CHURCH OF THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES
home :: archives :: links :: contact


Village Witchery, Solitary & Coven

previously published in issues 14 & 33 of WitchCraft magazine

THE VILLAGE WITCH AS SPIRITUAL DESCENDANT OF SHAMAN:

One of the apparent paradoxes facing the contemporary Village Witch is how to integrate into the mainstream community while maintaining the undoubted power of being the “outsider”. If Witches are the spiritual descendants of the Shaman, their whole identity must diverge from the mainstream culture in order to mediate the wilder forces of their calling. To meet the Initiatory powers within Nature, the Witch’s psyche must ultimately be stripped of its limiting cultural conditioning.

Like the Shaman, the Witch-Initiate experiences a deeper reality where there is no separateness between Beings, human or non -human. In the full maturity of Initiation, this revelation of the Oneness of the Universe opens the Initiate to the Life-powers of Nature. Creativity, fertility and the healing, ecstatic Love-force flow strongly through them in an impulse of compassion. From the “outsideness” of the Otherworlds the Shaman/Witch returns to the people to serve them, because they now know, in every living cell of their being, that they are not separate from them.

To do otherwise, and attempt to keep the limitless energies and visions of the fertile Life-Spirit for oneself is to court mental and physical imbalance and difficult circumstances. This results in one becoming “glamoured” or lost in the astral Inner Worlds, unable or unwilling to share one’s Inner abilities with others in a functional, grounded way. When you work true to your own Nature for the benefit of others, the life-powers of Nature flow through you for your own highest good.

As this culture is a vast field of human need that cries out for individual contribution, there are a whole spectrum of ways for a Witch to be involved in the community. Our society’s deficiency of meaning and purpose can only be met by a deep response from our true Inner Nature. The basic processes of Magick - Relaxation, Concentration, Visualization and Projection - can be taught as “Creativity Training” through any of the Arts (Visual, Music, Dance, Writing, etc.) and applied in hospices, prisons, youth correction, halfway houses, child care centres, and public schools. As “Self-Empowerment and Healing Training” the magickal process can help improve self-esteem, health and prosperity, through re-inventing work and business to benefit both environment and community.

*     *     *

By anonymously writing letters or articles, being active on the Net, or most powerfully of all, working magickally in the Innerworlds, even the most sensitive solitary can practise Village Witchery, without ever having to rub shoulders with anybody or join a group. The magick of absent healing can be worked at every Full Moon, for example, on behalf of an endangered species of plant, animal, environment or section of the community, such as street kids.

The Village Witch is an archetype of Natural Magick in service to the community of human nature, which is inextricable from the ecology of greater Nature. The “Eco-Village Witch” would likely be active in the environmental cause of “thinking globally, acting locally”. Powerful and effective work can be done whether you are the extrovert activist and organizer, or the quiet, persistent tree-planting type.

Why not build a practical structure for your dreams by founding your own autonomous Church/Temple/Covenant, with legally viable credentials for the ministry of the Old Religion, such as metaphysical counselling and Handfasting? This can include the communal buying of land for retreats and conservation sanctuaries. (The religious freedom of those practising Witchcraft, Paganism or any form of the Old Religion is assured by the Australian Constitution, chapter 5, Section 116.)

COMMUNITY WITCHCRAFT, HEALING & RITES OF PASSAGE:

The Witch’s Path inspires self -empowerment and self -healing, providing time-honoured ritual techniques to achieve this. The path of Healing and the path of Initiation are one and the same, since they both require the freeing of the limited dreaming of the separate little personality into the infinite Dreaming of the Universe. Natural magick can complement any healing discipline, be it orthodox medicine, natural therapies, psychotherapy, etc. The therapeutic power of the Ritual Arts are being rediscovered and relabelled by New Age practitioners, e.g. Sound Therapy, Drama Therapy, etc.

Among the many healing issues that are badly addressed by orthodox disciplines, if at all, are abortion trauma, adolescent depression, and spiritual/metaphysical emergencies, such as the spontaneous rising of serpent energy (kundalini), the shamanic death and rebirth experience, or the intrusion of past-life energies. While collaboration between alternate and orthodox practitioners is well under way, a referral network between Village Witches involved in healing and counselling and “Pagan -friendly” professionals is definitely overdue.

Janet of “Silver Deer Aromatherapy”, reports a strong response to the women’s Healing Circle she co-facilitates, which seems to provide a niche for Women’s Mysteries which is missing in mainstream society. In the supportive space of a Circle Ritual combining aromatherapy, meditation, crystals and spellcraft, Janet finds that the women’s stress around relationships, family and work can find a cathartic release. We can accept our own weaknesses, discover our own strength to be supportive of others and also learn to receive that love in return. The Clan-Circle of family or Coven provides a safe sacred space where we can recognize and empower each-other’s meaning and purpose; as Doreen Valiente said in regard to the “validity” of a Witch: ”It’s not what you know, it’s what you are.“

In the Healing Circle, the older practitioners find new meaning for their often lonely Witchcraft path, when their hard -won insights prove helpful to a younger beginner.  In view of the need to cultivate sacred Eldership for the sake of our children and future generations, the revival of Men’s Mysteries is equally relevant.

*     *     *

The Magick of each gender is potent and unique to itself. In ancient Egypt, the Temple of Priests and the Temple of Priestesses would each nominate a Priest and Priestess to embody the divine sexual union of the God and Goddess. As they co-joined in the Great Rite, the awesome collective power of their Brotherhood and Sisterhood was channelled into them. This model of Dedication could be adapted by our contemporary Hearthwitch for the healing of the embattled relationships between men and women. What kind of stories are we birthing into being through our unconscious use of sacred sexual energies? While honouring the power of the gender Mysteries, we also carry within us Divine Fusion of God and Goddess, and as their spiritually androgynous children, we come here to embody Love, to heal the war -stories of separation, not perpetuate them.

As a celebrant of the Sun and Moon-tides, the Village Witch can enchant and entrance people into the rhythms of Greater Nature. Through open Sabbats or public “Folklore” Workshops, the Old Magickal Religion can be made accessible with traditional songs and dances, storytelling, mystery plays and processions. In the sensory communion of the Circle energy, the participants experience an ancient, timeless sense of community within the great Circling tides of the Cosmos.

In the individual human version of the Sabbat Wheel of the Year, we can heal those Rites of Passage that are often badly addressed and only dimly understood in this culture, namely Birth (South, Winter); Coming of Age/Adolescence (East, Spring); Marriage /Commitment (North, Summer); Eldership /Maturity (West, Autumn); and Death (South, Winter), which is also a Birth, a seeding into the metaphysical dimensions.

Being the Rites of Passage of Nature, the Sabbats and Esbats worked with whole families prove very powerful in healing neglected life passages, and this in turn resolves many painful family issues. It is difficult, for example, for a parent to accommodate the needs of their teenager, if they themselves were never welcomed into the community as a young adult either, and were probably also traumatized by the enforced repression of their sexual power.

By honouring each Rite of Passage as a Life- Initiation, both the individual and the community are empowered and valued. Who will welcome the newborn with hands of sacred skill and eyes of love? Who will honour the powerful chrysalis-time of Adolescence, guide the dying in their hour of passing and comfort their bereaved with the Rite of Farewell?

HEARTS OF THE EARTH:

The community is the human counterpart of Nature’s inter-relationships that can regenerate our fragmented traditions of Sacred Earth and Hearth, and ultimately transform the larger culture. It is possible that the people of the peaceful and advanced Indus Valley culture (5000 B.C.) were the earliest Solitary Practitioners, as they lacked bureaucratic temples but had shrines in every home. We contemporary Village Witches can be a tribal network of autonomous “Solitaries”, who are a Priest/esshood dedicated to community as a communion, a state of Oneness with the spirits of all things, the plants, animals and bioregions upon which our human life depends.

An aspect of Home Blessing or Place Clearing includes honouring the paths that flow from the community of Sacred Earth into the Elemental life of the home, by the awareness, purification and blessing of our communication lines, ventilation and windows (Air), our power and fuel (Fire), our plumbing (Water), our food, clothing, shelter, re-cycling and health (Earth). Grounded in Sacred H/Earth, the collective “energy-body” of each Clan or Coven is cleared and blessed in the same process.

The Blessing of Body/House/Land also requires the institution of making offerings, consciously “giving out” to the Spirits of Nature before taking in, keeping balance between physical and spiritual, human and non -human. This keeps energies conscious, preventing the negativity of unconscious, repressed forces erupting from the collective consciousness of the community.

It is well known that sensitive individuals with a lot of unbalanced emotional psychic content can often be the “weak link” through which any unresolved family or community “ghost” will play itself out. Village Witches sufficiently adept at working with H/Earth energies on the Innerplanes can instigate the astral clearing of any lost or trapped energy-beings, and also those “replaying movies” that have been imprinted on the astral substance through trauma. By using the Elemental forces akin to both the Samhain Wild Hunt and Weatherworking, an individual, family, house or a whole area can be cleared of these old or inappropriate astral shapes and shells.

*     *     *

As the ancient shaman’s place for Storytelling about the Ancestors, the first story-makers of Creation, the Hearthfire can become the ecstatic catalyst for bringing Light-filled stories into manifestation. Tradition is Ancestral because it naturally creates itself from who we are. We can initiate ourselves into our own Traditions, because the Dreaming -power of past and the future is alive in us NOW.

I call on you, humble and powerful Hearthwitches, Priests and Priestesses of the family, quiet Eco-warriors, to hold Sacred H/Earth wherever you stand. It is known to the Wise that the trees, plants, stones, animals, people and circumstances that present themselves in your life sphere are all allies, familiars, teachers and healers. “I come like a beggar with a gift in my hand - By the hungry I will feed you, by the poor I’ll make you rich, by the broken I will mend you, tell me which one is which” (Song by Sydney Carter). No matter what your circumstances, the Path of Initiation begins from where you are standing on the Earth, a place filled with power.

In the Hearth Temple of body, house and land, ignite the Earth -fire of your Nature and call down the power within and beyond the Earth, Moon, Sun, and Stars, for “Life and more Life”. To call the ancient Life-powers for purification and transformation, light candles for the place, people or species for which you are working. Offer them your tears, the dancing and drumming-out of the sacred anger that transforms the world, offer them your art, your passionate prayer and song. Become a living bridge for the Divine, and watch your heart and Hearth open out into the land, into shining paths of fertile exchange and flow. Sense the Hearth and Heart-fires of countless communities, grounding deep root-systems of strength, drawing hidden springs of inspiration and visioning wide into starfields of hope and freedom.

If you are interested in developing these suggested individual approaches to “Village Witchery” feel free to contact us.

SOLITARY PATH:

The role of the solitary practitioner of magickal religion - the shaman, the enchantress or mage, the religious hermit or Druid – is steeped in romance and antiquity. The Traditional or Hereditary Witch was most often represented by the
Practical Solitary Magic
(Nancy B. Watson)

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” & “Living Wicca
(Scott Cunningham)

Witchcraft for Tomorrow
(Doreen Valiente)

A Witch Alone - Thirteen Moons to Master Natural Magic
(Marian Green)

The Wiccan Path,
A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

(formerly “Hedgewitch” by Rae Beth)

Ritual Magic Workbook - A Practical Course of Self-Initiation
(Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, for the ceremonially-minded Witch)
solitary folk healer, the itinerant hedge-witch, the wise woman or cunning man. The Solitary Witch would usually work alone, with their partner or within a small family group.

No Witch is ever required to become a part of a Coven, and many choose not to. People learn in the way they need to, in different ways at different times. Change is the very essence of natural magick, so Witchcraft is always fluid and dynamic. Even in those progressive Covens that honour individuality, some simply cannot be true to their Craft within Coven parameters and either temporarily or permanently choose the Solitary path.

While the magickal personality needs to be forged by self-motivated individual solitary work, it also needs tempering and testing by the interchanges of community. The Solitary has a valuable opportunity to appreciate the magickal nature of the whole of life. It is the community of Life itself, Pagan and non-Pagan, which will test the metal of your magickal being.

Behind the drive to become or remain a Solitary, is that “spiritual restlessness” which is a necessary phase of real consciousness-expansion. Part of this process often includes a need to distrust and avoid any form of structure in religion, perceiving it as authoritarian and restricting.

Finding Your Own Path through the Centre of your Circle

One vital key to steady spiritual and magickal development is the regular practice of basic meditation, learning to calm the fear-based “survival consciousness” of the body-mind with progressive relaxation and rhythmic breathing. After spending time relaxing each muscle group, from your head right down to fingers and toes, begin breathing in a rhythm comfortable for your ability, e.g. inhale for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for four, hold the lungs empty for four, etc). Slowing the movement of breath also slows the busy activity of the brain, making it easier to observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them to be good or bad. This detachment allows spontaneous insights to arise from your deeper natural wisdom.

In time, this practice creates the calm nucleus of your Innerplanes sanctuary, the Spirit-centre of the Magickal Circle. Extend your meditation into observing how the Four Elements are manifesting as Mythscapes or landscapes within your Inner Nature (corresponding them to the four Quarters in a way meaningful to you). The Sanctuary Circle establishes itself naturally on the Innerplanes as a result of the four “Elemental Mythscapes” blending together. By setting up a steady cycle of practice, you will open a Gate between the worlds through which your own inbuilt magickal tradition, your Greater Nature (or Higher Self) can more easily communicate with you.

Learning your Craft from your own Magickal Diary

Just as any genuine magickal tradition will be over-lighted by benevolent non-human guiding intelligences, called “Watchers” or Innerplanes Guardians, the “Witch-Clan” that you belong to by virtue of your own Greater Nature will make themselves known to you. They communicate in the language of symbolism and imagery, not only through the Elemental Mythscapes of the inner realms, but also in mysterious “coincidences” and fortuitous events in the outer world. Books will fall off the shelf, open at the right page; you will “bump into” significant people; and receive guiding messages and answers from overheard conversations, billboards, trucks, signs appearing in nature, etc.

Because this symbolic language is not always obvious at first, it is really important to keep a Magickal Diary of both Inner and Outer circumstances, including dreams and divination results from Tarot, Runes, Scrying, etc. The more we can tune in to this Dreaming-language, the more we are able to understand it as the way we (mostly unconsciously) create our life-experiences. The way the Elements are manifesting in both the Innerplanes and the Outer world will reveal how we are dreaming our experiences into being. Our Innerplanes teachers will help us to progressively wake up within the Dream of our existence and consciously create our circumstances from the expanded awareness of our Greater Nature.

Making Contact with the Guardian of the Magickal Diary

As a solitary, it is important to cultivate the habit of honest self-evaluation. As you record this contemplation in your Magickal Diary, imagine that you are sitting with a wise, kindly being, with whom you can discuss your own abilities in a non -judgemental manner. Remember, if you can imagine something, then you are contacting something that is already there, on some level of existence. If the “imagined” Inner teacher gives practical, verifiable guidance, backed up by meaningful signs or events in the outer world, then you have made a real “Inner Planes contact”!

Whether or not you are aware of them, the Inner Planes Teachers are real, so do not doubt that you are watched over by these compassionate Beings. They are the Gardeners and you are the Seed that knows within itself its own timing of growing and unfolding. To honour them, and also your Divine Seed-Self, acknowledge their representative Being before commencing a session of study, Ritual or other magickal work, e.g.: “I greet and thank you, Wise One, for your help and guidance.”

While you may feel that you lose the cosy experience of being “inside” a Coven Tradition, it is actually a necessary part of magickal development to make your own “Inner Planes Contacts”. Too many Coven members have a second-hand experience of this connection. There is no need, therefore, to envy other people’s Craft Traditions. They are simply other people’s gates and paths to the wisdom within the Inner Planes, and you can open your own. All the best on your Path, and Blessed Be.

COVEN CULTURE

In the contemporary Witchcraft Revival, in which Wicca is by far the best known tradition, there is a huge diversity to choose from. If you maintain patient persistence, trusting your intuition, it is inevitable that you will find the Path and travelling companions you need.

Many beginners fall into the trap of the quick fix, either trusting the first group or teacher they find, or thinking that all you need to create a Coven is the “right ritual”. While it is true that you don’t have to be Hereditary or Initiated to start a Coven, it is a commitment that takes more than an “interest” to sustain. Working ritual and magick with people can create astral ties even stronger than those of family or marriage, so don’t be in a screaming hurry! Form a study group first.

To protect yourself from undesirables, use a “craft name” E-mail address or a P.O. Box to post a contact ad (in bookshops, newsletters and on the Net). Take time to research and discuss vital issues such as the proposed Coven’s focus (e.g. healing, conservation, psychic development, teaching, etc); affiliation with tradition or network; what kind of hierarchy, if any; what minimum requirements in numbers, meeting schedule; finances; degree of secrecy; and membership guidelines such as youth age limit and fitness.

A study group can provide a neutral “outer court” where you can select the most balanced and compatible people. As magickal practices have a powerful effect on all levels of being, reasonable levels of physical fitness and psychological stability are necessary requirements. In the case of emotional or mood disorders, addictions or heart-lung problems, professional advice should be taken. Murry Hope, in her comprehensive overview of ritual (“The Psychology of Ritual”) explains the psychosomatic effect of ritual very thoroughly.

Coming Home

Newcomers to the Craft often speak of a “homecoming”.
Witchcraft emphasises direct experience of Spirit, the Divine within all things, so it is unlikely that your inner experiences will be negatively labelled as the result of psychosis or delusion. Within the security of the group both self-esteem and psychic/spiritual development find nourishment; the collective energy quickens new abilities, and the group’s feedback increases self-knowledge.

Sometimes the motivation for joining a Coven is to become part of a powerful, secret elite to gain “power over” others. The need to dominate others stems from fear and insecurity, a lack of power over one’s own self and life. This sense of powerlessness disappears as the individual learns to tap into their own limitless creative “power from within”.

The Bonds that Lead to Freedom

Covens are mostly small and clannish, comprising somewhere between 3 and 20 people. The deep commitment to each other and their shared vision of the Craft make it possible to share dreams and fears and take those risks so necessary for growth that are not possible in our “normal” relationships. The most successful and dynamic groups usually manage to combine strong unity with the valuing of individual independence.

Each coven is autonomous, functioning as its own authority in matters of ritual, spiritual philosophy, and training. In time, a unique group mind/personality (the “Egregore”) forms on the Inner Planes, growing stronger and drawing on deeper cosmic guidance as each member comes into their own divine power.

By contrast, the Inner Planes Egregore of a dysfunctional or unbalanced Coven will be uncomfortable, unpleasant and draining. If you find yourself stuck in such a group, do not despair.

Resource Pages:

Recommended for Useful Coven-Building Concepts are:

Stay tuned – we’ve only scratched the surface!



home :: archives :: links :: contact