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[Witch Way] Volume #6 Issue #5 -- The Harvest of Souls!
October 13, 2013
Hi, Happy Samhain!

Ken's Korner

Welcome to the annual Samhain edition of Witch Way! Based solely on the amount of talk, and sheer number of events, you would think that Samhain must be the most important Sabbat of the year. Last night I came across a YouTube video of a Fox News broadcast from last February, where they said just that. Of course we’re talking about three media personalities who have no clue about Witchcraft or Paganism. When you think about it, Witchcraft is about polarity and balance, and this is reflected in our holidays, or Sabbats as well. No single Sabbat is any more important than any other, though, if you ask a group of Witches, they are very likely to tell you that Samhain is their favorite Sabbat. Anyway, we have the balance between the eight Sabbats, mostly equally spaced around the wheel of the year. We have the polarity between the three fertility Sabbats, and the three harvest Sabbats. Then there is the balance and polarity of the two Solstices.

Samhain is a holiday that comes to us from the Celts. You can tell it’s of Celtic origin because the celebration starts in the evening. The Celts started their day at sun down, so it made sense that all of their celebrations started at night, and continued into the next day.

If you look at the opposite side of the year, you will find Beltane, another Celtic holiday. Personally, Beltane has always been my favorite Sabbat, but then, it’s my birthday. This brings up another aspect of polarity and balance. Samhain celebrates Death, the end of life. Beltane celebrates conception, the beginning of life. Samhain is the beginning of Winter (I don’t care what your calendar says, it was made up by a Pope, Samhain really is the beginning of Winter), and Beltane is the beginning of Summer. Beltane and Samhain are in perfect opposition and balance to each other, as are the other six Sabbats.

A few years ago I produced a video that talks a little about what Samhain is, and shows images from one of the local Witches Balls that are held here. It’s a party atmosphere, and that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with a good party, and well, Witches throw the best parties! Just remember, there is a serious side as well.

This video blog touches upon things like the beginning of Winter, and the New Year, it also goes into a little bit of history of how Halloween came about. I’ve always felt that in order to celebrate something, you need to really understand what it is that you are celebrating. An example that I think everyone can relate to, is Christmas. There are a lot of people who celebrate just the aspects of giving (or more likely getting) gifts, and getting a day off work, instead of the spiritual reasons, of many faiths, behind the celebration. By celebrating only a small fraction of the holiday, you are missing out on the meaning of that holiday.

So what is the meaning of Samhain? Just like most holidays, there are many associations with this particular Sabbat. Its meaning however, is singular. This is a celebration of Death. We celebrate that all things die. To those who were raised Christian, it seems contrary to celebrate Death. Christians are taught to fear Death. With Death comes Judgment. Because a good Christian is a God Fearing person, they fear Death, and the judgment it brings. To Christians, Death is the enemy. It is to be avoided at all costs.

This wasn’t always so. The Jews at the Temple of Masada, committed suicide as an honorable way of avoiding slavery when the Romans overwhelmed the temple. The fear of Death is cultural as well. In the Japanese culture, if a Samurai dishonored himself, the one way he could regain that honor for his family, was to commit ritual suicide, or Seppuku. The Greeks came up with the idea of falling on your sword, as a way to atone, or honorably remove yourself. In all these cultures, Death is not to be feared, it is understood that Death is simply the next step in everyone’s life. The one thing that all these cultures and spiritualities had, that Christianity does not, is a belief in reincarnation.

To put it in terms that anyone can understand, let’s look at it like a video game. In the video game you get several lives. This means that you feel confident in charging out into the middle of battle. If you get killed, no big deal, you simply regenerate and go again. By contrast, when you are down to your last life in the video game, you tend to hide behind things, and you don’t take risks. Because you only have this single life, you protect it in every way you can.

My Argument to you would be that since Reincarnationists understand that they have more than a single life to live, Death of this life is not something to be worried about. Death is simply a transition, and this frees a person to take risks and live life to the fullest. The person who believes that this is the only life you get, doesn’t take risks, and I’m not talking just about life or death risks.

I have come to realize that the great majority of people are risk averse. They take no risks. They don’t like their job, and it pays them nowhere near what they think they are really worth, but they will never try to start their own business because the job they hate, that doesn’t pay them enough, is secure. At least until they get down-sized. People talk about going to exotic places for vacation “someday”, but Someday never comes. People always make excuses why not. “I can’t because I have to work.” “I can’t because I don’t have the money.” “When I retire, I’ll have the time and the money to...”.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, that Someday never comes. There will always be an abundance of reasons why not. Money, job, kids, other responsibilities. I will tell you from personal experience, that traveling to other countries, especially countries where English is not the dominant language, while a bit scary, is worth far more than the price required to go. I’ve made two trips outside the country, to six countries in Europe. The last trip I went with my parents. My dad is 30 years older than I am, and I was very glad that I made the trip in my late 40’s, not my late 70’s.

We all took a Mediterranean cruise. We started out in Barcelona, Spain. It was late August last year, and it was hot and humid. At 48, and at sea level with plenty of oxygen, I had a great time. My dad however, had some problems. Spending a lazy afternoon walking the back streets of Barcelona, was an incredible time, but my dad needed to make frequent rest stops. The heat and humidity were just too much for him, at the age of 78. In Italy, I went with my brother & sister, and their significant others to climb Mt Vesuvius. My brother is a year younger than I am, and his girlfriend is 10 or more years younger than both of us. My sister is 10 years older than I am, and even though I was the only smoker at the time, I still made it to the top first. My parents went on a nice relaxing bus tour.

The five of us went from Mt Vesuvius to Pompeii. We walked around the city, and it is a city, the entire afternoon. While it was mostly flat, it was also very uneven footing. I got to see the phalluses carved on the walls, and in the streets. I got to walk past the Temple of Venus, and the Temple of Jupiter, and into the Basilica at the Parthenon of Pompeii.

Now, I know for a fact that my parents had a wonderful time on that vacation, and really, it is the only family vacation we’ve ever taken. I also know that as a Pagan, had I not been capable of climbing Mt Vesuvius, or to the top of the Parthenon in Athens, or able to explore the Hippodrome in Istanbul, or the Coliseum in Rome, had I been too old to physically do those things, my vacation would have been much less than it was. I need to go back, and I need to go back in the next couple of years to spend the time I couldn’t this time. A couple of hours in the Archeology museum in Athens, isn’t even close to the time required to see everything.

So why do we celebrate Death? Because only in celebrating Death, can we recognize our own mortality, and the finite length we have in this life. Only by looking Death in the face and accepting and embracing the fact that It will come for us all too soon, can we also recognize that instead of Someday, we need to do the important things Today. We do the trips, the business startups, the I Love You’s, Today because Tomorrow may never come.

When you are in your 90’s, looking back at your life, will you be looking at the safe, secure life you led, or will you be remembering the adventure this life was? I am living an adventure, and while it can be extremely unstable, and uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is for the living. If you aren’t living your life, then perhaps Death is closer than you think.

If you want more information on Samhain and the other Sabbats, you should take a look at Witchcraft 101.

Blessed Be,
Ken

Ken Biles



Plants, Petals, & Potions

by Julie Andaverde

‘Tis the season for witches, my dears! Samhain is upon us and the time to embrace the darkness has arrived. These are the days of hexes, curses, tricks, and treats. Throughout the year, we’ve learned about herbs for healing, protection, love, and luck. Not only do we now get to embrace the dark half of the year, it’s important for us witches to embrace the darker sides of ourselves to either learn from them or use them. The same goes for our herbs as all plants have a lesson to teach us. Let’s delve into one of the most infamous of the poisonous witching herbs!

Herb: Mandrake
Latin Name: Mandragora Officinarum
Family: Solanaceae
Parts Used: Root, herb (leaves), fruit
Gods and Goddesses: Hecate, Diana, Aphrodite, Hathor
Common Names: Alraun, Brain Thief, Circeum, Circoea, Djinn’s Eggs, Golden Apples of Aphrodite, Mandragora, Mandragor, Mannequin, Sorcerer’s Root, Witches’ Mannequin, Womandrake
Magical Uses: hedgecrossing, love and lust, cursing, hexing, binding, trance work, protection, sympathetic magic

History and Folklore:

Once a long long time ago when humans could commune with plants, the spirits of the dead, and the gods, the people learned of the Solanaceae genus of plants, of which mandrake is a member – of both their great powers and their dangers. But those who knew of the secrets of these plants were greatly feared and cast out of society as the Solanaceae could bring entire kingdoms to their knees. And it did, many times, when those who knew their secrets used them against enemy kingdoms and armies as the first chemical warfare. Those who are most famous for their knowledge of the Solanaceae may sound familiar: Circe, Medea, Hecate – great sorceresses and a great queen each known for their skill with poisonous plants.

Mandrake has a history of being a deadly plant, and rightly so. However, it has caught much more attention than other plants of the solanaceae family. The solanaceae family of plants contain alkaloids called tropanes which are deliriants. Popular culture and the media has inserted mandrake whenever a witchy herb is needed. I’m sure we can all remember the mandrakes in Harry Potter which presented as sentient human-looking beings which would kill a person should the root be dug up without protecting oneself. In this case, the author was completely correct. Mandrakes get their name from the roots resembling the figure of a man or woman. The roots are also the deadliest portion of the plant and contain the most tropanes, though the mandrake is the kinder and gentler of the solanaceae family.

Magical Uses:

This native of Southern Europe and long-time resident in many a witch's garden has a great variety of magical uses. It has been part of flying ointments, made into poppets, worn in the cap for protection and love, carried for fertility, and consumed to induce love or lust. One of the baneful herbs, this Saturn plant is sacred to Hecate, but it is also associated with Diana, and Aphrodite as well as Mercury, perhaps because of the androgynous shape of the root.

In ancient Greece mandrake was once powdered and added to wines as well as various love potions. It was well known for making humans act like beasts and is believed to be one of the plants responsible for the legends of werewolves and shapeshifters. Mandrake is hallucinogenic, and although it contains less tropane than its relatives, it should only be ingested rarely in one’s life. As a hallucinogen it is best ingested as a tea or infused in wine, but it is much more common to find mandrake being used in flying ointments such as the magic salve of Medea which she learned to make using mandrake roots from the Titan Prometheus. Medea made this salve for the hero Jason so he could infiltrate Hecate’s garden and steal the golden fleece.

Mandrake has been used for millennia in folk magic for fertility and love magics. When ingested it actually decreases libido, so the root is used sympathetically for these purposes. Mandrake roots also have a long history of being used as mannequins or alrauns – carved dolls used for luck, healing, and prophecy. These mandrake dolls were usually kept wrapped in cloth or stored in a small coffin-like box and hidden from the view of anyone but the owner. They were considered a great responsibility to own and had to be fed in order to remain potent. Such mannequins were passed down through families for generations before they were outlawed by the Church in Europe.

Medicinal uses:

All of the plants in the Solanaceae family should never be taken internally due to the compound tropane found within them. The body can build up a resistance to tropane, but the heart cannot and even just one instance of ingestion can cause permanent heart damage and can result in death.

The flowers of mandrake die and turn into small yellow or orange fruits that some people make into a liqueur; the ripe fruits do not have the same alkaloids as other parts of the plant. Information on alkaloid content is contradictory, however, so caution must be used. Unlike Belladonna, which has the tropane alkaloid atropine and is used frequently in modern medicine, mandrake’s tropane alkaloids and plant as a whole have less of a medicinal value. However, if you should choose to ingest or apply a tincture or salve of mandrake externally be sure to be EXTREMELY careful of dosage and get this information from a trained and trusted herbalist!

*I DO NOT recommend ingesting this plant, or any other poisonous witching herbs!!!*

Other members of the solanaceae family related to mandrake include tomatoes, peppers, and chiles which are safe to consume should you wish to work with ingestion of a mandrake family member.

Effects:

Contraindications for EXTERNAL use: Do not use mandrake if you have a heart problem or serious kidney and liver problems. Do not use if you are allergic to morphine and related opiates or you will have a very serious reaction and need to go to the emergency room. Do not mix with serious medications. Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after working with or handling mandrake. Keep away from children and pets. Do not drive or operate machinery while under the effects of mandrake. Side effects may include dizziness, fatigue, and blurred vision.

If you feel hot, sweaty, or nauseated after working with or being in contact with mandrake, you should seek medical attention immediately. To reduce effects of accidental contact with this herb, wash the application areas with warm soapy water (or have a warm, not hot, shower), drink plenty of water, and avoid fatty foods.

Consuming or ingesting mandrake can result in permanent brain damage, heart damage, coma, or death if used improperly! Consumption or ingestion of mandrake is HIGHLY discouraged!

Preparations:

Due to the nature of this herb, no preparations, dosages, or recommendations for ingestion will be given. Should you be interested in prepared products such as a flying ointment, amulet, or alraun of this herb, please contact the author.

So, my dear witches, let this time of year be a time for reflection and contemplation on the dark arts. Don’t be fearful of the poisonous witching herbs, but do be very careful. Though herbs are wonderful teachers and healers, there are always the others which can teach us just as much, if not more, than we ever realized! Healing can also come in the form of trance states or crossing the veil and Mandrake is an herb that can certainly get us there. Though getting back may be a bit more tricky...

Love, light, and blessings!
Julie Andaverde

Resources:

  • Havens, K., Jefferson, L., and Marcello, P. Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany as Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense & Medicine. Oxford University Press, 2010
  • MacGregor Mathers, S.L. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage As Delivered by Abraham the Jew unto his Son Lamech, A.D. 1458. John M. Watkins: London, 1900.
  • Müller-Ebeling, C., Rätsch, C., and Storl, W.D. Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants. Inner Traditions, 2003.
  • Schultes, Hofman, & Rätsch. Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Healing Arts Press, 2001.

Websites:

SarahAnneLawless.com
Herbalwitchcraft.com

DISCLAIMER: It should be understood that Julie Andaverde is not a medical doctor, nor is Witch Way a medical journal. Some of the herbs and ingredients discussed in this column can be dangerous or even deadly if misused. Proportions and ratios discussed are based on personal observation and experience. Use of any herbs or ingredients is at your own discretion and risk. None of the information contained herein should be construed as medical advice. Always consult a trained medical professional.





The Witching Hour

by Marcus Leader

Samhain and the Art of Speaking to the Dead

It’s October and that means that my favorite festival of the year, Samhain, is right around the corner. I think that one of the reasons why it is my favorite is that this time of year more than any other, seems to carry a high magickal charge in the air around us. It is the one festival that non-pagans share with us which feeds the energy around us causing the air to pulse with magickal intent and traditions. Of course, non-pagans have a different perspective on the festival, but their contributing energy is still real and actually helps our own magickal endeavors.

This is a time when the veil between the physical world and the spirit world is at its thinnest making it easier to interact with the world of Spirit and to send out our magickal workings, spells, or intentions. Samhain is also the time to honor our dead and communicate with them on many levels. This communication is not imaginary, it is very real and can be subtle or dynamic depending on your levels of comfort and courage. In a moment I am going to share with you a couple methods that I have been taught and use on occasion to communicate with my lost loved ones and ancestors, but first, I always like to start my Samhain articles out with a poem and explanation about the separating veil between the worlds and why it acts the way it does this time of year. After that I will share my own story of one of my own Samhain communication experience with my direct blood ancestor Bridget Bishop, the first person hung in 1692 in the infamous Salem witch trials. Turns out that Bridget was one of the few people executed in Salem that actually was a witch as scientist discovered in 1971 while excavating her basement.

Marking the beginning of the witches wheel of the year, Samhain stirs passions and triggers excitement in both pagans and non-pagans alike. A time when the world of the living and the world of the spirit begin to merge at their outer fringes opening up doorways and portals where the spirits of the dead and other entities may enter our world for brief moments of time. A time when our loved ones lost may touch our hearts in this world once again.... but beware, for it also be a time for entities both good and evil to walk the night amongst us. YES...its Samhain time again....

The night is coming the veil is thin.
Hear their voices within the winds.
Light the fires and chant out loud,
Feel them walk within the crowd.

The summer is gone and winter draws near,
The veil will open, welcome them without fear.
Our loved ones past will soon be among our place,
See the veil thinning and then you will see their face.

Embrace the night and let your magick be known,
The truth that is here will soon be shown.
Enjoy this time celebrate the worlds within your rites,
The veil is once again thinning, it is again Samhain Night.

My thanks to a dear friend, Starrfire Price for allowing me to use her Samhain poem.

Yes indeed, the veil is in fact thinning. You can feel it the air, like a stirring in the force. An anticipation that something’s coming, about to enter our world. Magick is crackling in the air all around us as the excitement builds through the October month.

But, have you wondered exactly WHAT this thinning veil is? Or even better yet, WHY does it thin and part at this time of the year more so than others? Well, the easiest way I have found to explain this without involving complicated hyper dimensional physics, is to have you envision our world like the oceans of Earth. At the surface where the oceans meet the land the difference in density or frequency creates a physical barrier. Now watch how the waves curl up and meet the land ….the physical world is much like this as it touches the spirit world, but it is that “curl” of energy that folds back on itself that creates a kind of pass me not barrier for all energies above and below the point of the curl. This curling zone takes place on all dimensional levels and it is what we call the veil. Now just as the oceans of Earth can be calm or turbulent at the shores depending on weather and the phases of the moon, so are the curls of dimensional energy where the dimensional planes touch. Generally, it is gravitational forces at the proper angles from the moon and sun that affect the activity of the veil, but also there are other contributing factors such as cosmic radiation from the sun that will stir up activity in the veil.

During this time of year the turbulence is at its lowest point due to the relatively calmer forces of our solar system. This calmness could be looked at as a type of thinning where energy can be exchanged more freely. This means that spirits of the dead and other entities can enter our world with less effort. This is the ideal time to speak with the dead.

While there are many different ways that people use to communicate with the spirit world, I have found two that work very well for me, but one of them takes a little courage because it can get rather creepy. Before I share these two methods with you, I would like to caution all of you that regardless of how subtle or dynamic your methods may be, ALWAYS use some form of protection to shield your own personal energy from other entities.

The first and more subtle way to communicate with the dead or other entity is to do so within your dreams. To do this, start by placing some mugwort leaves (fresh or dried) into a cloth or velvet pouch no bigger than 3 by 4 inches. Next add a couple of drops of anise oil to the leaves and seal the bag. Place this bag under your pillow when you sleep. Next lie down in bed and state your affirmation, the goal that you are setting forth in your dream time. For example, I want to speak to a certain loved one that has crossed over into the Summerland. Call them in your mind and state to yourself why you wish to speak to them. Then close your eyes and repeat the affirmation at least three times or until you fall asleep. I have had great success with this method. It is important to include in your affirmation something like “I will remember clearly the communication with “whoever” when I wake up. Also, I find it best to set your alarm to about two hours after you go to bed to wake you up and when it goes off get out of bed, get a drink of water and then go back to bed and repeat the affirmation one more time. In this second sleep cycle, my research has identified a very specific state of consciousness that will help you reach out to the target and also to remember upon awakening.

The second method I have used takes more preparation and is done in full waking consciousness and can be unnerving if you do not prepare yourself emotionally. It involves the use of a black mirror and the proper intoning of a specific chant. While the intoning is not essential, it helps to shift the energetics of the air surrounding you and brings more powerful results. A black mirror is simply a piece of clear glass that has been painted on one side with flat black spray paint. If you are making this yourself you can even buy a picture frame at least 8 by 10 inches or larger and remove the glass , make sure it is clean with no finger prints and then apply several lite coats of spray paint making sure it does not run. DO NOT skimp on the quality of paint, you need the most flawless surface you can accomplish. After the paint dries put it back in the frame and you have a simple black mirror scrying device. You can get more elaborate like the one that I use which is round and has fluid condensers ( energetic bindings and charged powdered crystals in the back), but this is more advanced and takes about a week to make.

To use the mirror, first cast your circle of protection and then arrange two candles in front and to the sides of the mirror so that the reflection from the candles cannot be seen when you sit in front of the mirror. The candles should only light the mirror and the mirror should not reflect anything but your own face. You can also place these candles a little behind the mirror and to the sides if that works better for you. Now set your ambiance any way that works for you...light incense, low music, whatever works for you to put you in that magickal state of mind. Next state an affirmation of intent which is like a summoning of the entity you wish to speak with. Picture that entity clearly in your mind and then open your eyes and gaze into the black depths of the mirror and call forth that entity or spirit say something like “Bob, come to me so that we may speak this night, come now” DO NOT BEG or say please, this may be polite but it is also a sign of weakness and any other entities in the immediate vicinity will tune into this and there are some that you do not want to mess with. After a few minutes your eyes will be out of focus since there is nothing for them to lock on in the blackness. When that happens, a different level of your awareness kicks in that allows you to perceive other energy systems. When an image starts to appear, it may be just a blurred spot of light that slowly moves and sometimes takes form in the mirror and can actually form into a face of someone you may or may not recognize. When this happens try to remain cool and calm, do not let the excitement or fear factor kick in or you will lose the perception. If it speaks to you then converse with it just as you would anyone else. If they do not speak then you can initiate the conversation and if there still is not verbal contact, listen with your body, your emotions. Sometimes that is the most powerful form of communication.

To give you an idea what this looks like, I have included a couple of pictures of one of my own scrying altars in normal light and then a second picture in candle light as I communicated with my ancestor, Bridget Bishop. The reason I took this candle lit picture is to affirm in my own mind that what I was seeing was not a trick of my mind. During the communication session I witnessed swirls of fog and light moving around the mirror from one side to the other and nothing in this room was moving. So I reached for my camera and took this shot in the dark with no flash and it clearly shows the light in the mirror that I was seeing and there was nothing else in this room that could have caused this phenomenon. I did make contact with Bridget and she confirmed her identity by describing two of the artifacts I own that once belong to her which were handed down in my family. We talked only for a short time and a question arose about reincarnation. I was puzzled how one can communicate with a person on the other side if that person has already reincarnated? I got the answer and it is intriguing, but that is going to be the topic of my next article in November. I might add that the scrying altar you are seeing in these pictures has never been seen by anyone until now.

So for those of you daring enough to attempt a communication with the dead, especially on Samhain, I bid you good luck and take heed my words of warning. Follow the safety protocol and all will be well.

May you all have a very magickal Samhain.

Blessings, Marcus





Betwixt & Between

By Gwynalda Shadowalker

Of Ghoulies and Ghosties and Eight-Legged Beasties...

Spiders and the Spider Woman feature predominantly in many cultures’ myths and legends. Perhaps the most well-known story of the Spider Woman (at least in the classically-inspired West) is that of Arachne from the ancient Greek world. According to this myth, the Lydian princess Arachne garnered fame throughout the region for her skills as a weaver of gorgeous tapestries. Some even said that she must have gained her ability as a gift from the Weaver Goddess Herself—Athena.

The proud Arachne, however, denied such a “blessing,” and instead challenged the Goddess to a “weave-off”! A bit miffed at the mortal girl’s hubris, Athena accepted. And so, the two began their competition. Athena produced an incredible montage of her contest with the Sea God, Poseidon, for the patronage of the city that eventually became Athens. Arachne, evidently full of vim and vigor—with no scruples about pointing out the Gods’ less-than-admirable qualities—produced a beautiful work illustrating Zeus’ rather numerous indiscretions with various mortal maidens: Leda (with Zeus disguised as a swan); Europa (with Zeus as the great bull); and Danae (with Zeus as a shower of gold).

When it came time to judge, the contest ended as a draw. The enraged Goddess tore Her rival’s work to shreds and destroyed her loom. Still not satisfied, Athena touched Arachne’s forehead, forcing the mortal to feel remorse and guilt for having dared to challenge a deity. As a result, the mortified Arachne hanged herself. Athena soon relented in Her anger and jealousy; She saved Arachne from death and transformed her into the spider. Barbara Walker advocates an interesting theory, which alleges that this myth is actually a misinterpretation of an icon of Athena that depicts the Goddess with Her totemic spider, spinning the Web of Fate.

The connection between weaving, Goddesses, and spiders has ancient roots. The eldest historical civilization of Sumeria recounts that Uttu, daughter Enki and Nindurra, was the Great Spider Goddess—Patroness of weaving and clothing. Among the Native American Navaho, the holy and supernatural Spider Woman taught the people how to weave.

The Native Americans of the desert Southwestern U.S. call their Spider Woman “Awitelin Tsita” and “Kokyangwuti.” She is a big-bellied Earth Goddess—fashioned after the large spiders common to the area—and worshiped by the Pueblos, Zunis and Hopis. The Hopi of Arizona claim that the great god Taiowa charged his son Sotuknang with the creation of the universe. Sotuknang made the first world, along with the land, water and air. Within the earth, he bestowed the Great Spider Goddess Kokyanwuti, who gave birth to twins. Her sons created the rivers, seas, and mountains. The Goddess Herself bestowed live upon the world—and created people last.

The theme of “spider as creator” features in several Pacific and African myths. In Nauru, or Micronesia, the Spider God Areop-Enap created the moon, sky, earth, sun, and sea. Among the West Africans, the trickster Spider God Anansi controls the rains, determines the shores of oceans and rivers during floods, and created the sun, moon, and stars.

OK: so far, most of this spider lore seems fairly positive. So, why do most people regard spiders as icky, gross, foul, disgusting creatures, from which they cringe (as in that movie, “Arachnophobia”)? The only culture that I could find that considered the archetypal spider as “monstrous” was the Japanese. These giant evil spiders, called “Kumo,” tended to inhabit deserted castles disguised as piles of old clothing. If an unfortunate visitor happened to utilize the pile as bedding, he tended to wake up dead, unless he was well-versed in the skills of magick.

One celebrated Japanese hero, Reiko, had several encounters with these giant evil spiders. In the most apropos fashion, he follows the specter of a floating skull into a ruined building. There, he sees in quick succession: an old hag, and aged nun with a huge round face, and a fair maiden—who throws a sticky net over him. The brave warrior slashes at her with his sword, but the point breaks off, and she disappears.

Later, Reiko and his trusty sidekick find a giant spider with his sword point sticking out of it. They pull it out, and the creature dies. Inside its body, they find a large number of human skulls and a litter of baby giant spiders, which they quickly dispatch.

Strangely, the Japanese deity of rice, Inari, is also depicted as a spider. This unusual hermaphroditic God/dess can transform into a spider—but usually only does so to teach wicked mortals a lesson. Otherwise, the Japanese revere Inari as a Patron/ess of prosperity and friendship. Oh, and the God/dess’s favorite food is aburage: fried bean curd wrapped in rice, commonly called “Inari-sushi” or “o-Inari-san.”

And speaking of food, folklore evidently considers the consumption of spiders (YUCK!) as a magickal way to protect against a great number of diseases or to garner power and strength. Recipes include eating live eight-legged critters rolled in butter, molasses or cobwebs; or for breakfast every morning between two slices of buttered bread. Medieval folks closely linked spiders with witches (surprise, surprise), and believed that witches could cause sea storms by catching spiders in pots.

Happy Samhain and Blessed Be—Gwynalda )O(

Sources: The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker; The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan; The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley; Encyclopedia Mythica; and Bulfinch’s Mythology, edited by Edmund Fuller.





Trending Toward The Positive

By Evylyn Rose

Communities as a Whole versus Individual Communities

An issue that comes up and quickly turns to heated debates is the formation of groups and organizations that seek to be representatives of communities. Tasks for such groups include mediation, standard creation and regulation, defining and/or ruling the communities, development of ethics and etiquette, public relations, and even legal representation. Animosity that arises from the formation of such groups often comes from a lack of understanding the differences between the communities they claim to represent and the communities they actually represent. Whether these groups are local, state, national, or global level, learning and recognizing the differences can alleviate fears, concerns, and even the instigation of “Witch Wars.”

Communities vary in size and purpose. For example, the religious community as a whole includes members of all religions and the spiritual community includes members who walk any spiritual path (including the religious). These would be opposed to the secular communities of those whose lifestyles do not reflect religious or spiritual understanding and adherence.

Within each larger community, are smaller, more distinct communities. Within the spiritual community, you will find communities such as the Christian community, Buddhist community, Neo-Pagan community and so forth. These break down further into communities that are specific to denominations, methodologies, smaller religions, and traditions. From there, the break down continues based upon various factors. These may include individual groups, geographical and cultural locations, language, etc.

The difficulty in the formation of governing groups, even those that serve only as a source of advice and guidance in specific matters, is that those forming those groups often begin at a level beyond what is accepted by the community they wish to serve. An example could be British Traditional Witches organizing a governing group to represent all Witches. However, BTW is a very specific Witchcraft path found within the religion of Wicca. Likewise, some groups go in the opposite direction. A group of eclectic Witches of various paths would be poor candidates to organize a governing group for the BTW community.

What occurs as a result is that the communities served are confused, fail to understand the purpose of the governing groups, or even outraged. Here are communities who, while they would like to see more stability in their communities, are governed over by a group of individuals who do not understand them. They are not being represented fairly. To make matters worse, they are given the option of not having to join the community. This statement is backwards. A group that claims to represent a community but only represents a fraction of it may be part of the larger community, but cannot tell members of the community that if they don’t agree then they are not part of the community.

To paint a picture, let’s look at the conflict in Thailand. In the past, the government of the country, recognizing that most citizens were Buddhists, declared Buddhism as the national religion and Thai as the national language. This led into an issue of what made a citizen of Thailand. It became widespread that one must be a Thai Buddhist and speak Thai to be a citizen of Thailand. This was a smack in the face to the Muslims who lived in Thailand and considered themselves patriotic citizens of their country.

As Muslims stood up for their rights as citizens of the country they loved, they faced discrimination, hostility, and, yes, even violence at the hands of the Thai Buddhist government. As a result, a small percentage of an already small population of the Muslims within Thailand turned extremists and took hostile actions of their own. Although the government in Thailand has since declared the religious rights of all citizens regardless of their religious beliefs and cultural heritage, the conflict continues like the scar of past deep hurts.

Thankfully, the formation of governing groups within the Neo-Pagan communities is never as extreme. However, there are lessons to be learned. A governing body of a community as a whole decided to declare what it meant to be part of that community, but completely ignored pertinent differences among individual communities within the whole. They insisted on those who didn’t like the declaration to either convert to their way of thinking or leave. This created massive conflict that continued even after the governing body retracted its former declaration.

Those who have ever experienced or studied “Witch Wars” will recognize similar issues. An individual or a group of individuals claim some level of authority within a Witchcraft community because of experience, titles, heritage, age, past group affiliations, etc. They attempt to use such authority, whether with positive or negative intent, to have others conform to their vision as opposed to including the visions of the community as a whole. As a result, other individuals or even the entirety of the community lashes out in some way.

So how do we prevent such attitudes and behaviors when we want to organize a positive group that will help fill a vital need? For starters, recognize that not everyone can be satisfied. However, instead of making these individuals or groups feel excluded for their differences, welcome open dialogue. Take in concerns and suggestions. Allow the community represented to have a say in who makes up the leadership within governing groups. Most importantly, do not automatically expect everyone within the community to know who you and those appointed to leadership are and the purpose of the group. Be open and informative.

If you are prepared for these, then make sure you know the community you aim to serve. In local and specific path communities, this is much easier. However, if the aim of the group is to cover a large and varied community, make sure you know who everyone represented is. This does not mean knowing each individual on a personal level, but knowing all the paths and cultures of the community and having an in-depth knowledge of the areas the governing group will assist with.

Know that to represent a larger community means needing leaders from each smaller community who can help the group in making decisions that will have an impact on the community as a whole. For example, a group that attempts to develop an ethical standard for the whole community must recognize that individual communities within the whole may not share all of the same values and morals.

To illustrate, some Wiccan traditions are against Witches casting hexes for any reason and a governing group may wish to make that an ethical standard. However, if the governing group covers a larger Witchcraft or Pagan community, they will find that many within the smaller communities use hexes or other methods as a last resort to prevent harm or, in some cases, have no problem whatsoever in using hexes to “teach valuable lessons” or for the sake of justice.

Understanding the community you aim to serve in forming a group or organization to represent them is a vital step in preventing failure and potential for corruption and abuse. Once you have that step covered, then you are ready to start working with the community on a close level and reach the goals of the group.

Blessings,
Evy





Recipes for This Month's Herb

Masndrake

Mandrake is expremely poisonous
No recipes this month.






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Blessed Be,
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Ken Biles


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