Wicca is a Witchcraft Religion that was created in the 1940’s by a man named Gerald Gardner. In the 1930’s, he had been initiated into a local group of witches, whose practice was much what one would historically expect: folkloric, regional, and influenced by the Grimoire Traditions. In that same spirit, Gardner (with the help of his early High Priestess Doreen Valiente) added to the waning tradition, adding further from Ceremonial Magic, folklore, and infusing it with Valiente’s poetic spirit. At this point (and even more so today) it looked considerably different from the Witchcraft it was born from, yet it still maintains that same spirit and behavior. This new religion, Gardner called it Wica –keeping the name as he had been told by his initiators- came to the US in the 1960’s from England, and quickly grew in popularity and numbers.
That these last few years have been marked by an Ordeal has been on my mind a lot lately, especially as it seems that I may be nearing the end of my Ordeal. This is something that I am grateful for, as it has affected my entire family –I am not the only one who has struggled, suffered, and changed as a result of a promise I made. That promise has been on my mind lately, too.
Backtrack six years….
Most of my life has been spent in the forest where I live now, spent wandering through the nearby meadows, playing in the seasonal streams, delighting in a world that continuously held me in awe and was so much larger than I could wrap my head around. So many times I have moved away and so many times I found myself returning to this land, returning home.
The Sun crested the horizon and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be one of the last warm days of the year. My husband and I whispered, keeping the children unaware, and chugged coffee and tea, respectfully, in preparation for our hurriedly thrown together plan.
We loaded up the truck with baskets, hiking gear, pellet guns, multiple cans of bug spray, and the small army that is our family. The forest beckoned: today was a day of harvest and hunting, today was Epic Root Harvest Day.
This time of year does something to me... Fills my head so full of thoughts that words cannot fully express, at least not as well as a collection of twenty or so mushroom pictures... and a leaf...
For several months now, nay, almost a year, I have been plagued by turtle omens. It started innocently enough, with coming across turtles only three or four times a day, maybe two days a week, but quickly escalated to six or seven turtles a day, nearly every day. Everywhere I turned, there was a turtle. Pop on twitter, images of turtles filled my timeline; walk through a room where a tv is on and surely there would be a turtle; browse through a magazine while waiting in an office, an article on turtles; my eldest daughter even received a pair of socks with turtles on them as a gift.
Of course, I began researching the meanings of these omens. Most of the information I came across repeated the same things: “slow down” or “it’s time to come out of your shell.” Neither of these was right, and for obvious reasons. The notion of “slowing down” is relative, a turtle goes just fast enough for itself –it is neither too fast nor too slow (it is only slow from our perspective.) And a turtle also cannot “come out” of its shell –it is a part of its body, who it is. These would later become necessary pieces in figuring out the puzzle of the turtle omens, but I wouldn’t figure it out for many more months.
This morning I received a question regarding witchcraft. With that person's permission, I have reproduced the question and my response, in the hope that they may prove insightful for others. While I make no claims to speak for all Pagans nor all witches, for ease of explanation, I did answer in generalities and use "we" a far too many times. For those who may read this and whose practice and worldview as a witch differ, know that I meant no disrespect in this.
If there were just one thing you would want to tell people about yourself or your religion, what would that be?
While not a religion in itself, per se, Paganism is a term that refers to non-Abrahamic (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) polytheistic religions. However, it does not refer to such religions as Hinduism or Buddhism, for example. Rather it refers specifically to nature or Earth centered religions, such as Asatru, Celtic Reconstructionism, Druidry and Druidism, Hellenismo, Nova Roma, Slavic Reconstructionism, Stregheria, Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft, Wicca (both British Traditional and Eclectic,) as well as some monotheistic religions such as Dianic Witchcraft and Goddess Spirituality. While synchretic religions such as Voudon and Santeria are not in themselves Pagan, there are some followers who do self-identify as such.
Our elders are leaving us at an alarming rate. Just these past few months have seen the passing of Judy Harrow, Donald Michael Kraig, Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart, and now Margot Adler. More will surely follow, and the loss to our community is multifold.
As voices and leaders leave us, it is clear that others must take their place. Too many are too willing to step up –for the chance of fancy titles and an adoring crowd, and too few are willing to do the work –yet will criticize those who try when their attempts fail. But the need for leaders, for teachers, for positive examples of what it really means to live this life, to see the world through starlight eyes, this need is real. It isn’t going away. And with every passing elder the need grows.
There's something about certain old trees that only feels like an old friend.
I walk bent over, a slow, shambling pace, that takes me deeper into the forest, deeper into trance. The forest has that effect on me; I'm willing to bet ti would have that effect on you, too. A basket in one hand, my other sweeps the ground, picking a flower here, three more there. At every sound, I stop, look. A patch of just the right blossoms catches my eye and, so, I walk further off the trail.
The stand of young Poplars has just begun to bud. They're the reason I've come out here. For the past month I've been gauging their progress, trekking out here every few days. But it will be another week before I can begin that harvest. I am patient. I can wait.