Where the Wild Things Are: Spilling the Pagan Beans

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, April, 2, 2004.

If you read my general blabberings around BackWash you will have heard of Eric, my boyfriend. He is still pretty new but we are getting along great.

Anyway, I haven’t really talked with him about Pagan ideas and what it means for me to be an Earth Witch. That is some sort of limbo in everything. I don’t mind leaving it there, for awhile. But, I have wondered what he really thinks.

We went for a walk on the frozen beach and while he was testing the thickness of the frozen lake (testing his luck I thought at the time) I was drawing a pentacle in the sand. I used a piece of driftwood and 6 smooth stones from along the beach. I placed the stones around my drawn pentacle. It was something special for the day, for my Grandmothers and for St. Patrick’s Day.

Eric noticed it when he came back, not drowned luckily. He said something about it, nothing much. I think just noting that I had drawn it or used stones, something easy going. But I wondered what he was thinking. Anyway, I left it at that. I didn’t push it or go into lengthy explanations. It was something personal to me and though I didn’t feel I needed to hide it I still wonder what he thinks about this element of me.

How do you begin to share this with someone you care about? Is it something you leave lying on a coffee table for him to find? Is it something you bring up right away and make into a big issue? Or do you let it simmer on a back jet, there and yet not getting in the way? I’m not exactly sure how I want to handle it. So, I will do what I usually do when I’m not sure, I will ask him. Not quite yet though. There is time and space, too much of both right now. We will see.

The Endless Knot

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

In whatever stray corner of the world you find yourself in you may have just found a Pagan or Wiccan if they are wearing a five pointed star with a solitary point up inside a circle. Being a solitary (Wiccan) myself I am partial to this view of the pentacle, I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with those nasty rumours of Satanism. Some Wiccans hang pentacles from their necks, some stab them through coats and sweaters and shirts and others go for something more permanent and painful and get it tattoed.

Pentacles should be worn on the front just before the heart, according the mystical tradition. Go all out and make your own but it should be prepared when the moon is rising in Virgo and only on a Saturday or Tuesday night in an atmosphere scented with alum, cedar wood, aloes and resinous gum.

Whatever your choice a pentacle is still a pentagram inside a circle. If it is genuine and not some factory-bred knockoff it should be one continuous line. No seams, stops and starts just one unending line. Though endless knot sounds like a great way to refer to your hair on those dreaded “hand me a hat” days it is also another name for the pentagram. Goblin’s Cross, witch’s foot, Blazing Star of White Magic are other fancy labels that could fool your friends and pester your enemies. Because I am really just a simple Dragon let’s stick with pentacle, I’m getting used to typing it now anyway.

There are endless theories and ideas of what the five points represent. Of course this is a biased article and all the following are appealing to me, there are dozens more out there in libraries and web pages. First, the elemental theory seems to be the most popular with Wiccans. Four points represent the elements: earth, air, fire and water and the fifth is the spirit. These are the basic necessities of life beyond food, clothing, shelter and taxes. The most romantic sounding idea is: a man standing upright with arms out stretched and the world behind him, a man in tune with the world around him. Some feel the pentacle represents the stages of humainty or life: babyhood, adolsence, adulthood, middle age and old age. Or birth, initiation, love, repose and death. Just about any other five things can be tossed in for consideration such as the five senses, the five fingers on the human hand…

The pentacle or pentagram is older than written characters. The five pointed star can be traced back to the Pharohs when it symbolized the rising up of the spirit to the heavens and the power of the Earth. Commonly associated with creation and spirituality, it is used as a symbol of protection and healing, considered to carry power for good and protecting not only the physical well being but the mental and spiritual too.

So much talk of the star but the circle is what makes a pentagram into a pentacle. The circle of the pentacle represents protection and is used often in magic. Inside the magic circle there is safety. The pentacle is an emblem of a happy homecoming and was and still is worn as an amulet.

The pentagram is a unicursal figure. Always drawn in one continuous unbroken line. Each of the five things represented are connected to one another, unless the line is broken. No one thing is any stronger or better or more important than the other, they are all dependent on each other. This is what the pentacle really symbolizes whatever variables are assigned to the five points. In magic the number five stands for the power of nature.

Pentacles ward off evil and you never know when you may need to do a little warding! It seems Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875) was responisble for starting the whole upside down thing. Eliphas, drew the pentacle with two points up and added the goat’s head design denoting evil the devil and all the rest. Some Pagans believe this is the Horned God, the male God who is the counterpart of the Goddess. However all of that is kind of muddled by the Christian belief in the devil with his interesting set of horns and goatee. Wiccans do not believe in hell or the devil, though some would say we worship it. Just goes to show more people need to get to the library or at least watch less TV.

I have found a ritual called the Sign of the Pentacle, though how old this is I could not discover. Still, any ritual should not be taken at face value. Each should be screened by the user and judged according to their individual beliefs and feelings. Here is the ritual: Starting at the left breast move to the top of your head or third eye, down to right breast then up to left shoulder and acoross to right shoulder and back down to left breast again. This could have been designed as a Pagan/ Wiccan version of the Catholic signing of the cross. It is meant to be used to ward off danger, evil or whatever you feel you need to ward off.

Happy New Years to all my fellow Wiccans and everyone else who stopped to read here.

Altared Naturally

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

Just picture yourself, in mid ritual, suddenly your Book of Shadows falls to the floor with an unpleasant sounding thud. Silly you, you forgot your altar!

The Wiccan/ Pagan altar is not just for eating your breakfast on anymore. Also, those looking forward to virgin sacrifices are in for a disappointment. But, look on the bright side, now you don’t have to save yourself for that big moment on the stone slab, just go out and have fun!

So, what should you know about constructing your very own altar? Start with all natural ingredients and assemble them inside a circle. Those are the basics. Your altar can be outdoors for all the little bugs and squirrels to see or it can be inside and easily pushed under your bed for those with parents who like to make room inspections still. An altar can even be made on your desk at work. Just use some creativity and no one will suspect you have brought Pagan influences to concrete jungle.

The altar itself can have a circular base or square, depending on how natural you want to go with it. Outdoors, a fire can substitute for an altar. Make sure you are prepared to safely extinguish it before you leave. Face your altar in a direction of power, generally that’s north, the direction associated with Earth. Some Wiccan use east and west, the direction the sun rises and sets. Lastly, everything on your altar is positioned in a pattern. The arrangement is very individual and can be kept track of in your Book of Shadows. (The Book of Shadows is a book or some other form of note keeping Wiccan use for their exploration and discoveries along their path of learning.)

Just raring to go and get Medieval, I mean creative? To dedicate your altar to the Goddess and God, something you can choose to do. Set up put the tools dedicated to the Goddess (pentacle, cup, bell, crystal, cauldron and others) on the left side of the altar. The tools dedicated to the God (athame, censer, white handled knife, etc) are placed on the right side. In the middle of the altar, you please yourself; at least that is how I see it.

If you don’t follow the ‘standard’ altar plan with God and Goddess on either ends you can fill those areas of your altar with things to represent the elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. The idea is to stick to natural ingredients but you can do a lot with those. A natural altar contains assorted leaves, stones, drawings/ pictures, candles, seashells, feathers, flowers/ herbs, a glass of water, your pet guppy, tissues (handy if you have a cold) and a pirate’s treasure map (assuming you can find one). Keep in mind the elements. The feather and leaves can represent Air. The candle and maybe some burnt offerings from breakfast can represent Fire. Water is easy with seashells or a glass of water. Earth can be represented by the stones or leaves (think compost, just don’t put it on your altar unless you are ready for the smell).

The altar is the physical centre of a ritual. Its a place of power and magick. To think it is mostly a flat surface to work at is a mistake. Some of your energy and magick will remain in your altar after each ritual. You will be bringing a lot from yourself to the ritual and your altar. Because of this, your altar must have special meaning to you. Use your own sense of style, things that are important, have meaning to you, and design your altar to suit yourself and your needs.