Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Basic Terms and Definitions

Basic Terms and definitions. These will be explained more in-depth as we go through our Lessons.

Altar - A small table or surface on which items meaningful to owner are placed. Can be an intricately carved table made only for this purpose, or as simple as a cardboard box or tree stump. Generally used during ritual. Can also be a central place for meditation, divination, etc.

Athame - (pr. AH-tha-may or ah-THA-may) A ceremonial object usually used to focus energy. Most frequently a black-handled knife, but other objects may be used. Generally will only be used by it's owner.

Besom - (pr. BEH-som) A broom; most frequently used to sweep a circle clear of unwanted energy. Generally, but not always, used by a woman. Usually stored Bristles pointed up to prevent damage.

Book of Shadows - Sometimes abbreviated BoS. This is a collection of rituals, information, research, spells, and other information that is meaningful to the owner. Can contain the individual's magickal journal. Generally a black book or binder. Since an individual's BoS is a collection of their journey through the Craft, it is not generally shown to others.

Burning Times - A period of time where Witch Hunts were common. Victims may or may not have been Witches. More often than not the victim(s) were women.

Cauldron - A pot which may be used for ritual purposes. Generally looks like the stereotypical black cast-iron pot. Can be used to burn things in.

Censer - A pot, dish, or other object that incense can be burned in.

Chakras (pr. SHA-kras)- Energy votexes in the body; each one has a specific property. While popular in many modern Wiccan circles, chakras actually have little to do with modern Witchcraft. However, they can be quite useful if so desired.

Chalice - A cup in which wine, water, or other beverages may be held. A ritual tool that can symbolize the Water element, etc.

Chant - A series of repeated words or tones that are usually used to help induce a trance state. Can be as simple as a one note hum, or a long song or series of words.

Circle -A group of people gathered together for a ritual, etc.
-A sphere of energy used in a ritual, generally to create a space "between the worlds". For more information, please read our "Circle Casting" page.
-Another name for a ritual. i.e. "I'm going to circle tonight".

Coven - (pr. CUH-ven) A group of individuals who regularly meet together for ritual purposes.

Cowan - (pr. COW-an) An old term meaning basically "outsider", or "one who is not a Witch". Not used as frequently today.

Crone - The Hag, the old Goddess. Frequently a death Goddess, usually wise and powerful. Also a woman who has passed menopause. Sometimes the Dark Moon Goddess.

Crystal - Usually a semi-precious gemstone thought to have specific qualities. For example, clear quartz can be used to focus energy, Black Onyx can be used for grounding, etc.

Dedicant - One who has been dedicated.

Dedication - A ritual that marks a person's decision to dedicate themselves to the Craft. In eclectic circles, usually a first step "I'm going to study this" decision. Frequently marks the beginning of a year and a day period where an individual studies and decides if this is a path they want to follow. Solitary Practitioners may wait and perform a self-dedication as a "this marks the point that I choose this as my path" ritual. Not all dedications are equal. The definition of a Dedication varies between traditions and paths.

Degrees - A title that is earned, generally beginning at initiation. There are usually 3 degrees, initiation being the first.

Deity - An individual's view of the Divine. May be an all-encompassing entity, or one of many Gods.

Deosil - (pr. JIH-sel) The direction of sunwise; the direction the sun takes through the sky. In the northern hemisphere this is clockwise.

Drawing down the Moon - A ritual in which the Goddess may be invoked at full moon. Also a highly influential book by Margot Adler which examines many modern Neopagan traditions.

Eclectic - A path that takes it's "traditions" from many paths. One who is Eclectic may take rituals and philosophy from sources as widespread as traditional Witchcraft to Taoism to Christianity.

Elementals - A creature associated with a given element. For example, Gnomes are Earth elementals, Sylphs are Air elementals.

Elements - Generally one of 4 or 5 "energies" that are thought to create all matter and thought in the universe. In modern Wicca there are thought to be 5 elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. Each has specific qualities; ie. Earth is home, law, stability, Air is thought, change, beginnings.

Energy - Exactly what it sounds like. Energy, thought, vibration, life.

Esbat - Generally a celebration of the Full Moon, but can also celebrate the New Moon and Quarters, as well.

Evoking - To call a Deity or Element(al). To ask someone/thing to be present.

Familiar - Generally a cat, although not necessarily. During the Witch Hunts, was thought to be the incarnation of a demon that helped a Witch perform evil magick. A Familiar can be a magickal helper, but it certainly is not a demon.

God - The Divine male principle. Can be the Horned God, the Greenman, the god of the Hunt, an agricultural god, a specific God from a certain mythology, etc.

Goddess - The Divine feminine. Can be the Maiden, Mother, Crone, Earth Mother, Moon Goddess, Dark Goddess, a specific Goddess from a certain mythology, etc.

Greenman - Generally the God of the Forest, etc.

Grounding - A process by which you bring yourself to a normal, clear state of consciousness. Usually involves shedding all the extraneous thoughts and worries that get in the way of self.

Handfasting - A Pagan "marriage", although the word ‘marriage' isn't quite right at all. Can be of short duration, such as a year and a day, or can be a permanent bond.

Herbs - A plant that has a use. For medicinal or magickal purposes.

Hived - A coven that has branched off of a previous coven is said to have "hived off" the older coven.

Initiate - One who has been initiated.

Initiation - There are many different definitions of initiation. Generally, however, it is a ritual that marks an individuals formal acceptance into a tradition. A solitary initiation may be a ritual that vows "I am dedicating my life to the gods". Generally one who has been initiated into a tradition has earned the title of Priest/ess.

Inscribe - To carve or mark something. For example, carving a rune into a candle is to inscribe that candle.

Invoking - To call a Deity, etc. "into" yourself.

Law of Three - A law that states "whatever you do returns threefold". ie. Harming someone returns harm on you three times, helping someone returns good things three times.

Magick - Spelled with a "k" to note its difference from stage ‘rabbit out of the hat' magic, it is the art of causing a desired result through no apparent measurable cause.

Maiden - The spirit of the wild, untamed feminine; the young Goddess. The strong, free Goddess. Sometimes the Waxing Crescent Goddess.

Mother - The Mother Goddess, who gives birth to all life. Sometimes consort to the Horned God, sometimes the Full Moon Goddess.

NeoPaganism - A way of life, or a spirituality, who's movement began during the 20th Century c.e, and whose practices are usually based on Pagan practices.

Paganism - A way of life, or a spirituality, that generally involves Pre-Christian practices and or beliefs.

Pantheism - Basically a belief that all gods are part of one greater encompassing Deity.

Pentacle - A five pointed star within a circle thought to represent the five elements, among other things.

Pentagram - A five pointed star that can be drawn in one single line.

Polytheism - Basically a belief that all gods are separate beings.

Rede (pr. Reed) - A Wiccan "moral guideline" that states "An' it harm none, do as ye will".

Ritual - An activity, generally repeated over time, that has some sort of spiritual meaning. For more information, please view our page on "Ritual Construction"

Ritual Bath - A ritual cleansing, generally a bath, but a sometimes a shower, swim, etc. .

Sabbat - A day with specific meaning in the wheel of the year. There are generally 8 Sabbats, roughly a month and a half apart representing the turning of the seasons, etc.

Solitary - One who practices the Craft alone; usually with their own personal "tradition".

Spell - A method of bending reality to will. For more information, please view our page on "Spells".

Summerland - Sort of a Pagan "heaven"; a place after death.

Sympathetic Magick - Magick done by acting out the situation to your desired result, thus encouraging reality to do the same.

The Broom Closet - proverbial; One who does not acknowledge they are Wiccan to non-Wiccans is said to be "in the Broom Closet".

Tools - Athame, Besom, Altar, Chalice, etc; an object that helps achieve a purpose.

Tradition - A specific way of practicing the Craft.

Visualization - To see something clearly in your mind.

Warlock - Not a Witch. An Oathbreaker.

Wheel of the Year - The turning of the seasons, the cycle of the year.

White Handled Knife - Sometimes used to harvest herbs, sometimes for all the menial cutting chores (plants, paper, cloth, etc.).

Wicca - A Neopagan spirituality that emphasizes spiritual balance and the idea of "Harm None".

Widdershins - Not Sunwise; counterclockwise.

Witch Queen - A Priestess who has hived off three or more covens.

Witchcraft - Without annoying too many people, the art of practicing Earth-based magick, and sometimes a Pagan spirituality.

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