Magical Mundanity

This was originally posted on Witches and Pagans January 6th, 2014.


Willow: But, there’s also other stuff that we might show an interest in, as a Wicca group.

Wanna Blessed Be #1: Like what?

Willow: Well, there’s the wacky notion of spells. You know, conjuring, transmutation.

Wanna Blessed Be #2: Oh yeah. Then we could all get on our broomsticks and fly around on our broomsticks.

Willow from “Hush,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We have a joke in my household. My partner can make the mundane magical and I always manage to make the magical mundane. But that’s just the way I am and honestly, I think I have the better end of the deal.

I am not what most people have in mind when they think of a stereotypical Pagan woman. I don’t wander around discussing the position of the stars in the sky or what astrological sign we’re under. I don’t do crystal healing at the drop of a hat. My house doesn’t have shrines in every corner (just one very well tended one, thank you very much). I don’t wear too many flowing skirts and bangles. And magic is not generally what I would call my focus.

sorry, I don't generally contemplate skulls as witchily romantic as it might seem. Sleepy Hollow - Wise Woman by Raskolnikova-Sonya)

sorry, I don’t generally contemplate skulls as witchily romantic as it might seem. Sleepy Hollow – Wise Woman by Raskolnikova-Sonya)

But, it is still a very important aspect of everything I do.

I don’t have to run around casting spells everyday to be a serious magical practitioner. While my practice is generally on worship, that doesn’t mean that I can’t whip something up when I need to.

And besides, everything I do in ritual as a Priestess is magical.

Sweep? Magic. Cast a Circle? Magic. Calling the Elements? Magic. Calling the Gods? Magic. Wine and Cakes? Magic. Drawing down? Magic.

Any spells I do decide to work take a lot of my energy, focus and intent. While I enjoy little household magics, I’m just generally not that sort of Pagan.

But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of my fellow Pagan friends, other initiates in my tradition and other various loved ones, complain about the usual sort of  life difficulties: finances, relationships, bosses and jobs; you know, the same things everyone has problems with at one time or another.

And I end up sitting there thinking “well, are you a witch or aren’t you?”

Maybe the holidays have brought out my snark, but what’s the point of calling yourself a witch if you can’t change your life and the world around you. Isn’t that sort of the idea?

While I don’t generally run around casting magical spells all the time, if I’m having a tough spot with finances, I sit down and rework my budget and rethink my spending habits and then I go and get myself a green candle and I work a little money magic.

If my boss starts giving me a hard time, I may come up with different ways to approach the situation, but I am also going to go and work a little magic to cause things to go in my favor.

Love life suck? Again, magic comes in handy. Attracting the right person your way can be just the ticket.

Need an update on the coming months? Out come my tarot cards.

Magic is not the focus of my life because as a witch, my life is magical. To me, the magical is mundane.

I think it’s really easy, when we get caught up in the everyday world around us, to forget that we do have the power to change things.

You don’t have to be a 32nd degree OTO member, you don’t have to be a Master Warlock,  you don’t have to be a third degree Elder Priest/ess to create change in your life. Are you magical or not? Your attitude towards your magic counts.

I sat in on one of Orion Foxwood’s workshops at a small North Carolina festival and listened to him talk about being a young practitioner and staring at himself in the mirror everyday and saying “I am a witch” over and over and over until he believed it with every fiber of his being.

Believing in your own Craft is probably the most significant tool any practitioner has.


Are you a witch? Or not.



The Service of Invocation

This is from Witches and Pagans and was originally published on the 24th of May, 2013:


Invocation is one of the penultimate acts that a Priest or Priestess can perform, for themselves or in a group ritual.

This ritual is one of the things that separate us from other religions. In some ways, it is the most important act that we do for our covens. Through our priests and priestesses, coveners can speak directly to our deities.

And it seems to be an element that is disappearing from many modern Pagan rituals, or is being replaced by the reciting of the Charge of the Goddess or another sacred text. (This is not to say that in and of itself this is not a powerful thing, but it is not what traditional practice defines as invocation).

Invocation is one of the true “mysteries.” Learning to invoke or “Draw Down the Moon/Sun” is not something that the raw beginner should ever attempt. Inviting a deity to use you as a vessel to speak though is an extremely serious matter. A great deal of traditional training is about working someone up to the point where invocation can be done safely, and the practitioner can manage to come back from it without consequence.

Full on invocation is akin to a spiritual possession. When channeling deity, you are not the one in charge. In Voodoo, they say that you are “ridden,” and I think this is the best description of what happens when you invoke fully.

When my partner invokes, his eyes change color, he smells different, he moves differently and the “person” looking out at me through him is definitely no longer the same one that was there before. It’s scary, it’s comforting, it makes me want to laugh and yet weep hysterically at the same time. I never know whether I should throw my arms around him or prostrate myself on the ground. I’ve been given riddles, words of encouragement and full on lectures during these moments. Sometimes it lasts for a long time, sometimes for mere seconds. Sometimes the God looks out at me, winks and then leaves again.

Many people have told me that the things that occur when deity is invoked have been some of the most important and life changing spiritual moments they’ve ever experienced.

Anyone who tries to convince you that invocation is not a serious act is selling something. Even those people I know for whom invocation has come easily have always stressed the importance of understanding that you are channeling deity and that “you” are no longer at home.

Over at Patheos Pagan, Sable Aradia wrote a column titled “Seekers and Guides: A Balm for a Pagan Plague – High Priestess’ Disease (Part 1)”, where she talks about some of the same issues that I brought up in my last blog here at Pagan Square. Sable Aradia is discussing “the spiritual malaise that causes some of us to develop an inflated sense of our importance and “power trip” on being a Wiccan Priest(ess)”. She discusses the fact that the Craft gives people who have considered themselves to be without power a place to wield power. She also discusses that these Ego trips can be tied back into the work we do in the Craft, specifically invocation, stating:

Wicca is a mystic’s path. Ultimately, its greatest mystery is union with the Divine; what we call “Drawing Down the Moon” and “Drawing Down the Sun.” In order to achieve that, we must break down the dross of our personalities. Not all of our personality, just the stuff that interferes with our ability to channel our Divine Selves. Think of it as a refining process. We are trying to become better conductors. Pure gold is the best conductor for electricity, and pure copper follows that, but elements are rarely pure in nature and so they must be melted, tempered, and beaten in order to reach that state of purity. We are no different; and frankly, the process hurts and we resist. However, the more we resist, the greater the pain. Someone who is suffering from High Priestess’ Disease is having their ego challenged and they are resisting alchemical transformation of the spirit. That is why Wicca demands that we choose this path of our own free will.

While Sable Aradia’s point about Ego trips and Priest/ess power trips is certainly a valid one (and I agree with all of the other points she brings up), I disagree somewhat with this assessment of invocation. For me, invocation is completely giving up my “self” and retreating to the deepest reaches. It is staying behind, while She moves forward. It is not a matter of resisting; it is a matter of knowing how to stay still. There is no room or place for Ego in that moment. In some ways, I have to understand my boundaries even more clearly than before, so that I can stay as far back within them as I can to let Her take my place in my physical self. This is not a breakdown of my “self;” it is in some ways the ultimate definition of self. I have to understand myself to pull everything I am back, and leave it behind while She decides to use my physical form for Her voice. It is not something for me to resist, it is something for me to consent to. It is not pain, it is joy.

This is not a challenge to my ego, it is a complete override of my ego. After each experience, I am overwhelmed that She has been present within my lowly, physical being and I feel humbled at the honor of Her presence.

I see these issues with ego in regards to both sides of invocation as coming from the lives we lead outside of the Craft, not the actions we work within it. In learning how to invoke, I have learned an even greater respect for those Priests and Priestesses who have gone before me. As a Priestess, my ego needs to be left at the door. When I took on that role, I left my right to my ego behind. I serve a greater purpose for both myself and for others. When invoking, I am not looking for respect or power, I am looking to be a vessel to serve my group. She is not asking me to break myself apart, but simply that I step back and let Her through.

Invocation is a service that I give of myself. It is something that should never be demanded of someone or be used to judge the “power” of someone’s priest or priestesshood. Every time someone invokes, there is that small possibility that they won’t come back from the experience. It is, in some ways, the ultimate sacrifice. Anyone who sees invocation as a place to claim ego has missed the point entirely. This issue of ego is not found through the personal refining processes of the Great Work, it is something that hasn’t yet been discarded in this person’s transition from mundane life to Priestesshood.

Yes, respect the person who is invoking. Support them when they need a moment to recover, and recognize the service they are giving, but more importantly, listen to the presence that has come through them and take away from it that sense of wonder that can be found in coming face to face with the divine. Invocation is powerful, but not because of the Priest or Priestess doing it. It is powerful because of what it manifests, and that we get to have for a the barest sliver of a moment the center of that focus.

Pagans and Abortion

For the anniversary of Roe v. Wade I wrote a blog for Witches and Pagans about my own experience with abortion.

T. Thorn Coyle said it much more eloquently than I did. She said, “Death and life are inextricably intertwined. To deny a woman’s power over the workings of her own body is to deny her right to foster life itself.”

I am rabidly pro-choice. If you choose to have an abortion, at any stage, for any reason, that is your right. No ifs or buts.

The Pagan community is full of empowered women. But no woman can be empowered when she doesn’t have the right to choose what happens to her body. Being forced to bring a child into this world against one’s wishes is not something anyone should have to go through.

When I see people’s reactions to that original blog, I am profoundly saddened by the same sense of shame and ignorance from our community that you can find in any middle-American Bible Belt town.

We are a community that embraces all forms of love and intimacy. Why are we scared of discussing the validity of abortion?

It’s so important to tell our stories and experiences when it comes to this topic.

When I went to Planned Parenthood, I had to walk through protestors who called me horrible things. I had to be admitted through a locked entryway. I had to talk to a nurse behind bullet proof glass and I couldn’t take anyone back with me, when it came my turn to talk to the doctor, for the safety of the doctors and nurses in the clinic.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures there is and yet I was unable to have my abortion in a safe and comfortable environment with the care and support I deserved in a world of modern medicine.

I am not a Christian who believes that abortion will send me to Hell. I am a Pagan woman who knows that I have sovereignty over my entire self.

How can we empower women and not allow them to make this most basic, fundamental decision? I am worried that the Pagan community is losing sight of one of the most important aspects of what we are, a community of powerful women.

I recently had an experience at a local Pagan campground. I ran into a nineteen year old who was incredulous that I, who am almost thirty, didn’t have any children. She had two children, both of whom had already been taken by the state because she couldn’t support them. If this had been someone not raised in Paganism, I wouldn’t have been shocked. But she had been raised Pagan and she was just like every other uneducated, Christian girl I grew up with. When did we start forgetting to teach our daughters about how to care for themselves and their families? Was it when we asked that modestly be a value in our community?

I’ve seen a lot of arguments that state that abortion is against the Wiccan Rede. This infuriates me. The long term harm on a woman who is forced to carry a child to term that she can’t or doesn’t want to care for is much greater than the choice to rid your body of a clump of cells. The consequences of bringing a baby into the world that isn’t wanted has an effect on more than the mother who is forced to do so as well. Want to see the threefold law in effect? Then force that sort of pain into the world.

Our society already has unwanted babies it can’t care for. If you tell me adoption is a great option, I would ask, when did you last adopt a child? If you feel abortion is wrong, yet you do not help in caring for unwanted children, you are a hypocrite.

My only regret? Not being able to find Pagan resources that helped me deal with my anger and grief at having to make that decision.

I created my own ritual for healing that I did without any guidance.

I know of only one Pagan book that discusses abortion, and it was written by someone I don’t trust.

Where is our discussion of abortion in Paganism? Where are our resources? Why are we willing to ignore yet another part of the possibility of a woman’s reproductive life. We have maiden, mother, crone. We have menstrual rituals, birthing rituals, croning rituals: where are our rituals to deal with this choice?

Reading back through this, I know I sound I angry. Well, I am angry.

Angry that this sort of conservatism is encroaching on a community that treasures women’s lives.

The cycles of life and death are sacred. That cycle is reenacted through women’s wombs every month. Abortion is as much a part of that cycle as either pregnancy or bleeding.

I refuse to keep quiet about this particular topic. I refused to be ashamed of making the choice that was right for me. I refuse to give in to those who continue to try and entrap women by controlling their bodies. This is a choice that other woman out there go through everyday.

Abortion is a choice that everyone deserves to be able to have.

I’ll echo T. Thorn once again, because as always, she says it better.

I honor the cycles of life. I honor the cycles of death. I honor my power, as a priestess, to hold out a hand to both. I clasp those hands, bringing life and death together.

I am a priestess who balances life and death together continuously. I celebrate my ability to do so and to accept the pain and fear of hard choices in all aspects of life. Maybe if I do it, someone else won’t have to. Maybe by suffering and offering up my own pain, I can relieve some else’s.

Women’s rights are a battle we are far from winning, but maybe by speaking up and speaking out against the ignorance of others, we will get just a few inches closer.

And I celebrate other women who have made the same choice in the face of overwhelming fear and shame.

I celebrate those fierce warrior woman who stood up in the past to gain us the rights we currently have. I celebrate those women who continue to fight today to maintain them. I celebrate those who have had the courage to walk through the same protestors that I did.

As a priestess, as an independent woman, as a girl who grew up knowing that my choices defined the very core that makes up “me,” I refuse to give in to fear and hate. To do so goes against everything I believe in and everything I stand for.

You don’t have to approve of my own choice, but I would fight for you to be able to make a different one.

Choice is power. Choice is freedom. Choice is ownership over the self.

Without choice, we are nothing.

Right and Wrong in the Pagan Community

My partner just wrote a blog for Pagan Square (which you can find here) about the history of the phrase “in perfect love and perfect trust”.

On Facebook, when Witches and Pagans posted the article, someone commented:

I found this comment to be more than a little ridiculous because the whole article is explaining the context of  how the phrase “in perfect love and perfect trust” was originally used and why it might be inappropriate when taken out of its original context. There was no militant Wiccan laws or judgements…just a “hey, this phrase isn’t talking about what you think its talking about, you might want to think about what you’re really asking about when you use it”, especially when you are interacting with people of many different Pagan backgrounds who will take it in many different ways.

But it also brought up a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

In the Pagan community, there is a blanket understanding that no one’s particular beliefs are “wrong”. And this in and of itself is great.

But this idea of no belief is wrong tends to lead to the idea that you can’t be wrong about anything. That if you tell someone that they are “wrong”, you become a negative and hateful person. People ask you why can’t you just live and let live? When you tell someone they’re wrong you become a rigid fundamentalist who is trying to force your way on everyone around you. I’ve seen this thrown at a great many respected priests and priestesses over the last few weeks.

I am baffled by this idea. Would you stand up in your college physics class and tell your professor that he knows nothing and how dare he try to tell you that for every action, there is not an equal and opposite reaction? Or argue with a math teacher that 2 + 2 does not = 4? Or would you go out, get your degree, go and find some practical experience and then come up with valid and logical theory that you then continue to experiment with for why these things are not actually the case?

I know, I know…religion is not science or math. Religious practice does not usually have the same straightforward sort of answers.

Or does it...?

Or does it…?

But sometimes there are some pretty straightforward answers. Not everything in the Craft is a great mystery of the Goddess or God that everyone needs to find a different path to. The example of what a Pentacle is from my last blog is a good example of this.

There are a great many people in the Pagan community who are trained and experienced priests and priestesses in all the many and varied traditions and groups that make up the Pagan umbrella. There are basic ideas and practices that have a “right” and “wrong” way of being done that these people usually spend countless amounts of time learning and then perfecting. It might vary by group or tradition, but you can actually be a Pagan and do something the wrong way!

I know, take a minute, sit down, deep breath…process that idea. I know, I know…it’s upsetting.

While you’re “refusing to be restricted by some rigid doctrine”, you’re also refusing to take the time to sit down and learn the history and background of what you’re doing. In my tradition, while you’re being taught and guided through the various initiatory levels, we talk a lot about how certain things are done within the tradition. When you get your initiation and hive off (3rd degree for hiving in my tradition), you then have the choice to change things, because it’s understood that in gaining that degree you have the proper background, instruction and understanding of how things have been done, to change them if you choose. Essentially, your learning is recognized as being enough to help these practices evolve into something new and possibly better. You’ve been given a diploma and told to go do your own experiments.

Just because your beliefs are personal, does not mean that everything else gets to be a free for all.

I’ve seen this a lot lately in comments on my own blog…the “Oh, don’t judge, live and let live, we’re all different and special“. Ummmm….actually, sometimes you are wrong. And it’s one thing to just be wrong about one thing or idea, but it becomes a whole ‘nother ball of wax when your lack of background, history and experience shoves you over into being unethical with overall ideas. In my last blog I wrote about a group who is claiming to teach Wicca and who are charging for their teaching. This is a pretty standard taboo across the board. I know of a few Wiccan groups who charge, but they will sit you down and explain to you why. While I don’t agree with them, they are upfront about what they are doing. This is the sort of area where “live and let live” gets people into trouble and sets up the possibility of abuse. I see charging students over a thousand dollars for initiation as a scam. These people are not learning Wicca, they are being fleeced.

I also think this gets to the heart of the current polytheist and humanist Pagan debate that has been raging through the Pagan blogosphere lately. As soon as someone with initiations and real training starts talking about why things have been done a certain way, people have started throwing around the term “fundamentalist”. When you start calling a group “rigid” and start throwing around the word “fundamentalist” at people who have gone through many long hours, days, and years of study on mythology, ritual, practice and interacting with a gods because they tell you that you’re doing something incorrectly, there’s a much larger issue going on. It’s one thing to say, “hey, I disagree with you, here’s why” and to start a discussion, it’s something completely different to instead say “you’re a fundamentalist and everything that is wrong with the world today” instead. This is not constructive debate.

For those who are all about the Paganism that is learned from a book…think of it like this. When you read a book and the author makes a claim, you check that the author has cited a source for why this claim is valid. These sources are the previous arguments that the current argument is built around. When you’re writing a book or paper, you, as the author, have the responsibility to prove that your ideas have a basis in other, proven, ideas. (And trust me, as someone who is currently publishing a book, editors are sticklers for these sorts of details even if you forget them!) Our trained priests and priestesses are our sources. Think about it, when you come across someone who is claiming they are a priest and priestess, but can’t give you any reasons why they are a priest and priestess other than that they decided to claim that title, do you respect their “wisdom” in teaching you what they don’t know?

Just because Paganism becomes an umbrella term and you may say, “well…I’m not Wiccan” or “I’m not a polytheist”, it doesn’t negate Craft teaching by people who are and have a great deal more training and experience in all areas of the Craft. Paganism does not mean whatever we want it to mean; there are actually some definitions out there that are relevant and important to anyone who is using them. If you want to go out and find real training and then debate the merit of these terms and ideas, have at, but quit reverting to name calling when someone points out the fact that you’re incorrect. While you may not like it, name calling only proves that you’ve already lost the argument.

The Melissae of Ancient Greece

[550] “But I will tell you another thing, Son of all-glorious Maia and Zeus who holds the aegis, luck-bringing genius of the gods. There are certain holy ones, sisters born — three virginsgifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth; but if they be deprived of the gods’ sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together. These, then, I give you; enquire of them strictly and delight your heart: and if you should teach any mortal so to do, often will he hear your response — if he have good fortune. Take these, Son of Maia, and tend the wild roving, horned oxen and horses and patient mules.”                                          ~ HOMERIC HYMNS, TRANS. BY H. G. EVELYN-WHITE, IV. TO HERMES

According to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the Thriae were three nymphs who taught the art of prophecy to Apollo. Apollo taught it to Hermes, who was the god that escorted souls to the Underworld and then escorted them back into life again. They were the original Melissae, or bee nymphs of Mount Parnassus named Melaina (“the black”), Kleodora (“Famed for her Gift”), and Daphnis (“Laurel”). Often described as women with wings and hair that appears white because of how much pollen was covering it, they are generally considered to be the triple goddess aspect of The Pure Mother Bee, also called Potnia who was possibly the older Goddess that originally dwelled on Mount Parnassus before Zeus and his siblings came into power.

Later associated with Kore and the Eleusinian mysteries, this may have been the goddess that oversaw the infamous labyrinth in Crete where beekeeping was a sacred practice. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, the three Melissae represented Kore’s descent into the Underworld, Demeter’s search for Kore and finally Kore’s ascent back to the Upperworld.

Potnia means “the mistress” and is often associated with larger Earth mother figures such as Gaia and Rhea. Many priestesses of important goddesses were called “Melissae” or just simply “bees”. The Delphic Oracle herself was often called the Delphic Bee and the complex at Delphi was said to be based on a beehive. Potnia seems to have later evolved into various aspects of Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Cybele. Though Artemis, as the goddess of the wild animals, is the goddess who most usually came to be associated with bees.

Bee and Stag Coin from Ephesus

Bee and Stag Coin representing Artemis from Ephesus

Another story tells of the nymph Melissa, who taught people about honey. She discovered the honey in a honey comb and taught people how to mix it with water and then drink it. She was considered one of the goddesses responsible for civilizing mankind. And thus the bee was named for her. The production of honey was considered to be magical and divine. Because of Melissa’s association with bees, Medieval beekeepers believed that without a virtuous (or civilized) beekeeper, the honey couldn’t be made. Honeybees are of course extremely important to agriculture in most areas of the world. While Medieval beekeepers didn’t know why, they did realize that the bees needed to be kept happy.

Melissa hid the baby Zeus from Cronus, his father, who was determined to devour him as he had done to Zeus’ siblings. She nursed Zeus with milk and honey. When Cronus discovered her role in sheltering Zeus, he turned her into an Earthworm. Zeus, in thanks for all she had done for him, then changed her into a bee instead and forever afterwards Zeus always loved honey.

A different story tells about an aging priestess of Demeter named Melissa who was initiated into Demeter’s mysteries by the goddess herself. When Melissa refused to tell the secrets of her initiation, other women tore her apart. In anger, the goddess Demeter sent a plague of bees against the jealous women.

Melissa was also associated with Artemis. Artemis eased the pain of mothers giving birth and Melissa sent the souls of the newborns to their bodies in the shape of bees. Aphrodite had her own association with bees and was often called Melissa, the Queen bee.

Alfred Dürer, 1514: Eros, Venus and the bees. Eros stung by a bee, when he inhaled the pleasant fragrance of a rose, went crying to take refuge in the arms of Venus,” Dear mother, I die, have mercy on me, a flying snake bit me painfully cheek.”

In all the stories, the Melissae are symbols of regeneration and renewal and are also usually considered to be associated with the Underworld.

The etymology of the word ‘fate’ in Greek offers a fascinating example of how the genius of the Minoan vision entered the Greek language, often visibly, as well as informing its stories of goddesses and gods.  The Greek word for ‘fate’, ‘death’ and ‘goddess of death’ is ‘e ker’ (feminine); the word for’heart’ and ‘breast’ is ‘to ker’ (neuter); while the word for ‘honeycomb’ is ‘to kerion’ (neuter).  The common root ‘ker’ links the ideas of the honeycomb, goddess, death, fate and the human heart, a nexus of meanings that is illumined if we know that the goddess was once imagined as a bee. (Anne Baring & Jules Cashford, “The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image.”)

The Melissae were virginal priestesses because of the pureness of the honey. They drank a “toxic honey” made from psychedelic plants to enable themselves to experience visions. Transgendered priests in the temples of Artemis were often called essenes or drones and were there to help the Melissae. Bees are also often called “veil-winged” and represent the veil you had to cross to reach the Goddess in the inner temple (I see this as initiation), and a woman’s hymen, which of course veiled her body from sexuality until she was initiated into womanhood. The Melissae were often consulted in matters of marriage.

Bees dance and so did the Melissae. Accordingly, this is part of the reason that Apollo, who learned the art of prophecy from the Melissae, was also the god of light and music. Sacred music and dance played an important role in the lives of the Melissae.

Bees, who are known for the industry and order, were also used as examples of how a Priestess should live her life: she helped her community, assisted in healing the sick, crafted tools and objects and were capable of giving someone a good “sting” or set down when they needed it.

Further Reading –

Priestesses of the Bee: The Melissae

The College of the Melissae: Center for Sacred Bee Keeping

Honeybee in Goddess Mythology

Bees and Honey in Greek and Roman Myth

The Eleusinian Mysteries and the Bee

Weird Post Initiation Experience in Public

Apparently Initiation hasn’t just changed how I feel about myself, but how others perceive me as well; most notably, the children.

My S.O. and I ventured out into the world today to attempt some grocery shopping. Our pantry was depressingly bare after having gone through the marathon of Mardi Gras and then traveling to PantheaCon. Even though we got back late Tuesday night, I’ve had a serious sinus infection and both of us have been drop dead tired from the trip. (Kenny has also been recuperating from severe food poisoning at PantheaCon).

Since I don’t get the parental memos that apparently go around, I was not aware that today was “Take Your Adorable Child to the Grocery Store Day”. I usually despise trips to the store when this happens; masses of children are everywhere and it’s hard to just grab your things and Get Out While You Can. While I like children, I like them from afar. I guess I babysat way too much as a teenager. Also, for the past few years I’ve lived in college towns, working weird late night shifts, and little people just weren’t as present in my usual 2 am grocery forays. I forget to watch for them and inevitably end up almost stepping on one, resulting in being glared at by annoyed parents. (And who could blame them? I would probably glare at me as well).

While I’m used to scaring small children at the grocery store, today I seemed to absolutely terrify them. Generally I think my tall, booted, tattooed, pierced, crazy-haired appearance is what does it. But today I had many more intense reactions than usual. Children fled from my mere shadow. While this made my shopping experience slightly easier, this makes me wonder about how much more children see than adults do.

Christopher Moore, one of my favorite authors, has a quote in his novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (which is just as awesome as it sounds) that says “Children see magic because they look for it”. This quote always resonated in my own life and I have worked to make sure that adulthood hasn’t meant losing my sight of the the magical things I grew up believing in. This is probably in some sense what led me to where I am right now.

I’ve been working on a tattoo sleeve of fairy tales for a while now. One of the main pieces is the Wicked Witch. The witch in fairy tales is really the Initiating Priestess and to me at least, the character that usually drives many of the events of the tale to their rightful conclusion. Without a villain, what would the heroine have to do to triumph or change to become the person they need to be at the end of the tale? When my mother exclaimed “Why in the world would you tattoo the witch on you?!!!” my reply was “but I AM the witch”. It never occurred to me to be anything else.

As I stalked through the bustling aisles of our local Rouses, a few little girls paused in the aisle; instead of running and hiding behind their parents as the rest did, these girls paused in the middle of the aisle and unabashedly stared up at me in fascination. And I had the thought that maybe someday these were the same little girls that might come seeking me out for their own Initiations…how strange.

The Forgotten Tools of Wicca

It seems like everyone has an Athame, a Chalice and a wand these days. But some of the other basic tools of a traditional Wiccan altar seem to be overlooked. Let’s take a look at some of them:


The Boline is a white handled knife that is usually used as the working altar knife. If the Athame is one of the spiritual tools of the altar, that cuts or draws magical energy in ritual and spell working, the Boline is the physical tool used in basic altar needs and in preparing for any ritual work that you might do, such as in carving candles, trimming wicks, and cutting cords. I’ve heard the Boline compared to a utility knife and I think this is a pretty good analogy for the role that it plays.

The Boline is still a magical tool. It’s energy is just as important as one’s Athame. Most people who work with them still consecrate them like any other altar tool and keep them away from the hands of strangers. The Boline is the knife that you can carry with you out to the garden to cut herbs, it’s the tool to get down and dirty with. It’s a very practical sort of magical tool. While one probably only uses one’s Athame (in traditional Wicca at least) during ritual and as a symbolic tool, the Boline is often carried about and used in much more of a practical manner for ritual or spellwork.

The Bolines sold in most stores these days are shaped like a scythe. While a scythe shaped Boline is traditional, I find that it isn’t always good for anything other than cutting herbs and the garden. I prefer something a little more along the lines of this one…

A Boline like this is much more practical for any sort of task you might come up against.

The use of the Boline shows up in traditional training and it’s not something that you usually find in books. Because of this, it seems to be largely forgotten. In traditional Wicca, there is actually two different types of “practical knives”, the Boline and a separate tool just called the White-Handled Knife. In this scenario, the Boline is used primarily for gardening and the White-Handled knife for carving and cutting on the actual altar. For the most part, in most BTW, these two different knives have evolved into being the same thing. (I’m sure that not all teachers would agree with this). There is also a great debate over whether the Boline/White-Handled Knife is actually a magical tool. I personally see it as being an extension of any magical work I’m doing and treat it as any of my other magical tools, but the way this tool is handled probably depends on the person using it and the tradition that they are in.


The Pantacle is almost entirely forgotten. The Pantacle is a plate that sits on the altar and is used as a teaching tool. It is traditionally round with symbols carved into it to help students learn the lessons of the Craft. In the past it was made of wax, so it could be broken up and thrown into the fire if the Inquisitors showed up. It is often confused with a Pentacle. A Pantacle is not a Pentacle, a Pentacle is simply a symbol of the Craft.



In these modern days, there seems like there is little need for something like this. We have the internet, we have books: a great deal of written information is always available. In the past, information was not accessible and most people didn’t read information the way we do now. The Pantacle was a simpler way of passing on Craft knowledge.

The Staff:

The Staff is traditionally the tool of the Summoner, who protects the Circle from outside intrusion. It can be used as a form of physical protection and also one of spiritual protection in grounding the energy of the Circle. One of the summoner’s main jobs is to monitor the Circle and ensure that people aren’t over extending themselves in whatever ritual or work is going on. The staff helps the Summoner work with anyone who is not grounded during magical workings.

The staff was the tool of the common man. Weavers used staffs to set the loom so that things could be woven. The weaver could walk from home to home, farm to farm and set a woman’s loom without any suspicion. In this way knowledge of the times and places of meetings could be passed. Staffs are also common as walking aids, someone could travel using a staff and no one thought it odd. While the gentry carried swords, the commoners used staffs as one of their main weapons. No one would take notice of a man with a staff. To read more about the use of the Staff and the role that the Summoner plays, go read my S.O.’s book The Flowering Rod.

The Coven Sword:

The Coven Sword represents the lineage of the coven. It represents anyone who has ever been initiated into that coven. Being tied to the sword ties you to anyone else who has ever been tied to that coven. Some people use the Coven Sword to cast the circle, but as my S.O. puts it, that’s sort of like “using a Howitzer to swat a fly”. The Coven Sword is not usually found on the altar itself, but nearby in a place of honor.


A witches’ Besom is more than just a broom to sweep the ground with. The Besom is used in casting the circle. Traditionally the besom is made with ash for the handle, broom for the broom bottom, willow bindings and a secret acorn at the join between the ash and the broom. The Besom is another ordinary household item that could not be held up in a court as a symbol of witchcraft. The Besom is used in handfasting ceremonies, as a household charm for fertility, and several other things. Usually the Besom is also used as a symbol of protection after the Circle has been closed. Go and look up Besom-lore, it is some of my favorite traditional folklore out there.

Book of Shadows:

People think that a Book of Shadows is any book used in the Craft. A true Book of Shadows is used by a coven to preserve the coven’s tradition. In traditional coven training a student is not given access to a full Book of Shadows until they are a third degree initiate. The grimoire is the personal journal that the student keeps until they are initiated fully. Obviously, with the internet, we have full access to many Books of Shadows, such as Gardner’s. It’s not hard these days to just pick up a BOS and read it, understanding it, however, is another matter entirely if you have not been taught the Craft. I live with a third degree elder, I suppose I could steal his BOS and read it, but why, as a student of the Craft, would I want to? Everything in it’s time and place.

Most people have a grimoire, which is a working journal for anyone studying the Craft. Most people keep many grimoires over the course of a lifetime of working in the Craft, where you record your magical thoughts, your spells, your herblore and any other knowledge used in everyday magical working.