Traditional Wicca As A Spiritual Path Or The Quest Of The Goddess

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Traditional Wicca As A Spiritual Path Or The Quest Of The Goddess

Written by Apollonius-Mithras of the Isis-Urania Covens. May be reproduced and distributed provided this acknowledgement is included.

One of the topics which is not discussed anywhere near adequately in paganism is the subject of self-improvement. Most practitioners agree that somehow we should become better people. Very few bother to identify what the full implications of a particular definition of "better" are. For example, very few people have become kinder or more self-aware simply by becoming more powerful or acquiring more influence. If anything, the opposite is true. And yet, many practitioners repeat "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" or "In the Goddess' service" when, if they stopped to analyze their actions, what they mean is "Perfect Pride and Perfect Power" or "In the service of my own self -importance"...

For the Traditional Witch, the goal of, and the appropriate attitude to, the Quest are developed through an increasingly profound understanding and experience of the Legend of the Goddess' descent to the Underworld.

According to the Tradition, Aradia descended into the Underworld to confront the Lord of Death. She did this, motivated by compassion, to answer the question of why all of Her children suffer and die. As She passed through each of the Seven Gates of the Underworld, she left one of Her jewels (some Traditions say veils or ornaments) with the Guardian of each Gate, finally removing Her very crown of divinity. Thus, naked, she met the God of Wisdom and of Death.

The tradition of nakedness is a widespread and ancient symbol of Wholeness or the ability to relate directly to the Universe without veils, props, viewpoints, poses or concepts (including such concepts as Goddess and God). Rather, one relates with directness, intimacy, and with an attitude free from any preconceptions of whom or what we are and what our experiences mean.[1] What we are talking about here is not whether we wear robes or go naked during rituals, but about the qualities of openness and self-honesty which real understanding and experience of the Wiccan Gods and ideals inspire: those qualities that can be symbolized by nakedness. (It should be noted here that Isis Hathor Coven is a robed coven and does not practice actual nakedness)

Openness and self-honesty are not things that a Witch acquires, like merit badges. Remember, the Goddess, with the awesome courage that only Perfect Love can give, removes more and more until She gives up Her very identity (crown). By doing this, She is not making Herself weak or submissive. Rather, She abandons all opinions, prejudices, approaches, self-definitions and other fixations. Yet, even after She gives up all of these things, She still not only remains unconditionally the Goddess, as She was from the very beginning, but in fact becomes more truly Herself than ever.

This is often a critically misunderstood and ignored element of every valid Mystery Tradition which teaches Perfect Love and Perfect Trust in one form or another. One does not make oneself bigger, grander or more powerful, but simpler, lighter, with less to prove, less of an axe to grind. One gains the wisdom of Perfect Trust by relaxing into (and trusting it for what it is) the Ancient Harmony. This is the Traditional term for the Union of the God and the Goddess - the non-dual consciousness or Ground of Being, which is:

"The true and only Deity, that Ancient and Holy One that sleeps in the Stones, dreams in the Plants, wakes up in Animals and becomes self-conscious in Humanity." --Book of Shadows

In an immediate sense, Perfect Love and Perfect Trust mean doing constant work, like Aradia does, to refine our awareness and to act in a more responsible and compassionate manner towards whomever and whatever we encounter. Especially, we owe it to ourselves and to others to uncover all of our qualities, hidden motives, prejudices and tendencies, both "good" and "bad". In other words, to trust ourselves.

An often fatally neglected practice common in one form or another to all Traditions, Eastern and Western, is the Black and White Mirror of the Soul. Each day, the Traditional Witch reviews her or his experiences and lists their daily actions and reactions, both inner and outer, under the headings "White" (positive) and "Black" (negative).[2]

This is not an attempt to judge ourselves too harshly, or to pat ourselves on the back. It is a means to achieve self-honesty by accepting ourselves as essentially beautiful and wholesome, and yet still needing development. A healthy mind will enter roughly the same number of items under each heading, over time.

The Mirror is kept privately, and not shown to others. A Witch must be his or her own conscience. Even the idea that we might show it to others will colour what we write down, and how we describe it. In general, while it is essential to listen carefully to feedback from fellow coveners and from the world, it is very dangerous to rely on others for our sense of identity, worth or acceptance.

Our beauty is not dependent on our being "positive" or "negative": it is the basic beauty of the Goddess Herself, who is Beautiful because She is everyone and everything without exception. This is the Beauty before which even the Horned One kneels with awe and devotion. This is the natural Ongoingness of our Being, the Sacred Urge for growth and experience which is common to all life, which demands that we constantly redefine, refine and discipline our characters for the sakes of both ourselves and others.

Perfect Love and Perfect Trust are not achieved by building our sense of identity on our characteristics, on what we perceive about ourselves (whether this makes us proud, ashamed, etc.) If we do this, we will simply harden the shell which separates us from Light, Life, Love and Liberty. This is because all of our self-definitions and poses (I am weak, strong, oppressed, in charge, wounded etc.) depend on our manipulating circumstances and meanings - emphasizing what we want to at the expense of what we don't. Qualities, good or bad, are not permanent or solid. One cannot be defined as strong compared to an avalanche or as weak compared to a starving child.

In fact, we have a moral obligation to recognize that the avalanche will overwhelm us (though this should not be construed as an excuse for laziness and self-limitation) and that the child needs our help. (For these reasons many Traditional Witches feel that too much work on self-empowerment and psychological problems is often destructive in rituals. While it sometimes may help, it often magically reinforces the problem. Such work may often be more appropriate when carried on in a psychologist's office.)

If we say "I am a Witch/Healer/Priestess/Priest" or anything else at all, and wear it like a suit of armour, a self-definition, a way of manipulating our minds, the Gods themselves, out of Their infinite compassion, will sooner or later destroy our armoured shells and leave us once again naked to face the world.

This will happen if we have received any blessing at all from the Gods. This blessing will manifest itself as constant change - not in the sense of leading a disorderly chaotic life, but in the sense of being presented with a constant challenging of our habitual responses and beliefs. Otherwise we can only become fossilized. In the end, anyway, we will have to change whether we want to or not, since we will not live in this form forever.

Of course, all Witches hope that as many people as possible will be happy, have a positive self-image, explore Wisdom, help others and serve the Gods. The point is: will we use these truly beautiful activities, ideals and concepts to imprison ourselves and those around us, or are we going to help ourselves and others to complete Aradias' journey to Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, to ultimate freedom?

Look at the style of Wicca itself, we learn to be in harmony with nature, sometimes active (ritual), sometimes passive (meditation). We learn to appreciate the Moon and the stars, the cycle of the seasons, warmth and cold, space and Earth. We learn to love and trust these things. Like the Goddess in Her aspect as Queen of Infinite Space, we make room for the brilliance of the stars, the motion of the planets and the rest peace and quietness of space.

We are warned not to assign ultimate meaning to any of these things: simply to appreciate and enjoy the display of the Universe, recognizing the necessity and the artistry of each of Its aspects. Sometimes a tree falls or a star dies. Animals give birth and galaxies come into being. There is both pleasure and pain. How wonderful it would be if we could accept our own and each other's minds and experiences, moods, definitions, inertia and actions in the same way as the all-encompassing Space Goddess, who loves and accepts each being for exactly what it is.

To do this, we must make a start by knowing ourselves thoroughly through daily and even moment-to-moment self-examination. Not in order to find our "real selves" or to fulfill some personal or political opinion as to what we should or should not be. In fact not to find anything at all, because, inevitably, we will find Nothing but a constantly changing and beautiful flow, which can be like a bright, unobstructed, clear river nourishing the entire landscape, or like a stagnant, clogged, trickling swamp, poisoning the environment.

This flow is the Ancient Harmony, the ultimate meaning of all existence, and as the ancient wisdom teaches, is not an end result, a supreme being, or a final concept, but rather an experience.

The Gods Themselves are worshipped because They point out to the sincere and aspiring Witch the nature of this experience. It cannot be defined or explained, but only directly experienced by constantly lightening ones' sense of having a separate, ultimate existence. This is the Ancient Harmony, which Goddess and God, Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, woman and man, and all other polarities have in common. Traditional Wicca, with its Gods, its Legend, its teachings and practices eventually leads us beyond all polarities, even those of "I" and "other" to finally come home to the Womb of the Goddess.

Any attempt to concretize a position in the face of the awesome, constantly changing vastness of the Ancient Harmony is born of partisanship and of desire, or greed. In the final analysis, this is attempt to carve out a selective, but futilely ignorant and temporary niche in the Universe in order to avoid facing the ultimate freedom and infinite possibility that come with living in the "Glorious Light of the Gods" (Book of Shadows)

"For Behold, I have been with thee from the very beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire" (Book of Shadows)


[1]. For example, some Indian devotees of Siva, the Sky-God, worship Him naked or Sky-clad since they experience everything without exception as Siva. (There are many interesting historical, iconographic, and mythological parallels between Wicca and Siva-Shakti worship. So many, that it is this writers opinion that they represent two branches of the same current.)

[2]. No racial or other slur is intended here. I pass these terms on as they were given to me. Since "black" =holy just as much as "white" does in the Tradition, replacing these terms with "good' or "bad" equivalences seems problematic.

"Positive" and "negative" will have different meanings to different individuals depending on their views of themselves, society, politics, their ambitions, etc. A good measure is whether or not we are doing our best to constantly expand our veiws of compassion and honesty.