Witch Craft Basics

Suffolk, learning basics

                   The Sacred Circle?

Within this page you will find information on:

What is Ritual?

Altar setups: 

Invoking the Quarters:  

Casting a Sacred Circle

Closing a Sacred Circle:

Leaving a Sacred Circle.  

The Wiccan Rede:

The Charge of the Godess.

Why Initiation

      I hope this will be of some use; as I have said before this is not the views of an expert, or indeed the customary way, just some formats that work for me?

Rainbird

Ritual What is it?

          When we speak of Ritual what do we mean? According to the dictionary it could be a rite, a ceremony, a service, a formal procedure, a custom, a habit or a practise or even a sacrament; in my opinion as a pagan it is all of those things, as well as being a magical act, divine theatre or roll play, participated in by a group, such as a coven re-enactment of the fight between the Oak and the Holly Kings at the two solstices of Yule and Litha, although a ritual can also be performed by just one person such as the ritual planting of corn at Imbolc and asking for a blessing of good harvest to come. It is in its basic form a symbolic communication with the Goddess and God.

           A group ritual should involve as many people as possible within the group/coven so that group/coven members do not feel left out or get bored, there’s nothing worse than standing there while an HP/S does it all. It should also have a distinct beginning, middle and end. It should also be facilitated by and or be guided by the HPS and HP. It should also contain visualisations, gestures and actions as well as words and the use of magical ‘props’ such as Athamé, sword, wand, besom, Altar and Chalice etc. In certain cases it can be completely silent?

           As well as all that, Sabbats should have a theme or a story (Myth) that runs through it and a point or goal to it; you don’t do ritual just because you can and you want to! It may be used to mark one of the eight festivals of the pagan year (a ‘Sabbat’), or a degree initiation into the inner circle, a welcoming of a new neophyte (apprentice) to the coven, a hand fasting, a rite of passage such as a birthday etc, or to celebrate a full moon at an ‘Esbat’ or indeed to have a specific outcome such as a spell to banish or attract something.

           What ever the reason for holding a ‘Ritual’ there needs to be one (a point that is) and the entire group should be aware of it and the reasons for it! It’s also a good idea for the HPS and HP to have a rehearsal of sorts to iron out any potential errors or hic-cups, they should atleast read speak and act it through out loud so it can be paced.

           For others who are taking part get a copy of the whole ritual to them ASAP along with any notes or dress code etc so that they can also rehearse it especially their part, it’s so easy now-a-days with email, as it can be sent in the form of an attachment and they can print it off. Try to learn and understand your part, there is a vast difference between learning and understanding and learning by rote, the later has no heart or feeling and will mean nothing to you. If you were forced to do poetry at school you will understand the difference?

          Ritual if used properly is a very powerful tool, and can help to alter the level of consciousness for the individual and the group as a whole, what is sometimes known as ASC (Altered State of Consciousness) thus opening the door to a magical energy that the group can draw on and use. If the HP or HPS are good and the group/coven is well established they may well be the first ones into ASC and they in turn will draw the rest of the coven into this state of trance like mystical spirituality sometimes referred to as numinous. Although having said that, in an open ritual where there may be strangers or new comers present the HP will be acting as a facilitator or host and will be making sure that everybody knows what’s happening so maybe this role will be down to others to fill. 

          In ritual speak slowly, clearly and loud enough so that people can hear without effort but don’t shout; shouting doesn’t equate to power! But it does interfere or harm the flow of the ritual and dissolves the experience of others rather than enhancing it. With most people shouting equates to arguments thus disrupting the harmony of the group.

          Your beginning is usually casting consecrating and sealing the sacred circle; i.e. drawing the circle, sealing it with earth, air, fire and water, summoning or invoking the powers of the East, South, West and North to act as guardians as well as inviting the Goddess and God to join you and give you their aid.

         As mentioned before the middle needs to have a point or a theme or purpose such as the re-enactment of the changeover between the Holly King and the Oak King at the Summer and Winter Solstices, or maybe welcoming Brighid at Imbolc, or the ancestors at Samhain, the choice is yours and there are eight Sabbats to choose from and many stories (myths) to choose from.

         The ending is usually a mirror image of the beginning, i.e. Thanking the Goddess and the God for their presence and aid, thanking and releasing  the guardians and any other powers that were in the sacred circle and opening the circle by ritual actions such as cutting the circle with a sword or sweeping it up with a besom. Last of all is the grounding, this is usually achieved by holding a feast and general social.

         An Esbat is slightly different; this is where the coven’s inner circle meets to learn from each other, to do magic, to initiate a coven member to the inner circle or a degree, to perform other magic such as healing magic or banishing something. But if you are using a ritual it still needs a beginning, middle and end and a purpose.

         Another type or part of ritual is chanting; by repartition of words/sounds ASC can be achieved and energy can be raised. If done in a ritual circle the energy can be contained, directed and released at the end to perhaps aid the recovery of an ailing coven member or friend or add power to a spell of attraction or banishment. Again there are rituals used at the beginning of a chant session and an ending where the energy raised is focussed and released. The middle is the chanting, and the grounding is achieved by actually touching the ground with the hands after releasing the focussed energy.

         I hope this will go some way to explain and help you to understand what is going on in the rituals you are attending or even help you to design your own rituals in the future. The last thing I want to say is, let yourself go and enjoy the experience of ritual; no one will laugh at you, they will probably be more tempted to follow your example, join in the actions, visualise where you need to, speak with confidence any parts your are given, be enthusiastic in any roll play you are given, and if you don’t understand any part of the ritual such as the way to pronounce a word, or why you do this gesture or symbol ask questions?

Rainbird

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Altar Setup?

How to set up your Altar

          How you set up your altar is of course entirely up to you. What I have set out below is purely a suggestion to give you some ideas. Don’t forget when you are working in a traditional 9 foot circle with perhaps 13 or more members of your coven present you haven’t got the room for a large altar and as such it won’t be as nicely laid out as the one below, it will be squashed together. I have put the candles and the incense at the back to avoid the danger of leaning over naked flames, especially if you are wearing a robe with flowing sleeves. The items on the altar are for Sabbats, and from time to time you will need other items depending upon what your ritual requires.

        Items such as the sword if you have one can be propped against the Altar or placed in a stand, the Athame can be worn on the belt, the book of shadows can be placed under the Altar or on a small music type stand, the incense can be carried around the circle then placed in the centre, you don’t need both types of candles, the pentacle can be propped up or the bread can be placed on the pentacle, all this will reduce the space taken up on the Altar.

             Last but not least, most people agree that the Altar should be placed slightly east of north inside the circle, although it is true to say that some also place it in the centre. 

A list of Items for the Altar:

(If you want to find out more about the various items on your altar click on the blue name:)

PentacleCandlesAthameBook of ShadowsWater, Salt, Bread/Biscuits, Incense,  Flowers,  Boline or White handled knife,   Bell,  Chalice/Wine,  Mother Candle,  Father Candle, Wand.

Graphics by Rainbird

Researched written and designed by Rainbird

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The Wiccan Rede

           The Wiccan Rede, pronounced (reed) is a statement that provides the key moral system in the Neo-pagan religion of Wicca and other related Witchcraft-based faiths. It was first published in this form by Doreen Valiente.

           It dates from the 1940’s although some have tentatively linked it to François Rabelais who wrote in 1534, "DO AS THOU WILT” because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor".

           Ideas similar to the Rede reach as far back as the fourth century theologian Saint Augustine of Hippo. In the seventh treatise of the Epistles of St. John, Augustine wrote “Dilige, et quod vis fac” meaning “Love, and do what you will," although it is also been quoted as Ama Deum et fac quod vis (Love God, and do what you want).

The Wiccan Rede usually appears as a two lined verse:

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An it harm none do what ye will.

Many variations of this line have been used such as:-

An it harm none, do what thou wilt

An it harm none, do as thou wilt

That it harm none, do as thou wilt

Do what you will, so long as it harms none

This information was garnered from Wikipedia by Rainbird

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The Charge of the Goddess

           The opening verse of the charge of the Goddess is a list of names of Goddesses some derived from Greek or Roman mythology, others from Celtic or Arthurian legends, affirming a belief that these various figures represent a single Great Mother:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother; she who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other names.

          This echoes the ancient Roman belief that the Goddess Isis was known by ten thousand names.

          The second paragraph is paraphrased from the words that Aradia, the daughter of Diana, speaks to her followers which can be found in Leland's 1899 book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. The third paragraph was mostly written by Doreen Valiente with some phrases adapted from The Book of the Law and The Gnostic Mass by Aleister Crowley. The charge affirms that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred to the Goddess.

         The earliest known Wiccan version is found in a document dating from the late 1940s, and draws mostly from Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches and other modern sources, particularly from the works of Aleister Crowley. The oldest identifiable source is the 17th Century Centrum Naturae Concentratum of Alipili (or Ali Puli).

It is believed to have been compiled by Gerald Gardner or possibly another member of the New Forest coven. Doreen Valiente, who was a student of Gardner, took his version from his Book of Shadows and adapted it into verse, and later into another prose version.

The initial verse version by Doreen Valiente consisted of eight verses, the second of which was :

Bow before My spirit bright

Aphrodite, Arianrhod

Lover of the Hornéd God

Queen of witchery and night

        Valiente was unhappy with this version, saying that "people seemed to have some difficulty with this, because of the various goddess-names which they found hard to pronounce" and so she rewrote it as a prose version, much of which differs from her initial version, and is more akin to Gardner's version. This prose version has since been modified and reproduced widely by other authors

Charge of the Goddess

By Doreen Valiente

Listen to the words of the Great Mother;
she who of old was also called among men
Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine,
Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Cybele, Arianrhod,
Isis, Dana, Bride and by many other names:

Whenever ye have need of anything,
once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full,
then shall ye assemble in some secret place
and adore the spirit of me,
who am Queen of all the witches.

There shall ye assemble,
ye who are fain to learn all sorcery,
yet have not won its deepest secrets;
to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery;
and as a sign that ye be really free,
ye shall be naked in your rites;
and ye shall dance, sing, feast,
make music and love,
all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit,
and mine also is joy on earth;
for my law is love unto all beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal;
strive ever towards it;
let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door
which opens upon the Land of Youth,
and mine is the cup of the wine of life,
and the Cauldron of Cerridwen,
which is the Holy Grail of immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess,
who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man.
Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal;
and beyond death, I give peace and freedom
and reunion with those who have gone before.
Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice;
for behold,
I am the Mother of all living,
and my love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess;
she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven,
and whose body encircles the Universe.
I who am the beauty of the green earth,
and the white Moon among the stars,
and the mystery of the waters,
and the desire of the heart of man,
call unto thy soul.
Arise, and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe.
From me all things proceed,
and unto me all things must return;
and before my face, beloved of Gods and of men,
let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth;
for behold,
all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion, honour and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.

And thou who thinkest to seek for me,
know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not
unless thou knowest the mystery;
that if that which thou seekest
thee findest not within thee,
thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold,
I have been with thee from the beginning;
and I am that which is attained
at the end of desire.

--//--

Charge of the Goddess from Aradia

by

Charles G. Leland

Whenever you have need of anything,
one in the month and be it better when the moon is full, then shall you assemble in some secret place and adore
the spirit of me, who am the Queen of all witches.

When I have departed from this world,
Whenever you have need of anything,
Once a month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place
or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your Queen
My mother, great Diana, She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, then my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.

And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything,
And as a sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also: this shall last until
The last of your oppressors are dead.

This information was garnered from Wikipedia.

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Invoking the Quarters

        The main part of casting your sacred circle is invoking the quarters. How you do it and what words you use in your invocation is up to you. Each coven - group – individual will do it in thier own way and who are we to say it’s the wrong way. Many books will tell you it must be done this way or that way; you must use this or that tool to draw the circle etc? But as long as you follow the basic archetype you shouldn’t go wrong! Draw your circle, invoke the quarters and invite/ask the goddess and god if they would like to join you. Simple??

Below is my way; it may not be your way, it may not be the right way but it works for me!

Rainbird

So how do I invoke the Quarters?

           When I first started having my own rituals I didn’t give it too much thought. I had read a few books and decided this is easy! Yet what I did was to make the same fundamental mistakes that everyone else makes who think they know it all. When you invoke quarters you have to give it very careful thought so as to avoid confusion: as I have quoted elsewhere: “As above, so below”, it works both ways. In the following typical example of contradictory quarter calling it’s easy to see the resulting confusion a badly thought out invocation can cause once it has been pointed out. And if the Deities, Elementals, Spirits, Elements and powers etc are confused, what ever it was you intended to do, doesn’t stand much of a chance unless they are all truly in agreement with you and want to help make it happen.

          Once it has been pulled to bits and explained the mistakes and contradictions become blatantly obvious. The best explanation I have come across was in a book called ‘To Stir a Magic Cauldron’ by Jenine E Trayer; AKA ‘Silver Ravenwolf’. I have taken her concept and anglicised it and added my own beliefs in how I think it should be done!

An Invocation for the East Tower.

“Guardians of the watchtowers of the East; Element of Air

And all ye in the realm of fairy

I; Rainbird of the Celtic Tradition,

Do summon, stir and call ye forth

To witness this rite and to guard this sacred space”

Sounds and looks good but if we take the first part:

Guardians of the Watchtower of the East...

      For a start watchtowers; we usually think of castles, and they are at the four ‘corners’. Thus your circle theoretically becomes a square, unless you remember that at one time castles (Brocs or duns) in the very distant past where round? As you are summoning the ‘guardians’ you obviously expect them to be looking outwards to detect and guard you against whatever may come along and threaten you while in the sacred circle/square? It’s better to do away with Towers all together and use directions such as East, South, West and North.

And the next part:

Element of Air...

       Are you really intending to summon an element? Are you sure it’s an Element and not an Elemental you want? There is a vast difference! An element is not much help to you as a guard: they are recognised by our senses as part of the mundane world. They are classified in four groups: that of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

      Most people believe that the elements are not capable of thought/life as we perceive it, yet they are not considered to be dead either just because they do not have a thought/life process as we understand it? How-ever they do have virtues, energies or powers we can use and work with. Their properties, virtues or energies can be invoked and used before, during and after the circle has been cast.

       On the other hand, Elementals are normally thought to be invisible to the untrained eye, and are not part of the mundane world, although they are believed to be comprised of the element they represent plus intelligence. Most people see them as formless or a ball or cloud of glowing energy: some see them as a figure, in the case of an earth elemental a Gnome or Dwarf? They have to be envisioned!

       Those who have trained themselves to see elementals, affirm that they do not appear in the same form/shape to everyone. They are believed to have some sort of basic thought process attributed to them although the higher up thier evolutionary plane from which the elemental comes from, the more intelligent and powerful they are thought to be. But they are usually considered to be a spirit that represents an element and very powerful.

        Lower forms of Elementals are believed to have more of an animal mentality: meaning they are neither good nor bad, mean nor kind, nor do they act on their own initiative. But they do have a power that can be accessed, harnessed or used and directed if approached in the right way: in other words you not only have to ‘tell’ them what you want very precisely, you have to envision it as well.

The next part:

And all ye in the realm of Fairy...

        Before anyone invokes fairies or anything else, I strongly suggest that you research the subject meticulously so that you know which fairies etc. you are invoking.

        Personally I wouldn’t invoke fairies in general as most of them can be capricious. Even more to the point when you summon, stir or call you must be precise as to which ones you want: there are some pretty nasty entities that are classified or lumped together as fairies, and they come from a variety of cultures. If you are doing a Celtic based ritual, what you don’t want is to pull in a Persian fairy by mistake; you may find that you can’t understand each others language: the result is confusion.

The next part:

I Rainbird, of the Celtic Tradition...

       I hope that you have done some sort of dedication ritual or gone through an initiation ceremony into that tradition and introduced yourself to the gods and goddesses and other higher powers at some stage before calling on the ‘Otherworld’ and introducing yourself and expecting assistances, and that those you are summoning, stirring, and calling forth, know precisely who on the mundane plane is making the approach, after all its only polite to introduce yourself to the Goddess and God first before calling on them for help and assistance. I don't like cold callers, and I assume that the gods and goddesses don't either!

And next we look at:

 

Do summon, stir, and call you forth...

    Most agree you invoke elements and summon elemental energies, and you stir the ancestral dead, and you call the divine energies associated with the quarters. So how do these rules fit in with what you have done so far?

Do you summon, Stir, or call them?

        That very much depends on what you are envisioning and calling. If you are going to put an Elemental into each tower/direction, then you must first mentally picture it doing what you want it to do, then you vocally tell it what it is supposed to be doing when you summon it.

          If you are trying to connect with your Celtic ancestors or personal bloodline, then you would gently stir them. After all our ancestors do take an interest in what we do but over the successive generations one ancestor will have many, many thousands of descendants. And you need to gentle redirect their attention to you in a way that doesn’t upset them in order to gain their aid. If you are going to ask an angel/spirit or a higher elemental lord or lady to occupy the tower as a guard, then you would be respectfully calling to invite them in with a great deal of reverence.

And:

To witness this rite and to guard this sacred space...

          They can’t be doing both! They are either witnessing or guarding? If they are guarding you they are probably outside or on the edge of the circle looking away from you: so they can’t see what you are doing. If they are witnessing, their attention is on you, not the possible threats coming from outside. And as you asked them to either witness or guard you; thier attention will be devided!

Points to hear in mind:

1. Make sure you research any summoning or anything else for that matter before you use it.

2. Make sure you understand what you are saying and who you are addressing it to.

3. Visualize what you mean and what you want, and who or what you are invoking.

      The way in which you summon, stir and call your quarters will set the tone for your entire circle casting and the work carried out within your sacred space; whether its for an Esbat or a major Sabbat or just a solitary ritual or even a simple spell. If you get the quarter calls right the rest should follow.

How should it be done?

       It’s always up too the individual in every case. Each time you invoke towers/elementals or gates/directions as some call them, the approaches are inherently different as are the people. You could invoke them collectivel. I propose that you invoke them separately as in the two part Air invocation below, thus having a ritual that although is slightly longer, it is a more accurate reflection of what you want: i.e. a guardian of the east.

First scribe the summoning Sigel of air: 

 

 

 

 Then the female half of the gate officers would say something like:

“Hear ye mighty Lords and Ladies of air and wind,

You who blow all fear and negativity away, we do call you forth, and invite you to

Enter and strengthen our circle bright and lend us your power true,

Witness, Guide and aid us in all the trials we must go through”

Then the male half of the gate officers would say something like;

“Hear ye Elemental Spirits of the east, Bright Powers of air,

We do summon, stir and call ye forth,

Enter and guard this sacred circle and protect all those within it.”

All say; “Hail and welcome”

       In the first part of this invocation you are asking/inviting a powerful lord/Lady of air: one near or at the top of their evolutionary plane. You are asking them to watch you, and if you make a mistake, guide you, and if what you are trying to do needs more power than you have managed to raise, to aid you with some of their power: plus you are also asking them to lend some of their strength to the lower elementals to help them to strengthen the circle. The lower elemental powers and spirits are there to guard and protect the sacred space and all those within it.

         All you have to do now is recreate the same invocation and substitute South, West and North for the 'East', and remember to face in the right direction!

Rainbird

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Casting a circle?

               The way you Cast your sacred circle is as always up to you; as to where you cast it, thats another matter? Apart from location you have two choices; do you cast it inside or outside? I believe that it is better to cast your circle outside if you can, but not everyone has the space and or the privacy to do so.

              Many solitary witches choose to cast thier sacred circle inside thier home; but those who celebrate with friends are restricted as to how many they can invite to thier homes! If they have the privacy they can cast thier sacred circle in the garden but again you are restricted as to how many, depending on the size of the garden. Then you have to take into consideration the weather? Its no joke to stand outside in the pouring rain in just a robe!

            Thankfully the group I belong to has an 'Inner Circle' which to a certain extent restricts the numbers,  we can hold our celebrations outside in a private garden but should the weather prove to inclement we are not such a large group that we can't move in side.

           But where ever you can cast your sacred circle makes no difference as to how you cast it. The basic principles are the same:

           Draw your circle; invoke the quarters; and invite the Goddess and God in; but for every coven you have, you have a different way to cast the circle.

         Below is just one way amongst many; maybe not the right way but it works for me!

Rainbird

Casting a Sacred Circle.

             This ritual circle was written for Eóstra or the Spring Equinox (21st March). It was written as a basic 'One size fits all' ritual. All you have to do is change a word or name here and there and you have a basic template that will serve for all rituals until you get more proficient at writting your own. Why have a ritual circle. The answer is to contain   and  control the power you raise in your ritual; and also to protect those in the circle from harm be it negitive thoughts from outside or harmful spirits, sprites or elementals. If you only invite in those that are benifitial none but those with good intentions can enter! Last but not least; both parts of the ritual were written with the aim of getting as many people as possible involved, not just standing there as spectators.

Casting the Circle!

The Grounding: The Grounding can be done by the high priest in his own words. Enter the sacred space in your traditional way then the maid rings the bell three times as she says:

“Let it be known that the circle is about to be cast

Let all be here of their own free will and accord” 

Celebrant/Priest draws the boundary of the sacred circle with Staff or Athame saying:

“I cast this circle to welcome Eóstra

Goddess and herald of spring”

Celebrant/Priest raises lit taper and lights altar candles and incense saying:

“This is the essence of sunlight

Symbol of the growing light of spring

(All say) Blessings be upon this fire” 

Celebrant/Priest raises incense saying:

“This is the essence of air

Symbol of the warming winds of spring

(All say) Blessings be upon this incense” 

Celebrant/Priest raises the water saying:

“This is the symbol of the waters of life

And within it the memory of all life

(All say) Blessings be upon this water” 

Celebrant/Priestess raises the salt saying:

“This is the essence of earth

Purified through the tears of the goddess

(All say) Blessings be upon this salt” 

The Priestess drops three pinches of salt into the water as the priest stirs it deosil three times with the Athame , then the priestess passes it above the flame of the candle and through the smoke of the incense saying;

“May the blessings of the lady and her consort be upon this charged water through the union of air, fire, water and earth?”

Three is a magical number long revered by our ancestors. The physical act of walking the circle three times; the first time to seal with magical intent, the second time to seal with earth and water, and the third time to seal with fire and air, this strengthens the circle and helps to enhance the magic created within the circle.

The Priest walks deosil around the inside of the circle with the Athame drawing the circles boundaries saying.

“I cast this circle between this world and the Otherworld

Behold the circle for all to see

As we so will, so mote it be 

The priestess walks deosil from the east around the inside of the circle sprinkling the charged water saying;

“I consecrate this circle with earth and the water of life

Behold the circle with love made strong

Within it we shall fear no wrong”

The Priest walks deosil around the inside of the circle with the incense making sure that everyone and everything is spiritually fumigated through the smoke while saying;

“I consecrate this circle and those within it with the fire and air of life

Within this circle, within the light

Goddess seal this circle tight

(All say) “Blessed be”

Then the Priest says:

“Divine Eóstra on thee we call

Enter this circle and bless us all

Grant our wishes, banish our fear

Protect all those we hold most dear”

High Priestess says:

“Lord of the wild wood on thee we call

Enter this circle and protect us all

Horned hunter of the night

Keep us always in your sight” 

She who faces the east gate whilst scribing the summoning Sigel and invoking air with these words

“Hear Ye mighty lords and ladies of air and wind

You who blow all fear and negativity away, we invite you to

Enter and strengthen our circle bright and lend us your power true

Witness, guide and aid us in all the trials we must go through”

He who is stationed at the east ate finishes with these words:

“Elemental powers and Guardian spirits of the east and air

We do summon, stir and call ye forth

Enter, guard and protect this sacred space and all those within,

(All say) Lords, Ladies & Elemental powers and guardian spirits of the east and air we bid you; Hail and Welcome”

He who faces the south gate whilst scribing the summoning Sigel and invoking fire with these words:

“Hear ye radiant lords and ladies of fire

You who live within the sunlight of each day, we invite you to

Enter and strengthen our circle bright and lend us your power true

Witness, guide and aid us in all the trials we must go through

She who is stationed at the south gate finishes with these words:

“Elemental powers and spirits of the south and fire

We do summon, stir and call ye forth

Enter, guard and protect this sacred space and all those within

(All say) Lords, Ladies & Elemental powers and guardian spirits of the south and fire we bid you; Hail and Welcome”

He who faces the west gate whilst scribing the summoning Sigel and invoking water with these words:

“Hear ye great lords and ladies of water

You who live within the dancing spray, we invite you to

Enter and strengthen our circle bright and lend us your power true

Witness, guide and aid us in all the trials we must go through

She who is stationed at the west gate finishes with these words:

“Elemental powers of the west and water

We do summon, stir and call ye forth

Enter, guard and protect this sacred space and all those within

(All say) Lords, Ladies & Elemental powers and guardian spirits of the west and water we bid you; Hail and welcome”

She who faces the north gate whilst scribing the summoning Sigel and invoking earth with these words:

“Hear ye great goddess of the earth

You who are within us in every way, we invite you to

Enter and strengthen our circle bright and lend us your power true

Witness, guide and aid us in all the trials we must go through

He who is stationed at the north gate finishes with these words:

“Elemental powers of the north and earth

We do summon, stir and call ye forth

Enter, guard and protect the sacred space and all those within

(All say) Lords, Ladies & Elemental powers and guardian spirits of the north and earth we bid you; Hail and welcome”

The priestess walks deosil round the circle saying something like this;

“Behold the circle, hedged about and blessed with

Perfect love, joy and trust

So that we all may be blessed with the sanctity of perfect peace

(All say) As we so will so mote it be”

 Written by Rainbird

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Closing the Sacred Circle:

          As with opening a sacred circle, the way you close it also has to be done correctly. Why? Some say that by not closing a sacred circle properly can cause problems with stray or errant spirits or elementals that have been summoned; they may not want to go back to the ‘Other World’ from whence they came. Its also good manners to acknowledge the aid you received from all those you invited, summoned, stirred or called.

            Again the following is one that was written for Eóstra or the Spring Equinox Ritual; and again by just changing a word or name here and there it will give you a basic template, from which you can construct all your Sacred Circles; that is until you become proficient in writing your own. Last but not least; both parts of the ritual were written with the aim of getting as many people as possible involved, not just standing there as spectators.

Closing the Circle!

This should be done widdershins i.e. anti-clock wise.

She who is stationed at the north gate or tower says;

“Great Goddess of earth we thank you for your presences and strength

We honour you for your wisdom and guidance

And we thank you for your aid and blessings,

He who is stationed at the north gate says;

“Elemental powers and spirits of the north and earth,

We honour you for your protection and love,

Go if you must, stay if you will,

But know that you are forever welcome”

(All say) Hail and farewell

And then scribes the banishing Sigel for Earth;

He who is stationed at the west gate or tower says;

“Great lords & ladies of water we thank you for your presences and strength

We honour you for your wisdom and guidance

And we thank you for your blessings”

She who is stationed at the west gate says;

Elemental powers and spirits of the west and water,

We honour you for your protection and love,

Go if you must, stay if you will,

But know that you are forever welcome,

 (All say) Hail and farewell

And then scribes the banishing Sigel for Water;

He who is stationed at the south gate or tower says;

“Great lords & ladies of fire we thank you for your presences and strength

We honour you for your wisdom and guidance

And we thank you for your blessings”

She who is stationed at the south gate says;

Elemental powers and spirits of the south and fire,

We honour you for your love and protection,

Go if you must, stay if you will,

But know that you are forever welcome”

 (All say) Hail and farewell

And then scribes the banishing Sigel for Fire;

She who is stationed at the east gate or tower says;

“Great lords & ladies of air we thank you for your presences and strength

We honour you for your wisdom and guidance

And we thank you for your blessings”

He who is stationed at the east gate says;

“Elemental powers and spirits of the east and air,

We honour you for your love and protection,

Go if you must, stay if you will,

But know that you are forever welcome”

 (All say) Hail and farewell

And then scribe the banishing Sigel for Air;

Celebrant/Priestess walks widdershins round the circle saying;

“Hear ye; All elemental powers and spirits

Who came within this circle without our knowledge or invitation?

I set you free with this incantation!

With harm from none I cast you out

Now take our love around and about

As the name of the Goddess and God is spoken

This circle is open but never broken”

(All say) “So mote it be”

Ground and centre

Now all you have to do is fill in the bit in the middle?

Written by Rainbird

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Leaving the Circle?

          In a ritual it is sometimes necessary to leave and re-enter the sacred space. There is a set way/ritual for doing this safely. My own belief is that you should not leave the circle for any but the direst of reasons, unless it’s a built in part of the ritual you have designed. In this case you should adhere to the following set of rules.

         Some witches believe that to leave a circle you should cut a door at a point mid-way between the North and East directions, but I don’t think it matters to much; and it may not be appropriate if your circle is restricted in usable space, the north east may well be blocked by a wall, hedge, pond, fence or not adjacent to a door in the room and not practical to use. But wherever you cut your door you must follow certain long-established rules:

      First take your Athame and cut a slit horizontally going widdershins (anti-clockwise) for three feet. Then still using the Athame, cut upwards to a height greater than that of the tallest person who is going to use the gateway and then arching over and down to the point at which you first inserted the Athame. While doing this it is important to ‘feel’ the power of the circles boundary and envision the Athame sucking in that power and creating a warded vacuum that none may use other than those in the circle. You can at this stage add runes to guard the doorway; the rune ‘Thorn’ would be a good one to use. You can also lay a wand, besom or a rune staff of protection across the threshold of the doorway. You can also mark the doorway with candles, if you have neither rune staff nor besom or wand to hand.

     When you are ready to close and seal the circle once more, reverse the actions taken to cut the door way, envisioning the power that was sucked into the Athame as a blue static flame/nimbus pouring out from the tip to completely seal the circle once more. You can now either remove the rune staff or leave it where it lay; you can also if you wish scribe the Sigel of Earth and fire over the doorway.  

     In both opening and closing a temporary gate you may choose to use an invocation to restrict those that can enter or leave such as unfriendly energies, powers or spirits that would be at odds with that which you are trying to achieve. You could use something like the following:

 “Come Spirits of both day and night,

Come within the golden light.

Come ye come, all those that may,

Come and guard the door this day.

Around and around, out and about,

The good come in and the ill keep out.”

Researched & Written by Rainbird © 2005

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Why Initiation?

Why Initiation.

      The first degree initiation is usually offered to a neophyte (apprentice) as a way of gathering him or her into the coven proper. Up until this happens he or she is or has been on the edge so to speak of the coven, not quite a fully established member of the coven but not quite an outsider either; a member of the ‘Outer Circle’. The neophyte has probable served by tradition atleast ‘a year and a day’; although this is not always recognised as a must or as an essential period of time that must be served. If the High Priest or High Priestess deems that the neophyte is ready, the traditional period of ‘a year and a day’ can be suspended and initiation can be offered and bestowed at any time. The ‘year and a day’ is usually so that the full coven members can determine if the neophyte will fit in with the rest of the coven. This is done by way of the neophyte attending the coven moots and other open events such as chant nights open Sabbats and some Esbats (by invitation only); you don’t want to grant admittance to a disharmonious element which could disrupt the cohesion of the group mind!

       By inviting them to become a coven member via initiation, you are by default joining them to the ‘Coven or group mind’ and making sure to a certain extent that they are committed to the coven enough to go through the ritual of initiation and all it entails!

       Some covens use the ‘Taking of the Measure’ in which the initiate chooses their magical name and is dedicated to the Goddess and the God as a way to assess the suitability and dedication of the candidate, (this doesn’t mean they are a member of the inner circle, just more inner than outer circle) which again can be conducted ‘Skyclad’ (Naked) if they are not prepared to go through this ordeal then they progress no further. Some covens include the ‘Taking of the Measure’ in with the initiation.

      The initiation of a neophyte is usually (but not always) conducted ‘Skyclad for both the initiate and all those taking part, i.e. High Priest, High Priestess and coven members. It is up to the coven themselves to decide on this issue, but as a part of the initiation is ‘Perfect Love’ and ‘Perfect Trust’ ‘Skyclad’ is seen in some covens as a must!

       If it is decided that all initiations are to be held ‘Skyclad’ and the neophyte now known as the ‘postulant’ will not or cannot obey the rules, then the neophyte remains just that, a neophyte and remains outside or on the periphery of the coven until such times as he or she is willing to go ‘Skyclad’ or they leave. They will not be able to take part in the inner workings usually reserved for Esbats and the fully initiated coven members.

       For the initiate, initiation does not confer the immediate ability to access vast magical powers; but it does open doors, for want of a better word you have been baptised into the Wiccan religion, you have been introduced to the Goddess God and the Elementals of the four direction or gates, now is the time to learn more and go deeper into your studies.

       Hopefully there will be those around you that know a bit more than you do, and as they are to all intent and purposes your ‘God/Goddess’ parents in your new religion they will help you to understand and guide you on your chosen path. You can now be given tasks within the coven or at the very least take on a more responsible role within the coven.

Rainbird

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The Athame.

          The Athame or Athamé is a ceremonial black handled, double-edged dagger, and is one of several magical tools used in neo-pagan religions and various Wiccan or Witchcraft traditions. The Athame is considered to be masculine, although females often use the Athame as well. The Athame's primary use is to direct energy; such as drawing the magic/sacred circle, it’s also used to draw magical sigils in the air, and also in conjunction with the chalice (feminine) when consecrating wine etc. It can have various runes, glyphs or symbols etc etched or carved into the handle and sometimes on the blade it’s self. Most witches agree that it needn’t have a keen edge as it’s very rarely used to cut with. Some believe that it’s not necessary to have a sharp point either, Janet and Stewart Farrar in A Witches' Bible go as far as saying that the point should be blunt to avoid accidents during rituals.

Rainbird 2004

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The Boline:

          The Boline is a white handled knife with a curved blade; sometimes the blades curve is more pronounced and resembles a small sickle. The Boline is another magical tool used in ritual; unlike the Athame the Boline is used when there is a need to cut something, such as bread, cords, and herbs or perhaps a new wand or staff etc in a ritualistic way. The Boline can also have various symbols, runes or glyphs carved into the handle or etched into the blade.

Rainbird 2004

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The Chalice:

          A chalice is a goblet or footed cup intended to hold a drink. In general magical terms, it is used for sharing/drinking wine or other liquids that have been magically consecrated during a ceremony; usually during the ritual that most pagans call ‘Cakes and Ale’.

Rainbird 2004

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The Pentacle:

        The Pentacle is a five pointed star enclosed by a circle. It is usually painted or engraved on wood; wax, stone or metal (usually silver metal) but can also be drawn on paper or parchment.

         A small pentacle is used as a magical amulet and is usually hung on a chain or cord around the neck. Large pentacles are used as a sort of magical plate on which items are placed to be blessed or charge with power or used as ritual objects and offerings.

         The pentacle is thought by many to represent or symbolizes the element of Earth and is worn for protection, some witches also work within a magic circle comprised of a large pentacle drawn on the ground.

         The Pythagorean mystics worshipped the pentacle or pentagram, a pentacle which is written or drawn, because it was supposedly based on the symbol of the Goddess Kore, frequently thought to be represented by the apple core? The mystics called this symbol Pentalpha, the birth-letter interlaced five times. The symbol meant "life" or "health." The five-point star has also been known as the star of Isis, or of Isis' underground twin Nephthys. To the Egyptians the star represented the underground womb.

        The pentacle is usually shown with one point ascending; this is the point of ‘Spirit’ then going deosil (clockwise) they are named Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

For more information on Pentagrams & Pentacles Click Here

Rainbird 2006

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The Book of Shadows or Grimoire:

          The Book of Shadows or Grimoire (pronounced grim- war) is many things to many different people. To most it’s a personal diary in which they jot down anything magical they do or learn; to some it’s a detailed account of what they have done magically or spiritually plus thoughts about how it worked and how and if it can be improved. To the Coven it’s a record of events, people, Sabbats and Esbats etc that the Coven have participated in or held. All of these ‘BoS’ can contain observations and details of the magical workings, how and if they can be improved or made more effective, photographs, drawings, items cut out from other books/magazines etc, written accounts by the High Priest and Priestess and others, articles taken from the www; all of which relate to the Coven in a spiritual and/or magical way. Most people say that this should be hand written, but if you are like me (I have arthritis in my hands and can’t grip a pen for long) its ok to keep your ‘Book of Shadows’ on your computer, just make sure you back it up often in case you suffer with the curse of the crash?

Rainbird 2004

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Mother & Father Candles:

          A ‘Mother Candle’ is a wide based white candle burnt down to form a cup like receptacle so that another feminine associated coloured candle (Green or Dark brown) can be embedded in it. It is traditional to light this candle at each festival and at each moon phase in your solitary rituals. A ‘Father Candle’ is made in the same way but using masculine associated colours (Gold or rich Yellow) for the centre candle. It is traditional to light this candle at the Solstice and Equinox festivals.

Rainbird 2005

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The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water.

          The four Elements are comprised of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. On your Altar they are usually represented by; Salt=Earth; Incense=Air; Candles or small charcoal burner=Fire; a dish or receptacle of water =Water. The ‘Elementals’ and Elements are also associated with directions: e.g. Earth – North, Air – East, Fire – South and Water – West

Rainbird 2005

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