I was inspired to write a blog about my personal and also our coven’s feelings and love for the Great Mother Goddess, or “Magna Mater,” because a friend of mine, Deporodh is currently writing a wonderful series of blogs in which she will examine the eight qualities the Goddess tells us here on earth to follow. She has published the first one: Beauty Shines, on the Swan Grove blog. The “Charge” that was re-written by Doreen Valiente has become its own thought-form of power: that now transcends coven and tradition, much bigger than what the writers of such beautiful words imagined it would become and now it is spoken world-wide among thousands of covens, of many traditions!
My absolute favorite book on the mysteries of the Great Mother Goddess, or our own “Magna Mater,” is Bill Gray’s wonderful book titled, “Evoking the Primal Goddess.”
Gray was an unsung adept of the occult and although he was not a witch or a Wiccan himself, he was an Occultist of great knowledge and is best known for his “Sangreal Sodality” and also his excellent guide on the Qabala called “Ladder of Lights.” He was quite friendly with Traditionalists, Gardnerian and also Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain and many other witches of the early 1960’s and he seemed to get on quite well with them. He also wrote another beautiful Pagan Ritual and book called “The Rollright Ritual” in which the Rollright Stones spoke to him…..
This small quote of this excellent book is filled with so much thought that just this little quote can inspire a whole book unto itself. I find this a lot when reading Gray’s books. I tend to place a sticky note above a particular passage to come back and reflect on, only to find that reaching the end of the book it is filled with sticky notes – sometimes multiple on the same page!
The first few sentences of this brief quote explain so much and applies to the practice of Traditional Initiatory Wicca:
It is well known, and thoroughly documented that, for the most part I believe, that British Traditional Wiccans honor a particular pair or “ultimate polarity” known to us as the “Goddess and God.” Typically, Wicca passes down the tradition that an “Ultimate Perfection” exists beyond even this primal duality.
While I can’t speak for other traditions of Initiatory Wicca, I can tell you about my personal beliefs in this that has been developed based on what has been passed down to me: Our coven within the Horsa Tradition believes in a “Supreme Being” or a “Universal Mind” that all forces that exist have come from and one day will all return to – such as through the process of reincarnation – which never “devolves” but continuously either stands stationary or moves forward progressively. (Meaning we can’t go backwards – but we can stagnate or go forward)
There are a number of titles or names that many Wiccans may or may not call this Supreme Being, but that is not important: for what is perfection can never be personified by our own human understanding. To do so, would be to limit this Supreme Being and make it less than perfection. (This also explains why it is a possible reason why Wiccans are okay with bringing in folks of many different belief systems about the Gods – such as monotheists, Deists, polytheists and agnostic: for at the end of the day, we mostly believe that this “power” or “All/Source” is considered beyond all religion of ANY sorts. )
The Supreme Being is not “Wiccan,” nor any religion. It is a simple belief that something that is much greater than us exists, somehow and in some way. This also seems to resonate with the teachings of Theosophy when trying to define what might be within the scope of an “Ancient Wisdom Religion.” (Many people don’t truly understand just how influential The Theosophical Society was on Wicca in the New Forest.)
Now out of this Supreme Being as energy begins to limit itself and become “less than perfect” and this is when we come to the first primal split or pair – which as Wiccans we call the “Goddess and God.” Typically, this two primal pair are given names which are kept secret by the coven and since anything less than the Supreme Being is imperfect, it is okay to name our two “gods.” Wicca teaches that our gods are not perfect and they need our help, just as we need them. One deceased High Priestess of our coven line said it like this: “We are nothing without our gods, but our gods are nothing without us!”
Many folks have complained over the years about the “secrecy” of the god names of the traditional covens – and at the same time many Wiccans have termed that these names are “all important.” In my own personal opinion – call the “gods” what you wish: as the names themselves, when spoken and with certain actions, feelings and emotions, create “thought-forms.” These names in many ways are “key codes” to the coven thought-form (or “egregore” if we wish to be highfalutin about it!) So don’t worry if you like you’re not in the special club without the passwords – many newer groups today have created their own door and key-code locks of god-names and this is perfectly acceptable for new groups to do.
This above goes back to the idea of the “sacred names,” or as we talked about in another one of our blog posts: “WORDS OF POWER” that certain names carry certain power. If you know certain words, which we know are measurable energy that produce mental, emotional and physical results which can be measured in the brain, you can then indeed “mess” with the thought form itself… though some god names are now to the point of power that they go well-beyond what a single witch or even many, many witches could mess with since the thought-form has been built that have taken a life of their own outside of traditions and covens.
This above also leads to a particular teaching in the world of the occult that says that a coven can be no more than 13 members, because only 12 of them are actual human-born witches (or 6 working pairs) and the 13th member of the coven is the “egregore” of the coven itself. If you quarter a circle by the directions, or cosmic-cross, three witches within each quadrant are all connected back to the unseen presence of deity that is symbolized by the baalfire in the center of the magic circle.
Recently, a coven member asked me why we place our altar in the center of the magic circle when we work indoors. I told them to think about the outdoor rituals – what is in the center of the circle? The baalfire or need-fire. In the center, eh? What does the baalfire represent? The “Supreme Being” and also the manifested power of the coven thought form? Now if we take away the thought that we are doing a ritual, and let’s just say it is one of our bonfire nights where we get together to chat around the bonfire, what is everyone’s natural inclination to do whether they are a witch or not? They automatically and almost instinctively circle round the fire and make a circle, so why would doing a spell or ritual be any different? There are just some things that almost seem to be “instinctual” to us in magical workings and it is our key to ferret it out.
The instinctual discoveries of what we do in our magical operations also apply to our Goddess and God. If these two beings represent a specific pair of the primal “prime duality,” then what makes sense to us? A Mother Goddess and a Father God maybe?
It is quite common to hear many folks talk about the “Great Mother Goddess” but when they address the “Father God” they typically will just say “Horn’ed God” and therefore, almost subconsciously cut out the idea that he is also one of our primal parents as well. Yes, he is a Horn’ed God, and our “Lord of Death and Resurrection,” but what would be wrong with also thinking of him as our “Father God” like we think about the Goddess and our “Mother Goddess?”
Why doesn’t the “God” seem to get the same amount of affection as the “Great Mother Goddess?”
I think this has a lot to do with the second part of the quote above by Bill Gray that refers to the fact that for so long, we have worked to suppress the “Magna Mater” of us all and we have entered the pendulum swing where for many of us, the Goddess receives much greater importance than the God.
There are many covens since the 1970s and many covens since the 1970s and many today that honor the Goddess in Her many attributes today exclusively. This is wonderful to see and has given many, many thousands of women (and some men too!) a way to connect and uncover the far too-often neglected Goddess and help to reclaim Her rightful role as the Great Mother of us all. It is easy for some to criticize this approach as not being in “balance,” but the feminists who have done this have weaved a strong kind of magical web that has helped to bring Her back to us so that we one day will hopefully be able to restore the equilibrium as best as we can between the two mighty poles of power. (If the earth has been dry for far too long and has only had the rays of the sun beating down on it, then an unequal amount of rain would be needed to fall before the “sweet spot” of just the right natural conditions could occur: some folks are working their own mysteries to recover just that!)
Today, we have many types of groups that “coven” for the purposes of recovering many different types of mysteries.
In our modern day, many groups were formed to explore little known mysteries connected to the ideas of resurrecting the ancient Priesthoods of what might be called the “Ancient Wisdom Tradition” that exist within our Western Mystery Traditions. One of the first hyper-specific offshoots that found expression through modern witchcraft was Z. Budapest’s “Dianic Witchcraft,” not to be confused with the “Dianic Wicca” of the McFarland Dianic Line.
Budapest’s Dianic Witchcraft, in which her first coven was the “Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1” and now today many covens have come from her first coven, was and is an all women – straight, lesbian and somewhere in between coven of ladies. Budapest did a tremendous job at the time recovering and finding the Goddess wherever she could and she is still quite well known today.
Men, of all genders, are very interested too in finding the Great Goddess within the many traditional covens that exist today. Most male-only covens that exist today for men of all gender identifications honor only the male end of the pole, similar to how Dianic Witches typically only honor the female end of the pole. The only ones that seem to have felt more comfortable embracing the Goddess in an all-male coven are covens that are only open to gay and bi-sexual mysteries. A wonderful gay and bi-sexual only male coven and tradition, Two Spirit Wicca, is doing just that and re-discovering the old gay male priesthood in its many forms through the expression of witchcraft.
Something that we don’t see yet, but we have reached a time where the world is most likely ready for it is for another sub-group of Pagans to explore the Transgender mysteries within the Western Pagan traditions. I think within another 5 years’ time we will see this come about within our Pagan and Wiccan sub-culture. It is possible it has already been established and just not widely known about yet!
Are all these splinter sub-groupings of sub-groupings of an already sub-culture splintering us in a greater sense? I don’t personally think it is.
I think it may only be negative when we pontificate what is the only and true way to go in any religion. Those that do this, seem to eventually find themselves alone in the end within their groups because this attitude does not harmonize well in our Aquarian Age era.
A quote about this above that I love very much is from the book titled, “The Mind of the Druid,” which is a particularly old book by Dr. Graham How that says,
“Follow the path, my son.”
“Your path, which is not my path.”
One High Priestess of another tradition that I know told me one time that, “All things in Nature must find expression.” Her opinion seems to carry a universal truth that resonated with me. Since Nature Herself is imperfect and in a state of always seeking balance, but never quite obtaining it, when you load up one side of the apple-cart with too many apples, it is bound to tip over. Some folks might describe this as Nature’s pendulum swing. In our coven, we call this the “Law of Compensation” and this law itself finds expression through the Fall Equinox ritual, or the “Rite of Autumn” – which is a time of us all getting our just desserts for our actions, good or ill – for like nature, what we sow, we must reap.
Many folks are familiar with the statement that, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” This particular statement can get so overused that I almost hate to even type it out here, so I will try to explain it with what it means to us in witchcraft and in terms of the Goddess:
This is the point where we get into the description of we see the power and place of our prime duality: The re-claims that which is given unto her: the earth, the sea, etc., much like the womb, which we might describe as a negative force and flow. Now it is important here to note that “negative” flow does not mean “bad” in ANY way, because destruction/absorption in this case refers to limiting and therefore, giving form and growth to something. For in order for something to be given form, it must be restricted and given a vessel to find expression in. A saying in Wicca is that: “All power comes from the God and is shaped and given form y the Goddess.” In this way, we are saying that our “Father God” initiates, and our “Mother Goddess” responds.
Just like in human reproduction, the seed initiates new life when it finds the egg, and the egg responds. One side cannot and will not exist without the other: Without the response, there can be no initiation – and without initiation, there can be no response.
This is the great universal push and pull, and can be applied to our practice of witchcraft in the style of circumambulation used within ritual:
In some covens, only a sun-wise circumambulation is used in ritual. In other covens, only a widdershins method is used in ritual. Sometimes it may start one direction and close another direction. And still, in other covens, like in our Wolfa Coven, a mix of both sun-wise (deosil) and widdershins circumambulations are used.
This sometimes is taught by the statement that is passed down that widdershins (to the left in the northern hemisphere) is BAD and only used in cursing and baneful magic) and only sun-wise or to the right turns are made because it is “good” magic.
Deosil, or sun-wise, is the “Path of the Sun.” It pushes or “sends out” power. It is the force of the Horn’ed God and the Sun.
Widdershins, or counter-clockwise, is the “Path of the Moon.” It pulls in. It is the force of the Goddess.
Widdershins, or the Path of the Moon/Goddess, sets up a powerful cyclotron. The best thing I can think of is a “Hurricane” which spins and pulls in counter-clockwise. What does it do? Yes, it pulls in. A tornado is the same. Which way does an astrology chart move? Which way does the earth spin? Widdershins circumabulations create a vacuum. Also, in regards to the medieval books that do describe “witch dances” all talk about how they “dance against the sun.”
Don’t believe me? Try this magical experiment out:
In a ritual in which you only go deosil, what happens? It gets really HOT! Even if you practice your rituals naked, it still gets HOT! Why? We are taught that power comes out the body and is contained by the circle-barrier that is used to contain the power that is built by the coven, until, through secret methods; we release that power toward its target. Power comes “out of the body” of the witches in this method.
What happens when you go widdershins?
The circle gets COLD or stays cool. You won’t feel the “HEAT.”
Because you are “pulling” in, through the power of a magical cyclotron and drawing the power to you. A widdershins circle is not a “protective” circle to keep things out and keep power in, it is a cyclotron and a vaccum pulling things in.
One exception to that above experiment is when employing a mixture of techniques such as widdershins movement to pull power in and then immediately a deosil circumambulation to send the power out: this is akin to the winding up and letting it ago and flinging it out rapidly. The power is then flung from the center of axis of the working in this method, which the flinging out makes it feel cool.
(The above opinions are my own that were taught to me and based on actual experimentation of handling power and how it responds. If you would like to see how a tradition might make this work, check out the “Sacred Pentagraph, Books I, II & III” in which the primary workings of the coven is conducted widdershins.)
Some covens might also even perform the four Sabbat rituals deosil, or sun-wise, since spellcasting is not typically performed and it is about seasonal and solar progression, whereas they may use widdershins circumambulations at Esbats to draw power in for spells.
For the last part of Bill Gray’s statement on the “mystical marriage,” that is the experiential piece that only those who have been there and are exploring can ultimately describe. In some ways, we are all working toward a union and eventual attainment of the unification of the opposites.
In regards to the Goddess-mysteries, the exploration of the “Sangreal” or “Royal-Blood” is not a new concept and is one of the great mysteries that is truly embedded into our Western Mysteries. (Dan Brown’s novel and movie, “The DaVinci Code” also re-sparked even more interest in this!) It seems no mistake that some of the oldest known ways of tracing lineage is through the Mothers. Today, even those who are Jewish trace their ancestry through the Mother. It is possible this may extend even back to the time when people had no idea how babies were born. Sexual union was NOT for “pro-creation” at that time, and was purely for pleasure and enjoyment only. Then, as if by magic, a baby was born. It may even have been possible that many babies were all born around the same time as each other in a tribe, which, like the animals around them had their own breeding season.
Blessed Be to all in The Craft who remember, honor and call upon the Great Mother in all her manifold attributes and many names! Blessed