The Circle of the Mountain Fire is a proposed coven or Circle to be founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is to be a place for like-minded Wiccans to work together, to celebrate together, and even to form bonds as family and friends! While I am a student of the Correllian Nativist Tradition of Wicca, I propose that this coven, while aligned with the Correllian Tradition, be open to all forms of positive celebration, ritual, spells, and workings!
Colorado Springs is an area of around a half a million people and, yet, has a relatively small number of Wiccan covens and groups that are advertised. It seems that, in the past several years, many of the covens that were openly known in the Pagan and Wiccan communities have either gone back into the “broom closet” or have simply ceased to exist. Either way, this has created a vacuum in the Colorado Springs area; a new coven is needed in the Wiccan community! I would like to add this opportunity for another coven in this area.
The Circle of the Mountain Fire is listed at http://www.correllian.com/ as a Witan Shrine; it is recognized by the Correllian Tradition as an official group. It is not to be an exercise in "Harry Potter magic" (Harry Potter: A History Of Magic (2017)) nor is it a role playing group. It will be a real and working coven operating here in Colorado Springs! We will operate under the supervision of a Temple Head from the Tradition (Rev. John "Ing" Snodgrass).
The emblem, or seal, for The Circle of the Mountain Fire was designed to reflect the outdoors aspect of the region. On the west side of Colorado Springs are the Rocky Mountains and, to the east, are plains and prairies (agriculture is a major industry for the state). Above the mountain in the seal is a flame to represent the flame of Spirit and the pentagram is a symbol of our connection as Wiccans and as Pagans to the Old Ones.
For a brief introduction into what Correllian Wicca is, just click HERE!
Before we can even discuss the history of Wicca, the where-did-we-come-from of Wicca, I have to make one assertion here. IN MY PERSONAL OPINION, the terms “Pagan”, “Witch”, and “Wicca” are not interchangeable! Each of these words has its own use and meaning, just as the words “Christian”, “Protestant”, and “Southern Baptist” do. Yes, in each case, the terms are related, but they are not exactly the same.
I will start with the word, “Pagan”. In the past, the term, “pagan”, referred to anybody who was a polytheist, to somebody who believed in more than just one god or deity. As time went on, this word was changed to include anybody who was not a follower of the three big Western religions; that is, somebody who is not Jewish, Christian, or Moslem. Now, we often see a Pagan who believes that deity is immanent as opposed to transcendent, the Divine as being here with us and acting with us as opposed to being outside of Creation, as above creation. Paganism is not actually a specific religion, just as Christianity is not one religion. It is a movement with room for a variety of beliefs and sects! Pagan is an umbrella term, one that covers a lot of different beliefs, groups, individuals, and practices.
Paganism is an umbrella term. It is not one specific religion with one set of beliefs, practices, and ethics. Paganism can include Witchcraft, Wicca, Shinto, Yoruba, and various other spiritual beliefs and practices. Paganism is not any one of these; it is all of these!
Now, a witch may be a Pagan—or he/she may not be a Pagan! We tend to assume that all witches are Pagan, but some of my best friends, for example, are what we can now call Christian Witches! Witches, whether Pagan or Christian, tend to believe in magick as a part of their practices and spiritual life. They use magick to manipulate energies in order to achieve a specific goal. They tend to incorporate a Goddess and a God into their pantheon and work with Them in ritual, worship, and magic (For Christian Witches, this may be God the Father and/or Jesus, and maybe one of the Marys as the Goddess). Witchcraft is also the largest single form of Paganism in the world today and it is the most influential form of Paganism that we see.
But doesn’t the Bible say, … ?
Many people will bring up the Biblical injunction against witchcraft (and Paganism) by quoting Exodus, chapter 22: 18 in the King James Version. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!” In the Hebrew Bible, this would be Exodus 22: 17 and reads “Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live (יז מְכַשֵּׁפָה, לֹא תְחַיֶּה.)."
But what does that verse actually say?
In the original Hebrew, the word, “witch”, is not actually used. Rather, the Hebrew word, “mekhashepha”
Additionally, it may be argued that the verse is not referring to Israeli herbalists, but to PAGAN herbalists as a way to keep the Israelis a separate people! Jewish magical texts have existed for centuries and are nothing new. What appears to be anathema to the Hebrew scriptures are foreign magickal practices and beliefs—and this actually makes sense when you remember that:
1. The Jews had been enslaved in Egypt and, when they came to what is now Israel, they were attempting to lay their claim to these land and establish their own kingdom and national identity
2. While slaves in Egypt, they would have witnessed the magicks of the court magickians—and were determined not to have the same in their society!
Wicca is a newer religion than either Paganism or Witchcraft. It is also a more specific path. Yes, Wicca stems from both Paganism and Witchcraft, but it is a more specific faith system than Paganism (which can include a wide variety of radically different religious systems) and can be more narrowly defined than Witchcraft (which in itself can include a wide variety of different types of witchcraft, including Wicca). By definition, Wicca is a:
1. Modern form of Witchcraft
2. That is initiatory
3. And was founded in England,
4. Based upon ancient forms of Witchcraft and Paganism, ancient forms of pre-Christian religions
5. Duotheistic religion; it incorporates a Goddess and God into its natural framework
It seems that a part of the reason for the confusion about the words “Witch” and “Wicca” may stem from the Middle Ages in Europe. It seems that, at that time, the common Old English word was actually “wicca” and was pronounced as witch-a. The word, “wicce”, did not denote an actual religion or spiritual philosophy. Rather, it was the common term for what we would now call a sorceress or witch (with a small “w” to differentiate the non-religious witch from a modern day Witch).
That Modern English uses the word “Wicca” seems to be no accident! Modern Wicca was brought about in England and was popularized by Gerald Gardner in 1954; this form of Wicca promoted itself as having been based on the ancient witchcraft practices of Ye Olde England and they kept the same word that the English used in the Middle Ages! The term Wicca is a continuation of the ancient practice of wicca.
Here is an interesting aside. As per White (188), Gerald Gardner did not use the word “Wicca” to describe the form of Witchcraft which he taught and practiced. Rather, he referred to his Tradition (sect of Witchcraft) as “the Craft of the Wise” and the “witch cult”.
Wicca is a unique faith system and religion in its own right. Generally, Wiccans do hold a reverence for Nature (we are a part of Nature, as opposed to being a part from Nature!). Wiccans typically worship and work with a Goddess and God, although some Wiccans and Traditions may work solely with a Goddess. Wiccans hold to certain morals and codes of ethics, such as the Wiccan Rede.
Wicca takes the more naturalistic aspects of Paganism and Witchcraft and incorporates a religious aspect to their spiritual natures. It provides a framework for Wiccan morality. It has a structure for set holy days/holidays, the eight Sabbats. While Wicca has no set scriptures, it gives a set of moral codes, such as the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three, to follow and observe.
Wicca is, also, not a monolithic structure, where everyone does exactly the same thing and believes the same thing. There are various sects or Traditions in Wicca. Most of these Traditions are Pagan and are rooted in one form or another of Paganism, but here are also Wiccans who blend their beliefs and practices with Judaism and Christianity. Many of my friends, for example, worship Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Monotheism Polytheism, Henotheism, and Atheism
Another common feature of Wicca is the belief in what is called polytheism. The major approaches to how we all view Deity or the Divine can be broken down into monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, and atheism.
Monotheism refers to a belief in one God, only. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are examples of monotheistic religions. They each only believe in only one God (Exodus 20: 3 states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”.). While Christianity accepts the premise of a God the Father (Yahweh or Jehovah), Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, they maintain a tradition of worshipping God the Father. The confusion comes from the appearance of Christians worshipping three distinct personalities (thus giving the impression of three distinct and separate personages), but Christians tend to see Them as aspects of the same God.
Polytheism is older and was more widespread than monotheism. Polytheists can and do believe in and worship a set of multiple Gods and Goddesses. There can be a God of war, a Goddess of love, a Goddess of the harvest, a God of the hunt, and so on. The common denominator for all polytheistic religions is the acceptance of there being more than just one Divine person.
Henotheism is a form of polytheism. It accepts the premise of a pantheon of Goddesses and Gods. It accepts the belief that the pantheon will have more than one God or Goddess. What separates henotheism from polytheism is one simple fact; henotheists, while accepting the belief in more than one Deity, will place emphasis on the worship of only one of these Gods and Goddesses! An example of this could be a coven of witches or Wiccans who focus their worship on the Goddess Diana or on a coven which emphasizes Cernunnos to the exclusions of all other Goddesses and Gods.
Finally, we get to atheism. Atheism is the belief in no Gods or Goddesses. It isn’t that they deny the existence of Jesus, for example, but that they deny the existence of ALL Deities! This does not mean, however, that they hold no reverence for some guiding light, if you will. Many atheists, for example, will put their faith in science as their guide post.
As a Wiccan study group and coven, we believe in the polarity of the Divine. In other words, we believe:
· The Creator of our Universe is so far beyond the ability for humans to fully comprehend that
· We created various Goddesses and Gods to represent some of the different aspects of this Universal Creator (this can and does include Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, and Allah) and
· To simplify matters, various cultures and religions have chosen to understand these aspects through the prism of a God and a Goddess
In a very real sense, we are syncretic monotheists. We believe in this Creator which created the All and, to better relate to and understand this Creator, we worship and honor It through a God and a Goddess! We accept the reality of both, a Universal All or Creator, and the multitude of Gods and Goddesses which represent many of the various aspects of this One Source.
We also believe that we are a part of Nature and are not apart from Nature. This gives us a serious and a very real sense of responsibility for caring for our world and for everyone and everything that is a part of our world. Our religion is grounded in our concern for Nature.
We do not believe in some form of eternal punishment or Hell. We believe in reincarnation and we believe that we are our own harshest judges when it comes to reviewing if we have been doing what we chose to be put on this Earth to do, to learn, and to accomplish.
Likewise, we also do not believe that any religion which teaches its followers to do good and to avoid harm is a "wrong" religion. If God is love (the Christian Bible clearly states in I John 4: 8 that, "Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love"), then how can any religion which teaches love be "wrong" and used as justification to torment souls for an eternity? This would make no sense to us in light of a Creator that is love!
We do not believe that any valid and legitimate form of love is a "sin". We believe that heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism are gifts from the Creator as valid and legitimate ways to express love and joy. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality should be shared with joy and responsibility!
While we may use divinatory tools, we do not believe that we are ruled by what any form of divination tells us. Divination may be predicting the future, but it is not a law that is engraved in stone. Psychic Jeanne Dixon noted that divination is predicting the future, but prophesy is law. We use divination as a tool, not as the guiding principles of our lives.
We accept the Wiccan Rede which teaches us that we have a great freedom to do whatever we want in this world, but we also have a great responsibility that comes with that freedom. We can do whatever we want, but we must always strive to do no harm! The Wiccan Rede, which states "Eight words the Rede fulfill, harm ye none an' do as you will", requires to carefully examine and evaluate all of the effects that our choices and actions have on ourselves, other people, and the world around us.
We also accept the Threefold Law which teaches us that "All good that a person does to another returns threefold in this life; harm is also returned threefold". This can be compared with the Christian teaching found in Matthew 18: 21 - 22 where we are told, "The Kefa came up to him, 'Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?' 'No, not seven times,' answered Yeshua, 'but seven times seventy!'". The Law of Nature is not tit for tat or one equals one, but whatever energy we want to receive--or do not want to receive--must be greater than that which was originally put out.
We observe the Thirteen Esbats and the eight Sabbats of Wicca as ways of keeping in tune with the natural cycles found in Nature.
We believe in and practice a life-affirming religion. Wicca is not a cult and it is not Satanism. We believe in the goodness of God as expressed through a Goddess and a God. We do not judge a person by what religion they follow. We accept that all positive religions offer good to their followers. We believe in respect for all religions and we want the same respect that we would show them.
Every religion should be able to point to a simple set of core beliefs, beliefs which define the values and ethics of that faith system. In Correllian Wicca, this set of beliefs includes:
· A belief in and an acceptance of the Wiccan Rede; in Correllianism, the Rede is not open for interpretation—it is not situational
· Correllians try to live in accordance with the Law of Three—what energies you send out there (in word, thought, and/or deed) comes back to you at least threefold
· A belief in honoring and working with one’s ancestors; when the living pass on, they, too, are then included among these ancestors; these ancestors (and ultimately, ourselves) remain a part of the Tradition. Neither they nor we simply disappear from what is going on!
· A belief in Deity (no matter the Name you recognize) is more important to our spiritual path than working magic
· Correllian Wiccans seek to balance themselves with Nature and the Lord and Lady; we see ourselves as a part of Nature and not apart from Nature
· Correllian Wiccans honor the Eight Sabbats (Samhain, Yule or Winter Solstice, Imbolg, Ostara, Beltaine, Litha, Lammas, and Mabon) of the year
· Correllians work and worship on the esbats (Full Moons) of the year and many also observe the Dark of the Moon
Religion has a long history in the United States. Indeed, Christianity, our country’s largest recorded faith system, has long been what Little (2015: 526) referred to as our traditional or value arrangement for our legal, political, and cultural institutions as a type of legitimate order! Today’s situation is a bit different. There has been an explosion of non-Christian religions and they each bring their own religious and social norms and values to the table. They are each clamoring to be heard and to be placed on an equal footing with other religions. Part of what they each want to contribute to modern society includes their individual and unique values and ethics, their own sense of morality and socially and religiously accepted behaviors.
I have a strong belief that any religious system must have its own code of ethics, its own rules of the road, its code of expected and/or mandatory behavior. Paganism, Witchcraft, and Wicca all have such rules. Each successive code can build upon its predecessor, forming a model of behavior for all Wiccans to try to emulate and follow! Each code or rule can then be used to inform the next rule, creating a beautiful and spiritual tapestry to help guide us on our spiritual paths.
Scott Cunningham’s “Thirteen Goals of a Witch”
The first such code that I wish to share is one composed by the late Scott Cunningham. Scott Cunningham’s writings have been an introduction to Wicca for countless numbers of people, including myself. He laid out some of the basics of the religion in easy to understand terms and made them easy to follow and practice. One of the contributions that Mr. Cunningham had made to Wicca is his “Thirteen Goals of a Witch” (Cunningham, 1990: 151); in his “Goals”, he listed:
1. Know yourself
2. Know your Craft (Wicca)
4. Apply knowledge with wisdom
5. Achieve balance
6. Keep your words in good order
7. Keep your thoughts in good order
8. Celebrate life
9. Attune with the cycles of the Earth
10. Breathe and eat correctly
11. Exercise the body
13. Honor the Goddess and God
Of course, the obvious questions would be:
How does this all relate to me?
Cunningham’s Thirteen Goals Of A Witch
Knowing yourself requires dealing with reality. Wicca requires that a participant be reality-based. If you are to work with the world outside of yourself, you need to know yourself and to be able to deal with yourself. How can you heal the world if you can’t heal yourself? As the Christian Bible argues, how can you complain about the speck of sawdust in your neighbor’s eye when you don’t do anything about the two by four beams in your own eye? Following this, we need to learn to respect and care for this community of life as an extension of knowing and caring for ourselves.
One way of learning to know yourself is through the practice of meditation, the Twelfth Goal on this list. This is a practice that will be directed at you and your most inner self, not just some learning from a book or the web.
Know your Craft (Wicca)
Your religion is an art form. It is a true craft requiring the development of skills and an appreciation of its foundations and roots. It is not a fashion statement that you can simply put on—it is a lifestyle that you need to know intimately! When you work with magic, you are working with the way that energies flow.
How can you practice your craft, how can you develop your skills if you choose not to learn? It is imperative for any follower of any spiritual path to learn their path! The Mormons say that “the glory of God is intelligence!” There is a Truth, as well as a truth, to that sentiment! In Wicca, there is always something new to learn! As the world continues to evolve, there will always be additional things coming into being to learn about.
Apply knowledge with wisdom
Knowledge without wisdom is cold and dead! Knowledge is good, but, by itself and untempered by wisdom, can be very dangerous. Knowledge gave us the atomic bomb and see how many people died in Japan as a direct result of that same bit of knowledge. Wisdom is needed to prevent the atomic bomb from being used again. Take what you learn from your books and teachers; take what you learn and temper them with intuition, compassion, and experience. Learn from your compassion, intuition, and experience as well as from books and people.
Balance is critical in life. As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing can be bad for anybody” and that can be any good thing! Wiccans tend to believe in a polarity for their Goddess and God; there is a Goddess and there is a God, Each balancing out the Other and creating one universal whole. Our physical lives must operate along the same idea of balance. Your physical life must be balanced by your spiritual life. Work must be balanced with play. Health must be balanced with sickness. Generosity must be balanced with taking care of yourself. By practicing to balance ourselves, we more closely align our spirits with the Gods!
Keep your words in good order
THINK before you speak! Once you put something out there, it is out there to stay and to remain in someone’s mind forever! For a Wiccan, this is especially important because, when you speak (especially with any kind of passion, such as anger), you are putting forth energies which can have unintended consequences.
Keep your thoughts in good order
Likewise, remember that thoughts lead to action. As such, on a very real scale, thoughts are the same as action! If you hold violence in your heart, it is the same as committing an act of violence.
Life is an adventure as well as a learning experience. Life is not a punishment, nor are its lessons truly negative. As the Mormon church teaches, “Man is so that he might know joy!” (2 Nephi 2: 25).
Attune with the cycles of the Earth
The Earth is perfectly capable of being our Divine Teacher. Her rhythms tell us how to “go with the flow” instead of having to fight for peace and survival. We need to learn to live with a sense of universal responsibility and to take care of this Earth! If we fail in this, then we risk the destruction of our planet and of ourselves.
Breathe and eat correctly
If you can’t take care of yourself, who (or what) can you take care of? Breathing restores energy and peace. Eating correctly allows your body to operate efficiently. These are essential to physical and emotional wellbeing!
Exercise the body
This is another no-brainer. We are responsible for our bodies! If we are to behave responsibly, we must take care of our bodies—and that includes proper rest and proper exercise.
Meditation is essential. It is useful for relaxation. It brings peace and balance to the body and the spirit. It is also useful for psychic exercises, to de-clutter the mind and to be able to progress to visualization; it can be a very useful tool for working magic.
Honor the Goddess and God
I believe in the idea of Immanence. In other words, I believe that the Divine dwells within me, within myself! I believe that the Divine are a part of me and a part of all of creation, that the Divine is not somehow separate from Its own Creation. By honoring the Divine, I honor that which is scared within me.
The American Council of Witches’ “Principles of Wiccan Belief”
Wiccans, generally, do not agree with or believe in one specific set of rules. The one rule which tends to be universally accepted is the Wiccan Rede. However, this lack of a universal Pagan or Witch rule did not stop various Witches in the United States from trying to compose something basic and which could be more widely accepted. The American Council of Witches, in 1974, composed a list or statement of beliefs and practices which could help define Witchcraft from an American perspective. This list included:
Wicca is a simple religion, a faith with relatively little dogma or mandatory creeds of faith. One article of faith, however, that ties all Wiccans together is the Wiccan Rede. It is the only Wiccan law, if we can honestly call it a law.
Strictly speaking, a rede is a guideline or a suggestion. In the case of the Wiccan Rede, it is a guideline or a suggestion that is expected to apply to Wiccans. Followers of other Pagan paths may choose to abide or follow the Wiccan Rede or not. The choice is theirs. As a matter of fact, it would be likely that most non-Wiccans do not believe that this Rede applies to them as they would consider it a Wiccan doctrine or statement.
Initially, the Wiccan Rede did not exist at the same time that Gerald Gardner started studying witchcraft. There is no publication which refers to the Rede prior to 1954, when Gardner wrote about the simple morality of doing whatever you please so long as you harm no one. It was not a law. It was not a suggestion or a guideline. It was, simply, an example of morality which one could choose to apply to their own life.
The Wiccan Rede which we are familiar with was presented by Doreen Valiente (the person who codified much of Gardner’s teachings) during a speech in 1964. Her version simply states “Eight words the Rede fulfill. Harm ye none an do as ye will.” The Rede was simply intended to summarize Wiccan theology and to present us in a more favorable light, a less threatening image of witches that what most people had learned from church and from the media.
The expanded version of the Wiccan Rede first appeared in “Green Egg” magazine in 1975 (volume III, No. 69, Ostara).
The Wiccan Rede stands in sharp contrast to another line which is sometimes paraded to the public, a line which makes us look chaotic, undisciplined, and self-serving, which states that doing whatever you may want—regardless of the well being or desires of another—is “whole of the law”. The Wiccan Rede provides boundaries and demands consideration of all others by forbidding harm.
The Wiccan Rede does offer us a lot of freedom and it demands a lot of discipline at the same time. As we are free to “do as ye will,” we are not required to fit certain roles. In other words, men and women can be equal; they can each do what they want to do without being limited by gender roles assigned by society and by religion. People are free to love whomever they want or are naturally attracted to so long as no one is harmed or their rights as human beings are violated (a form of harm).
Because of the Wiccan Rede, followers of this spiritual path are not required to observe certain aspects of faith in a set manner. There is no law mandating dietary restrictions. There is no law demanding that worship be done in a precise manner. There is no requirement for a practitioner to bow down to the will of someone in authority over them. Your faith and your life are your own and are not subject to someone else’s control!
One point that I want to make here is that there has been considerable misunderstanding of the Wiccan Rede in one area and that is the area of self-defense!
Some time ago, RainBear and I had attended an open Samhain ritual here in town. After the ritual, there was the usual potluck and people sitting around and chatting.
During this time, I overheard one witch say to another that "I could never be a Wiccan. They believe in the Wiccan Rede and cannot protect themselves!"
Nothing can be further from the truth! Yes, the Rede forbids harming anyone, however self-defense can be read as an exception. By this, I mean that if you fail to even try to protect yourself (or others), are you not then being complicit in that act of harm? If you are complicit, then you are actually a part of that harm and are therefore violating the Wiccan Rede's injunction "harm ye none"!
In the law, there is a concept called proportional force. You are legally allowed to employ approximately the same level of force that is being directed against you or someone else. Likewise, under the Rede, you are allowed and expected to defend yourself appropriately or defend someone else appropriately. To fail to do so means that you have broken the Rede.