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What is Witchcraft in General?
In our tradition, Witchcraft is defined as both the practice of magick to achieve a certain goal and a pagan religious tradition or "Way". It is both a spiritual path and an art. It both is simple and complicated. To some who rely on written history alone Witchcraft is not a religion, it is an art of Magick or casting spells. To others, Witchcraft is a pagan Religion.
What is a traditional witch?
A traditional witch is one who practices a tradition of witchcraft that pre-dates modern neo-witchcraft movements, such as Wicca. Traditional Witchcraft is usually hereditary. Traditional witches are normally very hard to find and very secretive, so it is unlikely that you will find one advertising for students or trying to "educate the public" about witchcraft (handing out tracts, participating in public rituals, and so forth). For instance Y Dynion Mwyn is hereditary in origin, but we have a web page which can be found with a search engine on the internet. But you have to come searching for us, we will not come to you.
What were or are "the burning times?"
"The Burning Times" is the term used to refer to the great European witch-hunts of the early 1400s, coincident with the time of the reformation and seen by many as a crucial step in Christianity's crushing of the Pagan religions, driving these underground. It is estimated that 85% of those executed during this period were women, resulting in this period being referred to as a "war against women" and Pagans. Some authors claim as many as 9 million people were killed in these hunts, while more recent scholarship puts the number of documented deaths at somewhat less. Some pagans say that the burning times are with us again.
How do Witches view the Goddess and God of Witchcraft?
Although Witches may worship many god(desse)s by many different names, most worship some form of the Great Goddess and Her consort, The Horned God (Not Satan!).
These dual forces are often conceived of as embodying complementary polarities. In some traditions worship of the Goddess is emphasized, although in others the Goddess and God are seen as complementary coequals. The Goddess may be seen as associated with the life force of Mother Nature, the Earth, the Cosmos, the interconnectedness of all life on Earth, and the Moon; The God with procreation, light, the sun and wildlife, especially horned animals, etc; but there are no hard and fast rules. Some traditions worship the Goddess alone while others see Divinity as The Great Spirit, a being essentially beyond human understanding, with "Goddess" and "God" simply a convenient shorthand.
Sabbats are wiccan holidays. The Wiccan year begins after Samhain according to the Celtic almanac.
The Goddess gives birth to a son, the God, at Yule. Yule is a time of the greatest darkness and is the shortest day of the year. Since the God is also the Sun, this marks the point of the year when the Sun is reborn as well.Thus, the Wicca light fires or candles to welcome the Sun's returning light. The Goddess, slumbering through the winter of Her labor, rests after Her delivery. To contemporary Wiccans it is a reminder that the ultimate product of death is rebirth.
Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. The God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. Imbolc is also known as Feast of Torches, Oimelc, Lupercalia and Brigid´s day.
Ostara, or Spring Equinox marks the first day of true spring. The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility, bursting forth from Her sleep, as the God stretches and grows to maturity. On Ostara the hours of day and night are equal. Light is overtaking darkness.
Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, He desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. The Wiccans celebrate the symbol of Her fertility in ritual. The flowers and greenery symbolize the Goddess; the May Pole the God. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion and hopes consummated.
Midsummer, also known as Litha, arrives when the powers of nature reach their highest point. The Earth is awash in the fertility of the Goddess and God. Midsummer is a classic time for magic of all kinds.
Lughnasadh is the time of the first harvest, when the plants of spring wither and drop their fruits or seed for our use as well as to ensure future crops. Mystically, so too does the God lose His strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow and joy as She realizes that the God is dying, and yet lives on inside Her as Her child.
Mabon is the completion of the harvest begun at Lughnasadh. Once again day and night are equal, poised as the God prepares to leave His physical body and begin the great adventure into the unseen, toward renewal and rebirth of the Goddess. Nature declines, draws back its bounty, readying for winter and its time of rest The Goddess nods in the weakening sun, though fire burns within Her womb. She feels the presence of the God even as He wanes.
At Samhain, the Wicca say farewell to the God. This is a temporary farewell. He isn't wrapped in eternal darkness, but readies to be reborn of the Goddess at Yule. Samhain is a time of reflection, of looking back over the last year, of coming to terms with the one phenomenon of life over which we have no control - death. The Wicca feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is thin. Wiccans remember their ancestors and all those who have gone before.
Many Thanks to Una Shaw for supplying me this information
Wiccan text on this page © Una Shaw 2008