In the early days the Old Religion consisted of a simple nature-worhip. By the time of the channel crossing, this had evolved to worship of a goddess, represented by the moon, and ruling over Birth, Life, Love, Death, and That-Which-Comes-Hereafter. The goddess is referred to by a different name depending on the phase of the moon. In time a god also became involved, eventually gaining equality to, but never supremacy over, the goddess. The goddess is thought to rule the year from Yule to Midsummers Eve, the god from Midsummers Eve to Yule.
This is an illustration showing a playing card. This particular one was devised by a painter during the reign ofCharles VII and was used in Naples in 1580.
There are eight festivals, or Sabbats, in the witch year, which may be shown as follows in terms of importance:
Walpurgisnacht (April 30) and All Hallows Eve (October 31) Candlemas Eve (January 30) and Lammas Eve (July 31)
Winter Festival (Saturnalia) Spring Equinox and Fall Equinox
These festivals, it may be seen, fall at about six weeks' interval.
A gathering of worshippers (called a coven) meeting at any of these festival occasions is called a Sabbat. Other coven meetings are for social gatherings and are called esbats. A coven may consist of anywhere from three members on up, though thirteen has been considered a good number. Members take turns at being coven leader, or representative of the god or goddess, and conduct ceremonies.
The ceremonies themselves begin with the drawing of the circle with an athame, a small ceremonial knife. Exact details of ceremonial procedure are only revealed to members of the old religion, but at NO TIME is there any sacrifice of any sort, or any sexual activity. The Druids drew some of their beliefs from the Old Religion, but sacrifice was peculiar to the Druids and is considered abhorrent by the white witches. Orgies were introduced by Satanists, who didn't appear on the scene until Christianity has been around for some time. The sabbat ceremonies are concluded by a shared meal, similar to the early Christian agape, or love feast.
In philosophy, the followers of the Old Religion believe in harmony and oneness with nature and the universe. They are pacifistic and charitable and refuse reward for their services, many of which are in the area of folk medicine. The Old Religion discourages proselytizing and is cautious in admitting new members lest their motivation be one of using witchcraft as a means to an end rather than as a philosophy of life in itself. Part of this caution is a holdover from the days of persecution when thousands died at the stake. As the tale of persecution would in itself take many pages, it may suffice to mention that even now archaic laws exist forbidding witchcraft, yet another reason for remaining quiet.
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