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Altar Tools, Sacred Spaces, and Initiation

Not all Wiccans have an altar, but I like to use one because it helps guide me with my magickal workings.

An altar can be any size, anything, and any place. Some people have an altar that is portable and can be taken down and moved easily, while others may have an altar that is big and set up in a sacred space. In fact, my altar is my piano stool... so you see, an altar can be whatever you wish it to be.

Now there is a general set up pattern for an altar, but this doesn't mean you have to follow it. If you want my general set up it goes: Goddess candle on the left, God candle on the right, Pentacle tile in the center of the altar, Images of the God and the Goddess, which can be something as simple as a rock with a lot of holes, for the Goddess and an acorn for the God (and is completely optional) next to the proper candles, a red candle representing 'the One' below the pentacle tile, the chalice and the incense burner on the left and the Athame and Wand on the right of the pentacle tile also I have a brass bell above the pentacle tile and I have a crystal and a crystal ball above the bell.

I also have other things, like a spirit candle and an Agate and other things but those decorations are completely up to you if you want to add your own little touches.

Also you can set up, if you donít have any of these things, a bowl of dirt or salt representing earth, a red candle representing fire, a bowl of water representing water and an incense burner with incense for air, also in the in the proper places.

I myself have all of these integrated throughout my altar at some times and certain rituals, but thatís me. You can have either or, or both if thatís what you want. And your altar should usually be facing east, since thatís where u start and end to call the quarters anyway.

Altar Tools

I pretty much listed them above but if this makes it simpler I will list them again. Well obviously, the altar is a working tool. However, there are many other tools you can use to guide energies, symbolize elements, and use in rituals. Remember, that you don't need all of these tools to practice Wicca, nor do you need any of them at all! Wicca is all about believing, but some people like to use tools for such purposes as directing their energies, meditating, and acting out traditional symbolism in rituals. So here is a list of a few tools and their functions.

The Staff: The staff is a long branch which can be decorated with different symbols, things of nature, or paints. They are sometimes dedicated to a specific element or purpose. Generally, however, it is used to mark out the ritual ground or for striking the ground to attract spirits. Also a staff can be used as a power conduit, to draw power from the sun, moon, or nature surroundings. Traditionally staffs were made of elder wood, cane, or rosewood. This however, doesn't mean that ALL staffs must be made this way. You can make your staff just the way you want it, make it personally yours.

The Wand: The wand is used to direct energies and to invoke/banish elemental spirits. If you choose to have only one working tool, I would suggest the wand. It can be adjusted to open and close magickal circles and invoke the Goddess. Your wand can be made from anything as well, it can be a copper pipe, a wooden dowel, or a small branch from a sacred tree. You can paint it, or adorn it with several different things from nature to make your wand uniquely yours. My wand is actually an ash branch with leather wrapped around the top of it, with a quarts on the side with something as inexpensive as dragon tear marbles hot glued to it. It doesnít have to be near that fancy or anything, in fact it doesnít even need a crystal, gem, or any sort of rock on it. Just remember, if it feels right then its right for your magickal workings.

The Athame: The athame is a ritual knife used to symbolically cut a sacred space. It is preferred to be double-edged, but doesn't have to be. However, the cutting is never done in the physical plane... the athame must NEVER cut anything except air. It is also used to trace pentacles, salute the deities, and direct energies. Your athame doesn't even have to be fancy . Yours could be a pocket knife or an old, dull kitchen knife. Whatever your athame is, it will still work just as well as long as it feels right to you.

The Sword: The sword symbolizes authority. It can sometimes take the place of the athame and be used to mark cut out sacred space. Also it can be used to mark a sacred space in which rituals can be performed in. Again, like the athame, the sword should NEVER cut anything in the physical plane. Also, like the athame, the sword doesn't have to be fancy.

The Chalice: The chalice or cup is used to symbolize the Goddess. It can also represent the water element, but the chalice is normally used to hold ritual wine. I use my chalice, however, as a miniature cauldron, and the symbol for water. So it can play a large part in ritual work. A chalice can be made out of wood, glass, crystal, stone, or metal. Which ever you choose, make sure its right for you.

The Censer (or incense burner): The censer or thurible is usually found on the altar. Incense is burned in the censer to symbolize air. There are many different kinds of incense out there, with all different kinds of scents. Some scents may be used to represent a virtue or to honor a deity. But this doesn't mean you can't use a certain scent just because you like it. Whatever works for you, usually works best.

The Pentacle and/or Pentacle Tile: The pentacle is usually, but not always, a flat piece of wood or stone with a Pentacle carved or painted onto it. A pentacle is a five pointed star with a circle around it. Each of the fives points goes to represent one of the elements. Going in order, (starting at the top and going clockwise) spirit, air, fire, water, and earth. There is also a hidden message in the symbolism of the pentacle as well. Notice how spirit is located on the top point. This shows that spirit is over the elements.

The Book of Shadows: The Book of Shadows or the Witch's Workbook is a book of rituals, Sabbats, recipes, spells, and folklore. No, you can't just go out and buy a Book of Shadows. As a witch, you should write and put together your own book. One that is completely unique to you. That doesn't mean you can't take information or examples from another's book. It just simply means that you should have your own library of rituals and spells that are just right for you.

Also if you donít have any access to the tools or are just too lazy to make or find them, you can substitute them with stuff everyone should have. Instead of the Staff or Wand, you can use the incense or just a short and/or long stick you find in the woods, instead of the Athame representing air (if you already have it on the altar you donít necessarily need 2 burners), A bowl of water instead of the chalice for water, A bowl of salt or dirt, instead of the Pentacle tile, representing earth, and a red candle or a letter opener or kitchen knife instead of the Athame representing fire. Also sometimes the Wand or Staff is used for Fire and the Athame used for air, it just all depends on what you want and/or believe it is.

Sacred Spaces

A Sacred Space is simply the place you perform your rituals. It can be a permanent place or a temporary place, like the whole moveable altar deal. you can just set up my tools wherever they need to be set up and do your ritual ritual, or you can have a place you go to every time where your tools are already waiting for you. Both ways are fine and it doesn't affect the outcome of the ritual or spell either way.

Initiation

A Myth says To become a true Witch you have to initiate or dedicate yourself to the Goddess and the God (much like the Christian baptism, if you see any similarities.) if you werenít born into Wicca or Paganism. You can do this if you feel it is necessary, but it isnít required; Then you should wait at least 1 full year of practicing to do so, you cant just find the spell and initiate and call yourself a Witch the first day you start to practice. You need to know the threads before you do so, you need to gain experiance and knowledge of Wicca and all the aspects of Wicca. I myself have been reading up on Wicca ever since I was 8 and started practicing when I was 14 years old. I didnt initiate myself for another 2 years after that-- though i think my informal initiation happened long before that; and I still donít know everything there is to know about Wicca (thats just impossible). There's this old saying, I donít remember exactly how it goes but I'll attempt to say it how it was "To be a teacher, is also to be a student." that means, no matter how much you know, and how much you teach, you can and will always learn something new, whether it be from the student, or something you just found out. So please, donít make me regret putting the Initiation ritual on here and at least wait a year of practicing before you initiate yourself into Wicca. Again it is not required to undergo a formal initiation


Concerning Initiation from Scott Cunningham

Each Wiccan tradition uses their own initiation ceremonies, which may or may not be recognized by other Wiccans. On one point, however, most initiates agree: a person can be a Wiccan only if she or he has received such an initiation.

Most initiation ceremonies are nothing more than rites marking the acceptance of the person into a coven, and her or his dedication to the Goddess and God. Sometimes "power is passed" between initiator and neophyte as well.

To a non-Wiccan, the initiation might seem to be a right of conversion. This isnít the case. Wicca has no need for such rites. We donít condemn the deities with which we may have attuned before practicing Wicca, nor need we turn our backs on them.

The initiation ceremony (or ceremonies, since in many groups three successive rites are preformed) is held to be of utmost importance to those Wiccan groups still practicing ritual secrecy. Surely anyone entering such a group should undergo an initiation, part of which consists of swearing never to reveal their secrets. This makes sense, and is a part of many coven initiations. But it isnít the essence of initiation.

Wicca has been, up until about 10 years ago a closed religion, but no more. The inner components of Wicca are available to anyone who can read and has the proper wit to understand the material. Wicca's only secrets are its individual ritual forms, spells, names of deities, and so on.

Many cling to the idea of the necessity of initiation, probably thinking that with this magickal act they'll be granted the secrets of the universe and untold power. To make things worse, some particularly narrow-minded Wiccans say that the Goddess and God won't listen to anyone who isn't an athame-carrying member of a coven. Many would-be Wiccans believe this.

It doesnít work this way.

True initiation isn't a rite preformed by one human being upon another. Even if you accept the concept that the initiator is suffused with deity during initiation, it's still just a ritual.

Initiation is a process, gradual or instantaneous, of the individual's attunement with the Goddess and God. Many of the Wicca readily admit that the ritual initiation is the outer form only. True initiation will often occur weeks, or months later, or prior to, the physical ritual.

Since this is so, "real" Wiccan initiation may take place years before the student contacts a Wiccan coven or teacher. Is this initiation less effective or less genuine because the person hasn't gone through a formal ritual at the hands of another human being? Of course not.

Rest assured, itís quite possible to experience a true Wiccan initiation without ever meeting another soul involved in the religion.

You may even be unsure of it. Your life may gradually shift in focus until you realize that you notice the birds and clouds. You may gaze at the Moon on lonely nights and talk to plants and animals. Sunset might bring a time of quiet contemplation.

Or you may change as the seasons change, adapting your body's energies to match those of the natural world around you. The Goddess and God may sing in your thoughts, and you may perform rituals before actually realizing what you're doing.

When the Old Ways have become a part of your life and your relationship with the Goddess and God is strong, when you have gathered your tools and preformed rites of magick out of joy, you are truly of the spirit and can rightly call yourself a "Wiccan".

This may be your goal, you may wish to stretch yourself further, perhaps continuing your search for an instructor. This is fine. But if you never find one, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn't sit around waiting for the mysteries to fall into your lap. You'll have worked the old magicks and talked to the Goddess and God, reaffirming your communities to the Earth for spiritual evolvement, and transformed the lack of physical initiation into a positive stimulus to change your life and modes of thinking.

If you contact a teacher or coven, they'll probably find you're a student worthy of acceptance. But if you discover that you're not suited for their style of Wicca, or if your personalities clash, donít be crushed. You've still got your own Wicca to fall back upon as you continue your search.

This can be a lonely path, because so few of us follow the Old Ways. It's disheartening to spend your time reverencing nature and watching the Earth suffocating under tons of cement while nobody seems to care.

To contact others of like minds, you may wish to subscribe to Wiccan publications and start correspondence with Wiccans around the country. Continue to read new books as they're published on both Wicca and the Goddess. Keep up on the happenings in the Wiccan world. Collect and write new rituals and spells. Wicca need never grow stale.

Many wish to formalize their life within Wicca with a self-initiation ceremony. That is a great idea and I have enclosed one below, remember this is to be used if you want to have a formal initiation, you are in no way obligated to use it.

If you decide to invite friends and interested people to join your rites, donít make them hang back and watch while you play "priest/ess" or "Witch" Involve them. Make them part of the rites and magick. Use your imagination and practical experience to integrate them into the ritual.

When you feel an insurmountable joy in watching the sunset or the moon rise, when you see the Goddess and God in trees marking along mountains or streams meandering through fields, when you feel the pulsating energies of the Earth amidst the noisy city, you have received true initiation and are linked with the ancient powers and ways of the deities.

Some say, "Only a Wiccan can make a Wiccan." Scott Cunningham says , "Only the Goddess and God can make a Wiccan." (And I agree with him)

Initiation Ritual

Normally, initiations are held within a coven, but the option is not always available to all. If you're alone, here's a simple and easy way to initiate yourself into Wicca.


1.) Clean the area, thoroughly, in which you are going to be working in, while doing this, imagine yourself cleansing the space of ALL negativity and releasing the past.

2.) Make Physical changes that will help make your environment a sacred space. Put on some soft and relaxing music, light a candle, or burn some incense.

3.) You will need these materials: Anything you would like to put on the altar (regular alter tools), Image of birth (eggs or the color red). A symbol or photo to represent yourself. Something to eat and drink (wine and cakes are traditional, but you can improvise, I used grape juice and some bread.). Something to represent your OLD life. Something to represent your NEW life. Scented oil. A bowl of salt water.

4.) Now you have everything you need, it's time to really begin. It's traditional to go sky clad (naked), you should appear to the Gods as you were created. But if you donít feel comfortable with that then wear little clothing.

5.) Relax, ground, and center, let go of yourself for a few minutes.

6.) When you feel ready, call upon the elements, in whichever way you know, feel is best, or feel is right, take as much time as you need.

7.) Now call on the God and the Goddess, itís pretty much the same as calling on the elements, except slightly different (the charge of the Goddess and the God will work here)

8.) Kneel facing your alter. State your intention, either aloud or silently. You might want to meditate on this beforehand, or write it down on what you might want to say. Speak from your heart.

9.) Open yourself up to the loving energies of the God and the Goddess and allow yourself to experience whatever response they might give, you might sense them speaking to you; you might see a vision, or you might just feel emotion wash over you.

10.) When itís over, or you feel time, stand up.

11.) Now take the saltwater on your altar, meditate for a moment on its significance. Sprinkle yourself with the saltwater, taste it on your tongue. You're dying and now you're brand new. You're purified.

12.) Now take the oil from the altar. Anoint yourself in whichever way you feel is appropriate.

13.) Face the East, don't invoke, you've done that already. You're presenting yourself as a newly initiated Witch.

14.) Present yourself to fire, water, and earth. Imagine yourself joining with them. Say a greeting to each direction. Proclaim yourself as a Witch.

15.) Now do a blessing of the cakes and ale, or whatever you have. Think about what has just happened, how you feel, about the Mystery, and meditate.

16.) After you're finished sit in whatever position you feel comfortable or centered. then Meditate on the symbols of your old life, and your new life. When you're done, thank the God and Goddess, dismiss the elements, and close the circle. Blessed Be!

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