I've gotten some questions over the last few weeks about how to find one's path. How do I know which path is right for me? What do I do if what I'm reading doesn't fit what I think? The local coven isn't really right for me, what do I do?
In the beginning, it's common to have questions. I think even those who grow up being taught these beliefs at one point have to question the path they are on. It's normal. And it's okay to do. People who come to Paganism after a life of being involved in more organized religions tend to think there is a "right way" or a "wrong way" to do things, to think or to believe... and generally, I disagree with this notion. A few of the books which I have read even seem to push the "real Pagans do this" attitude... For me, that either shows the authors inability to see Paganism as a personal path, or their unwillingness to see how others can have differing beliefs from their own. Either way, I don't personally buy in to it, or advise anyone else to.
The beauty of the Pagan Path is that there are no road signs. No one is telling you how to think, where to go, how to live, who to love or how to worship. While there ARE covens and some more organized paths which do have stricter rules and ethics codes than others do, there is never a need to feel as if you HAVE to fit in to any certain path. We Pagans come in all shapes, sizes, lifestyles and belief patterns. We have the ability to think for ourselves and walk the path our hearts lead us down...
In order to find your path, there is no need to know all their is about every path out there. Frankly, doing so would be nearly impossible. However, I do suggest you at least find out the basics about the larger sects or the groups in your area. This will simply make it a little bit easier when you happen to look for information down the road and may help you to define your own beliefs a bit more.
In truth the only thing that is needed is your own heart and mind when finding a path. As an Eclectic Pagan myself, I have yet to find any specific path which has matched my path in beliefs and practice. I pull from many paths, including those which aren't technically Pagan. How can I do that? How do I know my path leads anywhere if I don't have any "road signs" to lead my way? It's simple. I looked inside me, I found my answers there.
If you are at a point where you're trying to find your own path, there are a few things you can do to help yourself find those answers. The FIRST step is to decide exactly what you believe... I suggest taking some time to yourself, put everything you have been TAUGHT out of your mind and answer a few basic questions with your heart... And remember, there are NO wrong answers.
How do you feel about the Gods, Goddesses, Higher Powers or Deities?
How do you feel about creation?
How do you feel about Death and an After life? What do you believe comes next if anything?
How do you feel about the Earth, the Universe and your connection to them?
These three very basic questions may not seem like they hold all your answers. In fact you have most likely already decided what your answers to them may be without to much pondering. BUT, these are the basic questions on which all religious paths are based. Every religion on earth began out of a need for answers to these basic questions - How did we get here? Who or What is bigger than me? What happens when I die? and How do I know I'm not alone?
Once you have these answers, you have everything you need to begin expanding. If you choose to look for a more structured path, a coven, or sect over being a solitary, these questions and their answers, will enable you to find one that matches what you already believe rather than trying to fit in to a group where you don't completely match up.
I have found over the years though that the majority of Pagans prefer the freedom of a Solitary life over that of a coven. You may hear some say that a Solitary Pagan isn't a "real Pagan," if you hear that, roll your eyes and walk away. The only way someone could be labeled not a "real Pagan" would be if they were Christian, Muslim or some other religion... And even then there are cross overs. So really, the only "unreal Pagan" is a Non-Pagan... Don't every let those more narrow minded persons define who or what you are. Paganism is about YOUR connection and YOUR heart, not someone else's There is no set in stone way to think, no God ordered dogma... Just you and your personal beliefs.
For those who are a part of a Solitary lifestyle, they may or may not follow a set path - Wicca or Druid for example. For those who do, there are a great many resources out there even without benefit of a coven or teacher. For those who do not, it's all about you... How do you feel, how do you connect. If you pick up a book or flip on a website and you don't completely agree with what you're reading - guess what, you're not wrong, and neither are they, you're simply seeing things differently...
Finding your own path seems like a scary thing to do. We tend to want to know where we are going before we start our journey, I think that's human... So see yourself as an explorer, a frontiersman, or woman... You're taking your first steps on a life long journey of self exploration, finding your place in the universe.
I wish I could tell you to go out, pick up such and such book and you'll find all your answers written there black and white. But unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - each of us has our own path to find and no one can tell us where to find it. It's up to us, just us, where we are going and how we will get there. So enjoy your journey! And remember, no one but you can decide what is or isn't okay for you!
Taking care of ourselves and taking care of the earth go hand in hand. For everything we put in or on our bodies eventually gets in to the water and earth around us. And in many cases how it got on or in our bodies has also affected out earth...
A vast many women I know - whether Pagan or not - include at least a basic skin care regime in their day at one point or another. The majority of them also include products such as foundation, lipstick, nail polish and mascara, among other things, in their day to day look. What the majority of them are NOT doing is making sure that these products they are putting on their skin is health and safe, for both them and the environment. In fact most women don't ever even think to read the ingredients lists in the products they use every day. What this means is they are repeatedly covering their skin, their eyes, their lips and their hands in chemicals they don't even know are there...
Now, it would be humanly impossible for me to list, or for you to read, every single brand, type and style of cosmetics out there... Seriously, I would never stop typing and I would still never list them all... But what I can do is give you the ingredients to watch out for and avoid...
Here are just a few of those COMMON ingredients and why you should avoid them:
PHTHALATES / FRAGRANCE - Phthalates are estrogen-mimickers that wreak havoc on the endocrine system in the human body and cause unwelcome hormonal effects. They are found in “fragrance” and nail polish. In Europe three phthalates- DEHP, DBP and BBP- are banned for use in cosmetics and in all toys and childcare articles. “Fragrance” is unregulated and can indicate the presence of up to four thousand different ingredients, many of which can be toxic or carcinogenic. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity and irritability. Forms of “fragrance” are in the majority of personal care products such as perfume, moisturizers, soap, shampoos and candles.
**Looks like this on a label: DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, DNOP.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL - Is related to anti-freeze and is a derivative of petroleum. It is the second most common ingredient in moisturizers, aside from water. It’s linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage, and is also a skin and eye irritant. It is found in sunscreens, moisturizers, baby lotion, antiperspirants and deodorants and shaving products.
**Looks like this on a label: Propylene Glycol, Proptylene Glycol, 1,2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol).
FORMALDEHYDE - Often referred to as “formalin,” is used as a preservative and has been linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive problems and asthma. It is primarily used in nail polishes, shampoos and bleach. It has been banned in Japan and Sweden.
**Looks like this on a label: formaldehyde, formalin, formic aldehyde, oxomethane, oxymethylene.
HYDROQUINONE – Is used as an active ingredient in over-the-counter products such as skin lighteners, hair bleaches, concealers, facial cleansers and sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher. It is related to cancer, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity.
**Looks like this on a label: 1,4-Benzenediol, 1,4-Dihydroxybenzene, P-Dioxybenzene, 4-Hydroxyphenol, P-Hydroxyphenol,1,4Benzenediol.
PETROLATUM/PETROLEUM - Although difficult to spot because of its many aliases, it’s most commonly known as petroleum jelly. It is a fossil fuel that is broken down into smaller components, which contain hydrocarbons, and is a common ingredient in beauty products. It can be found in moisturizers, conditioners, wax depilatories, baby creams and makeup. Petroleum derivatives have been linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive damage, immune system toxicity, endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity. It is banned in Europe.
**Looks like this on a label: petrolatum, petroleum jelly, trioxaundecanedioi acid, toluene, 4-amino-2-hydroxytuolene, BHA.
MERCURY - Is a controversial ingredient that causes damage to the brain and is blamed for autism related symptoms in children. It is most commonly found in eye products like mascara.
**Looks like this on a label: mercurous chloride, thimerosal.
MINERAL OIL - Is a petroleum derivative that has the same origins as fossil fuels. It’s an ingredient in foundations, lipsticks, lotions and makeup removers. It has been linked to a variety of things, from clogged pores to cancer. It does not allow the skin to breathe.
**Looks like this on a label: liquidum paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin wax.
LEAD - In 1978 it was banned from paint due to the dangers it causes to the body. It can affect almost every organ and system in the body. It can cause anemia, an increase in blood pressure and it can damage the brain and kidneys. Somehow traces of it can still be found in hair dye and red lipsticks.
**Although lead should be labeled in some form or fashion, it is not. Therefore, look for products labeled “Lead-free!”
COLORANTS/SYNTHETIC COLORS - Used to create make-up shades and colors, these colorants are found in countless makeup and beauty products and are listed on labels as “FD&C” or “D&C” colors. Most colorants actually are regulated by the FDA, however, most are derived from coal tar, which has been linked to cause cancer.
**Looks like this on a label: D&C, FD&C.
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE / SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE - Often found together in products acting as a foaming agent. It is a detergent which has been found to enter the brain, heart and liver and impairs the immune system. It also causes eye irritations and skin rashes. When mixed with other chemicals found in toiletries it can form carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds. It can be found in shampoos, conditioners, soaps and toothpastes.
**Looks like this on a label: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Irium, SLS, SLES, MSDS, ALES, ALS.
Now that you're ready to go rummage through your bathroom, purse and possibly that Caboodles Case I know you still have, there IS a light at the end of this tunnel. More and more companies have opted to offer Green or at the very least GreenER options, knowing that women don't find cancer a decent trade off for nicer skin. And there is even a way to check out all your favorite products and discover how safe they truly are.
Skin Deep is a Cosmetic Safety Review company which will not only allow you to find out what is in the products you use today, but give you similar products which you may want to try. Ingredients for products are listed as well as the dangers which they may carry.
Once you have discovered which of your products you need to throw out the window, or at the very least avoid buying again. It's worth noting at least a few companies which have taken the idea of Green Cosmetics and run with them. Thanks to the internet finding these companies is easier than you would think... Here are some sites worth checking out in order to find such companies - some of these you can simply order from others are review sites, but together you will be able to find the products YOU need and know that they aren't going to kill you in the process!
There are lots of other companies out there, these are just a few, and many of these you can find locally or on sites like MotherNature.com or even on sites like Amazon. As the demand for green cosmetics grows we will see them sold locally and more readily more and more. It may seem impossible to completely avoid products which are less than green and still get the results, colors and fragrances you love, but truly with a small amount of leg work it's not. And if you decide you would prefer to use the products you know and love, that's okay too... But it's always good to know there are other options out there!
Have a favorite Green or Organic Cosmetic company or product? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!
I've heard many people describe Pagans with words like "treehugger" or "environmentalist" and for a great many Pagans, they hit the nail on the head... The "green earth" movement and the "Pagan" movement progressed side by side and in many ways influenced one another, I'm sure... But just being Pagan doesn't equal green, as being green doesn't equal Pagan. Regardless of our beliefs we are all sharing this one world, and we are all responsible for doing our part to clean up the mess we have and keep things clean once we get them there.
I've heard people say that "Global Warming" is nothing more than myth and that we aren't really harming the world any more now than we always have. Now, I'm not going to get in to the is or isn't Global warming a reality conversation, that's something you need to research and discover for yourself. But, what I am going to say is we today, are seeing more and more proof that what we are doing, and what we have done is not just hurting our earth, but it's hurting us... Our lives, our children and our health.
Cancer rates are on the rise, year after year... Chemical poisonings, Brain Injuries, Developmental Disorders, Birth Defects... The list of negative environmental influences in our lives goes on and on... I could fill an entire blog just listing them, so lets not dwell. But in stead, we need to take note not only of what is happening, but how we can change it.
Now, let me be completely honest here - I am LAZY! I'm not the kind that wants to work twice as hard or pay twice as much just to fall in to the "green" category. And I don't think I'm really that different from most people out there. We work hard all day just to bring in enough money to support us and our families and we don't want to have to work harder still just to do the every day to day chores we have too...
I have to say, in no way is this my idea... In fact a great many tips I'm going to be passing on have come straight out of one of my new favorite shows, The Lazy Environmentalist. If you have access to it online, through Netflix or if you have the Sundance channel and can watch it directly, I HIGHLY recommend you watch it...
Now, the whole point of this series is to give you tips and tricks to make your every day to day life just a little greener - a little cleaner - and still allow you to live your life without making big huge painful changes! As I post future Series posts I'll come back and link them here, so bookmark this post, that way you have access to all of them in one place!
My number one biggest tip, and the only one I'm going to actually give here, is to start slow! If you try to reform your entire lifestyle in a month, or even in one year, you're going to become completely overwhelmed and unless you're some kind of super person with amazing stamina! Pick one or two changes you wish to make, and make a point of sticking with them, once you've mastered those habits, move on with one or two more. Changing your life is a slow process, accept it!
Read my This Big Blue Planet Posts by clicking the links below... Always more to come!
Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox (like the Spring Equinox) has an equal 12 hours of day and night, and is a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. It's also a time to give thanks for the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest...
The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.
Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter's Night, which is the Norse New Year.
Mabon is considered a time of the Mystery. This is our time to show honor to Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our harvests. For those of us no longer living on farmlands that "harvest" may simply be the fruits of our personal gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just of everyday life. This is a time to remember the blessings we each receive in our lives and celebrate them with those we love! May your Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!
Symbolism:Second Harvest, the Mysteries, Equality and Balance.
Symbols:wine, gourds, pine cones, acorns, grains, corn, apples, pomegranates, vines such as ivy, dried seeds, and horns of plenty.
Foods:Breads, nuts, apples, pomegranates, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.
Incense: Autumn Blend-benzoin, myrrh, and sage.
Colors: Red, orange, russet, maroon, brown, and gold.
Stones: Sapphire, lapis lazuli, and yellow agates.
Activities:Making wine, gathering dried herbs, plants, seeds and seed pods, walking in the woods, scattering offerings in harvested fields, offering libations to trees, adorning burial sites with leaves, acorns, and pine cones to honor those who have passed over.
Spellworkings:Protection, prosperity, security, and self-confidence. Also those of harmony and balance.
Deities: Goddesses-Modron, Morgan, Epona, Persephone, Pamona and the Muses. Gods-Mabon, Thoth, Thor, Hermes, and The Green Man.
So I'm sure at this point just about anyone who has ever watched the History channel or picked up a basic American History book knows that the Salem Witch Trials were based completely on fear and there were no actual Witches involved - or at the very least, not in the context of the word for which they were burned... Whether or not a victim or two would be technically categorized as witches by our usage of the word today is still up for some debate, and frankly will never be answered.
I think the first thing which should be addressed when talking about the happenings in Salem is the mindset of those living there at that time. Today, it's hard for us, even for conservative Christians in most cases, to understand the beliefs of the Puritans. Puritan beliefs were very different from what we know today. Their basic belief was that everyone's fate was predetermined and at your time of birth God decided whether or not you would go to Heaven or Hell. There for your actions didn't really matter when determining your fate. On the other hand, if you didn't live a life as close to perfect as possible it was clear that you weren't going to go to Heaven. So Puritan life was full of questions and no answers.
Their time was spent trying to live up to perfection in an attempt to prove to themselves and others that they had their name in the "book of life." Everything they did would be judged, not only by themselves, but by others because in the Puritan society, how others saw you mattered as much, if not more, as how God saw you.
Women were expected to be in the home, cooking, cleaning, bearing children, silent... They had no power, no control, no say in their own lives beyond to be a good daughter, good wife and good mother. Women were believed to be sinful and evil by nature and therefore less likely to be good Christians and less likely to be included in that small amount of souls which would be accepted in to Heaven. It is for this reason that women were not permitted to preach, enter the priesthood or participate in religious activities. It's also for this reason that it was believed women were more likely to follow the devil and become a part of his ministry.
Salem Village and the lifestyle that filled it was, believe it or not, not even typical of that day and age. So it's easy to see how it's nearly impossible for us to imagine today. Salem Village was a small land locked village about 6 miles from Salem Town which was a prosperous shipping and fishing city. Salem Town was much closer to what we today consider a "small town" but at that point it was a thriving economy full of people with different beliefs, backgrounds and convictions. For Puritans this society was simply to individualistic and to "un-Godly." Because of this the people of Salem town were majorly those who chose to separate from the more liberal Salem Town - HOWEVER, there were those who were there (mostly along the Easter cusp) who were NOT conservative Puritans and who had other reasons for living there.
It is this strict system of beliefs in combination with this minority of more liberal inhabitants that caused the unhealthy and unsteady society that birthed the trials in the first place. The Puritans of Salem were constantly looking for REASONS behind their flaws, because they all wanted to believe (of course) that they had their name in the Book of Life. So, when they sinned, they needed reasons, and as always, it's easier to blame personal flaws on the devil and witches than it is to simply admit we aren't perfect (hmm, I guess not everything has changed).
In many ways, I see this type of society almost like a balloon... Pressure builds and builds and eventually the balloon pops, scares the baby and the whole house is in an uproar... Not that that is any excuse, just that it's easy to see why and how it happens... When people are under pressure, they lash out. And not wanting to find fault in themselves, it's nearly impossible to lash out on anyone besides those minorities and outsiders of our society - this, unfortunately, is a phenomenon we continue to see today.
So, what is the story of Salem itself? What actually happened?
Well, it's really not as fantastic a story as Hollywood has made it out to be. I've heard things on movies and television stating that HUNDREDS of witches were burned in Salem, or that it was an early Wiccan Coven that was hung... All of these untruths are just that... UNTRUE! In fact the real story is simply sad, it's simply the depressing truth of what happens when superstition, strict religion and politics are allowed to run hand in hand and take over the sanity of generally good people.
It all started in 1648 in a near by town of Joanstown when the first "Witch" was sentenced to death on what is now US territories. This case, although a singular event, laid down the foundation for a great many cases to come - including the case of Salem.
Durring the winter of 1961-62, the wheels were set in motion and the Salem Witch Craze. Rev. Samuel Parris had a relatively small family for the time. He had just one daughter, Betty (9), who was of poor health, and an orphaned niece, Abigail (12), who was expected to earn her keep by caring for Better, her disabled aunt (the Rev.'s wife) and the house.
Besides housework there was little entertainment available for young Betty and Abigail. Salem Town & Boston, the closest "cities" were quite a trek over rather unforgiving roads. Because of this Samuel Parris was rarely away from town unless business absolutely required it. He did however, as any good Reverend would, leave the girls in order to visit local parishioners. Samuel was highly opposed to children's games such as hide & seek, tag and other games because he believed that playing was a sign of idleness and "An Idle Hand is the Devils Plaything."
Reading became a very popular past time through the winter months for these and other children. There was a great interest in books about prophecy and fortune telling especially among your girls and adolescents. Local girls formed small, informal circles in which to practice divination and fortune telling that they had learned through these readings as a way to pass the time through the cold months of winter.
Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail, and two other friends had formed such a circle. Tituba, the Rev. Parris' slave whom he bought while in Barbados, would often sit in and participate in such circles. She would regal the young women with stories of witches, demons and mystical animals. Soon, other girls joined the circle to listen in to Tituba's tales and participate in their fortune telling experiments.
It's unclear whether Tituba or one of their books suggested using an egg suspended in water as a form of divination, but this was how the young girls were "telling their fortunes." Knowing these types of behaviors were quite forbidden the girls were forced to keep their activities a secret. However, both Betty and Abigail began to become upset by their fortunes and frightened with the results of such sessions. Over a rather short period of time their dislike of the sessions, coupled with their guilt over being involved and their fear of being caught built up. As a result, in January 1692, the girls began acting out, throwing "fits," experiencing "trances," refused to listen to the reading of the Bible and even attempted suicide. These original two girls were joined in their actions by other young girls by the end of the month.
Concerned, the Rev. Samuel Parris called in the Salem Village physician, Dr. William Griggs to examine the girls. When no physical reasons were found as to why the girls were acting out in these ways it was determined that the girls had been "under the evil hand of witchcraft." In an effort to discover the identity of the witch, Mary Sibley advises Tituba and her husband to bake a "witches cake" and feed it to the girls. On February 25th, this is done and on February 29th, after relentless questioning by Parris, the girls named Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.
Tituba had been the most obvious suspect as she was a slave with no one to stand up for her name or reputation. She would have been seen in that society as "less than" a citizen and this would have made her an easy target. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, had already been "marked women" because of their low status in society, their unusual physical appearance and because neither of them attended church. All three women were arrested for the crime of Witchcraft.
A preliminary hearing was held on March first. Testimony was heard first from the young girls and then the accused were interrogated. Both Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne denied all involvement in witchcraft. However, with each denial the "afflicted girls" would only become more disturbed, screaming, throwing fits and even claiming that the "specters" of these women were attacking them right in the courtroom. This, in itself, I suspect would have been enough to damn the women and find them guilty of their crimes. However, this was not the only evidence against them.
Tituba, confessed to witchcraft just about immediately. She spends three full days spinning tales of her involvement with talking animals, moon lite broom stick flights, and spectral visits intended to cause harm to these children. She also testifies that a tall man from Boston bade her to sign the devils book in blood. When asked how many names were in the book she stated hers, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and six others which she could not see. It is unclear why she confesses to these crimes however, speculation around the matter tends to end in the belief that she simply wanted the trials to be over and told the interrogators what she believed they wanted to hear.
It is Tituba's confession however that sets the Salem Trials apart from earlier New England Witch Trials because unlike those previous trials which simply tried the accused and were over, her confession forces this small minded overly religious and fearful community to begin LOOKING for witches. The common belief was if Tituba could be living with a Reverend and practicing witchcraft, how could anyone be considered innocent. This combined with the already strict lifestyle and the idea that "you are what your neighbors think you are" created a wild fire which could only end badly...
The more people looked for witches the more they found. Next to be arrested were Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse. Rebecca Nurse unlike the others, was not the "usual suspect" she was seen as an upstanding older woman. Her arrest split the town with those more liberal citizens of the East supporting her and the poorer, more religiously devout and conservative farmers in the West, calling for her to be found guilty. Thirty-nine people signed a petition accounting for Rebecca Nurse's moral integrity.
By the Spring of 1692, more than 100 men and women from Salem to Boston, twenty miles away, had been arrested on a charge of Witchcraft. Even being a family member of an accused was enough to be accused yourself. The youngest of which was four year old Dorcus Good, daughter of Sarah Good. It's generally believed that Dorcus confessed in order to be with her mother, whom she no doubt missed greatly. Her size proved to be a challenge for jailers, who were forced to make a new set of chains for her tiny wrists and ankles which simply were to small for normal irons. Both of Rebecca Nurse's sisters had both been arrested and jailed. As the number of those in prison grew, simply speaking out against the ordeal was enough to earn one suspicion. Even Rev. George Burrows, the former Salem Minister who now lived in Maine, was held for trial. It seemed no one was exempt from suspicion!
As the number of accused and jailed continued to swell, it became clear that something had to be done. On June 2, 1692, the witch hunt formally moved from a series of depositions, inquires and statements against the accused to an official trial. At this point the Massachusetts Governor convened the court of Oyer and Terminer. Made up of seven judges and 12 jurors called Bridget Bishop as their first official defendant. Bridget being a female land owner was an easy target as she didn't fit in to that "ideal woman" mold with Puritan society looked for. But the most damning evidence in her case was that she had been accused of witchcraft in the past. She was found guilty that same day. Her sentence of "Death by hanging" was carried out only eight days later on Gallows hill.
The trials that followed basically repeated the informal hearings which had preceded them through March and April. Testimony and spectral evidence gathered during these original hearings were now accepted as fact and were used as evidence against the accused. As with the original hearings, when the accused witches would testify to their innocence the "afflicted" girls would act wildly throwing fits, screaming and crying out as if in pain. Documentation suggests that the girls would play a "game of copy cat" when the accused were on the stand. If the accused would role their eyes, so did the girls, if the accused would throw their hands in the air, so did the girls "proving" the control that these said witches had over them. This only added pressure to the accused to simply confess, because once a confession was heard, the girls were "cured" of all symptoms.
As it turned out, a confession was the one sure way to escape further persecution. For according to Puritan beliefs, once a person confessed it was up to God to judge their sins, not mortal man. At least 55 of the nearly 200 accused took this route and confessed to involvement with witchcraft and the devil.
This did nothing to stop the girls from continuing to accuse more and more people. In fact, once they ran low on people to accuse locally, they reached further, accusing people from at least 10 other areas outside of the Salem Village.
It's easy for me to understand WHY these girls kept up their charade the way they did. In their day women and young girls were to raised and expected to be silent help mates. These girls were able to not only gain the attention of those in their own town but they had gained an almost "rock star" status in their own time. To go from being expected to sit and listen to all of a sudden having priests, judges and other powerful men in the community not only paying attention by taking note and recording your words as fact would have been the ultimate power trip for these girls. We see similar actions today when young small town men and women become over night celebrities and the fame and power goes to their head... Their actions soon turn negative. And frankly, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to human nature.
On June 29th, 1692 the trial for Sarah Good, Sarah Wilds, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin and Rebecca Nurse began. ALL five women were found to be guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death. On July 19, they were hanged on Gallows Hill as Bridget Bishop had been before them.
Sarah Good used her last words to "curse" Judge Nicolas Noyes saying "I am no more a witch than you are a wizard. And if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink." As it turns out, Sarah's "curse" may have come true. 25 years later, as Noise lay on his death bed, he apparently choked on his own blood and expired...
On August 19th, five more people, including the former Salem Reverend, George Burroughs are added to the list of those hanged. Rev. George Burroughs, stood at the gallows and recited, to the letter, the Lords Prayer before his death. Witches it was thought could not even bare to hear the prayer, let alone have the ability to say it properly, as it was thought to be holy. This act may have gone a long way in ending the madness. However, on September 22nd, another eight people were hanged. These eight however, were the last to die at Gallows Hill.
Throughout the entire ordeal, more than 200 persons were accused, arrested and imprisoned as witches. Twenty-four lost their lives, 19 were hanged, 4 died in prison, and one, Giles Cory, was pressed to death.
Giles Cory knew that the court could not proceed to trial without his entry of a Guilty or Not Guilty Plea, so he simply refused to enter one. In an effort to force him to enter a plea the authorities used a technique, which was common in England at the time, where large stones were placed on top of a person in an effort to "press the truth out of them." He was laid on the ground, a board was placed atop him and a large stone placed atop the board. He was asked to enter a plea, when he refused to speak, a second stone was placed... More and more stones were added until at the very end all he would say was "MORE WEIGHT." Eventually, his chest simply gave way and he died.
Come the fall of 1692 the patients of the towns people and the Judges with the girls is being tested. The girls begin to accuse those who are not as easily seen as witches - Men, Children, and the "upper class." When rumors arise that the wives of the Governor and another local Reverend are next to be accused, that patients is officially gone!
The Governor dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer on October 29th and moves the remaining cases to Superior Court for trial. It is at this point, when the Spectral evidence, which had served such to be the deciding factor in ALL previous trials, was no longer accepted. This was due in part to the actions of Increase Mather, father of Cotton Mather, who upon visiting the prisons on October 19 found that a great many of the confessors had since recanted their confessions. He stated: "Tis better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned." As a result 49 of the 52 remaining prisoners were acquitted and released from prison. The final 3 remained in prison until the spring of 1693 when they were officially pardoned. Tituba was sold back in to slavery in order to pay for her expenses.
Five years later, the Salem Community finally started to see the error of their ways. On January 16th, 1697 a day of public fasting was held at Salem in order to ask God to forgive their past sins. Judge Samuel Sewall and all 12 of the Jurors who had been involved in the condemnation of the accused witches would sign a petition, as a public show of their repentance. Over the following years, the majority of the Judges involved would also make acts of appology. However, of the original girls, only ONE, Anne Puttnam, would ever apologize for her actions. At age 27, she blamed the Devil for having deluded her and causing her to take innocent lives.
In 1711, the Commonwealth of Mass. officially reversed the verdicts of 22 of the 31 convicted of witchcraft and the State paid the survivors and their families 600 British Pounds each as restitution. In 1957, the guilty sentence of the remaining nine would be reversed as well. **Yes, it seriously took nearly 250 years!**
Various theories abound as to WHY these girls did what they did. Nearly 300 years later, there is still speculation and no answers. Many simply buy in to the belief that these girls started their charade in an effort to get out of trouble and once they discovered fame, they were simply having to much fun to stop... While others believe these girls honestly believed these people were witches, having been influenced by the accusations and thinking of their parents and those around them. And there is also the idea that these trials were a money making scheme... In those days when you were accused of a crime of this level, your estate was taken and belongings were auctioned off as a way to pay for your trial, jail time and in some cases execution. In the end, we have no idea.
It is worth noting however, that there was ONE positive outcome of these trials. As the court system discovered the flaws behind these trials, this was to be the last notable time when a person's guilt was automatically assumed by the courts (officially anyways) and the new system of "innocent until PROVEN guilty" was born from this fault. This is also the last documented case where "spectral" or similar forms of evidence were permitted...
I discovered The Secret through a good friend and mentor of mine, Jennifer May. I started my home business thinking I was going to sign up, work a few hours here and there and earn a big fat check. When that didn't happen, I was finding myself really getting depressed! I called her up and told her, "Jen, I think I'm gonna quit." She said something to me then that I really needed to hear! She said, "Sabrina, you can quit now and you will never know what you could have tomorrow. Or you can learn to change how you see things and see that you have great potential today."
She then sent me an email with a link to watch The Secret, which she had been telling me to watch for a month. She said, "Take the time to watch this and then if you really want to quit, no one will stop you." I watched the video and never looked back. It's been an adventure for me to try to teach myself how to think again, but it's been more than worth it!
The Law of Attraction —the concept that our thoughts and feelings create our experiences, and that we attract to ourselves what we focus our attention on—has been known to sages for thousands of years. Because of this, you can use the principles of the law of attraction to relieve stress, negative thoughts, and to attract the life you want. (I’ve used it in my business and in my personal life, and it works!) The following steps can lead you to the life you envision, via the law of attraction.
Click Here for a Great Article on how to start using the Secret (Laws of Attraction).
Click Here for the Free Online Movie of The Secret.
An Athame, or black handled knife, is one of the more common tools for Wiccans and present day Witches. It has a history spanning many thousand years and through those years has had many different purposes. Today, the Athame, isn't generally used for physical cutting. It's primary use is to direct energies and can be interchangeable with a wand within many traditions.
Since the Athame is an instrument of command and power it's not usually used for invocation. This is because it's better to ask for the divine to be present than it is to command it to be so.
The double-edged blade of an Athame is usually dulled, as it is not needed to cut. While some say the handle must be black it's not a requirement. However, the black handle does have some advantages to it. Because black is used to absorb power, some of the energy directed with the blade is absorbed in to the handle. However, many believe that if your connection to the athame isn't strong enough this small amount of energy will be lost anyways. It's this reason that many choose an Athame which they are drawn to over another simply for handle color. As with any other tool, what matters more than how it looks is how YOU connect with it and how it makes YOU feel. Now, that said, SOME traditions do require a blade of particular color and style, should this be the case for your path, be sure to take that in to account when shopping!
Some prefer to engrave their Athames with magickal symbols, sigils, runes or lettering. However, like all magickal tools, the Athame gains power through usage more than through anything else. If you should choose to engrave your Athame, kits are sold to help you, or you can simply free hand it, but it's not necessary to do unless your specific tradition requires it.
Most practitioners see the Athame as connected to both the element of Air and the direction of East. The blade is often seen as representing intelligence and learning. Others connect it to the Warrior of the South. As with the wand, and other tools, the correspondence which speaks to you is what you should go with. Either way, it's always connected to or meant to represent the Male aspect of the divine because of it's phallic nature.
Sometimes you'll find different traditions use a Sword in place of an Athame. When this happens, or should it be your preference, the sword is ascribed with the same associations and alignments as the Athame. But the sheer size of a sword makes transportation an issue for many and indoor usage becomes rather impracticable for the same reason. You may find that a coven will invest in a sword, but most individuals prefer the Athame, simply for convenience.
I am a HUGE fan of Earth Mama Angel Baby products, so I am stocking up on stuff before my lil one is born. While surfing through the site to pick out all the goodies I MUST HAVE I came across this free eBook... And it's beyond worth sharing. Even if you aren't breast feeding we all know someone who is or will be so make sure to pass it on. It's not going to cost you a dime and there is tons to learn!
I've touched on the importance of Prayer in previous posts and we all know that the vast majority of Pagans understand the use of Magick in their day to day life. However, I have been wanting to touch on what each of these are, how they benefit us and how they are different. For me, I see BOTH to be a vital part of every day life.
Many people view Prayer and Magick as one and the same, however in fact there is a difference... But what is that difference? Well, it's fairly simple... Magick is what we do any time we put OUR energy in to creating change. While this seems to me a fairly basic explanation, it really isn't any more complicated than that... Magick is the art of change - simple as that. So, then, what is Prayer? Well, prayer really isn't any more complicated than Magick is... Prayer is simply the art of speaking to or communicating with our Higher Power. Now, this can be done by simply talking to them or through elaborate ritual, but the communication is what matters, not the mode.
So, is one better than the other? NO. In fact, for many reasons they don't really compare at all... Many of us use Prayer simply as a way to connect with out Higher Power. You'll find that within the world of Paganism Prayer is used less for requests and more for connection than in other walks of life. Prayer of devotion, thanks and simple discussion are most common, however that doesn't mean that it's improper to use that time to request a blessing or aid as well. Magick work, be it through simply visualization and action, spell work or some other form, is instead the act of using ones own focused energy and creating change - no third party or Higher Power needed... However, depending on how one views energy connections, you could see a connection between Prayer and Magick with no confrontation...
There is this idea that Prayer is something which is exclusive to Abrahamic Paths. This however is a HUGE misconception. We have images of prayer through paintings dating back well before Christianity or even Judaism became popular and in areas of the world where their influence would not have been felt. By this same reasoning many people feel that Magick is exclusive to Pagan Paths alone, again, this is a grave misconception... Magick is something which has been used, like Prayer, since the beginning of humanity. Again, we see proof of this throughout a vast many civilizations and areas of the world. Whether used together or alone, it's important to understand the differences between the two and the benefits of both to us so that we can best access our own power and learn how to best use that power...
Being Pagan in a non-Pagan world can be difficult, and one way to keep your spirituality on track, is to have certain daily rituals or routines. Having something in your life that is spiritual each day can go a long way in deepening your relationship with the Divine.
Daily meditation - This is a good activity if you have the time and peace to do it. As a busy mom, I find it hard to fit this into my daily routine. Take 10-15 minutes every day to sit alone with your thoughts. Your specific mode of meditation is up to you. You can either focus on reducing stress or relaxation, or use your meditation time for more spiritual pursuits. If you like guided meditations, you can find some here at Learningmeditation.com or try a book of specifically Pagan ones, called Magical Meditations.
Keep an altar - Having an altar isn't exactly an activity, but seeing your sacred space every day is a great visual cue. You can make an altar anywhere, on a kitchen counter-top, bedside table, fireplace mantle or bookshelf. Add traditional Wiccan items such as a chalice or small cauldron, or you can use anything that strikes a chord with your personal path. Even just a simple arrangement of candles might be enough. Remember this is your sacred place, so make sure to keep it free of clutter and dust.
Daily reading - Though there are some books designed to be read each day, you can apply this practice to any book. Find a book that you are interested in, and make the commitment to read some each and every day. You don't necessarily have to read an entire chapter. Or you can find a website or email newsletter that offers a daily offering (like the Pagan Daily Devotionals or DailyOM).
Wear jewelery - It doesn't need to be overly blatant or even something specifically Pagan (like a pentacle), but having a piece of jewelery that has special meaning for you can be a constant spiritual reminder.
Have a sacred plant - A similar idea to having an altar, but a plant requires care and interaction a little bit more. This would have more significance if your path is Nature-based. Water it, clear off dead leaves or flowers, and even talk to it each day. Your little piece of the great outdoors.
Now, these may be great tips to keep you spiritually charged each day, but if you are in the broom closet for whatever reason, they may not suit your situation. I don't recommend flaunting your beliefs with a large pentacle around your neck if you work in a conservative office, for example.
The cauldron is a commonly portrayed tool, although not all modern Witches have one. There is a great deal of history and tradition, both mundane and magickal associated with the cauldron and for modern day witches it is a vessel where magickal transformation happens. Everything from brewing of potions to burning of incense and a great many other uses.
A few examples cauldrons throughout history and in present day would be the Gundestrup cauldron found in Denmark and even the Olympic Flame which burns throughout the Olympic games. Origins and reasons for these cauldrons are largely debated, but the fact is that the Cauldron has always, and will always be a great symbol of power.
At one point in history every home would have had a cauldron. They were large, wide mouthed pots placed in the hearth of the home over a flame. These cauldrons were used mostly for cooking, however for those who practiced the magickal or medicinal arts these large pots were also used for their trade to mix up or cook any number of potions, ointments and whatnot... They were even used in a form of divination known as scrying, where they were filled with water and gazed upon in search of answers.
Today's Witches tend to see the cauldron as a symbol of the Feminine Divine. It's associated with the element of water and the west and has connections with reincarnation and rebirth. Modern Wicca and Paganism's views of the cauldron have been greatly impacted by the myths surrounding Cerridwen.
The cauldron is used for different purposes depending on the ritual. Because of this the cauldron should be cast iron or similar material to resist heat. In addition it should rest on three legs, to signify Wisdom, Inspiration and Rebirth or Transformation. And although it should have a wide mouth, it's mouth should be smaller than the largest part of the cauldron's belly, in order so that it should have no difficulty holding liquids, flames or other objects.
A lid is recommended, but not a necessity. If a lid fits tight enough it can be used to snuff out the flames from a fire. Depending on where you purchase your cauldron you may have options with and without a lid, and many different sizes I'm sure. As with any tool, find one that fits your needs and tastes. Larger cauldrons are very impractical for a solitary practitioner, and there are many smaller "alter top" versions available.
Many of the traditional uses of a cauldron have been replaced today by a simple pot on the stove, or a mirror in the case of scrying. Because of this, the cauldron isn't something that everyone will need or even choose to use. If you feel drawn to a cauldron, there is nothing wrong with having one, but there is no need to feel compelled to buy one!