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[Witch Way] Volume #3 Issue #9 -- Question Everything
February 13, 2011
What are your beliefs?
I hope you had a great Imbolc. As I write this, there is about 6 inches of snow on the ground, and more on the way. If you live in the States, youíve probably got similar conditions, even in places that donít normally get snow. No surprise that Punxsutawney Phil didnít see his shadow this year.
Those of you living outside the country may not realize that most people in the US know Imbolc, February 2nd, as Groundhog Day. Every year media from around the country descend on a small town in Pennsylvania called Punxsutawney, to find out if the self proclaimed National Groundhog, named Phil, will see his shadow. Itís all done with great pomp and circumstance, the local officials wearing top hats and tails. The legend is that if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2nd, there will be six more weeks of Winter, before Spring comes back.
Even those who donít know a thing about being Pagan, cling to the Old Ways, even if just because they are fun.
One of the things I was able to do recently, was attend a presentation given by friends of mine on Celtic Reconstructionism. Most people, Pagans included, have never heard of Celtic Reconstruction, itís a very small segment of our global community.
Celtic reconstruction is a spiritually academic attempt to learn how the peoples of Western Europe (The Celts) actually lived and worshipped. Those facts are then used to recreate rituals as close to what the Celts might have done themselves, as possible. Of course the Celts were a huge group of people spanning from the Black Sea to Britain, so they didnít all do the same types of ritual. Most Celtic Reconstructionists narrow their focus to a single tribe. In this case, my friends focus on the Celts of Scotland.
The presentation was fascinating, and I must admit, I felt a very strong pull. Having an historical basis for my spiritual practice is something that strongly calls to me, especially since part of my ancestry is Celtic. I can understand why the Norse Heathens and Khemetics strive to base their rituals on historic fact, and cultural mythology, instead of ideas that were thrown together because it was convenient at the time.
The presentation started with a story of the Celtic Goddess, The Cailleach Beira, the Queen of Winter, who ages with the seasons, and her son, who fell in love and wished to marry. The Cailleach, knowing that Her time was short, took Her sonís love and held her prisoner, thereby ensuring that the Winter of Her life would continue. The son did rescue His love, and together they rode out on the first day of Spring, the 2nd of February, to claim His crown and birthright from His mother, spreading new life and green vegetation as they rode.
To hold onto Her life and Her power, the Cailleach took Her silver hammer and beat the ground until it was hard and frozen, turning back her son and his Lover. Thus Winter continued. Several times the son and His love rode out, and each time they were turned back by the ice formed by the beating of The Cailleachís hammer.
It wasnít until March 21st, the Equinox, that The Cailleach was finally overcome, and Spring was able to take root and grow in the land. The son and His love were married and ruled over the land.
The above is just a summary of the story, taken from memory of that night. I had never heard of Imbolc referred to as the beginning of Spring, but it does make sense. The days here can be very warm and Spring-like, then the next day we have temperatures below freezing, if not below zero, and snow. Green growth begins to appear, only to be frozen under the snow.
Those of us who were there that night, took part in a ritual at the end of the presentation. There was no Circle Cast, no Elements or Quarters were Called. Instead, Gods of the Three Realms of Sea, Land, and Sky, were invoked. Imbolc is Brigidís Day, and being a Celtic Goddess, She was honored in the ritual. Her blessing was asked for, and received. We shared cakes and cream for the libation. If you read last monthís Witch Way, you know that Imbolc is associated with eweís milk, and so fresh cream was absolutely appropriate.
I have been on my Path for over 20 years now. I have been mainly Eclectic in that Path, but I have already talked to my friends about learning more of Celtic Reconstruction. At this point, I believe I am called more to the Irish Celts, and the tails of Cuchulain, and the Tuatha de Dannon. Celtic Reconstruction requires a lot of scholarship and research at this point, which is probably the biggest reason it has remained small, but I see no reason it canít grow with the publication of material and traditions already researched.
Maybe itís time to write another book.
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
The subject of this monthís column is Pluto and its astrological influence.
Astronomically, thereís some debate as to whether or not Pluto can actually be considered a Planet. While it is of the right sizeóif barelyófor a Planet, and both its moon and its independent solar orbit argue for its classification as a Planet, there are two facts that put Plutoís Planetary status in dispute.
The first is that Plutoís orbit is not only highly elliptical (more like an oval than a circle), it wanders from the plane of the ecliptic, the imaginary plane in space that all Planetsí orbits are supposed to conform to and so define the overall shape of the Solar System. The conventions of the ecliptic and that Planets have roughly circular orbits has long allowed astronomers to think of the Solar System as a neatly regimented disk in space rather than as an amorphous sphere, making our Solar neighborhood easier to visualize and represent. Having a Planet that defies these conventions of circular orbits and the plane of the ecliptic upsets the astronomersí convenient model without replacing it with one of equal elegance.
The second is that Pluto apparently shares its orbit with other celestial objects almost its own size, while a real Planet is supposed to ďclean its orbitĒ by knocking any potential orbital comeptitors out of its path or absorbing them into its own gravity well as moons or meteors.
Other than the facts that fuel this debate, astronomers here on Earth have very little real information regarding Pluto, other than the fact that it is apparently the darkest and coldest Planet in the Solar System.
However, even these limited astronomical facts have some interesting parallels with Plutoís astrological symbolism. Pluto deals with things that are hidden or otherwise mysterious, as well the violence and disruption that often arise in the presence of the unknown. Pluto also rules sudden changes of state such as death and revolution, and the experience of crisis that surrounds these things.
The physical embodiment of Pluto and the debate it has caused among astronomers seem to parallel Plutoís astrological influence very well, and its darkness and unknown physical properties seem to jibe well with its rulership of the mysterious.
Astrologically Pluto represents the powerful forces in our lives that are hidden or otherwise a mystery to us. Personal empowerment, crisis, the eternal mysteries of life (death, sex, the paranormal and high finance), regeneration, obsession, criminal behavior, revolution, atomic energy, and the ďburied treasureĒ each of us has within ourselves all fall under Plutoís sphere of influence.
Pluto is sometimes thought of as the Phoenix, embodying both the unavoidable violent death of the old, once its time has come along, with the painful birth of the new that takes its place. Many astrologers and other people who work with Planetary energies find Plutoís influence to be very frightening and difficult to work with, often choosing to avoid it as much as possible.
For each of us individually, Pluto represents the Heroís Journey we must undertake in order to make the most of our lives, and to leave a positive legacy to those who come after us. It tells us what empowers each of us, how we create crises for ourselves, how these two processes are intertwined and what we have to do to become and remain the Hero of our particular story.
Pluto tells us the same thing on a collective level. Plutoís transitions from one Sign of the Zodiac to another correspond to the end of one generation and the beginning of the next, making it the most ďgenerationalĒ of the generational Planets. It also shows the choices each generation will face, that will determine how they will be either revered or reviled by history.
I find Pluto to be by far the most interesting and useful of the generational Planets, and have written a bookó hopefully soon to be publishedó describing why this is so. Like the other generational Planets, I believe Pluto has been misnamed. In this Planetís case, I believe a more proper name would be Heracles, given how it so closely symbolizes the Heroís Journey and great Labors we all have to undertake.
I donít have room in this column to give Plutoís natal influence, or the reasons for its proper name, the full treatment they deserve. So for now I will continue to use the name for this Planet everyone recognizes, and move on to what Plutoís transiting influence means for us here on Earth.
Pluto takes between 12 and 32 years to move through one Sign of the Zodiac, making it the slowest and in some ways the most profound of the generational Planets. Plutoís Sign position at a given time will show what ďthe rules of the gameĒ are for material success and recognition. The rules hold as long as Pluto remains in a Sign, but when Pluto changes Signs the rules change abruptly. This can be clearly seen with the most recent Pluto Sign transition, in 2008.
For fifteen yearsó from 1995 to 2008ó Pluto had been in the lucky, extravagant, risk-taking Sign of Sagittarius. Taking risks and exploring the world is what empowers the Sagittarian nature, and Sagittarius is blessed with extraordinary luck when pursuing these kinds of activities. This nature and extraordinary luck determined the rules of success while Pluto was in Sagittarius: Taking risks with travel and with oneís money was far more rewarding during Plutoís journey through Sagittarius than it would have been at almost any other time.
Stock markets, venture capital, financial derivative products, leveraged debt and world traveló all traditionally risky areas of endeavor historically practiced almost exclusively by wary professionalsó saw wide and successful participation from many other walks of life. It was widely believed at the time that anyone who did not participate in these risky endeavors would be left in the dust of othersí success. As long as Pluto was in Sagittarius, this seemed to be true.
But in 2008ó when Pluto made its transition from Sagittarius to Capricornó the rules that defined success changed. Capricorn is the most pragmatic and the most unlucky of the Signs. This isnít to say Capricorn isnít successful, but Capricornís success comes after long, hard work, where luck is more likely to go against a risk-taker than support him.
In 2008, several bills seemed to come due all at once for world markets and governments, and their credit has fallen and so far failed to get up. While there are still those out there believing in and cheerleading a sustained rebound in the financial markets, with Pluto now in Capricorn such a rebound is highly unlikely. The lows we have reached in the world of finance are very likely the new normal, not the exception.
Pluto in Sagittarius was a long party on a Sunday night, where new and exotic pharmaceuticals were available for everyone to try (and most of us did). Pluto in Capricorn is the Monday morning after, when we have to clean ourselves up, deal with our hangovers, our bad trips, and our lack of sleep, then try to make it into work on time so as to prove we really are the responsible adults we tell our father-figures we are.
Responsibility, taking the slow and sure route to success, and purging ourselves of frivolities and bad habits to help us focus on whatís really important is what will bring respectability and wealth while Pluto is in Capricorn. Plutoís sojourn in Capricorn will last for another 12 years or so, beginning its departure from Capricorn in 2023 and leaving it completely in 2024. As long as Plutoís influence is focused on us through Capricornís lens, trusting to luck, idealism, or generosity, will more likely bring one punishment than reward.
Here in the depths of Winter, it can sometimes be difficult to remember why we need this season, but need it we do. The cold and the ice common during this time of year (and the lack of fresh vegetables) provide the contrast, the raw material, and the discipline we need to truly enjoy the ease and plenty brought to us by the other three Seasons. Like our hearts, our lives have to contract a little bit in order to expand again and bring us the nourishing things that Life requires.
I wish everyone much warmth and comfort food during the cold nights. Spring may be a lot closer than it seems.
NOTE: This is not a typical ďhoroscopeĒ 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 whatís going on in the heavens affects you, contact Jim Trader.
Questioning Your Beliefs
I have recently had my beliefs called into question. This happens periodically, and itís not something someone else has done, but something I do myself. I have been a Witch, I am now a Witch, and I will always be a Witch. That part hasnít changed. What has been called into question is my Tradition. For almost 25 years now, I have considered myself an Eclectic Witch.
At this point I think itís important to define a couple of terms for clarity. My Path, is that of being a Pagan. My Tradition has been Eclectic. Technically, I suppose itís more of a non-Tradition, since by its very nature, Eclectics pick and choose what and how they practice their Craft.
Up until now, I have enjoyed not being bound to any specific Tradition. I never found any single Tradition that really felt right. It didnít call to me. I have known many Pagans, following many Traditions, and have learned things from a most of them. Some of the things I have learned, I have incorporated into my Craft. Thatís the Eclectic part of my practice, and belief.
Now I have found something that holds a fascination for me. I want to learn more. I want to know what it is, and if it is something I want to do. Does this sound familiar?
The move from being Eclectic, to working with a Tradition, is akin to a nondenominational Christian becoming a Catholic, or Methodist. The Path is the same itís just the Tradition that changes. As with the Christian example, doing so involves learning about the Tradition, following more or different rules of practice, and making a commitment to that Tradition. It also means that I donít have to come up with everything myself, I would have guidelines and traditions that I could follow.
For example, the Heathens have the Ettas, and epic poetry of the Norse to describe the nine concepts that they follow. Among these are Frith, and Hospitality. They donít have to figure out for themselves what hospitality for them is, they are told specific traits that define it for them. Things such as opening your home to those in need, or who you invite, on the understanding that their behavior will determine if they are ever invited back, are explicitly explained.
What does hospitality have to do with spirituality? Well, spirituality is all about helping you to become the best person you can be. Itís about reaching your full potential. It isnít something you just do once a week, or on the Full Moon, itís how you live your life. Knowing how to be hospitable to others helps you life your life around others.
I first started feeling the pull, when I met Magni, and started attending Blot with his Kin. There was something they had, something that was present with their group, that I havenít felt in a long time in the rest of my local community. Itís not something I can describe. It would be like trying to describe what it feels like to be in love. You just know what it is, and how it feels, but you canít describe it to others.
Yet, I also knew that being a Norse Heathen wasnít my Tradition. It gives me several things that have been missing in my practice, but not in the way that is right for me. I enjoy attending Blot, and have met a lot of great people there. I like their Tradition of holding a feast before ritual, and of teaching their kids, and including them in their rituals.
Magni is what you might call a Norse Reconstructionist. His goal is to try to hold rituals the way they may have been held by the ancient Norse. To do so requires a lot of scholarship, and study. Already he has found some of the elements of his rituals may be historically inaccurate, and he is working on ways to change that.
Then there are Kelley & Chris, who call themselves Celtic Reconstructionists. They are the friends I wrote about in this monthís Kenís Korner. Part of my heritage is Scots-Irish. I have a blood bond to the Celtic culture. Thatís not required, but many people feel drawn to the spirituality of their ancestors.
It has been interesting because for the longest time, Chris & Kelley have just referred to themselves as Celtic Reconstructionists, without ever explaining what that means. They on the other hand, had felt that they had always explained what they meant. Both are extremely intelligent, and actually enjoy doing research.
Iíve never considered myself much of a researcher, but I have realized that on topics that I have an interest, I research because I want to know more, not because some teacher required it. It looks like I am about to begin researching again.
I write all of this because it is important to question, and to follow what calls to you. Most people have been indoctrinated with the belief that once you find a Path, you must follow it no matter where it may lead, and no matter how little you feel called to it. That to do otherwise is wrong, even sinful. Most people who are seeking a different Path, have been brought up in one of the Big Three religions, and the Christians at least, seem to think that the Path with the most followers wins.
Christianity discourages questions of faith, for the most part. There are those pastors who are willing to help answer questions, but always with the idea that the person questioning, will return to the fold, with all the other sheep. There is a lot of protection within the flock. There are other sheep, to keep attention from being drawn to you, thereís a Shepherd, who watches over you, but some people arenít sheep, and need to leave the flock.
To strike out on your own means being on your own, and fending for yourself, at least until you find others of like mind. It means drawing attention to yourself, because you are the only one there. Thereís no one to watch over you, but then, thereís no one to lay down rules either. You do what you feel is best for you. Sometimes that means staying on your own, sometimes it means joining others like yourself. Sometimes it means returning to the same flock, or another like it.
Those who return are said to have gone through a Crisis of Faith. Because after all, there is only One Faith, and everyone knew the person would return eventually.
What I am going through isnít a crisis of faith, itís more a defining moment. I still believe all the things I have for my entire life generally, and nearly 25 years specifically. Whatís changed is my desire for a Tradition. Something that lets me take what Iíve learned, and use it in a way that is more historically accurate with the way my ancestors did.
This is not something I can really find a teacher for. All the ancient Celts are long dead. So I strike out on my own again, with others who feel the same. Not a flock, but close enough to come together when we need to.
Always question what you believe. That is the only way to find out just what those beliefs are.
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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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