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Definitions

(originally posted in the HPGP msn Group)

First of all word Witchraft/ Witch - Religion/ pratctices of people of Europe before the taking of Christianity. This is the word that was given to practicioners of ways that predeced Catholic Church by its Clergy. Practitioner of Witchcraft, or a Witch, is initiated into a line that has origins in pre- Christian time, a line that has continued and has not been broken.
Etymology: Middle English wicche, from Old English wicca, masculine, wizard & wicce, feminine, witch; akin to Middle High German wicken to bewitch, Old English wigle divination, and perhaps to Old High German wIh holy.Dictionaries also include corupt definitions by Christian Church as - Devil- worshiper, one endowed with special powers and such (so much about dictionary and influence of monotheistic Church).

Hethen - person who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible, Torah, or Koran. Originally a person living on the heath or in the countryside. A person holding on to the old customs and beliefs, often used in the pejorative sense of heretic or unbeliever. Etymology: Middle English hethen, from Old English h[AE]then; akin to Old High German heidan heathen, and probably to Old English h[AE]th heath.

Pagan - many times used interchangingly with Heathen. Pagan, from Latin pagus, country dweller, also taken as 'unenlightened'. Some people will call themselves Heathen as opposed to Pagan to make a distinction 1) From neo-Pagans as a (neo-Greek = new) Pagan movement started by G. Gardner;
2) to make a disctinction from 'unenlightened' as 'idol-worshipers' as Church referd to country population at the time of conversions.

Pagan is today an Umbrella-term which incorporates many different ways which are Polytheistic (belief in more than one God), many Pagans also revere the Nature and are involved in different movements for preservation of Forests, animals, etc. Some of the Paths in today's Paganism are neo-Druids, Wiccans, etc....

Reconstructionalist - a person that draws heavily on what is documented/ saved in historical/ anthropological sources about a specific culture/ country. They (may) have a line that has been broken at some point (case of drawing partially on remnants of tradition that has once died), or may be avid students of historical sources and are trying to reconstruct a way of practices as close as possible as it may have once been, many times adding in parts of their own, when info lacks.

Wicca/ Wiccan follower of a Religion started in 40's of 20th century by Gerald Gardner. Traditional Wiccans - Gardnerian and Alexandrian. With many 'traditions' that have developed later, Wicca as a Religion draws from many sources - Europian (Irish, Welsh, Greek, Roman and other) pantheons/ cultures, Eastern Influences, Ceremonial Magick and, after Buckland started the 'self-initiatory' craze, for a practitioner of Wicca today, other than Gardnerian or Alexandrian ways, there is no intitiation necessary (some numerous other ways may require a type of initiation).
Wicca is really a mixture of many ways, and is not a specific tradition with roots in one place.

Seeker - a term refering to (usually) persons interested in learning more about Traditional Witchcraft (as defined above), but, today, many apply it for all sorts of neo-Pagan ways.

As far as what you call yourselves, thats a personal choice. All ways are valid, and there is no one way better than other.

Definitions here are based on research of history and antrophology. One good book about development of Religions is 'A History of Pagan Europe' by Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick

Etymology - from Merriam - Webster, and Encarta Dictionaries

Articles by Norin


These articles are not a part of any Tradition. This is simply my own idea of how to's. Please don't copy the material here.

Altars

Altar (part 1) ALTAR z AL'TAR, n. L. altare, probably from the same root as altus, high. 1. A mount; a table or elevated place, on which sacrifices where anciently offered to some deity. Altars were originally made of turf, afterwards of stone, wood or horn; some were round, others square, others triangular. They differed also in height, but all faced the east. The principal altars of the Jews were, the altar of incense, of burnt-offerings, and of shewbread; all of shittim wood, and covered with gold or brass.
(Taken from KJV Dictionary)

Altar can be of any size, shape, and purpose. It depends from the practitioner how they will set up the altar. It can be a very simple setup. The direction in which the altar is placed is usually either the North or East.
The basic ingredients can include 2 candles (color from white to different combinations), seasonal items (leaves for example), to figurines that represent the Goddess and a God, my personal suggestion is to add an incense burner or aromatic oil for " dressing" of candles. The above doesen't include the Elemental Altars. Maybe later and article will be added on this subjest.
There is a belief that a circle is a most perfect shape. Of course, finding a circular table can be a difficult task. Square can be an another (most usual) shape. The size will depend on the purpose. The more stuff you need to place on an altar, the more space you will need. About the financial expenses, even a shoebox can be used as an altar. So can the stump and circular looking stone (table). The idea for a crate in which the ritual objects are kept (with a lid) can also serve as an altar.
As far as fabric for tablecloth goes, silk, cotton and saten (a personal suggestion - differing from season you can change the color of an altar cloth). Usually, black and white are most widely used colors.

Altar (part 2)

Setup of an Altar

Usually, the left side is dedicated to the Goddess, and right to the God.
Ritual objects connected to the Goddess would be placed on the left side - the chalice, cauldron, seashells, stones with an inside circle, etc. Objects such as sword would be on the right side.
To be honest, you don't have to follow any set rules. If a practitioner who is setting up an altar has a gut feeling about placing a certain object at a certain spot, do use your intuition. As far as offerings go (fruit, seasonal decorations, etc.), they can be placed infront of the candles and the incense burner inside a bowl. Offerings can also be spread all over the altar. The incense burner itself can be placed at the right side or in the center infront of the candles.
In all honesty, follow your intuition. If you have a feeling that a certain object should be placed in a certain place, go for it.
This article is just a small part of topic of altars, I hope to add more info on the topic in future.

P.S. As far as personal likes goes, leaving the Grimoire on an altar, exept for the time of ritual is not a good idea (some of you might like the idea of Grimoire stand). Personally, I'd place it in a crate with the rest of ritual supplies. If you cannot afford a crate, a second-hand suitcase would serve the purpose.

Grimoire

Grimoire is a personal notebook with the information that an individual puts down over the course of time. It can contain the recipes, properties of herbs, instructions, information of magickal nature etc. As well as, illustrations, drawings, etc. can be contained within the grimoire. Covers can be a simple folder or an elaborate fabric design or wodden covers with details.
Pencil or pen that is estheticaly appealing can be used for writing down the information. This pen might be only used for such purpose. Paper can be a plain writing paper, or paper made to look older chemically, to achieve more interesting appearance.
From the owner depends what type of information will be written down, and which design the grimoire will follow.
Keeping - as with every other ritual object, grimoire can be self-dedicated to the user, protected and connected with Patron God/ess/s.

Ceremonial Daggers

Daggers were since pre-history used in the purpposes of hunting, personal protection, and assault.
Ceremonial daggers and swords are used in the purposes of 1) cutting - opening/ closing of circle/ sacred space,
2) manipulation of various classifications of spirits. Daggers of various designs were found on archeological site locations worldwide. During the initiation in tradition of magick, of any type, dagger/ sword can be given to the initiate. Symbols that denote name of the owner, rank/ title, can be engraved/ enscribed on the handle or blade itself.
In different ways dagger can be 'dedicaded' to the owner, protected, linked with specific God/ess/s that are patron Gods of the owner. Regarding the use in 'material' world, opinions are divided as to the use. First purpose (usually the only) is magickal (described above). Traditions in various countries have influenced the design of dagger/ sword. Specific purpose of the dagger has also affected the design. If the indivudual desires to follow a specific culture, it is only logical that their dagger follows a traditional design.
Keeping and maintainance - keeping in 1) wrapped in a piece of cloth, 2) wooden box, 3) leather sheath are usual ways of keeping the dagger. Depending of the metal of blade, it might be needed to periodically oil the blade so that it's qualities are kept through the time.
Ceremonial dagger is a personal property, and, depending on the owner, to look at, or handle it, permision needs to be given first. Ceremonial daggers can be sharp or dull, which depends on personal preferences and a specific tradition.

Chalice

Chalice, an ritual object is dedicated to the Goddess. There are various cups, differing on material, fabric, etc. The purpose is preservation of liquid (orange juice, vine, etc.), for the beginning, during, and at the end of a ritual, when its contents can be shared among the members of a coven/family and also partially spilt as an offering.
As all other ritual objects, the chalice can be dedicated, and, when not in use kept wrapped in natural cloth (cotton, silk, saten etc.), and kept in the chest with the rest of the ritual objects. Certain chalices come when bought in their own cases.
Chalice and the ritual dagger placed inside represent the union between the Goddess and a God.

Divination

Divination serves as means for a person to get insight into future events.(Etymology: Middle English divinacioun, from Latin divination-, divinatio, from divinare).
Divination as a practice is considered magick, in opinion of author of this article. One needs to be carefull how they utilise it, as, with any practice of magick to avoid unwanted consequences.
Therefore, as some may wiev it as a simple form of entertainment, I personally believe that certain precautions need to be made, as well as, practitioner needs to set necessary protection before endeavoring in the act itself.
There are many tools which can be used for divination. Some of them could be Tarot cards, scrying mirrors, scrying bowls, Runes, reading coffe/ tea tar, etc. There are many more that are available and it's up to an individual to decide which s/he desires to use.
Whatever object/s one chooses for such purposes, they should be self-dedicated, protected, etc.

Tarot

Origin of the Tarot is unknown. (Word Tarot - etymology: Middle French, from Italian tarocchi (plural).
Decks were used in Italy in 15-th. cent. One of the decks is Visconti-Sforza, that originated in 1450-s.
In 18-th and 19-th cent. explores of the "occult" have started using the tarot decks again. They have connected cards with images to the Egyptian culture, Hermetic philosophy, Kabbalah, Alchemy, etc. In the 20-th cent., tarot was used in the practices of several secret societies, one of which was "The Golden Dawn".
Today, there are hundreds of decks, and it depends from the reader which one/s they will chose. After the achieving of experience as a reader, and, with the existence of artistic talent, one can create their own deck.
Purpose of the tarot is divination. The standard deck consists of 78 cards, which is devided in Major Arcana (22 cards, the "heart" of tarot), and Minor Arcana (56 cards divided in 4 suits - Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles). Word arcana is the plural of 'arcanum' which stands for "profound secret."
Various images on the cards serve as inspiration to the reader as to how to interpret them. Advice to beginners is to try to interpret the card on their own, observing the image, and, afterwards consult the book (follower of the deck), or other instructional literature. There is no 'one' way to interpret the cards, everybody can build the experience after a time of using the standard deck (Rider-Waite is recommended for beginners).
Ways of using tarot spreads are unlimited. In the spread, each position has a meaning, and each card has a meaning too. Keeping - as every other ritual tool, it is recommended to "self-dedicate" the deck to the person that uses it. As well as, one can protect it and connect it with specific God/ess/s they follow. Often the deck of tarot is kept in a wooden box, wrapped in the cloth of natural fabric (silk, saten, cotton). Choice of color of the fabric is up to individual.

Candles

can be dedicated, consecrated, represent anyone or anything. In magick, the color can have a specific meaning, and a representation. All colors can be seen in white. Black is simply the lack of color/light.
Candles can be 'dressed' with an oil. Usually on the Altar there will be at least two candles, one connected with the Goddess, one with the God. If one is working with the elements, there can be 4 or 5 more - four for the elements and one as connection with the spirit (which would be a Wiccan concept with some elements of the past).
As far as which side the Goddess candle should be placed on (left or right) would depend on the tradition or personal like (with at least some meaning and a reson why here and not there).
For God/dess candles choose taller ones, which will last longer. For elemental shorter ones will do.
For the magickal purpose one can use additional candles.
Be always careful when using the candles, as they could cause problems if the fire is caused by the mishandling. Candles should not be left unatended.
At the finish of a ritual, one can put out the candles with simply the spoon or elaborate candle smolder.
There is allot more that could be written on the subject, maybe later the thread will be continued.

Disclaimer (do not copy in part, only entire article with the discaimer, these articles are copywrited - Norin 2003, and a link to this group must be included http://groups.msn.com/HeathenPaganGatheringPlace , let me know if you desire to add it on your site or public domain before doing so). New-if you want to copy these articles, e-mail me first, as right-clicking is disabled. My e-mail is norin757@yahoo.com

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