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[Witch Way] Volume #3 Issue #8 -- The Light Returns
January 13, 2011
|Hi, Happy Imbolc!
What are your beliefs?
This isn’t a question you need to tell anyone. The only person who needs to know the answer to that question, is you. When you first start looking for a new Spiritual Path, it’s usually because you find the Path you’ve been on isn’t meeting the needs of your beliefs. It also usually means that you don’t quite know exactly what those beliefs are.
It takes time to figure out just what it is that you believe, and to make things worse, your beliefs will change over time. What makes perfect sense when you’re 20, may seem downright ridiculous when you’re 40.
What you believe is less important than that you believe something, and that you hold those beliefs strongly. It’s also extremely important that whatever you believe, it’s because you have thought about those beliefs, not because someone else told you.
Witchcraft is a Path that requires you to make your own choices about what you believe and why. If someone asks you what you believe, you should be able to describe in detail those beliefs. More importantly, if someone asks why you hold those beliefs, you should be able to describe in just as much detail, why you hold those beliefs. Beliefs that are not thought out, aren’t beliefs, they are Dogma.
Only you can decide what you believe. Make sure that whatever you believe, you hold those beliefs with conviction.
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
This month’s column is on Neptune and its astrological influence.
The important thing to remember about Neptune, both astrologically and astronomically, is that it is possibly the most mysterious of all the Planets. Astronomically, the Planet was discovered three times between 1612 and 1846 before it was officially recognized (the only outer Planet with this distinction), and the reasons for both its color and its strangely high internal temperature are both still unknown to astronomers here on Earth. Astrologically, Neptune is thought to represent illusion, ideals, sacrifice, deception, and the dissolution of boundaries.
In my experience, Neptune represents the process of natural growth. Wherever Neptune touches our lives, we enter adolescence: Feeling trapped between a childhood we have outgrown and the adulthood we have not yet reached, we have to feel our way into a new way of life. This makes us vulnerable to deception, from others who would prey on our hopes and wishes, from ourselves if we choose good feelings over harsh realities, and even from circumstances as our old expectations and assumptions lead us to unexpected or unfamiliar places.
This process ends eventually of course, leaving us in a very different world than where we began, but the process is often long and painful, and usually without a definite beginning or end that we can neatly label. Another thing I’ve observed about Neptune’s process is that is has no shortcuts or easy answers. Like adolescence, the process of growth Neptune represents takes as long as it takes. It can’t be foreshortened, and trying to avoid it merely prolongs it.
In the natal chart, Neptune’s position when we are born represents an area that is always “in process” for us, that will be best dealt with intuitively rather than rationally throughout our lives. It also represents our intuition in general, showing where we can trust it in our lives and where we cannot. Looking at where transiting Neptune falls in our birth charts will show where in our lives we are having a “growth spurt.”
These will be areas where it’s not so much that we succeed or that the rules change in our favor, it’s that we don’t know what the rules are anymore. We may not realize we are growing, and may instead feel confused or otherwise unsure of what’s happening. Neptune’s transiting influence show us where we have to let go of our old rules and expectations and feel our way into discovering what is now possible and what is not.
Because Neptune and its influence is so hard to pin down, presenting any information as being astrologically definitive regarding Neptune is dangerous. However, I feel that this very slipperiness is a reason why Neptune is the wrong name for this Planet, and that there is a better name for representing this Planet’s astrological significance. Although the action of water on land can be another useful metaphor for describing this Planet’s influence on our consciousness (which means the name Neptune in not totally inappropriate for this Planet), I feel that Morpheus is a Greek deity that better describes this Planet both astrologically and astronomically.
Morpheus was the son of Nyx, the goddess of night, but it was unclear who his father was. Some accounts name Hypnos—the Greek god of sleep—as Morpheus’ father, but others identify Hypnos as Morpheus’ brother and name Erebus, the embodiment of the darkness beyond the reach of the Sun, as Morpheus’ father. This uncertainty regarding Morpheus’ paternity seems to me to parallel the uncertainty regarding the true date of Neptune’s discovery by astronomers here on Earth, as well as the uncertainty regarding this Planet in general, while the certain maternity of Nyx to Morpheus seems to me very apropos for the outermost (and so closest to the deep Night of space) undisputed Planet in the Solar System. Morpheus was also known as Oneiros, because he was foremost among the gods ruling the dreams of men (the other sleep-gods were known collectively as the Oneiroi). He acted as a messenger for the other gods by speaking to men in dreams, and was said to specifically rule over the dreams of kings and heroes, and of the manifestations of human shapes in dreams (as opposed to those shapes that were scary or obviously unreal).
The positive side of this Planet’s influence manifests as the ability to intuit or “feel our way” into the answers we need, allowing these answers to well up from our subconscious. This seems to me to be a gift more appropriate from a god of dreams rather than from a god of the sea. And while this Planet’s influence can deceive as often as it enlightens, it appears to be key in shaping our highest ideals and most selfless goals.
Another way of saying this is that it appears to shape our “perfect image” of what it means to be human, on every level, and to do so in a way that conforms to realities we may not yet be fully aware of rather than conforming to our expectations. Mythologically speaking, this would be something Morpheus specifically would be responsible for rather than any of the other Oneiroi, and completely outside the realm of a sea-deity like Poseidon or Neptune.
However, for the sake of clarity (always a good thing to cultivate when this Planet is involved), I will continue to use the name “Neptune” when referring to this Planet.
Neptune spends about 14 years in each Sign. Neptune entered Aquarius in December of 1998, and will enter Pisces to stay in February of 2012 (it will initially enter Pisces from April through August in 2011, but will still be solidly in Aquarius the other 7 months of the year). Aquarius is the Sign of the Big Picture and of the future, and during Neptune’s stay in Aquarius both The Big Picture and the future has continued to look more and more uncertain for all of us here on Earth.
This has been a boon to much of the world’s population—such as those living in China, India, Brazil and Australia—as they have begun to fulfill the economic promise they always had as Neptune in Aquarius has coincided with a loosening of the bonds of cultural inertia or corruption. For those nations most invested in keeping things the way they have been, such as the U.S., western Europe and Japan, however, the uncertainty Neptune in Aquarius has brought, has created a steadily increasing fear.
The Big Picture and the future we have invested so much in seem more insubstantial and improbable every day. The “emerging world” has done well with this Neptune in Aquarius energy by gladly trading their old visions of economic and political failure for visions of success. Those of us in the “developed world” fear that if we let go of our old visions of success only failure could possibly replace them.
Neptune in Aquarius, like Polonius in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, is telling us there are more things in this world than are dreamt of in our philosophy. It is telling us that we have already succeeded, but that we have outgrown our success and must let it go and move on, or we will suffocate under the burden of maintaining it. Unlike Uranus or Pluto, Neptune gives us a choice as to whether we cling to the old or embrace the new, but whether we embrace it or not the new is already here. We can either swim with the tide or be drowned by it. Neptune leaves the choice up to us.
Next month’s column will be on the astrological significance of Pluto.
I hope all of you are having a wonderful New Year in 2011, and that the relative darkness in the sky the month of January brings is being counterbalanced by an abundance of warmth and light in your personal lives.
NOTE: This is not a typical “horoscope” reading, breaking astrological influences down by Sign for a given period of time. The information in this column should apply to most people, most of the time. If you have any questions, or want specific personalized information on how what’s going on in the heavens affects you, contact Jim Trader.
The Politics of Blelief
I had an interesting conversation last week. I was at a local Pagan Meetup hosted by an acquaintance. I have my own Witches Meetup that I run, so I thought it would be fun to go to one where I wasn’t expected to run things. This Meetup was a simple social gathering, just for people to talk.
Originally I had asked if I could bring my video camera to film the Meetup. I have been wanting to get video of Pagans doing what Pagans do. You see, I understand that humans fear what they don’t understand. It’s a trait that kept our earliest ancestors from being eaten. I am of the belief that if accurate information can be put out to the mainstream in a form that is entertaining as well as educational, people will realize that we aren’t such bad people after all.
So I had asked about filming the Meetup. Originally the Host had agreed to let me film, but changed her mind because she wanted the social gathering to be relaxed. Not a problem. I understand exactly how she felt.
As the Meetup progressed, and everyone got to know each other a little better, I brought up the topic of filming public events for general viewing, to find out what others thought of the idea. Without surprise, I found some were adamantly opposed to the idea of being filmed. That has been a common theme since I first found the local community.
Others were less worried about the idea. In fact as I described my idea in more detail, I found several people there who thought what I have in mind was actually a very good idea. Now I realize that I will never have 100% backing from the community for filming, and that’s fine. There will always be those people who do not want to end up in front of a camera. I can understand that.
I did however find it interesting how the lines fell. One of the gentlemen who had come for the Meetup was completely new to the community, and he explained that he had been hesitant to attend any open gatherings because he was fairly conservative in his views, and he had viewed the Pagan community as very liberal. He feared that he wouldn’t have anything in common with the people he’d meet at these gatherings.
So he’d put his trepidation aside, and gone to the Meetup. He was quite surprised to find more than a few people who were less than liberal in some of their views. I have come to realize that I am fiscally conservative, and socially liberal, a viewpoint I have discovered after some research that is known as a Jeffersonian Constitutionalist. He and I had some interesting conversations.
Now this is by no means scientific, but what I discovered that evening, is that those who are liberal in their views, were the ones who didn’t like the idea of being filmed, and had serious issues with the idea of showing the Pagan community to society in general. Those who are more conservative, were the ones who felt showing the world who we are, and what we do, would be beneficial to the community.
As I said, I have no scientific basis for this theory, but it is a theory that I want to explore. I know that in the past, my local community has been very liberal in its makeup. Those who made up the community tended to feel strongly about the flow of information being free and available, a liberal view, yet they were very much opposed to coming out of the shadows. The information was free, but anyone who wanted it, had to come looking for it.
Now in the context of teaching the Craft, I agree whole-heartedly with the idea that a prospective student should put forth the effort, and seek out the knowledge. If the student isn’t willing to put any effort into finding knowledge, or a teacher, they won’t put any effort into properly using it. But I also believe that as long as we hide in the shadows, the general public is going to feel that we must have something to hide.
Secret groups and societies are always looked at with suspicion. All you have to do is watch any conspiracy show on any of the Discovery Networks, and you find secret societies such as the Masons, pointed at with suspicion about everything from “secret blood rites”, to the New World Order. Witches, having been underground for so long, are just as targeted, because most of what we do has been held secret from the general population, and at least until now, that is the way most of the community seems to have wanted it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that everything be out in the open. I understand the value of rites such as the Mysteries, remaining secret except to those who are Initiated into them. Some secrets are absolutely correct to keep, and their lessons and value would be diminished, or even lost if made public without the proper mental framing. While basic Sabbats or Esbats could, and in my opinion should be available for any to see, there will always be some things that just won’t be understood without the proper mental and spiritual preparations.
Still, it seems to me that showing the public who we are, will also show them that we aren’t the sinister people some believe we are. By taking some of the mystery out of who we are and what we do, we remove the reasons for the fear and distrust that some in the mainstream still have.
I understand that some fear ridicule or reprisal from work or family if they stand up, but both will continue as long as we as a community refuse to take a stand against it. As long as no one is willing to stand up for everyone else, and possibly become a target, we will all remain targets.
Yet the fear within our community goes beyond that. There seems to be a phobia of the mainstream in general. When I asked a local group if I could film one of their rituals, to be a small part of my production, the responses began with those who wished to remain off camera, but very quickly changed to distrust of how a network would edit the production. One person even suggested that the network would somehow gain the rights to our rituals.
It’s amazing how fear can turn even the most level-headed people into raving paranoids. We talk about Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, yet those seem to be nothing more than words that we give lip service to. The community is made up of individuals who trust no one but themselves, and thus we are a fractured community. Until we can trust others within the community when and where it really matters, we will never amount to anything.
Our potential is emense. A group of people who realize the power of magick within themselves, could do anything they set their collective minds to. A group as large as our global community is, could remake the world in any way they choose. Yet we will never reach our potential. We are nothing more than scared children, afraid of the big bad world, and what it might do to us because we are different. Nevermind that we could easily keep anything from happening, if we decided to, we are too afraid to do that.
We have become so self absorbed individually, that we have forgotten to think in terms of the community. History is full of people who were brave enough to stand up for what they believed in. They are the heroes we all know. No one remembers those who blindly went on with their lives, content to let events pass them by.
Yes, there is risk in standing up. Reputations and perhaps even lives might be lost in the pursuit of social freedom, but freedom of any kind is bought with the blood of those brave enough to so what they feel is right. Even the Christians have their heroes who died for their beliefs. If we aren’t willing to risk the same, doesn’t that also mean we don’t hold those beliefs very stongly?
How strong are your beliefs? Would you be willing to die for them?
That is the question we all must answer.
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Until next month, may you be blessed in all that you do, or as we usually say,
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