The History of Wicca

This subject can be quite extensive. We could search for the roots of Wicca in prehistoric times and the magick that prehistoric people practiced, or perhaps in the stories of Medieval witches...but I will address these issues in another post. In this post, I plan to give a short overview of the history of Wicca from the 18th century onward.

The Witch trials began began with the introduction of the Inquisitions in the 12th century and they began to weaken only in the middle of the 18th century (though this can only be said for some countries since it is precisely at this time that the prosecutions reached their height in America and Scandinavia). This period started coming to an end with the passing of new laws and the scarcity of convictions. The end of the trials came with the Witchcraft Act of 1736 with which the penalties for witches weren't as drastic as before (fines and imprisonment).

The First Personas Appear

Charles Godfrey Leland
The interest in witchcraft grew again in the 19th and 20th century. This was, thank goodness, a peaceful period with was mainly defined only by literary works on the subject. Important personas of this time include Charles Godfrey Leland, Margaret Murray and Robert Graves who will each have their own impact on Wicca.

Leland (1824-1903) was an occultist, folklorist and writer whose most famous work is Aradia, the Gospel of Witches which gives the reader an insight into the cult of the Goddess Diana. When it was published, it left people in shock because of its, at the time, strange topic. Leland got interested in witchcraft when he went on a trip to Italy where he started gathering material for his aforementioned book.

Margaret Murray
Margaret Murray (1863-1963) is famous for her work The Witch Cult in Western Europe. She was, by profession, and Egyptologist and Anthropologist. She also became fascinated with witchcraft during a visit to a foreign country, in her case England or more precisely the town of Glastonbury (supposedly the burial place of King Arthur). She is recognized for her claim that "witchcraft" is a term that originates from the times of the Inquisitions and that it is actually just another name for a religion much older than the Medieval times that centered around nature and fertility. Many of her theories were later scrutinized by her critics and her colleagues which lead to her gaining a bad reputation because of ignoring proof (some of which could have even helped her). 

Robert Graves
Robert Graves (1895-1985) didn't directly affect witchcraft nor did he actually even take an interest in it, though may witches have since seen many logical arguments in his works that they could apply to themselves and connect to Neopagan ideas. Graves is well known because of his work The White Goddess which deals with mythological and poetic inspiration. In this book, he depicts and ancient, pre-Christian religion formed around the central figure of the Goddess at the same time taking her as his poetic Muse. Graves thinks that literature exists to perpetuate natural cycles in the form of prose, poetry and drama. Comparing his Goddess (Diana) to the moon, he gives her three forms: the Maiden of the waning moon, the Mother of the full moon and the Crone of the waxing moon. With the strengthening of patriarchal society which was aggressive, combative and hostile towards Nature, this matriarchal society was simply repressed. Another accepted Graves' theory is the one that claims that the more followers a certain God has, the more power he/she will have. Of course, Anthropologists and Historians didn't take these claims seriously, but Graves' ideas did have a great impact on the formation of Wicca and other Neopagan faiths.

Gerald Gardner and the Beginnings

Gerald Gardner
Aleister Crowley
The 19th century is a time when many new religious movements came to existence, among which were O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) and The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (i.e. The Golden Dawn) which gained quite a reputation. An important figure of the time, among other, is Aleister Crowley (the "Great Beast") with whom ceremonial magick gains popularity. His influence of Gerald Gardner, who we now see as the father of Wicca, was of great importance. Upon meeting Crowley, Gardner was initiated into O.T.O. and even though this wasn't Gardner's first contact with the occult and alternative religions (since he came upon both on his many travels), this was his first step towards Wicca. When he returned back to England, he came into contact with a group of people who he thought to be one of the few (or perhaps even the last) remaining followers of the Old Religion. Among these people was Old Dorothy Clutterbuck who turned out to be the leader of the group which was called the New Forest coven (named after the New Forest area of southern England). In 1939, Gardner became an initiate of "wica" (as Old Dorothy called it). What with the existence of the laws against witchcraft at the time and covens secrecy policies, Gardner wasn't allowed to publish anything on the subjects they dealt with or the rituals they held. This is why Gardner published a "novel" in 1949 entitled High Magic's Aid and took the pseudonym Scire. In this work, he wrote down a short history of the Craft and gave away two initiation rituals but there is not mention of the Goddess anywhere. When the Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951, Gardner published two books under his real name. These were his famous Witchcraft Today and the Meaning of Witchcraft. It is on the basis of these three books that Wicca came to exist. 
It is important to note that even today many people discuss the stories regarding Gardner and his coven initiation and debate whether or not they are true...but most people have just come to accept them since no evidence exists to deny such claims.

Doreen Valiente
Soon after this, Gardner went on to promote Wicca in the form of articles and more books. He managed to attract many people and one of them was Doreen Valiente. In time, she became the High Priestess of Gardner's coven and aided him in the writing of his books by writing poems which served as invocations and such. When she was the amount of Crowley's influence on Gardner's Book of Shadows, she realized that this could give Wicca a bad reputation (what with Crowley having a bad one himself) and, with Gardner's approval, started editing it. It is this edition of Gardner's BoS that we know today. We can now find the texts and basis for the modern Gardnerian tradition in this book. The most famous of her poems is "The Charge of the Goddess" which served (and still serves) as an invocation for the Goddess.

In 1957, Gardner and Valiente went separate ways chiefly because Gardner started publishing too many things, some of which were already thought of as absurd from the perspective of the other coven members. Doreen Valiente suggested a set of rules that would enable the secrets of the Craft to be kept secret, but Gardner rejected them under the claim that he had already written a "traditional set of rules for the Craft" a long time ago. Doreen didn't want to accept these rules because she thought them anything but traditional and found them too restricting for the High Priestess. She left Gardner with her like-minded coven members. Though this did not mean the end of Wicca or the Craft.

Alex and Maxime Sanders
After this, a number of new Wiccan traditions sprung up. To elaborate, with the death of Gerald Gardner in 1964, the position of the "leader" was open and many people wanted to fill it. These people turned out to be frauds more often than not, but one person sticks out above the rest because he proved as a real leader and managed to establish the next Wiccan tradition - Alexandrian Wicca. The man I am talking about is Alex Sanders (1926-1988). Sanders actually managed to get a copy of Gardner's Book of Shadows and modified it but he later denied this and claimed that his Book of Shadows had been passed down from generation to generation in his family for quite some time. This soon led to media scandals connected to this new tradition and a rivalry between Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca. Sanders soon married Maxime Morris who became the High Priestess of his coven and they together took the titles of "King and Queen of the Witches". The later separated but continued to work and teach independently. Though Alexandrian Wicca did replace the Gardnerian tradition on the scale of popularity and one of the reasons for this was the fact that they let their rituals be photographed...and they did them skyclad (i.e. naked).

Raymond Buckland
Up to this point in time, most of the events connected to Wicca were restricted to Great Britain, but that changed with Raymond and Rosemary Buckland. In 1962, this couple "brought" Wicca to America. Most of their workings were based on Gardnerian Wicca, but each individual was free to incorporate their own beliefs in order to form something just right for them. Buckland later formed his own tradition - Seax Wicca.

Zusanna Budapest
Another movement that appeared in America was the "Z movement" which was given this name in honor of a Hungarian immigrant named Zusanna Budapest. This intriguing woman is nowadays thought of as creator of the female spirituality movement that combines Paganism and political beliefs. Z. Budapest, being the feminist that she was, created a new tradition that went by the name of Dianic Wicca and was mainly oriented towards the Goddess and female empowerment.

Miriam Simos a.k.a. Starhawk
Another woman showed up on the scene under the pseudonym of Starhawk. Her real name is Miriam Simos and is important because of her Reclaiming Tradition which combine three traditions into one: Gardnerian, Faery and Dianic. Her most famous work is The Spiral Dance. She was an ecologist at heart and took part in many ecological campaigns along with Tim Zell (a well-known advocate of the Gaia theory).

In time, more traditions developed which you can read about in my post on wiccan traditions. :)

This is really a very basic overview, but I think it will be enough for starters :) if you are interested to find out more details, you can try to read up on the subject yourselves or ask questions (don't be shy ^^).

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

Ritual Form

This post will serve as a sort of overview and I would even dare say a template for rituals. Of course, every ritual is different and of a personal nature so every ritual will differ. Every Sabbat has its own attributes (but you can read about that under the "Sabbats" section) and even the Esbats can greatly differ from one another.

 I would like to note that I will write the spoken parts of the ritual in italics under the action that precedes it or is done at the same time as speaking. I would like to thank a certain person for helping me write this post by sending me an example of one of his rituals for the sake of comparison. In the Croatian version of this post, I wrote down what he says, but in this post I will combine his rituals with mine (since I do my rituals in English anyway).

BUT! Just because there will be examples of what to say, doesn't mean you have to say (or even do) everything like it is written here. In fact, I encourage you to write your own invocations, evocations and basically rituals in general because it is in this way that the ritual also becomes more powerful.

So let's begin...

What do you need for your ritual? You can read about this in an older post entitled "Ritual Tools" (in the Basics section). Everything is explained there in detail, but I will just list the tools you need here so you don't have to dig around all the time. I have colored the tools I think are obligatory in blue and I have left the optional tools in white. Again, this depends on you so you can change some things if you like :) And as I have already said, I don't expect you to have all of these tools in the beginning phases of your practical works so use what you have and get what you need in time :) 

Ritual Tools

(blue - obligatory, white - optional)
  • an altar
  • athamé / wand
  • a cord / chalk / something else for marking
  • candles for the four quarters
  • candles for other purposes (e.g. for filling empty spaces on the circle perimeter i.e. in between the quarter candles)
  • an altar candle
  • symbols of the Goddess and God
  • dishes for water and salt (but don't forget the water and salt also)
  • incense and an incense holder
  • matches / a lighter
  • a pentacle
  • a chalice and plate / a bowl for food (Cakes and Wine)
  • ritual oil
  • a sword
  • a staff
  • a bell
  • a white-handled knife
  • cords
  • ritual clothes and jewelry
  • decorations (depending on the occasion)
  • other fitting objects for Sabbats and Esbats
Even though I have defined some tools as "obligatory", you don't have to use them if you think that you don't need them or if you haven't had a chance to get them yet or preferably make them yourselves (you can read more about that in the "Ritual Tools" post I mentioned above). 

Now that we know what we need for our ritual, we can continue with the form of the ritual, which is our primary interest :)

Organizing Your Ritual Space

Of course, before you begin, you have to set everything up, which means you have to put your altar in the middle of your circle (or to-be-circle space). Some will put it in the East of the circle, but I would definitely recommend you are facing the East at all times (so turn you altar in that direction). Put everything you need on your altar or in their other usual places (remember that now all of your ritual tools have to be on your altar), set all the candles in their places (quarter candles and other ones), arrange the decorations and anything else that fits under the category of "other fitting objects for the occasion".

Here is a small diagram...I made it according to the way in which I arrange everything on my altar, but before it I have put two smaller diagrams which who the correspondences between the Elements and the cardinal points but also between the Elements and the pentacle so you can see more clearly why some things are put in certain places in the circle/on the altar.

This is the way I arrange things for practical reasons (so I don't knock down a candle or something), but you can move things around to suite your needs or to fit exactly the above diagrams of the Elements or cardinal points (look at the correspondences in the "Ritual Tools" post where you will see which tools correspond to which Element and so on). Also, ma altar is rectangular so that's why I drew this diagram like this. Yours can look differently, of course.

If you were to arrange everything "according to the books" (every tool on its cardinal point and according to its corresponding Element), your circle would look something like this (not including the additional tools you could add).

When you have arranged everything the way you want it and made sure you have everything you need, you can begin with the actual ritual :)

Ritual Form

(Note: from this point, anything that is spoken during the ritual will be written in italics and it will be written below the action that precedes it. I will also be speaking in the first person because these really aren't rules or even guidelines; this is just me retelling how I do my rituals which doesn't make this the perfect way for you to do your rituals)

1. Opening the Circle/Erecting the Temple

These are the names that are used for the first part of any ritual (just to be clear, both refer to the same thing) which includes cleansing the ritual space so you can work in it undisturbed, without negative energy and so the circle itself can be perceived as something outside of your daily routine (as something special). This extraordinariness is exactly what makes any ritual a ritual. And also, this act will also serve to better you contact with the Goddess and God. You can do this by walking around the space intended for your ritual with a broom (you can actually sweep it, but this isn't necessary) or by walking with incense around the room. It is also possible to cleanse the space with sounds (by singing, drumming, ringing a bell), or by affusion (sprinkling cleansed water around, though I leave this part for the part of the ritual where I cleanse the space with the physical elements). If you like, you can also bless your altar and/or ritual tools (which isn't the same as cleansing and consecrating them) by simply clearly and firmly stating that they are blessed.

If you want to prepare yourself both energetically and mentally, now is the time to center and ground yourself. By centering yourself, you bring everything into balance and really penetrate into your very core. This can be done by visualizing a shining ball somewhere around your heart which becomes brighter and purer every time you breathe in. With every exhale you relieve yourself or any negative thoughts and your everyday problems. By doing this, you try to achieve balance. Grounding is the process of borrowing energy from the ground and/or the universe so you can do you ritual as best you can (especially if you're planning to do a demanding religious or magical ritual). You can ground yourself with another visualization where the shining ball from before descends through your spine into the ground where it goes deeper and deeper until it has gathered enough energy. You then visualize it returning to its starting point and, if you want to connect to the universe, you can also visualize it floating up through your vertex and going higher and higher constantly taking in the universe's energy. It then returns back into your body. You should now feel filled with positive energy and ready to begin your ritual by opening the circle.

When I open the circle, I begin by marking the perimeter of the circle (some do this with chalk, some with cords etc.). Since I cannot leave marks on the floor and prefer not to have cords lying around, I just mark it by drawing an imaginary circle with my athamé which will later become energetic. Besides, this circle is only for me most of the time, so there really is no need for a physical marker in my case. How to mark the circle you ask? Well, I begin in the East and work my way over the south, west and north quarter candles and return to my starting point. When you walk (or do anything) clockwise, like in this case, in Wicca it is called going deosil. In stead of the athamé, you can use a wand or your forefinger. If there are more people present, this can be done by singing, dancing, or by transferring energy along with a visualization which is lead by the priest/priestss (the transfer of energy can occur by holding hands, through a hug, kiss etc.).
"Let it be known that the temple shall be erected and the circle cast."
Everything usually starts in the east side of the circle because of the Sun rising there and this is an important symbol in Wicca because of its connection to the God (whose symbol is the Sun). 

Now that the circle is defined, I return to my altar and light the altar candle on which I will later light my incense. I then light all the other candles on the altar candle starting from the East and going deosil. But don't forget to return them to their place as soon as you light them. You can carry your altar candle with you when you light these candles because it saves time and is just easier.

I light the east candle with my altar candle while saying:
"Here, in the East, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it."
I light the south candle while saying:
"Here, in the South, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it."
I light the west candle while saying:
"Here, in the West, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it." 
I light the north candle while saying:
"Here, in the North, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it." 
After this, it is necessary to cleanse the physical elements before marking the circle with them. 
I put the tip of my athamé/wand into the bowl of salt:
"Salt is life. May it cleanse me in every way; may it cleanse my body and my soul because I devote myself to the Goddess and God in this ritual."
 I put a pinch of salt in the bowl of water to cleanse it:
"May this sacred salt remove and impurities from this water so I may use it in this rite."
Now I begin to mark the circle with the elements (everything is done deosil starting from the East, after which you walk a full circle back to the starting point and return to the altar).

- I light the incense on my altar candle and walk with it swaying it gently (if it is a censer) or wave it around slowly (if we're talking about incense sticks) so the smoke can disperse itself:
"I cleanse this circle with the element of Air."
- I take my altar candle in my hand and walk a full circle with it:

"I cleanse this circle with the element of Fire."
 - I walk holding the bowl of water in my hand and sprinkle water over the perimeter of the circle:

"I cleanse this circle with the element of Water."
- I walk holding the bowl of salt and sprinkle some salt on the perimeter of the circle:
"I cleanse this circle with the element of Earth."
(Some people will choose to walk around the circle only three times altogether: once with the athamé, once with the incense which can serve as a symbol of both Fire and Air (smoke=Air, fire with which it was lit=Fire) and once with the water which has in itself the salt which symbolizes Earth)

After this, I visualize the protection of the circle.
I do this by visualizing a sphere around myself which is tall enough for me to stand in and follows the perimeter of the circle. It should be best if this sphere is "elastic" so you don't break it if you accidentally touch it or step over it. I visualize white light filling it completely (but you can think of another color if you have one that you prefer better) and establish that this sphere can only take in positive energy. Negative energy has nothing to do there. After the visualization I say:
"May the circle be open."
 If you like, you can now mark yourself with the ritual oil on your forehead (by pressing your thumb to it or drawing a pentagram with your forefinger). I prefer not to use oil at all, but this is your choice.
Even if you don't decide to do this, you can still say the following to finish the opening of the circle:
"I consecrate myself in the name of the God and the Goddess and give them a warm welcome into this circle." 

2. Invoking the Elements 

The Elements are invoked to protect you during your ritual and give you support. I plan to write a separate post on the difference of Elements and Elementals, but for now I think it's important to know that Elements are the term you are looking form in the beginning, while Elementals are beings which are thought to be the embodiments of the Elements (Gnomes, Salamander etc.) and its quite difficult to work with them and often ends up complicated so I wouldn't recommend calling up Elementals but rather the Elements.

Do the following while standing at your altar. I take up my athamé/wand and point it at the according cardinal point (starting again with the East).

-I invoke the element of Air in the East:
"Greetings to the element of Air, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the East. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle."
-I invoke the element of Fire in the South:
"Greetings to the element of Fire, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the South. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
-I invoke the element of Water in the West:
"Greetings to the element of Water, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the West. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
-I invoke the element of Earth in the North:
"Greetings to the element of Earth, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the North. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
After each sentence you can (but don't have to) draw and invoking pentagram as shown in the picture below.

I, for example, usually use the invoking pentagram of Water for everything because it comes naturally to me and because water the element I am closest to. Normally the invoking pentagram of Earth is used for every invocation, but the choice is yours. You don't even have to use pentagrams in the beginning (or at all) if you find them confusing or just simply don't like them.

3. Invoking the Goddess and God

Invoking the Goddess and God can be very simple, but also very complicated. It all depends on the way you decide to do it.

Here's how my friends does it. He stands at his altar and raises his athamé towards the sky
"Hail to the quarters and hail to the Gods. I give my greetings to the Lord and Lady and invite them to join me and witness this ritual that I hold in their honor."
He chooses to eat and drink something after this as a sort of toast to the Gods, but I recommend leaving the cakes and wine (i.e. food and drinks) for the grounding part of the ritual which comes after the whole ritual (I'll explain it later).

I prefer to hold a short speech in honor of the God and Goddess because they certainly deserve at least this if each element gets a sentence or two.

When reading coven rituals, you will probably come across the term Drawing down the Moon which is actually a way of invoking the Goddess. It is thought that the Goddess enters the body of the Priestess when this ritual is performed. You will also see the term Fivefold kiss (a kiss given by the High Pries to the High Priestess during the Drawing down the Moon rite, but also a way of awakening the Goddess in the Priestess and expressing the God's love for the Goddess). After this, the Priestess speaks the Charge of the Goddess and the coven dances the Witches' Rune dance (a dance lead by the High Priestess with the goal of raising energy in the circle) during which songs are sung. I think this isn't the place to start explaining all these terms in detail because it would take far too long and besides, this post is meant of you Solitaries out there and not coven work (which you can read up on in basically any book on Wicca). In time, I will write something about all of these smaller rites, but I'll put them aside for the time being.

Anyway, as a replacement for all of this, you can write your own speech/poem with which you can invoke the Goddess and God. For now, I think it will be enough for you to write a something for each of them and find a simpler system for raising energy in your circle that fits you best (visualizations, chanting, movements like dancing, spinning, running or something similar to this). 

I will let you do the writing or else there would be no end to this post :)

4. Esbat and Sabbat Rituals

Depending on what Sabbat it is, now is the time to welcome the God and Goddess into your circle in an appropriate way and show respect to that time of year and Sabbat that celebrates it. In the aforementioned "Sabbats" section, you will find separate posts for each Sabbat with traditions for each one that you can incorporate into your own rituals.

If you are also celebrating and Esbat (full moon), then it is also appropriate to practice any form of divination technique (tarot cards, runes, the black scrying mirror etc.). This is done after the Sabbat ritual usually. Also, this is the best time for and magickal rituals you want to do and for cleansing tools/talismans/whatever. This is when bigger emphasis is put on the Goddess' power since the full moon is in itself the height of the moon's energy and a fitting symbol for the Mother phase of the Goddess. You can also thank the Goddess and God for anything at this time, and if you think you have been good enough, you can even ask them for something :)

 As I said in the invocations section of this post, I'll let you write this on your own primarily because it is of a great personal nature.

No matter what the occasion, a good idea would be to raise the energy at this point. The whole poing of raising energy is to achieve an alternate state of consciousness and raise the energy of the circle in general in order to channel it towards a certain goal (e.g. a magical work or contacting a deity which usually follows this) or perhaps towards the food and drink (which should always come after this step). You can find out more on this in my post on raising group energy where you can read about the various techniques which can be used to do this (of course, you can alter all of it to fit the number of people attending the ritual).

5. Cakes and Wine

This is the "official" name for food and drinks in Wicca. Eating and drinking after a ritual is used as a form of grounding (bringing yourself "back to Earth", or more precisely said - earthing). Namely, energy has surrounded you and been an integral part of you quite a bit by now and it is now time to return to the real world. You will probably feel a bit confused and separated from the physical world so this is a good thing to do. The best way to return to the real world is to get as much physical contact as you can and what better way than to actually consume physical food and drinks.

The most commonly consumed food is any form of cakes and wine is usually drunk. I, for example, don't drink wine or beer so I have to find replacements. I adapt each Sabbat to myself. Sometimes I drink apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, milk (always for Esbats), some sort of liquor etc. Though take into account the time of year because it makes no sense to celebrate that season if you drink orange juice and oranges can't be seen anywhere around you at that time of year. You'll want to have everything as natural as possible in the circle so don't forget to think about this and it's also nice if you can make the food yourself (both because you put more energy into the ritual that way which makes it more powerful but because you will also know what that food is made of which makes it less "fake"). 

I will give good examples of seasonal food and drinks in each Sabbat post and for the Esbat, I recommend you drink milk (the ultimate symbol of motherhood and as I said, the full moon is the symbol of the Mother phase of the Goddess).

You can also take some time for a short meditation before you start to eat and drink. My friend wrote the following nicely:
"I relax, breathe deeply, calm down and become aware of the earth/floor I am sitting on. My feet (or if you are sitting, your spine) are on the ground and I visualize tree roots growing from down my spine into the earth itself. I feel on with the earth from which i receive energy. I stay like this for a while. I then take back the roots into myself being aware of the energy that now circulates through my body."
Before you begin to eat and drink, it is necessary to consecrate the food and drinks. Here is how my friend does it:

Before a full chalice of beer (or any drink of your taste) I say:
"It is time for me to thank the Gods for their help. So mote it be."
I put the tip of my athamé/wand inside the drink and say:
"May man unite with woman in this way in mutual happiness. May the fruits of this unity heighten life. May everyone be fertile and may abundance spread throughout the lands."
I speak before the plate of food:
"This food is a blessing from the Gods. May we freely share everything and while doing so remember that we share with those that have less than ourselves." 
Except with the athamé/wand, the food and drink can be consecrated by placing your hands on/above them or by channeling group energy towards it (though this can be done by only one person as well). A libation is often performed (a small quantity of the drink is poured out into a libation dish) and a bit of the food is left aside - these play the role of the sacrifice. Before you start to eat/drink, you can also give a toast to the gods and give thanks to them for what you have.

While eating, meditate on the meaning of the food you are eating and on the meaning of that specific Esbat or Sabbat ritual.

6. Thanking the Goddess and God 

You cannot chase the Gods or the Elements out of your circle because that would be very impolite. They are your guests and you have to be polite and say goodbye to them in a respectful way.

I do this while standing at my altar and saying something like:
"As I came into my temple in love and friendship, so I leave it. Let me radiate this love outwards and share it with those that I meet.
I thank the Goddess and God, whom I invoked and from whom I asked for help. I thank you for watching over me, guarding me and leading me in all that I do. (Love is the law, love is the bond.) Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again. The circle will now be closed."  

7. Dismissing the Quarters

Perhaps "dismissing" isn't the best verb to be used because it is usually used in an impolite context. This is more of a "bidding farewell".

Like before, I begin in the East and go deosil. I bid farewell to the elements by going to each quarter (East, South etc.) and blowing/snuffing out each quarter candle. You can (but don't have to) use the banishing pentagrams that were shown previously. I personally don't like to "banish" anything, because it seems rather unfriendly and I will want to stay on friendly terms with the Elements since I will invite them into my circle again shortly.

When I reach each quarter, I say, holding my athamé/wand upwards:
-in the East
"I thank the element of Air for protecting my circle. Go in peace."
-in the South
"I thank the element of Fire for protecting my circle. Go in peace."
-in the West
"I thank the element of Water for protecting my circle. Go in peace." 
-in the North
"I thank the element of Earth for protecting my circle. Go in peace." 
 Note: some people may prefer to close their circle widdershins (counterclockwise i.e. beginning in the East, then going to the North, West, South and returning to the East), while others will find that they prefer using this direction only when doing banishments. Others think than, by doing this, we unconsecrate everything that was previously consecrated. Then again, the decision is yours. I always go deosil, if that means anything :)

I then put down the athamé/wand and visualize the "deflating" of the sphere of light (remember the sphere you filled with light during the opening of the circle).  While doing so, I say:
"Praise be to the magickal Elements. I bid you farewell. So mote it be."
While visualizing the white light slowly fading, I also try to feel the Elements leaving the circle. This will help bring you back to the real world.

When you feel ready, walk around the circle (widdershins or deosil...whichever you have decided on) with your athamé and remark the perimeter while saying:
"The circle is now closed. So mote it me." 
Now be tidy and clear everything up after yourself (not that there will be much to tidy since there was no sacrificing of any sort and no blood to mop up :p).  After everything has been cleared, the only thing that should be left is your altar candle which you show now blow/snuff out also (this is left last partly for practical reasons because you may be working in the dark and can leave the circle to turn the lights back on only after you have closed the circle).

Note: Some will not like extinguishing the candle flames by blowing them out because they see this as air being superior to fire. If you find yourself thinking this, then you can just get a candle snuffer (or any old glass) and snuff out the candles. This is also nice because there is less smoke involved. There is also the belief that with every candle that is blow out, once soul is "killed". Though so many discussions have been lead on this subject, but I find it best if you don't concern yourselves with this just yet. Just do what feels natural to you :)

I'm guessing that all this reading tired you out, as did the writing part do the trick for me. But I hope it was worth it :) Not that I have carried out my promise, I leave you with a clear conscience :)

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat


Communing with Nature

You might have asked yourselves why I talked about Wicca as a "natural religion" when there hasn't been a single mention of nature on this blog yet. Well, I think it's about time I got to that point so if you have asked yourself this question, you had the complete right to do so :)

Up to now, I have just "listed" some rough facts that could help you, but if you have been following this blog, it should be about time to get away from that and get into a deeper philosophy of Wicca and its spiritual side. Anyone can get out a candle, light it and call this a ritual, but to truly connect to what you are doing, it takes time and effort.

I have lately been reading a lot of books that keep saying something along the lines of "not even fifty books will explain the spiritual side of Wicca better than being in nature itself...and they certainly won't be worth more than the experience itself". I find this to be true. I think its best to experience everything on your own skin and the sooner the better (though this doesn't apply to rituals in my opinion, because some knowledge is needed for ritual work, as well as time for that knowledge to settle, a bit of practice and feelings at the end of it all. I'm talking about meditation and communing with yourself and the cosmic forces primarily). 

If we decide to look at the religious aspect of Wicca, the God and Goddess are the most important "personas". I prefer to look on the relationship towards them as I would on a relationship with a friend (though your viewpoint may differ from mine...you may experience them as solely spiritual leaders, parents etc.). However you decide to view them doesn't change the fact that a certain amount of time and energy has to be put into a relationship for it to work (and this goes for ANY relationship). If you lose contact, then this relationship will wither away. All of this goes for your relationship with the Goddess and God. If you sit down with them and "have a drink" or in any way make them a part of your life (and yourselves), then this relationship will stay strong. This can be done in any minimal way; you don't have to do rituals for every occasion because these take up a log of time and energy (that most people don't have nowadays). For example, if you have any of your ritual tools out in the open and pass them often, next time you walk by them acknowledge them and emphasize the fact that they aren't a part of your daily routine. If you perhaps have a key chain of other token that has any sort of spiritual meaning to you, simply look at it every now and then to remind yourselves of that other side you have. You can even do a short meditation (5 minutes is enough, sometimes even more than enough) and take that time to give thanks for the energy you have and feel that these five minutes really did play a special role in that day. As you can see, you don't have to make grand gestures. Something small can do equally as well. I realize that in these fast-moving times, people are always concerned with mundane problems and forced to live at a faster pace, but you CAN take this short amount of time every now and then just for yourselves. It really helps to lighten all the burdens we have to carry.

Personally, I love to just go into nature (mostly I go by bike, but I don't mind walking either) and relax, or rather completely let myself over to everything that surrounds me. These are the moments where you can most clearly feel the presence of the Great Mother and Green Man (or Horned God, depending on the season). When you take your time to go into nature, this process of going there is in itself very special to people who live in cities (I sadly have to admit that I fall into this category). So next time you go into nature, look at the leaves swaying with the wind, feel the breeze on your skin and breathe in deeply. Believe me when I say that nature really can replenish the body and soul. I often like to bring a book with me (I love to read so this relaxes me even more), or meditate, but in any case, I prefer to be separated form any form of technology (turn of your cellphone, don't listen to music...this will only spoil the beautiful sounds of chirping birds and the blowing wind around you).

Anyway, so this post doesn't just end up being a series of my philosophical thoughts, I would like to recommend a few short meditations which you can try in order to help you commune with nature (both exterior, but also the nature within yourselves...you never know ;)). I am going to be retelling these meditations out of my head. Some of them I read somewhere, others I got to in various other way, but who can even remember where I found each of them :) so if you happen to come across a similar (of even the same) technique in a book or somewhere else, don't be too surprised :)

Tree Roots

This is one of my favorite meditations. I find it better to do when there's an actual tree nearby than not, but you decide for yourselves. Basically, all you have to do is sit down comfortably and keep as straight a back as you can manage (without pain). The usual pose is a half lotus, but if you find this uncomfortable then just find another pose that suits you. I recommend doing this in nature so that your back is against a tree trunk (which also gives you physical support). Visualize yourselves becoming connected to the earth and growing roots that begin at the bottom of your spine and grow deep into the ground and your spine becoming a big root (or a bunch of roots) similar to that of any tree. Once you have spread your roots deep enough, feel yourself sharing the earth's energy. Think only positive thoughts. Visualize the circulation of positive energy through your roots (which can keep on branching if you like). If you want to, you can even visualize your roots intertwining with those of the tree by which you are sitting (wonderful metaphor for communing with nature, don't you think?). When you want to stop with this meditation, visualize your roots returning back into you and your spine turning back to normal. While doing this, you don't want all that positive energy to just leave you so you can keep visualizing white light (a typical symbol for positive energy) continually flowing through you. Slowly return to reality and open your eyes.


This exercise is usually done on the night of a full moon, though nobody can forbid you from doing it on any other night (not depending on the phase of the moon). All you need is a bowl of water and a clear view of the moon. Sit yourself nicely somewhere where you have a clear reflection of the moon on the surface of the water in your bowl (though moonlight is enough if the night is a bit cloudier). Concentrate on the Moon's reflection/the moonlight and observe what it looks like on this surface. Now is the time to just free your mind of all your problems and questions and focus on this reflection or perhaps think about your connection to the cosmos and the moon (for which we now know is a symbol of the Goddess). This method is often used for divinatory purposes and it is a fitting replacement for the black mirror (which equally as well reflects everything). Of course, it's your choice what you will use this method for :)

The Sun and Stars

Sit (or lie down, but without falling asleep haha...whichever you prefer) comfortably somewhere on the grass. The purpose of this exercise is to connect with the universe and surrounding forces. You will start of with a series of slightly more complex visualizations (which will be connected to each other) than in the former two exercises.

First of all, you will visualize yourself in a meadow with the Sun rising in the east. Imagine you are looking at everything at high speed. That day will quickly turn into night as you watch the Sun fall. Of course, somewhere around sunset, the moon will show its glowing face in the sky so as you watch the Sun fall, you will watch the moon rise. Look at the stars that surround you and be thankful for the sunlight that gives you live and the moon and starlight that leads you on your path during the night (I am indeed aware of streetlights, but this goes much deeper than that...perhaps you can think about that while you meditate ^^). You can repeat this part of the visualization a few times if you like and visualize the moon in a different phase each time.

Imagine the change of the seasons happening before your eyes (again at high speed). Look at the flower in Spring, the green grass and feel the light breeze on your cheeks. After this, feel the swelter of the Summer Sun, its heat on your body and look at all the living beings that surround you because everything around you is simply bursting with life! Now it's Autumn, and with it comes the yellowish-red tone of the leaves and a slightly colder breeze and possibly a few droplets of rain. For Winter, try to visualize piles and piles of snow surrounding you, feel the wind pinching your cheeks and breathe in the energy of life and feel your life force being renewed. Return now to Spring and slowly open your eyes.

Of course, try to visualize the seasons as they are in your natural surroundings (for example, there's rarely any snow where I live, so I doubt I would visualize Winter like this).

The Elements

I read this exercise combine (in a way) with this previous exercise but I modified it to fit my needs. Visualize yourself in a meadow, again. In order for yourself to connect with Air, feel the wind in your hair, on your cheeks and hear it carrying leaves around you. For the element of Water you can visualize a small stream nearby or even the sea shore being somewhere near you. You can drink some water from the stream (of in the case of sea water, just pass your hands through it) and hear its light movement (which is helped by the light breeze which is still blowing). For the element of Fire, you can imagine a small campfire nearby. It is tame and you keep it under control by adding dry leaves and branches when it needs to be fed. To connect with Earth, all you have to do is imagine yourself taking a handful of the earth and feel its power. If you are lying on the ground while imagining this, the feeling will be all the more intense.

For now, I'll stop with giving you exercises to do because I'm sure you will find more than enough of them on your own and in time. But I will recommend you try to make all these visualizations of reality. You can actually go camping (in real life) and physically feed the campfire, physically feel the wind on your face, the earth in your hand and the water trickling into you throat as you drink it.

Of course, if you find some of these exercises impracticable in reality, you can always be content with the simpler ones. After all, even the Greek philosophers though (and in a way meditated) simply by walking (or during walks?) so you can try this as well. Just take a walk through nature and relax.

You can even do some of your hobbies in nature (play a smaller instrument, read, write, do yoga, draw/paint, walk, ride a bike, go roller skating etc.). Everything that creates positive energy and thoughts is welcome :)

Being in nature can really help your soul to recover and help you realize certain things. Learn to be grateful for the small things in life. Remember how hard it is to get to food and remedies in nature by going out to get some in nature (which is often done as a part of the Sabbath festivals). Try and find some ingredients for a meal you are preparing or some herbs for a tincture/oil/tea you want to make. All of these are ways of communing with nature.

After you have done this for the first time, I believe you will sense a difference (because I most definitely did). In case you want to try out some more exercises, you can leave a comment or send me an e-mail and I'll surely be able to find or think up more of them. But I think this will do for now :)

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat


Book of Shadows

In my previous post I talked a bit about ritual tools, but I intentionally left out one "tool" in order to put emphasis on it. Namely, Wicca doesn't have any sort of common holy book because every individual is given the freedom to create their own system of moral values according to what suits them the best. In this way, everyone is encouraged to be conscious of their own actions (and their effect on themselves and other) but also answer for them. There are no rules in Wicca, at least not in the traditional sense.

Since such a freedom is granted to the individual, everyone makes their own "holy book". This book is called the Book of Shadows in Wicca (BoS for short). There are a few theories that state where the name could have come from, but one thing is for sure; that the person who introduced this name was Gerald Gardner, the so called father of Wicca. One of the theories that Doreen Valiente supports claims that this name came from an old manual which was written in Sanskrit which just so happened to carry the same name. The contents of this manual explained how to divine according to the length of a persons' shadow.

Of course, the most famous Book of Shadows today is the one that belonged to Gerald Gardner himself.

You might ask yourselves: what is a Book of Shadows even used for?

This will be a certain type of diary, though you don't have to write in it every day but when you actually feel the need to do so or have something important to write down. In it, you will write down any information that you think will be useful to you when practicing the Craft. I prefer to write down only the things that I don't have in books or those that I know I'll have trouble finding again. This belong to you and you alone and it is recommended that nobody else be allowed to read your BoS except for you (unless you're a part of a coven or other sort of group where you have a joint BoS, in which case you will share this book with the other members according to the agreement you come to).  Because of it being just yours, you can write in it whatever you want and the way you want to. You can even design it to completely suite your taste.

I would recommend drawing/making some sort of cover sheet just so you can make it more personal (e.g. draw you zodiac symbols or write down your name, be it real or magickal, in some writing you are fond of, draw any other symbol you find appropriate or anything that means anything to you and so on) and I also found it useful to have a few pages at the back left for a sort of contents. I made my contents by drawing up grids on each page. Each grid has a letter of the alphabet at the top so that I put everything regarding the Sabbaths under "S" and all my dreams under "D" etc. You, of course, don't have to have the same system (or any system at all), but I find it quite useful to have everything organized because you WILL return to read a lot of what you're written over time and this just makes things easier (especially when you gather a lot of material over time).

What can you write inside?
Well...you can start off by writing information on the eight Sabbaths, appropriate rituals to go along with them (as well as the Esbaths) or any other magickal rituals you have done/plan to do. If you are into some sort of technique of divination, you can jot down your results (questions, the process, conclusions) or write down any new findings you come across. I also find it nice to write down and analyze your dreams so you can have your dream diary inside your BoS (which I find practical). If you are a fan of plants and crystals like I am, then you can write down what you find out on this topic as well. Along with all of his, I highly recommend you make a correspondence table here and there which you will come across in a lot of books (and on this blog also) because they really can make your life simpler when you need to find something in a rush or just help put things in order when you've been trying to remember a lot of information. If you forget something or don't have time to search through your library, you just have to open that section of your BoS and there you have it! :D

If you are especially fond of a certain pantheon then you can write down a list of Gods/Goddesses so you don't forget about them. Also, writing things down helps you to memorize them :)

BUT, you don't just have to copy everything out. You are, of course, allowed to write down your own essays and thoughts inside this book too. Just keep in mind that this book primarily serves for writing down rituals which you have done or plan to do. This is you own private "holy book" which you can turn to when you have to.

Regarding design, format and other formalities, all of this depends on you. Your BoS can be really tiny, the size of an A4 piece of paper (which I find the best option) or any other size that you prefer. Writing your BoS on your computer isn't recommended because by writing by hand, more energy is put into it and hence the book itself gains a greater importance. It's like with everything else I've mentioned, the more energy you put into something, the stronger it gets (and the more you get back from it). Though I feel obliged to tell you that more and more people are starting to write their BoS on their computer because it's simply a more practical option that writing it by hand when it comes to the writing itself (which is a lot faster), inserting photos/drawings, finding things, sharing it with others etc. And not to mention the blessing it is for those who have bad handwriting! Anyway, if you decide to go with the electronic version, don't forget to always have a backup somewhere because you never know when your computer can crash.

Some will find it more practical to have some sort of file in which you can switch/add/take away papers as need be. My first book of shadows was an ordinary fat blue notebook I bought in a school/office supplies shop. I chose blue because this was my favorite color at the time and because it had an important meaning to me (and still does). All I did was draw the cover page to make it more personal.
I made my new BoS with a technique I found on the internet and found very useful. Just follow this link and you will see the complete instructions on how to make one yourself. The technique proved to be extremely successful as you can see from the above picture. I only switched the position of the ribbon so it connected only the middle holes which enabled me to open the book completely, but feel free to look at the tutorial and see for yourself which way you like the most.

The decorative papers and cardboard (the thicker the better in my opinion) can be found in any art shop of office supplies store and I found the necessary ribbons in a local trimmings shop that sold everything from ribbons and buttons to needles and other materials needed for sowing. You will have all the other materials at home, but if you don't, you can also buy them in any school/office supplies shop. All in all, this is a fairly simple technique that will let you make an original, beautiful and practical notebook that will serve as you Book of Shadows. All you need is a bit of patience and time but believe me when I say that it's worth it.

People usually think that their BoS has to be a fat, black book (often leather-bound), but it really doesn't. Of course, if you prefer black over any other color, no one can forbid you to have a black cover. Just please remember to personalize it in any way.

I recommend that you write and draw everything in it by hand (without photocopies and printouts if possible) because you'll put in all the more energy this way. Though your writing should be tidy, or at least readable, because you'll want to be able to read from it occasionally and the atmosphere won't always be ideal for reading (usually only under the light of one or two candles and that's it...which is hard enough even with tidy handwriting).

I'm not sure what more to write here because most of this depends on your decisions. But since I can't write much, you can write to me about how well your BoS turned out or what a perfect one you managed to find online and how you are beginning to fill it up with all sorts of useful pieces of information! :D

And finally, don't forget to cleanse and consecrate it in a ritual because this will make it holy to you. It is at this moment that it stops being an ordinary notebook, diary or even just a simple hand-made notebook. It then becomes so much more! It becomes your contact with the Goddess and God, a symbol of your dedication to the Craft and a collection of everything you have learnt so far. Remember, there will always be more blank pages for you to fill with your handwriting and new findings so this i also one of the many stimulators for further learning and personal growth!

May happiness follow you one this wonderful journey!
Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat


Beltane (May 1)

Since Beltane is getting closer, I thought it would be best if I wrote something about it as to give you some ideas for celebrating :) The festival itself falls on the transition from April 30 to May 1 (although people normally think of May 1 as the festival of Beltane). In the Celtic tradition, you may see it written as Beltaine (Beltane is the anglicized version). The Irish Gaelic form of the word is pronounced /b'yol-tinnuh/ (or try /bjoltinə/, this is my simplified version of transcribing but it sounds basically the same), though most people nowadays simply pronounce it /beltein/. The Gaelic word, when translated, simply means "May" (the month). The Scottish Gaelic word Bealtuinn (pronounced /b'yal-ten/ or simplified /bjaltən/) is another name for May 1, also called May Day.

The first association to this day is the fire god Bel (also called Beli, Balar, Balor, latin Belenus but also Baal). Some will claim that Beltane was named after this god and that it means Belfire (the fire of Bel). He was the god of light and fire, but also a sun god in a certain way (but not in the traditional way that Apollo is in Greek mythology). As you may know, the Celts weren't people that primarily praised the Sun...just remember what it was like where they lived and how little sunshine there was. Also, the Celtic words for sun (grian and the personified Mór) are female nouns (though noun genders is not a very familiar concept when it comes to English grammar) and therefore cannot so easily be connected to a male deity such as Bel. 

Some will make a connection between Bel and the Great Father...like Cernunnos was for the Celts. This is why the two are often compared in the sense that both are a part of the myth of the impregnation of the Mother Goddess, which is celebrated, among other things, on this day.

This holiday is one of the Celtic fire festivals. The thing all of these festivals have in common is the lighting of fire in visible places like hills, in this case on night of April 30/May 1. This fire was supposed to symbolize the return of the sun, a time of fertility and life. A popular tradition concerning these fires was jumping over them. This was usually done by young women and men that wanted to find a husband/wife, travelers that wanted to ensure themselves a safe trip, pregnant women in hope of having an easy labor and so on. Cattle was often driven between two of these fires or through the ashes of a fire in order to guarantee a good milk-yield. Also connected to cattle, it's important to say that May 1 was also marked by taking the animals to the summer pastures. This was the true symbol of the beginning of spring (or rather summer because the Celts separated the year into only two seasons: summer which began on May 1 and Winter which began on October 31/November 1). 

The God is usually symbolized by the oak tree in this time of year and the Goddess by hawthorn. There is a tradition that says that cutting anything of a hawthorn tree brings bad luck. Though blackthorn can be used as a replacement in rituals and similar situations that call for a plant which will represent the Goddess.

Undoubtedly, this day was a day of sexuality for everyone. You will come across many phallic symbols included in the festival preparations, for example the Maypole (a symbol of the penis), nuts (a symbol of male testes) and the "gown of green" (the symbol of a man covering a woman). Customs on this day include dancing around the maypole, searching for nuts in the woods, greenwood marriages and staying up to watch the May-Day sunrise.

On the morning of May 1, people would return to their homes with arms full of flowers ready to decorate their doors and windows, while the younger members of families would engage in making garlands and carry them in many merry processions. Even today, a similar custom exists in Ireland which includes making a garland from rowan and marsh marigold inside which there would be two balls attached, one silver and the other golden representing the moon and the sun (ultimately the Goddess and God) but they could also allude to testes, which wouldn't be uncommon taking into consideration the festival we're talking about.

You may even hear about the old tradition dancing (often skyclad) in fields in order to ensure their fertility. This may seem absurd to the modern man, though to me, this is a very interesting theory. If nothing else, it gave moral support to the people of that time :)

The most superstitious idea is thought to be the one when people clean their faces with the morning dew (on the morning of May 1) believing that this will make them more beautiful. This custom was present both in England and Ireland and was seen as something quite ordinary.

Regarding the ritual itself for this day, it's recommended that you achieve the "springiest" atmosphere you can; make garlands of spring flowers, flower jewelry, decorate everything with flowers and, if you have the opportunity, have a small fire nearby (if you can't do that, then light more candles or put a candle in your cauldron if you have one...or improvise with some other kind of bowls). As for food, nuts of all kind are welcome or anything made using them. Don't forget that this festival celebrates fertility after all (and sexuality with it), but also love, so keep this in mind when writing your ritual and take care to include some symbolical elements of this. We mustn't forget the maypole dancing and entwining ribbons around it. A few years back, I was celebrating Beltane with a friend and since it was only the two of us, we took a longer branch and stuck it in the ground and then entwined two ribbons around it. This was supposed to be a miniature version of our maypole and I have to say that it looked nice :) 

I hope that you will have an equally nice time as I know I will this year since I will be celebrating with a group of wonderful people in Zagreb. You can expect pictures and a report as soon as I get back :D

Sabbat: Beltane
Pronunciation: /b'yol-tinnuh/, /beltein/
Date: April 30 / May 1
Other names: Beltaine, May Day
God phase: Sung God, Oak King, the Green Man
Goddess phase: Mother (makes love with the God and
gets pregnant)
Celebrating the return of fertility and the 
sun (Celtic beginning of spring/summer),
the unity of the Goddess and God
The Maypole, jumping of the belfire,
blowing through horns, making garlands
and flower jewelry, searching for nuts
in woods, awaiting sunrise on May 1,
making a fire (preferably a bonfire)
Symbols &
Dark green, white, the colors of the
rainbow, fresh flowers, cauldrons with
flowers/a candle, fire, mirrors, nuts, 
phallic symbols
Food: Until I write up everything in my blog
cookbook, here are a few sites to keep you
Confessions of a Kitchen Witch
My Moonlit Path
But I managed to try a few of my own:
Herbal cookies
May serpent cake
...and if you're not that good in the kitchen,
you can always use something with honey
ore nuts or make a traditional cake that
combines the two. Use your imagination! :D
Incense: Rose, flowery smells

I wish you the best of luck with your preparations and the celebrating itself :D
Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat