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So sorry I've been gone!

My dear readers, as you have noticed my posts have been dwindling as of late, and I must apologize for that fact. However, this month has simply been out of control! We first suffered the lost of my young cousin in a terrible accident. We then welcomed my wonderful new daughter in to the world. Between the two I simply haven't had the time or energy to write. Going in to the new year however, I feel a new energy and promise to do my best to reestablish a steady writing pace. Please look for new posts over the coming days and weeks and please understand that with a newborn I may not be as active as I would like to be, but I will do my best!

As always thanks for reading!
Blessed Be!

I would also like to take this moment to introduce my new baby girl!

Madeline Alice
Born 12/17

"Dark Magick"

Recently there was a question posed in one of the Pagan Online Forums which I frequent about Dark Magick and Dark Deities. The woman posing the question had some very good and what I would think are common questions. Now, I don't know how "new" this woman is, but I found her questions to be quite the inspiration for a new post here.

Initially her point was balance. The vast majority of Pagans believe that life needs and should be balanced. But if we shy away from the "Dark" aspects, how can we truly achieve balance because both light and dark are needed for there to be true balance.

I for one, have never been one to shy away from the darker aspects of life, faith or magick. Although I grew up in a strict Christian home, my mother was, and is, a HUGE E.A.Poe & early Horror fan... So I kinda grew up loving the "darker" aspects of life and seeing them as "normal." Maybe I grew up a little twisted, but I love all that stuff. So when it came to things like Dark Deities or Dark Magick, I was always able to see both sides of the argument (if you will). But I think many see Dark as pure negative or as a "taboo." I've also found that many Pagan Paths tend to push the idea that "Dark" Magick or Deities are "off limits" because they breed negativity. However, that then begs the question - Where's the balance?

What is important to understand and remember is that everything IS balanced, and even those aspects of life or Magick which may seem to be "Dark" have a "Light" aspect to them. Without Death, we can not have Rebirth, without an End, we can not have a New Beginning... Every Dark Deity has "Light" aspects to them, just as every "Light" Deity has aspects which can be used for "Dark" means.

I don't want to get in to telling you what you should or shouldn't do. However, my general rule is "Think, Consider, Act, Reflect." Think about what you are going to do. Consider how it is going to affect YOU and OTHERS. Carry through your Actions. And don't forget to Reflect on the outcome. Learn from every action you take, no matter the outcome.

Magick itself has NO color, the color of magick comes purely from intent. I make this point because there are lots of books out there, lots of lectures out there and lots of witches out there that will make statements like "Real Witches don't do Dark or Black Magick." But the truth is Witches do Magick - Period! There is no "this is black" and "this is white" - No clear line in the sand. What this means is what is or isn't Dark to one of us, isn't to another.

If you consider what actions you are going to take and you determine they are the best actions to take in order to get the outcome you want, there is NO ONE that can tell you different. Magick is no different from life. IF you wouldn't do it physically, don't do it magickally. Beyond that, there is no hard and fast law of what you should or shouldn't do...

What all this really means is that contrary to popular belief, the "Dark" does not need to be avoided. In fact, it's nearly impossible to do so because even those aspects of life which we see as a positive have to be balanced with the negative. Light and Dark, Yin & Yang... There is no purity, no perfection, it's impossible. If you are taking actions you feel are proper, that's all that matters, regardless of how someone else may label those actions.

A Dutch Santa Claus??

For most American's Santa Claus is and always will be THE symbol of Christmas and Childhood Joy. Most people don't assign him any real religious significance, just a traditional one. But the truth is Santa is full of religious AND traditional significance!

Santa Clause as we know him today is largely based on the story of St. Nicholas, a 4th century Christian Bishop from what is now Turkey. He was known for his habit of giving gifts to the poor. One memorable story has him meeting a pious but very poor man who had three daughters. In order to save the girls from a life of prostitution he presented the father with dowries. In most European countries he is still portrayed as a white haired bearded bishop in his clerical robes. Later he became the patron saint of a great many groups including children, the impoverished and prostitutes...

In addition to his European influences he also has a history among early Germanic Tribes. One of their major Gods was Odin, the ruler of Asgard. Odin is usually shown as an old man with a long white beard (not unlike St. Nicholas). Odin was often depicted as leading a hunting party through the skies where he rode his eight legged horse named Sleipnir. Portions of the Poetic Eddas, Sleipnir is described as being able to leap great distances, which has been compared to Santa's reindeer by some modern scholars.

During winter months children would place their boots near the chimney and fill them with straw and carrots as gifts for Sleipnir. As a reward for this, Odin would leave gifts in their boots when he flew over head. As these Germanic countries adopted the new religion of Christianity, this practice not only survived but evolved in an effort to fit the new beliefs. It was this evolution which forced Odin out and ushered in the days of "Good ol' St. Nick. Today the practice of hanging stockings by the chimney has replaced boots by the fire, but it's easy to see how closely related the practices are.

Santa Claus as we know him today was not introduced until around 1825 in the form of a narrative poem by a man named Clement C. Moore. However, the ideas which would become Santa were originally introduced to the Americas by Dutch settlers who arrived in New Amsterdam as they brought with them the practice of leaving their shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with gifts. They also brought with them the name Sinterklaas, the name which eventually because Santa Claus.

Clement C. Moore's poem, which introduced Santa Claus to the world was originally titled "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Today, it's better known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." This is also the original source of the names for Santa's reindeer as well as the "jolly old elf" description...

Levels of Being...

Okay, I've done a few posts about "Monsters" and/or Metaphysical beings, and of course the subject of Ghosts comes up more than enough all over the place. So I've been wanting to do a post that features the different levels of being and how each affect the world around us...

All forms of Magickal theory speak of various realms or levels of being, all of which interconnect and affect one another. And all are present at every moment in our lives, even if we don't recognize it. Now, I'm not talking about some alternate universe from a bad SciFi flick, but instead other aspects of the world we live in. Generally, our culture focuses purely on the physical realm and tends to completely ignore the other more subtle realities which surround us, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. Each of these levels are present at every moment of every day of everyone's life. These levels are a part of the totality of each individual human being and it's this habit of material-mindedness which keeps us from perceiving the many-leveled complexity of ourselves and our own reality.

There are many different ways which I have heard of for classifying these different realms/levels. And just to make a note, I don't see any reason why these levels need to necessarily be limited to one "realm" in each category, but to simplicity sake, I'm not getting in to all that... It's also worth noting that while I am going to speak of "higher" and "lower" levels/realms, it's purely metaphor in an effort to help with understanding. Think of the "higher" and "lower" simply as closer to and further from "purity" but as I noted earlier, these are constantly interacting with and present within each other...

There are five main "categories" of levels, and I'm stating it that way purely to allow for beliefs which may include multiple realms on within some of these levels...

The Physical

The densest and "lowest" of the levels, identical to our physical matter as we perceive it with our five every day senses. For us humans, this level corresponds to the body itself, what we see as normal every day...

The Ethereal
This level is second rung on the "ladder"and is the level of life force. Closely linked with the breath and living matter, it's also the framework of subtle energies on which all physical matter is arranged. For human beings this level corresponds to the aura, also called the etheric body, which is the subtle body of vital energy.

The Astral
This level, which is the third "rung," is the level or concrete consciousness. This is the realm of dreams, imagination and mental activity.  In human beings this level corresponds to the astral body, the subtle body of imagination and the personality that is the vehicle for most out-of-body experiences.

The Mental
Forth on the ladder from the bottom, we have the level of abstract consciousness. This is the realm of timeless and spaceless meaning, the laws of mathematics, and the fundamental patterns of the cosmos... In human terms, we're talking about the mental body, the essential and immortal pattern of the self.

The Spiritual
The "highest" level, this is the level of primal unity from which all other levels emanate and to which they all return. This is, for humans, the level with corresponds to the spiritual body, the transcendent core of the self.

Now, the physical level is of course relatively familiar to us today. We understand how and why it works the way it works and few have arguments with the findings of modern day science about this subject. Although there is a general understanding that, from a magickal perspective, the scientific view tends to be rather incomplete. In addition the Spiritual level tends to be at least a concept that the majority of us understand simply because it's the primary focus of today's major religions. However, these intermediate levels -- Ethereal, Astral & Mental -- that remain largely unexplored and misunderstood. These also happen to be the levels which we need to have at least a basic understanding of when we are talking about other "beings," astral travel, divination, and any number of other subjects...  So, lets explore them a little bit...

For subjects like "beings" and ghosts, the etheric level is in many ways the most important. It has a number of characteristics that need to be kept in mind. First of all, this level is very close to ordinary matter. In exists in space and time, just like matter, and can affect the physical level directly. It's these "etheric forces" (known as chi or ki) which are concentrated and controlled in various forms of Asian martial arts in order to accomplish their more spectacular feats... 

The energies of the etheric level serve as a vehicle for different kinds of consciousness and can be shaped and reshaped by our conscious imagination & will. They can also be concentrated or defused by various methods. When concentrated, they take on a certain degree of apparent solidity and can be felt directly by the nerve endings in humans. They can also exert pressure on physical objects and appear to have physical weight and inertia. In this state they are even sometimes mistaken for solid or semi-solid matter. When defused, on the other hand, etheric energy becomes intangible and almost impossible to detect, unless the necessary disciplines of awareness have been mastered.

The astral level, which is the level of concrete consciousness, is nearly as important as the etheric when trying to understand magick, magickal creatures and even our own existence.  This level is the level of dreams, and because of that it's a level that even though most of us don't understand, it's a level which we each experience on just about a nightly basis.

Whats more it's central to magickal understandings that the Astral shapes the Etheric, just as the Etheric shapes the Physical. A pattern formulated with enough intensity on the astral level will reshape the subtle substance on the etheric level, which then, in turn will tend to reshape the material substance of the physical level. THIS is the basic formula for magick!

In turn, any event which takes place on the physical level echoes patterns already established on the etheric and astral levels, and can be perceived in advance of the physical event by those more in tune with the higher levels. THIS is the basic formula for divination!

Often we divide the astral level into "lower" and "upper" sub-levels for practical purposes. (Again, as before these "upper" & "lower" are metaphoric and not physical) The "lower" aspects to the astral level has more in common with the etheric and physical levels, while the "upper" has more in common with the mental and spiritual levels.

You may think the mental level is one which we are all rather familiar with, however this is only half true. This is the level where natural laws exist as concrete realities. Spaceless and timeless, it provides the fundamental patterns on which all manifestations on the lower levels is based. The patterns are combined and interwoven by the processes of the astral level, which is neither quite in time and space nor quite outside of them (again, think dreams) and then reflected in various complex forms into the etheric level, which is known entirely in space and time as we know them...

While this information may all have just gotten completely lost inside your growing headache, understanding these levels of being is imperative for understanding basic Metaphysical studies, including Magickal and Paranormal studies as well as our simple every day life on deeper levels. What I have covered here is of course only the most basic information, to cover each level in detail would take books and books, and is simply more than I could cover here. What is important is to understand how these levels exist in our own world and how they interact with one another rather than what level contains what beings and how they interact with us at this point... Although to completely understand studies of Magickal beings, Paranormal beings and Magick in general further study is always a good thing. If however, you are happy to take some things on faith, you can save yourself a lifetime of study.

**For more in depth information on these levels, what they contain and how they interact refer to the book Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings

Does Exorcism have a place in the Pagan Community?

According to the Catholic Church, there are not enough Priests who have the ability to preform exorcisms. Because of this the nation's Bishops are holding a two day conference on how to conduct them. Starting Saturday more than 50 Bishops and 60 Priests gathered together to learn both the liturgy and traditions associated with the rite. This news has brought up quite a few questions in the "newly Pagan" and non-Pagan community about exorcism, the practice, the need and it's use both in and out of the Christian belief system.

While I am no expert on the subject, especially from a Christian perspective, I do understand the basics and have even been present for a very basic rite. Exorcism is generally the removal of energy or beings from either a space or person. Now, most of us have the picture of Linda Blair spitting green in our minds the moment the word is used, but this is really nothing but a very "Hollywood-ized" version of a worst case scenario.

In most cases, exorcism is in fact used to remove negative energy or entities, but the reality is only on the rarest occasion anywhere nearly as violent or dramatic as popular media would like you to believe. As with the majority of spiritual realities Hollywood & popular media do their best to find the most out of this world case, stretch & twist the truth so that it's barely recognizable and then they say "based on a true story" and call it entertainment...  Is it fun to watch? Oh, yeah! But is it worth developing realistic beliefs around? Never! The problem is with subjects of this nature, the ONLY exposure most people get is through these very unrealistic sources... This tends to lead to more than a few mislead persons!

So, is exorcism even recognized in the Pagan community? Well, yes and no. Exorcism has been used throughout just about every belief system history has held... However, because of those same misconceptions I touched on earlier, many Pagans equate Exorcism with Catholicism and a belief in the Devil, neither of which are of course a part of their beliefs. So when the subject or thought does come up, it's usually dismissed just as easily as the idea of Baptism. That does not however override the very obvious fact that Exorcism does have it's place in the majority of Pagan communities.

It is worth noting that, yes, most exorcisms are used to rid either persons or places of negativity. And it's fairly easy to see why... Obviously people are more ready to rid themselves of negativity than they are of peaceful or even positive energies. However, technically the removal of ANY energy or spirit-being from either a place or a person through the use of religious rite or ritual is in fact exorcism.

While I won't be getting in to all the "how-to" information here, I feel there are some important facts that do need to be touched on. First of all, like ANY religious or spiritual rites or rituals it's important to have all the proper information and facts PRIOR to attempting to do one yourself. If you don't have access to someone who has done one in the past, at least contact someone who can walk you through it, and if you feel the situation could be dangerous - usually because of extremely negative energies - look for other options FIRST.  Secondly, exorcism is NOT usually needed! In fact they are only really needed for extreme cases, usually just a general area cleansing or simple grounding is enough to create the changes desired.

There are in fact documented cases throughout the vast majority of early civilizations... Today, many "native" or tribal religions still have the practice, as do some better known world religions including Hinduism, and of course Christianity. The practice has fallen off in most present day faiths, but in the rare occasion that it's needed, it is still used. For today's Pagans the idea seems odd, but again, that's because the vast majority have bought in to popular propaganda.

So when is exorcism actually needed? Well, the simplest answer is when all other attempts to rid yourself of a strong negative (or positive) energy source have failed. I would fair to guess the majority of these are needed because inexperienced persons open themselves up for spirit possession without the proper knowledge or understanding of how to handle the situation or what they are actually opening themselves up for. However, there are of course those cases where persons were simply unaware of the possibility of possession and of so were both ill-prepared and unable to deal with the situation once it took place. Of course most possessions are in fact not dangerous, but any time we open ourselves up to outside energies or beings we take that risk... This is the number one reason I tend to simply advise against doing advanced occult rituals or playing possessive games without the understanding and experience needed.

Many Pagans don't buy in to the idea or belief of "Demons," labeling it a "Christian Notion." However, again, there is just as much documentation of such beings outside the Christian belief system as there is within it. While I will go in to greater detail about Demons in further posts, it's safe to say that whatever you call them, even most Pagans will agree that there are spirit beings out there who feed off of our energies and who will and occasionally can cause harm to persons. Should this happen, the first step should be a cleansing and grounding. IF that yields no benefits, exorcism may be worth looking in to.

Through the use of Spiritual or Religious Rites and Rituals an experienced Priest or Priestess (or for that matter anyone with the strength and experience) can force the negative energies out by forcing positive energies IN. It takes strength, endurance and above all experience... But it DOES in fact have a place in the Pagan community!

This Big Blue Planet: Reading Labels

Recently I read an article about how many "Green" products really aren't. And it reminded me of a story, which I felt I needed to share here. When I first started trying to switch over to a greener more eco-friendly lifestyle I found it to be not quite as easy as I first thought. One of the first thing I switched was our dish detergent, because it made sense to be a good place to start - I mean, why put all those extra chemicals on the dishes we were going to put out food on? So, that's where I decided to start.

I was super excited to see that there were a number of name brand companies making products labeled "Green," "Natural" or "Eco-Friendly." So, the next time I was at the store I picked one up and put it in the buggy... I didn't ever think to read the label. Why would I? I saw words like "All Natural" and "Eco-Friendly" right on the label, why would I have cause to think it wasn't really so green?

So, anyways, I got home, put away  the groceries and started to load the dishwasher. I unscrewed the lid and pulled back the foil so I could fill the machine. When I did I splashed some of the product on my hand and shirt, which of course, was brand new & black (figures right?).  At the time I didn't think anything of it. I figured I would finish loading the dishes, and then go clean up my hands and shirt, no big deal... Well, I was wrong! I finished up the dishes and went to clean up...

Now, I am HIGHLY allergic to Chlorine, but this was supposed to be a natural and green product, why would I worry about Chlorine? Well, I should have! Not only was my shirt (you know the brand new black one) ruined, but my hand had broken out in an allergic rash. At that point, I went to read the label.  Let me just say, this was FAR from Green or Eco-Friendly!

It was at that point that I started to do some more homework about what it means to be a green or eco-friendly product. As I learned there is really no guidelines or rules which are required to be met in order to label something as green, all natural or eco-friendly. These terms are literally free for companies to use, regardless of how truthful the statement is. What I found was many companies replace one or two chemicals with a more natural option and then call the entire product green, while not actually creating a product which is eco-friendly...

What I found to be even more disturbing is that a growing number of companies are sprouting up claiming to have Green products, while masking their ingredients behind "code words" in an effort to trick customers in to purchasing their products - usually at a higher price than they could purchase similar products somewhere else.

It's for this reason that it's very important to read the labels to everything prior to purchasing. If you are looking to purchase a product online, request an ingredients list or copy of the label before ordering. IF a company refuses to provide you with these things, my advice is to look elsewhere for products which are more honest and open, a truly green company, has no reason to hide their ingredients.

It's also very important that you actually know what you're looking for. While it's obvious that ingredients like Chlorine, Ammonia or Benzine are toxic you may not know about others. A good rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce it, don't use it! If you have questions about an ingredient in something, take 30 seconds to run an internet search on it, you'll easily get an answer. However, it's these "code words" which are in my opinion more dangerous than the unpronounceable chemical names, because many people look them over without really questioning what they need. Words such as "Fragrance," "Preservative," "Cleaning or Brightening Agent" or "Stabilizers" should be looked at as higher questionable. These terms usually replace the names of chemicals (you know, those unpronounceable ones) that are far from Eco-Friendly and can in fact be very dangerous.

You'll find that the vast majority of things labeled as green, really aren't. For me, I've gotten to the point where purchasing "green" products means cleaning with Vinegar and Baking Soda, and using products like Crisco and Corn Starch on my children... I'm still mastering making things like soap, shampoo and dishwasher detergent, so for these I do my best to buy what I call "greener" products. By greener I mean, not completely eco-friendly, but greener than your average option. Once I master making my own, I'll stop using these options all together. In some future posts I will post some "how too" information for making your own stuff... A good rule of thumb when making your own products is if you can't eat it don't use it... Please notice (it's sad I have to say this) I said CAN'T not, WON'T, simply because something CAN be eaten, doesn't mean it should be...

Blessed Samhain!

The Celtic year was separated in to two halves, the Dark and the Light. The Celtic New Year, Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen) takes place on October 31st or November 1st and marked the beginning of the Dark half of the year. Beltane, which takes place on May 1st, marks the beginning of the Light Half. While Beltane was a huge festival, most believe that Samhain was the more important of the two as it marked the beginning of an entire new year cycle. While our days are ruled by set hours and times, the Celts measured days starting at sundown and going through to the light until it was dark again. It was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically potent time of this festival is November's Eve, known today as Halloween.

The word Samhain, comes from the Scots Gaelic word Samhuinn, which litterally translated means "summer's end."  In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as Oiche Shamhna, in Wales it's Nos Calan Gaeaf, or the eve of the winter's calendar.  With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saint's Day to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year. So, the night before this celebration became known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve or Hallantide. November 2nd, became All Souls Day, a day when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who departed and those who were awaiting entry to Heaven in Purgatory. Throughout time the Pagan and Christian traditions inevitably became intertwined and celebrations have been known to extend from October 31st through November 5th...

In the country, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of the stable. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. By this point, all the harvest must be gathered in -- barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples -- for come November and winter to follow. Popular belief was that the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time for family reunion after a long year of working the flocks and fields. The family would now come together together baking, salting meat, making preserves and readying for the winter to come.

In early Ireland, the people of the different gathered at their ritual centers, for Samhain was the first and most important calendar feast of the year.  The greatest assembly was the 'Feast of Tara,' focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the land, hearth-fires were put out as all waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year -- not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may have been seen as a goddess in her own right through past ages.

As with all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain. So, many gifts would offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest.  Objects meant to symbolize the personal prayers & wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the high dancing flames and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the hearth fires of the tribe. This was a time of renewal, new beginings, surely as people received the flame they felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come.

Through the centuries the Samhain fires continued to burn.  In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued at least up til World War One. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterward, the ashes from these fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months -- a practice which of course, also improved the quality the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!”

Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winter’s dark.

Today many of these customs and traditions may seem moot. Thanks to electricity and central heat, the majority of people no longer have even a working fireplace, although some do continue to use them as a decorative piece or in addition to more modern heating units. But, because of this general lack of hearth, the practice of dowsing the flames and relighting from a central or ritual flame has all but died out. However,  these customs have been altered and "miniaturized" by many in order to allow them to be used by modern day Pagans. Bon Fires may not light up the skies as they did in olden days, but alter fires and candles continue to burn through the night on Samhain Night as a way to ward off the cold and welcome the Dark Half of the year.

For those who have gardens, this is the time of year to finish bringing in any final "harvest" and ashes from any alter fires are mixed with the soil in order to protect. Offerings and "Prayer Items" are made to the gods and the new year is ushered in with celebration and light. This is also the time of year used by modern Pagans, as it was for those of olden days, to honor the previous year and those who had passed. It's a time for remembrance and honor as well as a time for rebirth and renewal. In addition to small alter fires and offerings, common practices include divination, mute dinners, which often include place settings for those ancestors to be honored during ritual, and of course pumpkin carving, costumes and trick or treat are common day practices among both Pagans and non Pagans alike...

For Wiccans and similarly believing Pagans, this is also a time of year used to honor the Crone and the Dying or Dead God. Any of the deities which represent these aspects may be used for ritual purposes.

The secular world lists January 1st, as the "New Year" and for those of us who have to live in that world - which as far as I know, is all of us, it is. However, a growing number of Pagans use Samhain in many of the same ways that more secular persons use New Years Day to celebrate the rebirth of the year... Setting new years resolutions and offering them up in their fires. For children, I have found this to be a wonderful way to start the celebration, and also a good way to teach commitment by renewing those resolutions come the secular New Year in January...

Magickal Correspondences: Samhain

Other Names:  celtic ~ Summer’s End, pronounced “sow” (rhymes with now) “en” (Ireland), sow-een (Wales) – “mh” in the middle is a “w” sound – Greater Sabbat(High Holiday) – Fire Festival Oct 31-Nov 1(North Hemisphere) – Apr 30-May 1 – The Great Sabbat, Samhiunn, Samana, Samhuin, Sam-fuin, Samonios, Halloween, Hallomas, All Hallows Eve, All Saints/All Souls Day(Catholic), Day of the Dead (Mexican), Witches New Year, Trinoux Samonia, Celtic/ Druid New Year, Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas or Old Hallowmas (Scotttish/Celtic) Lá Samhna (Modern Irish), Festival of the Dead, Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess), Hallowtide (Scottish Gaelis Dictionary), Feast of All Souls, Nos Galen-gae-of Night of the Winter Calends (Welsh), La Houney or Hollantide Day, Sauin or Souney ( Manx), oidhche na h-aimiléise-the night of mischief or confusion(Ireland), Oidhche Shamna (Scotland)

Rituals:  End of summer, honoring of the dead,scrying, divination, last harvest, meat harvest

Incense:  Copal, sandalwood, mastic resin, benzoin, sweetgrass, wormwood, mugwort, sage, myrrh or patchouli

Tools:  Besom, cauldron, tarot, obsidian ball, pendulum, runes, oghams, Ouija boards, black cauldron or bowl filled with black ink or water, or magick mirror

Stones/Gems:  Black obsidian, jasper, carnelian, onyx, smoky quartz, jet, bloodstone

Colors:  Black, orange, red

Symbols & Decorations:
  Apples, autumn flowers, acorns, bat, black cat, bones, corn stalks, colored leaves, crows, death/dying, divination and the tools associated with it, ghosts, gourds, Indian corn, jack-o-lantern, nuts , oak leaves, pomegranates, pumpkins, scarecrows, scythes, waning moon

Foods:  Apples, apple dishes, cider, meat (traditionally this is the meat harvest) especially pork, mulled cider with spices, nuts-representing resurrection and rebirth, nuts, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, squash.

Goddesses:  The Crone, Hecate(Greek), Cerridwen(Welsh-Scottish), Arianrhod(Welsh), Caillech (Irish-Scottish), Baba Yaga (Russian), Al-Ilat(persian), Bast (Egyptian), Persephone (Greek), Hel(Norse), Kali(Hindu), all Death & Otherworld Goddesses

Gods:  Horned Hunter(European), Cernnunos(Greco-Celtic), Osiris(Egyptian), Hades (Greek), Gwynn ap Nudd (British), Anubis(Egyptian), Coyote Brother (Native American), Loki (Norse), Dis (Roman), Arawn (Welsh), acrificial/Dying/Aging Gods, Death and Otherworld Gods

Herbs and Flowers:  Almond, apple leaf , autumn joy sedum, bay leaf, calendula, Cinnamon, Cloves cosmos, garlic, ginger , hazelnut, hemlock cones, mandrake root, marigold, mums, mugwort (to aid in divination), mullein seeds, nettle, passionflower, pine needles, pumpkin seeds, rosemary (for remembrance of our ancestors), rue, sage, sunflower petals and seeds, tarragon, wild ginseng, wormwood

Animals:  Stag, cat, bat, owl, jackal, elephant, ram, scorpion, heron, crow, robin

Mythical Beings:  Pooka, goblin, medusa, beansidhe, harpies

Essence:  Magick, plenty; knowledge, the night, death & rebirth, success, protection; rest, new beginning; ancestors; lifting of the veil, mundane laws in abeyance, return, change

Dynamics/Meaning:  Death & transformation, Wiccan new year,wisdom of the Crone, end of summer, honoring, thinning of the veil between worlds, death of the year, time outside of time, night of the Wild Hunt, begin new projects, end old projects

Work:  Sex magick, release of bad habits, banishing, fairy magick, divination of any kind, candle magick, astral projection, past life work, dark moon mysteries, mirror spells (reflection), casting protection , inner work, propitiation, clearing obstacles, uncrossing, inspiration, workings of transition or culmination, manifesting transformation,creative visualization, contacting those who have departed this plane

Purpose:  Honoring the dead, especially departed ancestors, knowing we will not be forgotten; clear knowledge of our path; guidance, protection, celebrating reincarnation

Rituals/Magicks:  Foreseeing future, honoring/consulting ancestors, releasing the old, power, understanding death and rebirth, entering the underworld, divination, dance of the dead, fire calling, past life recall

Customs:  Ancestor altar, costumes, divination, carving jack-o-lanterns, spirit plate, the Feast of the Dead, feasting, paying debts, fairs, drying winter herbs, masks, bonfires, apple games, tricks, washing clothes

Element:  Water

Gender:  Male

Threshold:  Midnight

So you want to be a Paranormal Investigator?

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of "Paranormal Investigative" shows and videos come out. The interest this has raised in the general public is without question higher now than it has ever been in the past. I personally find many of these shows to be very entertaining, my husband and I watch them a good bit. However, because of the experiences I have doing investigations myself, and my own education about subjects such as spirits, ghosts, demons, angels, energy, hauntings and so forth I tend to see as much fiction in these shows as I do possible fact.

Please do not take this to mean I don't believe some of these people are experiencing things of a paranormal nature, because I don't see it as impossible. However, I tend to see many of these shows as to quick to jump to a paranormal explanation rather than willing to look for a more mundane answer to what they are feeling, seeing or hearing. But since many of these shows take place in places where activity is documented over a number of years from a large number of people, it's understandable that there very easily could be actual experiences by some of these people. SO I don't generally discount them as frauds, but at the same time, I don't like to simply accept everything these people claim as paranormal to be such.

As I touched on I do have some experience doing investigation, I did some with a local group and a few on my own. Now, none of what I ever did was nearly as "professional" as what you'll see on these shows. We didn't have $10,000 cameras or audio equipment, but what we did have saw enough to give us a basic understanding of what was going on in these places (usually homes) which we were investigating. The basic tools needed for any investigation as a simply "dollar store" flash light, an audio recorder, and some form of video recorder. Beyond that, there are some great things like night vision cameras, EMF detectors and whatnot which can be used, but they are far from necessities.

Your first goal as an investigator is not to be a "Ghost Hunter" but to be a "Ghost Buster." There is an old saying of "If you go looking for trouble, you just might find it." And the same can be said for the paranormal. When we start out looking to find paranormal, it's easy to find it, even when there is nothing there... Your first goal is to debunk, it's only after all mundane explanations have been explored and dis-proven should a paranormal answer be explored.

Now, why do I say this? Why can't we simply explain things as paranormal without ruling out other possibilities? Well, it's fairly simple. Any good investigation rules out all possible answers before deciding on one as fact. When people jump to paranormal explanations over the mundane, it tends to induce fear rather than understanding. As an investigator it's your job to find truth, and answers rather than to reinforce fear and misunderstandings.

The majority of those looking for investigators help are those who are living with experiences they can't explain. It could be those in homes or work environments they feel are "haunted" or it could be those who are trying to disprove the beliefs or stories they have encountered since becoming involved with a place. Either way, you'll find the majority of places have more normal than paranormal to them.

For example of the most common "paranormal" complaints is foot steps being heard, yet, the sound of footsteps is easily explained in most situations simply by taking a look at the building itself. Older homes and buildings have a tendency to "settle" at night as the temperature lowers and activity in the home slows down. Those which are close to a busy road, railway or highway have to absorb vibrations all day and need a chance to settle so they don't break apart... In fact if you're seeing damage to the foundation of the building or cracks forming in the walls there is a good chance the house is not sitting on a very sturdy foundation and could be shifting, which will produced creeks and pops in the house which easily sound like footsteps... If steps are being heard above the floor you are on or "coming from the attic" mice or birds should be looked in to. If all these very normal things are ruled out, then there is the possibility of a more paranormal explanation...

Examples like this can be listed over and over... Because of this you'll want to make a point to look for things such as rodents, birds, insects, drafts from outside and of course things like settling property or buildings FIRST...

Now, there are obviously experiences which are not and can not be explained by the "normal." Many times things such as voices, moving objects, energy balls and of course personal experiences are impossible to prove one way or another as normal or paranormal because they tend to be one time things. However, that doesn't mean they should automatically be discredited either. There is simply no such thing as a black and white answer; a Yes or No, when it comes to the paranormal. And while it may seem easy to simply list these things as to fantastic to be true, or to say "There is no proof so it didn't happen" the entire point of being a Paranormal investigator is to take the experiences of others and try to give them some kind of answer. My advice is even if you can not give someone a flat out yes or no - NEVER discredit someone experience as real. NEVER!  While there are those who will try to give you truly fantastic stories, the vast majority of those who are willing to share their stories simply want to share.

One thing however that does need to be taken in to account is that emotion expands experience... That means that when we are frightened, when people are emotional, they tend to see things as "larger" or scarier than they truly are. Crime investigators see this all the time with eye witnesses to crimes and Monster Investigators see this as well. Someone witnessing a violent crime for example, is more likely to see the perpetrator as taller, stronger or more powerful than they actually are, this is why eye witness accounts simply aren't as trustworthy as detectives wish they were...  Nothing changes when we are talking paranormal over normal.

Now, at the same time, while you should never discredit someone's experience you also can't allow it to interfere with your own experiences. Looking back to those shows I was talking about in the beginning, we see this kind of thing happening A LOT! They tend to start the show out by gathering stories from those who already have experiences, and then, throughout the show, you'll hear or see them doing their best to prove these experiences. When they do hear a voice or they do see something, they automatically jump to "Remember what Jimmy said? He said this guy did this..." and they just assume they are experiencing the same thing rather than trying to have their own experiences. I call this the "14 year old girl sleep over affect." If you ever were a 14 year old girl at a sleep over watching ghost stories, you know exactly why I call it that. They spend hours getting themselves all riled up and guessing and hoping what they will see and experience, and then when they get in there, they hear and see things which comply with those hopes - really, a large part of it is in their head...  It's nearly impossible to prove or disprove the experiences of others, especially when those things happened long before we got there. They do make for interesting points and serve as a good way to determine where you may have your own experiences, but beyond that they need to be largely ignored during your investigation.

In an effort to best be able to explain what you do or may experience it's very important that you have at least a basic understanding of hauntings, ghosts, energy, spirits and so on. This can be done easily by doing some research - just do yourself a favor and make sure you are doing this research through legitimate sources rather than random internet sites. You can also contact and preferably work with local paranormal groups to gain some experience before going out on your own. - And please note, when I say "on your own" I don't mean alone! NEVER attempt to do an investigation alone, the buddy system is always best when you are going to be in a place - any place haunted or not - where you are unfamiliar.

The last thing that I want to cover is respect. Again, going back to these shows, I am continually appalled at the basic lack of respect these so called Investigators have for the places and beings they encounter. Remember, regardless of whether or not you feel you are experiencing honest to goodness ghosts or other spirits, energies or other things you need to have at least a basic respect for them. Do NOT taunt or tease! Do NOT show anger or hostility! Sure, these actions will elicit more activity, but they also put you in possible danger and can endanger those who have to survive in this space on a day to day basis. Remember that many of the actual ghosts which are in these places are there because of negative or violent experiences, and just as you wouldn't want someone to come in to your home and speak to you as if you were less than worthy of respect, you shouldn't do it to them either. So even though it may be tempting to rile up the energies with angry words, violent imagery or by reenacting possible experiences that they may have had, these things should be generally avoided out of basic respect for them.

Divination: Ouija Boards

With Halloween and Samhain coming up in a few weeks divination tends to be a big subject. Halloween Movies have featured the practice since the 70's and most people have used one at at least one Halloween party as a kid. But what is really going on with these things? Are they harmless toys as the Milton Bradley Toy company would have us think? Or are they evil tools by which demons and evil spirits can enter our homes and bodies as so many movies, and churches portray them as? Or are they something completely different?

Well, the answers aren't quite as black and white as I think we all wish. There are a few theories of how and why these boards work. The first theory of course is that they actually do allow a channel to the spiritual realm to be opened and allow the user to connect directly to it...  The second theory is that it's all a mind over matter thing, that it's the users subconscious which actually moves the eye. And of course there is the whole "the devil does it" idea... Which we are going to completely ignore being this is a Pagan Blog.

For the purpose of this blog we are going to approach this subject using the second Theory and simply assume that they do create a connection to the spirit realm. I've found this tends to be the majority belief of most Pagans.

The beauty of Ouija Boards is that they are easy to use, anyone who can ask a question can use one. The down side is - anyone can MISUSE them as well. Toy and Game companies sell millions of these boards each year, and many people treat them as little more than a game or entertainment. This isn't, however, quite what they are. Are they fun? Are they entertaining? Yes, of course they are, if they weren't they wouldn't sell the way they do. The entertainment value however is also why so many are misused and people see negative outcomes in the long run - which then gets the boards, rather than the users, labeled troublesome.

Are Ouija Boards outwardly dangerous? Well, they can be, in the hands of someone who has no respect for what they represent, or because someone is simply an idiot. I read a comparison on another blog once which I found to be wonderful and I'm going to share here. Look at Ouija Boards as the spiritual form of a chat room. We have all seen the dangers of chat rooms on Dateline and 20/20 over and over again, but when asked, most people wouldn't label chat rooms themselves as dangerous. It's the actions we take while using a chat room which makes them safe or dangerous, not the room itself. It's very much the same with boards.

At this point, we all know when we join a chatroom that it's more than possible that "Momof3boys" is really a 45 year old pedophile rapist, and so we take the proper precautions. What we tend not to remember is when we open up a Ouija Board it's really the same kind of danger. We are opening a direct line to the spirit realm and we are talking to someone we don't know, and who we have no real connection with.

Spirits come in all shapes and sizes, just like people do. Are spirits dangerous? Well, they CAN be, but like people the majority are not. Unfortunately, it's not possible to usually decide whether someone or something is dangerous or not until after they prove themselves to be.

Ouija Boards work by using a form of "voluntary possession" where you allow yourself to be used by the spirits you've contacted. You have to open yourself as you open the board, clear your mind and allow your body to be used to move that eye in order to get the answers to your questions. Sure, the spirit is moving they eye, but they are using YOUR hand to do it.

Because of this, I generally say if you have little experience dealing with spirits or if the idea of possession clearly frightens you - find a different form of divination. While the directions clearly state you need to enter each session stating the board can only be used for positive contact, generally, you can't control this aspect beyond stating it. And like that chatroom, you don't really know who is on the other end.

If you do choose to use a board there are a few simple rules you should use in order to keep your experience as positive as possible:
  1. Don't ask stupid questions!
    Asking questions such as "when will the world end" is going to get you no where and is likely to annoy both those with you and the spirits you are "communing" with. Plus, should you get an answer, it's likely not going to be the correct one and will only cause you extra stress.
  2. If you are in a group remember to have only ONE person in the group asking questions, this will help to stop contact with more than one spirit at a time.
  3. Always make sure that those with the most experience are the "medium" rather than those with the least.
  4. Be polite.
    Remember that who or whatever you may contact can get angry and annoyed, and rudeness will only quicken that response.
  5. DO NOT ask for a physical sign of a presence... 
  6. DO NOT believe everything said as fact...  Spirits aren't necessarily any more in tuned with these things that you are, if you don't know the answer, there isn't really any reason to think they would either...
  7. Lastly, remember to close the board at the end of each use, do this by pushing the eye to the "Goodbye" area of the board

Can you be BORN a Witch?

Hollywood tends to push the idea that you are either inherit being a witch from your family line, or that you become a witch by joining the devil or seeking out evil. And can I just say - "Wow, Hollywood, thanks for that! We can always use more misconceptions!"

I've covered more than once the fact that witches have nothing to do with evil and nothing to do with the Devil, since most Pagans don't believe in the Devil, there is really no point in going over all that again. For this reason I'm simply going to skip over that part and go directly to answering the question at hand: Can you be BORN a Witch?

The short answer is YES. While most Pagans will say No, you have to become a witch or Pagan by choice, the truth is that YES, some of us are born with a much stronger connection or ability to preform Magick than others. We all have the ability to access these connections and we all have the ability to preform Magick - BUT, we've all known at least one person who seemed to have a natural connection or even "unnatural" understanding. Some of us have gifts or abilities which seem to come naturally, while others can work and work to develop them and just can't seem to master it. We see these people as "special" or "gifted" and in a way, they are. These are what we consider to be Natural Witches or Born Witches.

The majority of Pagans believe in reincarnation. If you believe in reincarnation it's not a far jump to believing that we can have "left overs" or residuals from past lives. For those who believe this way, it's also easy to understand how someone can be BORN a witch...

While I can't speak for others, I can share my own experience which may help to make more sense of this matter. My mother is a Jehovah's Witness, because of this from the time I was a young child I was told over and over again there was only ONE God, no Goddess, no Magick, no Fairies and that my visions, dreams and other "gifts" were evil and demonic. While most small children blindly believe things like this when they are told them, because they have no reason not to. I on the other hand, simply KNEW beyond a doubt that there was something more than what I was taught...  Something more than what I was being taught. I had visions, and my dreams came to pass, unlike the dreams of my friends and family... I could see and hear entities and beings who my mother labeled as "demons," but I knew they weren't evil.  I had natural abilities to do things others couldn't, and simply wouldn't accept that they were evil. I had "memories" and beliefs which seemed to come from somewhere else, they were certainly not what I was being taught or what I was being exposed to. As a child we were not only not exposed to Pagan beliefs but were even sheltered from the beliefs of the general Christian population. Yet, I knew without doubt there was more, I understood ideas such as multiple Gods, multiple Goddesses, reincarnation.... I had dreams of people and places that I simply never could have had no possible understanding of... 

I was BORN with these memories, these abilities, these understandings... I was BORN a witch, and more so, I was BORN to be Pagan.

Now, in no way does that mean that you HAVE to be born a witch, or that those who are are "better" or "more" of a witch than anyone else. The ability to connect with and use the energy in nature is something we all have. It's something anyone can access! Better yet, a natural connection in no way even means that someone will choose a path which embraces these gifts. Many do, but many others do not. Many are forced to suppress these abilities because of religious or cultural beliefs and understandings and many others simply ignore then as if they don't exist. If you are someone who has these natural inborn abilities you were BORN a witch... If you are someone who wasn't, you may need to work at gaining that connection a bit more. But in either case, you are, and always will be connected to the divine, connected to nature and connected to the energy which, when harnessed, gives us all the title of WITCH!

The Varieties of Religious Satanism: by Geifodd ap Pwyll

**Note from Sabrina - I do not generally consider Satanism as a subject of interest for this blog. However, because of the amount of questions the average Pagan gets from those who don't have all the facts about Paganism and Satanism, I felt it was important to have at least the very basic information... This article was written by a Satanist for the rest of us with the idea of education and understanding in mind, because of that, I decided to share it. However, it's VERY important to note that while MOST forms of Satanism DO fall under the umbrella of Paganism, they are NOT generally what is referred to by the term Pagan, nor are they generally accepted by the Pagan community as members.

This article is copyright © 2006 Geifodd ap Pwyll.

Satanism is not actually a single religion or belief system, but an entire family of inter-related belief systems, most of which are vastly different from each other save for one common theme: a sympathetic reinterpretation of the force/character/entity that is most well known and recognized in modern Western culture as "Satan."
The term "Religious Satanism" is used to describe Satanisms which are religious in nature. The reason there is a need to make such a distinction is because the term "Satanism" is also used as a literary term. If you check up the word "Satanism" in the Oxford Dictionary, you will find that one of its secondary definitions is a style of literature. Authors and poets who produced such literature were known as members of "the Satanic school," which became notorious for writing literature that supposedly takes the Devil's point of view. People included in the genre of "literary Satanism" were John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron among others. None of these people were religious Satanists - that is to say, none of them practiced Satanism as a religion - but they were "Satanists" in the sense that they created a literary tradition structured around several unorthodox views and techniques, including an often sympathetic portrayal of the Devil.

Religious Satanism is primarily divided into three major categories: Theistic Satanists (who are sometimes called "Spiritual" or "Traditional Satanists"), LaVeyan Satanists, and Deistic Satanists (also known as "Pantheistic Satanists" or "Dark Deists"). The theistic branch of Satanism is the branch in which it is believed that Satan is an actual deity or supernatural being of some sort, who is to be somehow revered and/or worshiped. The LaVeyan branch of Satanism is the branch in which it is believed that Satan is merely a force in nature or a symbol of man's animal nature, which itself is regarded as the object of worship. Typically, theistic Satanists can be understood to be Satan-worshipers (although there are exceptions), while LaVeyan and Deistic Satanists can be understood to be Self-worshipers.

First I will cover the LaVeyan Satanists. LaVeyans take their name from Anton Szandor LaVey, who authored The Satanic Bible and who founded the Church of Satan in 1966. They believe that Satan is merely a symbol representing certain characteristics and traits that they find desirable. Such characteristics and traits include, but are not limited to: individuality, carnality, independence, and earthly success and power. The LaVeyan Satanist views Satan as being an imaginary character who represents the reality of the "Beast in Man," which itself is a manifestation of something that LaVey identified in his writings as "the Dark Force in Nature." Religious Satanism, to LaVeyans, is not about worshiping the Devil, but about worshiping oneself as the center of one's own universe. Naturally this will tempt some of my readers to describe LaVeyan Satanists as being "selfish," and indeed such Satanists will not shy away from that adjective.

LaVeyans also believe in practicing what they call magic. However, "magic" to them is not the exercise of supernatural power, but a form of theatrical psychodrama which is intended to help the practitioner overcome their inhibitions and become a full-fledged "personification" of Satan - the Dark Force - in the flesh.

Next I will speak of the Deistic (or Pantheistic) Satanists. Deistic Satanists are like LaVeyans, in that they do not believe that Satan is a personal being. Rather, they believe that Satan is an impersonal supreme being or force which is one with all things (i.e., pantheism). They agree with the "Dark Force in Nature" terminology that LaVeyans use, but they tend to place less emphasis on the teaching of LaVey than on what they term "the Dark Doctrines." The Dark Doctrines are essentially based upon an etymological hypothesis that the Hebrew word "Satan" is derived from a pair of Sanskrit terms, "Sat" (which is said to mean something like "pure existence") and "Tan" (which is said to mean something like "stretching forth"). The Sat part is a description of what it fundamentally is, while the Tan is a description of what it does. As Sat, it is the force of being which causes all and everything to exist. As Tan, it is the force that causes evolution and metamorphosis. The primary two churches which teach Deistic Satanism are the First Church of Satan in Salem, Massachussetts, and the Satanic Reds (who are also, interestingly enough, a Communist group).

The theistic branch of Satanism is divided into multiple subcategories. Perhaps the oldest variety of theistic Satanism of which I know are the Gnostic Satanists, who are descended from the Ophidian Gnostics. The Gnostics believed that everything that existed was originally pure spirit; then the Demiurge (who was identified as the god of the Old Testament by Ophidian Gnostics, and with the Devil by Gnostic Christians) trapped our souls in matter and cut us away from the Source. The Gnostic Christians believed that Jesus Christ was an incorporeal spirit that had been sent into the world by the Source, not to save the human race by dying on the cross, but to teach the way of discovering Gnosis - i.e., knowledge of the divinity within - which was believed to be the only way to escape the sinfulness of the material world. While some Gnostics, typically the Gnostic Christians, believed that it was necessary to abstain from worldly pleasures in order to transcend the material world, others (particularly the Ophidians) believed that Gnosis could be achieved by indulging in worldly pleasures and by "exhausting" their sinfulness. This is where the Gnostic Satanists came from. 

The Ophidians identified the One who was sent into the world by the Source to teach humans of the Gnosis with the serpent of Genesis, and not with Christ. They believed that when the serpent tempted Adam and Eve with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, He was really tempting them with the Gnosis and thereby freed them from the authoritarian power of the Demiurge (Jehovah). The Ophidians, unlike Christians, did not identify the serpent as Satan, but as Sophia, the goddess of wisdom. However, there were some Ophidian-based Gnostics who did acknowledge the serpent as Satan, and these became the Gnostic Satanists. Gnostic Satanists, therefore, worship Lucifer as the Bringer of Light, who helps us to transcend the imperfections of earthly existence by enticing us to indulgence, rather than abstinence. There is currently no major Gnostic Satanist organization in existence of which I am aware, though there have been groups such as Church Lucifer (also known as the Children of the Black Rose). It has been speculated that the Gnostic Satanists had a bit of influence over the Freemasons. Whether this is actually true or not is anyone's guess.

Later came the Yezidi, who are a Middle Eastern sect that originated in the area which is currently known as Iraq. Founded by the prophet Sheik Adi in the 1100's, the Yezidi were a band of Islamic heretics who believed that Shaitan, the fallen angel, was not really the Devil but the true Messiah whom the Creator had sent to rule over our terrestrial world and to eventually extinguish the fires of Hell with His tears. They were forbidden to pronounce the name "Shaitan" (and in some accounts it is said that Yezidi would even go so far as to kill themselves upon hearing the name, as it was considered an act of blasphemy just to hear it), so they called Him "Melek Ta'us," which is a Kurdish name meaning "King of the Angels." 

As Melek Ta'us, the Prince of this World was often depicted in the form of a peacock. This is taken from an earlier Persian myth in which Ahura Mazda, the god of light, asked Ahriman, the god of darkness, why He only created "evil" things. Ahriman then promptly took an ugly bird, dismembered it, brought the pieces of its corpse back together again and resurrected it, and it came back to life as the beautiful peacock. Ahriman then said to Mazda, "See? Not all of my works are evil." The Yezidi believe that at the end of days, the Prince of this World and the Creator god will become reconciled, and thus will the human race be saved. It is important to point out here that in Yezidi theology, Satan is not the enemy of God, but a faithful servant of God who was appointed to be the God of this World, rather than a fallen angel who was "cast out" from heaven. Yezidi typically believe that the god of Christians is the true deceiver.

The Yezidi still exist today, and were among the Kurds who were most persecuted by Saddam Hussein in modern Iraq. Some still live in Iraq, where they are currently establishing representation for themselves in the new government. Others have moved to parts of Europe, including both Russia and Germany. The Yezidis do not accept the term "Satanist" because they do not accept the name "Satan" as a name for the Prince of this World. However, it is a fact that they worship the very same deity that other theistic Satanists do. The Yezidi holy text is known as the Mishaf Resh, which outlines their view of creation. Copies of this text can now be found online.

Then come what is called the Christian-based Duotheists. Christian-based Duotheists are theistic Satanists who believe in a form of Satanism that is essentially more like inversified Christianity. Which is to say, they believe that Satan is not a god but a fallen angel who has rebelled against the Creator, and who is attempting to usurp the Creator's throne. This is probably a form of Satanism that most Christians will be more familiar with, as it accepts most of what Christianity believes - including the Fall of Man, the Crucifixion, the coming of Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ - except that Christian-based Duotheists simply choose the other side of the fence. They often believe that Satan, although a mere fallen angel, actually has a fighting chance of winning the battle against God. Christian-based Duotheists are commonly laughed at and ridiculed by the majority of Satanists as being the Satanic equivalent to "Holy Rollers."

Next we have the Setians. The Setian denomination was founded by Dr. Michael A. Aquino in 1975. Aquino was a priest of the Church of Satan who left over a dispute with LaVey concerning the existence of the Prince of Darkness. Aquino then started his own church called the Temple of Set. The Setians believe that the Prince of Darkness' "true" name is Set, and that before He became known as "Satan" in Judeo-Christian mythology, He was known as Set in ancient Egyptian religion. Setians believe that the Prince of Darkness is a god who is responsible for creating consciousness - the ability to perceive, to be aware and to take deliberate action. They believe in a mystical concept called "Xeper," an Egyptian word pronounced "Kheffer" which means "I have Come into Being." Xeper is what the Egyptian sun god, Ra, would proclaim each morning at dawn after his nocturnal journey through the underworld. Set was the god who protected Ra during this journey from Apep, the serpent of darkness and chaos. In protecting Ra, Set enabled the sun to "Xeper" each morning, and this myth is taken to be symbolic of Set's power to enable us to become newly created beings with each self-determined action that we take in life. In this context, the term "Xeper" means something similar to "I think therefore I am," though it could be said to take an additional meaning: "The MORE I think, the MORE I am."

The Setian holy text is The Book of Coming Forth by Night, which was supposedly dictated to Michael Aquino during a ritual channeling with the Prince of Darkness in 1975. Setians are often indecisive over whether or not they should consider themselves Satanists. Many times, Setians consider themselves to be a part of the Satanic subculture and indeed they are, since they grew out of the Church of Satan (strangely enough). However, often they will claim that they are a "higher" form of Satanism that is much too sophisticated to be ensared in "the bastard title of a Hebrew fiend," so they will try to pass their religion off as something completely different. However, for all their neo-Egyptian mysticism, they continue to refer to Set as "the Prince of Darkness" and they continue to use the Satanic pentagram (i.e., two points up, so the star is shaped like a goat's head) as their sacred symbol. Therefore, most Satanists continue to consider the Setians to be a denomination of Satanism. Also, Setians, although they are theistic, count as Self-worshipers instead of as Satan/Set-worshipers. They have what I like to call a "Faustian" relationship with the Prince of Darkness, which is to say that instead of worshiping Him and serving Him, they work with Him as an associate who helps them to increase their own power in this world. Sort of like a strictly academic or business relationship, rather than a "god-follower" relationship.

Joy of Satan-style theistic Satanists (JoSers for short) are rather weird. Satanists such as these believe, like Christian-based Duo-theists, that there is a cosmic struggle going on between Satan and Jehovah. However, the JoSers (having read too much Zechariah Sitchin) believe that Satan and Jehovah are not actually supernatural beings, but mortal aliens living on a distant planet across the universe, who communicate telepathically with human beings and who are engaged in a psychic mind-war over our allegiance. JoSers tend to believe that all of the gods worshiped by human beings throughout history are really extra-terrestrials. They also believe that Satan was originally the pre-Christian Sumerian deity Enki, before He became corrupted into the fallen angel concept. Some of them have actually taken to calling themselves Enkians. Although JoSers are commonly laughed at and ridiculed by other Satanists as being sort of like the Satanic equivalent to Scientologists, they nonetheless have a large following in theistic Satanism.

Demonolators are not exactly Satanists per se, although they are accepted as a part of our subculture. Demonolators are people who worship Demons, as opposed to just Satan Himself. They believe that the Demons are not actually fallen angels, but really pre-Christian pagan deities who represent the "dark side of Nature." Demonolators consider themselves to be Dark Pagans (i.e., worshipers of Nature who are tuned to the dark side). They do not really have much of a public presence at this time, though they have in the past. It is known that they are organized, but they choose to remain underground due in part to various troubles that they have had with outsiders in the past. Some of them used to maintain public websites through which they attempted to reach out to outsiders, but it is reported that one of these outsiders stirred up some major political trouble within one or more of the priesthoods. Therefore, as a way of avoiding further trouble, the Demonolator community opted to go underground. However, it would appear that at least one of the traditional Demonolator covens has decided to re-instate an online presence. Please visit the OFS Demonolatry website for more extensive information.

Lastly, I will speak of the Devil worshipers (also called Diabolators). This is where I fit in. While it is true that most theistic Satanists can probably be described as Devil worshipers (except for the Setians - who have quite an aversion to that word "worship"), it will probably surprise most of my readers to learn that the vast majority of Satanists frown upon the term "Devil worshiper," in much the same way that many gays frown upon the word "queer" and many African Americans from upon the dreaded "N" word. Satanists who embrace the term "Devil worshiper" and actually use it as a term of self-reference are, surprisingly enough, a minority within a minority. 

The term itself does not really propose any particular theological worldview, save for a belief in a Satan (or satans), and a belief in worshiping Him. Other than these two points, Devil worshipers can embark upon a wide variety of theological perspectives - polytheism, pantheism, henotheism, duo-theism, etc. The major qualification for being a Devil worshiper is that you take a primarily devotional approach to the Powers of Darkness. Most other varieties of Satanism place emphasis on the practice of magic or the attainment of Gnosis over worship and prayer (in fact the Setians will tell you that worship and prayer are "un-Satanic"). But Devil worshipers unashamedly worship the Powers of Darkness as their gods, and we also unashamedly refer to them as our Masters - another "taboo" that most other Satanists refuse to accept. Perhaps the only three organizations dedicated to honest-to-Satan Devil worship are the Church of Azazel, the Order of Eternal Darkness and the Temple of Diabolic Youth. However, the Church of Azazel is still just starting out, and is only beginning to gain acceptance among some of the other denominations. 

Those of us who identify as Devil worshipers tend to overlap with many, perhaps all, of the other theistic categories I have mentioned above. In this context, Devil worship is not really a theological category, but rather an attitude. The taboo on the term "Devil worship" originated with LaVey's Church of Satan, who basically have the attitude that they are the only true Satanists and the rest of us are all "Devil worshipers" whom they despise and tend to lump together with the criminal fringe.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that no discussion of the varieties of religious Satanism would be complete without mentioning our criminal fringe. Historically there has only been one organized Satanist group that committed acts of terrorism, murder and violence. These were the members of the Norwegian Black Metal Circle, which existed in Norway during the early 1990's.

The Black Metal Circle (sometimes called "the Black Metal Mafia") was founded by a man who called himself Euronymous (after a Greek deity of death and the underworld). Euronymous and his followers were musicians who played black metal music. They chose to call themselves Satanists because they believed in Satan as this "Spirit of Evil" who only wants to spread misery and suffering throughout the world. In order to "serve" Him, Euronymous and his followers began a long campaign of church-burning and graveyard desecrations, as well as murders. They made a point to target churches that were historical monuments of architecture in Norway, and I believe that in at least one case, they burned one of these churches down while people were actually inside.

Euronymous explained in interviews that the reason he and his followers did this was because they believed that, by performing acts of terrorism cloaked in Satanic imagery, they would cause Christian fanaticism to grow in Northern Europe. Northern Europe is actually known for having a predominatly liberal Christian climate these days, but Euronymous wanted to initate a surge in Christian fanaticism by creating terror in people with these church burnings and murders. Euronymous was completely insane and was working to initiate a man-made apocalypse. However, as crazy as he was, he was not stupid. The Black Metal Circle was well organized and they managed to get away with what they were doing for a couple of years. In fact, the Black Metal Circle was not stopped until one of their own members - one Varg Vikernes, who had converted to Odinism - murdered Euronymous in 1993.

It would be intellectually dishonest of Satanists to deny that we have our fair share of psychopathic monsters, as do all other religions. But as with other religions, the number of psychopathic monsters in our religion is actually quite small when compared to the number of sane people. The problem is that the criminal Satanists tend to get more press than the sane Satanists do, simply because the media does not consider "friendly neighborhood Devil worshipers" like myself to be very newsworthy. 

So these are the varieties of religious Satanism as I have come to understand them over the past decade of my life. I hope that this article has been helpful in clearing some of the misconceptions that many people have about our religious subculture.

What to Read? The New Vampire's Handbook

The New Vampire's Handbook: A Guide for the Recently Turned Creature of the Night

Okay, this is not a book I recommend if you don't like to smile or laugh. Far from any spiritual education or lifestyle book, this is completely a fun lighthearted book full of comedy. If you're like me and keep a book in the bathroom or the car this is the book you want. You'll "learn" all about the Vampire's digestive system, which requires they take extra socks, why beheading kills Vampires and even great ways to "hook up" your home in true Vampire style!

Really, this isn't usually the kind of book I tend to post here, but this one is just to much fun not to share! It was a really nice break from all the seriousness in life and from all the stupid shiny vampires you see now a days!


What to Read? Reading By Author: Zsuzsanna Budapest

This Month's Featured Author is Zsuzsanna Budapest (January 30, 1940 - Today)

Zsuzsanna Emese Mokcsay is an American author born in Hungry who writes mostly on feminist spirituality and Dianic Wicca. The vast majority of people recognize her pen and religious name of Zsuzsanna Budapest or Z. Budapest. She is the High Priestess and the founding member of the Susan B. Anthony Coven, the first feminist and women-only witches' coven.  In addition to being an author she is the director of the Women's Spirituatlity Forum, a Playwright, and a composer.

Her mother was both a medium and a practicing witch who supported herself and her daughter as a sculptress. The themes of her art always celebrated the Triple Goddess and the Fates. This only encouraged "Z" to grow up respecting Mother Nature as a God.

Due to the poverty and political oppression of post-war Europe under the Russian occupation Z grew to be fiercely political. In 1956, when the Hungarian Revolition broke out, she as well as 65,000 others, mostly young workers and students, left Hungary as political refugees. She finished high school in Innsbruck, graduated from a bilingual gymnasium, and won a scholarship to the University of Vienna where she studied languages. In 1959, Z emigrated to the US and became a student at the University of Chicago, married and had two sons. In Chicago she studied with Second City, a theatrical school.

She started practicing solo worship of the Goddess at her home alter in her backyard around this time as well. At the age of thirty, she became involved with the Women's Lib movement in LA and became an activist, staffing the Women's Center there for many years.

Seeing a need for spirituality in the the women's movement she started the Women's Spirituality Movement. And founded the Susan B Anthony Coven, which has become the role model for thousands of other spiritual groups across the country.

Through this time period there were still laws against many religious and spiritual practices throughout the country. Z was arrested in 1975 for reading Tarot cards to an undercover policewoman. Although she lost the trial, she won the issue and the law against psychics was abolished just nine years later.

She has led rituals, lectured, taught classes & workshops, written articles and been published in hundreds of women's newspapers and magazines. And she has been a powerful influence to many current and no doubt future teachers and writers about the Goddess...

Z currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She keeps herself very busy traveling, giving workshops and lectures (which this blogger would LOVE to attend). She also stars in her own cable television show called 13th Heaven. And is currently the director of the Women's Sprituality Forum, which sponsors a monthly lecture series in the Bay Area about the Goddess, spirituality retreats, and annual spiral dances on Halloween.

Z also founded and sponsors the Dianic University Online, a "vagina-friendly" online school for Dianic Wicca and Goddess studies for women.

California Institute for Integral Studies recognized recently Z's contribution to Women's Spirituality Movement.

Books by Z Budapest:

1975 - The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows

1989 - The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries

1989 - The Grandmother of Time

1991 - Grandmother Moon

1993 - The Goddess in the Office

1995 - The Goddess in the Bedroom

1999 - Summoning the Fates

2003 - Celestial Wisdom for Every Year of Your Life

Below you'll find a few "Reader Reviews" and "Reader Ratings" so that you can see what actual readers think... If you have read any of the writings of Z. Budapest and would be willing to share your feelings, please post them below in our comments area! (more will be posted as I get them)

"The only book I have had was Grandmother Moon.    It was actually pretty decent. Her writing is very "Goddess orientated, " as to be expected from her personal history, and if I remember right the book went through the moon cycles and had various myths and spells  associated to the 13 month lunar calendar.  In some places, she was a little too pro-menstrual cycle.  I would give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5."  ~ Meeshka Mouska

Check out what else I'm writing!