News of the Past

March 2015
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Who Does your Spiritual Practice Benefit?

By Taylor Ellwood

In Awakening the Sacred Body, the author asks a hard question: “Who does your spiritual practice benefit?” That question isn’t asked often. In fact, I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve come across this question in all the books I’ve read. It makes me wonder why this question isn’t asked more often, but I think we can answer that by simply recognizing that a lot of the focus in spiritual books is on helping a person improve him/herself. Ironically, what isn’t recognized is that in some ways what this encourages is a lot more focus on the self than on other people.

I think there’s an assumption that goes into spirituality, which is that if a person is engaged in spiritual practices they somehow are becoming better people or more enlightened, or whatever else, but the problem with that assumption is that there is no guarantee that being engaged in any type of practice automatically makes you a better person. And that may not even be the point of the spiritual practice. Spirituality isn’t always about making a person into a better person. It’s a relationship, but what comes out of the relationship is also informed by what goes into it. Why we engage in spiritual practice is ultimately a personal matter.

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Choose Your Thoughts, Choose Your Life

By Della Temple

Taming your inner critic and getting to the core of who you truly are, not whom others think you should be, is a process. It’s a process of intentionally choosing your thoughts instead of allowing your inner critic to choose for you. Much like peeling away the layers of an onion, this process of discovering who you truly are takes patience, self-nurturing, and fortitude. But it is possible–and once you find your true essence and live by your own internal wisdom, life is truly delicious!

However, you can’t change something until you understand what it is you want to change. The first step then is to bring your awareness to your current story of how you see yourself operating in the world. Start to listen to your inner dialog. Write out some of your worst inner critic statements. Keep a journal of your dominating thoughts. Bring your beliefs of how you view yourself up from the basement of your subconscious and into the light of your awareness. Remember the words spoken to you in judgment or the expectation handed down from your parents. Journaling the story may help to bring all the pieces into focus.

The second step is intent. Do you want to get rid of the energetic imprint of these old beliefs? Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. Often people are tied to their stories because the victim energy feeds their sense of self. If that’s where you are, then that’s where you are. No judgment, just awareness.

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Does the Media Depict Witchcraft as Evil?

By BadWitch

[Snip] Wicca and similar forms of modern pagan witchcraft have only been in the eyes of the media since the mid 20th century – and certainly back in the early days newspapers produced a few horribly inaccurate reports that depicted Wiccans as evil, although even then most journalists tried to report the truth. The main culprit was the now-defunct News of the World. This is what Professor Ronald Hutton said about that in his book The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft:

The only outstanding exception was a Sunday paper especially notorious for scandalmongering, the News of the World, which on 1 September 1963 launched a short series on ‘black magic’, which it equated with pagan witchcraft and declared to be a ‘terrible new menace to youth’ in the style of the denunciations of the 1950s. …Strong in rhetoric but weak in actual material, the articles instituted a tradition, maintained with a few lapses until the present [1999], of hostility to pagan witches on the part of this particular newspaper. This attitude, it must be stressed again, was relatively rare among journalists of the time. … [The] newspaper had treated witchcraft only in passing after its big attempt to scaremonger in 1963 – until 1967, when it printed [a few more balanced articles]. Then, two years later, the paper changed its policy [and did] denounce them [Wiccans] anew, as having links with Satanism… The intent was relentlessly destructive. The names and addresses of the witches chosen as targets were printed along with their photographs, and the purpose (next to that of increasing sales of the newspaper) was clearly to ruin their public reputations and so their lives.

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When Wicca is Not Wicca

By Jason Mankey

I’ve always believed in “big” definitions. I’d rather use an expansive definition that includes as many people as possible instead of one constructed to simply limit access. I believe in a big-tent approach to Paganism, and that approach extends to how I define the terms Wicca and Witchcraft. When asked to specifically state my spiritual path Wicca is probably the word that makes the most sense (though I often use Wicca and Witchcraft as synonyms depending on the context).

Over the last fifty years the word Wicca has become more inclusive. Words change, and try as some of us might, we can’t control how a word is defined. At its start Wicca was only an initiatory tradition; to become a Wiccan one had to be initiated by another Wiccan*. This began to change in the 1970′s and by the early 1990′s Wicca had become something that was easily accessed. There are certainly types of Wicca that have remained initiate only, but in a more general sense Wicca is now something available to anyone willing to look, but that doesn’t mean the word lacks value.

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Offerings

A helpful guide for getting that special spirit in your life the perfect gift

By Brennos

Anyone that works with gods or spirits knows that making offerings ends up becoming a large part of regular practice. Offerings are one of the main methods for the living to make contact with and maintain relationship to the inhabitants of the otherworld. Making regular offerings creates a bond of reciprocity between you and the spirits you work with or the gods you are devoted to. Because these connections that we make with the unseen are relationships, ongoing two-way connections that are not unlike friendships, they must be maintained and nourished for them to be lasting and effective. Giving offerings to your otherworld allies is one of the primary methods that you, as a spirit worker, can directly interact with them Offerings are a very basic form of hospitality. Sometimes they are a simple courtesy to a guest in your home, sometimes a gift given for a gift received. They can be used to entice a spirit to give you aid or appease an entity that you might have offended. Offerings can sometimes be seen as the currency in the economy of otherworld relationship.

So what makes a proper and effective offering, and how can you be sure that the offering that you are giving will be appreciated and accepted by the entities that you have made the offering to? I think that the answer to these questions are determined by a variety of factors such as who you are making an offering to and for what reason is it made. In my practice I approach this question on an individual basis, each offering thought out and chosen for each specific instance. For me, this is never an easy “one size fits all” type of endeavor. You can find if you seek them out, a variety of books that will tell you the types of items best used for making offerings to a variety of gods and spirits. While these books can be helpful as general guidelines, they lack the most vital ingredient in this practice, your personal relationships with the various beings. What I’d like to offer you here is a different way of looking at the question of what offerings are proper to make in your own practice, a guide to evaluate and choose appropriate gifts for the non corporeal beings in your life.

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What Do the Gods Know When They Know Us?

By Edward Butler

‘Like is known by like’ is an ancient and widely applied axiom in Hellenic thought, and some similar axiom probably can be found in many other traditions of thought—albeit we must always remember that being widely held is no index of truth. Rather, axioms must be assessed by the value of the system(s) that can be generated from them. In some sense, to say that like is known by like is the same as to say, with Parmenides, that “the same thing is there for thinking and for being,” because we recognize that the thinking of something belongs to the same substance as the being of it.

Another Hellenic axiom is that the Gods know things in the best way it is possible to know them. The notion which founds metaphysics, according to Aristotle, is two-sided. On the one hand, it is the aspiration to know the best things, on the other hand, to know things in the best way. For Aristotle, both of these paths lead to the Gods; the former seeks to know about Them, insofar as They are the best things, while the latter seeks to know things in the way the Gods do, for this would be the best way in which to know them. But we can see how the double-sidedness of metaphysics also follows from the axiom that like is known by like, because we would have to know the Gods by learning to know things in a godlike way. But this also implies that our knowledge of the Gods is at once, in some sense, Their knowledge of us.

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Mola Salsa: Sacred Flour from the Hearth of Rome’s Vestal Virgins

By Caroline Tully

The perpetually-burning fire in the aedes Vestae was considered to be essential to the safeguarding and continuation of the Roman state. As the public hearth situated in the center of Rome, the Vestal fire was the focus and symbolised the nucleus of the collective home that was Rome. The primary activity performed on this hearth was the transmutation through the use of fire of animal, vegetable and mineral substances into two types of purifying powder. Both these substances are floury and food-like, in addition to having purificatory qualities. One of them, mola salsa, made by the Vestal Virgins three times a year out of salted ground spelt, was used in every public animal sacrifice. The other, suffimen, made once a year from the ash of burned animal components, was used on a single occasion. It will be argued here that the main characteristic of both mola salsa and suffimen is unification. In order to explore this idea this paper will first investigate the procedure involved in the manufacture of mola salsa. This will be followed by an analysis of the times during the year that it was made. Subsequent to this will be an examination of how it is used, succeeded by a consideration of what mola salsa can tell us about the Vestal Virgins who prepared it. This paper primarily focuses on the production and application of mola salsa, but will also investigate suffimen. The comparison of mola salsa with suffimen will lead to the conclusion that through contact with the Vestal hearth and treatment by the Vestal Virgins both substances assimilated the qualities of this sacred urban hearth and subsequently acted as extensions of it, causing the rituals in which these materials were used – and hence the people participating in them – to be linked to and revolve around the Vestal fire, the consequence being the unification of separate Roman rituals and their application toward the good of the collective.

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Impossible Standards of Devotion?

By Galina Kasskova

I hear this a lot, and see it percolating every so often through elements of both the Pagan and Polytheist communities, this idea that some of us are advocating impossible standards of devotion. I always wonder what that means. Devotion after all is such a personal thing that even within the most structured and rigid of traditions, there’s usually room for individual exploration and balance there. Still, this idea, insidious and unhelpful continues, that there are somehow impossible standards in this area.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this idea usually arises from one of the following:

1. Sometimes a person is intimidated, thinking that he or she must live up to the work of another. (I had the daughter of a good friend say to me once, “the amount of work you do intimidates the hell out of me!” I was surprised, because it’s my work, not hers — her skills are in very different areas and the Gods to Whom she is devoted are very different too. Shortly after, I heard the same thing from another tremendously talented colleague. Before that, i’d never thought about it. I am often inspired by people’s work, but not intimidated. I didn’t realize this might be a “thing,” but it is). At any rate, there’s no need for it — I tell people all the time: do the work that presents itself to you. Maintain your devotions, prioritize the Gods and ancestors, and take advantage of the opportunities for deepening your devotion that come your way. That’s all.

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The Theban Oracle, by Greg Jenkins

Review by Molly Khan

[Snip] I was very excited to find The Theban Oracle by Greg Jenkins. Historically, the Theban alphabet was first published in the 1500’s, though it is attributed there to Honorius of Thebes, a possibly mythical magician of whom we know very little. It has been picked up in the last few decades as a witch’s alphabet, sometimes used by Wiccans and others with a witchcraft bent to hide the information written in their Book of Shadows. I personally never worked with this alphabet, and so I came at this book with little background knowledge of the letters themselves.

Historically, the Theban alphabet is not particularly linked with divination or fortune-telling; this system is an invention of the author, Greg Jenkins. There are some who would be dissuaded by this, but honestly, most of our modern systems of divination are just that – modern. I appreciate the author’s refreshing candor regarding the origins of this system, and I think it makes for a more interesting system as a whole. The ancient letters themselves provide a beautiful and atmospheric backdrop to Jenkins’s innovative ideas, and also lend a certain weight of the ages to the oracle.

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Creating Your Reality

By Nimue Brown

One of the concepts in magical and spiritual thinking that could use some fettling is the notion that we create our own realities. To a significant extent, we shape and inform our own experiences. However, this is not about reality conforming to our desires. It’s not about ‘doing magic’ as a thing separate from how we live. It’s about being able to see and work with the threads of connection that guide what’s happening around us.

Let’s take a case in point. How we treat people informs who they will be for us. You can get the best a person has to give by acting as though you trust them and believe in them. Just believing in them won’t do it, you have to very deliberately put that belief where it can be seen, where it affects the other person’s sense of self and their ideas about what might be possible. And thus your will flows into the world and they become better able to manifest the things you were looking for.

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