Bifrons is Latin for "two-faced
Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time, gates and doorways. His two faces look simultaneously back at the past and towards the future. He was given the dominion of January, the beginning of the new calendar as established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Romans believed that the beginning, the start of anything was an omen for the whole of the endeavor whether it was a new year, a new month, a war, or a time of peace. To ensure a positive outcome for a year, they would spend the first day exchanging words of good fortune, presenting gifts of dates, figs, honey, and coins (strenae). To Janus, they offered salt and cakes made of spelt; no animal sacrifices (according to Ovid.)
There is a superstition that says whatever you are doing at the stroke of midnight will foretell what you will be doing the whole of the year. The tradition of being with friends, kissing someone at
midnight, and toasting in cheer is a common motif because of this belief. The former two is to ensure a friend-filled year without loneliness and the latter is to be filled with cheer. I spent many a New Year's penning a calligraphy project. My traditions have since been modified to include the whole day.
I like the idea of making resolutions but I don't do them often. Making a resolution is making a commitment. It's making a promise. Decades ago, when I first started my training in the Craft, my Lady nurtured the concept of:
If you are a practicing witch or you want to be a practicing witch, this should be your first resolution; the first promise to make to yourself, to the universe, to the Gods. Without this concept lived every day, wholly, and fully realized throughout your life, any magic you try to create is doomed from the start. If you happen to have this one in the bag... here are a few others:
Actually keep a spell journal to better define which spells are working and what you did to make them work best; A SEPARATE book of shadows, a record, data from your spell operations. Here is a PDf of a page you can download and use if you'd like. SPELL JOURNAL WORKSHEET DOWNLOAD or scroll to the bottom of this post.
Learn your North, West, South, and East directions. Step out onto your porch with a compass and find north. Mark out the four quarters in your home. Learn that when you are turning right, that it's North or South, East, or West.
Celebrate the sabbats as best and as often as you can. Schedule the time to do something even if it is just to light a candle or make a toast. If you are a solitary witch and you already do this, try celebrating one of the sabbats this year with an established group or invite your closest friends to join you. If you already do this, try celebrating a sabbat with others of a different tradition. Expand your horizons. Ask a lot of questions. Learn something new.
Organize your herbs / oils / ritual gear. Make labels. Buy jars or vials. Purchase a cabinet from a goodwill store. Get a nice box to house a ritual-go kit for when you want to travel to a friend’s house or to the back yard.
At the Inner Circle Sanctuary group, we ask our first year students to do a spell every moon phase: a waxing moon spell and a waning moon spell. It's not required, but it gets them into the habit of doing magic regularly if they participate. Adopt something similar.
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!
The athame is the "true witches' weapon." This quote is as stated in the Gardnerian ritual for first-degree initiation in 'A Witches' Bible' by Janet and Stewart Farrar. In fact, the whole of it reads:
"Next, I present the Athame. This is the true witches' weapon, and has all the powers of the magic sword."
Ummmm.... hold on.... okay, here you go....
"First, the Magic Sword. With this, as with the Athame, thou canst form all Magic Circles, dominate, subdue and even punish all rebellious spirits and demons, and even persuade angels and good spirits. With this in thy hand, thou art ruler of the Circle."
Symbolism behind the athame speaks to it representing an individual's control of the elements and as a personal symbol of witch-hood. Just imagine the control man felt the first time his knife made a difference in whether he lived or died, either from attack or starvation. The knife is a personal tool; revered and held in the highest of regards since it was crafted from stone. So much so that it has been buried with its owner since the beginning and taken to the next world with them.
Elementally, the Athame has been associated with fire, since it involves the use of an individual's will. It takes the heat of a forge and the skill of a smith (always considered a magical profession, akin to an alchemist) to produce a blade, furthering it's link to the element of fire. Its affiliation with the element of air is much of a controversy with many saying it was a "blind*" perpetrated by the Golden Dawn, from where Gardner may have adopted many of his ideas for Wicca.
But, modern day ceremonial magicians use a black-handled knife much the same way we do - to inscribe symbols and circles in the air. This knife is not, however, the "air" knife, which by Golden Dawn standards is yellow-hilted, with purple sigils. The "controversy" has always seemed to me unwarranted- it's all a matter of perspective.
In the Tarot, the suit of Fire is the Wands; of Air, the Swords (long Athames). On the other hand, the fiery Archangel Michael brandishes a sword, while Rafael, Archangel of the East, Air, etc, etc, is seen with a staff/wand. I do not think these revered traditions teach these attributions as blinds, rather, meaningful living symbols that aid us in our Work. However you use or decide to use your athame and its associations, just try to always remember the mantra: "Every coven is a law unto itself."
The sword/athame ultimately typifies the phallus and the masculine half of the Universal Creative Force, (the other half being the Chalice.) To take on the role of a man during a ritual a woman needs only to buckle (I said buckle!) on a sword and bam! - An instant appendage. (He-he, and yes - we've heard the joke about the man buckling on a chalice.) The fiery dagger being placed into the watery womb of the chalice signifies the union of that "essential [masculine / feminine] polarity that pervades and activates the entire universe" during the Great Rite. (2nd degrees… get it??)
The athame and its use has been traced back to the writings of King Solomon. Although there is no mention of a black handled knife, there is a depiction of a sickle-like curved blade with the word'Artavo.' The bolline utilized for herb gathering is usually sickle-shaped. In medieval texts we do have the words Artavus, Artamus, Arthanus, Arthana, Arthamy, and Artharme used in relation to ceremonial or ritualistic knives. The pratice of carving or placing symbols on either the haft or blade also stems back to the time of Solomon but I'm pretty sure the practices of the Norse had some influence. They would carve Tyr's rune onto the blade and invoke him before battle.
To Wiccans, the athame is singularly THE "witches' tool," although there are many variations to it's type, color, and usage. "A Witches' Bible" dedicates five and a half pages to the athame alone. In comparison, its ritual counterpart - the chalice only received half a page. (The pentacle was the second highest tool with two pages.) But no matter what a witchcraft groups ideas on the athame are; the common thing they share is that they all have one (an athame, that is), whether some believe it is usurped by Gardner from ceremonial magic or a link to the ancient hunter/gatherer from which our religion spawns.
The knife, in our tradition, is a double-edged dagger; the dual edges expressing the dual nature of the universe; positive/negative, active/passive, masculine/feminine, projection/reception, good/evil, and also symbolizing the dual nature of energy manipulation or magic all driven by the will; by intent for good or ill; for healing or destruction, protection or attack. The double edge gives the athame its symbolism. I have seen some exquisite examples of single-edged blades that are also athames, so as stated above, whether to choose that style is up to your own tradition.
The haft is traditionally black. Black is the absence of colour, the absence of anything, a metaphoric black hole allowing the athame handle to receive your personal energy readily and store it for future use if needed. There have been several non-black-handled athames I have encountered usually made of bone, deer hooves or a fanciful wood like Brazilwood or rosewood. I would by no means suggest the coloring of these types of handles, but "do not leave the handle bare out of laziness." Besides, black is another color of the Goddess and the impaling of the shiny, pointed steel deep within the void of blackness helps to lend more symbolism to your tool.
There are some consecrations that require marking your handle or blade as mentioned earlier. If you desire to do this always take it into consideration before acquiring your tool. Obtaining by gift or purchase an athame owned and extensively utilized by a powerful witch is a phenomenal find and highly prized by those who understand the concept of resident energy and how it can guide and empower your own magic.
The tool will have never touched blood when you first acquire it, unless of course it is a storied blade previously owned by a witch. This is a holy tool, one that you'll be using in rituals where you'll be before the gods and performing spells of healing and benefice. To have a blade that has taken a life, any life, or that has a sketchy past is to bring that unknown energy (resident energy again) into whatever it is you are doing. Therefore, your blade should be new and shiny. I love browsing antique shops and flea markets too, but you never know the history of a used knife unless you're a gifted psychometrist.
Whether you decide to blood it later will be up to the consecration you use and of course, as always, your own tradition. While we're on the subject of acquisition, one caveat I'm a firm believer in is the "no-haggle" policy many Wiccans have adopted when it comes to magical tools. Ask the price; if it's too much it wasn't meant to be. Don't cheapen your magic by cheapening the tool. Bargain basement magic is just not the order of the day. Something you can do is ask the universe for the perfect tool and I'll bet, you being or wanting to be a witch and all, it'll manifest. Such is the way of the witch.
Another dictate regarding the athame that I don't agree with is that of dulling the blade and breaking it's point. Granted, the athame will only be used for the control and manipulation of energy, but if you have a problem with your double-bladed knife being a "weapon" then perhaps a wand of crystal or wood would suit you better. Some arguments regarding this mandate is the 'danger in a group' factor. Okay, I can see that, but if everyone practices safe conduct in regards to their weapon, then there should be no problem. In my years with a group, we have never had a mishap of someone accidentally cutting someone else… of course, stabbing oneself is a different matter all together.
Another argument against 'blooding' the blade whether intentional or accidental is as Donald Tyson explains; "once it has tasted blood it ceases to be a symbol of the will and becomes a weapon no longer consecrated in the service of the Goddess but to service the God of War." While this is beautifully stated and my Libran sense can grasp and understand the position, I personally want my Goddess-hafted weapon to be an instrument of war (besides isn't it Boaz that is severity?) How the Hel else will you be able to 'dominate, subdue and even punish all rebellious spirits and demons' if it is not a threat. On top of that, once consecrated the tool has an astral double that the adventurous witch could effectively utilize while traveling the astral plane. The astral plane can contain some nasties and I want to be sure the astral blade I call to my defense is wicked razor sharp. Again, this is my opinion… defer to your own tradition.
Do not think that I condone carrying your athame around with you so you can use it as an everyday means of defense. I most certainly DO NOT!! Number one, it is usually illegal to carry such a weapon and number two; it would be like the "Catholic priest taking the communion chalice down to the pub for a beer."
That being said, I disagree with the Kitchen Witchery philosophy of utilizing your athame for every mundane task to help build your rapport with it. If we were poor and lived in a one room cottage during the Middle Ages, I can see having one knife serve several purposes but we don't live in cottages in the Middle Ages and any witch worth his or her salt who wants to grow in their abilities will utilize their ritual dagger as often as possible because they will be doing magic all the time. As always, defer to your own tradition.
So... there you have it, my dissertation on the numero uno tool of the witch although this post would not be complete without the mention of your Goddess/God-given athame. Your God-given athame is the one you were born with. It is your pointing finger and your middle finger joined together to direct your energy. How's that for a bargain?
~Lady Atheona (with help from the magnificent Lord Tanys)
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!
*A 'blind' is a deliberate 'lie' or omission in many books written by those who have sworn an oath to protect the information they have been given. Are there blinds in the essays I write? Yes, in the form of omissions. I have sworn that same or similar oath. But that oath also says I cannot refuse the true seeker. Join a class and find out for the truth for yourself.
Originally Posted 2 Sep 2007
Finding a Pagan Path of Study
There are a few things you have to keep in mind when looking for a group to study with. The first is that YOU MUST BE the seeker. Don't rely on “When a student is ready for a teacher, they will appear.” Some philosophies believe this, but most pagan religions are participatory practices. Just because you've prayed or lit a candle or did some chanting doesn't mean whatever it is you've asked for will fall in your lap.... the buck stops with you. If you're sitting around your house playing video games and just waiting for something to happen doesn't mean it will. You'll have to accept the invitation to go out and meet people. You'll have to DO SOMETHING!
The second thing to remember is that all paganism today is NEW. Hence, you are a NEO-Pagan. It's nice to be able to say that what you do, who you worship, what you practice comes from the days of antiquity but unless you are gilding cow horns with gold before slicing their necks, or sacrificing humans into murky bogs, or are cast into the wilderness with nothing but a loincloth and a wooden spear... you are a NEW pagan.
Thirdly, most neo-pagan practices involve religion;
"Religion n.1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the Universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs”
I like the Farrar's definition for a genuine religion:
IMHO, these are the three most important things you have to take into account before you decide to change your whole life.... because your life will change. Adopting a new religion is adopting a new way to look at the world and a new way of treating it. Your consciousness will expand as your subconscious grows. The friends you have now will seemingly be standing still as you begin to move forward along your new path. The Divine will manifest in every decision and action you take because you will find that it is all interconnected and that there is no escape from yourself. You will become cognizant that your life is exactly where it's supposed to be because the buck ultimately stops with you and you are the one responsible for it. So, with that said... on with the subject at hand,
Then besides those up front and readily available resources there are web pages upon web pages of different groups and individuals that you can peruse, including MeetUp.com. There are advertisements in the back of pagan magazines. There are occult supply stores with their own networking. There are renaissance festivals to which all pagans are somehow attracted to. There are a myriad of resources on and off the web for finding a group so I think the real question must be:
How do I find a group I'm compatible with to study with?
As with almost every other pagan in the world, you start by READING. Get a hold of as many books as you can and start reading about the philosophies of the paganism you're drawn too. With the advent of private booksellers teaming up with Amazon and places like Ebay and Google books online, there is almost no book that can go unfounded. Check your local library. When I first started out some twenty years ago there was hardly a book left on the shelf that hadn't been checked out and never returned but today, most libraries keep occult books a plenty on their shelves.
Don't limit yourself to just books on the subject of the occult. Look at anthropological books, history books, and even some historical fiction. If you can, get your hands on some videos on a wide range of subjects and maybe even peruse YouTube.com to see if there are any pagan related videos available.
Find out what YOU are comfortable with. What kind of paganism do you want to practice. Is it Wicca? There are a plethora of forms of Wicca alone. Or is it Druidry? Asatruar? Voodoo? Santeria? Maybe you're actually more in line with the Hindu religion, or Buddhism? Have an affinity for the Greco-Roman period? There are groups out there that reconstruct the worship of those gods as well.
You can look to your ancestry. Most pagan religions revere their ancestors in some way. From there you can even further refine your search to Mediterranean, Nordic, Welsh, American Indian, Islander, etc. By reading about a particular path, you'll be able to recognize groups that utilize the very words you have been reading in the titles of their groups or members. Don't be afraid to ask outright. Even though most pagan religions are mystery religions, things like, “What kind of paganism do you practice?” are not kept secret for a true seeker.
Second, you want to figure out HOW you want to learn. How much of your life are you willing to invest in the change you want in your life? One day a week? Two? Three? Or are you only able to dedicate one day every couple of weeks, or even only once a month? Do you want to eventually be able to teach others? Every group teaches very differently. Some teach in very open formats, allowing students to float in at anytime. Others teach in sectional classes where one week you study this and another week you study something else. You may never see the same student twice or you'll see a core of the same students at every session. Still others are very disciplined, treating the course of study almost like a college class where specifics and ritual training can seem too rigorous for most. There are groups that don't teach per se but gather together to socialize more than anything else and plan on a holiday celebration if enough participants are available.
The variety of groups usually equals the variety of ways to be taught, so again YOU will have to do some research. Ask the questions.
You also need to know HOW a group celebrates its holidays, if they even do. Personally, I'm used to always being outside unless there is heavy rain, sleet, or heavy snow. If you are more of an 'indoor kinda person' that may not be right for you. The Wiccan students I've known have performed the parts of priest, priestess, quarter caller, etc. of every ring and are required to have memorized their lines. If you prefer something more free-flowing or loose, then there are plenty of groups that practice this way. Some regard robes and regalia highly and and others like to go sky-clad (that's nekkid, if you don't habla) and even others are more casually oriented where jeans and t-shirts are okay. What would you be more comfortable with?
Most of all, you have to at least meet the people and see if your personality clicks with the rest of the group. If you are not comfortable learning from a particular teacher then perhaps you are not supposed to be there. Ask the questions you have brewing at the back of your mind. If a group does something a particular way and you want to know why... ASK. They should have a good answer. Treat it like a job interview where you are looking to hire a teacher. Ask the instructors their qualifications. See if you can do a background check. Ask if you can attend a class or holiday celebration or other function before you decide on if it is the right group for you or not. If a group is registered with the government, ask why. If a group is not registered, ask why. Some groups are registered non-profit and others are not. Ask why. Some groups collect dues and others do not. Ask why. Some are taught in someone's living room and others are taught at a store. Ask why. Be comfortable with the answers you receive. If you don't get the answers you like, keep looking.
The group you belong with could drop into your lap tomorrow or you may not find it for many years. Don't despair. If you truly want to find a group to be with, it will come. Keep reading. Start to practice. Try a simple spell or two (I'll give you one.) Try a simple ritual. Don't let the fact that you're all alone stop you from pursuing your new chosen path. There are plenty of people you can consult until you find what you want. Practicing alone, or being a solitary, can be a good thing. There are some who prefer being in a community. The energy dynamic of solitaries and communities are very different, but neither is wrong.
Step One: Clean your candle.
Step Two: Carve what you desire to attract into the side of the candle. Depending on how wordy you get determines how you use the candle as your canvas. The most important thing is to BE SPECIFIC! (I did an attraction spell for a new boyfriend and I spent a month getting the wording down before I did the spell. I made the mistake of writing the word “witty” twice. My new beau, as perfect as he was, was a smart ass... witty, but verging on annoying.) If you use this spell to find a group (which is the whole purpose of giving it to you here) – you may want to say something like:
“I want to attract a Druid group in which to study with to further my connection to nature.”
Again, BE SPECIFIC!
Step Three: Light some incense and anoint your candle moving your hand deosil (clockwise or the “way of the sun”). Remember to visualize what you desire: see yourself already surrounded by those you want to study with. Imagine what it would be like at a holiday ritual. If you're an outdoor person, see yourself outdoors with fires while you are smiling and enjoying yourself. If you want a subdued, quiet indoor group, visualize a living room or dining room table with study materials around you. Empower the candle as long as you can with your visualization.
Step Four: Light your candle. Put in safe place. Let it burn day and night. When the candle is finished burning, you can collect the wax and wrap it with your chosen herb(s) in the orange or yellow cloth or bag. Tie the cloth closed with your string. Carry it with you like a charm: especially if you plan on socializing with other pagans - OR... you can bury or throw the remains away.
You can find this basic type of spell in almost any book on candle magic. One of my favorites is The Magic Candle by Charmaine Dey.
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!
The Magic of Frankincense
Frankincense (Boswellia spp. resin)
Also known as: Olibanum, Olibanus, Olibans, Luban, Mohor, Beyo, Maid
Properties: Sun, Masculine, Air and Fire, Leo
Powers: Luck, Protection, Purification, Consecration, Spirituality, Adds potency, Enlightenment, Inspiration, Introspection
So prolific was the use of frankincense that it was just called “incense”.
Pythagóras, philosopher, mathematician, and priest of Apóllo, performed libations and sacrifices to the Gods with "fumigations and frankincense," instead of sacrificing animals.
Wanting to get into the frankincense trade, Romans sent 10,000 troops to "The Land of Frankincense" in the 1st century B.C. to conquer and control the commodity's production, but the Romans never arrived, driven back by the heat and aridity of the desert.
Roman emperor Nero, burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress disrupting Frankincense trade in Rome for the year.
Asked why it was given to the baby Jesus, one Omani man told a reporter it was given "to ward off evil spirits and snakes."
“The early years of Christianity, incense was expressly forbidden because of its associations with pagan worship; later, however, some denominations, including the Catholic Church, would incorporate the burning of frankincense, myrrh and other aromatic items into specific rites.”
Powdered frankincense rolled into balls was found in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922. When burned by chemist A. Lucas, he found it was still aromatic after 3,500 years.
Magic & Divinations
Wiccan Good Luck Spell
This spell is enhanced if done during a waxing or full moon.
3 candles – orange or gold
Pen and paper
Cast your circle and light the incense. Place the candles in a triangle for luck, but do not light them yet. Say the following words:
“God and Goddess, Spirits and Guides
Thank you for all that I have I ask you now for [whatever it is you want]
Aid me as I work to achieve it. Please bring it to me when the time is right.
So mote it be”
Now, visualize what your life would be like if you already had this thing you wish for. Really soak yourself in the feeling of good luck, success, joy, achievement. Feel the elation in your chest, and hold on to that feeling. Meditate on it as you go deeper into yourself.
There, an image or symbol will appear in your mind. As soon as you see this, whatever it may be, draw it on your piece of paper. Take the drawing and place it within the triangle of candles. As you light each candle, say:
“Fire, ignite my dream, for the highest good.”
Sit with the lit candles and visualize good luck coming your way. Trust that the Universe will bring you what is best for you. Immerse yourself in gratitude towards life and all that the God and Goddess have already brought you.
Take down your ring. Then take your piece of paper and bury it in the earth, as you say:
“Earth, seal my dream, for the highest good.”
Note that this Good Luck spell will bring you precisely what is best for you, however, it may come in unexpected forms. Remember to keep an open mind and an open heart and look out for opportunities and signs. from wiccanspells.info
Interpret the patterns of smoke from burning franincense. Take into consideration how slow or fast it burns, the direction of the smoke, and it's odor.
Powdered resin is thrown into the flames of a fire. If the flames rise in one swish, it is a good sign.
If glowing or flickering and divided, it is unfortunate.
If it rises in three points, a glorious result.
If much dispersed, expect an ill death.
If crackling or snapping, expect misfortune.
If it suddenly extinguishes, great danger is ahead.
see more at: occultopedia.com
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!