Thursday, January 31, 2013

Endorphines and Astral Travel

For some forty years the School of Wicca has taught a (correspondence) course in meditation and astral travel; we have written a book outlining the way to improve your success rate and to enter deep states of both activities (Frost and Frost: Astral Travel). We have also published a DVD on the same subject.
The requirement that the School's enrolled students submit feedback from their work has equipped us to refine and improve both the instructions and the students' success rate. It has shown quite clearly that various methods of releasing endorphines dramatically improve these success rates. The endorphines are endogenous morphine; that is, morphine produced by the body itself in the pituitary gland and in the hypothalamus. Such endorphines are produced by:
1. sustained exercise - This is sometimes called the runner's high since it is experienced by runners who push beyond their normal limits--through the burn, if you will;
2. excitement - Any form of unusual experience that produces an excited state will produce endorphines. This can be as simple as going for the first time to a naturist camp or viewing a particularly exciting sequence in a movie;
3. pain - In former times when the lash was used and when boys were caned in school, there were reports that some individuals deliberately misbehaved so that they could re-experience the high occurring after the pain finished. Soldiers wounded in battle get a reduced pain level because the body reflexively produces endorphines to produce an analgesic effect;
4. consumption of spicy food or dark chocolate and red wine - For some reason that we don't yet understand, highly spiced food produces endorphines, as does dark bitter chocolate eaten with red wine, especially dark red Chilean wine.
5. falling in love and (later in the relationship) orgasms produce a large endorphine rush;
6. moving to a beat - Ballroom dancing is a perfect example of this: Yvonne clearly enters an altered state the minute she hits that dance floor with a partner who has almost any level of skill.
Looking at these various ways to produce endorphines, we can understand the basis for certain elements in the initiation ceremonies that are traditional in some Wiccan paths: dancing till they drop; having orgasm(s); and being whipped; eating chocolate and drinking red wine. All these experiences produce effects that help change the participants' state of consciousness.
Combining two or three of the best-known methods of getting into a relaxed, exhilarated state, allows rapid access to other levels of awareness.
Since most work on endorphines is quite recent, it is encouraging to us that initiation ceremonies were designed to produce specific results that help in achieving their ends. It therefore behooves us not to disregard or hastily spurn any step in a traditional ceremony or rite of passage. Instead of brushing aside such a heritage, let us feel a sense of gratitude for the knowledge won so hard after centuries of trial-and-error by our spiritual forebears. They worked from a cold start to gain the knowledge that careless people today may not appropriately honor through simple ignorance.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Truth in Advertising

Recently we have been reading some of the older texts on occult phenomena, typically Montague Summers' Geography of Witchcraft, and other books written between, say, the 1850s and the 1920s and '30s describing the "horrors" of being or becoming a Witch. The key to these gasping scenarios seems to be a complete lack of understanding of what it means to investigate freely all that life and living have to offer--what it means to be someone not bound by the irrational and baseless restrictions that the abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, Islam--strive to impose.

As just one example: with the increased sexual freedom of which we are aware today, we think nothing of young adults--consenting young adults--making love with one another. Of course this is a terrible sin, we're told, when they have not been legally approved / sanctioned so to do.
Take a step back and get an overview of the whole situation: Who has an axe to grind here? Who is striving to exert centralized power over others? But this sexual freedom was one of the "horrors" of being a Witch.
In the same way, various groups have experimented with such research as running ouija boards, table tapping, ghost hunting, dark sitting, and attempting to change their consciousness through various methods including the use of psychedelic drugs. The good people writing tomes such as the Geography of Witchcraft universally labeled these practitioners witches.
Wait a minute here. The fact that someone is sexually free and experiments with the occult does not in any way imply that they are actually a Witch or a Wiccan. They can be a Wiccan without ever doing any of the aforementioned activities. Being a Wiccan means that you are willing to accept the fact that we still have much to learn about real occult phenomena. A Witch is likely to accept that ghosts probably exist--but never see one and never join a ghost-hunting group. She may heal a sick child by using herbs; she may heal an adult hangover by laying her hands on the sufferer. "Magically" the child gets better and the person gets over their hangover or whatever else was causing the headache. What we don't yet understand we tend to label magic. Yvonne is a hands-on healer with many healings on her record; she is proud and grateful to be called a Wiccan. But her healing ability does not of itself make her a Wiccan. Nor is it magic. It's just one more thing we haven't yet explored or documented in a rational way.
When you talk to her you will find that there are many facets in her mind as to what makes her a Wiccan (her consciously chosen spiritual path), from belief in an unknowable indifferent Ultimate Deity through belief in progressive reincarnation, through the healing power she has, through many other aspects of her life, and her commitment to a certain code of ethics, all together make her a Wiccan. Remember Socrates? "The unexamined life is not worth living."
You'd think that current writers would be more aware of what is and is not a belief in a true religion--a spiritual path--and they'd refrain from attacking someone else's religion just because they can't comprehend that person's viewpoint. Yet, regrettably, they enjoy the notoriety that they get from publishing unfounded reports of Witches (gasp) in the village. Little do they realize that today there are Witches in every village and town, Witches who are not benefited by being accused just because they try to help or heal someone. Small-minded armchair generals and second-guessers--who themselves have absolutely no achievement in their résumé to boast of--apparently can find nothing better to do than to vent their envy and spite by malicious gossip about individuals who actually do quietly achieve good works.

We have called these musings Truth in Advertising. It would be just as valid to call them Accurate and Inaccurate Labels.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Temple Prostitutes

All right. Get over your gasp of horror. Get used to a novel idea: the idea that people in ancient times who wanted their parishioners to have a good experience in the temple were smart enough to know that (a) one way to promote a good experience was to get them relaxed, and (b) one way to promote relaxation was to get them laid.
Thus we find that in temples to Aphrodite in Greece the ladies of the town took turns in being available to service worshippers coming to the temples. It seems to us that this is probably a good idea, because in the ordinary way of things, men are the causes of more disruption than ladies are; however, it does seem to be somewhat one-sided. We don't know whether there was an arrangement in which male youths serviced the ladies. Considering human nature realistically, it seems that it would be quite probable in such worship centers. This may be why some dionysian rites (for example) have remained secret.

The offshoot of the ladies servicing multiple partners, of course, was a broadening of the gene pool and a reduction in the rate of birth defects. It has been found in such closed communities as the Amish that a reduction in birth defects can easily be achieved by allowing the ladies a little more sexual freedom.
So get rid of the gasping; figure that the ancients knew what they were doing. Ask yourself: Why don't we still do it? Is it just that the elderly rulers of the abrahamic religions could no longer get it up? Could it be that they unconsciously thought, "If I can't do it any more, I don't want anybody else to do it either!" ? Did they ever think, "These young bucks put me in the shadow. Wait! I know! I'll start a war and get rid of 'em all." ?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


The religion of Witchcraft or Wicca (more accurately the spiritual path) naturally has some teachings which are kept very close to the chest. They're not exactly secret, but they're of a nature which only people who have been taught well can appreciate and handle. As we often say when presenting, you wouldn't give the car keys to a two-year-old. So since time immemorial it seems there have been levels of initiation; thus people can be rewarded for hard work, and other members of the community can be confident that people less senior know what they're doing.
In modern traditions there are usually three levels of initiation. Because various groups define these levels differently, here we spell out the Church of Wicca's definitions and compare them with levels of initiation practiced by the general American Wiccan community.
First Degree - This is a preliminary admittance to the outer circles of a group, often symbolized by a triangle with a 3 inscribed. In the Church of Wicca, this means that the neophyte will have completed a set of Wiccan magical tools and will have been dedicated in a new secret name that (s)he has chosen for themself. The name will be known only by members of the group. In the Church of Wicca we call this stage dedication.
Second Degree - This requires that the candidate knows how to cast and to sanctify / dedicate a circle, and that (s)he understands the meaning of a pseudo Great Rite: probably a procedure in which the athame signifies the male and the chalice signifies the female. The symbol for this stage is a Pentagram, signifying completion.
Third Degree - In the Church of Wicca there is no third degree; there is only initiation with no degree number attached to it. In the general community we understand that a third degree signifies that the candidate has completed a study of at least a year and a day, and has been initiated in a real Great Rite which symbolizes the passing of magic on from the priest or priestess to the neophyte. This stage can be signified in several different ways; in the community it is often shown as an open eye resembling that on the back of the U. S. dollar bill. In the Church of Wicca the candidate makes their own ankh with downswept arms.
In the Church of Wicca we combined the second and third degrees because we work by correspondence, and bringing people in from distant places twice seemed to us to be too much of a burden for a single initiation.
Whether in the third-degree initiation practiced by the wider community, or in the single initiation of the Church of Wicca, it is usual to give the candidate some semi-secret information which equips them to prove to other members of the community that they have indeed completed this level and are qualified for the privileges that go along with their level of initiation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Iceman Cometh

As many of you know, for a long time Gavin has held the peculiar view that the stones at Stonehenge were moved during winter--when the ground was frozen hard and anywhere water fell, slick ice would form. Even large stones would slide over ice, and slide quite easily at that. Not only that, but instead of building rickety scaffolding from the very few trees available on the chalk downs, workers could build ice banks / ramps so that the stones could be pushed up and tipped to assume their intended vertical positions; with equal ease the lintels too could be slid up and into place.
The other day, while we watched a documentary on Egypt, Gavin was intrigued to learn of a tomb painting showing blocks being transported for the building of pyramids. Those blocks were coated with a white substance, and that tomb painting clearly depicts a lone worker pushing such a block along.
The natural question then is: What was that white substance?
If we look at the map of Egypt and north Africa, we see that the Blue Nile flowing northward through Khartoum becomes simply the Nile as it flows from the mountainous region to the south.
Even so close to the Equator, some of those mountains have a perpetual ice cap. Admittedly it's a long way from them to Gizeh, but boats could have loaded ice and simply floated down the Nile; thus ice would have been available on which to slide the stones. Gavin likes this theory a lot better than he likes the various weird constructs of the archaeologists--including the latest, making hundreds of round stone balls and of course wood tracks to run the immense stones on Stone Age ball bearings.
The ice-movement theory would also account for the movement of blocks in South America to the present-day ruins of Machu Picchu ... never mind how the skill might have crossed the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the South American continent at its broadest point.
Anyone who has lived in rural areas of a northern European nation or in middle America knows that winter is the ideal time to move heavy objects. Any farmer knows this and makes use of it when he wants to re-set, for instance, his hog pens. And surely the people who built the great stone monuments would have been smart enough and close enough to Nature to use this, Her gift.
In looking at the thermocline, we find that during the time when Stonehenge (for instance) was built the climate was a couple of degrees colder than it is today; and although a couple of degrees doesn't sound like very much, it does in fact mean that the ground remained frozen for a longer period than it currently does.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pentagram or ankh?

When we Frosts founded the Church of Wicca in 1968, there were two symbols we might have used to represent Wicca. They were

(a) the ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life; and

(b) the Pentagram with its five points; members of the community presented it both the traditional way up on two of its points, and upside down resting precariously on one point.
Since ancient times the number five has been regarded as both holy and lucky. It is a sign of completeness: the four elements plus Spirit, as well as a mnemonic (look it up) to recall some of the basic tenets of the Craft. In our own representation we add Deity at the center, leading to 6. Of course 6 is another holy number and serves in Judaism, represented by the hexagram.
Because of the widespread use of the Pentagram we wanted to be somehow different, so we decided on the ankh. At the British Museum in London Gavin saw an ankh that was very ancient: one with downswept arms. It resembles an oval balanced on an arrow and it clearly symbolizes male and female conjoined, offering an excellent depiction of life and of freedom.

The ankh is one of the most ancient Egyptian amuletic symbols. It was retained by the Egyptians even after they converted to Christianity and stopped using the various hieroglyphic inscriptions that had appeared on earlier amulets. Thus we find that the oldest ankh with the downswept arms was replaced with an ankh displaying a hard straight crosspiece which was said to be a sign of Jesus with arms outstretched blessing the multitude ... or on the cross.
In this straight-armed form the ankh appears in all sorts of Coptic monuments. It can be found woven into textiles and stamped on the side of pots.
We decided that the ankh would be a good symbol for the Church, and we gratefully use it to this day, though with downswept arms, not the later straight-armed version.
Along with the ankh we decided to incorporate the old guideline stemming from the French tradition: Faitez-vous çe que vous voulez, si çe ne nuit pas. In the form we used, we translated it first as An it harm none, do what you will, adding a footnote: the none includes yourself. This is the same rule that was carved into the door lintel at Medmenham Abbey, where the Hellfire Club met to dress up as priests and nuns and to do naughty things.
Now the question became: Should we not have updated the archaic language of the Rede, substituting today's if for yesterday's an? Each time we quoted the Rede, we had to explain that an was not and. Everyone from journalists to office help seemed to get it wrong and to need their heads pried open for new information. In only one usage does an linger on today: that is in the comic strip known as Snuffy Smith. Recall his usage: if'n. That 'n is the last trace of an.
So in the end, yes, we scraped an off our shoe and used if instead.
Anyway, what about harming someone? Let us suggest this course of action: If you commit an act in all innocence, but learn later that someone has been harmed by it, seek to make restitution. With the passage of time, restitution may not be possible. In such a case, learn from your increased understanding, and release the guilt. Don't sentence yourself to carry an 800-pound bag of guilt on your shoulders for the rest of this incarnation because of an unconsidered action.

A personal word from Yvonne on all this: As a recovering Baptist, I gratefully affirm that my awareness of the Craft and my commitment to it have healed my life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And We'll Call It a Sin

The western world has just come through what is traditionally called the most joyous time of year: a time when (according to the Egyptians) five days were given to us by the gods to enjoy. How did the Egyptians learn of the divine gift? The cresting of the Nile had gone off-schedule: a dead giveaway that the Egyptian calendar was in error. So from those five "extra" days grew such festivals as the Roman Saturnalia and the Christian Christmas. In the Celtic year, winter solstice was already a time of joy because the darkest days of deep winter were over and people could look forward to the lengthening of the day and the return of warmth.
During the revels, it was customary for misrule to be the law. Lords and ladies became servants, and servants played lords and ladies. Everyone had a jolly good time; September birthrates peaked. People did what the self-appointed Christian authorities (the only game in town) labeled "sinning". Christian authorities simply could not allow such jollification, especially when it involved spontaneous acts. It might be possible, church leaders thought, that they themselves would be displaced and have to be the servants--and their servants might be in church --and might even run the church services! (Horror of horrors ... and the ridicule that might be possible--oh, shudder!)
So the individuals who sought power ever more centralized decided that every fun act should be called evil and those committing such acts were sinning. Personally, we don't really know why enjoying oneself is a sin. If everyone is getting a little on the side, then why worry? As the old saying goes, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Of course, the authorities followed these ideas of sinning with making monogamous marriage a legal requirement. Now if considering only the preservation of property rights and the protection of children, that was probably a good idea; but extending it to rule out all enjoyment was a step that pagans and Witches vigorously resisted, especially when the least little act or thought could be labeled a sin.
If you didn't attend church every single day of the week, you were sinning, and in the worst case could be judged a heretic--and we all know only too well that being labeled a heretic led to torture and ultimately the fire just because you didn't obey the man-made rules of the elderly, crochety clergy--who probably couldn't get it up any longer anyhow.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Twelfth Night

Many, many traditions cluster around the time of winter solstice. Perhaps as a final wrap-up, our spiritual forebears enjoyed twelfth night, as a summation and a farewell to the indoor festivities occasioned by cold weather and short daylight hours.
As with so many other pre-Christian pactices, the Christian church stole the celebrations held on the twelfth night after solstice, and turned them into something it called "the Epiphany". The first confusion that arises stems from the awkward fact that twelfth night is supposed to occur on the evening of January 5, ahead of the twelfth day which fell on January 6 because days officially began at sunset in those times.
Of course, as with many stolen festivals, this one predates Christianity by thousands of years. It stems originally from an adjustment of the Egyptian calendar, as noted in the Rhind mathematical Papyrus:

The world is out of joint. The gods have given us five extra days, and they should be used
for rest and revelry.

In many parts of old Europe this prompted a Saturnalia-type holiday with a Lord of Misrule, when aristocrats served the servants; where possible, all normal pursuits were reversed or let slide. The Christmas decorations were always taken down by the Lord and the Lady of Misrule, and any food in them was eaten at the twelfth night feast. This would normally include such things as nuts, apples, and dried fruits. In many places circular (ring-shaped) cakes were baked. In Spain, for example, such a cake was called the "king's ring" to signify the turning of the wheel of the year. Or for all we know, maybe it was properly "kings' ring" as in three kings. The cake would contain a dried bean and a pea. The persons who got these pieces would be designated King and Queen for the following year.
Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night", written to be performed on twelfth night (surprise), has a special flavor of the fun and games and misrule that were common practice in his day.

What happened?

How come we no longer have revels and enjoyment of this sort? Even the pagan groups don't seem to trouble themselves with innocent revelry of this sort. We Frosts think this is a very sad commentary on today's materialistic, shallow world with its disregard for traditions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Defining Sacred Space

Before we begin any ritual, it has become our practice to define the space in which it is held: That space is between the worlds and is not subject to "normal" time constraints. In defining thus, we have used the ancient directions which correspond to the elements: fire, earth, air, water. The correlation of the elements with directions comes to us from the ancient Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley: from the area known as the Punjab (Land of the Five Rivers). The area spans the border between today's Pakistan and today's India.
Generally North has been designated Earth. With the Himalayas in the North, putting Earth there seems reasonable. But what if there is no earth massif to your north, as for instance in northwestern Ireland, or in the praire flatland of Kansas? Since anywhere we stand Earth is under our feet, it seems reasonable to us to correlate Earth with Down.
What if we are in the United States on the west coast? Where should we put Water? Since the Pacific Ocean is in the West and it is a pretty large body of water, let's say for the sake of argument that we should put Water in the West. Then when we move to the east coast we should put Water in the East; and by similar reasoning on the Gulf Coast we should put Water in the South.
Since the sun is at its most powerful in the South (we're speaking here throughout of the northern hemisphere), Fire should be in the South, and Air in the West. This is especially appropriate since most prevailing winds come from the West. (You need only look at the weather channel.) This now leaves us with a blank for North--and after working many, many dedications of space, we have come to the conclusion that the best representation for North is Time. Without Time, nothing would exist. Further, Time can obviously be associated with the elderly, with white hair, and with many other concepts befitting what is essentially a sympathy magic. Now we can put Spirit Above and have a very consistent, tidy, satisfactory six-direction dedication for our working.
We prefer what is called cross-circle calling: the person standing in the South calls North, and similarly around the group--starting, of course, with Earth because workers need something to stand on. It is best, then, that everyone in unison call Earth. Here then is a typical set of direction calls for the eastern US:
Below - earth, our mother: the solid ground from which we all come                a  square
East - water, adaptability: takes on the shape of its container                           wavy lines
South - fire, passion, not indifference                                                              triangle
West - air, mental: here new ideas come in on the wind                                   fountain
North - time, remembrance, good times, those who have gone before             clock hands
Above - spirit, which activates every living thing                                              spiral
Thus we offer some basic ideas to direct your thinking as you dedicate your space. Some groups also like to make hand gestures as they call each direction, so we have included them too. Remember always that the key to such working is the ability to remain silent, an ability often equated to Earth, with the silence of rocks and mountains. As with all magical procedures, though, it is up to the local group to make their own decisions on how they will sanctify their sacred space. Therefore we urge you to do just that: Define it, try it; if you like it, stay with it. Whatever you do in your working, don't just simply follow like a well-trained dog the ancient instructions without thinking about them.
Remember always that the key to all this working is the ability to remain silent. It is often equated to Earth. The silence of the rocks and the mountains. As with all magical procedures, it is up to the local group to make their own decisions on how they will sanctify their sacred space. We urge you, therefore, to do just this: define it, try it; if you like it, stay with it. Whatever you do in your working, don't just simply follow like a well-trained dog the ancient instructions without thinking about them.

Be where you are.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First Footer

At this time of year it is appropriate to remember the First-Footer. What is that? It is the first human foot that crosses the threshold after midnight on the night between December 31 and January 1. Traditionally the First-Footer is expected to bring into the household a silver coin; a piece of wood or coal; some bread item, perhaps an unsweetened dinner roll, usually baked fairly hard. Gavin remembers being on a BOAC flight with his (two older) children at this season. The airline served up rolls of a type that the kids could have used as cricket balls.
In addition, especially in Scotland, a bottle of whisky is brought.
All the First-Footer items are placed over the lintel of the front door of the dwelling, or over the door which is used most often. The items signify that the home will never lack money, fuel for heat, and food.
Some folklorists note that especially good luck came when a First-Footer was invited to stay at a dwelling where there were unmarried daughters. Presumably this was an old way of widening the gene pool.
You can go first-footing in your neighborhood if you like, or just to the dwelling of your friendly local Witches. Let's not lose these ancient rituals. They mean something even now.

Happy 2013