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, November 30, 2012

Ashling Wicca, Book One

If you're interested in exploring the vastness of Ashling Wicca, take a look at the first book in the Ashling Wiccan Series. You'll learn the very basics of this tradition and come to understand its mysteries. You also have the option of purchasing the accompanying workbook. Ashling Wicca, Book Two, is soon to be released, so your study of Ashling Wicca can continue without interruption.

From the back of the book:

Now you can study the wisdom and beauty of Ashling Wicca in the first book to ever publish its teachings. The Ashling Wiccan series reveals the mysteries and origins of this unique tradition and presents information useful for both the beginner and the seasoned practitioner. Lessons presented here include history, philosophy, and living the essence of Ashling Wicca.

Because initiation into this tradition can only be acquired under the direction of an initiated High Priestess of Ashling Wicca, this guide is presented by an expert on Ashling Wicca, a woman who has been traditionally initiated into Ashling Wicca. Here you will find the basic information necessary to begin following the Ashling path. Within this book you will find spells and the beginnings of ceremonies and the details of magick in Ashling Wicca. Everything in this book is designed to enhance your experience of Ashling Wicca.

From the back of the workbook:

Learning a tradition of Wicca requires more than simply reading a book. It requires study, reflection, and absorbing the material. This workbook is designed to help the student of Ashling Wicca to do these things. Designed as a companion to "Ashling Wicca, Book One," the workbook provides tests, exercises, journal entries, and reflections all intended to further your understanding of Ashling Wicca.

This book should be used in conjunction with "Ashling Wicca, Book One." The units in each book are identical, allowing you to easily line up the written information from the master book with the tests and other material from the workbook. Use both to get a thorough introduction to Ashling Wicca.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Philosophy of Wicca

Wicca is a beautiful religion full of love and joy. In its purest form, Wicca lacks the idea of original sin, and the very notion of happiness and salvation being possible only in the afterlife is anathema. The music of Wicca is joyous, expressing love and companionship. This love and joy comes primarily from Wicca’s close link with nature, a link which is reminiscent of what the people of ancient times experienced.

Nature and Ancient Man in Europe

Ancient people lived in harmony with the land. Out of necessity, they were a part of nature, not separate from it. They took only what they needed, and gave what they could. The respected both plants and animals. The natural order of things included ancient man, and they knew this.

This is not to say that the ancients were vegetarians, for they did indeed kill to eat. However, they had an innate respect for what they killed, they used as much of the animal as possible, and they didn’t kill more than they needed. The animal was honored for its sacrifice, not simply killed and consumed. Ancient man had a powerful and unique link with nature.

Wicca and Its Link With Nature

Most modern men and women have lost this link with nature, mostly because they are no longer directly dependent upon nature for their survival. Food is purchased at supermarkets, shelter is obtained though the purchasing of a house or the renting of an apartment, and clothing can be found at the nearest department store. Modern man doesn’t always realize how necessary nature is to everyday survival.

Wiccans see nature in a different light. Even in a world full of technology and mechanics, Wiccans find a connection to nature. A Wiccan understands that everything is alive and connected. A Wiccan might take a walk through the woods and stop to touch a delicate flower or hug a tree, knowing that in some way, this love and joy is transmitted and understood, and that it will be reciprocated.

Creating Your Own Link With Nature

If you wish to experience this link for yourself, take a walk through a wooded area. Find a large tree, preferably oak or pine, and sit with your back pressed firmly against the trunk. Close your eyes, relax your body, and open your mind. Gradually, you will feel exhaustion, anger, and tension disappear as it is absorbed into the tree and dispersed into the earth. Allow yourself to absorb a sense of comfort and stability from the tree. When you feel ready, thank the tree and continue on your way.

A simpler approach is to take the time to appreciate nature as it exists all around you. Acknowledge the trees, the plants, and the animals that share your environment. If you can, go barefoot through the grass, making contact with the earth below your feet. Respect nature and all it represents. This also means caring for nature, as nature cares for you.

People are a part of nature, whether they acknowledge this consciously or not. Connect with people, be among people, and offer assistance when you can. But do not seek to rule another’s life; let them live their own life. And you should live as you will, but with harm to none, as the Wiccan Rede specifies.

Wicca is a religion full of magick and love, as is reflected in its rituals. Its philosophy is no complex than the deep and abiding respect for nature that this religion engenders, and this respect is revealed by the care most Wiccans show all that exists in the natural world.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The History of Wicca: Wicca in the 20th Century

Following the Witch Trials of the 15th and 16th centuries, any surviving pagans went so deeply underground, figuratively speaking, that they seemed to have disappeared entirely. However, a set of beliefs doesn’t die that easily. The 20th century saw a renewed interest in witchcraft and paganism. But the birth of modern Wicca was due purely to the efforts of a dedicated few.

Margaret Murray and Her Contribution to Modern Wicca

Dr. Margaret Alice Murray was a British anthropologist and Egyptologist in the first half of the 20th century. She is most famous for her work The Witch Cult in Western Europe, which she published in 1921. This was the first time in centuries that anyone had looked at witchcraft or paganism with anything resembling an unbiased light.

She proposed the idea that there was a massive and organized resistance to the Christian Church during the Middle Ages in Europe. Murray’s research had led her to believe that the pagan religions, rather than simply being a hoax perpetrated by the Church, were indeed ancient beliefs, beliefs that some had kept alive. She felt very strongly that, in ancient times, before the coming of Christianity, the pagans were an organized religion.

While some of her theories (such as the secret conspiracy of pagans amongst the English kings) proved to be a little far-fetched, and sometimes completely mistaken, she did shine a light onto pagan practice. While it was probably not an organized religion, many forms of paganism, some of which can be called witchcraft, were practiced in ancient Europe.

Though often criticized for her work, Dr. Murray remained very convinced of her position. She later expanded upon her views in her second book, The God of the Witches, in 1931.

Gerald Gardner’s Contribution to Modern Wicca

When the final laws against witchcraft were repealed in England in 1951, those who practiced pagan religions were free to speak for themselves. One of the people who did so was Dr. Gerald Brousseau Gardner. This man, who sometimes operated under the Craft name Scire, was a British anthropologist, archaeologist, writer, occult expert, and he described himself as both a Witch and a Wiccan.

Gardner had spent much of his life in Asia, where he developed a strong interest in native peoples and their magical practices. After he retired and returned to England, he was initiated into the Wiccan faith by the New Forest Coven in 1939. Gardner believed that this faith was, if not a direct continuance, at least related to the beliefs of ancient Europe. Fearing that these beliefs were in danger of being lost forever, he set about making sure that didn’t happen.

In 1954, Gardner published the first truly influential book on Wicca, Witchcraft Today. Five years later, he authored The Meaning of Witchcraft. He devoted himself to Wicca and its beliefs, and initiated many notable High Priestesses into Wicca, among them:
  • Doreen Valiente;
  • Patricia Crowther;
  • Eleanor Bone; and
  • Lois Bourne.
Later in life, Gardner would found his own tradition of Wicca, rewriting and reworking many of the rituals he had been taught. Gardnerian Wicca combined the teachings of the New Forest Coven with Freemasonry, Ceremonial Magic, and the writings of occult expert Aleister Crowley.
His work has faced some criticism. There have been some who claimed that Gardner made up Wicca entirely, and still others say he took credit for the work done by Aleister Crowley. These charges are probably not true, but even if there were, Gardner’s impact on modern Wicca cannot be denied.
Often referred to as the “Father of Wicca”, Gerald Gardner is respected within most Wiccan circles today.
Raymond Buckland and Wicca in North America
In North America, the first person to publically admit to being Wiccan was Raymond Buckland. Initiated by High Priestess Monique Wilson in Scotland in 1963, Buckland returned home to the United States shortly after. He brought Gardnerian Wicca with him, founding the first lineaged Gardnerian coven in the US.
Buckland is an author of some repute. He first began publishing in 1969 with A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. He published several more books in the following years, and has published a book in almost every year since this time. Though he is best known for Buckland’s Complete Guide to Witchcraft, first published in 1986, he is currently the author of more than forty books.
In 1973, Buckland founded his own Wiccan tradition. Seax-Wica (Seax Wicca) is based upon symbolism from Anglo-Saxon sources, but it does not claim to be a reconstruction of any religion practiced during that era. The entire tradition was published in his book The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. Today, Seax-Wica has thousands of practitioners around the world.
There are many other people who have contributed to Wicca’s growth and expansion in the 20th century, such as Scott Cunningham, Sybil Leek, Gavin and Yvonne Frost, and Janet and Stewart Farrar. Modern Wicca survived the 20th century through the efforts of many people who are dedicated to its beliefs and practices.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The History of Wicca: The Malleus Maleficarum

In 1486, two German monks wrote a book that was soon to become infamous. Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich (Institor) Kramer created the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer) to give very definite instructions for the persecution of witchcraft during the Witch Trials. This book only ignited the already delicate situation in Europe, adding fuel to the raging persecution of innocents.

The Witches’ Hammer was divided very carefully into three separate parts.

The First Part of the Malleus Maleficarum

The first section of this book concludes that there are three things that must be present for witchcraft to be practiced. These are:
  • A witch;
  • The Devil; and
  • The permission of God.
The Malleus Maleficarum declares that to not believe in witchcraft must be heresy. It goes on to discuss several matters regarding what witches can and cannot do. Some items prominently discussed are:
  • A witch’s copulation with the Devil;
  • Whether witches can impede the ability to have children;
  • Whether children can be produced by Incubi and Succubi;
  • The various ways in which witches can kill children in the womb; and
  • Whether witches can sway the minds of men.
This first part of the infamous book has several chapters addressing the sexual aspects of witchcraft, revealing a certain obsession of the authors.
The Second Part of the Malleus Maleficarum
There is much detail concerning how witchcraft is worked, how it can be detected, and the ways in which it may be undone or warded against. This is the purview of the second section of the Malleus Maleficarum. Most of the items dealt with here are pulled simply from the imagination of the authors. For example, there is a chapter that focuses purely on how witches entice innocents to follow them, making a pact with evil. This, of course, is the purest nonsense.
There are many other interesting, yet completely incorrect details in this section of the Malleus Maleficarum. For example:
  • How witches transport from place to place in an instant;
  • The ways in which witches are able to prevent a woman from conceiving;
  • How witches, in the guise of midwives, kill children or offer them to devils; and
  • The various means of controlling the weather and animals.
Following these descriptions of the powers of witches are remedies for each.
The Third Part of the Malleus Maleficarum
This is by far the most famous section of the book. It is in the third section of the Malleus Maleficarum where you can find descriptions relating to the prosecution of witches, both in civil and clerical courts. Trials are explained in detail, beginning with an account of who the proper judges for a trial of this kind might be. From there, the book continues:
  • Beginning the trial process;
  • The examination of witnesses; and
  • Eliciting a confession.
It should be noted that the Malleus Maleficarum suggests that the testimony of anyone should be accepted. Even those who could give testimony in no other case were permitted to speak when it came to trials regarding witchcraft. Mortal enemies, criminals, and even children could testify, and their words would be taken as evidence against the accused.
The Malleus Maleficarum was submitted to the University of Cologne, the appointed censor of the time, for approval. However, the Theological Faculty refused to acknowledge the ridiculous work. Undaunted, Kramer and Sprenger simply forged the approbation of the entire faulty. Unfortunately, this forgery was not discovered until the year 1898. By then, the damage had been done, and the Witch Trials continued upon their timeline.
It would be hundreds of years before the persecutions would die down enough for some of the beliefs from early Europe to be resurrected. When they were, in the 20th century, one of the new adaptations was Wicca.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The History of Wicca — The Witch Trials

Far after the coming of Christianity, and with the introduction of the bull against witches by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484, the hysteria regarding witches and other pagans began to rise. The smear campaigns carried over from early Europe right into the Middle Ages. Then, in the 15th and 16th centuries, actions against the so-called ‘witches’ became truly violent.

Heinrich Insititoris Kramer and Jakob Sprenger

In 1486, two German monks who would later become infamous, produced an incredibly anti-witch book. Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger wrote the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer), which was a concoction full of ideas regarding the proper persecution of witches. This book, which was composed of three parts, covered such things as:
  • Various ways in which witches may kill children conceived in the womb;
  • Whether witches can sway the minds of men;
  • How witches prevent procreation; and
  • The proper way to persecute and punish witches.
This book was submitted to the appointed censor of the time, the University of Cologne. However, the majority of the professors refused to have anything to do with such a dubious work. They refused approbation for the Malleus Maleficarum. Undaunted, Kramer and Sprenger simply forged the approval of the entire faculty. Unfortunately, this forgery was not discovered until 1898. By then, the damage had been done.
The Impact of the Malleus Maleficarum
The publication of The Witches’ Hammer ignited hysteria across most of Europe. For nearly three hundred years, suspected pagans and witches were actively targeted; it didn’t seem to matter if anyone was actually guilty or not. Entire villages, suspected of being under the influence of witchcraft, were put to death.
As an example, in 1586, the archbishop of Treves concluded that witches were responsible for the severe winter in his region. After using torture to obtain ‘confessions’ from 120 men and women, he executed these alleged witches. They were all burned to death, as the law dictated. At the time, the laws in Scotland and Continental Europe enforced burning at the stake, while England and New England hung witches instead.
There are many estimates regarding the number of people actually killed during the Witch Trials. Numbers as high as 9 million have been suggested. Most likely, the number is approximately 500,000. Obviously, these could not all have been pagans or witches. In truth, there were probably only a very few pagans and witches actually killed during this time. Most people executed for witchcraft would have been God-fearing people.
Very often, the charge of witchcraft was used to get rid of someone who could not otherwise be targeted. There was virtually no defense against witchcraft. Once you were accused, you were almost certain to be found guilty. However, being accused of witchcraft wasn’t an automatic death sentence. Only 48%-50% of trials ended in execution. Others were given what were seen as ‘appropriate’ punishments, such as:
  • Flogging;
  • Stoning;
  • Public humiliation; or
  • Loss of all status and material wealth.
The timeline of the Witch Trials is somewhat difficult to pin down, as not everything was properly recorded. However, it is certain that as Europe was caught in the fires of persecution, many innocent people were killed.
In 1604 King James I passed the Witchcraft Act, which promised harsh sentences for anyone convicted of witchcraft. However, in 1736 this was repealed and replaced with an act that declared witchcraft did not exist, and to pretend to have occult powers was to face being charged with fraud. By this point, belief in witchcraft had faded into the background, but it never really disappeared.
For many years, it was thought that the beliefs of old Europe had been left in the past. However, belief doesn’t die that easily. The beliefs were dormant, passed on by a dedicated few, only to be revived and adapted in the 20th century. One of these adaptations was a ‘New Age’ religion known as Wicca.