October 2004

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Lady Ishtar's Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 10
October 2004

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In This Issue:

Lady Ishtar's Newsletter

1. History and Customs of Halloween by Jerry Wilson
2. The History of the Wiccan Religion by BlackHawk
3. Spell of the Month: New Moon before Samhain Rite
4. My gentle readers have requested more information on Wicca Protection.
So I have written a new book to fill this need:
”Lady Ishtar’s Complete Guide to Wicca Protection Spells”
Please visit http://zer0dmx.tripod.com/books_by_ishtar.html.

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History and Customs of Halloween by Jerry Wilson

Halloween is celebrated annually. But just how and when did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual?

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife, (Panati). The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living, (Gahagan). 

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess, (Panati).

Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach, (Gahagan). 

Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits, (Panati). Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth, (Gahagan).

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, they abandoned any practice of sacrificing of humans in favor of burning effigies.

The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates, (Panati).

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

 The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, it is only as evil as one cares to make it.

© 1995-2002 by Jerry Wilson

References: Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, 1987; and Dr. Joseph Gahagan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Personal letter, 1997

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2. The History of the Wiccan Religion by BlackHawk

The actual origins of the Wiccan religion are shrouded, but whether by time or by secrecy, none can definitively say. There are theories afoot as to our origins that claim the religion is well over 10,000 years old, perhaps as many as 35,000. There are also theories that place the beginning of Wicca in the hands of Gerald Brosseau Gardner in England during the late 1930's and early 1940's, giving Wicca an age of no more than 60 years.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your point of view), the secrecy that has surrounded the Craft has contributed to a lack of solid documentation in our history. Conversely, that secrecy has also allowed practitioners of our religion to survive, so the heart of Wicca could forward to the modern day. Regardless of your point of view, the lack of documentation has hampered, if not crippled, efforts to reconstruct our past.

It is beyond the scope of this writing to deal with the possible paleolithic origins of the Craft. For a study of the ancient matrilineal practices our race, we recommend Eisler's The Chalice and The Blade. We will also not be presenting the impact of the Inquisition, which we call the Burning Times, on our people. Interested parties are directed to research the subject either by performing a Net Search, or in the library. We ask you to bear in mind that most histories are written by the winners, and to realize that most of the victims of the Burning Times were not Witches; they were usually Christians who were unfortunate enough to be accused, and an accusation was more than sufficient.

Most, if not all, American Wiccan lineages can be traced to Gerald B. Gardner, an Englishman who was primarily responsible for bringing Wicca to the public eye during the 1950's. It is believed by some that Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven circa September, 1939. Believing that Wicca was in the last stages of decline into extinction, he requested permission from the coven Elders to "go public" with Craft. He was denied. As a compromise, however, he wrote a fictional piece, High Magic's Aid, which was published in 1949 under the name "Scire". In it, many of the practices of his coven were allegedly revealed.

In 1951, the Witchcraft Acts were repealed, largely due to the very popular Spiritualist movement. Under the Acts, mediums and spiritualists could be prosecuted as frauds, and several prominent members of Parliament and other officials were strong believers in mediums. The repeal of the Acts, however, also set the stage for the resurgence of the Craft. In 1954, Gardner's Witchcraft Today was published. The Craft grew steadily during the 1950's, and The Meaning of Witchcraft, Gardner's second non-fiction book on the Craft, was published in 1959. All was not peaceful within the then-fledgling Wiccan community, however. Disagreements about the publicity Wicca was getting, and about how to handle an increasingly-hostile Fleet Street media caused a schism within the movement in the summer of 1957. Gardner was at the nominal head of the pro-publicity faction, while the more secretive opposition was nominally headed by Doreen Valiente, who had been Gardner's High Priestess. Gardner remained influential in the Craft throughout the 1950's and early 1960's, though his health, which had always been somewhat frail, deteriorated. During the winter of 1963-64, Gardner wintered in Lebanon, which was more peaceful in those days. He boarded the SS Scottish Prince in February of 1964 for his trip home, but died of heart failure while in the Mediterranean. His body was offloaded and buried at the next port of call, Tunis. The original burial site was redeveloped into a park, but before this happened, a High Priestess named Eleanor Bone learned of the plan while she was vacationing in North Africa. She collected funds from other British Witches and had Gardner's remains moved to another nearby cemetery, where they rest to this day.

Doreen Valiente was initiated in 1953 by Gardner. From almost the time of her initiation, she operated as the High Priestess of the "main coven". Very early in their relationship, she demonstrated to Gardner that she recognized the sources of much of his ritual material, a fact that did not please him at first. Concerned with what she perceived as a preponderance of "Crowleyanity" (a reference to Aleister Crowley, whose OTO rituals had a great influence on some of Gardner's early material) in the Book of Shadows, Valiente remarked to Gardner that she would like to see some changes to the Book. Gardner dismissively agreed, perhaps thinking that she couldn't produce better work than he had already shown her. He was wrong.

Stripping out most of Crowley's words, Valiente created poetic versions of some of Wicca's most moving pieces, including the Charge of the Goddess. Much of what modern American Gardnerian Wiccans use in ritual owes at least something to Doreen Valiente. Valiente has written several works including The Rebirth of Witchcraft in 1989. This book forms the core of many Wiccan covens' historical data, as it is written in a no-nonsense manner by a person who was actually there.

This history would not be complete without a short recounting of the controversy that still rages within the Wiccan community over whether Gerald Gardner actually received this religion from those who came before him, or whether he made it all up out of whole cloth. The truth may never be known, but research continues. One of the most prominent, and perhaps notorious, of the researchers was Dr. Aidan A. Kelly, pictured here in August of 1992. Kelly performed research on Gardner's library at Ripley's in Toronto during the early 70's. He concluded that all of the material present in the current Book of Shadows could be traced to other sources that were in Gardner's library. Writing of his work in Crafting the Art of Magic Book I, published in 1991, he presented a side-by-side comparison of current BoS material with that from a book found in Gardner's library entitled "Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical," which Kelly claimed was a manuscript of the BoS. His work has been blasted by more conservative Gardnerians, and another researcher, Donald H. Frew III of California, has found evidence that certain works Kelly claimed were in Gardner's library were in fact not there. Thus, the controversy remains. 

Most Wiccans, if asked, will answer that it doesn't matter. Wicca is a genuine, fulfilling religion, whether it is 10,000 years old, or was invented last Tuesday. 

-BlackHawk, HP, Circle of the Dragon's Weave Copyright © 1996

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3. New Moon before Samhain Rite 

Gather Ye round children of the night'
soon it will be the Samhain rite

New moon, dark moon ,shining might
Call ye forth the powers of  Light  

Hail Mother Earth
Of  the Cool dark embrace
Unto you, come one and all
When its time to end the race

Hail Howling Winds
The fall leaves do blow
Sweet dance of life among the Deadfall
Your wisdom we would know

Hail Flames of Night stars
Crackling in the Caldron of Light
In go the sacred woods of our lady's fame
Ever sweet is the smokes flight

Hail Wild Water of winter storms
Cool droplets in the night
Wash clean the woes of the year gone past
To become new is our right

Be Welcome Mother Goddess
The call of the night hunters is thine
Light footed on the path of Light we come
To bring Ripe Grains for your shine

Be Welcome All Father, God of Grace
The Green Man of forest and Dell
The strength of the Stag is thy gift to man
May your wisdom always serve us well

Breathe deep the scent of the forest gloom
Feel the power in the night
Be as one with the Night flyers
Soft wings over our head in flight

Feel with your heart, The power that beats
Like a drum rumbling in the night
Awaken your soul to the power that flows
And let your soul take flight

Rise up on the incense smoke that burns
Become as one with the Light
Seek now your answers, seek now your peace
Seek now the grace of moonlight bright

Open your eyes to the bright light of grace
That shines within your heart
Become one with a million stars that glow
Waiting for you to take part

Spread your wings and let the sprit soar
Like an Eagle when it takes flight
Seek out the trail that will take you there
Seek out your place in the Light

Feel the dancing motes of stars
Whirl around you with their light
Hear the music of the spheres
Hear the answers you seek in the night

The stars have returned to their winding paths
Now its just you in the light
Spend this time of peacefulness
Let the mind heal of all blight

Child of the Universe you are
And ever always shall be
Time now to return to the world of man
And see what tomorrow will see

Drift like the feather the night flyer gifted
Soft and floating in the Night
Drop down into the Body you left behind
Renewed and filled with your own Might

Hail and blessings be My brethren
May you always tread in the Light

Hail Mother Earth
Of  the Cool dark embrace
Unto you, come one and all
Ever humble in our place
Thank you and Blessings be

Hail Howling Winds
The fall leaves did dance
Sweet dance of life among the Deadfall
Our Wisdom you have enhanced
Thank you and Blessings be

Hail Flames of Night stars
Crackling in the Caldron of Light
Burned are the sacred woods of our lady's fame
Ever sweet is the smokes flight
Thank you and Blessings be

Hail Wild Water of winter storms
Cool droplets in the night
Washed clean are the woes of the year gone past
We become New in the Light
Thank you and Blessings be

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4. Lady Ishtar’s Complete Guide to Wicca Protection Spells

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My "Wicca Protection Spells" contains hundreds of new spells, as well as a complete list of Love Spells, Protection Spells, and Much More......

This book of "Wicca Protection Spells" will give you the basic information  needed to Protect You & Loved Ones! Please visit: http://zer0dmx.tripod.com/books_by_ishtar.html to purchase

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