Thursday, August 13, 2015

Low Church Wicca

Cross, faith


Faiths are Changing, Wicca Included


By Race MoChridhe


In recent weeks, the religious community in the United States has been abuzz with the results from the latest Pew surveys. The web is inundated with articles on “the rise of the ‘nones’”, the decline of mainline Protestantism, changing views on homosexuality, and a slew of other topics. For practitioners of many kinds of alternative spirituality, however, the surveys offer little. Religions with less than a few million adherents are all lumped together in the “other” wedge of the pie chart, and no more specific analysis or breakdown is done for them. That does not mean that they are standing still though; many are every bit as dynamic, if not more so, than the bigger religions grabbing the limelight.

A little informal survey through Google, for example, shows how the face of Witchcraft is changing in America. Those who are familiar with Wiccan ritual know that it follows a fairly consistent format, which has a circle cast as its heart and frequently a calling of the quarters at its head. This author, however, recently compiled a large number of rituals published online in the last five years, and found, to his astonishment, that more than half contained neither of these elements. To understand this shift fully will be the province of religious historians of the future, blessed with more perspective than is available to us, but even now the outlines of the American Witchcraft community’s evolution can be seen in the data.

What the circle cast and the quarter call have in common is that they are drawn from the ceremonial practice of educated, elite medieval magick, commonly called “high” or “ceremonial”. The circle is a loan from medieval theurgists, who cast a circle around themselves to hold the demonic and angelic forces they were attempting to summon at bay (hence the practice of inscribing “words of power” around the circle, which served as magickal barriers to such beings--a practice continued, without such intent, by some very traditional Wiccans today).

Pagan altar
A Pagan altar



Gerald Gardner, Wicca’s modern founder, repurposed the circle as a container for magickal energy raised by those within it, but it nonetheless belonged originally to a very different kind of magick than the folksy, charm-oriented kind we associate today with Witchcraft. Likewise, the quarter calls are an inheritance from the magickal practice of Dr. John Dee, an Elizabethan court astrologer whose system of working made reference to legendary towers in the cardinal directions that contained the four horsemen of the Apocalypse until their appointed time. Working with these energies was accomplished through an almost absurdly complicated system of magick based on angelic revelation and communication, conducted in a convoluted language known in full only to the angels themselves.

All these practices became, in Victorian times, the province of the great magickal fraternities, most notably the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which systematized Dee’s work and integrated it with other forms of high, ceremonial magick. These fraternities had little use for the kind of “low” magick practiced by English cunningfolk and routinely employed today by Witches. Bringing together these two streams of magickal practice was another innovation of Gerald Gardner’s.

It is an innovation that held up well while the majority of those attracted to Wicca were occult enthusiasts, who spent their free time lapping up medieval grimoires and memorizing incantations in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Today’s Wiccan, however, is just as likely to be a time-crunched soccer mom, a barista working three jobs to make ends meet, or a high school student too busy with keeping up his grades in Spanish to worry overmuch about Latin. These Witches still want to work magick, and the “low” magick of charms and spells that Wicca inherited from the English countryside suits them perfectly.

The “high”, ceremonial magick of medieval priests, renaissance courtiers, and eccentric Victorian aristocrats, on the other hand, seems increasingly remote and difficult to work, as the knowledge base required to make those practices meaningful (and therefore powerful) requires too high an investment of time and effort for most people with full and balanced lives to obtain it. American Witchcraft has, for decades, been developing in a much more informal and eclectic direction than its British parent, and this change in demographic is accelerating the change in the religion. It is the reason we see circle casts and quarter calls beginning to drop out of new Wiccan rituals, while elements focused on intention-setting, blessings, candle magick, and other simpler forms are retained and even emphasized.

The question for the future is whether this trend will go far enough to largely displace ceremonial magick from modern Witchcraft. If it does, Witchcraft will be profoundly changed, but if it does not, and ceremonial elements remain an important part of the tradition alongside the new, simpler style, it will be changed even more. A frequent topic of debate in many Pagan circles (including Witchy ones) is to what extent a professional clergy is needed or desired. Many who have left more organized forms of religion are vehemently opposed to having any, while others see a useful role for religious professionals in teaching the community and promoting its broader interests.


Wiccan Book of Rites: Spells for Every Magickal Day of the Year


Traditionally, Wiccans have eschewed a special clergy by intensely affirming the priesthood of all initiated Witches, but as an increasing number of Eclectic Witches do not go on to the advanced magickal study that used to come with the higher degrees, they may come to perceive a need for trained ceremonial specialists to perform functions like circle casts and quarter calls at more formal, group events, while individual home practice moves away from these. While the priesthood would remain universal, this would mark the beginnings of dedicated, professional Wiccan ministry to infuse a little of what Protestants, missing the incense of the traditional mass, sometimes call “smells and bells” into to what has become a much plainer, “low church” style of practice.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Peach Aventurine Healing and Metaphysical Properties

Peach aventurine
A peach aventurine bowl


About Peach Aventurine and its Properties


Peach aventurine gets its coloring from pyrite, hematite, and goethite within its structure. The sacral chakra is gently influenced by its energies. It is a stone you may choose to have on hand for the times when you’re required to make decisions, or for when you need to be extra creative. It reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, and gently sways us away from worry; as well it helps us to overcome shyness. 

This stone enables us to be more tolerant of others, and can provide a subtle boost to one's potential for leadership. If using it to heighten leadership potential it should be accompanied by one or more other stones with this similar quality, one possible choice is sunstone. Peach aventurine promotes mental clarity, and in this instance as well its properties are subtle; try using it with selenite or golden apatite for added intensity. Additionally this stone balances the emotions, assists us to achieve a stiller mind in preparation for meditation, and moves us away from engaging in self-critical internal dialogue.


Disclaimer: The benefits that stones provide are often subtle and gradual, they will work only as well as surrounding influences and choices allow them to. You should consult your health and/or mental health professional before using any alternative healing methods. This article does not suggest otherwise.


Healing Properties


In health peach aventurine targets the thymus, the heart and lungs, as well as the the urinary system and the adrenal glands. It helps with headaches and migraines, stimulates the metabolism, reduces inflammation of sinuses and skin, alleviates allergy symptoms, regulates blood pressure, and helps to reduce cholesterol.


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Numerology, Taking a Look at an Age Old Practice

Pythagoras bust
A bust of Pythagoras; by Galilea at German Wikipedia,
GFDL via Wikimedia Commons


A Numerology Rundown


What this ancient practice is and how it (basically) works


Numbers, on one level or another, have been a cornerstone of civilization and technological advancement since human beings have walked upright. One early proponent of numerology was Pythagoras, who helped formalize ideas found in the Kabbalah and other ancient texts. He did not study numerology though, he studied isopsephy. As with any discipline that's sincerely old, there is a lot of debate over just who "founded" numerology and who made the greatest contributions. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of hard and fast answers to be found. Still, we know that Pythagoras opened peoples' minds to using numbers in various ways, and others built upon his concepts.

The foundations of numerology were long established by the early days of the 20th century, when Mrs. L. Dow Balliett and Dr. Juno Jordan worked to refine and mould it into becoming a modern practice; these two individuals are the ones that played perhaps the largest part in defining the methodology of what is today referred to as the Pythagorean system.


Form and Function


Numerology studies the relationship between numbers and events in one's life. To be clear, numerology is often considered an occult, or metaphysical practice, which means that the aforementioned relationships can't always be accounted for by scientific or practical means. And by the same token, practitioners of numerology are often drawn to its spiritual component, as is commonly the case with occult practices.

Numbers can apply to science in unusual ways; at times a theory may be suggestive of certain logic used in numerology. Such was the case in the discovery of atomic triads, an observation that was originally written off as numerology or pseudo science, that eventually turned out to be correct. In fact, by looking at the numerical relationship between the lightest and heaviest element in an atomic group and averaging those sums to find a third element, Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner was able to lay the groundwork for the periodic table.

However, in its most common applications, numerology is useful to those looking for patterns and guidance in their lives. By examining the interrelation of numbers and the harmonic vibrations associated with them, some people use numerology to make decisions about events as important as weddings and business investments. Other people use numerological principles to structure their daily routines and redefine their goals. One of the most appealing aspects of numerology is that its uses are limited only by the practitioner's creativity.


Nuts and Bolts


One of the core ideas underpinning numerology is the ancient practice of gematria. Gematria involves assigning numerical value to written characters, particularly in an alphabetical system; however, we will have to settle for a mere mention on that in order to stay on topic.

Pythagorean numerology makes use of eleven numbers: 1-9, and 11 and 22. Larger numbers like 5,345 are read as follows: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 17; then 1 + 7 = 8. Thus even a large number as such can be reduced down to the single digit, 8.

Two of the most important introductory processes in numerology are, first, calculating your life path number, and second, calculating the value of your full name to find, amongst other things, your expression number.

Numbers, numerology

An Example of How to Calculate a Life Path Number


If your birth date involves double digits, add them to arrive at a single digit, unless you have any master numbers, which are not reduced.


If you were born on 4/25/2009 you would first add the digits:

Month: 4
Day: 2 + 5 = 7
Year: 2 + 0 + 0 + 9 = 11

then you'd add the resulting digits together to arrive at a life path number of 22, which incidentally, is another master number. As already stated, normally a master number is not reduced; but if you were not considering the master numbers (either for simplicity or because you didn't want to) you could treat it as you would treat all other double digit numbers by adding its digits together (2 + 2) to arrive at a single digit (4).


An Example of How to Calculate an Expression, or Destiny Number


The next calculation you make will require the use of your full name at birth, that's first, middle and last; do not use abbreviations.

To calculate the sum of your full name, you will need to know the numbers that correspond to the letters in your name:

1 = a, j, s
2 = b, k, t
3 = c, l, u
4 = d, m, v
5 = e, n, w
6 = f, o, x
7 = g, p, y
8 = h, q, z
9 = i, r

So, if your name were Billy Jon Brown and we were consulting the table above, we could convert your first name to the digits 29337. Then we would add each digit together:

Billy = 2 + 9 + 3 + 3 + 7 = 24; then 2 + 4 = 6
Jon = 1 + 6 + 5 = 12; then 2 + 1 = 3
Brown = 2 + 9 + 6 + 5 + 5 = 27; then 2 + 7 = 9

then we'd take each resulting single numeral and add them together to get 18, which when reduced provides your expression (or destiny) number, which is 9. Note that if the sum of any one of the names is a master number, do not reduce it before adding the sums together.


The Wrap-up


These are just the very basics of numerology, a sampler, if you will. The calculations and the ways in which they're interpreted can become vastly more subtle and complex, depending upon the experience and confidence of the numerologist. Hopefully this gives you a clear easy intro into a field that is nearly as old as humankind and is intrinsically woven into our collective history.

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