What is Witchcraft? To answer this would take many pages of writing; indeed vast volumes of books have been written on the subject. I aim, as High Priest of the HomoMoot, to outline a very basic introduction to the Craft for those who have no idea about this ancient living tradition in the 21st century here in Wales and indeed, the world over. In regard to myself, I was born in a very traditional Welsh family, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, in the small village of Clydach, in the Parish of Llanelly. It is here that my introduction to Witchcraft began in a very strange way; by the age of ten, I was appointed as organist elect of Llanelly Parish Church, (St Elli) Gilwern, following in the footsteps of my late great grandfather, who held the post at this ancient parish church for over fifty years - Edward Lemuel Tapping. I served as organist elect until October 1994, when I moved to Monmouth and to this day I continue to be in high demand as a professional Cathedral organ scholar to the various Christian denominations both in Wales and also in England. At the parish church of St Elli, where I was appointed as organist elect, I met one very special lady, her name was Olive Jones. She not only became my mentor, but also a dear friend to myself and eventually my husband Paul. Olive was a true lady and taught me great things; words cannot express what Olive taught me. Olive sadly passed away on the Sabbat of Mabon, in 2006 on the very eve of what would have been her 90th birthday. She lives on in me and in this wonderful, ancient Celtic Faith, what the world has come to understand and name, Witchcraft-the art and science of the wise folk.
Witchcraft is the religion and practice of the Witches, or the "Wise" as we are sometimes known. It has been described as the fastest growing religion in the West. The roots of the spirit of Witchcraft are the fundamental nature and needs of the human psyche in its relation to the universe. The roots of the form of Witchcraft are many and various. A great deal of misunderstanding has arisen in regard to the Craft, what it is and what it is not. Witchcraft is a very nature based orientated religion and its "brother" religion is Druidism; both honour the Lord and Lady, the Goddess and God. Those who walk the path of the Witch today, like those who walked it before us, see in nature the divine at work, through the seasons and every six weeks, Witches come together at what we call a "Sabbat" to honour a particular passing in time of the seasons and its connection with the Lord and Lady.
The Solar year of the Witch begins at the Winter Solstice, when the Sun is reborn; it is seen as the re-birth of the Sun-God, Karnayna by the Goddess and it is fitting that the Christian Church adopted this festival to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, who himself proclaimed he was the "Light of the World". The Craft moves on through the year in what is called the Divine Drama, for at Imbolc-which the Church adopted and renamed Candlemas, we honour the Goddess Brighid at this season; the Irish fire Goddess- when the first signs of Spring appear with the snowdrops. So much love was there for this Goddess, that the early Church in these Celtic lands could not stop the veneration to Brighid, and adopted her by renaming her St Bridget. In Christian mythology St Bridget is reputed to be the midwife to Mary, the Holy Theotokos-the Mother of Christ. In the Craft, she is the midwife of Spring and it is she who breathes her fiery breath upon the Earth to awaken it. And so the seasons move on and we come to Ostara, which the Church adopted as "Easter". It is interesting to note, that the Orthodox Churches never refer to it as "easter", due to the connection to the Goddess Eostre, the deity of Teutonic/Germanic origin associated with birth. The Orthodox Churches rightly call Easter- Great and Holy Pascha, a very close name to that of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is at Ostara that new life finally breaks free from the tomb (the earth), from the land of the dead and it is fitting that the Resurrection of Christ from the dead is celebrated at this time. Eggs are exchanged as gifts, the ancient symbol of the Goddess Eostre, which also the Church adopted to symbolise new life and the new life in Christ, he being the first born from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept. The year moves ever onward, through Beltane on May 1st, Litha - the Summer Solstice on June 21st/22nd, Lammas on Aug 1st, Mabon on Sept 21st/22nd and finally the Great High Sabbat of the year, Samhain; a three day festival, which runs from Oct 31st to Nov 2nd. Samhain is the Celtic New Year and a time to remember loved ones who have died, which the Church adopted as All Saints Day and All Souls Day, on Nov 1st and 2nd. The entire liturgical calendar of the Church is based upon the ancient Sabbats of witches and scholars wholly agree upon this. It was done to aid in the conversion of the Celts to the "new" faith, Christianity.
As there are many facets to a diamond, equally there are many facets to Witchcraft. Witches claim it is the oldest religion on earth, that it underlines all the others and is in no way incompatible with their essence, which is why there are quite a few ordained Christian clergy who are also Witches. One of the things that surprises most people who have no idea what Witchcraft is about, is that as Witches, we don't believe in or worship the "devil" or cast spells to harm people. As Witches, the devil does not exist, it was a Christian invention and myth that the Church invented in order to try and stop our Celtic people from the adoration they gave to Cernunnos, (Karnayna) the Horned God. He was a beloved God here in these Celtic lands and the Church simply could not stop the people venerating him. So, they desecrated his name by adopting his horned image, that of a man wearing stag antlers or rams horns and said simply to the people "Look-the devil"! It was as easy as that and Cernunnos' name and image took on the devil from that day onwards. What the Church did was to fill the people with fear; fear is a disease and spreads rapidly and brings out the very worst in people. There is no mention in the Bible that the devil had horns; the devil in Holy Scripture was simply the "tempter" when he came to Christ and is often in the Old Testament mentioned as a serpent, a snake. In fact the horns of deer and ram were often used in the Temple worship in the Old Testament and indeed still today, the Jewish Faith announces the New Year, with the Shofar-the ram's horn.
Finally, spells and nudity... firstly, why do Witches celebrate all their rites nude? This custom is widespread across the board, whether that is a hetrosexual or gay/bisexual Coven. This is due to the "Charge of the Goddess", in which the Goddess Aradia, commands us to worship naked, to prove we are really and truly free from all things.. we afterall, came into this world naked and to stand in worship in front of Her and Karnayna nude, celebrates both our freedom of free will and also the beauty of the human body. It is a remarkable machine, the human body; and rightly as the Christian tradition believes, a "temple of the Holy Spirit". For the divine dwells in each of us, and we in them. In the final Eucharistic Prayer before communicants partake of the Eucharist/Communion, of the Church In Wales, the faithful prays a very similar invocation/prayer to us Witches.
" We do not presume to come to this your table, O Lord and Lady, but by thy manifold and great mercies, we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from thy High Table. But thou art the same, Alpha and Omega, always loving and merciful; aiding all with thine own gifts from the harvest of the year. Your gift to us is your divine property, always merciful. Grant us, therefore to eat Gracious Mother of your womb, the earth; grant gracious Father, to eat of your seed, the flesh of life. For what has been cut down at the harvest, rises into this glorious eternal divine food, of which the angels glady sing of. For what we hold in our hands, bread, truly is the bread of eternal life; through your goodness we place here before your divine Majesties, bread, which earth hath given and human hands have made. It is the bread of life, the continuation of generations. It will become the living bread, which carries within it, the Lord of the Harvest, our mighty Lord Cernunnos. May we, Lord of the harvest, evermore, dwell in you and you in us, until one day, when this mortal life has given us up unto eternity, then shall you lay us, at the feet of our divine Mother, Aradia and by Her blesings, we will be made anew, and be happily reunited with those who we love and who have gone on before us, unto the Summerlands"
In regard to spells, Witches are forbidden by the Goddess to harm anything or anyone; so we cannot cast spells on people, animals or places to harm them in any way. There is one Law that is held dear to us as Witches, and that is the "Threefold Law" :
Harm ye None, Do As Thou Will.
This means that anything you do, good or bad will come back to you, threefold stronger. As Witches, we are comanded to be kind to all animals, so there are no sacrifices of animals, for the Goddess and God, in their Charge to us, says that they require no blood to be shared, for they are the Mother and Father of all Creation and they love all beings. So too, must we also love all beings. A command also spoken of by Buddha and Christ.
Witchcraft today is the same as it has always been; a very balanced spiritual path, one that embraces life in all its many forms and above all, a religion that truly does indeed live up to the command by the Goddess, to harm none. It is a religion that is so needed at this time in history, when, as the newly elected President of America, President Obama said of late " a world in peril "(environmentally).
Blessed be if you walk in these sacred ancient ways.
Julian Riley Ba.Th
High Priest of the HomoMoot