Culture Blogs


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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

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Army of Witches

It is said that during the dark days of the Great Persecution, certain friars secreted themselves near the sabbat-stead of a certain Alpine valley.

In this way they hoped to spy upon the witches in their gathering, and so ascertain once and for all the much-vexed question of what numbers the cult could claim.

Now it so happened—let it surprise no one—that these friars were in their turn espied by a certain warlock on his way to the sabbat, and this is what he said to them:

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Circle of Compassion and the power of

Many of us who have come to identify with Witchcraft or Paganism (hence finding ourselves on the Witches & Pagans blogosphere) originated in a family tradition where communion with the Divine (the All, Spirit, the Totality) was achieved through prayer. In the etymology found within common dictionaries, "prayer" tends to be defined both as, "worship of God (a deity)" as well as simply, "an earnest hope or wish." Somewhere in the mystery between these two forms, we may find the truth. Prayer, as well as spell craft and the various types of ritual used to facilitate both, can be seen as acts of co-creation

Those of us raised in one of the major mono-theisms may be familiar with teachings like that found in Matthew 18:20 of the Christian "new testament": Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them."

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Mystic Sun

The Great Mask of the God of Witches lives in a closed shrine in the Temple of the Moon.

Twice daily it receives incense, song, and prayer.

Weekly it receives offerings of food and water.

A light burns continuously before it.

But though the Mask dwells in mystic darkness, in these days and weeks following Grand Sabbat, I who have seen it tell you that a light shines forth from that shrine, a mystic light, a light as though there were a Sun within.

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God-Paint

“Most painted dick in the Midwest.”

If I never accomplish anything else in this long and varied life of mine, I suspect that I can safely claim that distinction at least with little fear of competition.

Such is the life of a priest of the Horned.

At the Grand Sabbat, the priest wears a mask, a collar of fresh green leaves, and a coat of paint.

The god wears the priest.

Eight days on from Mystery Night, I've just about scrubbed off the last of the god-paint. Well, there's still a little around the edges of the toenails, and my navel (being too ticklish to scrub). Such things are neither lightly taken on, nor easily shed.

Do you know why the god's glans is painted red at the Sabbat? The way I heard it, it's because He's the Opener of the Way.

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“Just Like the Woodcuts”

We don't know whether or not the “orgiastic” witch's sabbat of the witch-hunters ever existed anywhere but in their sordid, sex-starved imaginations. But this much we do know: it exists now.

It exists because we made it.

In our day, the Grand Old-Time Witch's Sabbat, with all its blood, grit, and semen, rises again. Those old medieval tropes retrovert very nicely into Pagan, we've found. Anyone who has ever been there can tell you that's it's the real thing.

“Just like the woodcuts,” I was once told, the morning after.

But the Sabbat is not for everyone.

At the Midwest Grand Sabbat just past, a friend was telling me about some folks that she'd spoken with who had attended a previous Sabbat and found it not to their taste.

“Too intense,” they told her. “Too culturally immersive.”

Well, you can't fault their conclusions. Those of us who have been there know full well its unremitting, gut-wrenching emotionality, and the four days of the Sabbat weekend constitute a crash course in deep Witch culture. To those accustomed to the undemanding eclecticism of most pagan festivals, the Real Deal might well seem overwhelming.

For the witch-hunters were right about this much at least: the Sabbat demands everything. The Sabbat demands your soul.

For those of us of the Tribe of Witches, it's a price joyfully paid.

No, the Sabbat is not for everyone. But I couldn't help but grin when I heard my friend's words.

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A Function of Focus

On the last morning of this year's Grand Sabbat gathering, a friend—a priestess of many years' experience—came to me, distraught.

“The campers!” she said. “They have to be moved! They'll ruin the sightlines!”

The campers and caravans were parked on the edge of the meadow through which the Horned departs in the final rite of farewell. We follow him up out of the woods and watch as he walks up the hill and off into the sky.

I could readily understand my friend's concern. The sight of the Antlered disappearing over the horizon is an image of such searing purity and beauty that nothing must interfere with it, nothing.

“Don't worry,” I tell her. “The god will make the campers disappear. You won't even see them.”

And so, indeed, it was.

When the rite was ended, and the tears dried, my friend came to me, wondering.

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How Was Grand Sabbat This Year?

“So, how was Grand Sabbat this year?” asked my friend.

Funny. I organized the event (Thursday through Monday, with the Sabbat itself on Saturday night), also acting as chief priest and thus, in effect, host of the gathering. At the Sabbat itself, I served as personifying priest.

All of which makes me the least qualified person to tell you how things went.

I've seen inexperienced priests go into a ritual expecting (and sometimes achieving) profound states of spiritual ecstasis. They think that it's all about what they're feeling. If they can manage to get themselves into the zone, presumably the rest of us will groove along with them.

They've got it all wrong.

Of all the people at any given ritual, the one whose experience is the least important is the priest.

So, as to the Sabbat, I can only tell you what other people said.

(Several said, “Best yet.” But, of course, people always say that. Which is the best Grand Sabbat? The one we're at, of course.)

As for the Sabbat itself, as personifying priest, I'm not qualified to judge because (in a sense) I wasn't even there—at least, not in propria persona.

Here's what I can tell you. The Sabbat reembodies the creation of the Tribe of Witches. It doesn't just reenact the Primal Sacrifice out of which the world arose, it makes present the Sacrifice. So it did this year, and did it well.

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  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    I'll tell you how "good" it was. I went to lunch today with my partner and a dear friend. We happened to run into another friend

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