"Each of us lives in a light that is not complete. We are human -and thus no religion run by men has it all right."
~ Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Out from the ashes of illness I am once again reborn, a tender new life tempered with wisdom and strength. In these moments when I am stripped bare from the pain of living I find Goddess there. She appears to me so clearly when I am completely worn out from struggling against physical emotional spiritual pain that I fall back into her arms and look into Her timeless eyes. The feeling that I have looked into these eyes many life times over vibrates every cell. I wonder how it could be that I can so easily forget that She is always with me. I wonder why I continually seek that which I already am?
I feel Her smile and I smile too, remembering that the veil of separation from the divine is the price spirit pays to live the ecstasy and the agony of this physical realm. I re-member Goddess in those moments of intensity in living; breathing flesh to Her body and heat to Her blood with my passion, washing Her clean with my tears, massaging Her with my laughter, dancing ecstatically around the fire until breasts and vulva leap back to life on Her gorgeous body. It is in the mundane moments that She becomes once again a ghost in my life, filmy and vague; a good idea on paper but not very practical. I seek to embody the Goddess at the grocery store, while doing the laundry, while wincing at the gas prices. I want to see Her star-filled hand select the produce and purchase the toilet paper. This is why I am a witch. Being a witch to me means that I am committed to the path of fully remembering the Goddess in every area of my life. It is my commitment to my spiritual path that I will not allow Goddess to be a ghost in my life. Being a priestess then is shining the light of Goddess for others, that they may to bring Her fully to life in their own lives.
I came to the Goddess when I tired of living life understanding that my birth as a girl was a HUGE disappointment for my mom as she could not "try again" for a boy. All around me in popular culture I saw women debased and devalued which only supported the energy in my family that being female meant being a second class citizen. I saw the strong, intelligent women of my family devalue themselves over and over again believing it would take a man to "save" them. I was the person in my family who starting going to church and eventually was able to drag them along as I figured if they all needed a man to save them so much, they needed to know Jesus as saving is His specialty. The teachings of Jesus were a huge influence on me not believing the hype that women are inherently inferior as Jesus treated women as equal, even the 'sinful' ones!
I sought spiritual community in a Wesley Methodist church which supported, loved and nurtured me through a lot of painful darkness in my life. Yet the Divine always felt like more to me than what the Bible or my church taught. It was my in depth study of the Scriptures that ultimately lead me away from Christianity as a religion. In the scriptures, I found so little of the love and gentleness of Jesus and so much more of women being treated like property and regarded as little more than a necessary evil. The final straw for me came in the teachings of the great misogynist Apostle Paul, who painted women as sinful daughters of Eve, or more aptly daughters of Lilith, who could ruin a man's soul by simply having her hair uncovered. I decided that if I was a daughter of Eve, I wanted to know more about her. I uncovered the scape-goating of Eve, which lit a fire in me to uncover the many aspects of Goddess who had been unfairly vilified and banished by the religions of those who conquered Her peoples. I then came to know and love Goddess who never vanished from their cultures.
I feel I have been practicing witchcraft all my life but had no words to call it. When I was a child, Mom and I had a tradition of going to a hill to eat lemon ice cream while watching the full moon rise. A strange passion stirred in me every time I saw the full moon rise, which I now know was my unconscious yearning for the Goddess. However, I thought that I was just 'different' and was often called weird by others. Goddess continued to subtly slip into my life until I could no longer ignore that I was indeed a witch who worshiped Her.
I had practiced as a solitary witch for six years before I began attending Coven of the Goddess rituals. I seek the role of priestess of the first degree in coven as I wish to teach but also to continue to learn from every Goddess woman present, as I believe that we are all facets of Goddess and no one of us alone holds all of her light. Thus united we form a lighthouse of Her grace and beauty. Combining my energy with that of my sisters has been amazing thus far as a dedicate. My growth supported by coven has been profound and I have given and received support and worked with energy and magic far beyond what I could have managed alone. I now wish to step forward as a priestess of the first degree that I may assume more responsibility to Her work through the coven. Following I present my knowledge and understanding of a witches ritual tools, the elements and the process of creating sacred space.
Witches ritual tools
Sword: In coven the sword is used to cut circle and corresponds to air, intellect and the East watchtower. In my personal practice a wand is interchangeable for cutting circle as sometimes I don't have the room to use a sword to cut circle. To me, the shape of the sword represents focused intent. As it was created as a weapon, it lends additional protective energy to the creation of the circle. It reminds me of my strength as a woman and as a witch.
Athame/Pentacles: A ritual blade used to cut the pentacles of the watchtowers which, like the sword, invoke focused intent and defense. I additionally use my Athame to carve or cut anything which I need for ritual or magical use. The pentacle is often used as a symbol of the Craft and represents the four elements with Spirit as the fifth element. It can directly symbolize Goddess. It corresponds with Earth and protection and can be used as teaching tool with each point representing an aspect of the teaching.
Wand: Used in coven to bless or raise power. I use a wand to direct and focus energy and intent. Generally wands are made of wood which has been cut from a tree sacred to Goddess, which differentiates their energy from the whole tree and thus correspond with fire and the South Watchtower. Sometimes I 'see' the fire created when I use my wand to cut circle. As I see the wand corresponding to the South Watchtower, I will sometimes use it to invoke passion into my work. As a child, I took my Christmas money and bought a pewter wand with a crystal on each end with one end being a flower and the other snakes because I thought it was the most awesome thing I had ever seen. It sits on my alter and reminds me to renew my sense of joy and wonder when working.
Cord: Can be used for many things such as creating a circle or measuring lengths. Its main purpose is protective, holding the energy of the coven to support and protect the witch as she works. It is also is a symbol of coven. Mine serves both of these purposes. In some traditions (not ours), the cord could be taken back from the witch who had it if she left the coven and used to bind her from revealing her coveners or working negative magic against them.
Cauldron: Used in coven to burn incense to clear and sanctify sacred space and to represents the container for elements of fire and air when casting circle. Its shape represents the womb of the Goddess and is mentioned directly in the story of the Goddess Cerridwen. I use mine to burn incense ritually but most often use it to dispel negative emotions and thoughts by symbolically giving it over to the Goddess and burning its influence out of my life.
Incense/Sage: Incense is an aromatic substance which is burned to have a sanctifying and cleansing effect. In coven, incense is created and used with magical intent to support the particular energies of the ritual in which it is used. Incense represents the elements of fire and air which is used to cast circle. The ancient sacred use of incense is in wide use in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. In the west, the sacred use of incense was left intact in the Catholic Church with clergymen swinging a censor before them during service. Sage is a specific type of incense used in coven to cleanse and sanctify sacred space and cleanse auras before entering into sacred space. I use sage a lot in my practice to cleanse/banish and sanctify.
Chalice/Shell: Used to contain sacred liquid in ritual use which is often wine. In coven we use a shell into which we pour water and sprinkle with earth to invoke the elements of water and earth when casting circle. The bowl shape of the chalice has represented the feminine Divine in occult practices for centuries and the Holy Grail legend may represent the search for the hidden Goddess.
Candles: In coven, they represent Goddess and Her forms as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The MMC candles are white for maiden, red for mother, and black for crone. The Goddess candle can be any color preferably corresponding with the particular aspect of Goddess being honored. Candles are also used in coven and in my personal practice as spell components and are lit with specific intent by coven members in support of each other in stressful times.
Broom/Besom: Used in coven to cleanse space and has been associated with witches and the Craft for centuries. Mine tends to just sit by alter looking witchy.
Book of Shadows: A journal of witchcraft used to store information such as herbs and their uses, spells, and rituals. I find it very useful as a reference on what spells worked or didn't and what all went into said spells, recording readings and all information relating to coven and the Craft.
Power Animal/Cat: Animals are associated with elements which correspond to each of the Watchtowers and in coven are often called upon when calling the Watchtowers. For example one might summon Birds in the East, Salamanders/Dragons in the South, Dolphins in the West, and Bear in the North. Power animals may be invoked as journeying protection and/or guides or summoned in spell work to lend their particular attributes to the work. Power animals may also become personal totems, as the Bear has been for me, and teach specific lessons for growth in Goddess. I say cat specifically as my cat Kali is rubbing me and the computer while I write this insisting to be included. The cat has long been associated with witches as primarily nocturnal creatures they represent occult knowledge and have considered witches' familiars. I have found cats to be particularly witchy. The three cats who have blessed my life like to lend their energy to my workings and are quite opinionated about how I 'should' craft.
Cloak/robe/ritual attire: These items are often worn to consciously represent entry into sacred space with the Goddess or to signal that one is preparing to go deeply within to other realms.
Herbs/Oils: In coven we use herbs as spell components and for healing purposes. We use oils to bless each other when entering circle, to bless the ritual tools on the alter, and to invoke desired energies. We use essential oils in our healing work. Essential oils are a staple of my ritual work and my life which I use to heal, to bless, to alter mood, to cleanse and to comfort.
Traditionally in western witchcraft, the world is made up off our primal elements, which are air, fire, water, and earth. A fifth element is often included to represent Spirit. All five elements are represented in the pentacle which is a five pointed star of the elements surrounded by the circle of sacred space. The elements are a witch's most important resource of power and are primarily used in coven to create sacred space. Elementally powerful beings can be summoned by offering them a physical aspect of their element or by petitioning them when calling their corresponding Watchtowers. Elemental beings may be asked to lend their specific energies to aid the creation of sacred space and to ritual and spell work.
Air: Corresponds with the cardinal direction and Watchtower of East, Dawn, vision, intellect and breath. Air carries the energies of birth, inspiration, and beginnings. Associated animals and beings include birds, particularly the eagle, faeries, and zephyrs. Air can also carry the energy of destruction or chaos as whirlwinds which smash and disperse or carry one off their path to Oz.
Fire: Corresponds with the cardinal direction and Watchtower of South, Noon, passion, life force, and vigor. Fire carries the energies of renewal, heat, and courage. Associated animals and beings include Salamanders, Dragons and Phoenixes. Fire can also carry the energy of destruction, anger and addiction as the flames that consume everything in their path or passions raging out of control.
Water: Corresponds with the cardinal direction and Watchtower of West, Sunset, emotions, and heart energies. Water carries the energies of cleansing, rebirth, and compassion. Associated animals and beings include Fish, Dolphins, and Mermaids. Water can also carry the energy of destruction and depression as the waves of floods and hurricanes and the soggy, stagnant waters of controlling emotions of regret, negativity, and old cellular memory.
Earth: Corresponds with the cardinal direction and Watchtower of North, Midnight, rest or death and support. Earth carries the energies of contemplation, wisdom, and stability. Associated animals and beings include Bears, Elephants, Snakes, minerals and crystals, and primal energetic beings. Earth can also carry the energy of destruction and inertia as the heaving and cracking of earthquakes or the immobility of trees, stones and mountains.
Creating Sacred Space
In coven, we create sacred space by cleansing the room with sage and incense, and sweeping it symbolically with a ritual broom called a besom. The alter is set up with four specific Watchtower candles in their corresponding spots, a bottle of blessed water, shell and container of earth, a small cauldron containing ritual incense and the wand and Athame. Candles are placed for the aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone and a separate one for Goddess A representation of Goddess may be used such as a statue or picture. The sword is lain beside the alter.
Sisters are welcomed into the circle, cleansed with sage and blessed with oil. All casting begins in the North.
The sword is used first to cut the circle desoil to the chant "we cut this circle thrice around, to keep love in and evil out".
Water and Earth are combined and sprinkled desoil to the chant "Water and Earth, where thou art cast, no adverse spells nor purpose last. Hear my words, accord to me, and as I will so mote it be".
The cauldron burning with ritual incense is carried desoil to the chant "Creature of fire, charge I lay, no phantoms in, thy presence stay. Hear my words, accord with me, and as I will so mote it be."
The Athame is then used desoil to cut pentacles at the Watchtowers at which point that Watchtower will be called and its candle lit.
The Circle is blessed. "O Circle be thou a meeting place of truth and love and joy, a shield against all wickedness and a rampart of protection that will preserve and hold all the magick we raise within thee. In the name of the Goddess I do bless thee and consecrate thee in the name of the Goddess so mode it be."
The Goddess is then invoked by the Priestess.
Sacred space is cast and expanded by facing the east and energetically expanded to the chant of "Before me is Air energy. Behind me is Water energy. To my right is Fire energy. To my left is Earth energy. Above me shines the light of Goddess. Below me shines the light of Goddess. Within me shines the light of Goddess. Around me shines the light of Goddess."