Secrecy

Secrecy has been granted such importance in both Wicca and magic that a few words concerning it here seem appropriate. In this chapter, we'll separately discuss each topic.

KEEPING YOUR WICCAN ACTIVITIES SECRET

In the recent past, when there were far fewer members of our religion and public understanding of Pagan faiths was non-existent in this country, Wiccans were usually quiet about their religion. The threat of broken marriages, loss of home, job, and even children was quite real. Wiccans had learned to keep their religious activities wrapped in the shadows. Only the closest of relatives or friends knew what these people did on the nights of the full moon (and the reason why they always asked for the day off after theSabbats).

These Wiccans were usually members of covens and had been sworn to secrecy during their initiations. Among the many things that they could not reveal were their magical names, the identities of other members of the coven, activities that occurred during a circle, and their group's specific religious and magical rituals. Even if some Wiccans were willing to speak of their religion, public opinion and oaths of secrecy were stacked against them. Most Wiccans lived double lives: one related to work, PTA, fighting with the neighbors, budgeting, washing the car and other mundane activities; the other immersed in religion and magic.

Today, the picture has somewhat changed. Every issue of Circle Network News (see the Appendix) lists a large number of positive articles that have appeared concerning Wicca in general-interest magazines and newspapers. Articles on Wiccans and Goddess-worshippers have appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Television talk shows revel in 'Witch' episodes, where invited Wiccans discuss their religion.

This coverage has tremendously expanded the awareness of the existence of our religion within non-Wiccans. They may have incorrect ideas concerning Wicca, but they've been exposed to its existence.

Recognized Wiccans are sometimes invited to speak to church congregations to explain their religion. Many work directly with prisoners, just as do the clergy of other religions. Some Wiccan groups are recognized by the I.R.S. as tax-exempt churches (though Wicca as a whole hasn't been granted this recognition). The U.S. Army instructs its chaplains to recognize Wicca as a legitimate alternative religion. Occasionally, articles about Wicca actually appear in the Religion section of newspapers.

Still, the prevailing climate is one of confusion, doubt and fear. Those raised to believe in one faith feel threatened when another makes its presence known; especially one as misunderstood as Wicca. Occasionally, this leads to violence and even murder.

Such reactions are the direct result of the misinformation continually being fed to an unsuspecting public. The major sources of these lies are television evangelists (who have had their day and who are now fading from existence), but many small-town preachers continue to speak of us as satanic, child-killing devils with one aim: to rule the world. Even the recent media-promulgated "New Age" has been widely discussed as a satanic threat to Christianity.

Though we know this is absurd, many non-Wiccans do not. In such a heady climate, is it best to reveal your religion to your parents, mate, chil dren, friends, employers, landlords and neighbors? If only to some of these, which ones? Could such a revelation create anger, fear and misunderstanding to the point that you wished you'd never said a thing?

It's possible. The alternative is also possible. Telling your mate that you're practicing a different religion may actually strengthen your bond ("Well, at least you believe in something") or settle unresolved questions ("So that's what you've been doing at midnight once a month").

The alternative is true as well. Your mate may grow cold, your employer may let you go, your neighbors might shun you, your parents may become extremely distressed (if they subscribe to a more conventional religion), your landlord may give you 30 days notice, or up your rent.

An understanding employer might let you have days off for your religious practices. Your neighbors will know not to drop in on the nights of the full moon. Your landlord? Well, maybe it's best not to tell everyone. You must carefully weigh this decision, for such a revelation could quickly affect your place of residence.

The decision of if and when to break the news to others, and to whom, must be based upon your knowledge of Wicca, your involvement in the religion (after a while, it can become rather difficult to hide), your relationships with those you might tell, the prevailing religious climate of your area, and the ease with which you can discuss such a highly personal subject as religion.

It usually isn't necessary to make such a revelation, not even to your husband or wife. If she or he asks, you may wish to discuss it, but no one has the right to know what you do on October 31. Religious freedom is just that—freedom of religion, freedom from oppressive religions, and the freedom from discussing your faith.

For 13 years I lived in a second floor apartment in a rough neighborhood. The building was owned by a born-again Christian who ran a gun shop and vacuum cleaner repair business next door to the building. I saw this man on a daily basis; he was in my apartment many times, and I had met much of his family. While I lived there 1 had 10 magic and Wiccan books published, gave countless television, radio and newspaper interviews, taught hundreds of classes in the general area, performed many rituals and hosted dozens of coven meetings. I stared at the stars at night, recited incantations over the herbs and plants that I grew on my porch, meditated on thunderstorms and in every way acted as a Wiccan.

And yet, during all those years my landlord never spoke to me about my religion. Yes, he used to write rent receipts on the back of religious tracts, but the subject simply never came up. I held my tongue, he held his, and we had a satisfying business relationship.

If I'd marched into his store one day and announced that I was a Witch, he'd have certainly sent me packing. My decision not to discuss my religion allowed me to live in a large apartment, at low rent, for a great many years during my salad days as a writer.

The decision of whether to inform others of your Wiccanhood must be a personal one. However, I'll give you a warning: many people simply don't care what you believe or who you invoke. They have no interest in the subject.

Some Wiccans decide to tell the world that they're Wiccans (or 'Witches') purely for shock value, to attract attention, make money and to gratify their egos. This is the worst reason for revealing your religion to others.

MAGICAL SECRECY

Virtually everything said above also pertains to the practice of magic, but other factors are pertinent only to this subject. Magic, as the projection of natural energies to manifest needed changes, is a vital part of Wicca. Within the circle we send energy to our planet, assist in healing the sick, protect ourselves, draw love into our lives and plant the seeds for many changes.

Magic can be a daily activity. Many Wiccans practice folk magic, the creation of charms and enchanted herbal mixtures, the use of stones and other natural, energy-filled objects to create needed change. These changes may be minor or, at times, quite major. Folk magic usually isn't practiced inside the circle itself. This section will discuss secrecy for both ritual and folk magic.

It's commonly believed that secrecy is absolutely essential for successful magic. Don't speak of your magical workings, we're told. Don't tell your friends of your interest in magic, let alone discuss the candle ritual that you performed last night. Be still, we're told. Talk not. Let the power cook.

A few reasons are given for this magical secrecy. Some say that speaking of your magical operations disperses the energies that you've put into them. Others state that non-magicians who hear of your rituals will, by simply disbelieving in magic, unconsciously send energies that will block your spell's manifestation. A few Wiccans will state that secrecy about one's magical proclivities was once a necessity for saving one's neck. (This is certainly true.) For a very few, secrecy heightens the mysterious quality of magic. Others give no reason, but simply repeat the old code: "Be silent."

Is this superstition? Perhaps. Magic is still a somewhat uncertain practice. After all, we're using energies that even physicists haven't yet been able to locate or identify. We may have seen the effectiveness of our magical rituals. We may have even told a few close friends about these rituals prior to their manifestations, with no ill effects. But soon, the secrecy issue could creep back into our consciousness.

"Should I talk about these things?" some will ask. "After all, that book stated that loose lips sink spells. A Wiccan I know does rituals all the time, but she only tells me about them after they've taken effect. And I'm sure that there are lots of Wiccans who never breathe a word about their magical rites."

Doubt soon clouds the Solitary Wiccan's mind. Soon, she or he makes no mention of magic to others, even others of like mind. Secrecy has once again been conferred on the process.

This is unfortunate and unnecessary. True magic is limitless. Speaking of a ritual to others doesn't disperse its energies. On the contrary, it gives you another opportunity to quickly send more power toward your magical goal.

Disbelief also isn't a satisfactory reason for magical secrecy. The disbelief of others has as much effect on magic as does an unschooled person's doubt that a calculator can add 2 and 2 to equal 4. The calculator will work, regardless of the observer's doubt. So, too, will magic.

There are other possible reasons why the calculator won't perform this simple operation: faulty microchips; low battery power or a lack of batteries; an operator who pushes the incorrect buttons, or a button turned off. Still, observer's disbelief alone can't be the cause. The same is true of magic. Properly performed, magic will be effective. If energy is raised within the body, programmed with intent, and projected toward its goal with the proper force and visualization, it will be effective.

This manifestation may not occur overnight. Many repetitions of the magical ritual may be necessary, but they're usually effective if the Wiccan knows how to use this process.

Secrecy concerning magical rites is quite limiting and, indeed, can reduce their effectiveness. This is a bizarre statement, so I'd better explain.

If a person truly feels that secrecy is necessary to perform an effective rite of magic, she or he has accepted a limitation concerning magic's effectiveness. Acceptance of any form of limitation in magic reduces the Wiccan's ability to raise and send energy, for it breeds doubt within the

Wiccan's mind that magic isn't an all-powerful force that, correctly performed by properly experienced people, can truly manifest wondrous, positive changes.

Limitations (such as secrecy) are harmful to the effective practice of magic—both ritual and folk. If we accept one limitation, we may accept others that we either read in books or hear from others. (Examples include: You can't perform a positive ritual during the waning moon. You must check the lunar phase prior to performing any ritual. If you incorrectly time it, the ritual will flop. You have to have every single ingredient listed in a folk magic spell, for substitution of one item for another will render it void. There are many others - all are absurd.)

The third reason often proffered for magical secrecy, that it's a tradition handed down from earlier times when secrecy was necessary to save one's neck, is at least historically accurate. Fortunately, speaking of magical rituals to close friends today isn't likely to cause you to be hanged. The last rationale, that secrecy increases the mysterious nature of magic, may be necessary for some in the beginning of their magical experiences. They should soon lose the need for such mental stage settings.

Secrecy, then, isn't a necessary part of magic. It's no guarantee of magical success and may block your magic. This doesn't mean that you should walk around wearing a green button that states, "I did a money ritual last night!" It also doesn't mean that you must discuss your magical affairs with others, especially if you're working on intensely private matters.

It's perfectly fine to keep quiet concerning your magical activities - so long as your motivations aren't limiting. If you don't wish to discuss your magical activities with others, don't. Not because some Wiccan wrote that you shouldn't but because you don't want to.

Secrecy concerning magic is filled with superstition that has no place in the lives of Solitary Wiccans.

he question (do sickness and Wiccan ritual mix?) that entitles this chapter is an important one, yet is rarely mentioned in Wiccan books. Why? Information of this nature is usually provided by the High Priestess, High Priest or another experienced Wiccan. This is the type of question that usually doesn't pop up until the student is suffering through a cold or is taking a prescribed, powerful medication. The subject is so important (and so completely neglected in Wiccan literature) that it deserves a chapter within these pages.

When many Solitaries begin practicing Wicca, they hate to skip rituals for any reason, including sickness. Many coven members feel the same way. Is thiswise?

Many types of illnesses create dramatic changes within humans. Some of these changes are physical; others are mental, emotional, spiritual or psychic. Are such temporary alterations beneficial or detrimental to the performance ofWiccan ritual?

These questions can be partially answered by an examination of illnesses and their effects. All information here pertains solely to religious Wiccan ritual and is generalized - you must use your own judgment.

Be attentive to your body. It usually knows what's best. Forcing yourself to perform Wiccan rituals while facing challenging illnesses and conditions can be dangerous. (For information on performing magic during sickness, see the end of this chapter.)

ILLNESS AND WICCAN RELIGIOUS RITUAL

PHYSICAL CHANGES

The physical aspects of sickness are usually the most obvious, so we'll begin here. Some illnesses create a pronounced lack of energy. It may be difficult to walk across the room, let alone cast a circle. In such a case, a ritual with limited physical activity is clearly indicated.

Casts on broken feet, hands, arms and other limbs may or may not restrict your ability to set up an altar and hold a Book of Shadows. At least in doing so you won't further endanger your health. Your movements in the circle, however, may have to be limited, so avoid slavishly following ritual directions. Adapt them to take into account your present physical condition.

If your health care practitioner has ordered bed rest, or told you to stay off your feet, follow her or his instructions. Either adapt ritual to a purely verbal and mental experience, or wait until you've recovered.

MENTAL CHANGES

During many types of sickness (including colds), a pronounced change of consciousness often occurs. Slight dizziness, sinus pressure, elevated temperature, pain and other symptoms can create the most remarkable shifts in consciousness—even in people who haven't attempted to mask the symptoms with drugs. This type of consciousness can lend the ill Wiccan a radically different perception of the world; one which usually hinders ritual work.

If you're staggering around and can't seem to concentrate, it's best to avoid working with magical knives, flames, incense and other potentially dangerous magical tools. If you're apt to 'space out' (that is, become mesmerized by objects, fall asleep or completely forget what you're doing), it's best to simply sit or lie comfortably and do little else. You might whisper a should i do it when l'm sick:

prayer to the Goddess and/or God, meditate upon an image, or perhaps draw a symbol and concentrate on it.

If you simply can't concentrate long enough to formulate any type of ritual, it's probably best to let it go for now and to resume ritual workings when you're once again able to do so.

EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL CHANGES

Let's face it—most of us don't feel good when we're sick. We may be grumpy, irritable, impossible to be around, depressed, worried and stressed. Such emotional shifts often make us think, "Why bother doing ritual at all? I feel so bad I'll probably just blow it." Sometimes we're simply not in the mood. This is quite natural, and if you truly don't feel like doing ritual, don't. No one's keeping score.

On the other hand, if you're physically able to do so, performing ritual may actually make you feel better. Effective Wiccan ritual (which can be difficult to achieve during times of illness) gives us a spiritual boost, which in turn makes us feel better.

Finally, simple prayer to the Goddess and God may comfort you and if nothing else, give you a different focus than that of your illness.

PSYCHIC CHANGES

Illness can have great effects on our psychic awareness. Though this may not seem to be particularly important when doing rituals, our ability to tap into our psychic minds (psychic awareness) is necessary for effective ritual. Ritual is often empty and mechanical without this linking of the two minds (conscious and psychic).

You may possess the ability to physically, mentally and emotionally perform a Wiccan ritual, but if you seem to be psychically shut down (a dif ficult condition to describe that's immediately recognizable when it occurs), ritual probably wouldn't be a good idea.

NON-PRESCRIPTION AND PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Drug reactions are perhaps the most important factor in determining whether to perform Wiccan rituals during illness. The vast number of such drugs now in use and their varying effects on their takers make it impossible to speak in any but the most general of terms.

Many drugs have no effect on consciousness, don't alter the emotions, have no noticeable physiological effect, and leave the psychic mind alone. However, some drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) can cause just these changes. Among these are, of course, narcotics. If you seem to be suffering from these or other negative side effects, limit ritual work while under their influence.

You must use your judgment and common sense in determining whether illness or prescription drugs will interfere with your Wiccan ritual. If your health care provider has told you to stay in bed, stay in bed and forget about setting up a circle. If you've just had stitches, don't do an ecstatic dance to the Goddess around the altar, no matter how much you may wish to do so. If you're suffering from lung complaints, don't burn incense. If you're taking a medication that prohibits alcohol use, don't drink wine after ritual. Solitary Wiccans can do ritual at any time and, if necessary, delay or miss ritual as well. Illness is a quite legitimate reason for skipping ritual.

Don't believe that you won't be a true Wiccan if you can't carry a candle around the circle on Imbolc because you're confined to your bed. Missing a ritual due to illness, infirmity or the influence of prescription drugs in no way makes you a lesser Wiccan. In fact, such a decision proves your intelligence and growing Wiccan experience: you've chosen to avoid perform-

should i do it when i'm sick?

ing what would most probably be a ritual lacking in energy and true contact with the Goddess and God. If this makes you a lesser Wiccan, I'll eat my cauldron.

M AG I C AND ILLNESS

Performing magic during periods of illness may or may not be a positive action. It's a natural time for self-healing spells, but spells for other reasons should be postponed, no matter how important the work may be. Waiting until you're well not only allows you to give the magical rite your full attention, it also assures that you'll be able to raise far greater amounts of energy.

When we're sick, our bodies have lowered reserves of energy (personal power). Not only aren't we producing as much as usual, we're also using more energy for healing ourselves. Less energy is available for any other physical task, including magic. This lowered reserve can make performing magic during serious illness quite dangerous, for you're drawing on the energy that would otherwise be working to heal you. This may extend the duration of your illness or slow the healing of wounds.

Willingly giving of this energy to solve someone else's problems is a good and noble deed—at any other time. When you're sick, you must be number one. Use this energy to heal yourself. Later, you'll be in shape to take care of the rest of the world.

The bottom line: no magic except self-healing during illness.

4: MAGICAL NAMES

any Wiccan books discuss the taking of a Wiccan (magical) name.

The ceremonial bestowing of such a name upon the initiate is a part of many initiation ceremonies. Afterward, the new Wiccan is usually exclusively called by this name within the circle.

Magical names are quite popular among Wiccans; so popular, in fact, that many Wiccans have two or even three such names: a public Craft name (used at Wiccan gatherings, when writing articles, and so on); a secret name (the one bestowed during initiation), and perhaps even a third name which is used only when addressing the Goddess and God, and is known only to Them and the Wiccan. Wiccans who are members of more than one tradition may have different names for each group.

For many Wiccans, taking a new name is an outward symbol of her or his devotion to Wicca. It's seen as a part of the process of rebirth into the religion.

Throughout history, names have been given considerable magical importance. A spirit's name had to be known before it could be exorcised from a sick person in ancient Sumer, Babylon and Assyria. In Hawaii, babies were given revolting names in infancy to guard them from molestation from evil during their early, vulnerable years. A more fitting name was given to the child when she or he reached a certain age and was less susceptible to the wiles of evil spirits. In some cultures, mothers will bestow a secret name on their children. This 'real' name, unknown to anybody but the mother, protects the child. The common name by which he or she is called has no power over them.

In our own country, numerology is used to discover the power of our names, and many people change their names to advance in their careers.

With all this importance attached to names, it's not difficult to understand why many Wiccans use Craft names. Though I didn't discuss this subject in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, it deserves some comment here.

To cut to the heart of this matter: is it necessary for you to adopt a Wic-can name? If you wish your Wicca to correspond to conventional Wicca as far as is possible, yes. If you feel freer than these constraints, adoption of a special name isn't necessary. Once again, the decision is yours alone.

The major reason for utilizing a Craft name, as mentioned above, is that it represents the Wiccan you. For some, use of this name gives them a sense of power and mystery which they may otherwise not feel. We live in such a mundane world that it can indeed be difficult to "switch on" the magical side of our nature. Thus, use of a Wiccan name may assist in altering the conscious mind and preparing it for ritual.

Some people take an entirely different approach: they legally adopt their Wiccan name. Thus, Sally Thompson becomes Amber; Frank Jones, Greywolf. This name may even appear on driver's licenses, leases and other documents. This legal avenue is inadvisable unless you're completely open about your religion, since such a name will naturally draw attention to its bearer. Though many state that they've chosen to use their new name to the exclusion of the old one purely for spiritual reasons, most are also making a public statement regarding their religion—and not all of us are ready for such a step.

How do you find your magical name 1

There are many approaches. Some Wiccans adopt the name of a Goddess or God, in honor of Them. Others look into their family's cultural history and choose a name from the associated folklore: a person with British ancestry may opt for a name culled from British folklore. Many contemporary American Wiccans incorporate an animal in their name, such as "Howling Wolf' or "Sweeping Eagle". Flower and plant names (such as Rose, Oak Keeper, Grove, Fir, Ash) are other possibilities.

You may also simply make up a name. Many Wiccan names consist of two words that have been put together. Such names are usually quite descriptive.

Some famous Wiccan names have been published. Gerald Gardner (one of the people who formed Wicca into the religion as we know it today) publicly used the name Scire. At least one of Doreen Valiente's magical names was Ameth. A well-known High Priest adopted the public Craft name of Phoenix.

Still other popular names include: Morgan, Morgana, Morgaine, Morgraine, Lugh and Arthur (all associated with Celtic mythology); Ariadne, Diana, Hermes, Poseidon, Cassandra and Triton (Greek and Roman mythology); Selket, Ma 'at, Osiris, and other Egyptian names.

(Among the most commonly used names are Amber, Phoenix and Merlin. Calling out one of these names at a Pagan gathering will usually cause many heads to turn.)

So there are plenty of possibilities from which to choose. If you decide to use a Wiccan name in ritual, always use it. Use it in prayer. Use it in rituals. Write it, in runes or in English, on your tools. You may even wish to perform some sort of name-adoption ritual. This could consist of casting a cir cle and invoking the Goddess and God to be present and asking Them to recognize you by your new name.

Use of a Craft name may not give you any additional power, but it's a traditional practice, and many enjoy it.

Health And Fitness 101

Health And Fitness 101

Self-improvement is a thing which you must practice throughout your life because once you started to believe that you are perfect then, things will start to become complex. You need to know that no one is perfect and no one can be perfect.

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