Witch is a word that does this for Pagans. Since I consider myself an eclectic witch who is seeking, it was a title I hesitated taking on as I traveled my path through paganism.
If you use the title Witch among the highly religious group, it has meanings like consorting with the devil, sacrificing children, and all the other evil things in the world. If you use it in entertainment circles ideas of Bewitched, Practical Magic, The Craft, Charmed, and a lot of other shows.
Witch to me in my practice is someone who is seeking balance in her practices. I tried Wicca and it was too good for me. It was all about the positive flow of energy and you never do bad spells and so on. To me it was an over balance of white magic.
I had the ethical discussions about how some things are just wrong but nothing is absolute and I don’t feel my practices or beliefs are absolute either. I respect Wicca, follow many of its tenants but found the practices unrealistic.
Dark magic is also an absolute and not something I feel works. I explored some of the tenants of this path as well.
Having rejected the extremes of the spectrum of Paganism, I had to find something in the middle, something that accepted that sometimes negative actions are the only actions open to us. For me this is being a witch.
My definition of a witch is one who seeks balance and harmony. She is someone who attempts to follow the path of light but knows that sometimes the road takes us to dark places. This sounds like it could be a slippery slope and it could be. This is why I have to think before I act, think before I react. The point is to find the balance between the two extremes.
The problem with being a witch or with calling yourself a witch is as soon as people hear the word, they make assumptions. It isn’t just those people out in the world, it is the people closest to you who make assumptions. I have a sister is disparaging about my beliefs. Mind you, she’s never sat down to discuss my beliefs with me but she makes assumptions about my beliefs.
To her, I am the wicked witch because she makes assumptions about what the title Witch means. At first I was hesitant to even tell my husband and daughters. I should have known better. Their response was – okay and? It didn’t really affect them in any way.
Assumptions are ingrained in us. Reinforced with our life experiences and those of our family. The key is recognizing when you are letting an assumption influence you and determine whether the assumption matches the situation. Am I a wicked witch? Maybe… is it what others assume that a wicked witch is? Probably not…
Recently, my family had an emergency with my mother (who’s 83). She spent the holiday weekend in the hospital. She suffered a very mild stroke. She was lucky in that she has little residual after affects from the stroke.
For my siblings, chaos and drama ensued. I like a drama free life. I try to keep centered and balanced which doesn’t always work. We came back early from our daughter’s home out of state in order to be part of the discussion of mom’s care once she came out of the hospital.
Instead of the calm rational discussion I wanted to have with my siblings, I got drama. To be fair, I don’t have the best of relationships with my siblings. I don’t feed into their drama and remove myself from it often. I’m sure this hurts their feelings because I won’t play their games.
I was hoping we could come together like adults to determine how we can all work together to help mom while she heals and recovers from her stroke. I hoped for too much. One sister wouldn’t even be in the same room with me. One sister said two sentences to me and left again. It shouldn’t be hard for five grown women and one grown man to sit in a room and say, here is what needs to be done and this is who is going to do each of these parts. Apparently in my family it is.
When this drama occurred, I have to say I left the gathering angry, overwrought, and unreasonable. I wanted to slap my siblings and was tired of their usual drama. After speaking with my mother’s doctors and the physical therapist, I opted to take a balanced and calm approach to what needed doing.
The pt said she needed a grab bar to help her get in and out of the tub. I simply bought one and will give it to my sister (who my mother lives with). She also wants her to have a gait belt (for when she is using her walker and has someone there to help her walk). I bought that as well. It was money I couldn’t afford but it is my mother and she needs it. The total cost was about $50 which puts me short until pay day but I’ll manage. It didn’t need to be a drama.
The pt said she needed a walker. My husband has a connection with someone who is connected to an organization who loans them out to anyone who needs them. My mom will have her walker today at no cost. Again, we did this because it needed doing and quite frankly I didn’t want to deal with the drama of trying to get the family to agree to do anything.
I’m sure there will be ongoing issues with my family. How can there not be? I’m going to try to have a better approach to it as I move forward. I have to remember my mantras I’ve created when dealing with their drama in the past. One of which is “I am surrounded by a brilliant white light, I am guarded by a brilliant white light, I am protected by a brilliant white light.” This mantra helps remind me to keep in my own bubble while dealing with people who are difficult and unpleasant.
The other thing I do to cope is to go to my comfort zones. This could be a conversation with one of my daughters, holding hands with my husband, or just listening to quiet music while meditating. It is a matter of segregating myself from the negative energy my sisters give off and keeping myself in a positive and loving place. While this is difficult when I’m interacting with them, it is important to keep me balance (and sane or as sane as I can be) and in finding my balance when I’m no longer in the difficult situation.
As the Summer winds down towards the Autumnal Equinox, we are in between two seasons. In this time of transition, we stand at a crossroads, one foot in the Waxing Year, one in the Waning. Hot sunny days give way to cooler nights. The rains are more frequent and last all night, and out in the garden I am bringing in a harvest as well as getting ready to 'winterize.' Most trees are still vibrant and green, but here and there you can see a tinge of rusty red or a shock of yellow leaves. The light thickens like honey, and even as we are enjoy the last days of Summer's warmth and light, we already sense the slow steady pull downward, towards the Descent and the darkening days of the Waning Year. Right now we stand suspended between these two seasons, and for a brief moment we feel balance.
Balance is the law that governs all of nature, but it rarely shows itself as a static, tranquil point. The balance I'm talking about is a dance, a commotion of interconnected and interdependent parts that make up the living systems of our planet. The plants, animals, land and weather all interact and act upon each other, effecting the very shape of the landscape. Any change or disruption to one part of the web will be felt throughout it. Those changes can be for good or ill, but they are unpredictable and may take a long time to reveal themselves. At Mabon, we stand in a place of balance where many possibilities are open to us. We strive to come to a still point of balance, amidst change and potential, where we can take a moment and see where we are, in our lives and the Year, and the webs of connection that make up our own lives.
So where do we find our balance? How do we accommodate all the obligations we take on, with all the wants and desires we have? Can we see where our lives are out of balance, where we may be feeling depleted or unsure, the parts not meshing smoothly? How do we come back into balance? What 'course corrections' do we need to make to get back on track with our lives and our magick? Mabon offers the light to see things clearly, and the compassion to see things kindly. We are grateful for the harvest we are bringing in, and we honor the labor and sacrifice that went into it. We honor the abundant season, even as it changes into something else.
Our lives are change. We ourselves are constantly transforming, as the seasons of our lives ebb and flow. We do not remain in balance for long, because the push and pull of our lives doesn’t stop. At Mabon we take a moment to stop, to listen, to feel our bodies on the Earth, to enjoy the pleasures of food and fellowship with those we love. We give thanks to our Gods, the Gods and Goddesses of the field and the forest and the orchard, who are literally showering us with blessings right now. Take a minute to feel those blessings, and to give thanks for that moment of balance and peace.
Weigh Your Words. Four months have passed since Samhain, the new year, where you probably planned all sorts of wonderful changes for yourself. Draw a scale on a clean page in your Book of Shadows. One one side, write or draw all the things you've managed to accomplish since Samhain. On the other side, write or draw those things that are still in progress or waiting to happen. Look at both sides of the scale. Which side is heavier? Of the things you still have to do, are there any that you found difficult? What did you do when you were faced with that challenge? Did you put it off, or try and succeed? Or fail? How did you feel about that? Maybe you're in the midst of a task right now--how is that coming along? What about your accomplishments? Even if that side of the scale has less on it, perhaps those things took a great deal of work. Think about it and write down your feelings.
Cup of Wonder. Creating a touchstone--or in this case, touchstones--will help you regain balance as the seasons change. Wash a chalice or cup and three small crystals with salt water to purify them. Crystals can be purchased, but if you can't do that, then find three white stones that remind you of the full moon. Fill the cup with water and place it outside where it will catch the light (and the energy) of the moon. Leave it out until at least noon the next day so that it will also capture the sun's light and energy. Remove the stones and rinse them with plain water and pat them dry. Your touchstones now have the power of equal day and equal night. Carry them for balance, enlightenment and growing strength--but first, it's time to get even!
A Balancing Act. Add some action to your spell by turning yourself into a scale: Hold your stones in your left hand and close your eyes. Slowly extend your arms out from your sides and open your palms being careful not to drop your stones. Picture your empty hand filled with the things you need to get done. In your mind, weigh your tasks against your touchstone, adding energy to the touchstone until you feel that both hands are carrying the same weight. Move your arms up and down as the weight is added to help you visualize. When both sides are even, your touchstone and energy will be in balance with what you want to accomplish.
Time Weights for No One. As the warm days of Spring dance merrily towards Summer, keep track of those tasks that have yet to be done. Do you still find yourself bumping a particular job to the back of the list? Why do you think that is? Do you feel that your moon-stones are helping you in any way? Why or why not? If you feel your touchstone could use a little boost, wait until the next full moon and work the magic again--then return to your Book of Shadows to keep tabs on your progress.
by Natalie Zaman
The spring equinox is only a few weeks away. It is part of the modern festival wheel, not because there’s any real evidence for it being celebrated historically, but because it balances things up nicely. It being the time when days and nights are the same length, we tend to talk a lot about balance around these two festivals. However, every lunar month offers two rounds of balance between light and dark in the shape of the moon, so there are other times we might feel directed to consider balance, too.
Are equinoxes really a time of balance? I do not feel that point of day and night in equilibrium especially. What I do notice a lot at this time of year, is the racing change in day length. Around the equinoxes, we have the greatest pace on the balance between night and day changing. Every day right now is a little longer than the one before it, and I’m intensely conscious not of balance, but of a sudden feeling of hurtling towards summer.
I’m waking earlier as the first light comes a lot sooner, and I’m seeing shades of blue in the sky into the evening. My living patterns shift with the changing light. I have more energy in the light half of the year. My days are longer, and soon I will be able to go back to waking in the evenings – something I love to do but which just doesn’t work in the middle of winter. So on a personal level I’m not feeling balance, I’m feeling change, and that shifting from the hibernating part of the year when I don’t want to go out much, into the better weather and more light, when I have more energy and feel more inclined to be out and about.
What is balance? It can be stasis. It can be peace. Often what balance means, is that all the forces at play are precisely matched. Balance may not be a place of calm at all, but a stillness created by incredible tensions. Consider the balance of a suspension bridge. Physical balance is not a passive thing, often, but requires attention, effort, skill. When that balance fails, or some other thing shifts, the many forces at play can result in a sudden, explosive shift in an unpredictable direction. That which seemed balanced, can become very unsettlingly chaotic at great speed, thanks to the smallest changes. As a consequence, perfect balance is not something I am keen to cultivate. It is too easily snapped and shattered.
Trees have a balance created by the relationship of roots to branches. They are also capable of flexing, and by leaning a bit with the wind, they are able to carry on being mostly upright. Trees on windswept hillsides don’t always bother with being straight, but adopt the shape the wind suggests. Not balanced, but workable. Sometimes it is better to lean. Sometimes the off-balance thing is more viable. Stability can be misleading, and stillness is not always dependable.
These "almond-shaped eyes"
see two worlds.
seeing through both.
a special kind of sight.
and abstract, mystical
their connections seen,
in exquisite dance.
Fishes must swim
in water of life.
Salmon of wisdom
in sacred well,
Engine and lens.
The way is danced,
and flown, and swum
in love and joy
and pain and wisdom.
each of you,
“Vesica Piscis” Lia Hunter, 2012
I was inspired to write this poem last year when I came across the Wikipedia article for Vesica Piscis. The shamanic concept, “walking between the worlds,” became, “seeing between the worlds,” when I thought of the shape as an eye, and as an opening or overlapping of two circles/lenses/worlds. The vibrational sense of parallax when the whole is apparently sundered was another resounding sense of things I took from it.
The article mentions a yonic interpretation, and the image of the cover of the Chalice Well at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, that I’m reusing here, is pointing me along a trail towards Goddess, today. The sacred wells of the Celtic lands (ancestral lands for me) are linked to the Lady of the Healing Waters, Wells, and Springs aspect of the goddess Brighid. My participation in the SageWoman blogs is a kind of pilgrimage, as to Her sacred wells.
I think that I am more well-versed in shamanism and general spirituality than in Goddess-centered spirituality. I am more of an animist and pantheist than a theist, but I am on a familiar and affectionate basis with some deities. Used to taking in the holistic, broad view – it’s kind of my cognitive style – I never did focus very much on any one deity or set of deities, much less their sex or gender, though I’ve always enjoyed learning about them. If I do refer to non-specific deity, I like to use “Goddess” just to contribute to balancing the scale in my traditionally patriarchal society (Western civilization, as well as Utah). My affinity for balance hasn’t led me to affiliate with feminine deities, but I do include them equally.
When I was first leaving the patriarchal Mormonism of my birth, in my early 20s, I took their concept of the Heavenly Mother (whom we weren’t allowed to interact with, only acknowledge the existence of) and decided to approach both God and Goddess in prayer to ask my Heavenly Parents if it was all right for me to interact with them both, in balance, and claim what seemed like my rightful contact with the Divine Feminine, and to explore that atrophied side of things that had been kept out of my reach, as a Mormon. My answer came in a peaceful meditative silence where everything felt right, and there was no dissonance to indicate that it could be a bad idea or forbidden ground. I felt a sense of “Of course. It’s only natural.” I was in my childhood back yard, under an apple tree, and I just became aware, amidst the silence and warmth, of the bees that were flying along the tops of the grass around me. I got a strong sense of the bees being a message, and since I didn’t quite understand the message, that I would understand later.
Bees are a symbol in Mormonism, of the industrious Mormon people working for their communal hive. Maybe I wondered if it had something to do with that. I hadn’t broken away from the religion just yet (that would come the next year, in 2000), but had just started exploring outside the permitted bounds. I’m pretty sure I made a connection about nature, and wholeness, in being in the center of the bees’ dance under the sun, in the orchard, sitting on the Earth. It wasn’t until much later that I read about bees being sacred to the widely-venerated Artemis of Ephesus (or Great Mother Goddess), and years later than that when I remembered my bee-answer to that prayer… the first time I prayed to the Goddess.
Upon drifting away from theism, farther down my path, I stopped praying altogether. I may be ready to reinvent this ritual in a way that fits my current understandings and relations. I might peer through vesica piscis, the center and balance between the worlds that are apparently separate, but probably actually whole, and reconnect with that side which was kept from me and my sisters (and from my brothers, too). I sense sweet honey (and Healing Waters) waiting for me. :)
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)