The Wheel of the Year, the Circle of the Season, Esbats and Sabbats, High Holy Days - an inevitable part of becoming a Pagan and/or Witch - lead to the addition of many more holidays (in the traditional sense of holy-days) into your life! As a new practitioner, this can be confusing. Many new witches, especially if they do not have a mentor or a coven, go to the internet for answers to these questions: What do I celebrate and when? Why is this particular celebration “holy” to me now? What does this day mean for my new spirituality and magickal practices?
“I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, giver of good gifts, bringer of seasons, universal Mother.” Thus start several ancient Greek hymns to Demeter, the Olympian Goddess of the Harvest and agriculture. You’ve probably heard of Demeter in conjunction with her daughter, Persephone. But although motherhood is a sacred aspect of Demeter’s identity, the Goddess is so much more than that! As we approach the first Harvest of the Year, let’s take some time to acquaint ourselves better with “She of the Grain”.
In Norse mythology, there are two tribes of gods: the Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir tribe are fertility gods, while the Aesir are warrior gods. During the Viking Age, the people of Scandinavia relied heavily on farming for their survival, so the Vanir gods played a crucial role in their worship. As the son of Skadi, a frost giantess, and Njord, the god of the sea, Freyr is a sun god who is a member of the Vanir, associated with fertility and peace. His twin sister, Frejya, is also well known for her cunning and beauty throughout Norse mythology.
Thor has a fascinating origin story that’s quite different from how the world has come to know him. According to Snorri Sturluson, the 13th-century Icelandic historian who wrote the Prose Edda (which to this day remains our main and most complete source of Old Norse religion and mythology), Thor actually descends from Troy. Yes, the ancient kingdom Greeks laid siege on for ten years before using the Trojan Horse to sneakily win the war. Sturluson says Thor, also known as Tror, was the son of a Trojan prince who survived the war and was raised in Thrace, in northern Greece. He was often compared to Zeus, the Greek god of thunder, and Herakles. He’s supposed to have “fair hair,” and in some depictions, he’s seen as a pagan priest. His descendants followed the Germanic tribes to the north of Europe, and his twelfth descendant, Woden, became celebrated as a god amongst the Germans and Scandinavians. A very interesting tidbit in this story is that “Asgard,” the legendary realm that was home of the gods, according to Sturluson, meant “the city in the east,” a reference to Troy — and “Aesir” meant “the gods from the east.”
Solitary Witches are Witches who prefer to practice their Craft on their own rather than in a Coven. While magick can be stronger when performed in a group, it is not necessary for all Witches. Solitary Witches can be just as powerful as Witches within a Coven, and they only need to adapt to practicing magick alone rather than in a group. One of the things Witches need to adjust when practicing alone is the Deities that they chose to work with. Any Deity has the potential to help a Solitary Witch, but some seek out solo Witches more than others. These Deities help Solitary Witches more since Solitary Witches need the extra help to perform certain spells or rituals that may have better results performed through a Coven. If you are a Solitary Witch and are looking for a Deity that can help boost your magickal abilities, then keep on reading. You should be able to find or at least get an idea of the deities that will work best with solo Witches and try to reach out to the one that calls out to you the most. Let’s look at these Deities and what you can do to reach out to them.
Celebrating fertility has been very important to our Pagan ancestors. It had to be, of course. Whether it was to help secure the birth of new human (or animal) life or to coax rain to fall to make the land fertile, every pagan pantheon had its own gods and goddesses of fertility — many of who are still very much celebrated to this day. As Beltane, the great Wiccan Sabbat of union and fertility, draws near, it’s a great opportunity to get to know these gods and goddesses a bit better so that you can include them in your Beltane altar and ask for their blessing.
Isis is one of the most important goddesses of Egypt. She is considered to be the mother of all Egyptian gods, as she is seen as a good wife and a role model. While she is highly crucial to Egyptian culture, her name and power go beyond the Egyptian border. She has become an important goddess in many major religions throughout the centuries, including Paganism and Witchcraft. Isis is worshipped throughout the world by Witches for her strong feminine image and for the power that she carries. But, before we get to how Isis is worshipped today by Witches, let us look at her legends and stories to see why she is so important to many religions around the globe.
Hera was worshipped in Greece way before people started speaking Greek there. She was the first deity to whom the people of that area ever dedicated a temple; she was worshipped all the way from Iran to Egypt. She's often conflated with the Egyptian Goddess of fertility and agriculture, Hathor, and with Demeter, the Earth Goddess. Hera's name probably comes from an older form of the word for "Lady" (Kera) but adapted to mean "Lady of the year" or "Lady of the season." Some historians think it's an anagram for the word for "air," as Hera was considered the Queen of the Skies, or the Heavens. Just as Freya, the Lady of the Old Norse pantheon, played a much more important part in the past before her role was diminished to not antagonize Odin, so did Hera. Prior to her marriage to Zeus, Hera was considered a manifestation of the Great Earth Goddess in all her three aspects: Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
When talking about where the origins of Witchcraft came from, many may not have a clear answer. New Witches especially may hear lore of where Witchcraft came from but may not be sure how accurate it is. There is no one answer saying where Witchcraft originated from. But, some were strong influences for the Craft. For instance, one of the biggest Witchcraft influencers was Circe. Circe, humbly given the Original Witch title, holds the strong position of being one of the first few to use and develop Witchcraft so others like us can use it today. Let us take a look at who exactly Circe is and how she influenced the use of Witchcraft.
At the dawn of Imbolc, when the flicker of Spring quickens in the belly of Winter, Brigid’s fiery arrow descends from the Heavens to usher in hope for the new season. Brigid, also known as Brigit, Brighid, and Brighde/Bride, has been one of the most important goddesses of the Celtic pantheon. The Goddess of Spring and Fire, Poetry and Smithery, Healing and Prophecy, has a long and winding legacy that has survived the Christianization of Ireland and is beloved by Pagans worldwide to this day. Brigid has been transformed into both a Christian Saint and a Vodou Loa while still maintaining her primarily Celtic and Gaelic identity. As we’re gearing up for Imbolc, the first Wiccan Sabbat of 2021, let’s spend some time getting to know the many different aspects of the Goddess and learn how to best work with her.
The gods and goddesses of our Pagan ancestors differ from place to place — and from pantheon to pantheon. But some overarching themes can be found throughout the world: in every pantheon, there are gods and goddesses of war, wisdom, harvest and agriculture, death and rebirth. And in every pantheon, there are the gods and goddesses who preside over the most precious of human feelings: joy, happiness, and pleasure.
Fans of 90s music no doubt know the name Lilith. Lilith Fair was a music tour that featured only solo female acts or female-fronted bands. If you know the music festival, you likely already associate the name Lilith with feminism a bit. But do you know why Sarah McLachlan chose the name Lilith to begin with? Because of her history as Adam’s first wife, who was created as an equal and refused to be subservient to him. Lilith has a rich history that isn’t just tied to the myth from Judaism that saw her cast out from Eden.
Hekate (also written as Hecate or Hecat) is, both literally and figuratively, a multifaceted deity. Almost always, she is depicted in her triple form: a Goddess with three aspects/faces. Some say it’s to symbolize the power she has over all the three realms (Earth, Sea, and Sky). Others say it’s to symbolize the inherent Sacred Trinity in her nature, being simultaneously the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.
The second of the harvest festivals on the Wheel of the Year, Mabon is a time for celebration. There are a great many gods and goddesses of grain and other harvest staples who should be acknowledged during this time. But there is also a key ingredient to many celebrations and ceremonies that should be honored during harvest. The grapes that make our wine.
Dionysus, also known as Bacchus in Roman mythology, is the God of winemaking, wine, and ecstasy. He is a rather boisterous God, as he is not afraid to get drunk and go wild. His teachings encouraged people to let themselves go, using drinks to show their true selves. This earned him the title of party god. But despite his wild nature, Dionysus was a well-respected god, best honored during Mabon. How can such a wild God be respected during a crucial Sabbat? Well, it’s due to his partying nature that he plays such a vital role at Mabon. Let us learn more of his lore, how he is worshipped today, and why he is prayed to during Mabon. Dionysus Lore
So much of the lives of our ancestors revolved around the harvests and seasons, which is why so many of our deities are patrons of the harvest. Though most of us no longer have a crop or livestock we need help protecting and looking over, there are still ancient deities we can honor who have a direct impact on our day-to-day. These are gods and goddesses of health, healing, and medicine. Health was important to our ancestors as well - one could not perform vital daily duties if one wasn’t in good health. In fact, it is believed that many of the accused witches of the witch trials were healers using herbal and spiritual remedies from pagan worship.
Long before the festival of Ostara was “repurposed” as Easter by the early Christian church, even long before the Goddess Eostre was celebrated by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, a different Hare Goddess was honored by some very spiritual people every coming Spring. These people were the ancient Egyptians. As for the Hare Goddess, her name was Wenet; the Swift One.
As with all Sabbats on the wheel of the year, Yule has powerful Deities associated with it. For Yule, perhaps the most well-known and honored Deities are Dagda and his daughter, Brigid. Both hold a role in making Yule the celebration that it is as they go hand-in-hand in bringing the magick of Yule for people to celebrate. If you do not know about Dagda and Brigid, then this is the time to learn as you will want to leave offerings to this parent-child duo this coming Yule. We will go over a brief history, their symbolism with Yule, and what you can do to show your respects to these Yule deities.
As a Harvest Sabbat, Mabon is a time to honor the goddesses and gods that are the patrons of agriculture. Some bless agriculture as a whole, some are specific to the harvest, and others have particular focuses such as grain or wine grapes. Pomona, a goddess of the Roman pantheon, is the goddess of fruits and orchards. Unlike most deities of the Roman pantheon, Pomona has no Greek counterpart. She is often associated with Demeter, but while there are similarities, they are not the same. Pomona is not a harvest deity but one of cultivation. She oversees and blesses the growing of orchards, protecting them and helping them flourish. She and her husband Vertumnus had a join festival held around August 13th each year.
Just as there is no one way to do rituals and spells, there is no set deity in Wicca. Every Witch makes the practice their own, and as such, different Wiccans worship and honor different goddesses and gods. Some Witches honor only the Triple Goddess, in her three forms as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Some Witches worship both the Goddess and the God, containing multiple aspects that ancient Pagans worshipped as separate deities. Of those, some worship them. Equally, some believe the Goddess holds more power, others the God. Then some Witches worship a pantheon of Goddesses and Gods, taken from early European Pagan worship as well as the religions of ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and modern Hindu practice. The God and Goddess are often still a part of that worship, usually as the heads of the pantheon. In Wicca and paganism, choices in divinity are very much for the individual to determine.