Sif Redeagle 2/19/05
I am a child of the Goddess, and have been my whole life. But I didn’t really find Her until a few years ago, in the fall of 2001. She had been there, waiting patiently for me, but it took a magickal communion with Her for me to finally get the message.
In October, 2001, just a month after the terrible events of 9/11, we had fall semester Practice Day at Naropa University where I work. Practice Day is an opportunity for us to gather as a community and engage in practice. The morning is typified by group meditation and the afternoon by esoteric practices.
That morning I had meditated and in the afternoon, I joined a circle convened by my friend and colleague HPS Francesca Howell. I knew that Francesca was Wiccan, but I didn’t really have any understanding of what that meant. I had friends in college who were “Wicca” but Francesca didn’t strike me as having much in common with any of my friends.
The circle was quite large; Francesca looked resplendent in a black dress and her cords. She had another priestess with her assisting her in the ritual and they did a wonderful job of making it powerful but accessible. We called the Watchtowers and invoked the power of Ma’at, Egyptian Goddess of Justice. The rest of the ritual is pretty much a haze, but afterwards, I asked Francesca if she would tell me more about Wicca. She agreed.
A few weeks later, we had lunch with another of my colleagues who is pagan. They told me everything I wanted to know and answered all of my questions. Francesca described her first bumblings as a solitary witch and then finding her teachers in England, a couple who had been initiated by the Ferrars. She described the degree system to me and shared her knowledge of stones and the Kabbalah. I was entranced.
After lunch, I asked Francesca how I could learn more. She explained that a teacher, or group, was the best way, but that she could not take me on as a student. I was heartbroken over this…and wondered where I could find someone who would teach me. She told me that when I was ready the teacher would appear and that, in the meantime, I should read a book called The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. I bought a copy of the book the same day and read it cover to cover.
Slowly over the next few months, I gathered more and more books and read more and more about Wicca and witchcraft. Everything I could get my hands on became part of my learning. I joined up with a couple of online communities and started to reach out to try and find connection. It was slow going.
Francesca invited me to a ritual performed by her coven for Mabon, 2002, but I was very sick and unable to attend. I felt crushed…when would I find what I was looking for?
I continued my solitary practice through 2003, gaining more wisdom, experimenting more and more with ritual and spellwork. I began referring to myself as a witch and soon rejected Wicca in favor of the more general pagan. I joined a book club and started meeting a few other witches. I took a few classes.
The life-changing event for me of 2003 was attending Dragonfest for the first time. Because I didn’t know anyone, I went by myself. I ended up having a wonderful time. While I was there, I was visited by Goddess Artemis. I attended a huge group ritual and did a spiral dance. I danced naked under the moonlight and around the fire. When I left, I cried all the way home because it was like I was leaving a sacred space and time disconnected from my “real” life.
Back in Boulder, I was determined to reach out and meet people. I started a circle. It was only four people and it didn’t last long. The woman I connected with most got a new job in Windsor and that was the last I heard of her. I tried to connect with a local group, Rising Stones Circle. I went to their Yule ritual and left before it began because I didn’t like the energy.
On December 24, 2003, I self-dedicated. It felt important and it felt right. I sought Goddess in a very primal way and She came to and confirmed me. I committed myself to a year of intense study of Her ways.
Right around that same time, I found the College of Wicca and Old Lore. Here it was, I believed—the group I had been seeking from the beginning. So, in January, 2004, I started with them. And for six months, it was wonderful. It was teaching, it was intense learning, it was ritual, and it was connecting with others. I formally dedicated with the College in June, 2004. And, at the same time, something was missing for me. I never felt a deep connection to Goddess.
At the start of water quarter, in July, the group moved into a new space with very bad feng shui. In August, we all went to Dragonfest together, but I chose to camp elsewhere. My hubbie came with me for a few days and that was beautiful to be there with him. At the end of that month, a long ordeal with my health (a failed pregnancy) began, and, a few months later, reluctantly, I decided to leave the College.
Right around the same time that the College moved, I found Estella Willowroot and her Goddess circle. I began attending full moon with Stella and enjoying getting to know her better. When I decided to leave the College, my friend Wynyfryd did, too. I told her about Stella and the three of us decided to start a study group. Wyny left us in January, only a few months later, but my commitment to and appreciate of the Coven of the Goddess has only grown and deepened.
Since my personal dedication, and specifically over the last six months or so, I have felt my life begin to keep pace with that of the Goddess. I no longer find Her only in circle; She is with me every moment of the day. She informs how I live my life, what habits I adopt, and what I ask for when I seek Her favor. My magick has taken off; She has heard me and responded to all of my wishes in myriad ways. As a result, as my work with Coven of the Goddess began to cement and to deepen, and my own personal practices did the same, I asked Stella to initiate me, and she agreed.
This essay is written in conjunction with and to support that initiation. It outlines the requirements of the First Degree initiation in the Coven of the Goddess. It also outlines my preparation of sacred space that will take place during my initiation on March 12, 2005.
Over the years, I have wrestled with how to define the Goddess and my relationship to Her. My perspective has been influenced by many traditions including Feri, Seax-Wice, Reclaiming, Dianic, and Wicca. I currently define myself as a witch and as Wicca, but that title is fluid and changes as I read new information, gain new insights, enjoy new practices, and experience Divine communion. I am currently trying on the title of Dianic, as I have begun to practice Goddess-craft almost exclusively.
I believe that the Goddess is represented by three specific levels of hierarchy (in the original use of the term for system, rather than “power over”).
At the top of the hierarchy is the source of all things, the Creatrix, the Divine Feminine. This source, this life spark, is a dark miasma from which all life arose. I believe that this power is feminine because it is from the feminine (whether a woman’s womb or the dark & fertile earth) that life grows and to the feminine that life ultimately returns at its end.
I believe that everything that surrounds us is animated by the life spark of the Creatrix, even if that thing is not “living” by scientific definition. I believe that everything in existence is part of the energy of the Universe and vibrates in tune with that energy. So animals, plants, stones, earth, stars, water, and air, are all part and parcel of the grand web of creation. Her energy exists around and between us. It is that energy that we spin in the practice of magick.
From the Creatrix all of existence emerged. And yet, it did not emerge as chaos; rather it emerged in distinct pairs: sun & moon, night & day, hard & soft, male & female, darkness & light. And so, at the second level of the hierarchy, I believe that the Divine energy manifests as a polarity, the energy of projection and reception. For many, this duality is perceived as the union of God & Goddess. While I once believed this, and recognize the God when it suits me, I have come to believe that these opposing energetics are actually only part of the whole and that the whole is the Creatrix. However, I believe that duality is necessary in my belief system to help me to be aware of and honor all things. For example, joy would not be as sweet without suffering.
My beliefs on this matter are best represented by the symbol of the yin/yang. This ancient Chinese representation of polarity captures my beliefs: that the yin & yang swirl about each other, intimately linked, with a touch of each inside them to make their stark contrast that much more profound.
From this polarity, the gods & goddesses that we know by name emerged. I understand and believe that these figures are merely representations of the Creatrix. They are like masks, defining and shaping the Divine Feminine into something readily consumable by human thought.
The history of religion tells us that humans created gods & goddesses for two purposes. The first was to attribute the wonders of the natural world to a supernatural being so that humankind could make sense of the mysteries of their existence. The second was to give a human face to that being so that humans could, basically, relate. It is too difficult to relate to and worship a faceless supreme deity; a goddess figurine that looks like a pregnant woman in your tribe makes that deity real.
As a modern neo-pagan, I, too, use these faces & stories to attribute the wonders of my life. But my theology has developed and I know now that the statues and descriptions of individual gods and goddesses are merely representatives of the larger face of God Herself.
I also agree with psychologist Carl Jung, who theorized that humanity shares what he termed a “collective unconscious.” This unconscious manifests across the world in “archetypes.” These archetypes emerge in our gods and goddesses. There are archetypes for love, for war, for healing, for hearth, for death & dying, for birth, for trickery, for sex, and many other human experiences. Across world cultures, we see these same gods and goddesses emerge in the aboriginal pantheons. I therefore believe that gods & goddesses serve to speak to that part of ourselves, that archetype, which they represent. When we recognize and honor one of these deity figures, we are honoring and calling to that part of ourselves.
And, we are speaking to the Divine Feminine, through the guise of one aspect of Her. This enables us to embody Her, to make Her immanent within ourselves by calling upon and worshipping that aspect of ourselves that is truly just a facet of Herself. She is like a jewel with infinite faces. We can look into Her and see our reflection in the face that we choose, but that does not diminish Her complete existence.
Let me clarify that I believe that the Goddess is both immanent and transcendent. She exists in each of us as we, as living energy beings, are of Her and a part of Her. She also exists outside of us, as the supernatural force of the Universe that animates all things. It is this belief that simultaneously allows me to treat myself and my fellow humans with kindness (as we are Goddess) and to pray to Her for guidance and strength from above.
For the remainder of this essay, for clarity, when I speak of Goddess, I speak of the Creatrix, of the Divine Feminine, She who is All Things and not of one (or more) of Her aspects, also called goddess.
Like many other pagans and Wiccans, I also honor and worship the Triple Goddess, the first Divine Trinity. I believe that the Trinity manifests in the three most important life cycles: the solar cycle, the lunar cycle, and the cycle of life.
The solar cycle is observed by many pagans as a celebration of the eight Sabbats. I, too, celebrate the Sabbats as a day to remember the stages of the sun in the sky. As the source of all (projective) energy in our solar system, the sun’s revolution around the Earth is the primary cycle that controls the lives of all of the Earth’s beings. Like the moon, the sun follows a triple aspect: it is reborn in the spring, comes to fullness in the summer, and fades in the fall. I believe that the time of the dark sun, from Samhain to Yule, is actually a time-out-of-time, when the sun is, essentially, void.
The lunar cycle, too, takes the same course and rules those aspects of life that are receiving/feminine. My own menses and the waters of my body are ruled by the moon. The moon represents the Maiden aspect of the Goddess when it is new and growing, the Mother aspect of the Goddess when is it pregnant and full, and the Crone aspect of the Goddess when it is waning and fades. Like the sun, for one full day, the moon is absent from the sky and I believe that this day is a time-out-of-time, a void in the cycle.
It has been increasingly meaningful to live my life in accordance with these two cycles. As I pay careful attention to the moon and the sun, I find that my own natural rhythms attune to the rhythms of the Earth. In the winter and at the dark moon, I feel a sense of being dead, of being void, and yet, I also feel the seed of new beginnings. During the spring and the new moon, I feel pulled by activity, by emerging from winter/darkness and embracing life. During the summer & the full moon, I feel full of power and wonder and activity. And, as the season and the moon turn again to waning, I feel myself begin to withdraw.
I most recently have attuned my eating, sleeping, and activity habits to these cycles and find this to be most fulfilling. It helps me to continue to remain in close communication with the Goddess and Her Elements through all the seasons and moons.
The Trinity is also present in the cycle of life that each of us must pass through. Like the moon, we are born from the darkness of our Mother’s womb. We grow through childhood, adolescence, and become a young adult. We fall in love, begin careers, and give birth to babies, projects, and dreams. All along the way, we age, until we become grandmothers, retirees, wise women. And, eventually, we return to our Mother’s arms when we are laid in the darkness of earth. Our bodies, returned to the earth, return to the life cycle and from our remains new life is born and the cycle begins again.
(Reincarnation is a concept that I have always struggled with, my whole life. However, as a pagan, I believe that we are reincarnated as energy. As Einstein discovered, energy cannot be destroyed. When the energy leaves our body at death, it is returned to the Universe and recycled by the next living thing. While I do not know if my soul, per se, returns, my body and my vibration do, and that’s good enough for me).
I will preface these next sections by saying that I prefer not to use the images of the Watchtowers, common among some pagan groups. I enjoy working very closely with the Elements and the idea of Them hidden behind some watchtower is not right for me. I also, on principle, reject (or at least challenge) everything that Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, believed. The Watchtowers were borrowed by Gardner from the ceremonial magic practices of the Golden Dawn and the OBO and I therefore prefer not to use them.
East—the Element of Air
Air & the East are associated with spring, dawn, youth, the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, new beginnings, and infatuation. They are the domain of the mind and all mental aspects like creativity, intellect, imagination, psychic work, music, concentration & focus, meditation, inspiration, communication, writing, messages, and vision.
Air is also the Element associated with the lungs and breathing. Since speech is reliant upon breath, it is associated with all forms of communication including singing. It is the Element that connects us to the sky as well as to the trees, which give us oxygen to breathe in exchange for our carbon dioxide.
The creature of the Element Air is the fairy, and Air corresponds with all flying animals, including those of the mythical and astral planes. The colors associated with Air are light & bright: pastels, yellows, white.
The tool of Air is the wand.
South—the Element of Fire
Fire is also the Element associated with the reproductive and digestive systems. Both these systems are fueled by energy and create energy for the body. They are also close to the root, orange, and solar plexus chakras.
The creature of the Element Fire is the salamander, and Fire corresponds with all animals that are desert-dwelling, protective, transformative, or those that mimic the movement of flames, including those of the mythical and astral planes. The colors associated with Fire are the colors of fire: red, crimson, gold, orange, reddish-orange, and black.
The tool of Fire is the athame/sword.
West—the Element of Water
Water is also the Element associated with the blood and fluids of the body. Its emotional connection also ties it to the heart and the birth cycle (menses, conception, birth).
The creature of the Element Water is the undine, and Water corresponds with all animals that live in or live on water, including those of the mythical and astral planes. The colors associated with Water are the colors of water: blue, sea green, turquoise, white, clear.
The tool of Water is the chalice.,/p>
North—the Element of Earth,br> Earth & the North are associated with winter, midnight, the end of life, the passage of the Crone into the Underworld, darkness, and the Earth itself/herself. They are the domain of the body and all things associated with the body (including the body of the Earth) including touch, bones, strength, solidity, groundedness, birth, growth, stones & minerals, metals, crystals, nature, food & eating, prosperity, money, agriculture, stability, forests, caves, moss, fecundity, compost, and loam.
Earth is the Element associated with the body itself and it rules energy, metabolism, muscles & bones, and physical movement.
The creature of the Element Earth is the gnome, and Earth corresponds with all animals that live in or live on the land (such as bears, wolves, deer), including those of the mythical and astral planes. The colors associated with Earth are the earth-tones: greens, browns, black.
The tool of Earth is the pentacle.
The Element of Spirit
As I have read many times before, and as I believe, it is the witch who makes the tools, not the tools that make the witch. I don’t think that tools are necessary to practice as a witch but that they do enhance one’s intention, which adds to the power of the magick.
Typically when I practice at home, I use my hand, candles, and chalice as my primary tools. However, I do have all the witch’s tools and have used my athame, wand, and pentacle on occasions that called for them.
I also like to use herbs, stones, Tarot, and other “correspondences” as tools and spend a lot of my study time learning more about these important magickal components.
Before any use, periodically, and even before use in ritual, tools (including candles) should be cleaned and consecrated. It is traditional to consecrate tools by cleansing them with all the elements: water, salt (for earth), and smoke (fire & air). They can also be anointed with appropriate oil and inscribed or painted with symbols. I keep my tools safe on and around my altar where they are left to magickally charge in between uses. Some witches also wrap their tools in silk or other natural fabrics to protect them from physical and psychic contamination.
The Wand is an extension of the witch’s hand. It can be used to cast circle, to focus intent, and to project energy, either into an object or into the air after the energy is raised.
My Wand was a gift from the trees in my neighborhood. It is a small, knobby branch with a perfect star shape in the center of the wood. Although it is fragile, when it is in my hand, it feels right, like it belongs there.
The Athame (or Knife)
The Athame (which I have heard pronounced both as ah-tha-mee and aah-thaa-may) is a witch’s blade. The knife represents the element of Fire, as it is forged with fire and the metal is obtained from deep inside the earth, near to the molten core.
Traditionally, the Athame is black-handled, double-sided, and never used for cutting. In a working tradition like ours, however, the knife may be used for cutting, as it is part of the working witch’s tools.
Like the Wand, the Athame is used to cut circle, project energy, and focus intent. If it is a working knife, it can also be used to cut materials for magick and food. Its point can also be used to inscribe candles and cut & draw sigils. The Athame can also be used to represent the act of cutting and is particularly useful for banishing rituals.
My Athame was a gift from my husband and was my first magickal tool. It is double-edged, but not black handled. It is a beautiful knife, which I love, but I also like the idea of using a working blade. I may look for a new Athame which more accurately represents my current feelings about the Craft. In any case, my Athame is a powerful and important tool for me.
The sword is another tool used in ways similar to that of the Athame.
The Chalice is the tool associated with the element of Water. It is believed to represent the womb of the Goddess and as such is an important focal point for any goddess ritual.
The Chalice can be used in a practical way, holding liquids to be used during ritual, or beverages to be consumed during ritual, or it can be used in a metaphorical way, receiving and holding energy raised during ritual.
The Cauldron is another witch’s tool that is associated with water and the belly of the Goddess. Like the Chalice, the Cauldron can be used in a practical way (for holding & stirring herbs, for holding liquids, for holding water for scrying) and in magickal & metaphysical ways. For a working witch, there is not a lot of difference between these two things.
I have two Chalices. One is a dark purple glass that I found at a thrift shop. It is simple but beautiful and represents the Goddess to me. The other I recently made at a pottery store. It is a wine Chalice painted with symbols of the goddess, in the colors of Water. I love it, but it is not very practical. It is likely that I will continue to use my purple Chalice for most of my work and save the other to represent the Goddess.
The Pentacle is the tool associated with the element of Earth. The Pentacle has the shape of a coin, and money (and wealth) are both associated with Earth. The Pentacle is also traditionally made out of wood, glass, metal, or clay, all of which are elements derived from the Earth.
For me, the Pentacle is not an obvious choice to represent earth. I prefer to use salt on my altar to represent Earth and the Pentacle, for me, represents all of the elements.
The Pentacle, or salt, can be used to ground and strengthen magickal activity. Like the Chalice, it can also receive energy and become a holding place for magickal intent.
My Pentacle is woven of wood. I do not lay it on my altar but prop it on the altar or let it hang over the altar as a representation of the Goddess and witchcraft. Typically, when I need to seal or magickally charge something using a Pentacle, I will just draw one with my fingers, or my Wand.
The censer is used to hold incense and can be a small cauldron, or a specific censer designed for this purpose (think Catholic mass). Incense is believed to carry our wishes to the gods and can fumigate a space, cleansing it and charging it for magickal work.
The witches broom or besom is used to physically & psychically clear sacred space. Some witches use a practical kitchen broom for this task. Others use a smaller, ornamental broom to “sweep” their space.
Generally, the space is swept widdershins (counter-clockwise) to banish any negativity or negative influences from the space. Some witches then sweep deosil (clockwise) to draw in positive energies.
A witch’s cord is a very magickal tool. The cord represents a witch’s commitment to her Craft and her coven. The cord was historically used as a measuring tool and is traditionally nine feet long. Cords represent the witches place in her community and are also used to strengthen or enhance magickal workings.
My cord is one of my most powerful tools. It was worked in circle with Stella, Sarah Jean, and Vivi on a very beautiful full moon. I feel that it is charged with the energy of our circle and of women together. I use it regularly in my magick to charge talismans and bring power to my workings.
The boline is a knife used by some witches for cutting things. Traditionally, this knife was sickle-shaped and white-handled. I do not use a boline; I just use a kitchen knife and reserve the use of my Athame for sacred circle.
A Book of Shadows (Grimoire) and a Book of Mirrors are two additional witch’s tools. The Grimoire is the witch’s record of her magic. Spells, rituals, correspondences, and other useful information belong in a Book of Shadows. The Book of Mirrors is the witch’s magickal journal, where she can record dreams, works of divination, and the results of spells and/or rituals she has worked.
My Book of Shadows is always in progress. I keep things electronically and also hand-written. Typically, I will write things electronically first, then transpose them by hand over time. There is something quite precious to me having a Grimoire that reflects my magickal hand and my humanity.
For me, the creation of the sacred space in which our work as witches takes place is one of the most beautiful and magickal things about paganism. The inherent beauty in crafting sacred space and creating a “temple” in which to worship is one of the things I love most about immanent divinity. Each of us, regardless of where we come from, what our backgrounds are, who we are professionally, or any other qualifier, has the ability to create our own place of worship and invite in our own divine energies. We are truly Priestesses.
For me, the creation of sacred space happens on four levels, all of which are critically important: preparing ourselves, preparing our space, preparing our altar, and preparing our circle.
The first act of preparing sacred space is preparing ourselves. We must understand our needs and our purpose behind creating ritual and magick in order for that magick to be effective.
The first step of any magickal working is clarifying the intention. What is the purpose for the ritual, spell, celebration? What kind of energy do you want to raise? Is it inviting or banishing energy? Will you ground the energy or send it into the world? Will you use a craft or talisman or herbs to focus your intention? What is it that you will to happen?
Witches work to be as specific as possible in their intent. Magick that is done without focus or intent, and without thorough introspection, has a wild quality that can result in chaotic effects. Clear intention also helps to focus the strength of the magick…saying you want a job in a specific industry or a specific company or of a specific type or a specific salary is much more direct than just saying you want work. The Goddess provides, and sometimes Her answer to our prayers is not what we imagined it would be, so clarity is of the essence.
It can also be okay to do ritual without a focused intention, as long as the focus is on doing good in the world, or healing the earth. Sometimes, raising and returning energy to the Mother is just what we need to get things moving in our own lives.
After clarifying our intention, the next step is a ritual bath or cleansing. Water has been used for eons to cleanse us, both physically and psychically. The ritual bath can be as elaborate or as simple as needed. Some ways to ritualize the experience are to use mood lighting (with candles), use essential oils in the water to help cleanse and prepare for ritual (lavender’s always good), and to use salts to ground us in our bodies (a combination of sea salt and Epsom salt is very powerful). Alternately, you may want to make a soap that you specifically use for magickal work that you bathe with before ritual. Or, it may be just enough to take a quick shower, splash water on your face, or cleanse your hands and feet before ritual.
The next step is to do a psychic cleansing. Different witches have different methodologies for this step. Some use incense or sage to cleanse themselves in the smoke. Some use a pentacle anointed on various body parts (the feet, the hands, the foreheads). Some use a chakra clearing. Some do all of these and more.
I personally like to use a stick of Nag Champa incense that I swirl around myself for psychic cleansing. This serves the dual purpose of cleansing my aura as well as putting me in the mood for ritual; Nag Champa is an ancient temple fragrance that immediately changes my consciousness when I smell it. It also brings me into the present moment and prepares me for what is to come. I take the incense stick and run it around my body, front and back, to cleanse the psychic field.
The clothes definitely make the witch and deciding what to wear to ritual is the next important step. Clothes and jewelry are important and symbolic tools. The colors, fabrics, and cut of clothes attract specific energies. The metals, stones, and symbols in jewelry also attract specific energies.
I like to wear skirts during ritual. They are fun to swirl around while dancing. They invite playful energy and remind me of all the women who have come before me. I also like to wear powerful jewelry for ritual and have stones dedicated for that specific purpose. I prefer to be barefoot so that my feet might have a close connection to the earth. Occasionally, I prefer to do my rituals skyclad; there is nothing like connecting to Her in nothing but your birthday suit! However, I typically reserve nudity for personal ritual as I find it too distracting in a group.
Preparing the Space
Once primped, pampered, and prepared, it is time to move onto the second step of creating sacred space: preparing the space.
First, take care of the mundane requirements (which you might even want to do before your ritual bath): gather your tools. Gather the things you will need for the ritual. Clean up the space you’re going to be practicing in. Turn off the phone and lock the door. Ask your loved ones not to disturb you. Prepare the physical space as much as you can so that it feels clean and sacred and set apart.
Second, it is traditional to psychically sweep the space. This can be done using the witches broom (or besom) or even a hand. See more information about this in the tool’s section of this essay.
Preparing the Altar
The preparation of the physical & psychic space leads into the third step in creating sacred space: the preparation of the altar.
The altar can be simple or complex, but most importantly it should reflect the purpose of the ritual AND the people who are a part of the ritual. It should be personal and beautiful. There are no requirements for the altar, although most witches choose to represent the Goddess in some way. Examples of things that can be placed on the altar include: candles, statues, natural objects (such as crystals, feathers, etc.), fruit or other symbolic objects (like eggs), etc. Altars can be draped in beautiful cloths or left au natural. Creating altars is an art that most witches love to get better at!!
In preparing the altar, it is important to purify and consecrate the tools to be used during the ritual. This might include tools, candles, statues, or other important magickal items that have their place on the altar. Some witches only consecrate their tools at specific times of the year, such as Imbolc, and others never consecrate them at all. However, it is important,at least initially, to remove any charge that the tool may have picked up from its previous owner, its manufacturer, or the store where it was purchased.
Tools should be purified using the four elements. Salt is traditionally used to represent earth and smoke (from incense or a candle) is traditionally used to represent fire & air. The tool should be cleansed in water, salt, and smoke. It is also appropriate to anoint the tool with oil. The oil can be specific to the working (more powerful) or a more generic oil you may work with (like an altar oil). The candle can be anointed widdershins for banishing energy or deosil for inviting energy.
Tools can also be inscribed or decorated with symbols. These can be painted on, or, in the case of a candle, can be carved on at the time of the consecration. Sometimes candles are “sealed” with pentacles and it is appropriate to do this during the anointing process with the Athame or even a toothpick.
Many witches say a prayer or incantation while cleansing & preparing their tools to help strengthen the magick.
Tools represent the elements, and so I also find it most appropriate to place them on the altar in accordance with the element they represent (so, the Athame would be placed on the southern end of the altar). However, the altar can really be organized in whatever fashion suits you and the intention of your magickal working.
Preparing the Circle
The final step in creating sacred space is preparing the circle. The circle is the magickal space in which our work takes place. It is a divider between the outside world and the inner world of the Craft of Wisdom. The circle is also a universal symbol for union & the eternal.
In some groups it is traditional to invite people into the circle. This is commonly done through some type of ritual, such as psychic cleansing or anointing. Participants in the sacred space are anointed with sacred oil. This can be done as they enter the circle, or by others in the circle. The anointing can be a sacred symbol (like a pentacle) or it can merely be a drop of oil. For others, it is enough to merely say that it is time to create sacred space: the purpose is to begin the shift in consciousness that leads us into the inner world.
Witches use a technique called grounding & centering to help themselves become present. Grounding is the act of connecting to the Earth, often making an energetic connection with the Earth and drawing strength and energy from Her. Magick is hard work and so we rely on the power of the Earth to fuel our magick! Otherwise, we’d be completely drained at the end of ritual. Centering is the act of finding that special, quiet place inside of ourselves that is still. For me, that place is deep in my belly, what the Chinese refer to as the dan-tien. For others it is in their heart, their third eye, or elsewhere. After practicing grounding & centering, it becomes almost second nature to find that connection to the Earth and go immediately to that quiet place inside.
Some witches will also use this time to open their chakras, so that they can most readily release their constraints and be open to the work before them.
Following grounding & centering, it is time to cast the circle. This is a term that means to designate, through ritual, the sacred circle (or sphere, really). This can be done by physically “cutting” a circle in space with a blade, a wand, or a finger, by imagining a line of blue flame arising around the circle, or by all members of the circle joining hands and sending energy around the circle in this way.
Most circles are cast clockwise, or deosil, while most are devoked counterclockwise, or widdershins. Traditionally, the casting of the circle begins in either the North (the direction of Earth and the Goddess) or the in the East (the direction of the rising sun and new beginnings). Coven of the Goddess begins the casting of the circle in the North.
Circles are often cast using an incantation. This can be spontaneous or written out, but like all aspects of ritual, its intention is to alter consciousness and bring the participants fully into the sacred space of magickal work.
Following the casting of the circle, the circle is often consecrated with salt water (earth & water) and smoke (fire & air). Like cutting the circle, this consecration is often accompanied by an incantation.
The consecration of the circle is then finalized by the priestess. Often the simple incantation: “The Circle is cast; we are between the Worlds” is used. Other incantations may be used to consecrate the circle (the circle may also be consecrated at any point after it has been cast).
Once the circle is cast, it is time to invite the elemental energies into the circle. Sometimes, all the elemental energies are called. Other times, only one of the directions may be called, depending on the working.
Generally, the group turns to face either north or east to begin the elemental invocations. I prefer to start in the east because of it’s associations with beginnings.
Facing the north/east, the priestess calls to the elemental energy. This is done in a variety of ways, depending on the tradition. The call is an invocation that may be spontaneous or not. It is traditional to ask the elemental energy to bring to the circle what you wish to have present during the working. It is also traditional to light a candle welcoming that energy into the circle. The greetings of “Hail & Welcome” or “Blessed Be” are often used as a call-and-response.
Once the elements have been invoked, it is time to invoke the Goddess. This invocation may be generic or may call upon the aspect of the Goddess that you wish to invite into your circle. It is important to reground & center, to open yourself and your heart to receive Her. After you have invoked and welcomed Her, light Her candle on the altar to welcome Her energy into the circle.
The sacred space is now prepared and ready to hold whatever work is to take place within it. It is a psychic temple, created by the devotion and will of the participants and is as hallowed a ground as a church or synagogue.
Initiation Ritual Outline
March 12, 2005
With salt water:
Ancient Element of Fire,
Ancient Element of Water,
Ancient Element of Earth,
In this time out of time and place out of place
Freya, Queen of the Witches, we call to you!
Here in this sacred circle do we entreat Thee