The Path of the Witch & The Wheel of the Year (Week 3, Chapter 4)
Welcome back, friends! This week we're going to cover Chapter 4, the intention ritual exercise, and we'll start with the Wheel of the Year (from Chapter 3). There is a lot of material in this chapter, so we're going to take some extra time with it. I'll send another study-group update in 2 weeks (instead of 1), and we can chat in our group in the meantime.
I've chatted with a few of you this past week about the timeline of this study group and if we'll follow the exact outline of the book, which is intended to roughly follow a chapter per month. Penczak also says, "Feel free to adapt this schedule to suit your needs," so I'm open to suggestions as we move through the material. My original thought was to move at our own pace -- if we want to spend more time on certain chapters and less time on others, I'm fine with that.
Let me know your thoughts in our Discussion. You're also welcome to create your own topics in the group and/or pose questions if there's material you want to delve into deeper.
Reviewing Old Posts: If you're accessing these study group posts from your mobile device, all previous week's updates will be at the bottom of this page. If you're on a computer, you'll see previous posts at the right.
Thanks for all the GREAT discussions this week and for the stellar feedback!
The Wheel of the Year
Penczak notes: "The modern Wheel [of the Year] is a collection of rites taken from European lineage, primarily Celtic and Teutonic. It tells the story of the Goddess and the God, through many faces and myths, as they grow and change through the seasons of the year. The changing seasons help Wiccans get into immediate contact with deity, harmonizing them with the world."
- Yule (Dec. 20-23)
Winter solstice, characterized by traditions like mistletoe, Yule logs, and decorating evergreen trees with lights/candles, a symbol of the everlasting Goddess and return of the God of Light. Light and life are returning to the world.
- Imbolc (Feb. 2)
Fire festival dedicated to the goddess Brid or Bridget (triple goddess of light and a patron of the home, healers, poets, and smiths). Candles are lit, homes blessed, sometimes known as Candlemas.
- Ostara (Mar. 20-23)
The Spring equinox, celebrating the Goddess rising and the Earth's resurrection. First signs of spring. Festival named after the goddess Ostre (egg or seed goddess). Traditions include blessing and planting seeds and painting eggs.
- Beltane (May 1)
Fire festival where herds were driven between bale fires to purify them of winter illness. Modern purification rites performed, dedicated to the fiery god Bel. The God has grown from the winter solstice into a young man and claims his role as the Goddess' lover. Sexuality and passion are celebrated, May Pole dances, representing union of the God into the Earth Goddess.
- Litha (Jun. 20-23)
Summer solstice, feast of Litha, representing divine marriage of Goddess and God. The land is in bloom, longest day of the year. Doors to the faery realm are open. Some traditions see this holiday as the divided light and dark aspects of the God.
- Lammas (Aug. 1)
In the Irish traditions, known as Lughnassadh (after Lugh of the Long Arm, a god of light and grain). Games and sports are played on this feast. Corn-dolly effigies burned and first grains of the harvest are cut and given as offering to the gods in thanks.
- Mabon (Sept. 20-23)
Harvest of fruit or wine, named after Celtic god Mabon, who gets lost int he Underworld. This is a time of journey to the dark, drinking of wine, Myths of harvest gods are celebrated, such as Dionysus.
- Samhain, "Sow-wen" (Oct. 31)
Traditional meat harvest and the Celtic New Year. Day of the dead, ancestors return to give blessings and advice. Soul meals are prepared, goodbyes are said to lost loved ones, and candles are lit to mark their way back.
The 8 festivals, called Sabbats, are celebrated differently by individual traditions.
Esbats typically refer to moon rituals, usually private circles for covens, small groups who work magick together. The goal is to have an intimate setting. The 13 moons of the lunar year are celebrated. Circles are cast at both Esbats and Sabbats.
Or rites of passages are also celebrated: usually birth, coming of age, marriage, elderhood, and death.
The Witch's Path
This is an important chapter to read and absorb on your own. Here are the aspects of the chapter that I connect most with:
- Understanding that this is a journey, that you won't have it all figured out the first time you read this book or even during your first year (or 10 years) practicing paganism. You may meet friends and other practitioners on this path who shape your own practice, and that's how it should be!
- Your own history will shape how you experience Paganism. Your practice may have a Christian, Buddhist, or non-denominational flair. And that's OK too!
- A strong link to the physical world is crucial. It's important not to live too much in the spiritual world. I struggle with this. I'm very at-home in my spiritual world.
- Be prepared to heal yourself on this journey first. Reaching out to others and offering help and prayer is always good, but don't forget to focus on you.
- Qualities of the witch: self-awareness, respect, responsibility, and love for life.
- Be self-aware, and work on your self-esteem through positive self-talk and encouragement, through daily reflection (meditating, journaling, daily ritual, etc.).
- Love your neighbor and help others, laugh, enjoy life.
Magickal Record Keeping
Penczak encourages you to keep a daily journal (3 pages each day) and a magickal "record" of spells and rituals that you conduct. Again, I leave that up to you. I journal daily, but I certainly do not write 3 pages each day.
I typically jot down an abbreviated note about my day -- where I went, what my family had for dinner, what the weather was like, anything significant that happened -- just general record keeping. I have an art journal where I'm more expressive with paint and prompts and flair. Then I have my Willows East Tarot Journal where I do a card draw each day to choose what I want to focus on and how best to conduct my day for harmony and peace. I do all 3 of these journals in about 20-30 minutes. If I have more time, I do more.
Please choose a record-keeping method that feels right to you. Or, if writing isn't your thing, meditate and/or dance to music. I think the point is to celebrate YOU.
The Witch's Pyramid
The witch's pyramid is a philosophy of magick based on the image of the pyramid:
- To Know: your clear intention.
- To Will: the strength of will to manifest your intention.
- To Dare: to actually do magick and follow it with action; faith in the manifestation.
- To Keep Silent: to send energy out and not pull it back in by vocalizing it.
- Wiccan Rede/Love: "Do what thou will and let it harm none."
Witchcraft as a Mystery School
Ancient cultures provided "mystery schools" where seekers of the unknown were initiated into the mysteries of life and magick, to take a role as priest or priestess. Because these schools have died out, modern Wicca is somewhat like a new mystery school.
Witchcraft can be practiced in a group, with a mentor, or entirely by yourself as a solitary practitioner.
Basic Goals of the Mystery School
- To experience an altered state of consciousness, to find peace and tranquility.
I think of this simply as quiet time to meditate and calm my body and mind.
- To understand the true nature of the universe, to see the divine, the eternal, and the inter-connectedness of all things, to know that the energy you give comes back to you.
- To experience a rite of purification, with incense, candle flame, salt, or water, to experience a cleansing before ritual or magick work. I typically meditate with incense before and during prayer and spell work. I also work to improve my diet and exercise. In meditation and writing, you can release fears and angers, envy or prejudices, sadness. The idea is to come to the witchcraft table ready to work with a clear mind.
- To contact your higher will, your spirit and soul, and/or spirit guides, to form a partnership with the divine through meditation and daily reflection, to learn to trust it.
The Path of Initiation
This is again a chapter that you should make sure to read and experience on your own. It walks you through the initiation process, timeline, working with or without a partner, etc.
Exercise 1, Intention Ritual
If you wish, please complete an intention ritual in the next 2 weeks and, only if you feel comfortable, share your experience with us!
- Which aspects of the Wheel of the Year traditions and celebrations resonate with you and your traditions? Have you adopted new traditions in honor of these Pagan holidays on your witchcraft journey?
- Which witchcraft practices resonate or don't resonate with you?
- If you've performed the Intention Ritual, write about your experience.
Join us in our ITOW Discussion Group. New here? Jump in anyway!
- Penczak has outlined many basic foundations of witchcraft. Which pieces resonate or don't resonate with you?
- How will you take time each day to connect with this material, to meditate or write, to celebrate you?
- If you've performed the Intention Ritual in Exercise 1 and want to share, what was your experience like?