Article

Seeking Mastery

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

“Mastery” is such a tricky word. Does anyone ever truly master anything? Is there not always room for improvement? Is there not always some force beyond your control? While many would define mastery as control over or superiority over another, when we are talking about true mastery, we mean control over the self and superiority to what you once were. Your only rival is the work you did yesterday, as you seek to go further and deeper in your chosen field. Those who have applied this ethos become recognized as skilled.

I often relate the word master to magister, a term popular in today’s revival of “traditional” craft, and at its heart, be it ancient Rome or a medieval university, a magister is a qualified teacher. I also think of the great confusion of the title in our modern metaphysical world of Reiki Master, meaning Reiki Teacher, or one who is qualified to pass the teachings and initiations of a Reiki lineage. Many mistakenly equate Reiki Master with spiritual, enlightened, or even ascended master, and feel they have “arrived” and have no further need to do any personal or professional spiritual work. A true master in any craft knows there is always refinement and exploration. Otherwise, what would be the point?

A master is one who is not only qualified in their field, but also hopefully passionate about passing on their craft, including both the traditions they learned as well as the hard-won knowledge that comes from doing, so the next generation can take the learning further and become even more skillful. For those in a paradigm of superiority and control over others, such sharing and mentoring will never happen, but those confident in their art and practice are not fearful of losing a part of their identity; instead, they want their vocation as a whole to proceed to its fullest expression. It can be difficult to get there and personally feel this all the time, which is why any aspiring master must continue to rigorously practice.

While the Temple of Witchcraft is a religious organization, welcoming and accepting of those who seek to learn or who already identify with the teachings and culture of Witches, Wiccans, Pagans and wise ones from other esoteric traditions, the heart of the tradition is the teachings from our school. The religious organization provides a support structure for those learning to put their skills into practice within community, because community, with all its blessings and failings, then becomes a mirror to see ourselves in our own process, recognize our flaws, and work towards greater skill and mastery. Our desire is to help those students gain the knowledge and experiences to become adept and walk a path towards mastery, as most esoteric schools do. We know we can only take a student so far, and that mastery comes from their own unique experiences and expressions. We hope to provide a framework that balances enough of the discipline and traditions with artistic and creative flexibility, creating a place for personal gnosis and holding it all together in a structure of community where service is a shared value to whole process. This way we can hold it for future generations to use, experience, and contribute to again.

One of the critiques we get in this process is that we move too slowly. We start with lessons that are too basic. There is not a fast track for the talented. And even when there is, it’s not quick or fast enough for some. And that is purposeful, so when I hear the critique, I know we are doing what we set out to do.

While these are difficult, often fast-paced times, there is value in slowing down, truly immersing oneself, experiencing beginner’s mind, and being fully present. We are often not fully present when we are moving quickly. An advantage today is that so much information and philosophy on magick and Witchcraft is available easily to anyone. And people devour it, which is good. But they don’t often digest it. It becomes magickal mind candy, spiritual junk food, even if the teaching is deeply rooted in wisdom. They read and equate reading with expertise. Some will practice it, perhaps very intently, for a very short time, then assume mastery and move onto an often unrelated topic and repeat the process. There is no integration. There is informational education but no progression, as most systems are designed to develop the occult anatomy to handle greater levels of energy and consciousness. It’s akin to working out with no rhyme or reason to exercise and diet and expecting to be a world class athlete, or taking a martial art and expecting black belt status by learning a bunch of unrelated moves from different systems. This is a quite different situation from one that involves really sitting with and experiencing a technique from every angle through regular, consistent doing.

In fact, I find the black belt analogy the best for me, as martial arts progressions are not unlike the levels of spiritual initiation. And like many marital arts students, we get caught up in attainment rather than process. Degrees, ranks, and titles become more important than the experience and integration of the work. Some get their certificate, their cord, and move onto the next challenge, the next system, not really doing anything with what they originally learned because it was not integrated. Soon, they seek to contribute to the flow of information, often regurgitating half-digested truths and sharing their perspective of the present moment instead of the hard-earned wisdom gained with time, work, and reflection. We have instant experts on everything. We then find a field of people assumed to be blackbelts, speaking about what it’s like to be a blackbelt, without the strength, speed, stamina, understanding and wisdom of the blackbelts that have come before them. The previous blackbelts, who recognize their own across traditions, look on a little bewildered. From there we have new leaders and teachers who might be able to speak eloquently about the history of a topic and current opinions, but who can’t magick their way out of a paper bag. Such people have not established the personal foundation, balance, and awareness that might behoove a seeker, let alone a new expert. Those who have reached adepthood, however, will not only experiment personally with new ideas for quite a long time, but also test the technique and ideas with other trusted practitioners, then novices, to make sure the technique is universal and not simply personal before sharing it with the general public.

So like the simple moves that become the foundations for complex series of defenses and attacks, revealing the underlying symbolism of the martial philosophy, we move slowly with simple moves. We ask experienced practitioners to approach with beginner’s mind. We don’t forbid you from studying anything else, but if something else captures your attention and you move on, unable to do both, we bless you on your way. It is easy to get distracted not only by the bright and shiny, but the dark and scary. When they are not deeply applied to inner transformation, both can be useless, despite the very different outer forms. There is a movement that values aesthetics over true art. While beauty and expression are very important, they should stem from a process within, expressing something genuine, rather than simply providing an outer veneer to the latest fads. Occult communities do go through fads, and if you’ve been around for long enough, you see the rise and fall in popularity of particular cultures, goddesses, and techniques over short periods of time. The internet makes the process that much faster.

There is also a movement of constant validation in the very bright and very dark, where one seeks to only confirm what is already believed. If that is your only motivation for learning, you have missed the point entirely. Too often those seeking, myself included when I began the path, come from a place of low self-esteem and disempowerment, and the articles, blogs, books, and teachers that simply affirm how wonderful you are already are very enticing. Of course you arewonderful as you are, but the process to truly understand and integrate that understanding is yours, and it cannot be given easily by another. Validation can be addicting when we have few other sources of approval, and no sense of internal approval, but the true process is catalyzed within and moves out from there.

The structure, discipline, and apparent rules of the lower levels give way to deeper freedom, flexibility, and open-ended, self-chosen challenges once we know the foundations are in place. We enter into the order of sister/brother/otherhood that provides both mutual support and mutual challenge. We often say you need to know the rules to break them, in the same way that avant-garde musicians are often well-versed in the classics. Rather than repeatedly reinventing what has come before, we root ourselves so we can take it further. I remember as a self-taught musician when I “discovered” the 7th chord and was so excited, not realizing it was a fairly basic idea. Studying music with professional educators helped widen my palette of choices when I wrote and deepened my understanding of the line of musicians and musical history that I was participating in now.

Much of what we do can seem like “basic Wicca” because in this day, many savvy practitioners in voice and knowledge lack the fundamental basics of successful spellcasting, psychic ability, and meditation. While our heart is on the mysteries of magick, doing successful operative magick and experiencing verified psychic experience are gateway mysteries. They can ground us from mystical delusion and religious fervor further down the path. Those simply seeking religion, and the validation of a religious community, don’t need to practice the occult arts. And that is fine. But someone with that philosophy should brand themselves as a practitioner without practice. While some are naturally gifted, savants in other arts, they often cannot easily transmit the teaching to others because it comes so naturally to them. To find mastery, most of us have to pick a general path, dig a well, and make the time for progress, even in the times when it feels boring. Any of us who have put the work into our craft have developed lifelong skills, even if we have given up ambitions for that art. Those of us who have had piano lessons and practice our scales and exercises can often still pick up a piece of music and play it without much effort. Older athletes engage a muscle memory, and even out of shape, can have greater success due to the previous hours put into their sport.

Like slow-melting ice, the constant work prevents it from refreezing and leads to a breakthrough. Haphazard work can lead to the illusion of breakthrough. If you look at most occult and esoteric traditions, this is what divides the future adept from the dabbler and leads to greater mastery. We seek to increase those who in their own way, in their own time, and with the support of tradition and community, come into their own mastery and share what they have learned so we can all grow further together.

Initiation in a Place We Call Home

by Karen Ainsworth

7:00 pm, Salem, New Hampshire. Midnight, England. As the clock struck the witching hour, many gathered for Initiation night. Students completing their first year of study at Grandview, home to the Temple of Witchcraft. And students, High Priestesses, Priests, and Ministers around the world, conjoined on the astral, in a Temple beyond all time, a Temple beyond all space, a Temple that stood in circle, holding sacred space for every initiate, of every degree, one through four.

To say the experience was profound is an understatement. As we lit our candles with thoughts only of the ceremony before us, you could hear every breath, sense the blood, the life-force of your very being, pulsing through your body, and the body of community alike. You could touch the tangible holiness of the moment, wrapping it around you like a glorious sacred shroud of deliciousness.  The time had come, not only for initiates to say their vows to those both seen and unseen, but for every person present, to consider and reaffirm their own vows, as they stepped back just a little to make space for new brothers and sisters to take their place in the same circle created by our Founders, Christopher Penczak, Steve Kenson, and Adam Sartwell, along with High Priestess Alix Wright and other volunteers and lead ministers, so many years ago.

By the light of the candles, I spoke with my witch-brother, also a High Priest and Minister of our Tradition. We read sacred verse to each other, recalled poignant moments throughout the years as we completed our own training and walked the path together, and remembered all those moments we thought we had forgotten; the magick, the ritual, the gatherings, like the Eternal Sabbat of the Witches, the meeting place that is forever there for all to visit. We spoke of the fun times, like braiding our cords together and making incense. We spoke of the challenges in absorbing some of the teachings that now we often turn to in a heartbeat. And we spoke of the tears of the shadow-work that helped lift and shift so much energy from the life experiences that held us back.

The act of dedicating yourself to the Craft is one of great beauty. To honour the land on which we walk, to see divinity in every aspect of nature around us, to step up to become a caretaker of that world. To honour the Goddess and all she has created, and to honour her consort the God, for without both, all would not be possible. And to equally honour yourself and all of humanity, for within us all, Divinity lives. And with that honour and awareness, we nourish our soul, the soul of mankind, the soul of the world.

We often ask just what good can we do in a world that seems to be spinning out of control and I say there is one thing, just one thing that could help in that moment of time: Step up; remember who you are; embrace your dreams and aspirations; and learn to really live through the eyes of the Goddess in whatever way that means to you. Protect her, hear her stories, feel her pain, but especially feel her joy, happiness, and unconditional love. They are the gifts waiting there for you for the taking. Your path will widen, doors will open, your world will blossom, and your life will flourish. As it is, as it was, as it always shall be.

If we are truly wise, we are never done with the training, the soul-crafting, the lessons of life. The waters of the Cauldron run deep, but the wisdom and healing it brings is second-to-none for those who dare to step in and immerse themselves into the womb of the Goddess, the abyss. In the darkness, the light awaits you. In the darkness, the stars shine and the heavens glow. In the darkness, we are reborn.

Blessed be the Witches. Blessed be the Craft. Blessed be the Temple of Witchcraft, for in your heart, I found my home.

Karen Ainsworth is based in Lancashire, England, a healer and eclectic witch, with a love of crafting, kitchen magick, crystals and plant spirit medicine.  Karen is a High Priestess and Ordained Minister of the Temple of Witchcraft, working within the Sagittarius Ministry. She is a trained Reiki Master-Teacher and Advanced Practitioner of Integrated Energy Therapy®. Along with other certifications, Karen has completed training in Medicinal Aromatherapy, Professional Spiritual Healing, Life Coaching, Crystal Healing, and Incense and Magical Oils.  She has further trained for Celebrant Ceremonies with Glennie Kindred, for personal and community ceremonies.  Through her love of the Temple community, and in addition to the Chalice and Thyme retreats, Karen also offers classes, crafting workshops, and healing sessions in the UK. She is open to invites to guest teach and collaborate in the United States.

Temple Astrolog: Celebration of life

The Spring Equinox and the celebration of Ostara happen when the sun enters 0 degrees in the sign of Aries. It is the Astrological New Year and the beginning of a new cycle, and it happens this year the 20th of March. It is believed that this has been celebrated since the “beginning of time” as many of the pyramids and sacred mounds around the world are built according to the rising and setting of the sun at the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes. Examples include Alestenar in the south of Sweden, Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in England and Chichen Itza in Mexico.

When I celebrate Midwinter, Yule, and the darkest day of the year here in Sweden, my friends in Australia celebrate Midsummer, Litha, and the brightest day of the year and vice versa because we live on opposite sides of the globe. But, at the Equinoxes we share the same shift between light and dark when day and night are equally long. When you think about it it’s a really powerful and cool thing that unites us and our connection to nature, no matter were we live in the world.

Spring Equinox and Full moon at the same time

A very special thing is that this year we will have a full moon the same time as the Spring Equinox. That makes this event extra strong. The Sun is 0 degrees in Aries so the full Moon will be in 0 degrees in Libra. Sometimes it is confusing for people keeping track of what full moon it is, so here is something that might help you.

How to figure out in what sign the full moon is in

For a full moon to happen the whole moon disc has to be lit up by the sun and this only happens when the sun is opposite to the moon. There are 12 signs of the Zodiac. The full moon is always in the opposite sign (6 signs away) of where the sun is. For example: If people born in Leo are having their birthdays and it’s a full moon, the full moon will be in Aquarius and so on.

Sun in… Full moon in…

1. Aries – 7. Libra
2. Taurus – 8. Scorpio
3. Gemini – 9. Sagittarius
4. Cancer – 10. Capricorn
5. Leo – 11. Aquarius
6. Virgo – 12. Pisces
7. Libra – 1. Aries
8. Scorpio – 2. Taurus
9. Sagittarius – 3. Gemini
10. Capricorn – 4. Cancer
11. Aquarius – 5. Leo
12. Pisces – 6. Virgo

Hecate Dancing at the Spring Equinox

Hecate is a Greek goddess. In ancient times she was associated with things like crossroads, magick, healing, transformation, witchcraft, herbalism, poisonous plants, and necromancy to name a few. She still is. As a matter of fact, she is very much alive today and is probably one of the goddesses that is gaining more and more popularity every year.

The Asteroid Hecate is very interesting. She is often very strong in the charts of people with a healing profession: Midwifes, doctors, and all kinds of therapists. With her connection to herbs she is also strong in the charts of herbalists, chefs, bakers and, of course, Witches! The asteroid of Hecate has a lot of light to her, even if that is not what she is most associated to.

Hecate is right now at 25 degrees in Virgo. And there she is having a good time, stirring and brewing up medicine and lovely food in her shining cauldron. A good thing to ask, is what are you brewing in your life?

Now at the Spring Equinox the asteroid Hecate is in a grand trine with Mars (power, energy, potency) in Taurus and the South node and Pluto (death, transformation) in the sign of Capricorn. Together they create a powerful grand trine in the earth signs. Like a dancing celebration on the fields of spring between light and dark, winter and spring, the upper and the lower worlds.

This is a great opportunity if you are interested in getting deep into the original part of things. Perhaps looking for original knowledge, an original ceremony, original treatment or an original recipe?

You can also tune in to this wonderful earth dance and direct the energy towards what you want to manifest in your life for the next 6 months until the fall Equinox.

Magical Spring Punch

If you are going to dance in the fields of spring with Hecate and your other friends, you´ll probably need something special to drink. This is a lovely non-alcoholic punch. Hold your intention as you add all the ingredients in the punch. If you like, you can add your favourite flower essence

Don’t forget to give it a magickal swish stirring clockwise and knock on the bowl 3 times in the end with your spoon, activating your brew and sealing the magick.

Take 1/3 orange juice. This is for the returning of Spring, the sun, joy and happiness.

Take 1/3 peach juice. This is for fertility, sweetness, and romance

Fill up the next 1/3 with sparkling water. This is for the sparkles of life.

Add a bit of San Francisco essence. This is for the red color associated with love, passion, and the life blood connecting us all together.

Finally top with rose petals for Love, mysteries, and Magick and serve over ice.

I wish you a wonderful Spring Equinox and Full Moon, Blessings!

Karin Ugander is a spiritual channeler living in the south of Sweden. In Scandinavia she is known for the AstroNumerology and Psychic readings she’s been doing for over 20 years. Together with her husband Niklas, she runs KaniSkolan, a school of astrology, numerology, tarot, StarCode Healing, and natural medicine. They are also the founders of Alven Inner Ring tradition, a Scandinavian mystery school with roots in shamanism and magick. Karin loves to create magickal oils, flower essences and sigils she combines in her “Karin Victoria” sigil candles and flower sprays. In her spare time she likes to travel, walk in the forest with her dog, and spend time by the ocean. Karin is a high priestess and graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft’s seminary program.

You can find Karin Ugander at Instagram @flowerpowerwitch and @karinuganderofficial

The Bond of Witches

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

Often called the mother of modern Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente was known to say, “A witch is a witch is a witch is a witch,” most likely paraphrasing a famous exchange between Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Her ethos is simple: There is a bond between Witches that goes beyond any coven, tradition, region, language, culture, or nation. Something greater runs through all Witches, and the differences should be celebrated.

Famous for working with Gerald Gardner to establish what is known as Gardnerian Wicca and much of the British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft material found in the most famous version of The Book of Shadows, she didn’t stop there. Considering today’s strong divisions between what is considered Wicca and the Traditional or Cunning Craft, and even stronger divides between Traditional Wicca and eclectic and solitary Wicca, Valiente forged a path we would do well to observe and emulate. Keeping to her “a witch is a witch is a witch” ethos after her departure from Gardner over his revelation of the Witch laws known as the “Ardanes” (in response to her proposal of some fairly down-to-earth “rules” for the coven), she later studied with the Coven of Atho of Raymond Howard, with Charles and Mary Cardell, and with the Clan of Tubal Cain with Robert Cochrane. Later Valiente worked with The Regency, a group that evolved out of the work of Cochrane.

She reached across tradition lines, having correspondence and relationships within and across her various groups with figures such as Patricia and Arnold Crowther, Janet and Stewart Farrar, William Gray, Evan John Jones, Maxine Sanders, Starhawk, Aiden Kelly, and Raven Grimassi. She even restored and maintained a relationship with Gerald after their falling out, and defended him after his death regarding the reality of his initiators in the original New Forest Coven, seeking out new research to vindicate him when others believed he fabricated his initiation story. She was involved with and participated in larger Pagan organizations, including the Pagan Front, the Pagan Federation, and the Center for Pagan Studies, and after her death, the Doreen Valiente Foundation was founded to preserve her work and mission. The mother of modern Witchcraft didn’t shy away from the occult interpretations of the New Age, fully embracing the ideas of the Age of Aquarius, the Gaia Hypothesis, and ley lines.

All of this is to illustrate the eclectic, open, and community-based approach of one of our founders, a woman whose work influences us all consciously and unconsciously, and hope the approach will inspire our own. I often think of her as the patron saint of the bond between Witches, and while a formal initiate of several groups, she was also famous to ask, “Who initiated the first witch?” to question the “initiates only” exclusive approach and to show that perhaps there was something greater than the bonds of initiation in any one tradition. There are other ways to be a Witch beyond being “made” by a specific rite.

Today we see the lines of division in our own community growing. Perhaps some is for the best, for as various strands of Pagan culture, religion, and spirituality grow and become richer, we see the increasing differences and attitudes. When at one time the Pagan generally embraced all things rejected by Christianity, searching for pre-Christian roots, now there are clearer divisions between Pagan, Heathen, African Traditional Religions, and various reconstruction religions. We find the growing divide between ancient religions renewed, including the old occult coven and lodge structures influenced by Masonry and ceremonial magick, and shy away from the esoteric teachings of alchemy and Qabalah, or the influence of Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, or Madame Blavatsky. Divisions grow between hard and soft polytheism that would have been alien thirty years ago in the greater Pagan community. The political division between communities has always been present on some level, yet was more often rooted in personality than true politics. Today we must account for the growing understanding of culture and the effects of colonialism and capitalism. Yet the Witch stands between all these things, at various times empowered by the diversity or pulled apart by the dichotomy. And we ask, in the immortal words of the fictional warrior and wise woman Buffy Summers, “Where do we go from here?” What will Witchcraft become in the growing generations? And how do we add to and manifest a vision can be inclusive without diminishing the mysteries or denying the foundation of our occult heritage?

Despite being a co-founder of a very public tradition, the Temple of Witchcraft, I hold a view not unlike Doreen Valiente’s. I believe even the most educated Witch must continue to learn and grow and study, a process that comes from books, intuitive experience, and other teachers and peers. Today many move to close ranks, keeping the illusion of control or authority in a single identity, yet the Witch transcends them all. I find common ground and inspiration in those who seek out other ways while continuing their base. I find common ground with those who share with discretion with friends, peers, students, and teachers. In speaking to a friend who was also struggling with these issues of community, we discussed the difference between holding something close and withholding something from others, which for a time may have the same practical results, but which are held in very different areas of consciousness. We might hold something close and go through a process before something is shared and revealed, to make sure the recipient is properly prepared. Withholding is the fear of losing out, the belief that losing control of something, or in sharing power, is power lost. It is the attitude that the power comes from the material instead of understanding that the teaching is the catalyst for inner power.

In times past, initiates would share their secrets with each other through cross initiation. And that, like all things, brought its own blessings and curses. Those of like mind, of true intent, could open the oaths and vows by initiating another, exchanging degrees between two systems so that discussion, comparison, and exploration could happen, furthering the mysteries and often creating new and different things from synthesis; however, such practices then created many High Priests and Priestesses in name, oath and, initiation, but not in the living practice. Could the Gardnerian cross-initiated into Alexandrian traditions initiate another into Alexandrian current without running and living in a rooted Alexandrian group? Yes. Should they? That is another question. One might argue the difference between the two are subtle at best, but to those who chose one over the other as a main practice, those differences are huge and should be respected. So when those not rooted in traditions then further pass initiations onward as experts in those traditions, the practice becomes misunderstood, watered down, and ultimately diminished. While I think cross initiations can further the Craft in deep and meaningful ways, I think the one passing the initiation should always be a person deeply rooted in that tradition, not someone who would pass initiations and their traditions haphazardly.

Beyond the specifics of initiatory lore, the act of discretion is at the heart of the matter. Through discretion, the essence and experience can be shared between peers. To a practitioner, it quickly becomes obvious who continues to do the work, and who has not and does not, but tries to present that illusion. You can recognize similar levels of awareness to share that are not bound by rank or degree, but by an invisible, yet nonetheless real, virtue. Those who are far more concerned with their particular version of their Book of Shadows are less concerned about the essence and more focused on the outer form.

Today many people are seeking to outdo each other in terms of darkness and power, or in the realm of academia. I have had friends over the years who we’ve dubbed charter members of the “Dark and Scary Motherfuckers Club” because they hold a Craft devoid of things like the Wiccan Rede as more powerful and superior to other forms of Craft. Others can suffer from “my book report is better than your book report” syndrome. Both have their place in the Craft (in the Temple’s school we encourage demonstrations of psychic ability, magickal power, and academic understanding through homework and reports), but none of these are the deeper mystery. Deep within the process is the interconnection of love, service, regeneration, and divinity that is at the core of mystery traditions. Our particular expression is through the triad of Love, Will, and Wisdom. As Witches are said to recognize their own, across all traditions, within and without the Craft itself, initiates of the great mystery recognize those who have entered into it by the authentic consciousness they hold.

All traditions, Witchcraft or not, point towards a mystery that cannot be fully revealed, so each reveals their perspective. No one tradition has all the answers to all the questions and experiences. I am a big advocate of the three-fold way of Dion Fortune, and find once you have immersed yourself deeply in one training, it compliments you to have deep experience in two others, to round your way towards the mystery and prevent dogma. While it is often best to reach broadly from only Witchcraft, studying other Witchcraft traditions can deepen your own experience and synthesis. A student of the Temple, a High Priestess in a British Traditional Wicca line herself, was recently confronted by another BTW High Priest who wanted to know what was missing from her tradition that she would seek study elsewhere. While her original post articulated her reasons, one need only to look at Doreen Valiente to see this High Priestess following her footsteps. She continues her own ways, and looks for experience, ideas, inspiration and support in other places and traditions. She holds close the mysteries of her coven without withholding. She participates in the greater institutions to the level she feels called. She is a true leader and teacher.

We look to other traditions, older than modern Paganism and modern Witchcraft. For all our leaning towards our ancient roots, we have been disconnected from them, so we need to see how other esoteric traditions have grown. We like to look to indigenous people and tribal traditions, and are sometimes accused of appropriating such practices, often rightly so. We speak of decolonization of land, culture, and spirit, and consider ways to incorporate the essence without disrespecting the culture. In many indigenous cultures, we see a similar ethos, even if we fail in the practice of it, towards the land and the spirit world, with a framework today that has become loosely called “shamanic.” Yet we most likely won’t be returning to or recreating an indigenous framework of our Pagan practices because we live in a secular world and don’t share a common agreement of culture and identity. Those fundamental disagreements are at the heart of our modern society, and the disagreements in Pagan culture are simply pale reflections of those conflicts. Yet Witches can thrive even in conflicted and chaotic times, using the experience to further our own understanding of consciousness and Craft.

We also like to look at Eastern traditions, and the many permutations of Hinduism and Buddhism, for deeply esoteric practices within the body of a larger religious framework. We see common themes of traditional medicine using herbs, gems, and energy. We see astrology and complex pantheons of deities. We see temples of strange geometry and fantastic empowered art and statuary. We see the expansion of local indigenous spirits into a complex theology and find resonance there as well. Yet Hinduism and Buddhism pervade the cultures they are in. These are also not secular societies, so it’s hard to have the institutional support for such endeavors without those shared cultural values placing importance as necessary.

So we must forge a third way, one that speaks to where we are here and now. We must look at all of these things and create many forms. We must look to the divides revealed by the indigenous and the East, often summed in the difference between the oral traditions and the scriptural. Oral traditions don’t directly instruct, but inform a world view that supports the developing culture. We need more oral traditions to be passed, to inform our various subcultures participating in Paganism in general and to inform Paganism existing in the secular global world. The Eastern traditions are filled with esoteric documents and scriptures in the form of the Vedas and various sutras. While Witches and Pagans will be the first to tell you we have no holy books per se, that our scripture is written in nature, we have had esoteric documents like those of the tantrik traditions. We have personal grimoires and the European grimoire tradition. We have formularies and recipe books, journals outlining a practitioner’s techniques and progress, and of course, the various Books of Shadow. Such texts outline techniques and form maps of exploration, but don’t always inform culture. To grow in a healthy manner, we need to develop both sides and navigate our way in a secular Western world where there is no fundamental spiritual agreement. This is the essence of the Aquarian Age, a plurality of views co-existing.

So to my fellow Witches within and beyond the Temple of Witchcraft, if it be your Will, I encourage you to develop an approach that honors the bond of Witches everywhere if the overall Pagan divisions are too much for you to navigate. I encourage you to not throw out our occult roots, but to transform and heal the holdovers from Victorian occultism regarding race, class, orientation, and nation. Don’t throw out the comparisons to both esoteric Christianity and Eastern traditions when they serve to illuminate a point of understanding, for as there is a bond between all Witches, the same can be said for the mystical seekers of all religions. Seek to learn and share with other sincere seekers and Witches of all stripes and traditions. Forge bonds within your own tradition and across to other communities. Don’t stop learning and questioning, but also take the time to consolidate, synthesize, and build. Share your own research, experience, and traditions in the ways you see fit, but as you hold them close, don’t seek to withhold them as a demonstration of poweroveranother. Always seek to express power withanother, in right relationship of the spirit of the Witch.

Temple Astrolog: Creating the life you want

Mars is now in the sign of Taurus. Mars is the planet that represents our will and also our ego. In the development of the personality we need to be allowed to develop our will in a safe way. If that doesn’t happen, our Mars can either become violent or unable to say no and have healthy boundaries against others. Mars and our will develops a lot between the ages of 2 and 4 and looking at Mars in our natal chart can tell a lot about what happened at that age.

The sign of Taurus is a lot about beauty and pleasure. It is a sign that in itself has a slow energy, but once it starts moving it is like the Bull, full of energy and determination.

Motivated by beauty and rewards

When Mars is in Taurus we get motivated by beauty and the rewards after we are finished. We must remember that Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus and the goddess of love. If there isn’t anything “good” on the other side, this Mars is hardly motivated at all. The “good” can be appreciation or doing something fun to celebrate or to buy something special.

People with this placement are considered stubborn and if they feel threatened in any way, they just dig in deeper and hold on even tighter. As an astrologer I’ve met several clients with this placement who have been badly treated as children because of this. The parents, teachers, or caretakers tried to break their will down, instead of finding how they work and what motivates them. You cannot break Taurus, the bull. If you try to change them or teach them (or any child) by force you get a situation that is abusive. If this has happened to you memories of these times can now emerge. Now is a time for healing that wound, inviting beauty instead of violence and force.

As humans we are motivated by different things, and there’s nothing wrong in being motivated by love, beauty and pleasure.

Not alone in the universe

Mars in Taurus can get really focused and work day and night to reach its goals (with the right motivation, as we just learned) and in that eagerness it can lose sight of other people. Adult people with this placement can get grumpy like a small child when things don’t go their way and this is something they have to learn to manage to maintain good relationships in their lives.

So one of the challenges is realizing there are other people in the universe and I need to take them into consideration as well. On a collective plane this can be a challenge for all of us right now.

Let’s get started!

This strong willed, determined, and beautiful mars in Taurus is getting assistance from no other than Saturn in Capricorn. They also make a beautiful sextile to Neptune, Vesta, and the Sun in Pisces, making a beautiful orchestra of creativity and the potential to move things and create manifestation.

This is great for landscape gardening, renovating the house, building your company, building your health, and many other things. What’s so great about this is the combination of inspiration and motivation transformed into real results.

The bull and the Green Man united with the Goddess

The bull has been important in many cultures around the world. It is also a sign of The Green Man, the consort of the Goddess. If we take these placements and add the earth itself we get the configuration of a kite, considered to be very lucky. The Universe is literally singing the hymns of the union of the Goddess uniting with her Green Man. A wonderful time for rituals and ceremonies celebrating the two.

Mars will be in Taurus until the first of April.

Blessings!

Karin Ugander is a spiritual channeler living in the south of Sweden. In Scandinavia she is known for the AstroNumerology and Psychic readings she’s been doing for over 20 years. Together with her husband Niklas, she runs KaniSkolan, a school of astrology, numerology, tarot, StarCode Healing, and natural medicine. They are also the founders of Alven Inner Ring tradition, a Scandinavian mystery school with roots in shamanism and magick. Karin loves to create magickal oils, flower essences and sigils she combines in her “Karin Victoria” sigil candles and flower sprays. In her spare time she likes to travel, walk in the forest with her dog, and spend time by the ocean. Karin is a high priestess and graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft’s seminary program.

You can find Karin Ugander at Instagram @flowerpowerwitch and @karinuganderofficial

We at the Temple of Witchcraft have been looking for ways to do outreach so our distant members can feel connected to the greater work of the Temple. The Pisces ministry presents a full moon circle here at the Temple’s home in Salem, New Hampshire, every month. This year our focus for those moon circles is spell work. We were inspired to produce some spells that will be used at the Temple full moons and make them available to all our initiates and friends to join us. Each of spell has the intention of creating a better world for us all. You may feel free to join us as is appropriate for your own circumstances. You might join us for all of them or just a few. We hope you will take us up on the opportunity to join in on the Great Work.

Since we are doing spells, each one may require you to get supplies ready to cast the spell with us. All the supplies for the next month are listed in the postscript of the month before to give you time to acquire any necessary supplies. We have attempted to make them as simple, but still effective, as possible to make these available to the most people.

We will also be working with the thirteen goals of the witch in person and also in our journals throughout the lunar month. We will provide some journal prompts for you if you want to join in.

Libra Full Moon

Goal of the witch: Achieve balance.

  • What does the word “balance” mean to you?
  • Is balance a static state or does it change with the circumstances?
  • Are there times where balance is not useful?
  • How do you regain balance?
  • How do you help others achieve balance? Can it be done without loosing your own?
  • What would it be like if you could maintain your balance in every situation?
  • How would you get to a place like that?

Sigil for Beneficial Government

Inspired by Sigil Witchery by Laura Tempest Zakroff, I created this sigil for Beneficial Government:

Here are the list of attributes and corresponding symbols used to represent them.

  • Justice: the scales of Libra
  • Awareness: The eye
  • Enlightenment: The eye within the triangle, rays descending from above.
  • Compassion: the heart and shower
  • Equality: circle and scales
  • Fair rulers: Jupiter sigil
  • Fair distribution of wealth and blessings: Showers
  • Awareness of the earth and its needs: The earth cross or solar cross.

I combined these symbols into the sigil above. To enact this magic draw, trace, or print this sigil. I drew mine in blue then outlined it in silver but you can use what ever colors speak to you. Charge it in circle using what ever method totes your goats. Release the sigil’s energies to be manifest in the world by destroying the sigil by burning it or—if you are not an indoor burner—rip it up and burn it later. When the ashes are cool, bury them in dirt if you can to ground it into being.

Blessed be!
Adam Sartwell
Virgo lead minister

Post script: For the next full moon’s spell you will need a print out of the Tarot card Justice, a white seven-day candle, Modge Podge or glue, and some markers.

Jumping into the Cauldron of Peace

by Christopher Penczak

Temple Founder Christopher Penczak provides some context for our upcoming offering of The Cauldron of Peace.

The metaphysical cosmology and theology of the Temple of Witchcraft was initiated by the work of the Three Rays of Witchcraft, placing an emphasis in our magick, not on gender and polarity, but on triplicy, and specifically the concepts of Will, Love, and Wisdom though individual evolution and the crafting of community. Both concepts go hand in hand, as the community becomes both a cauldron and container for your experience, and a mirror and teacher through experience, and through individual evolution, creativity, and magick becomes an example to further guide the community.

One of the early practices we crafted in public community were three “Founder’s” rituals, as each of our three founders, Steve Kenson, Adam Sartwell and myself, “hold” a particular ray from Spring Equinox to Spring Equinox, and use that energy to inform our work and perspective for the year. Each year, we rotate in the running of three rituals, one private for the leadership, and two public and open to all of the community. The Founder’s Ritual of the Blue Ray is known as the Cauldron of Peace, or Cauldron of Síocháin.

The intention behind this ritual is reconciliation. All communities will have conflict. As we stress that we are a magickal order, not a family, clan, or tribe, we don’t require membership to like or agree with everyone on a personal level. We do require members of the order be peaceful and civil, resolve grievances whenever possible, and work together when their respective Wills intersect. We have a ministry dedicated to mediation and conflict resolution, our Libra Ministry, but ritually, the Cauldron of Peace is a ritual of forgiveness and compassion.

Síocháin is the Irish Gaelic word for peace. It can be used as a blessing, greeting, and farewell. Its direct translation is an “absence of war” or conflict, and some consider it only to be that, with suaimhneas meaning inner spiritual peace. Many consider the words fairly synonymous as the term síocháin is used in the Irish Catholic mass for the Peace of God. We purposely choose it here as also the absence of war, as this is a ritual of healing conflict.

The Cauldron of Peace is inspired by the Kava-Kava rites of Oceania. They are both religious and social, used for celebratory occasions and in times when relaxation, healing, and clear communication is needed. In such rites, participants would toast their ancestors to those gathered, and conflicts and grudges would be set aside and healed. It was believed that the healing was occurring not only in this time, but across time, through, with, and by, the ancestors.

It is a ritual of cauldron and cup, herbal tea and oil. Some have a sense of catharsis during the ritual. Others have experiences that lead to healing, catharsis, and peace after the ritual in their daily lives. During the ritual it is normal to laugh, cry or have other intense emotions come to the surface. The requirement for all is that anything said or done in the ritual that is not specifically about you, cannot be shared by you to anyone else outside of the ritual. It is a confidential and sacred safe space.

As you might imagine, as a leader and teacher within a large community, I’m often the one in conflict with the most people, and by general nature, I would personally seek to avoid all conflict and confrontation. But when creating something, you are often in the place of telling people no, or other things they don’t want to hear. You can’t say yes to everyone, and you cannot accommodate everyone’s needs and desires. People often unconsciously attempt to work out their unresolved issues with mentors and teachers, projecting images and ideas upon them. We all do to a certain extant, and metaphysical training is a continual process of looking in the mirror, polishing it, and seeing ourselves more clearly.

Recently I had a rather difficult conflict rooted in misunderstanding and miscommunication, and in taking things personally. I spent a lot of time and energy internally both promoting the conflict to myself justifying my responses, and trying to resolve it, and made great efforts once I understood the potential of our misunderstanding, to resolve it in the outer world with the other person without much success.

One might be tempted to try any number of spells to resolve the situation, sweetening spells or arranging for us to be in the same location to talk face-to-face, I didn’t know the deeper purpose of the conflict, for myself, my friend, or the community. So the only act of magick I did, early on, was attend the Cauldron of Peace and place his name into the Cauldron with the sincere intention of peaceful resolution. Many who attend expect the ritual to be an instant fix, and sometimes two people currently in conflict are asked by a leader to attend together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. All we can hope for is that our own feelings around it settle into peace, and we can forgive ourselves and others, even if we are not forgiven or acknowledged. That is a high magick in itself.

Six months and a lot of heartache later, we had a four-hour conversation that not only resolved the conflict, but restarted and renewed a friendship that has grown deeper, clearer, and more spiritually over the course of the year. I never would have suspected this could be the outcome in my wildest dreams and I’m very thankful and blessed that it turned out this way. While conflicts come in large and small sizes, it helped me realize that I would only spend so much time and life force on a conflict with someone who means a lot to me as a friend and spiritual brother.

I share this with our community because conflict is natural, and it’s easy to think we have failed as spiritual people when we enter into it. I know there are times I feel I have failed when losing composure, when taking things personally, when failing to say the kind word when it was necessary, and triggering heartache and grief that could have been avoided. Yet, I would even dare to say, despite its unpleasantness that conflict can be good. When handled well, it is a healthy and necessary part of any community filled with people. When not handled well, an opportunity to learn how to do better, to be more skillful as you progress, and to learn how to take responsibility for mistakes.

Sometimes we can fear conflict, and many think challenge and testing is not the way of the spiritual path. While I’d like that to be true, it’s not been my experience, or the experience of peers, elders, and other illuminated Witches and magicians I admire. Are some of us too quick to rush into conflict, into Witch Wars and cast out another? Yes! Absolutely! Yet I have found that opposition is a necessary point on the path of initiation, many times over. We are challenged within and without. It’s found in our myths. Its found in our seasons. Despite our peaceful views of loving nature, nature is filled with dangers, predators, and sickness alongside harmony, fertility, and life.

Community provides those opportunities of challenge on one level. It holds and mirrors us. It’s easy to think we are enlightened, unchallenged and alone. Often the reaction of some is to leave community altogether when things do not go their way, and while a valid response, I am not sure it is always the most appropriate response for one walking a sorcerous path. While these days the cursing “bad-ass” sorcerer is emphasized among some, eschewing ideas of return, reaction, or karma, one of the most provocative and radical things in my practice today continues to be love, compassion, forgiveness and attempting to act with a sense of the inherent interconnection between us all. I find those acts quite a bit more challenging personally. Power is a part of our path, certainly, but love must not be sacrificed for its sake. Through the two we find the path of wisdom.

Immerse yourself in love. Jump into forgiveness with both feet, for yourself and others. Seek what occult tradition refer to Perfect Peace Profound on a path of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. Look deeper, reflect and meditate on the meaning and mystery of those words, as its often not what you think. Embrace the love and conflict of community, and work within in to create síocháin.

Musings of a Challenged Witch

If you are one of those people who naturally pulses with psychic energy, frolics with the fey, communes with the herbs, and chats with the dead people who pop in and out of your kitchen – this article is not for you. This is for the rest of us. The silent number of witchy folk who are not those people.

This is for those of us whose living rooms are peopled with dead plants instead of dead people; the ones guiltily grabbing a fast-food burger on the way home from work in lieu of home-cooked, organically-grown, magick-infused delights that open your chakras while tickling your tastebuds—because frankly, we couldn’t cook our way out of a witch’s pyramid. I stand for those of us in perpetual “WTF?!?” mode while our brethren and sistern are off shapeshifting somewhere.

My name is Cat Ky Crone and I am a…”challenged”…witch. I think we need our own club.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not devoid of abilities. I can visualize the hell out of an orange and it is true that most anything I work for winds up manifesting pretty nicely in my daily life. Still, given the state of my witchiness on so many other levels, I always feel like my results must be due to some kind of divine affirmative action.“Well, you know… she’s one of those challenged ones, so better give her a bit of a boost. Bless her heart.”

There are advantages, of course.While my empathic colleagues are buffeted right and left by the angst, drama, and throbbing emotions all round, I lumber along blissfully unaffected and unaware. When my tuned-in witchy folk are freaked out by some non-corporeal trespasser or the awful energy of a place (“Ye, Gods, something horrible must have happened here!”) it’s really easy to do the banishing work fear-free, because, frankly, I’m not feeling or seeing a thing. ‘Yeah, yeah, get the hell out.Buh-bye.’ Ho-hum. Just like cleaning my house at home, and about as exciting. They tell me it works. Maybe they’re just trying to make me feel good.

I’m not saying we challenged witchy types can’t learn to open to these things somewhat: I did eventually, with much practice and angst, eventually reach a point where I can feel that puffy push-back at the edge of an aura. I did eventually learn to see a generic auric outline, but the fun color-coding that would be so helpful when trying to assess whether this guy offering to buy me a drink would be worth my time or not, remains out of my grasp. When I call in the Gods and Great Spirit in ritual, I can indeed feel the power gather round. Finally. But it seemed to take way longer for me than for most of my fellow witchy students and it feels like a muted version compared to what many of them describe. My spirit guides for the most part remain a generic voice in my head instead of fully-developed companions with clear names and defined personalities. And when someone does show up in full form and Technicolor in my meditations, I of course assume it’s just me making it all up, right? Has to be.

But here’s the thing I am slowly—VERY slowly, with no small amount of kicking and screaming—coming to terms with: Every. Witch. Is. Different. It’s the old story of the elephant feeling like a failure because he can’t climb trees. Yes, a whole lot of witches are empaths, psychics, mediums, and gifted healers who can assess and clear my blocked chakras in the time it takes me to pour a cup of coffee. But not all of us are.

I spent so much time agonizing over what I couldn’t do that I completely ignored what I could do. Turns out I’m the opposite of an empath. (Is there even a word for that? I don’t know.) I don’t absorb other people’s energy, I project mine out to them. My thoughts come out of strangers’ mouths. Truly. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in the Starbucks line waffling between two choices, only to give my drink order and have the barista read back to me the other one I’d considered but not actually ordered. Either Starbucks is full of really psychic baristas (definitely a possibility!) or I’m projecting my thoughts in ways I hadn’t consciously considered. I can get my daughter’s attention on the opposite side of a college stadium just by thinking, ‘Look at me.’ Admittedly, that’s kind of cool, so why do I downplay it? I have spent most of my adult life persuading people as my profession: lawyer, teacher, leader, lobbyist. Is it possible that my successes in those arenas just might have something to do with this gift I never saw as a gift, because I was too busy trying to be the psychic empath I so desperately wanted to be and so obviously wasn’t? (Duh. Metaphysical two-by-four to the side of the head.)

I am a master manifestor. Just writing that seems so wrong, but it is true.  What I put out into the world that I want nearly always eventually happens.Except in the relationship arena, in which I happen to suck. Might have something to do with having the God of War camped out in my Relationship House in my natal chart. But romance excluded, what I work for generally happens. How the hell is that not “witchy” enough for me? And isn’t it just slightly possible that some of those psychic empath folk whose bedrooms are crowded with uninvited dead people and who are constantly having to shield themselves against the world’s emotions just might, on occasion—for a short time—want to trade their gift for mine? What a concept. And how sad that the only way my gift looks “worthy” is when considered alongside the possibility that someone else might wish they had it.

So a shout-out to all of you out there who consider yourselves somehow “less than” because you are the odd witch out: Know that you’re not alone! By all means, do the work to improve in those areas that are not your natural forté, but try to let go of that imposter syndrome poison that so easily spreads and kills your magick. (And yes, I know that is way easier said than done. Trust me.)

Spend some time every day focusing on, and being grateful for, all that you can do. Sometimes, that stuff doesn’t look, sound, or feel like “magick” at all. Sometimes our gifts are hiding in plain sight as “just” everyday strengths, skills, and talents. And sometimes, they’re pretty awesome. Maybe—just maybe—we shouldn’t take them for granted.

Cat Ky Crone (aka Cat Kelly) is a retired attorney and current co-owner of Heart, Body, & Soul, a manifested metaphysical shop in Columbia, MO.She is also an ordained minister in the Temple of Witchcraft and teacher of in-person Mystery School classes at her shop, living proof that even “challenged” witches can succeed. For more information about Cat’s shop and class offerings, go to www.heartbodyandsoul.org or email her at catkelly2015@gmail.com

The sun continues its journey in the sign of Pisces and has almost reached half-way. Pisces is a sign with a lot of creativity, sensitivity and high intuition. This week the sun will meet up with the asteroid Vesta (devotion) and Neptune (creativity, intuition) in the same sign. This creates a highly magickal, intuitive and creative energy. Now is the time to stay up late at night to watch the stars in the sky. To drink midnight margaritas (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the movie Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman) and dream about the future. Dare to dream big.

This energy is both challenged and given power by hard aspects to Ceres (nurturing, mother) in Sagittarius and Juno (relationships) in Gemini. Don´t let old harmful voices from the past hold you back. Making you believe you can’t do it or don’t deserve it. Follow your dreams and dare to go after them.

Mercury going retrograde

A few times every year Mercury goes retrograde and this will happen on the 5th of March. That means the planet looks like it’s moving backwards looking from Earth. When Mercury is retrograde things can get a bit crazy: Packages being delivered late or to the wrong address, computers and telephones not working, and communications in general snarled and confused. Mercury is connected to Hermes, the god of communication, trading, commerce, short trips, friends, siblings and neighbors, so anything in those areas can be a bit chaotic during a retrograde. If you are working in any of these areas, be sure to double-check anything that you send or sign your name on!

The upside of Mercury retrograde

When a planet goes retrograde the energy is moving more inwards than outwards. In this case Mercury and the energy of communication moves inwards. This can be great if you need more concentration and focus. Now you have the chance to go into deep thought, do deep research, and be really focused. Wonderful news if you are writing an essay, need to go back and edit something, or have a problem you didn’t solve before. Historically, many great ideas and inventions have come to light during Mercury retrograde.

Surfing with Mercury in Pisces

The world has a way of slowing things down a bit during Mercury retrograde and this is even more so when Mercury is in Pisces. The element of water has the ability to recall the past and the ages that have passed before us. Don’t be surprised if you have more intense dreams during this transit. You may also dream about old relationships and your childhood. This can be a great time for re-inventing things, like old recipes and looking at old manuscripts and ancient texts.

I feel that Mercury retrograde has gotten a worse reputation than it deserves. There’s no need to panic, just slow things down a bit. Breathe and double check things. Enjoy having more time to spend with your mind and the ideas you carry in your heart, and you can have a wonderful time with Mercury retrograde. The trick is to accept the wave and surf with it, and not against it. If you’ve had any thoughts about taking a “time out” from social media to have more time and energy to your own creativity, this can be an excellent time. Mercury will go direct again around the 28th of March.

Blessings!

Karin Ugander is a spiritual channeler living in the south of Sweden. In Scandinavia she is known for the AstroNumerology and Psychic readings she’s been doing for over 20 years. Together with her husband Niklas, she runs KaniSkolan, a school of astrology, numerology, tarot, StarCode Healing, and natural medicine. They are also the founders of Alven Inner Ring tradition, a Scandinavian mystery school with roots in shamanism and magick. Karin loves to create magickal oils, flower essences and sigils she combines in her “Karin Victoria” sigil candles and flower sprays. In her spare time she likes to travel, walk in the forest with her dog, and spend time by the ocean. Karin is a high priestess and graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft’s seminary program.

You can find Karin Ugander at Instagram @flowerpowerwitch and @karinuganderofficial

The Stones of Community

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

During Templefest 2018, at our Lammas Harvest Ritual, we enacted a micro Wheel of the Year, with the mysteries of Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha and Lammas all being incorporated into the symbolism of the event. The mysteries of the dark—Mabon, Samhain and Yule—were embodied in the concluding evening ritual called the Sabbat of the Three Stars.

At our main Lammas ritual, after the sacred fire was kindled in the round for the Imbolc section of the rite, we entered the spring and “plowed” the field of community, lifting out the stones that would impede the growth of the community “grains” and placing them outside of the circle. Together, members removed stones embodying community and personal problems from the field of consciousness, each stone based in our twelve-zodiac symbolism: Anger (Aries), Poverty (Taurus), Gossip (Gemini), Fear (Cancer), Selfishness (Leo), Illness (Virgo), Falsehood (Libra), Corruption (Scorpio), Hopelessness (Sagittarius), Blame (Capricorn), Miscommunication (Aquarius), and Delusion (Pisces). It was followed by the sowing of the seeds (Ostara), the Great Rite (Beltane) and the blood being spilled with the sacrifice in effigy of the god (Lammas). Yet all magick must be followed up by real world action, so we asked the community as a whole to continue to directly confront these issues when they arose. We can’t expect magick to work without engagement.

Yet why do we have to do this? Why do these things exist in any community, let alone ours? Shouldn’t this be peaceful? Blissful? Magickal all the time? Yes and no.

While we hold an ideal, the process in striving for the ideal is as much the teacher as any esoteric text, ritual, or meditation. Community, in all its forms, forms a cauldron of consciousness. That cauldron is like a silver mirror, reflecting whatever we bring to it, showing us ourselves in deep and unexpected ways. The community—be it a class, coven, circle, or greater esoteric order—becomes both the container for the process and the teacher. And the process is the Great Work of the perennial tradition, to find divinity within, without, and all about us.

It is easy to appear enlightened and believe you are in control of your consciousness when there is no challenge to that belief. Community puts those assumptions to the test, often by people exhibiting our subconscious shadow traits and playing roles in repeating unresolved patterns from our lives. Each gives us an opportunity to handle the situation differently with the teachings of the Craft in mind, though it is easy to fall into our older familiar patterns that do not serve our highest good. Covens for good or ill often repeat family patterns, particularly when we begin to think of our community as family or tribe. Even in esoteric orders, there is the tendency to project our issues upon mentors, teachers, and leaders, which can lead to difficulty distinguishing what is their behavior and what is our interpretation of that behavior through the lens of our previous experience.

When we dive deeper, though the experience of initiatory training and volunteering, we are signing up to enter the cauldron of community and to be taught by the community itself as a mirror. If we are not ready and willing to do that, we might want to do solitary study. Our friction is “grist to the mill” to grind our “corn” in the baking of the bread of the initiate, as taught in the Miracle of Bread. Our difficulties are the irritation that forms the luminous pearl. Our seeming enemies are the “guardians of the gate” at the doors of the underworld, forcing us to examine and release what does not serve to find our authentic power. Our conflicts are the alchemical process, within and without, to bring about the perfected stone.

People play out all sorts of games and patterns, usually unconsciously, and provide the dreaded “opportunities for personal development” that we need in our community work. Some specific communities, such as an order like the Temple of Witchcraft, consciously acknowledge that process in our training. There is also a wide array of magickal and social groups within the greater Pagan communities that don’t share this ethos, yet nonetheless provide those same challenging opportunities for us.

Spiritual ideals of perfection are just that, ideals. Perfection of the Witch is not a static thing, but an ever-shifting cycle of balance, fluctuating with the Moon, seasons, and stars. The ideal of a society of enlightened, in-tune magickal practitioners is the teacher, and the striving is the lesson. While individuals and small groups can reach deeper and wiser levels of consciousness and behavior as an inspiring model, we nonetheless remain in a body, still in the world of process, ever learning and striving.

These twelve areas reflect personal and group issues that need to be addressed—and should be actively addressed in this process, internally, in relationship and in the greater community—for us to seek that ideal. Are they the only twelve issues we can face? Certainly not, but they give us a basis to learn, grow, and explore.

Anger (Aries) – When dealing with any conflict, humans can be easily angered and can direct anger both outwardly, magnifying conflict, or inwardly, causing depression. When we have disagreement or annoyance and displeasure with someone’s actions, we can react with anger. It can be an immediate response or one that starts small and builds over time. Anger often appears unconscious, something we have no control over, but once we become conscious of a reaction, or a pattern of reaction, we can then choose to respond in a more conscious way. Sometimes anger is an appropriate response. There is righteous anger over the injustices of the world both locally and globally. There is anger that helps protect us and draw boundaries in difficult situations, giving us energy to do so when we would otherwise react with fear. But when anger is not appropriate or constructive, when it violates boundaries and encourages unconscious reactions, we must become conscious of it so that we can determine the exact root of why we are angry and find a more constructive response to it. Watch your own patterns of anger and resentment and, as much as possible, learn to clear and neutralize them as they come rather than letting them linger. Energy work and healing magick can help, along with herbs and flower essences, but old-fashioned journaling and talk therapy also do wonders for this “stone” in our community relationships.

Poverty (Taurus) – We often collectively have what has been called “Pagan Poverty Consciousness.” Paganism these days tends to attract people with fewer economic opportunities because many seek Witchcraft as the magick fix for such circumstances. And sometimes it is, but often in ways we don’t realize. The magick is not always an instantaneous accumulation of wealth, but a shifting of how we relate to resources—where we spend and where we save—and a realization that our wealth comes in a range of forms. I’m always reminded of the FFFF teaching of flags, flax, fodder and frigg. It refers to the flagstones of a home, meaning your dwelling and shelter; the weaving of flax for your clothes; the fodder of food for yourself, your family, and your animals; and the frigg, or love of both romance and family. These are a part of our wealth and good fortune. With gratitude for what we have, we can build towards what we don’t have, and seek support and allies among our community. Putting your resources towards what you value, particularly community artisans, crafters, medicine makers and educators is one way. Offering support, personal and financial, to those directly in the community has grown increasingly easier with the growth of social media. Do we have to address as a collective society systematic inequality? Certainly, but we also need to address the immediate needs of our community and offer support and resources whenever and whenever we can, and if we have received, we should give back and continue the cycle of support.

Gossip (Gemini) – As communities grow, gossip is one of the seemingly small issues that often causes greater problems. Gossip is usually described as conversation or reports about others with details that are not confirmed to be true. Often the rule of thumb is to only tell “your story” of direct experience with someone or some situation and not to repeat the stories of others. But often in community, that goal can be near impossible when conveying information that is necessary or when simply being social. Today gossip is often divided into helpful or harmful gossip. Helpful gossip is the promotion of a rumor that may or may not be true, but does no harm and might further a community goal. For example, someone might share that fundraising goals were met before the official announcement or discuss rumors regarding plans for a retreat. Harmful gossip is often malicious, reciting details about another that damage their character or reputation. Sometime harmful gossip turns out to be true, but often it is mangled miscommunication, whether accidental or deliberate. Some of it stems from concern, as when someone inquires about another member of the community, and it can be hard to find the line between what is relating a story you believe to be true and what is harmful gossip. When dealing with gossip on a community level, simple confrontation of the rumor can be the best way to handle it. And while unpopular, asking who the information came from so the record can be set straight with the source of the gossip is also appropriate. While this might not work in polite society where gossip is the norm, it is the standard of right speech in an esoteric order, particularly among initiates and ministers. When someone reports they “heard” what “someone” did, always ask from whom did you hear, and who was this person who experienced this? Often there is no one really there. Reflect on the gossip you have shared, the intention behind it, and the result, regardless of the intention. Is there anything you can do to clean up your speech or prevent unwanted occurrences from occurring in the future? Reflect on the three gates – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Even when you’ve failed to check those gates, strive to keep them in your heart and mind and upon your lips. And remember that in the end, we can only control what we think, do and say; we cannot control what is being said about us.

Fear (Cancer) – Fear is always an issue for those seeking the mysteries, for the mysteries embody the unknown, and we often are trained by our society to fear the unknown. Also the mysteries embody the possibility of change, change of ourselves, of our world, and our circumstances. Ultimately, we see those changes for the better, but when you are in the midst of them and uncertain where the next plateau will be, they can trigger fears. Hard-wired into our lower soul, child-animal self is the fight or flight response, so fear can manifest as running away from circumstances, community, responsibilities, and self, or manifest as anger, aggression, and many of the other “stones” of community outlined here. Ultimately so many of them are rooted in fear, and Cancer—and the corresponding Fourth House of the Nadir of the astrology chart—is the “root” of our personal tree. It is where we come from, what anchors us in our sense of home and belonging. When we feel we don’t belong, that is quite a scary prospect. Fear is best faced head on, and when we do, we often realize our own fear magnified the event or experience beyond proportion. When we look under the metaphorical rock to seek the monster, we find something far less fearsome than what we imagined. Take the opportunity to “stalk” your fear, observing the thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and then take the time to confront the reality and root of that fear. Journal to explore where these feelings are coming from and how they happen to manifest. Talk to others whose counsel you trust, and when needed, seek professional help to work through tough emotional complexes and issues stemming deeper.

Selfishness (Leo) – The healing work of the occultist, shaman, magician and Witch carries a double-edged sword. We are often so wounded, with such low self-esteem, that we spend a lot of time building up our self-image, but if we don’t find the balance point of healthy ego, it is easy to stray into the realm of selfishness and egotistical behavior. Spend enough time telling yourself you are special and unique, you can easily forget that everyone else is too, and lose the community skills for healthy and balanced engagement with others. Particularly in the swift and far reaching powers of social media, it is easy to quickly build the ego, self-image, and a sense of support, fame, and importance though outside validation. And this is not the work of the magician, for such a boost is easily lost when that outside validation wavers. Today everyone can experience this in a way that was much more difficult to achieve many years ago—which can be a wonderful testing, honing experience of the healthy ego, and removal of the unhealthy ego—but in many ways, the standard of what is “normal” and “accepted” is shifting, and we must be aware. If we are more concerned with our own image, message, experience, pleasure, and creations, and don’t question how we engage and interface with others, we are on a road of great difficulty. If we are attached to the praise and adulation, the “fruits of our actions,” we are missing the point of our True Will and work here in the world. In community there should be a balance between self and service, and that includes an understanding of the appropriate use of selfless service. Strive to be of service to others, and to offer your help without the focus being reward, gratification, recognition, or thanks. Acknowledge your own accomplishments, but also be on guard for when that is your primary focus. Acknowledge the work of others and give thanks. Share and support whenever you can.

Illness (Virgo) – Illness comes in many forms, as afflictions of body, mind and spirit. The classic line of metaphysical healers is to look at “disease” as “dis-ease” or lack of ease or comfort in body, mind, soul, and life. We need to find alignment with ourselves and remove the blocks that prevent the easy flow of life force within and around us. Part of our work in community is looking to those who are experiencing disease and offering whatever support is appropriate, not limiting ourselves, no matter how potent, to only sending energy, but committing to also checking in on the material level, making sure people have support emotionally (by providing someone to talk to when appropriate) and physically (by helping them with getting to doctors, obtaining prescriptions, having food in the house, and accessing necessary things). Disease can be more easily faced when there is real-world support in place. Seek to “check in” often with those struggling with any form of illness. Make sure your support is known and offer not only to do “what is needed,” but offer some specific, practical things you can do, as many people don’t know what is needed or what kind of help is appropriate to ask for. If possible, offer to take someone out or to do some shopping and errands. Offer specifically to bring food or whatever you believe might be needed. But also respect boundaries should your offer to help be rejected.

Falsehood (Libra) – Akin to gossip, but more direct, falsehood must be squashed whenever we encounter it. We must endeavor to speak the truth whenever possible, and whenever in conversation with another we are confronted with something we know to be false, we should speak up simply with the words “That isn’t true” or “I don’t believe that to be true.” Perhaps even more challenging, we must be open when someone says that to us, as we often pass lies off as the truth unknowingly. And we must be on guard and separate out those who unknowingly and unconsciously pass on falsehoods from those who do so knowingly and maliciously for their own purposes. We must also encounter our own inner experiences of the false, and how we often try to convince ourselves of things that are not true, things like dreams, hopes, or fears that are not rooted in reality. Witches need to be sober in our experience of all our realities, and neither believe or disbelieve too easily, but approach things with both openness and skepticism, allowing the reality of the situation to come to light. Part of divesting ourselves of our falsehood is to look at the stories we identify with, and how those stories shape us, but how they might not necessarily be true. We can use stories, but when the role we play in the story hinders our ability to see our true self, they no longer become useful tools, but part of our imbalance. Roles and archetypes can be tools for navigating the stories of our life, but none of us is pure in our archetypal expression. All of us are challenged and flawed. All of us make mistakes. We must see the reality of our situation. Our test is to embrace the reality of what is truthful, to move forward toward what we wish to manifest.

Corruption (Scorpio) – Corruption is literally the process of unholy transformation. While often confused with decay, the natural breakdown cycle of transformation, corruption is when the core purpose, intention, or True Will is subverted and debased. It can happen in both conscious and unconscious ways. Unfortunately for us, some people consciously choose selfishness to the point of harm to others, or they choose to exercise power in ways that are destructive to the greater community for personal gain. Others don’t realize they are doing it, and don’t hold malicious intent, but because they are limited in their awareness, they often create the same results. Many choose poorly due to a sense of insecurity, but that is no excuse. Corruption must be encountered, exposed, and uprooted whenever you face it in community. The first step is drawing a boundary between what is and isn’t acceptable. The next is to speak truth to the one causing harm. If both these steps do not result in the necessary change, then the next step is uprooting the violator from your particular garden, realizing we don’t always have the individual authority to extend beyond the places where we fully participate, and that to have greater effect, we need to engage others. While we do so, we must be on guard to not accept hearsay, gossip, or “spectral evidence” (common in the Witchcraft Trials, and sadly still common with accusations of cursing and hexing, though admittedly there is a lot more cursing and hexing going on overtly in today’s Paganism). A huge part of rooting out corruption is looking in the mirror, for many we will hail as the most corrupt often express traits we see in ourselves. The first uprooting we must do is in ourselves, and we must do it with clarity, compassion, and consensus tempered by truth, not mob rule of fear and anger. If the esoteric order, the community, is like a garden, when all else fails, one must pull weeds. While many weeds are the Witch’s Allies, if one threatens to take over and destroy the garden, it must be pulled, not with malice, but with clarity. A place can be set for those weeds to grow, and ultimately, I see a blend between wildness and strict order, letting the wild weeds move around in appropriate places. But those that overrun threaten the whole and need to be dealt with. It doesn’t mean the weed, or the corrupt person, will never be a part of community, only that the current circumstances do not favor their participation until appropriate behavior and balance are found and enacted.

Hopelessness (Sagittarius) – Hope is one of the things that community, and magick, offers to us. We find support, and even when things are not well for us, we can hold the hope that the cycle will turn once again, and with it, our fortunes. Through magick, we hold not only the hope, but also the knowledge and experience to turn our own wheel of fate and manifest the next step on our path to move out of the mire of hopelessness, even though it is not always easy. Part of the sister-brother-otherhood of a magickal order, and of the very Aquarian Age we seek to embody as the greater wheel turns, is the support of others. While fiercely individual as Witches, we are also part of something greater. The unique separateness held in a community of interconnective oneness is the paradoxical mystery of Aquarius and the Witch Soul, and sometimes we err on the side of our independence and individuality and don’t reach out when we need help. To banish hopelessness from our own fields, we need to reach out, and to the best of our ability, ask for what we need from others in our community. To banish hopelessness from the field of the collective community, we must be mindful, and upon recognizing the hopeless feelings of those around us, reach out and offer support to the best of our ability. While we can’t take responsibility for the health and happiness of another, we can offer support in dark times and help those around us get the support they need, be it personal, magickal, or medical.

Blame (Capricorn) – Casting blame is not taking responsibility for that which comes from you. When something does not go according to plan, we must take responsibility for it and make the efforts to change or shift it. While sometimes more than one person is responsible for something happening (or more likely, not happening), we cannot shift the entire responsibility to the other in the hopes of avoiding scorn or judgement. We cannot scapegoat another for our part. Life is often easier when we claim responsibility and are empowered by ourselves and others in community to rectify our mistakes. We must evaluate our responsibilities and make sure we are living up to them.

Miscommunication (Aquarius) – People misspeak. I misspeak. You misspeak. We think we are being clear and we are not, as we all make assumptions and have different styles of communication. Mercury, the planet of communication and the personal mind, can be in any of the twelve signs, creating twelve different styles of communication, and can occupy any of the twelve houses of the sky, creating 144 different possible manifestations. Little wonder someone else’s communication style can be alien to our own. When you think you are being misunderstood, ask questions and try again. If you think you are misunderstanding, ask questions for clarification. Find ways to bridge the gap of understanding.

Delusion (Pisces) – Delusion is one of the easiest traps for the Witch to fall into, for so much of what we do is hard to believe. We experience a lot of things considered delusional by the mainstream world. We speak to gods and spirits, faeries and angels, and engage in the casting of magickal spells. Psychologists have a specific term for a type of delusional thinking called “magical thinking.” When you read any description of it, it is easy to see that most Witches do engage in such a paradigm, yet where is the line between empowerment and problem? Many psychologists would consider it a primitive and non-scientific view, yet it informs almost all indigenous traditions and mystical religions. Witches going for therapy must be careful to find a therapist who is open to their spiritual views and will not automatically assume talk of spells indicates a psychosis. Yet, we all know Witches who do cross that line. They become overpowered by their experiences and can’t distinguish the lines between objective and subjective experiences. They over-identify with deities and spirits, losing personal identity and becoming confused when people don’t treat them as such. Their psychic abilities take such dominance that they look at subjective perception as objective reality for everyone, and even as their experience becomes more inaccurate and clouded, they insist upon its reality. In the world of author Terry Prachett’s Witches, we say they have “gone cackling.” Cackling was described as going mad and losing your center, either through loneliness, work pressure, or a sense of superiority. In Wintersmith, Pratchett describes how cackling leads to “poisoned spinning-wheels and gingerbread cottages,” what we recognize as the typical behaviors of the fairy tale wicked witch. To prevent this, Pratchett’s Witches visit with each other, have tea and gossip, and look out for the signs of cackling. Checking in with peers and mentors and being open to the fact you might be delusional is what keep delusion at bay. We are all a little crazy, but the important part is to be healthy and functional, as well as helpful and healing, in any magickal thinking we have.

If all those participating in our Temple kept these ideas in mind as we progress together in the Cauldron of Community, we will build a healthy parcel in the terrestrial realm of Witchdom and be better partners not only to our allies in the flesh, but also to those who dwell in the worlds of spirit!

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