As you read various books and websites, you’ll start seeing (if you haven’t already) long lists of how this plant is associated with this planet, or that deity, or that day of the week, or that concept (love, prosperity, healing, whatever.) These are called ‘correspondences’.
One magical theory is that it is easier to reach out and affect (change) the world if we use something that is connected to what we’re trying to do. We can’t reach out directly and touch everyone who might give us money, for example – but if there’s a herb, or stone, or whatever that’s closely associated with that thing, we can go and do something with that, instead.
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Many people following a Wiccan-based or religious witchcraft path celebrate both the Sabbats in some form (the solar holidays), as well as the Esbats, or lunar holidays.
In many paths, the Sabbats are seen more as a celebratory time (a chance to pause and reflect on the seasonal change, while the Esbats are seen as a more practical time: a time to do magic, divination, and other workings. You don’t have to follow this (lots of people include some divination, magic, or other workings in their Sabbat work, for example), but it can be a good way to start figuring out what you’re doing.
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Many people get confused about the difference between altars and shrines.
Most simply, an altar is a ritual tool that holds other tools, and that helps you direct and anchor the energy of your working. That’s why so many altars are made either of wood or of stone – both materials make it particularly easy to turn the altar into an anchor for all the other energy work of the ritual. Many religions use an altar as a central focus for worship and ritual – in part because it’s very practical. It gives you a place to put all the other stuff you use in ritual, so it’s right at hand.
A shrine, in contrast, is a place where we honor a particular deity, spirit, or other entity. They’re common in a wide range of religions too – you can see fabulous Buddhist and Hindu shrines throughout Asia, many Catholic shrines to saints, and there are many other historical examples.
So, a given physical space can be an altar, a shrine, or both, depending on what you’re doing.
So, what does that mean in practice?
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Another example of something we might learn to do is casting a circle or getting started with ritual. For this page (unlike the candle page), I’m not going to give you all the information – but I am going to suggest some places to start, and an order to try learning about things in.
Continue reading Example: Casting a circle
One question that often comes up is why we cast a circle in the first place. There are a number of possible answers to this, and which ones apply to what you’re doing depend a lot on you, what you’re doing, and some other things I’ll talk about below.
What’s a circle?
Good question. For the purposes of this page (and this site), let’s define it as a temporary space with clearly defined energetic boundaries that provides a known space for ritual, magic, or similar controlled change.
Continue reading What’s a circle for?
One thing you’ll see come up over and over again is the idea that you need to develop your will in order to do effective magic – and many forms of effective ritual.
What this means is that you need to increase your ability to:
- decide what you’re going to do.
- decide how you’re going to do it.
- do it.
- and remain focused on your goal while doing it.
This is both very simple in some ways, and very complicated.
Continue reading Developing will
Beginning to develop a daily (or regular) practice is a great way to get started. By building things into our everyday life, we learn to live the values of our religion, and it gets easier and easier to integrate into everything we do.
Daily practices (or at least regular ones) can also help us build skills, focus, and willpower that are helpful when we want to do something longer and more complex (such as a Sabbat or Esbat ritual). It’s just like learning to play a musical instrument, or a sport – some things will come easily, and some things will take some practice. And some things, you need to build up some muscles and stamina to be able to do them for longer. Daily practices help us with all of that.
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Using the basic process for learning a new thing that I described in the article on first steps, let’s start by looking at something relatively simple – candles. I picked candles because they are relatively simple to talk about, but they also offer some choices (in material) and some safety considerations, so they make a good first example of how this process works.
Continue reading Example: Candles
One of the questions that comes up for many people is about magic, and I wanted to expand on what I said over in the “What is Paganism?” post. Here’s the thing: there are a number of different ways to view magic. Some of them are obvious deliberate actions (like working a spell for a particular purpose) but some of them are a lot more about knowing yourself, and using specific techniques to create the changes you want to have happen.
The way I look at magic is partly psychology, and partly a technology in a classic sense (the art, craft, or skill of making things happen).
Continue reading The question of magic