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Pagan Pathways: Witchcraft

Most Wiccans call themselves Witches but not all witches practice Wicca. There are many, many witches who consider Witchcraft and Wicca to be totally separate religions.

"Witchcraft is a broad term used to describe many faiths. Also known as "wise craft" or "craft of the wise", Witchcraft is a peaceful, nature-based faith or path. Practitioners of Witchcraft or "witches" are often accused of devil worship due to the prevalence of misconceptions within the general public.

The witch was usually a midwife, healer, herbalist and/or wise-woman or man who fashioned their way of living around nature and the seasons. Most witches were skilled in the use of herbs and were quite adept at healing those that were ill. Today, modern witches seek the vast knowledge of the ancient wise women and men to return to a nature-focused way of life."

Pagan Pathways: Wicca

pronounced "wick-ah", is a modern religion, based upon the ancient Western European, pre-Christian shamanic traditions. It is fertility, earth-based and nature oriented; Wiccans recognize and worship during the change of the seasons and the full and new moons. Wicca is a pagan religion, which means it is not Judeo-Christian in origin. Pagan simply means "not of the city" or "country-dweller" and should not be thought of as a negative term.

Wicca is unique in that it has no dogmas, docterines or set of rules. This can be confusing for new practitioners, because Wiccan practices are derived from within, are personal and individual and are not mandated by any one person, hierarchy, or "Bible". Many people brought up in an organized religion are not used to such an open and free belief system. It takes time to become comfortable in developing your religious practices from your personal experiences and knowledge, but therein lies the beauty of Wicca. Individuality is an honored trait for Wiccans, therefore, Wicca is not a "cohesive" religion. One can practice either with a coven or as a solitary, and they can worship in their own individual way. Also, some people who belong to covens may branch out and form their own coven. This is totally acceptable and it allows for a greater sharing of beliefs and of the establishment of new ideas and practices. Although Wiccan practices are unique to the individual or coven, most Wiccans have more in common with other Wiccans than they do differences.

Wiccans live, worship and celebrate by the changing seasons and lunar cycles. The year is cyclical, it is like a wheel, revolving from season to season and year to year, hence the name "Wheel of the Year". Every year, there are eight Wiccan "holidays" known as Sabbats and there are 12 - 13 Esbats "lunar holy days" consisting of the new and full moons.

Pagan Pathways: Stregheria

Stregheria is the Craft of the Italian Witches. It's an ancient system, steeped with history that dates back to the 14th century. We are the descendants of an ancient people who used moonlore, nature, symbolisms, and Spirits (Faery) to work their magick. Stregheria resembles Wicca in that both systems are Goddess based. Both Stregheria and many Wiccan traditions accept the duality of both a female and male God. In Stregheria the Goddess is known as Tana and the God as Tanus. Diane and Dianus represent the Moon goddess and god respectively. Many of the Goddesses and Gods are known by different names in different traditions. Stregheria and Wicca celebrate many of the same rites or Festivals even though the names are not the same and sometimes they occur on a slightly diffferent date.

The reference to the 14th Century is a reference to the teachings of Aradia and to the Stregheria tradition. It is not meant to say that Stregheria is a product of the 14th Century or that all Streghe in Italy follow the same tradition founded by Aradia in the 14th Century. Stregheria in Italy goes back way before pre-christian times and there are many Streghe in Italy and the US who follow traditions that have nothing to do with Aradia de Toscano. Stregheria has many differences from Wicca. Their festa's for example follow a slightly different mythos from that of Wicca.

The Watchers called Grigori, are called to guard the ritual circle and to witness the ritual. Strega also recognizes a third person, Aradia. She came to be known as the Holy Strega, a spiritual teacher and wise woman. The message of Aradia, called the Covenant, offered her followers the path to freedom and personal empowerment. Aradia also taught that the traditional powers of a witch would belong to any who adhered to the way of the Old Religion. Aradia called these Gifts and Beliefs. The Charge of Aradia is the message she left her followers. Aradia was their teacher and the founder of the Triad Clans of Italy. There are many Streghe in Italy who are not of the Triad Clans and do not follow the teachings of Aradia.

Pagan Pathways: Kitchen Witch

You will hear this term every once in a while. Basically, this type is one who practices by hearth and home, dealing with the practical side of religion, magick, the earth, and the elements. There are some who groan loudly at this type of terminology, viewing it as degrading or simply inappropriate. Just remember that the Old Religion started somewhere, and most likely the kitchen (or cookfire) was the hub of many charms, spells, healings, and celebrations. After all, where does everyone congregate during the holidays? Grandma's kitchen has always produced magickal memories for humanity; visions of Mother making that something special for a sick child still holds true today for many of us.

Pagan Pathways: Hedge Witch

A hedgewitch is a tradition within a tradition that is somewhat shamanic in nature, for lack of a better term. There are many different titles that those who follow this inner tradition are called: Hedge-Rider, Hedgewitch, Night Travellers, Myrk-Riders, Gandreidh, Badbh (name of a Goddess as well as a title), and Walkers on the Wind. These are the ones who engage in spirit flight, and journey into the Other World. It is this inner tradition which utilizes such things as flying salves and potions in order to gain access to the Other World. There are certain pre-requisites which must be met before one can learn this particular tradition, however.

A hedgewitch is able to go into the Other World, and call back the souls of those who are about to die. They can, in this capacity, be very powerful healers. They are also able to speak with those who have passed beyond. One of the rituals by which a hedgewitch can cross over into the Otherworld is called the "Ritual of the Raven."A bird of one kind or another is usually associated with the hedge traditions. Two of the most commonly associated birds are the raven and the goose.A mention should be made that the hedge signified the boundary of the village, and thus the boundary of the known world. Not all cultures had hedges, though. Some had stone wall, or earthen works. Regardless, this term is adopted as a way to commonly identify these traditions.

It should be emphasized that not all Witches follow this inner tradition.

Pagan Pathways: Green Witchcraft

The central Green element of all Craft expression is the Goddess as undying, threefold, and associated with the earth, the moon, and the living (sacred) waters, and the God as undying, threefold, and associated with the earth, the sun, and the sky. As God of grain and solar phases, he is also the willing sacrifice who "dies"and is "reborn" in the Goddess in the yearly cycle of the seasons. God the Gatherer, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is that concept of the Trinity dating back some 30,000 years to Shiva as the Threefold God. He is both the seed and the eternal energy of life.'

Green' is a somewhat generic term for the elements that can be found in herbal, natural, traditional, or family traditional Witchcraft, and it has great flexibility and variety. The Green elements can be adapted to those Ceremonial aspects you find appealing, and it forms the foundationlevel of the Odinist tradition (which is very restrictive on what elements are acceptable - Kabbalah and Tarot not being used, as an example.)

The key to the Green facet of Withccraft is to be attuned to nature and the natural forces surrounding you.

Pagan Pathways: Greco-Roman

Hellenic Neopagans worship the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Although some followers are Greek or of Greek descent, many come from other ethnic backgrounds, yet all consider themselves Hellenic (or Graeco-Roman) Neopagans.

Pagan Pathways: N.R.O.O.G.D

The New Reformed Orthodox Order Of The Golden Dawn is a Wiccan tradition that began 1967 with a group of friends who were students at San Francisco State College. They were given an assignment to created and perform a ritual, and they decided to perform a Witches' Sabbat using the printed sources available at the time, primarily Robert Graves, Margaret Murray, and Gerald Gardner. After doing the ritual several times and feeling the effects of it, they decided to create NROOGD. The name is a play on the attitudes they had toward what they were doing and upon their spiritual antecedents. The tradition worships a triple-aspect Goddess and various forms of the God derived from ancient Greek and British mythology. Covens are autonomous, but share a common liturgy and recognize one another's initiates. There is no central authority nor spokesperson for the tradition.

There are covens currently active in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as several in the Pacific Northwest and on the East Coast. Covens in the Bay area cooperate to host open sabbats, as well as in-gathering for initiates every six months.

Pagan Pathways: Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn system of magic is not a religion, although religious imagery and spiritual concepts play an important role in its work. The Golden Dawn was designed by its founders to be an Hermetic Society dedicated to the philosophical, spiritual, and psychic evolution of humanity. It was also designed to be a school and a repository of knowledge, where students learned the principles of occult science and the various elements of western philosophy and magic. Tolerance for all religious beliefs was stressed, and symbolism used within the G:.D:. came from a variety of religious sources. Today, people from many diverse religious paths consider themselves practicing Golden Dawn magicians--including Neopagans, Gnostics, Jews, and Christians.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. There is now established in the world a New Order of the Golden Dawn. It is a Magical-Religious-Scientific Order dedicated to the teachings of Aleister Crowley. The principal function of the New Order is to assist in the initiation of aspirants into the Magical Life of Thelema. It is a Magical Order of the New Aeon wherein men and women, by the essential aids of Science and Religion, can participate in the Great Work of Thelema.

Pagan Pathways: Gnosticism

Gnosticism is a concept of spiritual experience which has its roots in many religious practices and is not restricted to Christianity. It is also found in the Kabbalah of Judaism, the philosophy of NeoPlatonism, and in modern Iraq a small sect of peasants called Mandaeans (their word for 'knowers') still survives today. It is a belief system which considers the 'spiritual' world to be the real world and this material world but a product of the negative use of that spirituality. This is an obvious oversimplification and I ask your kind indulgence.

The word "gnosis" is derived from the Greek language, and means "knowledge of an intuitive nature; the intuitive comprehension of spiritual truths." Gnosis is a knowledge that cannot be arrived at through books or lectures, but rather through one's own direct experience of reality. Gnosis is often referred to as knowledge of the heart, in contrast to knowledge that is obtained through the use of the intellect.

The Gnostic teachings contain systems and exercises through which every aspect of the teachings can be personally verified by each individual. Gnosis is not just theoretical, but one hundred percent practical. Through direct experience we surpass the boundaries of belief and disbelief, since both lead to ignorance. Rather than believing or disbelieving, accepting or rejecting, the Gnostic personally verifies in a direct manner the validity of the concepts he or she is studying. This personal verification leads to true knowledge and comprehension, not merely an intellectual or theoretical understanding of the teachings. Through Gnosis one personally learns to experience reality directly, quell the battle between doubt and belief, and comes to KNOW the inner TRUTH."

The word "Gnostic" means one who knows or one who has acquaintance. A Gnostic is one who holds and believes in a special knowledge or awareness of their self. It would be more accurate to state that a Gnostic is acquainted with their "True Self"-- a term used by ancient Gnostics to describe the divine spirit within themselves. This spirit is actually a portion of the True God -- not the creator but a God that exists beyond creation.

Pagan Pathways: Egyptian-Isian-Kemetic

The resurrection the Ancient Egyptian Religion in one form or another. Religion guided every aspect of Egyptian life. Egyptian religion was based on polytheism, or the worship of many deities, except for during the reign of Akenaton.

The Egyptians had as many as 2000 gods and goddesses. Some, such as Amun, were worshipped throughout the whole country, while others had only a local following.

Often gods and goddesses were represented as part human and part animal.

Pagan Pathways: Discordianism

The Discordian or Erisian movement is described as a Non-Prophet Irreligious Disorganization and has claimed The Erisian revelation is not a complicated put-on disguised as a new religion, but a new religion disguised as a complicated put-on. It all started with the Principia Discordia, or How I Found the Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her, a collection of articles and ideas compiled by Greg Hill (Malaclypse the Young-er). The central theme is Chaos is every bit as important as Order as illustrated in the story of The curse of Greyface.

Humor is central to Discordianism, but Discordianism should not be dismissed as a joke. Profound experiences frequently accompany the practice or Erisinaism. It is a perceptual game, one which demonstrates that the absurd is just as valid as the mundane and chaos is just as valid as order. It frees the practitioner from the order games (that most have forgotten are games) to play games with order or games with chaos, or both. The effects of Discordianism upon an individual can be far-reaching and amazingly liberating.

Discordianism may, or may not, be a religion. It has a book and a set of rules, and could be treated as a way of spiritual guidance, but for many people it's a reason to use a silly psuedonym and put a lot of weird stuff on the Web. For some people, these two definitions are not contradictory.Discordia and Eris both relate to the Greco-Roman goddess of Chaos, who left a golden apple with the inscription To the Prettiest in Olympus. This began an argument that eventually caused the Trojan War