spring represents, the ice can be dropped into the water. It will slowly melt, which is a representation of how slowly spring comes after a long, cold winter. Once the ice is fully melted and the water has warmed to a reasonable temperature, it can be poured on a favorite plant, indoors or outdoors.

As a part of the Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is the time when the Goddess reawakens after her long slumber in Wiccan lore. She is energized and ready to bring warmth back to the Earth.

Some symbols associated with the Winter Solstice include:
  • Purification
  • Initiation
  • Healing
  • Candles and fire
The Feast of Imbolc

People of old would have been would have been glad of this season, for there is suddenly some food available that is not preserved from the previous fall. There are many dishes that are appropriate for Imbolc.
Some of these popular Imbolc dishes include:
  • Butterflied Lamb
  • Young fresh vegetables
  • Omelets
  • Quiche
  • Pancakes
  • Champagne jelly
  • Frozen fruit bombe
  • Candle cake
Beverages for Imbolc

The drinks should represent the freshness of the season and should be full of life and enthusiasm. Champagne is ideal, but sparkling white wine, lemonade or mineral water are all suitable alternatives. Sparkling water is very appropriate, as this is the time when the spring thaw commences and ice-cold bubbling water would have been one time when of the signs in some regions. As mineral water is not most people’s idea of a celebratory drink, try adding a squeeze of fresh juice, such as lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit, white grape or apple.

As the weather is still not warm in early February, at least is the northern hemisphere, fruit teas are also good at this season and can be chosen for either their properties or taste.

Celebrating Imbolc

At Imbolc, the coming of strength and spring is celebrated. However, it is still not warm in most regions of the northern hemisphere, so outdoor activities may be limited. A walk through the snow to spot the first signs of life may be all that can occur, depending on the temperature. However, sledding, skating, skiing, or any winter activity is appropriate for this time of year.

A traditional practice is the Crown of Light. This was, quite literally, a crown of candles. This is certainly not practical for most people, and can be replaced with a circlet of flowers instead, representing the flowers of spring. Real flowers are ideal, but silk or paper flowers work just as well. Some Wiccan groups choose to use electric candles instead of real ones, and this is also acceptable.

Children can make their own candle crown with cardboard, and using cardboard candles. This should all be painted white and the crown part can be decorated with yellow and silver flowers to represent spring. Orange tissue paper can be used for the flames.

Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate this season with a powerful ritual. As Sabbats are celebratory in nature, magick is generally not worked at these rituals.

Dressing for Imbolc

Fancy dress is an excellent way to get everyone into the spirit of Imbolc. Some Wiccans feel most comfortable in their ritual robes. Others prefer simpler clothing. There is no firm rule here, but it should be something special. Traditional colors for Imbolc include red, white, yellow, and light green. These can, of course, be incorporated into dress or celebration.

Imbolc is regarded as a wonderful time of celebration for Wiccans around the world. It is a time of merriment and feasting, and a time to rejoice in the coming of spring.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The History of Magick: Magick Around the World

Magick has been practiced in all cultures and by all religions. From cave paintings to the casting of spells to elaborate church rituals, magick has been present in all civilizations, and it is still practiced today.

Magick in Ancient Times

There are many indications that magick was practiced in ancient times. For example, there are paintings in caves showing depictions of animals being chased by hunters, and often being slaughtered by them. There are many other paintings as well, showing many things. It is highly unlikely that these were simply utilized for decoration.

An array of ancient artifacts that have been discovered; many of these objects suggest that ancient societies had a sense of spiritualism and it's believed that some may have utilized magick and ritual. Small bones that represent the phases of the moon. Small carved animals that may have been worn as pendants. Skulls and other bones that have obviously been carefully arranged.

It seems likely that these had ritual or magickal significance. The magick of ancient people may have served an array of purposes, such as to honor spirits and gain their protection, to ensure a successful hunt, or to promote the fertility of both their own people and the land they relied upon. However, this is but speculation, for true evidence of this time is elusive.

Magick in Mesopotamia

The magick of Mesopotamia, including Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, was powerful and well-respected in the ancient world. In Babylonia, for example, it's said that magicians could banish evil, heal the sick, and invoke the power of the gods.

It's believed that some of the magicians of Mesopotamia were also astrologers, and among the first to predict the future by the use of animals entrails. Many specialized in the creation of protective charms and amulets.

Magick in Ancient Egypt

The magick of the Egyptians was tied to the cycles of nature. They knew that spirits followed a cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and their magick focused on this. They used their magick to protect the body on its journey to the afterlife, and sometimes they created amulets or talismans that could take the place of a damaged organ if it was necessary.

The Egyptians has other magick as well. They firmly believed in the idea of replication magick. That is, they felt that if they created something, such as a false door, it was as effective as the real thing, since all matter was essentially spirit. The Egyptians developed a great variety of magicks, for they embraced the new, but never discarded the old.

Magick in Ancient Europe

Little in ancient Europe that was recorded. Most of what was written down was done so by the enemies of the people native to Europe, or by those of a religion so different that they couldn’t begin to understand the practices of the native people. So some of the practices of the Norsemen and the Celts may be lost to time.

Educated guesses can be made. That the Druids were well versed in plant lore seems fairly certain, as is the fact that they believed that each species of tree had a spirit and purpose. It can be assumed that the people of northern Europe also practiced magick relating to animal totems, based upon clan surnames and horned masks.

Magick in Ancient Greece and Rome

Greece was a powerful seat of science in the ancient world. And yet, its scientists firmly believed in magick as well. Some of them were even magicians themselves. They spoke of horoscopes, divination, healing, and necromancy in the same breath as logic, geometry, and architecture.

In early Rome, magick and religion were intertwined. Legionnaires would wear pendants sacred to Mars, the Roman God of War, for protection in battle. The healers of Rome often used remedies that combined herbology and the phases of the moon. Some of these were highly effective.

Magick and the Rise of the Church

Emperor Constantine of Rome converted to Christianity, and declared magick illegal throughout the Empire. This put magick, in all its various forms, in jeopardy. As this religion swept through Europe, overzealous churchmen lashed out at all who did not accept the authority of the church.

The Crusades against ‘infidels’ in the east was quickly followed by the European Inquisition. All those who were either heretics or practitioners of magick became targets. Though the practice of magick did survive, its development was severely curtailed by the policies of the Church of Rome. This continued for several hundred years.

The Rise of Magick in the Modern World

The Age of Enlightenment, during which magick had been forced into secrecy, brought about an interesting time. During the Industrial Age of the 1800s, people began looking to the mystic arts once again. New orders of Druids arose, and divination became quite fashionable. Magickal groups thrived, and orders such as the Golden Dawn quickly became well-known.

In the 1900s, after the passing of World Wars I and II, this interest in the occult intensified. A man named Gerald Gardner was reinventing magickal practice in Britain, and in doing so, created what would become modern Wicca. This quickly spread to other parts of the world, including North America. At the same time, Asatru, Druidism, Goddess spirituality, and other magickal groups appeared. These and others now make up the modern magickal community.

Magick has always existed, and has always been a part of the world. Though sometimes overshadowed by science, it is quickly becoming acceptable in the greater world community once again.

Wiccan Magick: What Magick Is and What It Is Not

There is often a great debate surrounding the idea of magick. What it is, what it isn't and how it works can be a source of contention for many practitioners. Perhaps exploring and explaining the nature of magick, at least from a Wiccan perspective, is best done by first defining what it is not.

What Magick is Not

Magick is not a stage trick. It is not an illusion. It is not seen at the local nightclub, performed by stage magicians in long black cloaks and assistant-girls in their little sequined outfits. Magick is also not ‘supernatural’ in any way, for practitioners believe that it is a part of nature, not above it. It is simply that magick is a less-understood aspect of nature.

Wiccan magick does not involve a pact with the Devil, for Wiccans do not believe in the Devil. One cannot make a pact with something that one doesn't exist, according to their belief system. Magick is not a good way to gain revenge or act unethically, for the ethics and rules of magick are strict and the consequences for misuse are swift.

Magick is not reserved for only a few special people, those who have been ‘gifted’ with its use. Anyone can learn to use magick with enough dedication, and given enough time to practice and study. Magick does not reside in tools such as athames, wands, or cauldrons. It's said that true magick lies within the practitioner, and tools only serve to enhance the practice of magick, but they are not the source of it.

In general, magick does not result in ‘special effects’ in the material world. There are no showers of golden sparks, no glowing blue balls of light, no walls of fire, and no bolts of energy flying from the ends of wands. True magick manifests itself in much less spectacular ways.

Finally, magick is not easy to learn. It requires hard work and disciple to be of any use. While magick certainly is a method for inner growth and spiritual development, using it for more mundane purposes is more complex. Magick is not a substitute for common sense or practicality.

What is Magick?

Defining magick in a spiritual context can be a little difficult. Since its definition changes over time, the problem is only compounded. A popular definition was put forth by the magician Aleister Crowley: “Magick is the art and science of causing changes to occur in conformity with will.” This is probably the most accepted spiritual definition of magick in Wiccan circles.

Though there are many kinds of magick, they can be categorized into two main types: theurgy and thaumaturgy. These two forms of magick are quite different and distinct. Essentially, theurgy involves the use of magick for religious purposes or personal development. This is generally regarded as the highest use of magick.

Theurgy is, first and foremost, serves as a method of spiritual development for the practitioner. It exists as a method of change. The end goal of this change is a heightened state of awareness, and a fuller range of possibilities. The idea of change frightens many practitioners early on, simply because they cannot predict the evolution of this practice.

Theurgy allows the practitioner to experience being a part of all that is. It is the goal of many spiritual paths to reestablish a connection with the greater universe, and theurgy is one method by which this can be accomplished.

Thaumaturgy is magick for non-religious purposes. It can be described as magick that's performed in an effort change things on the physical plane. This might include magick to heal a physical ailment, a spell to gain a job or promotion, or perhaps a spell for safe travel. This type of magick, as long as it brings harm to none, is said to be just as valid, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Does Magick Work?

Practitioners believe that magick does, indeed, work, but it isn’t miracle-working; it won’t just happen. When a spell or ritual is performed with the intention of producing a certain result, the individual must act in accord. This means that if one were to cast a spell to get a better job, then he or she must actively apply for better positions. Casting a healing spell, without doing anything in the physical realm to assist the effort, will likely lead to failure. It's believed that magick only works through true belief and desire, combined with common sense and practicality.

Understanding what magick is, and what it is not, is an important step to being able to use it. Magick, in its many forms, is regarded as a powerful tool for the practitioner who walks a magickal path.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tai Chi: Some Warm-Up Tai Chi Exercises

Just like any physical activity, Tai Chi could, conceivably, cause muscle strain. Warming up before the practice of Tai Chi is recommended. Keep your back straight, and to stay relaxed and open. Do not strain or stress as you do these exercises. Do them slowly, as this will encourage precision and accuracy.

If an exercise causes pain, either stop entirely or stretch your body a little less; perhaps even reduce the number of rotations. Tai Chi shouldn’t hurt. Do not lock any of your joints while performing these exercises. Locking a joint can cause undue stress and strain, which is to be avoided at all costs.

Every Tai Chi instructor will have different exercises for warm-ups, and these should be followed. Presented here are some simple ideas that might be incorporated.

Tai Chi Warm-Up – Knee Rotations

Stand with your feet together and facing forwards. Bend over at the waist and put your hands on you knees. Bend your knees and rotate them clockwise, keeping them together. Allow your body to move naturally with the rotations. Do this for twenty rotations, then stop and go counter-clockwise, again for twenty rotations.

If you knees hurt, either stop the exercise or bend a little less. This exercise will strengthen the ligaments, tendons, and cartilage of the knee. This movement will also enhance your ability to maintain balance and stability.

Tai Chi Warm-Up – Head Rotations

Stand comfortably with your feet apart, and arms at your sides. Raise your chin to stretch your neck. Make a circle, moving your head up, then to the side, down, and finally to the other side, rotating it first clockwise for twenty rotations, then counter-clockwise for twenty more rotations.

Let the stretch relieve the tension in your neck. Stress can cause the body to tire and age unnaturally. Let the mental tension leave your body also, and let the negative thoughts go through and replace then with positive thoughts.

Tai Chi Warm-Up – Heel Stretch

Rest all of your weight on your back leg, keeping your balance with your opposite heel. Bend forwards from the waist and rotate your torso in large circles, clockwise first for twenty rotations, then counter-clockwise for another twenty rotations.

Move slowly and feel your back, stomach and sides stretch. A strong and healthy back is the key to good health. Just about every movement you make involves the back in some fashion. Switch to the other leg and repeat. Unlike most other exercises, this one has a total of eighty repetitions. This is good as it will help to strengthen your back.

Tai Chi Warm-Up – Foot Rotations

Raise one foot, keeping the opposite leg strong and steady. Rotate your leg using the knee as a pivot point, keeping the leg hanging downwards towards the bottom of your foot pointing towards the floor. Do clockwise rotations for the count of twenty, then do twenty counter-clockwise rotations. Keep the knee as stationary as possible. The larger the circle you can make with your foot, the better.

Now switch legs and repeat the warm-up exercise. This is another exercise with eighty repetitions.

Tai Chi Warm-Up – Arm Swings

Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width or more apart. Let your arms swing forward and back, feel parallel and pointing forwards. Let your arms swing forward and back, keeping them shoulder-width apart with your palms facing inwards.

Relax your arms and shoulders. Keep the lower back pushed out and the buttocks tucked in. Feel your neck and shoulders relax more with each swing. Feel the energy flow into your hands. Do this for twenty repetitions.

These exercises are only a suggestion of what movements might help the body to prepare for the practice of Tai Chi. There are many others that could be used. If you enjoy using a great many exercises, consider keep a chart of your progress that includes the exercises you used on a particular day.

Preparing for Magick: How to Cleanse the Body's Energy Field

The energy that surrounds and permeates the body is comprised of the aura and the chakras. To perform magick correctly, this energy field must be strong, clear, and clean, and free of all contamination. Sometimes, it is necessary to understand where this contamination comes from before the energy field can be cleansed.

How Does the Body’s Energy Field Become Contaminated or Weak?

Some of the problems that occur in relation to the weakening of the body’s energy field are fairly common. A poor diet or lack of exercise can lead to a weak aura and dim chakras; this can be correct with good food and a healthy amount of exercise. Illness and injury can cause a temporary weakening of the energy field, but this can be easily repaired by taking the time to get well.

The use of hard drugs, including hallucinogens and even many prescription drugs, can leave the aura full of holes, and the chakras may be too weak to aid in repair. In this case, it is best to discontinue the use of these drugs (except in the case of prescription drugs), and allow time for the body’s energy field to self-repair. Other things can have the same effect depending on the person. For some people, alcohol may damage the aura. For many, it’s allergies. Whatever the cause, it should be healed before true magick is performed.

Sometimes, the aura or the chakras will be drained by another person. This is usually not done consciously. Some people are what can be termed "energy vampires;" they continually drain energy, and some don’t even realize that they’re doing so. Often, these people can be easily identified. If someone makes you feel drained and weak, maybe even depressed, after a visit, they’re likely an energy vampire. Since this is done subconsciously, the only true and permanent solution is to avoid these people.

Some of these energy vampires do more than just drain a little energy. Occasionally, you’ll have someone who attaches themselves to a particular chakra. This is usually someone you know very well, and they almost never do this on purpose. It might be an ex-lover, one who has attached himself to your heart chakra. Maybe an adult child refuses to be separated from the mother, linking too strongly to the root chakra. These are not healthy connections.

There are, of course, connections that you will want. You’ll want a spouse to be connected to the heart and sacral chakras, for example. A young child should certainly be connected to a mother’s root chakra. A student might connect to a teacher’s throat or third eye chakra. These are all healthy and welcome connections. When they are not, they must be cleansed.

Cleansing and Balancing the Chakras

All magicians should keep their energy fields clean and bright. This can be done by examining the individual chakras and clearing them of both negative influences and any unwelcome connections. This can be done with a simple meditation and visualization exercise.

A simple method for cleansing and balancing the chakras is to visualize each chakra as a ball of colored light. The colors associated with each chakra are as follows:
  • Crown chakra – purple
  • Third eye chakra – dark blue
  • Throat chakra – light blue
  • Heart chakra – green or pink
  • Solar plexus chakra – yellow
  • Sacral chakra – orange
  • Root chakra – red
Each chakra, one at a time, should be visualized as a ball of colored light. This ball should be examined, even spun if necessary, in order to ensure that they are clean of all contamination. If you do notice that they are murky or dim, then they must be cleansed. This is quite a simple process.

At your feet, visualize a hole opening up in the earth. This hole can look like anything, as long as it leads deep inside the earth. Once this hole is firmly established, refocus on the chakra that needs cleansing. See it, feel it, know that this chakra is real. Then, slowly begin spinning the chakra in place. As it spins, see all the contamination, all that makes the chakra weak, slowly begin to fall into the hole. Allow it to be absorbed by the earth.

When the chakra is clear and bright again, allow the chakra to stop its spinning and return to a normal state of being. Close the hole, but don’t worry about the negative energy that went into the earth; it will be absorbed and transmuted into positive energy. Repeat this process with any other chakra that needs cleansing.
There are other methods of clearing and rebalancing the chakras, and any of them are appropriate for use. The method isn’t as important as the end result. Remember to check often to ensure that your chakras are still functioning properly. Bright and clear chakras lead to bright and clear auras, and make grounding and centering much easier.

Introduction to Magick: Magickal Clothing and Jewelry

Most magickal practitioners feel that it is appropriate to dress in a special way for the working of magick because it is sacred activity. For some, this means working skyclad, or in the nude. For others, it might mean a ritual robe. Then there are those who choose to dress in elaborate costumes, complete with jewelry and accessories. All three are perfectly acceptable.

Working Skyclad for Magickal Purposes

The term ‘skyclad’ means, quite literally, to be ‘clothed by the sky'; in other words, nude. There are many individuals and some Wiccan and Pagan traditions that either require or prefer to work skyclad. There are three main reasons for this. These include:
  • Encouraging energy to flow more freely if it is not impeded by clothing.
  • Expressing the idea that the naked human form is not something to be ashamed of.
  • Differences in income and social status disappear if everyone is nude.
Ritual Robes in Magick

Most magickal practitioners work robed. Sometimes this is because the robes have magickal significance, or because it is simply too cold to work skyclad. Color and style will vary according to personal taste and the requirements of particular groups.

The easiest style of robe to make is simply a T-shaped robe with long sleeves and usually a hood. The robe should be loose enough to allow for movement and dancing, as well as sitting cross-legged. The sleeves shouldn’t be too long, as they will drag in the candles and catch fire. A large hood is a good idea, as it can be used to block outer vision, aiding in visualization and meditation.

Other, more elaborate styles can also be used. Check the local fabric store for patterns, usually in the costume section. The only limit is the imagination, and possibly the cost. When choosing fabric, it is important to pick something that feels good against the skin, for the robe may be worn for long periods of time, in some cases. A breathable fabric, such as cotton, is also a good idea.

Color, when applied to ritual robes, can be a lot of fun. For those who are working solitary, and are not confined by the rules of a group or teacher, any color that is healing, balancing, or empowering will work very well. For those who simply cannot decide, starting with white or black is never a poor choice.

Groups and many teachers will have specific requirements. The color of the robe might reflect a degree system, or everyone in the group may wear the same color. Many groups have their novices, sometimes called dedicants, wear white to represent innocence and purity. However, this is not a firm rule.

Jewelry and Accessories During Ritual

Special jewelry is often worn by magickal practitioners, even those who work skyclad. Many, especially those of the Wiccan faith, wear silver bracelets, and women will wear silver necklaces, while men wear silver torques. High Priestess of that same religion will often wear a crescent crown and garter. High Priests usually opt for a horned mask, or a horned headpiece.

Usually, magickal practitioners will wear jewelry that reflects their faith. Crosses, the Star of David, pentagrams and crescent moons are all commonly seen during ritual. Jewelry pieces featuring crystals and gems are very popular, as they channel the qualities of the stones. Wedding rings are worn during the practice of magick, as they are considered sacred and blessed. All jewelry worn during magickal practice should have magickal significance.

Many practitioners will wear a cord around their waist. In most groups, this is given at initiations, but solitaries may make their own. A simple white cord is usually the best choice. Suitable cord can be found at most fabric stores. Make sure it is long enough to be effective. The traditional length is nine feet.

When it comes to footwear, many practitioners work barefoot. This helps to keep them grounded. However, this is not always an option. Perhaps it’s too cold to have bare feet, or it might be uncomfortable for some, depending on the surface. Footwear should be comfortable and practical. Slippers, if indoors, sandals it it’s summer, and definitely boots if there is snow on the ground.

Having an attractive and sometimes dramatic appearance can help to increase confidence when working magick, especially during the first steps in magick. This increase in confidence, no matter how slight, will increase the quality and power of all magickal workings.

Introduction to Magick: Choosing a Magickal Name

When one practices magick, and especially during ritual magick or casting a circle, one effectively takes on a new persona. Some magickal practitioners, though certainly not all, choose to recognize this ‘alter ego’ by taking on a new name, a name that is only used during magick, or among other magickal practitioners. This name is often called a magickal name.

Should You Choose a Magickal Name?

The decision to take a magickal name is intensely personal. Assuming a new name is a message to the Higher Self that a new facet of the personality has been embraced. Eventually, being called by this magickal name will assist the Higher Self to shift into a higher state of consciousness, thereby making it possible to work magick with greater ease.

Many magickal practitioners choose not to take a magickal name. They feel that it is not a good idea to make a distinction between their magickal selves and their mundane selves. The theory is that emphasizing this difference makes it more difficult for them to incorporate magick into their daily lives.

Each practitioner must decide for themselves if a magickal name is appropriate for them. Either choice is to be accepted and respected.

How to Select a Name for Magickal Practice

There are many different theories on how to select a magickal name. Some feel that a name should be chosen that reflects the Higher Self, its nature, and the qualities it embodies. Other will insist that a magickal name should be selected that describes the qualities one wishes to develop. The truth is, either method is appropriate

Most practitioners will use a combination of meditation, divination, and a great deal of research to choose a name. There are many possibilities when it comes to sources for magickal names. Some of these are:
Ancient mythology
  • Herbs and flowers
  • Animals
  • Sounds
  • Elements of nature
  • Fantasy or science fiction novels
  • Foreign languages
  • Acronyms
  • Star charts
  • Magickal Symbols
  • Other people and places
The source of a magickal name is not nearly as important as the feelings it generates.

Magickal names should be filled with power and magick. Don’t be afraid to try different names until one truly fits. However, it can take some time to really connect to a name. Don’t toss one aside too hastily, for fear of discarding one that might truly be perfect, especially when first starting out on a magickal path.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Initiation in Wicca

When discussing the nature of initiation, it is important to recognize that there are two types of initiations. The most recognized is the acceptance of a Wiccan into an established group, recognition of training received, and a dedication to the Goddess and the God. In some group initiation ceremonies, power is passed to the new member, or blessings are received from the group.

Wiccan Group Initiation

Many groups have three or five initiation rites, each marking a different level of training and responsibility. It is true that anyone wishing to enter into group practice should undergo an initiation, since part of an initiation ceremony is to attune with the other members of the group. However, this is not the only form of initiation, nor is it the most important.

Personal Initiation in Wicca

There are many, many people out there who are convinced that individuals who do not receive a Wiccan initiation cannot practice Wicca. Most agree that this is simply not the case, though many traditions have 'secret' rites that are not shared. There are a vast array of published texts, so virtually anyone can go to a decent bookstore to obtain a book filled with rituals. Many Wiccans write their own initiation rites.

The essence of Wicca, the beliefs and practices that are associated with Wicca, are readily available for anyone who can read. It's believed that the Goddess and the God accept all who choose to follow Their path, not simply the ones who have received group initiation, regardless of some practitioners may say.

For many, personal initiation is more appropriate. This type of initiation is the process of the individual's attunement with the divine, with the Goddess and the God. It can be gradual, taking years in some cases, or it can be immediate and spontaneous. Today, many groups will not perform a ritual initiation unless and until this personal initiation has occurred.

Recognizing Personal Initiation

The personal initiation may take place months or years before the individual finds a coven or teacher. This form of initiation is by far the most important. One can practice Wicca fully and joyfully without ever contacting another person involved in the religion. The form a personal initiation takes varies from person to person. But most people who have experienced this will say that they just knew when it had happened.

Many Wiccan will say that they knew when they had received this personal initiation when they found themselves and their personal energies beginning to ebb and flow with the natural world, when the ways of old had become a part of their life, and when their relationship with the Goddess and the God is strong and unquestioned. Some choose to mark this occasion with a ritual, others do not.

Many Wiccans are content with this personal initiation. Some wish to expand themselves as Wiccans further, and continue their search for a group or instructor. Another benefit of having this personal initiation occur first is that if you do find a coven or instructor, they will almost certainly find that you are ready for instruction.

It is usually recommended that eventually, all those wishing to study Wicca locate a group or instructor. Not necessarily for coven initiation, but having a group of like-minded individuals can give a much needed sense of community.

Ultimately, how each Wiccan approaches the idea of initiation is an individual decision. Some feel the need for a group initiation, and they should definitely pursue the idea. For those that do not feel the need, personal initiation is just as valid.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Traditions and Paths of Wicca

One of the benefits of Wicca, and one of its problems, is that there is no 'right way.' There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of different denominations of Wicca, usually referred to as traditions. In addition, even if one is a member of a tradition, there are usually variations on exactly how the individuals involved actually practice.

Traditions of Wicca

The term 'tradition' means that it is a practice handed down from person to person. In Wicca, it means a way of celebrating the Goddess and the God, a loose set of guidelines for ritual practices. Below is an attempt to categorize the various traditions, but keep in mind that this is hardly an extensive list. Instead, it only addresses the most common traditions.

The Alexandrian Tradition was founded by Alex Sanders in the 1960s; this tradition is mostly modified Gardnerian, and is fairly structured.

The Ashling Tradition is loosely based on Irish practices, but is easily adapted for other pantheons as well. There are elements of Ceremonial Magick, and much Celtic Witchcraft involved. This is one of the few traditions which employs a five-degree system, instead of the classical three-degree.

British Traditional Wicca is a mixture of Celtic and Gardnerian practices, based mostly on the teachings of the Farrar husband and wife team. This tradition has become fairly accessible in recent years.

Celtic Wicca is a mixture of Celtic and Druidic practices, with a little Gardnerian thrown in for good measure. Stressing the elements and nature, and a strong connection with the Ancient Ones, this tradition stresses a vast knowledge of plants and herbs, and a connection to the fairy realm.

Ceremonial Witchcraft is essentially Ceremonial Magick, with Wiccan beliefs and practices. Often, the magick used has a distinct Egyptian or Kabalistic flavor.

The Correllian Nativist Tradition is fairly structured. A blend of Celtic Wicca, Aradian Wicca, and Native American spiritual practices, Correllian Wicca is very suited to North American practice, though it is now found worldwide.

Eclectic Wicca isn't really a tradition at all, but rather refers to those people who learn from various traditions and apply what works best for them. This is by far the most common tradition in recent years.

The Gardnerian Tradition is what most people mean when they say 'traditional Wicca.' Organized by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s, Gardnerian Wicca adheres to very structured practices. Gardnerians are not very vocal about their practice, and Gardnerian Wicca is almost always an initiatory tradition.

Seax Wicca was founded by Raymond Buckland back in the 1970s. This is an interesting tradition, since Raymond Buckland created it without breaking his original Gardnerian oath. This tradition is very popular in Europe, and is gaining strength in North America. For the Wiccan who isn't sure about which path they'd like, this is a good place to start.

Other Common Terms and Their Relation to Wiccan Traditions

Family traditions, also called 'fam trads,' are actually quite rare in Wiccan communities. One can say that they practice a family tradition if they can trace the practice of Witchcraft through their family tree, in addition to being taught by a living relative. Channeling their spirit or otherwise contacting them once they've passed on does not "count."

There is some debate about how far back one must be able to trace the Craft, but usually two generations is enough. Sometimes, a family tradition will adopt an individual to carry on their tradition, but this is seldom done, and only if the individual is held in the highest esteem. The ceremony is intricate and important, and a symbol of the great respect the family in question has for the candidate.

The term ‘natural Witch’ has cropped up with increasing frequency in recent years. This fairly commonplace term is often misunderstood. Some people will say they were born with great gifts, and that makes them a natural Witch. This is not the case. It's believed that everyone is born with gifts, and some choose to use them. In reality, the term 'natural Witch' simply means that a woman was a practitioner of some type of magickal system (not necessarily Wicca) while she was pregnant with her child.

There is a school of thought that says these children have more of an inclination to follow a more magickal religion than others; there is not much evidence to support this. It certainly does not mean that these children are more 'powerful.'

There are, of course, many other traditions out there. Then there are those people who combine different traditions. Someone might be a Seax-Gardnerian, a Correllian-Alexandrian, or any number of combinations. Some Wiccans will even combine Wicca with other spiritual paths, such as Druidism, Asatru, or many other paths. Since Wicca is an inclusive tradition rather than an exclusive one.

A final note about traditions: there is no such thing as a Satanic Wiccan, since Wiccans do not believe in Satan.

Reincarnation and Rebirth in Wicca

Reincarnation is a very popular topic. There is a great deal of debate surrounding the concept of rebirth, and sometimes it seems as if the Western world has only just discovered the very idea of being reborn into another body. The study of reincarnation is one of the greatest lessons Wicca can teach. Thinking about reincarnation raises questions which require a great deal of study to answer.

Wiccan Beliefs on Reincarnation – Why Are Beings Reincarnated?

Wicca teaches that reincarnation is the process through which souls attain perfection. Most would agree that one lifetime is obviously not enough to attain this goal. Instead, it takes several lifetimes, each one teaching a different set of lessons, until perfection is attained.

No one can say for sure how long this process takes; it’s said to be different for each person. There are many factors that can pull people into behavior that will inhibit spiritual growth. Though one may seek to live a productive, full life, sometimes, it seems, life just gets in the way.

Souls are ageless, non-physical, and have no inherent gender. The gender, race, and even place of birth is determined only by which lessons the current incarnation will need to learn. It is important to understand that the soul itself makes this decision, not some outside force seeking to punish the previous incarnation. This is central to Wiccan theology, since it reinforces the idea of personal responsibility.

Wiccan Views on What Happens When a Person Dies

There are an array of Wiccan views surrounding death. It's believed that body is the only thing that dies; it's believed that the soul continues to live. Some say that the soul then journeys to a realm known as the Shining Land, the Land of Eternal Youth or the Summerland, among other names. This isn't heaven, or a version of the underworld. It exists outside this view, and is sometimes seen as co-existing with reality, but less dense, and far from the physical realm. Some Wiccan traditions state that this is a land of eternal summer, while others see it as a vague realm without forms at all.

The most popular belief is that this realm takes on the form that best allows the own souls to rest and review the life just past. It is during this rest that the lessons learned in that incarnation are evaluated. When the time is right, the soul will be reincarnated, and the cycle of life continues.

What Happens After the Last Incarnation?

The answer to the question of what occurs after the final incarnation is very elusive. Wiccan theology states that after souls have attained perfection, they break away from the cycle of reincarnation and rebirth. Instead, it's said that they return to the Goddess and the God, the energy of the soul reunited with Theirs forever. Nothing is ever lost, and so the souls are returned to where they originally began. Everything is viewed as a circle.

An acceptance of reincarnation and rebirth serves a very important function for Wiccans — it alleviates the fear of death. Death is simply one more part of the journey. Though it's important to note that no one should be forced to believe in reincarnation or any other religious notion. The idea of reincarnation should be studied, meditated upon and contemplated until it can be accepted as fact by the individual. It is not the way of Wicca to force the belief of any doctrine, but rather to enlighten, so that doctrine instead becomes fact for the practitioner.

The Altar and Its Place in Wiccan Ritual

One of the most important ritual items in Wiccan practice is the altar, upon which ritual tools are placed. The altar is a place of power, and it serves as a powerful focusing tool. It is also often the centre of Wiccan worship. It can either be set up permanently, or dismantled after each use.

The Appearance of the Wiccan Altar

The altar can be made of almost anything, though wood is preferred. Stone is also common, metal a little less so. In general, plastic is the only material that should absolutely be avoided for use as an altar.

The altar can be any shape. Round altars are common, as are square and rectangular altars. Many practitioners use actual tables, bought specifically for use as an altar. Others opt for something much simpler, like a cardboard box covered with a cloth. Many practitioners even construct their altars on the ground. There are not firm rules here.

The Tools on the Altar

The arrangement of the tools on the altar can follow a particular pattern, but many practitioners simply place the tools where they feel they belong. For those who follow a particular tradition, there is usually a prescribed set up. If not, then there are many altar set ups to choose from.

In Wicca, the left half of the altar is reserved for the Goddess, and often the chalice or cauldron will be found here, along with a bowl of water, and something representing the Goddess Herself. This could be a statue, or simply a candle, or maybe a seashell. A bell may be found in this position as well.

The right half of the altar represents the God. Here, incense is placed, along with the wand, athame, and other items like a feather or candle, which is usually red in color. Usually, either a God statue or a candle for the God would be found, but other items, like a pine cone, can work well.

The centre of the altar is considered neutral ground. Here, the pentacle often resides, since it is usually considered to be representative of both the Goddess and the God. Many practitioners also want a small vase of flowers, to bring an element of nature to the altar, particularly if it is indoors. When outdoors, nature is all around, and so it is not necessary to add flowers to the altar.

Virtually every Wiccan has a personal altar, though the precise appearance and form will vary. The altar, in addition to being a center of worship, provides a place for all necessary tools to rest. This places them within easy reach during spells and rituals.

The best Wiccan altars are a perfect union of form and function, combining beauty with a practical place to worship and honor the Goddess and the God.

The Magick Circle and Its Place in Wiccan Ritual

It is almost impossible to think about Wiccan ritual practices without mentioning the most common ritual practice — the casting of a circle.

Casting a magickal circle is an ancient and respected practice. There are two main types of circles. There are those used to protect the practitioner from the energy that he or she might raise. The second type is meant to create sacred space. It is this second type of circle that is most common in Wiccan practice.

Indoors or Outdoors?

Typically, the magick circle is used to define ritual space. In today's world of indoor rituals, it has become a basic of most Wiccan rituals. Unfortunately, many Wiccans no longer practice outdoors, for fear of being seen.

While outdoor ritual is still the best option, it may not be viable for everyone. For example, if it's the dead of winter, and it’s below freezing outside, an indoor ritual might be more practical. And then there are those pesky neighbors. In the end, it is sometimes more practical to hold a ritual indoors.

The Purpose of the Magick Circle

The circle serves to define the ritual area, holds in the energy raised, and cuts off any energies that might interfere in rituals.

When properly cast, the magick circle serves to bring the practitioner closer to the Goddess and the God, and it can be an invigorating experience. The circle is seen to represent the Goddess, the earth, and a connection to nature.

How to Cast a Magick Circle

There are many ways to cast a magick circle. However, for most practitioners, simple is usually better.

Most often, the circle is cast with the wand. However, the athame, or even an index finger will work just fine. When the circle is cast, personal power is visualized as streaming from the body, through the wand, and drawing the circle of power. This circle becomes a sphere when completed, encompassing the entire ritual area.

If one is sensitive to the energies in the surrounding area, they may be able to feel the difference between the circle and the area around it. When someone truly devotes themselves to casting a powerful circle, it is possible to have a great deal of trouble crossing the boundary of the circle. The casting of magick circle is much more than a symbolic act, it is a truly magickal thing.

How to Set Up a Magick Circle

The boundary of the circle is usually marked on the ground in some fashion. This can be done in any number of ways. It is quite common to use a cord, chalk, salt, or sand, or even flowers or stones. Some practitioners even use tarot or oracle cards, and a few use small bones.

Traditionally, the circle is nine feet across, since nine is the number of the Goddess. But occasionally, more space might be needed, or a smaller space must be used because of location limitations.

The directional points, north, east, south, and west, are usually marked in some fashion. Sometimes lit candles are used, or colored flags, but increasingly popular are the use of ritual tools to mark the quarters. There are many options here.

The north is the quarter of the earth, of fertility, physical strength, and stability. The pentacle may be placed here, or a bowl or earth, or even a bowl of salt. In Irish traditions, a large crystal is often used to represent the mythical La Fal talisman, the stone upon which the ancient kings of Ireland were crowned.

The east is the quarter of air, of intelligence and knowledge, communication and spirituality. A censor with smoldering incense, feathers, or sometimes flowers could be used. Irish traditions tend to use a sword, representing the Sword of Nuada.

The south is the quarter of fire, of passion and change, of health and success. Some would use an oil lamp or other representation of fire in this quarter. There are practitioners who use a staff, which is representative of the Spear of Lugh from Irish mythology.

The west is the quarter of water, of emotions and love, of psychic powers and healing. Commonly found here is a cup or bowl filled with water. Many place their cauldrons there, and if they follow an Irish tradition, this represents the Cauldron of Dagda, which, in Irish mythology, was associated with abundance and healing.

There are many ways to set up a ritual space before the casting of a magick circle. There are just as many ways to cast a circle. What’s most important is that the practitioner discovers which methods work best for them. It’s about what feels right.

Wiccan Ritual Practices

Rituals have many different uses. In Wicca, rituals serve to enhance the relationship with the divine. They can be traditional, but it is not necessary. Rituals should be exactly what they need to be to aid the practitioner. The outer form they take is not nearly as important as the spirit in which they are done.

Traditionally, Wiccan rites take place on the eight holy days and on the nights of the full moon. Sometimes, Wiccans also honor the new moon. Rituals, while primarily spiritual in nature, may also include magickal workings.

Preparing for Ritual in the Wiccan Tradition

There are some procedures that are common to most Wiccan rituals. First, during any ritual, care should be taken to ensure privacy. This is not always easy, but most agree that it is worth the effort.

It is common to partake in a ritual bath or another ritual purification process before the ritual occurs. Water is viewed as a purifying substance, especially if laced with sea salt. Sometimes, the bath can become a part of the ritual itself, especially if burning candles or incense are included. Wiccans believed that the ritual bath will ensure cleanliness of body and spirit.

If near a source of water, such as a lake, river, or stream, a quick swim can serve as a ritual bath. Though there are some who skip this step, most will agree that it enhances the ritual to follow. This is especially true before initiations. Directions can be found for ritual baths or showers in most Wiccan books on the market today.

Dressing for rituals should also become a part of the the actual ritual process. Some Wiccans practice ritual nudity, and ideally everyone should be comfortable with their own unclothed bodies. However, that is not always the case. In addition, there are places where ritual nudity is impossible.

Though nudity does have significant symbolic value, as it symbolizes Wicca's honesty and openness, if it generates a feeling of fear or shame, it gets in the way of true Wiccan practice. So, if one is truly not ready for ritual nudity, or a particular group does not practice ritual nudity, then ritual robes are a wonderful option.

Ritual Robes in Wicca

Ritual robes are very popular among Wiccans today. There are many reasons to wear robes, but the overriding reason, the best reason to have special ritual garments that are only worn for magickal purposes, is that they can act as a cue to the subconscious, telling the practitioner that magickal proceedings are about to begin.

There are many colors to choose from, and each color represents a specific theme. Basic color information can be easily researched on the Internet. Some people have a robe of every color, so they can choose one appropriate for each purpose. This is unrealistic at first, and collecting five or more robes might take some time. At first, purchasing or making a white robe is sufficient. White is a good all-purpose color, and can be used for almost everything. After that, a black robe might be in order.

Of course, members of covens, or those following particular traditions, may have to wear a certain color robe. Most groups use either white or black as a basic robe color.

Solitary or Group Rituals in Wicca?

This question is probably one of the most common regarding ritual practice. The solo path is generally recommended to those who are just starting out on the Wiccan path. Practicing with others is a wonderful and rewarding experience, but it can be unnerving for those who are new to Wicca.

Everyone should at least experience group practice, even if they don't join an actual coven. Most of the best Wiccan practice can be found within a good coven. It is nice to have a group through which initiation and training can be received, but not everyone can join a group, or wants to.

Solitary practice is just as valid as any other type. Many modern Wiccans are choosing a happy medium. They essentially practice solitary, but associate themselves with a group for the purpose of initiation and learning beyond what books can teach. This is a great idea, if it can be managed.

If one chooses the solitary route, then changes their mind, they can at least approach a prospective group with some practical knowledge of Wicca, and not simply what was found in a book.

The Question of Initiation

Keep in mind that initiations don’t make the Wiccan. Those people who refuse to recognize a Wiccan simply because they lack the formal initiation of a coven are narrow-minded, and do not realize that it is faith and a true connection to nature that makes one Wiccan, not a set of degrees and titles.

This is not to invalidate traditional Wiccan initiations. They certainly have their place, and, when done properly, are a great way to standardize Wiccan training, as many will agree. And for those that wish to pursue to Wiccan priesthood, coven training is the best option. Group practice at some point is an important part of Wiccan growth. But it is not the only part. There is much to be learned from solitary practice, and it is as valid a path as any other.

The Modern Wiccan Handparting and Its Meaning

The term ‘handparting’ is used by many modern Wiccans and some pagans to indicate a divorce. At the handfasting, the Wiccan equivalent of marriage, the couple swore to remain together ‘as long as the love shall last.’ If, at some point, the couple decides that the love between them no longer exists, the couple is permitting a handparting to sever the union.

Morality of a Handparting

In some religious traditions, divorce is seen as a negative, a violation of the vows given at the time of marriage. Most commonly, these vows include, ‘’til death do us part.’ In Wicca, however, this vow is not given, and so the handparting is an end to the relationship without this difficulty. Wiccans do not generally see divorce as a negative occurrence.

Appropriate Time for a Handparting

Any time agreed upon by the couple is appropriate for a handparting. Usually only after both parties have agreed that the handfasting is truly over. If the original handfasting was also a legal marriage, then in general, the handparting occurs at a time around when the divorce is also final and legal; some couples may choose to do this sooner. If the handfasting did not involve civil law, then the handparting will not either.

Who Should Participate in a Handparting?

At the minimum, the priest or priestess and the couple should be present for the handparting. However, if one of the couple cannot be present, for whatever reason (relocation, health, possibly restraining order?), then another of the appropriate sex may stand in for the missing party. This is permitted only if there is a signed agreement from the other party. Without this, a separate ritual, perhaps a ritual of emotional release, would be more appropriate than a handparting.

Family and friends can be involved, if the couple so chooses. Children of the couple, unless they are adults and choose to participate, should generally not be involved.

The Ceremony

The exact ceremony will differ according to the wishes of the couple, and generally follows the pattern of most Wiccan rituals. The ritual can be either very short and to the point, and longer, allowing time for emotional reflection. Regardless of the length of the ritual, it is common to incorporate the following components.

The ceremony must be opened. This usually involves the casting of the circle and the calling of the quarters. These may be specific to the handparting. For example, when the quarters are invoked, they may be invoked as:

East as Wisdom
South as Decision
West as Clarity
North as Strength

This is not necessary, but can be a nice touch.

The priest or priestess will at this point usually ask both parties to confirm their intentions. How this is done is at the discretion of the couple. For some rituals, the priest or priestess will ask a question such as:

Has the time come that your love has ended and you wish for the parting of your hands?

In other cases, the priest or priestess will ask, “Why have you come here?” and the couple must answer in their own words. The goal is that the couple parts in peace, and so the ritual will reflect that. Sometimes, depending on the wishes of the couple, the priest or priestess will also ask about provisions make for the division of property and the care of any children of the marriage, but often, in the case of less amicable handpartings, this is left to other venues, such as a lawyer’s office.

At this point, rituals are very different indeed. In some cases, the ritual will simply be closed, and the couple goes their own separate ways. Sometimes, there may be a few words from the priest or priestess, or from the couple themselves. If there was a handfasting cord, this is now cut, and typically burned. If there was a handfasting chalice, this is usually shattered. The pieces are either kept by the participants or scattered in flowing water. This washes away the bonds of commitment, freeing the couple to pursue other relationships.

In some cases, where the couple intends to remain friends afterwards, a meal may be shared. If there is a great deal of animosity, this would not occur. After this has occurred (if it does at all), the circle would be opened, symbolizing a return to normal time and space. The couple then goes their separate ways.

A handparting is not seen as a failure of a handfasting or marriage. Rather, the couple is assumed to have grown and changed, as all do. And in their growth, they have found that their love is no longer what it once was. This is not a failure, but a natural conclusion to a relationship. This is not to say that all couples will or should experience a handparting. But if a couple is lead to this path, then they are not to be judged for their choice.

The Modern Wiccan Handfasting and Its Components

Handfasting is the word many Wiccans and some Pagans use for marriage ceremony. Unlike some other forms of marriage, the Wiccan rite does not promise “’til death do you part.” Instead, the Wiccan ceremony joins a couple “for as long as the love shall last.” If the love between the couple should dissolve, they are free to go their separate ways.

Components of Modern Handfastings

These days, most Wiccans will write their own handfasting rites. There are many examples that can be found on the internet alone. A quick search for “handfasting rite” or “handfasting ritual” will produce many results. In general, modern Wiccan weddings may follow this outline (with certain steps omitted, based upon the complexity of the ceremony):
  • Preparation
  • Consecration
  • Processional
  • Circle Casting
  • Quarter Calling
  • Bride’s Arrival
  • Vows
  • Closure
  • Recessional
Not all of these will necessarily be included, but the more complex rituals will have most of them. A brief explanation of each step is below.

Preparation for a Handfasting Ceremony

Preparing the handfasting ritual site will vary according to the preferences of the couple, and the site chosen. Usually, an altar and ceremonial circle are erected, but the details are completely different from one ritual to the next. In more complex rituals, separate areas (tents or rooms) will be required. For the more simple ceremonies, a single site will do.

Wiccan Handfasting Consecration

Before the bridal party begins to enter the ritual site, the Priest or Priestess usually briefly cleanses the ceremonial space. This is known as consecration. Sometimes this is done before the guests are seated, but it is almost never omitted.

Processional in a Handfasting Ceremony

At some point, the bridal party does have to enter the ritual site. Usually, the groom and attendants will enter at his point. Whether the bride enters now is personal preference. Some couples like to have some bits of ceremony, such as the casting of the circle, in between the arrival of the bride and groom. Other will choose to have the bride within the circle when it is cast.

Circle Casting

A common element of most Wiccan rituals is the casting of the circle. This occurs now, and can be a standard casting, or something special, created specifically for a handfasting. A common circle casting at weddings might be:

Creature of the Earth, where thou art cast,
Let no adverse purpose last,
Not in complete accord with me,
As I will, so shall it be.

Quarter Calling

For a handfasting, the calling of the quarters is usually something a little more specific to the setting. The following may be appropriate:

Powers of East, Powers of Air, I call thee forth.
Come forth and bear witness to [bride] and [groom], who have come to know great love for one another.
Hail and Welcome!

This would, of course, be altered for each of the four quarters.

Bride’s Arrival During the Handfasting

If the bride didn’t arrive during the processional, she must at this point enter the circle, in a manner appropriate to the particular ritual used. Flower girls are quite common at handfastings, and usually precede the bride.

Wiccan Handfasting Vows

The exact vows spoken are almost never the same from one ceremony to the next. However, many Wiccan ceremonies have several phases of the ‘vows’ component. These may include commissioning; legality and capacity; and vows.

During commissioning, the Priest or Priestess speak of what handfasting entails, and the duties and responsibilities of the parties involved; the exact nature of this is usually decided on by the couple, in consultation with the Priest or Priestess.

Legality and capacity relates to the nature of the marriage (i.e. whether it will be a legal marriage.). If the handfasting is also to be a legal marriage, there are certain questions and assertions that must take place; these are governed by local governments, and are the responsibility of the person performing the marriage ceremony.

Vows are usually written by the couple, the vows are traditionally where the couple agrees to share their lives together, for as long as love exists between them.

Closure of the Handfasting Ceremony

Even the most beautiful of ceremonies must come to and end. This is usually announced by the Priest or Priestess, but in some cases, the couple may choose to do this. The circle must be closed and the quarters dismissed. Also, some couples choose to incorporate a broom jump. Finally, a pronouncement is made, declaring the couple married.

Handfasting Recessional

The bridal party must exit the ritual area in a manner of their choosing. After this, pictures and a reception usually follow, as with most modern wedding ceremonies.

No matter what ceremony you use, the handfasting should be a beautiful and memorable event. Flowers and d├ęcor should not be overlooked. For those non-pagan guests, a program to assist in following the ceremony might be in order. A well-planned handfasting does take work, but is definitely worth the effort.