Life and Wicca
Most all witches believe in reincarnation. We believe that before the soul enters the body, it chooses the body and type of life that it wishes to choose. Normally, the older and wiser the soul, the more difficult is the life that it chooses. People can choose to be male or female and inhabit the body very near to the time of birth. All things are chosen before the soul enters the body.
Wiccan marriages are called “handfastings”. Many of the traditions of other religions are incorporated into a handfasting, such as the binding of the hands, the jumping of the broom and the sharing of the chalice. It is also traditional to exchange rings during the handfasting. Traditionally, Wiccan handfastings were done in the nude. Today, however, families and the public are a little more understanding of witchcraft and many witches choose to make their vows a public experience, sans the nudity. Any wedding dress and tuxedo would be fine, though many witches choose to wear ceremonial robes for their handfastings. Handfastings are done within the circle which is cast by the Wiccan Priest and/or Priestess. The ceremony is much like a traditional Christian wedding and lasts about as long.
Handfasting is basically a pagan marriage ceremony. In a handfasting the bond between the couple is just as strong as it would be with any marriage and may be even stronger. The handfasting is usually held by a high preist, high priestess, or both.
Death and Reincarnation
As I said before, witches believe in reincarnation. Much like other religions, it is believed that the soul returns again and again to learn, grow and become wise. When a witch dies, they enter a place much like heaven. This “heaven” is called the Summerland. It was called Tir Nan Og by the ancient Celts, meaning “Land of the Young”. Witches believe that the Summerland is a sort of way station, if you will; a place to catch up and sum up what you have learned. The soul can stay here and recuperate or choose to go on with their journey. A soul can become a ghost, or a guardian for their loved ones as well.
Witches do not believe in hell. We believe that the only hell is made here on earth within our own souls. The evil that you do stays with you until you die. The only way out of this hell is to come to terms with what you did and forgive yourself or make what has been done wrong, right.
All religious systems have a place where the soul ascends (or descends) when the physical body can no longer function. In Craft belief, we call this place the Summerland. This is the resting place- the way station, if you will- for souls to recover, and categorize information and lessons we have learned. We have no Hell, or place of terror or damnation.
Reincarnation- the logical process of living, dying, and living again on the earth plane. Some religions also believe in transmigration, where an individual's soul may enter not only the body of a human, but the body of a plant or animal.
In most Witchcraft Traditions, reincarnation is the accepted theology for dealing with the subject of death and rebirth. We move with the seasons, the cycle of the Wheel, the turn of birth, death, and rebirth. That part of it usually isn't questioned because it is logical.
What is questioned is the space between the living experiences, the number of lifetimes, and the reasoning for going through each one. Also intriguing is "who we were," with whom, and when.
Reincarnation is one of Wicca's most valuable lessons. The knowledge that this life is but one of many, that when the physical body dies we do not cease to exist but are reborn in another body answers many questions, but raises a few more.
Wicca teaches that reincarnation is the instrument through which our souls are perfected. one lifetime isn't sufficient to attain this goal; hence, the consciousness (soul) is reborn many times, each life encompassing a different set of lessons, until perfection is achieved. No one can say how many lives are required before this is accomplished.
In Wicca, we seek to strengthen our bodies, minds and souls. We certainly live full, productive earthly lives, and we do so while harming none. The soul is ageless, sexless, non-physical, possessed of the divine spark of the Goddess and God. Each manifestation of the soul (i.e., each body it inhabits on Earth) is different. No two bodies or lives are the same.
What happens after death? Only the body dies. The soul lives on. Some Wiccans say that it journeys to a realm variously known as the Summerlands, Land of the Faerie, the Shining Land, and the Land of the Young. This realm is neither in heaven nor the underworld. It simply is- a non- physical reality much less dense than ours. Some Wiccan traditions describe it as a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, perhaps the Earth before the advent of humans. Others see it vaguely as a realm without forms, where energy swirls coexist with the greatest energies- the Goddess and God in their celestial identities.
The soul is said to review the past life, perhaps through some mysterious way with the deities. This isn't a judgment, a weighing of one's soul, but an incarnational review. Lessons learned or ignored are brought to light.
After the proper time, when the conditions on Earth are correct, the soul is reincarnated and life begins again.
The final question- what happens after the last incarnation? Wiccan teachings have always been vague on this. Basically, the Wiccans say that after rising upon the spiral of life and death and rebirth, those souls who have attained perfection break away from the cycle forever and dwell with the Goddess and God. Nothing is ever lost. The energies resident in our souls return to the divine source from which they originally emanated.
Because of the acceptance of reincarnation, the Wicca don't fear death as a final plunge into oblivion, the days of life on Earth forever behind them. It is seen as the door to birth. Thus our very lives are symbolically linked with the endless cycles of the seasons which shape our planet.
Reincarnation is as real as a plant that buds, flowers, drops its seed, withers and creates a new plant in its image.
Becoming a Witch
These steps will take at least two years if you do them correctly.
STEP ONE - discovering your path
Read and study. Read everything you can get your hands on. You need to read anything that will tell you more about the beliefs of witchcraft, magazines, books and web pages. While studying there are other forms of the craft that help. (nature) For example you could go hiking or go camping. Sunbathe, moonbathe, watch animals etc. This step should take you at least 2 months.
STEP TWO - defining your path
In a notebook, folder or journal start writing down some reasons why the craft is for you. What does being a witch mean to you? What do you hope to achieve? How do you visualize the God and Goddess? What does the Divine mean to you? Be honest. This notebook will become your book of shadows.
STEP THREE - Exploring magic
Magic is simply raising and channeling energy that is found in yourself, nature and the divine. Before you begin working with magic you need to understand what it is. You also need to know the basic structure of a ritual, casting circles, calling quarters, invoking the God/dess, raising and directing energy, grounding and centering and closing the circle. Know the moon phases. Learn to feel how the moon effects your body. Keep records of all you have learned in your book of shadows. This step will probably take you about another couple of months.
STEP FOUR - learning to focus
Now you should start working on meditation and visualization exercises to increase your concentration. Learn to be calm. You can start out by meditating at least 3 times a week for about five minutes. You should do this for at least a month. Remember to keep a record in your book of shadows.
STEP FIVE - working with magic
Now you can begin some basic spell work. Start with a full moon ritual or a new moon ritual. Every witch should write her own spells.
STEP SIX - self dedication
After you have been studying for at least five or six months on meditating and working with magic it is time to perform a self dedication ritual. Design it however you want. A self dedication ritual means you are dedicating yourself to the craft.
STEP SEVEN - the year between dedication and initiation
You can initiate yourself when you feel you are ready. The year you spend between your self dedication and your initiation you should spend celebrating the Sabbats, meditation, practicing your spellwork and studying. Use this time to learn about different forms of divination, such as Tarot or Runes, and different forms of healing, such as herbalism. Make sure you are recording in your book of shadows.
STEP EIGHT - Networking
You should spend a solitary year study after self dedication before a witch considers joining a coven or a circle. This gives you a full year to celebrate the cycle of Sabbats.
STEP NINE - Initiation
An initiation should be something that's meaningful to you. The ritual should be written only by you. A coven initiation is a means of bonding a group together. Initiation into the craft should always be a solitary ritual.
You still have to learn and practice. If you truly want to be a witch be prepared to spend the rest of your life studying and learning about this religion.
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