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When, Why ...If


This appendix is here for those who may have no idea what all this "Wicca" or "Craft" stuff is about, anyway.

I could, and will, point you toward a couple of excellent books. But just in case you have access to no book except this one, I feel that I should give you a bit of an explanation.

The following material is part of the introduction to the Book of Shadows that I hand out to all my students. Some of this I wrote myself. Some I put together from things that I was given to copy in my "own hand of write." The sources for those things were anonymous when I was given them in the early 1980s. If I have stepped on anyone's toes in presenting it here, I do apologize.

In my tradition of the Craft, we study all of this stuff for a year and a day (at least) before initiation. This is because I strongly feel that initiation is not something to be entered into lightly. After all, once you are on this path, you will be drawn back to it forever, no matter how many lifetimes you may live. As they say, "Once a Witch, always a Witch."

Therefore, before I will initiate someone, I want them to be very sure just what they are getting into.

I am pretty nervous about letting you have this without me (or some other teacher) there to guide you. But at this point, I feel that it would cause more harm for you not to have it; and if you need a teacher, the Lady will provide you with one. That's Her job.

So here goes.

We are the Wicca; Witches; the secret children of the Goddess. We are a very ancient religion. Some say that our name means "wise ones". Others say it means "to bend". What it once meant is no longer important, for now it means both of those things, and many more besides.

In the dawn times, when mankind was young, we all worshiped the Mother, and Her consort, the Horned God of Fertility and the Hunt. We were simple people then, hunters and gatherers, and we lived in harmony with the earth.

But all things change, and we, too, changed. We learned to work with our Mother to bring forth the food we needed when and where we needed it - we invented agriculture. And we began to live in cities, and to make war with each other.

Gradually, we drew apart from our Mother, and as the long ages passed we forgot our first love, and the nurturing we had received. But some few still clung to the old ways, and learned the old skills. These were called Priestesses, or Witches, or Wise Ones; and they were feared, for their knowledge and their power.

When the new gods came into the land, and won the loyalty of the people by force and deceit, or by true acts of gentleness and loving kindness (for a good man may be found anywhere - and every religion contains some truth) then the Gods of the old religion became the Saints and the Devils of the new.

For many years we lived together in harmony. But at last greedy men seized control of the new religion, for the structure lent itself to controlling, and then the burning times began.

During those times, great change was upon the land, and a new light of reason dawned, and many in the ruling classes lost their power. But because there was great upheaval, the times were also troubled and uncertain; and all who were handy targets - the poor, women, and people whose color or philosophy did not coincide with the new ruling classes - were used to vent the anger and uncertainty of all the world.

Many were tortured, and countless thousands were killed - and we of the old religion hid for our lives; and were heard of no more, until people thought we were myth; a tale to frighten naughty children.

Then the laws against us were repealed - for why outlaw a fairy tale? And in a new climate of tolerance, some are stepping forth again; to separate the facts from the fiction, and explain to all the world that we are simple people; who desire nothing more than to grow and learn in peace, to honor our Mother, the Earth, and to worship the Gods we cherish in the fashion we choose.

We are a polytheistic religion; we worship the Mother, whom we call the Lady, and her Consort, the Lord, as we have since the dawn of time. There are many aspects of the Lord and Lady, and we celebrate Their rituals using many names.

Our circles are rich with chants and legends. Many are as old as the rocky hills. Many are as new as the spring rain. For just as the world grows and changes, with cycles repeating themselves year by year, so our religion grows and changes, and yet the patterns and rhythms repeat themselves again and again.

We do not perform sacrifices on Her altar, for she does not delight in the shedding of blood, but in joy and living. All acts of beauty and love are sacred to Her, and we rejoice in the celebration of life.

We are reverent, but seldom solemn. We glory in laughter, and enjoy our worship.

There are three degrees of initiation in our tradition of the craft. After studying for a year and a day, and learning the basics of the craft, a Pagan may ask for initiation. An Initiate of the first degree should study for an additional year and a day, gaining proficiency with the rituals and personal magic, at which time she may ask for elevation to the second degree. After another year and a day spent learning to see the patterns of the world and how to work within them, she may apply for elevation to the third degree. Witches of the third degree learn to step outside the patterns of this world, and mold them. Much of their time is spent teaching and counseling. (Folk will seek them out, whether they advertise or not. We joke that we walk around with "Priestess" or "Priest" stamped on our foreheads.)

We are a religion of Priestesses and Priests, and all Initiates are Priest or Priestess. As such, any Initiate may cast a circle for herself, or for a partner, for work or for prayer, or for a Pagan group, to teach and instruct them, and lead them in worship. Only remember to speak carefully to members of Pagan groups, and never forget that they are not Initiates.

If a Pagan wishes to become an Initiate, the first degree Witch should seek the advice and help of a second or third degree.

It is best to worship within a group, but this is not always possible.

Groups ideally consist of thirteen people; six couples and the High Priestess. She represents the Goddess, and leads the rites, assisted by the High Priest she chooses. All should be in accord, with no dissension.

Attire varies from group to group. Many work sky-clad; that is nude. But when robes are worn, they are generally free-flowing and hooded. Each robe is the personal property of its owner, and traditionally it is never to be worn by any other person, nor is it to leave the possession of its owner. When it can no longer be worn, it is cremated.

However, in our tradition any covener may wear anything that "feels right". Circles have been celebrated in jeans and t-shirts! For the clothing, though it can serve to put one in the right frame of mind and tell the Twilight Self what is going on, is unimportant when that state of mind can be achieved at will.

Blessed Be!

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If this looks interesting to you, and you'd like to read more, please feel free to visit Livingtree Grove, my pagan grove on this site, where you can learn more about Wicca in general, and the way we practice it in my tradition in particular.