Living a a Witch

What does it mean to be Wiccan?

Of course it means following the tenets of the Rede, but there is more to it than merely that.

Deity

Most Wiccans believe in the Goddess and the God, each of which have many names describing various aspects of their personalities. Some follow one or the other more, and even this is not universal. It is not required to believe in either, but most generally do.

The Goddess is known generally in three forms: The Nymph, the Mother, and the Crone. There are many names for each of these aspects.
In the Nymph form, she has such diverse personalities as the Huntress (Artemis/Diana) and the Maiden, such as Persephone. The Nymph is young, pure, though not necessarily innocent of the world- this is the Goddess of the springtime. (Though those Goddesses I mentioned are dark-aspected.)
As Mother, the Goddess is Gaia, the Earth Mother, as well as Goddess of the full Moon. She is protectress of the cycles of life, birth and death, creation and destruction.
The Crone is the least understood form of the Goddess. She is guardian of the gateways, keeper of the edges of things. She is old and wise and knows many things, though she does not claim omniscience or omnipotence. She watches over the end of life. Her forms have included the Fates and Hecate.

I am less versed in images of the God; being female they do not speak to me as strongly. (This is something of a stereotype; I have a friend who is solely a Preistess of Herne. Were she to also worship the Goddess personified, she would follow Diana.) However, this is the overview.
The most common name ascribed to the God is Herne the Hunter, from Celtic myth. He is the god dying and reborn; the Lord of the Hunt, and the master of the Wild
Magic.
The God is born at Yule, and dies on Samhain. The year cycle is his life cycle, from birth through life through death to rebirth.
Another way of looking at the cycle is the eternal struggle between the Oak King and the Holly King. Here, it is the Oak King born at Yule, when the Holly King is at the peak of his strength. The Holly King is born at Litha, Midsummer. Their struggle is the cycle of the year.
The Wild Hunt is one of the main domains of the God. All the magicks of the world are unfettered when it rides. The Wild Magic rides high and swift. The traditional nights for the Hunt's ride are Midsummer and Samhain (Halloween.) It has also been known to make an apprearance during thunderstorms.

I do not know that I necessarily believe in an individulized Deity. It is not necessary. I believe that, as Valentine Michael Smith said in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, "All that groks is God." Anything that exists must have within it some part of deity, or else it would not exist. This is something of a pantheistic attitude of mine.
As Michael said, "Thou art God."

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Self-Determination

One of the basic beliefs of Wicca could be translated as "Go your own way." There is no lore passed down from the ages to be followed exactly, and the laws add up essentially to personal responsibility. It is my belief that I am correct in my views. However, I will not attempt to force them on anybody else, nor will I insist that others are wrong based only on these opinions. Since there is no tradition of universal truth, I have no reason to claim the arrogance of posessing it.
I do, however, have a book that I follow. It is my
Book of Shadows. Here is where I record things, that the past may be a guide to the future. I have been known to note down Tarot card readings, use it as a diary, or record thoughts and quotes that strike my fancy.

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Festivals of the Sun and Moon

I think Minerva explains the Sabbats much better than I ever could, though I may expand on her statments later when I have more time. Until then, Minerva's explanation will have to do.
Esbats are celebrations of the Moon, and therefore the Goddess. They are like Sabbats, only generally more personal. They are generally held in the full or the dark of the Moon. While Sabbat celebrations are often large gatherings of many people, Esbats tend to be more personal and quiet meditations or rituals.

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Magic: Its Practice, Use and All of That

I believe in magic.
I am a rational, "scientific" human being.
These are reconcilable.
I could explain magic scientifically, or just take it on faith. The fact is, it works, and so I have to come up with an explanation for it.
For anyone who cares:

Magic is the manipulation of the world using the power of the mind and spirit. In a metaphysical way, one can interpret this as the power underlying the interconnections of existence, thinking that mana flows through these to effect changes. The fact that magic, as it supposedly "ought" to be, does not exist, could be explained by the same interconnections: the force of natural tendency can override whatever effort we make with our minds. Therefore, I cannot fly or turn into a black cat because it is not in my nature to do so.
Now, for the scientists:
There has, as yet, been no way of quantifying the mind. We understand the biology of the brain, but the way individuality interfaces with that is not yet comprehended. Thus, we don't know how the mind acts, so this may even be plausible.
Consider an electron. It's hard to pin down. Not exactly the most consistent or quantifiable of critters; so changable, in fact, that merely looking at it changes the way it acts.
What are the processes of thought? Flows of electrons through chemical reactions. Yet we have, or at least have the illusion that we have, control over these. So, why is it so ridiculous that a concentrated thought could effect an electron not in those pathways?
Most displayed magic is magic of healing. This is the mind convincing the body that it does not hurt. Shifting nerve impulses. Quantum mechanically, encouraging electrons to go to a different state.
Things won't levitate because the sheer quantity of effort required to shift things from their location is immense; diverting a minute pulse of energy is a different realm. Similarly, I can't make a pencil vanish, because a pencil is very probably there. There is a near certainty that at least some of the matter in a pencil exists at any given time. Individual particles might flip into and out of being, but the whole remains.
This is, of course, all complete hogwash, but it's a fun theory anyways.

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So What Do I Believe Anyway?

Wull.... This is actually hard to quantify.
I'll write it up when my brain works again.
But for starters,
this site has a synopsis of the general beliefs that I hold done up in a niftier way than I have yet determined that I will do.
First of all, the forms of the Goddess I choose to follow are generally dark. This means that I am generally not devoted to the Maiden form of the Goddess, nor do I follow so well the Mother. I hear more frequently the words of the Goddess in her young and old forms of the Crone- specifically Athena and Artemis.
Now, you may say that these are young goddesses. And indeed, in body, they are. But wisdom and death are the realm of the Crone, and Athena is the war-goddess and the keeper of wisdom, and her animals are the owl and the snake. (If you did not know this, the snake is one of the most ancient symbols of the wisdom of the Goddess. Early priestesses were bitten by sacred snakes, and the venoms caused them to hallucinate, transmitting (so they thought) the words of the Goddess to them. This is also quite likely the reason the Serpent appears in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.) Artemis is the Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, more the dark Goddess than the Maiden.
My form of the God is Herne. Herne is the horned god of the Celts, He who leads the Wild Hunt. He is God of the Hunt, and God of the Hunted. He can be a cruel Lord, but also a generous one. Like Artemis, He is guardian of the forest and its creatures. Like Artemis, He will kill. And he is also able to die.
Nobody should ask if I believe in real physical entities by these names. I have not met them personally, but yes, they do exist. They are incarnations of the life force of the universe, merely aspects. The human mind is not capable of comprhending all that is Godly without such filters.

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Energy- How to get through the Day

I see four different types of energy-- Physical, mental, emotional, and mana. They are interconvertible, but not freely; some things are lost in the change. I need certain levels of each of them to continue in a reasonably sane level.
Physical energy is the most obvious. I need it to move, be active, all of that. And to keep from being sick. It is easily replenished- just eat something, or take a rest, or something. This is earth-energy.
Mental energy is air-energy. The energy of thought. I find this the hardest energy to replenish, as air is not really my element. I get it back by reading, thinking (aka spacing out) and occasioanlly sleeping. Also I play solitaire a lot.
Water energy is emotional. This is the most delicate one of all.... Without it I get touchy. Or, if you're not feeling so generous, utterly bitchy. I use it do deal with tyrying situations, but, most importantly, to help my friends. Also, as I am strongly empathic, I use it to counteract the whirls of negative emotions that surround me. This is a constant drain. A really good way to recover this is a nice cuddle. I am a romantic, and I like that sort of thing. It maketh a Heather happy.
And last, there is mana. Mana is the energy of fire for me, and is the power to cast spells. It also effects my mood and my thinking, as well as my physical energy. I am a fire spirit, mostly, so it makes sense that this is my major energy form. I replenish it with wind and rain, thunderstorms, and music, for the most part. There are other sources for the energy, but these are the most readily available to me. Some people will understand that, some won't- it doesn't matter.

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How does one define Spirit?

I would say that there are three levels of the soul, for lack of a better term. These, in my own opinion, correspond to the three levels of the mind- Conscious, Subconscious, and Unconscious. (Note that this section, as indeed this entire page, is all my own opinions....)
The deepest level, is what I name Aiťa, which is the Sanskrit word for life. I took it from the novel Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. (See the
Reading List.) This I have compared to a thread or strand of music. It is not temporal, existing outside of normal time. This is the fundamental part of the soul, the part one is born with. From its melodies, the other pieces are constructed. The Aiťa lives to expand itself, add to its own melody. It goes through many lives; this is the part that goes through reincarnation. The period of pregnancy is when the Aiťa bonds itself into a baby, finally linking at the point of viability. (I would say that modern science has not changed this point any, but it enables the process to continue for earlier births, granting it a chance for completion.) At this point, the Aiťa begins the construction of the Spirit.
This process takes longer, about two years. The Spirit is the repository of the personality of an individual lifetime. It is built as a shadow of the Aiťa, of the same threads of music, but without the length or complexity. It is a briefer version. This is the portion that endures after death, should you believe in such things; I like to think that my Spirit will live on in places where I was happy, rather than going to anywhere strange and unknown. I believe in neither heaven nor hell, merely the world as it is.
On top of all these is the Will. The Will is the motive force, the conscious mind. It emerges at around the age of two, I would say, in its earliest fledgeling form, and begins to assert its independence. The Spirit and even more so the Aiťa are concealed under this flurry of self-consciousness and activity, gleaning what they might know from the shadows. The Will transmits the Spirit to the outside, it is shaped and constructed by that personality, but is in reality little more than a spiritual subroutine. It moves the self onward, but has very little substance. What is passes off as substance is in fact depth, shadows of Spirit and even Aiťa that show through its filters. It is possible to spot those with a deep and complex Aiťa, it is unmistakable. They have unnerving and beautiful eyes.

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Living as a Mystic in the Secular World

I must say that this is the hardest thing to do. I am a rational human being, I am a science major-- I am a mystic and a priestess of my Goddess. I can reconcile all these, though not many will believe me.
The way I see my role as Priestess is as a walker among the shadows, keeping the balance between order and chaos and light and darkness. None of these are wrong, but too much of any one would be disastrous. My duty is to walk the lines and edges, keeping to the fringes of the world; only at the fringes do we live, for a purity of anything is destructive.
In this place, I must ever be aware of the patterns around me, and I must also remain in touch with my environment, source of my energy.
Living within the world is ever an adventure, and to be able to do so is my joy and privilege. The day I lose my sense of wonder I am better off dead.
I see a world full of complexity and life, a mystery reborn every day, month, and year. There will ever be something to discover and to celebrate, always something to rejoice in.
Thus does the mystic live- for everything has its own magic, whether you believe in the literal form or not. Everything exists, and there will ever be wonder at that.
Pax.

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