AMULET: An object worn or carried to drive away negative energy or spirits. It is a protective object that is sometimes inscribed with runic or other magickal symbols.
ASTROLOGY: The study of the influence of stars and planets upon life. It is studied by Witch and magician alike. A horoscope is a shart of the heavens as they appear to a person on earth at a particular place and particular time. The horoscopes you see in newspapers and magazines are not true horoscopes...they are generalized readings from the current positions of the planets as they affect the 12 signs of the zodiac.
ATHAME: The black-handled knife that is the traditional Witches' tool used for drawing the magick circle in which rituals are performed, and for controlling and banishing spirits. This tool is very ancient, and early uses were depicted as early as 200 B.C.
BOOK OF SHADOWS: This is the name given by modern Witches to the book in which they write their rituals, invocations and charms. Witches copy from each others' books that which appeals to them, and things which have been learned from experience. No two books are exactly alike. A Book of Shadows is called such because its contents can only be this world's shadow of the realities of the Other World; the world of magick and Beyond. An old ritual of covens with regard to written material of this description, is that if anyone died his/her book was to be burned. The reason for this was to save embarrassement to the person's family. A written book was proof positive to accuse a person of Witchcraft.
BROOMSTICK OR BESOM : The broomstick has come to be the traditional companion to the Witch...and the enchanted steed for her wild night fights through the air. The significance of the broomstick is a phallic one. In Yorkshire-folk belief, it was unlucky for an unmarried girl to step over a broomstick, as it meant that she would become a mother before she became a wife. Witches sometimes use broomsticks in wedding ceremonies...the bride and groom jump over a broomstick to signify that they are joined in union.
CAULDRON: A caludron is an all-embracing symbol of Nature, the Great Mother. As a vessel, it represents the feminine principal. Standing upon three legs, it recalls the triple moon Goddess. The four elements of life enter into it, as it needs fire to boil it, water to fill it, the green herbs of earth to cook it, and its fragrant steam arises into the air.
CIRCLE (MAGICK CIRCLE): The circle is the symbol of infinity and eternity, because it has neither a beginning no ending. The magick circle is part of the general heritage of magickal practice, and have varied from the elaborate spiritual fortress of divine names, which may be used by the ceremonial magician, to the simple round drawn by the Witch before he/she begins a ritual. The purpose of the circle is to protect the operator from potentially dangerous or hostile forces without, and to concentrate the power which is raised within. The magick circle is carefully oriented to the cardinal points, by having a light or some other symbolic object, placed at the east, west, south and north. The circle may be drawn upon the ground in various ways...for example, marked with chalk. But in order to give it power, it has to be traced round with an athame. In order to have a permanent magical circle in a convenient form, some magickal practitioners make use of a large square of plain carpet upon which the circle has been painted. A small table or pedestal stands in the center of the circle, to serve as an altar. On it are placed the various requirements of the ritual (a lighted candle, censer of incense, etc.). According to tradition, the most effective size for a circle is one having a diameter of 9 feet.
COVEN: The traditional number of persons to form a Witches' coven is thirteen. Ideally, a coven should be made up of 6 men, 6 women, and a leader (also called a High Priest or Priestess). Typically, Witches in a coven will take on a new name to signify a change of personality within the group. This is called a magickal name or eke-name. A coven can have less members, but should need exceed 13. Apart from a coven, there are some individuals, called solitary practitioners, who prefer to work on their own.
DIVINATION: Obtaining knowledge through using tools that either stimulate psychic awareness or point to future occurances. Examples of tools used for divination are: dowsing rods, casting runes, tarot cards, pendulum, or ouiji board.
ESBAT: Monthly meeting of a Witches' coven. It takes place at the time of the full moon. Traditionally, Witches will come to Esbats wearing a black cloak and hood, which symbolizes night and secrecy. The Esbat is a smaller and lesser solemn occassion than the Sabbat. For the latter, several covens may gather to celebrate together... but the Esbat is a local affair. It may be held for particular coven business, or just for fun and enjoyment. The word Esbat comes from the old French s'esbattre, meaning to frolic and amuse oneself.
HALLOWEEN: To Witches, Halloween is a serious occassion, however merrily celebrated. It is the old Celtic Eve of Samhain (pronounced "sowen"). Samhain means "Summer's End", when the winter half of the year begins on November 1st. This night and all the first week of November once blazed with ritual bonfires . On the blazing bonfires, the Celts symbolically burned the frustrations and anxieties of the previous year. To Witches, Halloween is the festival of the dead. Death, to the pagan Celt, was the door which opened on to another life. The idea that those who have gone before still retain an interest in the living, and are willing to aid them, has for centuries been part of the Witches' creed.
HORNED GOD: The Phallic God, the personification of the masculine side of Nature.
INCENSE (for use in magick): The burning of incense is one of the oldest religious and magickal rites. Scented smoke which arose from ancient altars was a means of carrying prayers and invocations, and also a sacrifice pleasing to the unseen powers. Incense also has a potent effect on the human mind. Scents of all kinds have a swift and subtle influence upon the emotions. Their appeal is not only to the conscious mind, but to the deeper levels below the threshold of consciousness. The atmosphere created by incense and candlelight can transform an ordinary room into a cave of mystery, a shrine where strange powers can manifest. In order to work magick, one must create an atmosphere (mental and physical) in which magick can work.
INITIATION - Admission into a Witches' coven, in which a new member swears a solemn oath of loyalty. Initiation must pass from woman to man and from man to woman...a tradition that is long-standing. Covens usually do not initiate anyone under the age of 21. In initiation ceremonies today, the new member is marked with oil, wine, or some pigment such as charcoal.
LAMMAS: One of the four Great Sabbats, which takes place on August 1st. Derived from "loaf-mass", the time when the corn is harvested. Also referred to as Lughnasadh, the Druidic festival of the beginning of August. Lughnasadh means "the commemoration of Lugh". It was the day upon which the country people of Britain and Ireland held processions in honor of the dead sun god. After the summer solstice, the sun's power begins to decline; hence the sun god dies symbolically, only to be reborn again at the winter solstice. Lammas is the time of the first signs of autumn.
MAGICK: Aleister Crowley defined magick as "The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Still another definition of magick, from S.L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, is "The Science of the Control of the Secret Forces of Nature." A "k" is used in the word magick to separate it from the type of "magic" in which card tricks and other pranks are performed. A Witch uses in his or her magickal arts the things of everyday life. By developing their powers, the magician or Witch develops themselves. They aid their own evolution, their growth as a human being, and the growth of the human race.
PENTAGRAM: a 5-pointed star used in magick for many centuries. It represents the 4 elements (Earth, Air, Fire, & Water) plus--Spirit. It also symbolizes the body, and the 5 senses. It is used mainly in protective magick. When it is enclosed in a circle, it is called a pentacle. Witches often wear pentacles as pendants, and are usually hidden beneath their clothes--to keep them close to the body and energized, as well as because of the negative conotations wrongly associated with the symbol--as a symbol of the Devil. An inverted pentagram is the symbol of the third degree of Witchcraft.
SABBAT: There are 8 Sabbats in the Witches' year, four Greater Sabbats, and four Lesser Sabbats. The four Greater Sabbats are Candlemas (February 2nd), May Eve (April 30th), Lammas (August 1st), and Halloween or Samhain (October 31st). These occassions correspond to the four great yearly feast celebrated by the Druids and by our Celtic ancestors. The lesser Sabbats were the two solstices at midsummer and midwinter, and the two equinoxes in spring and autumn. These may vary by a day or two each year, as they depend upon the sun's apparent entry into the zodiacal signs of Capricorn (winter solstice), Cancer (summer solstice), Aries (spring equinox) and Libra (autumn equinox). Witches celebrate these old ritual occassions with dancing and enjoyment. Sometimes they light big bonfires outdoors and several covens may gather together on the Sabbat night.
SATANISM: True "Devil-worship" is rarely, if ever, practiced. It is usually a mask for indulging in vices such as "perverted" sexual acts, drug and alcohol abuse, and murder (in extreme cases). A famous example of a Satanic cult was the prestigious Hellfire Club, to which such people as Benjamin Franklin, Oscar Wilde's wife, and Aleister Crowley (among others) belonged to. It is mportant to realize that Wicca and Satanism are not synonymous. The Wiccan Rede: "An' it harm none, do what ye will", prohibits a true Witch from taking part in anything that may harm any person, including themselves, or at least reminds them that they must be prepared to pay the consequences three fold when they do harm.
SCRYING: An old word for the practice of crystal-gazing or using some similar means to obtain clairvoyance. The object used for scrying is called a speculum; and this may be a crystal ball, a black bowl of water, a blue glass bottle, or a darkened mirror. Witches usually choose the full moon to consecrate their speculums, and when not in use it is to be kept in a special case or box, or at least wrapped in black silk or cloth. To use a speculum, one should sit in a dim light, preferably candlelight. The light should be behind the scryer. Simply relax, look intently but in a natural manner (no need to stare unwinking). Burning incense also helps. Scrying requires concentration and practice, but eventually the speculum will seem to mist over, and then something will be seen (often dim at first) and with practice the pictures will become clearer. Pictures can be actual things, or symbolic. One has to learn to interpret symbols.
WHITE MAGIC(K): Magick that is worked for good purposes, through harmless acts and methods. Witches use white magick.
WISE WOMAN: A solitary female Witch who made charms and prescribed healing herbs to the dwellers of the rural villages in Europe.
WITCHCRAFT/WICCA: A religion that is centered around the worship of a goddess, a female deity. Witches revere the life force of nature and seek to be in tune with its cycles. Wicca, the modern form of witchcraft, was inspired by the writings of Gerald B. Gardner in the 1950's. He is often known as the father of modern witchcraft.
A quote about Witches from Donald Tyson: "In my experience, I have found witches to be the friendliest and most decent human beings I have ever had the good fortune to meet. They are sensitive, cheerful, willing to give love without receiving it, and very down to earth. I wish there were more Witches in the world. We need them."
YULE: The Anglo-Saxon word for the festival of the winter solstice. The idea of holding festival at the winter solstice, to celebrate the rebirth of the sun, was so universal in the ancient world that the Christians adapted the popular feast into the celebration of the birth of Christ. No one really knows when Christ's birthday was; but by holding this feast at midwinter, Christ was mystically identified with the sun. The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a merry festival called the Saturnalia. The winter solstice takes place when the sun enters the sign of Capricorn; and Saturn, the ruler of Capricorn, was supposed to have been the ruler of the far-off Golden Age of the past, when the earth was peaceful and fruitful, and everyone was happy. So at this time of year the houses were decked with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes, all normal business was suspended, and the occassion was celebrated with plenty of ale and blazing fires.
Witchcraft, or Wicca, is legally recognized as a religion. Therefore, to disgrace a Witch in any way is descrimination, as it is with a person of any other religion, race or sex. We are people too.
There is help for those of Wicca who have been descriminated against. Please see the link for the Witch's League for Public Awareness for more information.