Death ceremony

Wiccans as a group don't ritualize mourning. Death is a doorway through which souls pass to re-enter the realm of the Goddess. Bodies are simply suits that we wear and use until they wear out, or until we have no need for further lessons and opportunities in this lifetime. Bodies should be taken care of, but their deaths (the soul never dies) aren't, traditionally speaking, times for ritualized sorrow. How can it be in a religion that embraces reincarnation; that sees bodily death as but one of many such transitions that the human soul will experience ?

Naturally, Wiccans grieve, and many have small rites to mark the transition of a loved one. Few of these rites have been printed. You may write your own if you feel the need.

self-initiation and initiation rituals

Finally, you may wish to record your own self-initiation ceremony. You may even write or adapt an initiation ceremony, if you have any plans to ever teach others your Wiccan tradition. It's never too early to start planning.

suggested reading:

Circle Castings:

(Most of the below include both creating and releasing the circle.) Farrar, What Witches Do. (Pages 56-60) Valiente, Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 155-159) Starhawk, The Spiral Dance. (Pages 55-57)

Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. (Pages 115-122)

Buckland, The Tree. (Pages 38-41; here entitled 'Erecting the Temple' and 'Clearing the Temple')

Consecration of Tools:

Farrar and Farrar, The Witches' Way. (Pages 44-48) Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Slater, Pagan Rituals III. (Page 59) Valiente's Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 164-166)

Cakes and Wine:

Farrar and Farrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Page 46)

Slater, Pagan Rituals III. (Pages 69 and 70 contain blessings for the cakes and the wine.)

Buckland's The Tree. (Pages 54-56; here termed'Cakes and Ale') Buckland, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Page 63)

Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, (page 123; here termed the 'Simple Feast')

Handfastings:

Buckland, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 97- 99; includes, wisely, a Handparting as well.)

Buckland's The Tree. (Pages 78-81; a 'Hand-Parting' ceremony can be found on pp. 82-84.)

Farrar andFarrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 160-165)

Birth Celebrations:

Farrar and Farrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 153-159)

Buckland, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 99-100)

Buckland's The Tree: A Book of Saxon Witchcraft. (Pages 85-87)

Death Ceremonies:

Farrar and Farrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 166-173; here termed 'Requiem'.)

Buckland, The Tree. (Pages 88-90; here termed 'Crossing the Bridge [At Death]'.)

Buckland, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 100-101; termed as in the above entry.)

Self-Initiation:

Valiente's Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 159-164)

Farrar and Farrar, The Witches' Way. (Pages 244-250)

Initiations:

FarrarandFarrar, The Witches' Way. (Pages 9-20)

Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 46-49)

I've listed the above two sources because they're among the most complete treatments of initiation in print, but many, many other Wiccan books discuss initiation and/or provide ritual scripts. These are all for coven use, of course.

i 8: beliefs i TS eliefs' isn't the best word, but the only other ones that I could come JLAip with were 'tenets' and 'concepts', neither of which is satisfactory. Since religion is usually conceived of as being built on beliefs, this word will have to serve.

general traditional wiccan beliefs

Aside from strictly deity-oriented beliefs, Wiccans share a few others, including:

© The Goddess and God are revered. This is central to Wiccan thought.

© Human souls enjoy a series of incarnations in human form. Reincarnation is one of the most wide-spread of Wiccan beliefs. Precisely how and why we incarnate several times is open to mystical speculation. Few Wiccan traditions have specific teachings regarding this doctrine. Some simply state that we reincarnate and meet others we've known in past lives. Others are more specific, some less specific. Some traditions say that we never switch sexes from one life to another; still others state that we choose whichever gender is appropriate for our evolutionary lessons. There's little agreement.

Power can be sent in non-physical form to affect the world in positive ways. Thus, we accept both the practice of magic and its effectiveness.

What is done will be returned to the doer. Precisely how this energy is returned has been a matter of great speculation. Some Wiccans state that the Goddess performs this function; others that it's a law of the universe, like gravity, and that no one being is in charge of seeing that this occurs. It's an automatic response, like a ricochet.

The Earth is our home, our Goddess. It's not a tool that we can ruthlessly abuse. Ecological concerns are rather new in Wicca, but now play an important role. Many rituals are performed to give healing strength to the Earth. The ecological movement has had a tremendous impact on Wicca.

Wiccans aren't evangelical. We have no need to go out and spread the word. Answering questions about our religion is far different from knocking on doors and asking strangers, "Have you heard the word of the Goddess today?" Such practices are certainly understandable (though irritating) in religions whose members believe that they've really found the only way, but are absurdly out of place in Wicca.

Wicca accepts that every religion is correct to its adherents. This doesn't mean that we like every representative of every religion, but ecumenicism must be the way of life. Not only must we all tolerate each other, Wiccans will, in the future, share more dialogue with representatives of other religions to increase their knowledge of our ways. This is already occurring to a limited degree.

© Wicca accepts members from both sexes, from every race, national origin and, usually, of every sexual preference. Unfortunately, racism and prejudice does exist in Wicca: many covens simply won't let non-Caucasians receive training and initiation. Such racism is usually covert and is rarely openly stated, but it does exist. Though Wiccans are human, and we've been taught from birth to like certain groups and to dislike others, we must overcome such idiotic concepts and realize that we're all people. Racism and prej -udice in any form is anti-Wiccan. (Besides, who ever said that the Goddess is Caucasian?)

© Wicca is a religion, not a political organization. Groups of Wiccan can and sometimes do work toward a common cause, and individual Wiccans may indeed become personally involved in the political system, but Wicca as a whole isn't a religion that preaches issues or supports specific political candidates. Some issues in. which individual Wiccans have become involved include women's rights; reproductive freedom; land conservation; animal rights; restrictive religious legislation and other issues.* However, Wicca isn't a political religion. Some covens, in fact, ban discussion of politics before, during and after circle.

© Wicca doesn't charge for private lessons or for initiation. Physical objects created by Wiccans (pentacles, knives, wands, incenses, oils, books) and services (such as public classes and Wiccan-based

*A good summary of a national example of individual Wiccan involvement in politics can be found in the article concerning the Helms Amendment (which would have removed tax-exempt status for religious Witchcraft and Neo-Pagan groups) in Rosemary Guiley's The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, p. 156.

counseling) can and should be paid for, but not personal, private Wiccan instruction or initiation. In some groups, coven funds are kept to pay for ritual supplies; this is the only exception.

Virtually all Wiccans subscribe to the above list of beliefs. Certainly most traditions do. It's impossible to discover precisely how every individual Wiccan interprets these beliefs, but we can be assured that most of them do in one form or another.

It could be valuable for you to make a list of your personal Wiccan beliefs. Not just the raw beliefs themselves, but your interpretations of them. For example, you may write the following:

reincarnation o We incarnate many times to learn our lessons.

o We may incarnate with people we've known in other lives.

o Cats reincarnate too.

What's important is to bring your beliefs to paper. This crystallizes them; firms them. Beliefs can become rather hazy. Such an exercise can define them.

Your interpretations of the general Wiccan beliefs may and probably will change as you grow in experience and understanding. This is natural. The list that you've made may become out of date. This, too is fine.

Wicca is a religion that teaches specific beliefs. We should be fully familiar with them if we're to practice this religion. It may take time for you to completely accept some of these beliefs. Study, think, pray and experiment.

Wiccan beliefs are the heart of Wicca.

ig: rules irtually all religious organizations give their adherents a set of guide lines or rules of conduct. In such laws we often find the true nature of the faith, which can be difficult to determine from the actual behavior of most of its representatives.

Wicca possesses not one but several sets of such rules. The most famous of these, which has been published in several different forms, originally stemmed from what is now known as Gardnerian Wicca.*

Many other versions exist, and some covens create their own set of laws for use by its members. Underlying all such Wiccan rules is one basic concept: Harm none.

Traditional Wiccan laws can be grouped into specific categories for study. Looking at these, and reading a few sample sets (included at the end of this chapter), should readily provide all that you need to write or adapt a set of laws for your tradition.

Here's a basic breakdown of traditional Wiccan laws. The first section details laws specifically concerned with coven working, which are of less importance to Solitary Wiccans. The second section is devoted to laws of great potential use to the Solitary practitioner.

'For a fascinating look at the possible origins of these laws, see Witchcraft For Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente.

traditional wiccan laws - coven oriented coven heirarchy/organization

Usually lists duties of High Priestess and High Priest. The average length of time that the 'offices' are held is also often discussed. Many delineate initiatory levels and define the nature of the 'council of elders' (usually made of those who have received the highest elevation, and who are called upon for guidance and counsel by coven members), or other such groups within the group. Many also describe other coven officers.

secrecy

Traditional warnings to keep secret those things which are only for the eyes and ears of other initiates of the same tradition. Some laws threaten the oath-breaker with divine retribution if the oaths are broken. (Solitary Wiccans can certainly create a 'secret' tradition. Whether you care to discuss your religion and your religious practices with others must be a personal decision. Only you can decide precisely what to reveal.)

coven problems

Dictates the proper method of settling problems. Some covens utilize their 'council of elders' in the decision-making process, or to provide guidance to those with grievances. In most traditions, the highest-elevated Wiccans are free to leave and form their own covens, if they can no longer work with their parent coven. Many laws also concern High Priestesses and High Priests who break the laws or who lose interest in the coven.

persecution tales and advice

These supposedly ancient laws allow for confession during extreme torture, but thoughtfully permits denial of all information given to the 'magistrates'. It also contains the promise that drugs will reach those who have been condemned as Witches so that their certain deaths by execution will be less painful. (This is obviously of little help today.)

ritual attendance

Many traditions possess laws regarding attendance at rituals. Great latitude exists, and not all traditions even have such laws. In most, Wiccans are expected to show up for all rituals unless previously excused by the coven leader (s ). In some sets of rules, missing six consecutive meetings is grounds for 'banishment' from the coven, if only because the Wiccan is showing little or no interest. (This is of little concern to Solitaries. However, a few words of encouragement concerning the regular observance of our rituals would be a nice touch to include in your set of laws. )

traditional laws of interest to solitary wiccans worship

Sometimes lists times and dates of ritual observances; more generally, the laws state that the Goddess and God are deserving of worship, and remind the Wiccans to be worshipful. (This makes sense. Why else would we be Wiccans ? Such words might appear in the beginning of the law. )

living wicca bloodshed

Many laws state that blood is not to be shed within the circle; no ritual animal sacrifices may be made. (This is a universal Wiccan tradition, whether or not it's explicitly stated in the laws.)

avoidance of harm

The central, unifying theme of most laws: Wiccans simply don't cause harm to others. (This law, in some form or another, should be in your set.)

use of magic

Generally states that magic is not to be worked for pay, as it could lead to performing destructive rites. Magic is also never to be used to boost one's pride or to cause harm in any way. However, some sets of laws do allow Wiccans to use 'the power' (i.e., magic) to 'prevent or restrain' others from causing harm (this is generally known as binding). (See '"The Law of the Power' below.)

conduct

Such laws warn Wiccans not to boast or to threaten others, and to treat others - Wiccans and non-Wiccans - with kindness and compassion. Additionally, some laws state that Wiccans must not use drugs within or without the circle; must not gossip about other members, and mustn't interfere with the teachings of other Wiccans .(It never hurts to include such messages in your laws. Though you may be the only one to read these reminders of the importance of kindness, the message may, at times, be necessary.)

teaching

Some laws state that all who express interest in Wicca should be taught, unless they begin to misuse their instructions. Such laws have largely been either dropped or reinterpreted. Truly following them today could lead to each Wiccan teaching 100 or more students, which would result in poor lessons and, thus, poorly-instructed students. Such laws simply aren't practical in today's world when so many clamor for teachings.

keeping the law

Wiccans are reminded to keep the law and not to allow it to be broken. (Sound advice. This usually appears near the end of the laws.)

the love of the goddess and the god

A gentle reminder that we're not alone. (Generally, it's best to begin and to end the law with confirmations of divine concern.)

After reading all this, you might be thinking, "Why do I even need a Law if I'm just doing my rituals alone ?" A fair question, even if we set aside those laws concerning covens.

The answer is simple; most of the laws appropriate to Solitary Wiccans form part of the general Wiccan tradition. Without them, we are left without guidance. Forming them into set sentences and including them in your tradition's Book of Shadows ensures that you can study them at your leisure, and refer to them for guidance.

It's all very well to state, "I won't do this, and I'll remember to do that." Having a set of laws concerning these things is a great memory assistant.

sample laws

Using the above outlines of laws, we can come up with our own. Their precise form, and their method of presentation, is completely up to you. Some sets of laws are numbered; others aren't. Some are written in rhyming couplets, but most are in prose.

Here are three versions, that I've written. The first is partially based on the above analyses; the second is reprinted from Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, as is the third, which deals exclusively with magic.

the law o We are of the Old Ways, among those who walk with the Goddess and God and receive Their love.

o Keep the Sabbats and Esbats to the best of your abilities, for to do otherwise is to lessen your connections with the Goddess and God.

o Harm none. This, the oldest law, is not open to interpretation or change.

G Shed not blood in ritual; the Goddess and God need not blood to be duly worshipped.

G Those of our way are kind to all creatures, for hurtful thoughts are quite draining and aren't worth the loss of energy. Misery is self-created; so, too, is joy, so create joy and disdain misery and unhap-piness. And this is within your power. So harm not.

o Teach only what you know, to the best of your ability, to those students whom you choose, but teach not to those who would use your instructions for destruction or control. Also, teach not to boost pride, for ever remember: she who teaches for vain-glory shall take little pride in her handiwork; she who teaches out of love shall be enfolded in the arms of the Goddess and God.

© Ever remember that if you would be of our way, keep the Law close to your heart, for it is the nature of the Wicca to keep the Law.

© If ever the need arises, any law may be changed or discarded, and new laws written to replace them, so long as the new laws don't break the oldest law of all: harm none.

© Blessings of the God and Goddess on us all.

the nature of our way o As often as possible, hold the rites in forests, by the seashore, on deserted mountain tops or near tranquil lakes. If this is impossible a garden or some chamber shall suffice, if it is readied with fumes or flowers.

© Seek out wisdom in books, rare manuscripts and cryptic poems if you will, but seek it out also in simple stones and fragile herbs and in the cries of wild birds. Listen to the whisperings of the wind and the roar of water if you would discover magic, for it is here that the old secrets are preserved.

© Books contain words; trees contain energies and wisdom books ne'er dreamt of.

© Ever remember that the Old Ways are constantly revealing themselves. Therefore be as the river willow that bends and sways with the wind. That which remains changeless shall outlive its spirit, but that which evolves and grows will shine for centuries.

© Mock not the rituals or spells of another, for who can say yours are greater in power or wisdom?

© Ensure that your actions are honorable, for all that you do shall return to you three-fold, good or bane.

© Be wary of one who would dominate you, who would control and manipulate your workings and reverences. True reverence for the Goddess and God occurs within. Look with suspicion on any who would twist worship from you for their own gain and glory, but welcome those priestesses and priests who are suffused with love.

© Honor all living things, for we are of the bird, the fish, the bee Destroy not life save it be to preserve your own.

© And this is the nature of our way.

the law of the power

© The Power shall not be used to bring harm, to injure or control others. But if the need arises, the Power shall be used to protect your life or the lives of others.

© The Power is used only as need dictates.

© The Power can be used for your own gain, as long as by doing so you harm none.

© It is unwise to accept money for use of the Power, for it quickly controls its taker. Be not as those of other religions.

© Use not the Power for prideful gain, for such cheapens the mysteries of Wicca and magic.

© Ever remember that the Power is the sacred gift of the Goddess and God, and should never be misused or abused.

Most Craft laws are secret, and can't be published in any form. However, the above examples included in this chapter, and in the suggested readings, should provide you with enough information to create your own laws. May you do so with wisdom and love.

suggested readings

Published laws

Few sets of Wiccan laws have been published. Even most of the standard Wiccan guidebooks fall to include laws.

However, a few books do include discussions of and/or complete texts of laws. Here are most of them. Studying these laws in concert with this chapter will greatly assist in the creation of your own set. (For additional publication information regarding these books, see this book's Bibliography.)

Kelly, Aidan A., Crafting the Art of Magic, Book 1. Contains one version of the 'Gardnerian' laws on pp. 145-161. Also includes an intriguing 'Proposed Rules for the Craft' on pp. 103-105.

See also Doreen Valiente's The Rebirth of Witchcraft, pp. 69-71 for background information concerning both the "Proposed Rules" as well as the Gardnerian laws. The whole inside story concerning the most famous set of Wiccan laws is quite fascinating.

Additional information concerning these laws - without the text itself— can be discovered on pp. 303-304 of Janet and Stewart Farrar's The Witches Way.

Johns, June, King of The Witches. Contains another version of the Gardnerian laws in Appendix A, where they're mislabeled as 'The Book of Shadows'.

Slater, Heron (editor), Pagan Rituals III, Outer Court Book of Shadows. Originally written by the late Ed Buczynski for students of his Welsh tradition, this book contains a rather forceful section entitled 'The Laws' on pp.113-115. Though short, it's a good guide to some tradition's secret (non-Gardnerian) laws, though many are far gentler.

(Keep in mind that this was written for students, not for experienced Wiccans.)

Various other sets of Wiccan laws have been published in old pagan periodicals, most notably in the earlier format of Green Egg. The issues that contain these laws are now out of print and are, thus, avidly sought by collectors. (Some of these laws, by the way, have been added to 'traditional' Books of Shadows with no hint as to their origination.)

Symbols are an important part of many Wiccan traditions. They're used as magical shorthand in the Book of Shadows; as a graphic representation of Wicca or a specific Wiccan tradition (on correspondence, perhaps) and to empower magical tools and jewelry.

The first ritual symbols used in Wicca stemmed largely from ceremonial magic (particularly those found in The Key of Solomon; see Bibliography) and alchemy. Their number soon increased and became more specifically Wiccan, such as symbols for levels of initiation, the circle, the Goddess and the God. Traditions shared symbols among their adherents. They began to be published, further widening their usage.

Your tradition should probably utilize some symbols. Symbols (which are, in a sense, a compact alphabet) trigger powerful psychological responses, if their observer is aware of their meanings, because they speak to the subconscious mind.

You can create your own symbols or choose ones from those lists given below. I have only one warning: never use an unfamiliar symbol. If you don't know a symbol's meaning, it's best not to utilize it in any way. Here are some specific types of symbols:

symbols of our religion

The most famous of these is the pentagram, an interlaced five-pointed star. With one point upward, it represents Wicca. The pentagram's connection with our religion seems to be fairly modern (though the symbol itself has been in use since at least 2,400 B.C.E., when it appeared on Middle Eastern pottery).

Other symbols include small representations (usually in jewelry form) of goddesses, particularly the so-called 'Venus' statuettes such as the famous Venus of Willendorf.

(One recent symbol of Wicca was a plain green button, without lettering or signs, that was worn by Wiccans in public places so that they could greet each other. The practice has, as far as I know, died out on a national basis.)

tradition symbols

Many Wiccan Traditions use a specific symbol. Though it may be of any design, most include one or more of the following parts, which can be arranged in a number of unusual and striking ways:

Pentagram

Ankh

Crescent Moon

Eight-pointed Star

Horns

Eight-pointed Star

Circle Yonic Symbols

(particularly popular with some feminist Wiccans)

As can be seen from the illustrations, there are many potential combinations of these elements.

Such a symbol need not be created for your tradition. However, if you do design one, it can be copied into the Book of Shadows; stitched onto robes; painted onto tools and otherwise used in ritual ways.

book of shadows symbols and shorthand

Following are some symbols used in various Wiccan traditions, with a few variations and quite a few of my own. Once you're comfortable with them, using them in writing rituals or in the Book of Shadows is quite convenient. For example, it's much easier to write "Cast O" than it is to write "Cast the magic circle."

Here are some traditional (and new) symbols:

Goddess

Magic Circle

Goddess Position (a body posture sometimes used in Wiccan ritual the Wiccan stands with legs spread and holds her arms out to her sides to represent the Goddess)

God Position

(sometimes used in Wiccan ritual; the Wiccan stands with legs firmly together and wrists crossed on his chest, usually right over left, to represent the God)

Female

Male

Female

Male

Broom

Wand

Wand

Cauldron

Pentack

Athame

Sword

Cord

Balefire

Altar

Cup

Cakes and Wine

Deosil

Widdershins

Deosil

Widdershins

Maiden

Mother

Maiden

Mother

C rone

Earth

Earth

Earth

Earth
Water
Fire

Fire

Water

Water

Fire

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