The Message of Goddess Fortuna

I live a life of devotion. I love my Gods. Sometimes they talk to me in my dreams.  Since today is a very auspicious day, dated 12-13-14, I thought it appropriate to finally post a dream conversation I had with the Goddess Fortuna.  This is a re-post from my old Mindsay blog.  So posting this again, I hope, will bring you a great message, and us both wonderful luck.  Enjoy!

On the night of September 3rd 2009, I dreamed about the Roman Goddess Fortune (also known as Dame Fortuna).  The following is posted directly from my private handwritten dream journal.

“I am not Lady Luck,” she smiled, dressed in jewel encrusted red velvet and gold (as if she just stepped out of an Italian Renaissance painting) her hair colored amber honey, tied up in braids with ribbons of gold — real gold that shimmered like tinsel. Looking at her… she seemed ablaze with that gleam of gold, so gold it blurred my vision. When she talked to me, she was hard at work in, of all places, a modern morgue (or mortuary, it kept changing from today to ancient and back again) yet all the while, between the flickering back and forth of time, shifting of places, Fortuna’s golden aura made the room warm and comfortable. She was attending to the bodies — unzipping the body bags and decorating the dead with flowers, jewels, chains of gold, scented oil, rose petals… it was easy to breathe in the thick scent of myrrh, gardenia, roses, musk, incense…

“I am FORTUNE,” she sighed lovingly, firmly while placing daisies over the eyes of a dead man, “I am there at the end of life, but I am no nurse. I am the one with the job of making sure the lost and unknown receive a proper funeral — especially when there is no money or living people around to bid farewell to these souls. This is what you need to tell people, Valentina.”

She gave me a serious down-to-business look that sent a shiver through me.

“When a person — no matter what their significance when alive — passes from body to spirit without a funeral, it is as if they never existed. No one acknowledges that they lived. But this is not their fault. Death came to them inconveniently. It happens. However, it can be remedied. They do not have to pass into the next life without someone knowing who they were. Gods like me, we do not miss them. We grant these unknowns grace and peace — their bodies, their faces, their names, all these things stay a mystery to you, but we know them. This is perhaps the most important thing I do, providing a funeral when there was none.”

She paused while scattering more rose petals over the severely battered body of a woman. The woman is dark-skinned and Fortune’s light makes her broken corpse seem like a liquid black gold. Fortune’s eyes are moist with sad recognition. She briefly touched the dead woman’s head and the face reconstructs, glowing with Fortune’s golden aura so bright. “This one was stolen from her destiny, and enslaved by men. Her fate was entangled by money — as long as her body provided pleasure she made it with great ease, but the gold she earned never went to her. She could not own herself. In order to escape, she had to die. Her family does not know she died. She was beaten so badly, and on purpose, so no one can identify her. But I know her. See how beautiful she is? Death is kind to those who have suffered. Keep that in mind.”

I follow her as she moves on attend to other battered bodies, repairing them in death, touching and decorating each carefully.  I notice that behind her there rages a great, fiery furnace. There are two men completely clothed in black.  Completely void of any identity, they move like shadows, they are covered in a kind of opaque chiffon, wrapped up like mummies or ninjas, strips of the strange cloth cover every inch of their skin, it seems they are nothing but this fabric — without body and soul. Fortuna notices I’m disturbed by their presence.

“You see my workers?” She winks and smiles. “Pay them no mind. It is their fortune to carry the dead. They who kill cannot rise again to life until they answer for the burden of murder. Keep this also in your mind — write it down — share this — this is the killer’s burden. Murder is heavy on the soul. You cannot escape the fortune you take. Tell as many as possible. This should not occur anymore. People must know. Share what Fortune is telling you, Valentina, and your fortune will be assured.”

When I’m about to express some self-doubt, my thoughts are laid wide open for I stand before a goddess and she knows all. “Just do this, Valentina! You will see I will not forget you. You will prosper. This is not a fiction. Gold will follow these words.”

She says this as her workers, these shadow men, stir up the coals of the furnace. Quickly, they zip the dead back into their bags, some bodies into old-fashioned sacks, and one by one, the bodies’ are placed into the furnace like they are backing bread, beginning to melt into black puddles and then, without smoke, they disappear. When gone, there is no mess, no residue, no trace of them left behind. As the last body disappears, this place of death becomes cold and silver.

Funny how I associate “silver” with cold…

Dame Fortune blows me a kiss and sends me back to bed. Her voice is still in my head.

“I will reward you for following my wishes,” She said.

So let this be shared.  Let it be passed along.  May Fortune’s words of gold also be yours.

Thank you, Fortune, thank you.

**This dream was very important to me because, in the following year, my mother died, and it helped prepare me, in an unexpected way, for that life-changing event.  I began to understand more about life and death, yet also went through a series of emotional upheavals, that, I always discover, lead to breakthroughs (often our break-downs are breakthroughs in disguise).  Immediately after my mother’s death, when her body was sent away for cremation, I watched the documentary A Certain Kind of Death (about what happens to the dead with no next of kin), and not only was I reminded of this dream, that film brought me relief from my worries about what happens to bodies after they die. It’s the side of “fortune” we rarely examine — who will care for the physical parts of who we were after we’re gone, and will someone respect us when we’re dead? From what I saw in A Certain Kind of Death, even the unclaimed dead are treated with respect, a sobering prospect to ponder. One of my fears was dying alone and undiscovered like those stories you hear about in the news every now and then — no one wants to be known someday only as “that person” who died in a horrible circumstance where no one cared, or know someone who died alone undiscovered for a long while…  I truly believe the gods don’t forget us.**

The following is a list of the many aspects of this gracious goddess. Call upon any of her names below to ensure good fortune (derived from the page on Fortuna at Wikipedia:

Fortuna Annonaria brings the luck of the harvest
Fortuna Belli is the fortune of war
Fortuna Primigenia directs the fortune of a firstborn child at the moment of birth
Fortuna Virilis attends a man’s career, celebrated only by women
Fortuna Redux brings you safely home
Fortuna Respiciens — She is the fortune of the provider
Fortuna Muliebris is the luck of a woman (of note is the fortune of a woman in marriage was also Fortuna Virilis, tied to her husband’s career)
Fortuna Victrix brings victory in battle 
Fortuna Augusta is the fortune of the emperor
Fortuna Balnearis brings the fortune of the baths
Fortuna Conservatrix the fortune of the Preserver
Fortuna Equestris fortune of the Knights
Fortuna Huiusque Diei fortune of the present day
Fortuna Obsequens fortune of indulgence
Fortuna Privata fortune of the private individual
Fortuna Publica fortune of the people
Fortuna Romana fortune of Rome
Fortuna Virgo fortune of the virgin
Also something to note:
Pars Fortuna is your Lots of Fortune, or Part of Fortune; “time of birth” determining your fate that are calculated by the three degrees/angles of the major cosmic bodies that make up your Astrological natal chart — your Rising Sign (Ascendant), Moon, and Sun.

As you can see, the Goddess Fortuna, or Fortune, is incredibly involved in all aspects of life. The name Fortuna finds its root in the Latin fero, meaning “to bring, win, receive, or get”, hence why she was later associated with gambling luck. She was a very popular goddess in Ancient Rome, and today She is actively worshiped by Pagans, Witches, and many polytheists.

Awesome pages about the Goddess Fortuna and the people who worship Her:
The Obscure Goddess Online Directory: FORTUNA
Temple of the Goddess Fortuna
A Rite to Fortuna — Mirror of Isis, A Fellowship of Isis Publication

An art installment by Dawn DeDEAUX using imagery that is very close to my dream, so close it frightened me when I discovered it online: The Goddess Fortuna and Her Subjects In an Effort to Make Sense of it All — however it is a statement about

Why You Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Paganism

Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

If you are insecure about what you believe, much less what you practice, chances are you are losing your religion. Or perhaps the faith was not yours to keep to begin with? If you become embarrassed by the way your fellows worship, could it be a sign that you are simply prejudiced against your own kind, or that you really don’t belong? If you cannot join them, why are you there? Why complain and judge and spend so much time debating how they should change, when perhaps it is you who needs to make the change? If you are not dancing with your friends, the joy gets knocked out of you, and you cannot experience the joy the others are sharing. The only way to find your true way is to take a cue from your heart, step back, do not judge, and move towards that different beat calling you away…

If you find yourself ashamed of what you once loved, take it as yet another “ordinary” omen; you are growing into and beyond faith, moving past the surface you clung to, and soon you’ll prove to yourself what it is you truly believe. At some point we have to separate ourselves from the community we once identified with, and it is very healthy to become disillusioned with the behavior of our peers, especially when we decide it is time for us to create our own practices.  But it is also just as important to remember our roots, to honor where we have come from, and thank the people who fostered us during those early days when we first set foot on our path.

There are a great many young Pagans today who are ashamed of being associated with other Pagans and who are embarrassed by public performances of Pagan communities at Pagan Pride celebrations. This used to anger and upset me to tears. I took this as a terrible rejection, especially when close friends decided to no longer worship with me, or after many years apart I would find out they were not Pagan any more.  We would get into arguments over whose way of thinking and believing was more correct, or needed improvement, and we’d compare religious thought like who has more money in the bank.  I would tell myself that this is how we were showing each other we cared, yet we did was hurt each other and waste our time, time we could have spent building each other up instead of putting each other down.  With time, I’ve come to accept my friends’ choices to quit Paganism, not as a rejection, but as part of the personal spiritual journey they are going through. Who am I to judge them? And why should I care when they judge Paganism an embarrassment?  For I am certainly proud of it.

It reminds me of a time when some lesbians and gays would get embarrassed by all the flamboyant drag kings and queens on the floats at Gay Pride parades. “I don’t want people thinking that’s what we’re all about,” they would say, worried about the images of gays presented to mainstream America in the media.  It still pervades today among different subcultures across the world — we all get our panties in a bundle over stereotypes! So worried other people will lump us all in with the louder, weirder, crazier, fluffier, campy members of our little tribes that it keeps us from truly enjoying who we are and what we do.

The problem with letting this embarrassment get to you is the shame of it all. At the heart of being ashamed is humiliation and guilt: both are tell-tale signs that we make ourselves feel inferior to the point where we remain restrained by the anticipation of shame brought upon us by another culture we deem more powerful, all because we are guilty of belonging to a group we believe is without power. When we believe our community does not have power, we in turn believe we have no power when we stand with them, and we cease to believe our religion has no validity compared to other religions with less embarrassing behavior and practices.  When we are ashamed, we support powerlessness.  We cave in.

I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

The other danger of letting embarrassment rule your judgment is the way in which you come to treat other people — will you let yourself fall into the Hall of Assholedom?  Or love, respect, and wisdom?  The people we are embarrassed of, are people we make invisible.  We stop validating their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and rights.  We start to judge them, not for the friends they are, but as strangers you deem them to be.  Even if you know them, you stop seeing them.  You don’t know what level they are standing at, or what they’re going through, and they have no more importance.  Even if you claim to live by a code of honor and be the best human being you can be; if you hold any prejudice against a group for being different (that includes flaky), you best check yourself.  It is not righteous or heroic to bully a group’s right to worship as they see fit, and they will worship and behave as they will, with or without your approval because it makes them happy.  The same goes for any individual who is different than you, too.  Let them be different.

When in a group, it is good etiquette to practice as the group does, improvise when the time is right, share ideas, and speak up! If you do not like working with a group, don’t work with a group. To get along with others it is essential to let people be who they are. Let them tell you what they are all about. Don’t assume you know all about them just based on how they look or even what they say. They might be deeper individuals than you think. People always surprise me once I get past that first impression. Judge a book by the cover? Covers lie, my friend. Ask any best-selling pop fiction author, they usually never get to pick what art will grace the cover of their books, but the content may blow your mind every time.

If you judge people you have no time to love them. ~Mother Teresa

I tend to fall in love with people no matter who they are, regardless of age or sex, and want to adopt them all as my family. Perhaps I am unique in that sense. I have never really been ashamed of the silly, fringe, New Age-y members of our community, however at one point I was greatly annoyed to the point of irritation. I was in my mid-twenties then, found myself surrounded by adults older than myself who talked about Witchcraft like teenagers giggling about boys, as if it all were the latest fashion, and I immediately assumed these women were definitely not going to stick with “the program”. Then I realized what a waste of time it was that I spent complaining about them. As I whiled away the time groaning over their girlish behavior, anxiety ate at my gut and I could not relax. They were really having fun and I was rotting like a big poop.

Focusing instead on being more productive, plus cutting loose and letting my (to *gulp!* quote one of those New Age phrases!) “inner child” out to play, was so much better. I often liken our rituals to getting outside to play! When you feel ashamed, you won’t dance or laugh, you can’t do anything but stand there feeling the fool. When you are free from shame, you’ll not feel like a fool, in fact you will be far from caring whether or not someone else thinks you are one. This is when being part of a group helps loosen the inhibitions. You’re not alone at play! You’re among your own kind and we will not judge you… at least that is the way it is supposed to be.

Why else do you think we swear perfect love and perfect trust? That was not made up to procure fantasy.

You do not have to change an entire religion in order for one person, or a new generation, to feel comfortable and respected by the rest of the world. There are reasons why neo-Paganism is the way it is and why it will remain so. There are no rules other than:

  • Everyone has the right to follow their own Path
  • We believe in a Higher Power(s) — God/desses
  • Nature is to be venerated

So why worry about what other people think? When confronted with co-workers, family, strangers on the bus, or other silly persons who snicker at the religion I identify with, I adopt an attitude of being Un-Spookable, because ultimately my religion is a personal issue that is left out of their business (they can say whatever they want, but they can’t take it away from me and I shall not be bothered!). When I’m at a job, I’m there as an employee. I leave my private life at home. If someone brings up my beliefs, or anything else that is private, I do not discuss those things at a job. It’s not professional to get friendly like that. If a boss Googles me, they are sticking their nose in my personal business. It does not matter if I have made my blog public and that I call myself Valentina the Witch, that is my persona separate from any other job I’m hired to do. Yet. I have it easy. I’m freelance, it does not matter if I advertise myself as a Witch or not, it goes along with my illustration.

It’s weird that nowadays folks find it easy to make fun of Pagans and Witches then be afraid of them! There are still some parts of the world where announcing your religion of choice could get you killed, yet at least here we can express our spirituality as we see fit. In the late 1980′s/early 90’s when I first discovered Witchcraft, I saw a few Goddess-centered public rituals that were pretty damn intense that included nudity, fire, mud, and large statuary representing giant genitalia. Back then more people were spooked by Paganism not scoffing at it!  A lot of people liked the tenets of belief and practice, yet weren’t as brave or wild to invent such crazy performances, so even then there were people embarrassed by that. Thus began movements to tame down ritual into simple, child-like, easy-to-swallow forms for personal and public use.

Pagan religion, movements, traditions… they are always evolving, changing, rituals get rewritten, no one way is supposed to be the only way, you make your way of worship your own way.  This is not disorganization.  This is individualization.  It is the way all of religion is flowing into the future.

Most Pagans today find an introduction to our religion by books, or by websites, much of which filled with half-truths and myths written mainly to lead an individual to further study.  In our age with the instant gratification of information and popular spirituality, we have a multitude of authors (some posers, some true authorities) out there to test young minds.  Yet I find that part of being Pagan is discovering the truth behind the fictions we are given.

I once had a teacher who was a terrible drug addict and dealer! I did not know it at the time, but there was something about him that did not feel right to me, some of the things he said and did were off, and after finding out how messed up he was, I still walked away with mighty lessons. He taught me what NOT to do, but even though he was delusional, he was a powerful magician with years of herbal medicine experience and introduced me to other Witches who weren’t addicts who taught me more than he could. His behavior was appalling, and perhaps someone else may have walked away in disgust, never again to dabble in the Craft, but not me.  Even the worst guide can still be a guide.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. ~Richard Cowper

I find that often Paganism is a gateway religion for many seeking another path that is out there for them to discover and experience. Yet I would advise you all not to abandon Paganism for a passing fad, or continue to treat Pagans with harsh criticism because you have come to the conclusion that it does not work for you, or you find you do not fit in with the crowd. If any of you grew up in a strict religious family, or have ever been confronted with ultra-right-wing religious conservative people,  you would do well to remember how having their doctrine forced upon you felt. And the more someone argued with you, attempted numerous times to convince you how wrong you are, and policed your behavior with phrases like “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” while you were simply just being different, the less you stayed within the church of your upbringing, and the less their words had any effect on you. Pagans are against that practice. Why?  Because we are not a religion that hates or inhibits anyone’s freedom.  We do not force people to stay in a religion that they are embarrassed of, or have out grown. If you must move on, please go in peace. We will not try to change you.  We ask nothing from you.  Just be yourself.

So, please, with all due respect, do not try to change us. Because we’re happy with ourselves. We’re not ashamed like you are. Don’t shape us into what you think we are. You might someday discover we never fit that mold to begin with. But we’ll forgive you just the same.

As for me, this Witch always has room in her heart for you, who ever and where ever you are, no matter what religion or subculture you belong to, and even if you think me silly and want nothing to do with me, I’ll miss you while I dance with the whole wide world under the pale moonlight!

Postcard #44: My Samhain

This is MY season, the in between time that makes shivers and tests your wits, when you can dance with monsters and dress like ghouls and if people look twice it is to admire your costume, and if you’re not looking weird, people wonder what is wrong with you. I love it because it’s home to me — a celebration of graveyard love, freak glamour, and treats — the one week in the year everyone wants to meet a real Witch, get their fortune read, make me their friend and buy me a drink. But mostly it is a date I keep with my beloved dead friends and relatives. Yes. If I cannot be alone, sometimes those spirits push me with people that they wanted me with, and such a thing happened this Samhain, I had a spontaneous reunion with my brother and father — and they did not pick on or yell at me once! I did not call them, did no begging for them to pick me up. I had consigned myself to a lonely night, but Dad dragged me out, then he pulled Star out of his apartment, and soon it was a family affair!  My tear-dampened heart dried up and got swallowed up by fire, turned pink and got all hot red like fallen in love, and excited as if going out on a date.

Even though it was not my choice to observe my new year and commune with the spirits at a local casino, I am a Witch and can make ritual and magic anywhere I am. I learned long ago that I need not even bring tools, set up an altar, or even recite fancy words to get my point across to the Gods. The point is to do something, show and live your respect, and the only way to do that is to create beauty from your heart and really put an individualistic touch to your magic. Well, at least that is how I roll.

Shine a Light, Any Light

Even though it was just a tiny tea light set in a lotus-shaped votive, and only used for ambiance during dinner at the casino restaurant, handled by many strangers and seemingly void of magic energy like a blade as dull as a fruit knife, it was a fire. I could not be home at midnight. Family came first this Samhain. I knew this was what my mother would have wanted, especially while I’m missing a friend. My Mom, if alive, and sitting across from me at that restaurant table, she’d force me to stop looking glum and go out to see a movie with my brother, or just do anything but not cry. She would sing “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…!”

So I shine a light, I hold the fire, any flame, and I look into it, and it is my doll-sized hearth fire, one I can hold in my hand. I can dance around it with my fingers and hum the songs all witches are singing all the world over this night and my heart cracks, snaps, flares up and roars like a match struck, and I’m lit up and glowing, snarling, rising up with trails of smoke. I’m not alone in the restaurant, but at that table, in my mind, I am anywhere in the world, even let myself feel as if in several places at once. My body is at the table waiting for her feast to come, yet my thoughts take different forms, like little ghosts of me in sparks, feeling like bits of me exploding in fireworks, the blood in my veins giggling with magic.

And no one notices. No one thinks I’m crazy or spooky. I’m just an ordinary woman sitting at a table. Everything is taking place in my mind. At home I would be at my altar, I would be dressed in a robe, all candles lit, and my place transformed into a temple.

A Witch’s Church is Anywhere

I can worship anywhere at any time, there is no space I cannot make sacred. I have the power to change the profane and ordinary into holy. This is why I do not need to make a permanent spiritual home, why witches and pagans can settle down and then take off for anywhere as they please. It is not because we are The Great Disorganized, it is because we have no need to make a building our singular place of power. That is why I can sit at that casino restaurant, look around and see past the trappings of commerce and notice beyond the surface images in the jazz age inspired decor symbols that comfort me, as if I were meditating at a temple.

And what spirits lurk here? Especially during All Hallow’s Eve when the time is ripe, the dead are most active, or so it’s said, and how can it be doubted when all of nature around us reminds us that winter will soon steal away the life from all we see?  I don’t like to think of winter stealing anything but making the days shorter.  I love the night, so I look forward to longer darkness, if only so I can have that hermit time to myself, when snowed-in days mean no-interruptions from neighbors and other outside world things.

The Fine Art of Talking to the Dead

People often ask a Witch about how to best go about getting messages from their dead loved ones, but what about talking to the dead? Does anyone consider the enormity of that? Unless you are someone who refuses to believe that the soul can linger after death and can have the willpower to manifest and/or communicate with us, it might not occur to you that communicating with the dead involves talking to them more than provoking them to speak to us.

Talking to the dead is not about getting them to talk back anyway, it’s about respect and honoring their memory. Even if you do not believe in ghosts, the ritual of visiting graves and paying tribute to the dead with celebration, ceremony, and other rites keeps the living ALIVE.

Talking to the dead is all about talking to ourselves, the parts of us that died when we forced to let go of someone we loved. During Samhain, as I gaze into the fire, whether I think it or say it aloud, I say sweet things to the dead, I tell them how life is, how much I miss them, how happy I am they are a part of me, that I am grateful I am alive because their lives gave me life, and how much I look forward to being with them some sweet day. To show I care, I set aside some food, something bio-degradable and edible for local animals (just in case a living creäture might get at the offering, because maybe a bird or squirrel will let your grandmother ride its body so she and it can enjoy the treat) that won’t also harm the environment (leaving a trail of Mountain Dew will dry up some plants due to its high sodium content).

One of the traditions I have adapted from my inter-tribal American Indian heritage is the practice of tying prayer bundles on tree branches, except the prayer is not only a prayer, but also offering and tribute all-in-one (which, now that I think of it, is exactly what prayer bundles are, really). I sometimes make them during Samhain, but do not make them bound by cloth, nor do I hang them from branches where people can find them easily. I place Kinnikinnick in small, rolled pieces of birch bark and tie them up along with dry pine cones filled with organic peanut butter and bird seed. These prayer offerings very quickly disappear.

Always remember the ghosts, because we may become them someday.

As much as I do not like to think I would willingly decide to keep myself haunting a single place for years and years, I would love my shade to appear in the nature reserve I love so much. What a legend I’d make! The Witch in the Woods all dressed in black wandering through the trees spooking the university students… um, I think I already do that and, yes, I’m still alive. *giggles*

All is a Journey, Therefore All Requires Journal Keeping

When I am finally alone, Samhain is all about Divination: The practice of communicating with the Divine (my idiom).

First I talk to the dead, then I talk to the Gods, then one or both of Them talk back to me, and sometimes They do not talk with words but with symbols, understanding those symbols requires Trance. I like to record the thoughts, visions, images, poetry, all that comes to mind in notes and drawings. My bedroom is a workshop for dreams.

Every Samhain I draw one card out of the 22 Major Arcana cards from the Tarot. This card will indicate my “fortune” for the upcoming year. Consider it a pre-2013 prediction. 2011 I pulled Justice, 2012 my card is The High Priestess, and 2013 will emerge… The Sun!

Outside of blogging, I do a lot of handwriting, in fact most of my writing is writing in notebooks and drawing in sketchbooks. I have many “secret” books of stuff, yet if I were to die tomorrow I do not believe my poor relatives and friends would make much sense out of any of it. Divination is very personal, and quite often I do not get premonitions of world events, only private events. This is year I thought I would try world predictions, but only one event happened that I foreseen and my imagination exaggerated it, perhaps because I may have been picking up on the anxiety behind the anticipation of it. It was about the solar flares and their effect on digital devices, but no major internet losses of data or massive power outages occured. However… now that I look at what has happened with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, I wonder if I was unclear and had seen something else.

Prediction is measured according to someone’s, or some thing’s, behavior, or what is likely to occur based on the previous actions and decisions a thing usually makes, and they can direct their fortune with their wits, but some things like forces of nature are complete chaos and can only be tracked as they happen. Having performed duties as an oracle for hire, and privately for close friends, I’ve learned that my specialty, even when I divine predictions for myself, are largely empathetic. Tarot is easiest because it is a tool that gives me a boundary. I can pick up information about people by handling items they have invested great emotional meaning into like jewelry or clothing, but it must be an organic thing, metal, wood, cotton, or silk, nothing synthetic, and yet… I can sit on a vinyl couch where someone just sat and pick up on their emotional crap, that is, if they are really emoting.

It is a crazy-frying-your-thoughts sort of thing, and writing about it eases that discomfort, helps distance myself from it all, and when I instead focus on myself, what I want, and what I feel, it keeps me together. Samhain is a super-charged time of spiritual activity because of its association with death and life, between two very drastic seasons. The time that falls into Winter is downright creepy, and Halloween is the much-needed “Christmas” of a darkening time when the cold-approaching makes people anticipate what the future holds. I wonder if the tradition of the casting of runes, bones, shells, and other divining tools started during times like this out of that sense of impending doom, when humans need to turn to the spirits and Gods the most for signs of hope?

But more than hope, truth. I don’t know about you, but it is the dose of truth I often seek. I want to know who is pulling the gears behind the curtain. I seek to know what is causing the problems I suffer from and how I can fix them. Perhaps knowing why can help me change a future I once thought fate and doom consigned me to. Maybe I should not give up on what I think maybe? So I shuffle the cards for myself and other people. We have ourselves a long look-see at all the alternatives, yet…

There are times when Spirits aren’t playing around, they won’t give excuses or alternative views, they know answers are asked, and the sugar-coating is only for the Trick-or-Treaters. I was always told that if you are going to give a powerful reading, best time is do it during the Hallow-In-Between time (again, my idiom) where the old Wiccan adage “during the season when the veil between worlds is thin” when Spirit and Physical shake hands for a short while. That creates a little bridge where you can take peeks into mystery and get some sense made out of life, or death (if the case may be).

And the Moon Shines like a Smile

The hours after midnight, between 3am and 4am is when the veil between the physical world and spiritual world is really the thinnest. This goes for any day, even beyond Samhain, yet especially on Samhain waiting through that night into wee morning is a vigil. I never sleep the night between Halloween and All Soul’s Day, I’m either celebrating with like-minded friends (not just the Witches) or at home alone singing and reading Tarot cards, and only sometimes I’m outside to drink in the smile of the moon…

I did give myself the chance this year to let the moon really shine down into me. I also directed Her light to cleanse my altar space and tools. I performed an uncrossing, re-activated so many things I left dormant out of everyday distraction, and got rid of the clutter that prevented me from saving enough room to invite the love I felt lacking.  The “universe” even helped getting rid of a manipulative gossip monger in my life, too, and re-connected me to two old friends I lost contact with!  How about that?

A Witch is never alone during Samhain. Even if she’s surrounded by cowans (non-intiate) can still observe her favorite holy day and not be alone. All over the world there are Witches connected by their common bond of fidelity and love for their beloved dead, be they ancestors, spouses, lovers, family, children, or friends, we have this spiritual matrix, it is a fire in the blood, music in our souls, and even if no one else can hear it, it is the song that never ends.

Where Witches Came From

“Have Witches always been evil throughout history?” The innocent and curious may ask. “If so,” the ones who misunderstand say, “why call yourself a Witch since it is synonymous with an evildoer?” Some modern Witches suggest the witch as evildoer is a myth, that the term was never meant to be used to describe someone who performs malevolent magic. “Yet where is that proof?” Some friends have asked me, and no answer I’ve given them has sufficed. One well-meaning friend suggested that, instead of using the term ‘witch’ to describe my spiritual path, I should use a different word that has a better association; “Why not call yourself Wizard, Herbalist, or Magician, or just Wiccan?” Another solution suggested to me and other Witches has been that we should claim that we are solely seeking to re-define the term ‘witch’ as benevolent spiritualist, someone akin to a hippie who practices peace, love, and harmony. Or why not claim that modern-day Witchcraft is a re-creation of an Old Religion, not a true relic of the ancient pagan past, but one inspired by it, one that is really a New Age spiritual movement, not a true religion. Who is to say what is a true religion? What basis are we comparing real religion on? Not all religions are defined by one type of belief in a Divine Being. We have to look beyond our own bias, divorce ourselves for a moment from thinking within the confines of our own culture, and open our minds to new concepts we dared not consider before because it just simply was not pointed out to us in a direct fashion.

The answers to the questions above are not easy to come up with on-the-spot.  Even I, after two decades of practice, have to consult books and cite references.  I should know, by heart, answers to the questions most asked by non-Witches.  I sometimes assume people will just Google them these days, but after checking on the internet myself, and even consulting books I have long turned to, I realized that the answers are not always clearly listed.  It reminded me of the days when I was first taught Witchcraft, how my teachers encouraged me to think for myself, leaving me alone to do research to answer my own questions.  But not everyone is willing to do all that research themselves, they ask and, since I am the Witch, I should be the spokesperson, the only expert they will ever come across whom they can personally interview. Even though I am a Solitary Witch, one who prefers to be alone, I still make it well-known I am a Witch, and this means dealing with the public. In an effort to educate, share, and put to rest concerns and debates, it is my intention to present a list of answers to each question and, where applicable, cite historic, documented sources. Here we go!

Witches weren’t evil, they were just the enemy

* The English word “Witch” evolved from the Saxon word wicca which was a masculine noun pronounced “witch’-ah”, not “wick’-ah” with the feminine form being wicce, properly pronounced “witch’-eh”, wiccan being the male plural noun (not an adjective) and the feminine plural form wiccen (pronounced “witch-en”)– referenced from the Witchvox article A Witch By Any Other Name (The Great Wicca vs. Witchcraft Debate) by author Mike Nichols.

* First evidence of the sin of Witchcraft documented in Latin penitentials (set of rules regarding penance first developed by Celtic priests) by Theodore of Tarsus, stated: “If a woman has performed incantations or diabolical divinations, let her do penance for one year. About which it says in the canon: Those who observe auguries or auspices or dreams or any kind of divinations according to the customs of the heathens, or introduce men of this kind into their homes in investigating a device of the magicians – if these repent, if they are of the clergy let them be cast out, but if they are truly secular people let them do penance for five years.” This provides just one example that Witchcraft was primarily concentrated on the magical practices of women and not yet a sin punishable by death. Source: Meaney, Audrey (1989). “Women, Witchcraft and Magic in Anglo-Saxon England”. Superstition and Popular Medicine in Anglo-Saxon England (ed: D.G. Scragg) (Manchester: Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies): 9–40.

* First documented use of the word ‘wicce-cræeft (witchcraft) and ‘wicce’ (witch) was used to describe the malevolent magical practices of people, specifically women, who were not Christian, appeared in the Law Codes of King Alfred the Great, circa 890 C.E. These people were most likely the last priestesses and/or magicians left of the polytheistic Anglo-Saxon pagans and various ancient British cultures who were still resistant towards monotheistic Anglo-Saxon Christianity. King Alfred was zealous in his mission to convert all subjects under his rule to Christianity. So zealous, that in his Laws, he adapted the “Do not allow sorcerers to live” from the Book of Exodus to “Do not allow the women who are accustomed to receive enchanters, magicians and witches to live.” This Biblical law would not be translated to “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” until the reign of King James I centuries later.

* After the 9th century, the masculine noun ‘wicca’ was later dropped and the feminine noun ‘wicce’ soon evolved into the English word Witch used to describe any woman who practiced magic, malevolent or not. Based on the information listed here, it is no surprise that Witches were considered evil since they were the enemy of the Anglo-Saxon Christians. Any kind of spiritual and magical practices were suspicious. Women were especially suspect because they were connected to sexuality and the church preached that the world of the flesh was the domain of the Devil. Young, beautiful women were the most dangerous. It wasn’t until after the Black Death that widows, the elderly, ugly, and diseased women were most suspect of Witchcraft.

Witches are synonymous with Power, not evildoing

* According to Éva Pócs, there are three varieties of Witchcraft in popular belief:
The “neighbourhood witch” or “social witch”: a witch who curses a neighbour following some conflict.
The “magical” or “sorcerer” witch: either a professional healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a person who has through magic increased her fortune to the perceived detriment of a neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries and the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, such individuals can become labelled as witches.
The “supernatural” or “night” witch: portrayed in court narratives as a demon appearing in visions and dreams.

*  There are four general categories for accusations of witchcraft:
— Getting caught in the act of positive or negative sorcery.

—  A sorcerer or healer lost their clients’ or the authorities’ trust.

—  Someone gained the enmity of their neighbors.

—  The person was reputed to be a witch because their presence is imbued with a sense of “magic” or other-worldliness that cannot be explained.

*  In 1487 the publication of The Malleus Maleficarum, “The Hammer of the Witches” or “Hexenhammer” by the Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger, was used as the primary instruction manual for magistrates on how to detect and exterminate Witches — 80 % percent of whom were women. Why women? Because women, despite being believed to be the weaker sex and treated as second class citizens in the Middle Ages, still had power

“If we inquire, we find that all the kingdoms
of the world have been overthrown by women.”
–quoted directly from the Malleus Malificarum itself!

* From the earliest societies and on through the ages, women tended to the physical and spiritual needs of people in the private spheres of family life. At one time this must have extended to a very vital role in tribal societies. Yet in a culture dominated by a religion where God was male, powerful women were a threat and had to be devalued. Women’s work became the Devil’s work, especially if it was carried out in secret. Even the most innocent of acts could warrant an accusation of Witchcraft; favoring a pet cat, sweeping and cleaning, making a doll, braiding hair, being too beautiful or too ugly, and just simply being “uppity” could get you burnt at the stake.

The Proof is hidden in the lies

The memories from the Burning Times and centuries of bad propaganda have given the term “Witch” a very bad name. Yet it did not end with the persecution of wise women, it was used as a means to enslave and demonize tribal cultures as European imperialism grew.

* Moving beyond the Witch Trials of the Medieval times, during the 17th through 19th centuries, charges of Witchcraft practiced by natives were to justify the enslavement and usurption of African, American Indian, and Latin American cultures. It was believed these people lived in fear of their spirits and Gods, and that Christianity was the only way to save them, or they would be destroyed.

* In order to keep their spiritual ways alive under the rule of their white Christian masters, Afro-American people adapted to the ways of Catholicism and intermixed with them their tribal spiritual practices and beliefs, thus creating new religions. Maligned and very misunderstood, Maccumba, Santería, Lukumi, and Voudoun (along with MANY other Afro-American magico-religious traditions) are all religions hurt by the evil myth of Witchcraft created by European Christians to belittle and bedevil their beliefs. So much so that even today it is a grave insult, and a laughable mistake, to associate their ways with even the harmless neo-pagan version of Witchcraft today.

* The possibility of a conquered people revived and empowered by religions considered the stuff of “witchcraft” by Christians, was a bit of history repeating. Like the Anglo-Saxons who feared their pagan spiritual enemies, and the threatening idea of women powered by supernatural forces conspiring against the church, the mysterious ways of a people guided by unknown spirits was yet another blow to the insecurities of an arrogant and dominant culture fueled by the negative reinforcement of belief in a Devil.

To acknowledge that a supposedly primitive, weaker culture had the power of Witchcraft, was to admit that they had a power that could not be completely controlled by the nation that claimed to conquer it. To claim that the native religions were not true religions because they were considered inferior, primal, or simple compared to the much more organized and civilized Christian traditions, was an arrogant attempt to claim superiority over religions that cannot be “tamed” or easily labeled. If one cannot contain it in a box, it is wild and unpredictable, easily considered dark and dangerous. Whether or not native traditions practiced violent or non-violent rituals in service to their Gods and spirits, fear of the power of “witch doctors” and other tribal spiritual leaders led to Christian missionaries converting innocents. In exchange for leaving their tribes for the promise of a better life as a Christian, sometimes led to life-threatening situations for new converts, completely playing into the Evil Witch Myth needed to scare people into staying in a different religion. It doesn’t matter if it is considered “evil”, power is power, and people, no matter what the religious background, are frightened and awestruck by it.

Therefore I claim that Witchcraft, mythic, historic, perceived diabolical or holy, is synonymous with POWER, both psychological and supernatural, unbound by time, geography, and cultural definitions.

Any other name would not mean the same

* Being a Wizard is not the same as being a Witch. Wizards are a different kind of magician altogether, often considered a higher class venerated as thaumaturgists (miracle workers) who were the world’s first chemists, philosophers, mathematicians, and astrologers. One of the most well-known wizards in history was John Dee, devoted advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.  All wizards were men protected by the aristocracy — they really weren’t all that different from the women, yet women’s magic was considered diabolical, typical misogynistic bias of the day.

* Herbalists are people dedicated to the study of the economic and medicinal uses of plants. They are not magicians or witches by any means, however many Witches today often use herbs for both their medicinal and magical properties. Key components for charms are roots and herbs. Most of today’s Witchcraft is based on the teachings of folk or Hedge Witchcraft, a contemporary tradition inspired by the “low magic” ways of peasants and slaves. Low Magic is the opposite of the “high-class” science-oriented magic of wizards mentioned above, centered on the simple ways of hearth and home — the magic of the common people.

* The term Magician can refer to anyone who practices magic. Yet magicians are a different breed of practitioner than the Witch. The magician uses an outward projection of the human will and mastery over the spirits of nature. The magician’s use of magic is more scientific, formulated, and quite technical in execution. The magical practice of Witchcraft is an art. The Witch uses a more inward approach, letting her own body be a conduit for the spiritual forces of nature and the Gods to work through her. Witches’ magic is more homemade and personable, concentrating more on the poetry of ritual and trance.

*  Wiccan is the same as Witch, Wicca is the same as Witchcraft, even though today it is contested by those who wish to separate themselves from the magical practice and just strictly be spiritual and vice versa.  This movement from the magico-religious to merely religious, I suspect, stems from the need to accepted by society and to be better tolerated by other faiths.  This is a backwards step in interfaith networking.  Even Witches can get their own terminology mixed up with the best of intentions!  I once questioned it myself until I did some research over the last five years and came back to the conclusion that I felt was right all along; call me what you like, believe what you will, but the correct name of my religion is Witchcraft OR Wicca (I prefer Witchcraft because it sounds like home to me, has never freaked me out, and I wish more people would recognize the joy I find in it).

Who is to say that one way is better than the other? Or that our ways don’t ever overlap? We call ourselves by different titles for a reason, to distinguish one from the other, and to sometimes reclaim a power that was stolen or lost.

Religion is the soul of the People

Religion should not just be defined as the way people relate to the Divine, nor should it be limited to just the set of rules established to hold in check the behavior and thoughts of a culture. Religion involves community and public duty, reverence and respect for our fellow human beings in the name of our Gods, and the daily communion with our Gods as a means of practicing harmony between the worlds of spirit and earth. Not all religions require a belief in the Divine, but all include a tradition of seeking enlightenment and maintaining inter-connection with the source of all life.

Witchcraft is another type of religion that helps people fill in what is missing in their lives that they could not find in more traditional, mainstream religions. They want to reconnect to an ancient past, find a new way to relate to the Gods, share their unique personal experiences pertaining to the spirit world, and connect with free-thinkers of a like mind and soul.

Witches are not hippies, but many of us have learned from them. Nor are we a sub-branch of New Age spiritualism. We are not a passing fad or trend, yet groups of teens will always be fascinated with becoming the fantasy kind of Witch or the Goth type that drearily stares out at us from many illustrations today. The real witches, like me, owe it to these young people, and to the ones who just don’t get it to give some clear answers that will break the cycle of misconception.

The title ‘Witch’ is justly earned by those who have achieved it through initiation, experience, and study. To use this word — Witch — is take back the power stolen from innocent people whose souls were crushed by tyrannical religions and governments. The ancient European pagans were supposed to be wiped from memory. Conquered indigenous people were supposed to be removed from history. Witches were supposed to be the perfect supernatural scapegoat for all humans to blame every misfortune on. In every pocket of the world over the Witch is still referred to as evil, even though there is plenty of common sense to prove there is no need to believe in such a thing, yet why do we like to cling to our demons? There are still places in the world where it is dangerous to be a Witch, yet here we are, reclaiming the word as a means to take back power, redefining the word to be empowered, and reviving it as the word as a jab against ignorance and complacency.  This is my free-form poem definition of Witchcraft:

A religion for free thinkers, misfits, rebels, feminists, freedom fighters, misunderstood heroes, and other pius oddballs who, despite ridicule, end up making a difference in the world NOT by using their ridiculous talents and mysterious skills and tenacious willpower, with the cooperation of many invisible friends (spirits) and Gods everyone else likes to believe are fiction, but because they still wield extraordinarily frightening influence over the minds and hearts of people everywhere by merely mentioning that they are a WITCH !

So, where did Witches come from? They were conceived by the fearful imagination of those who don’t want us to think for ourselves. They were born out of the minds of people who are scared of us stepping out of line. Witches are the nightmares of dictators. And no matter how many times they seek to destroy us, we are beyond all control.

What shall I write about next?  Did I answer all the questions I listed at the beginning of this article?  It is now 6:20am, I have been writing all night, so focused on my task, I can barely hold my head up and I feel like I have repeated myself several times.  I want to do some more myth-breaking-writing.  Something about where all the cartoon witch symbolism stemmed from, yet that will have to wait until next week!