A must for the modern Wiccan’s library, this comprehensive resource explores the fascinating world of witchcraft from ancient legend to contemporary paganism. No aspect of Wicca is overlooked, with well over five hundred entries and numerous illustrations on the traditions, rituals, folklore, amulets and talismans, herbs and gemstones, and pagan goddesses of the Wiccan lifestyle. This unique encyclopedia is an excellent guide for all who are interested in goddess worship, folklore, the New Age, the occult sciences, and the Wiccan Craft as a positive spiritual path and way of life.
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Magick, Myth, and Mysticism
ABLANATHANALBA A Gnostic charm triangle, similar to the ABRACADABRA triangle and used by magicians in ancient times for protection against evil forces. It was traditionally written on parchment, using a special ink obtained from the acorn of a valonia oak tree. It was written out as follows:
A B L A N A T H A N A L B A B L A N A T H A N A L B L A N A T H A N A L A N A T H A N A N A T H A N A T H A T H
ABRACADABRA A cabalistic word derived from the name Abraxas, a mighty Gnostic deity whose name means "hurt me not." The word Abracadabra, when chanted or when its letters are arranged in an inverted pyramid (a holy figure and symbol of trinity) and worn around the neck as a talisman for nine days, is said to possess the magickal power to ward off illness and to cure fever. At the end of that time, it is taken off and tossed over the shoulder into a stream flowing east. It is believed that the cool, rushing waters draw the heat of the fever away from the sick person and back to the rising sun, the source of all warmth.
A B R A C A D A B R A A B R A C A D A B R A B R A C A D A B A B R A C A D A A B R A C A D A B R A C A A B R A C A B R A A B R A B A
The ancient charm triangle known as the Abracadabra. It is reputed to posses great healing powers, especially in reducing fevers.
ABRAMELIN MAGICK A medieval practice of both white and black Ceremonial Magick involving spirit communication, word magick, and palindromic magickal squares. Abramelin is a system based mainly on Hellenistic theurgy of the lamblichan type, but with Jewish increments from the Kabbalah. Abramelin Magick sets forth the semi-Gnostic doctrine that the world was created and is maintained by demons (or Powers of Darkness) who work under the command of angelic spirits. With the proper purifications, tools, prayers, and formulas, an Abramelin magician, with the help of angels, can control the demons of darkness and command them to do his or her will.
ABSENT HEALING A form of faith healing that involves the projection of positive healing energy to an ill person (or animal) by a healer who is not present at the time of the healing.
The most renowned of twentieth century absent healers was the American psychic Edgar Cayce (1877 – 1945) who used his remarkable powers to diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatment. Throughout the course of his life, he gave readings for approximately 30,000 men, women, and children from all over the world. It is said that the rate of his accuracy was over 90 percent. Edgar Cayce also possessed another gift — the ability to experience visions of the future. Because he always practiced his psychic work while under a sleep-like, self-induced hypnotic trance, he came to be known as the "Sleeping Prophet."
ADEPT An individual, male or female, who has gained profound magickal powers and insights, usually through initiation; a word used to describe an initiate or occult master.
AFTERWORLD The world of the dead; the place where human souls go to after death: a concept shared by all human mythologies and religions. The afterworld is usually perceived as a dark and gloomy underground region or as a bright and happy world in the sky.
"Summerland" is the Wiccan name of the paradiselike afterworld where the soul or spirit is believed to go after physical death and remain until it reincarnates.
AIR One of the four ancient and alchemical elements, which corresponds to the East Watchtower of the magick circle. The spirits of Air are known as Sylphs. See also ELEMENTALS.
ALCHEMY The ancient occult science of transmutation of base metals into gold or silver by both chemical and spiritual processes. The other major aims of alchemy were to find an elixir that could make humans immortal, and to acquire various methods of creating life artificially. One who practices alchemy is called an alchemist.
Legend holds that alchemy was founded by the god Hermes Trismegistus; however, it is known that the basic fundamentals of alchemy were actually developed by the Egyptians, who combined metallurgy with Hermetic philosophy hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. In ancient China, where the Eastern alchemical arts were highly developed, the first alchemical text was written by Ko Hung and published around the year 320 A.D. In the 12th century A.D. alchemy was brought to Spain by the Muslims, and from there its practice spread throughout much of Europe, where it was regarded as a highly respected, although mysterious, science.
Those who practiced alchemy often used dream-revelations and visions to base their studies upon, and their works were written and drawn in obscure symbols instead of in words. They also believed that everything on Earth possessed a "hermaphroditic composition" of sulfur (the male principle and the soul) and mercury (the female principle and the spirit), as well as salt (representative of the physical body.) Working in harmony with astrological influences, the alchemists were confident that these three "essentials" (sulfur, mercury, salt) could be separated and then put back together in a different form.
The height of alchemy's extensive popularity occured from the latter part of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. But when the non-metallic element of oxygen and the composition of water were discovered in the early nineteenth century, the alchemical sciences were discredited and replaced by physics. Although the alchemists of old never did succeed in making true gold or discovering the elusive "philosopher's stone" which they believed held the secret power to life immortal, their other contributions helped to pave the way for modern chemistry and medicine.
Another name for alchemy is the "spagyric art." (The word "spagyric" derives from the Greek terms for "to tear" and "to bring together.") Its usage can be traced back to the Gnostics of the second century A.D.; however, it is seldom, if ever, used in modern times.
Contemporary Western alchemy for the most part is no longer concerned with the making of gold or fabulous elixirs of immortality. Instead, its focus is upon spiritual and psychological transformation, union with the Divine, and the evolution into higher states of consciousness through the symbolic "death" and "rebirth" of elements. Its personification, the hermaphrodite, represents the process of becoming whole by the joining of opposites, such as male and female, God and Goddess, yin and yang, and so forth.
ALL HALLOW'S EVE Another name for the Pagan festival and Witches' Sabbat of Samhain, which is traditionally celebrated on the last day of October. See also SAMHAIN.
ALMADEL A talisman fashioned in white wax, inscribed with the names of spirits or angels, and used in various rituals by practitioners of Ceremonial Magick.
ALRAUN In European folk magick, a small good-luck image shaped from the root of a mandrake or bryony. According to tradition, a Witch's alraun had to be dressed in clothing and presented with daily offerings of food and wine. If not treated properly, it held the power to bring bad luck to the household of its possessor. The alraun takes its name from the shapeshifting sorceresses of Teutonic myth known as the Alrunes.
ALTAR Any table or raised structure on which, during rituals and spellcastings, candles and incense are burned, tools of magick are kept, and offerings of any kind are made to the Goddess, Horned God, or other deities. The arrangement of altars varies from Witch to Witch and coven to coven. However, the usual items found on most Wiccan altars include candles, a pentacle, chalice, salt, incense, bell, athame, and a Goddess or Horned God symbol. Nearly any piece of furniture with a flat surface can be used as an altar, and with a little bit of imagination, outdoor altars can easily be made out of such things as garden benches, tree stumps, and large stones with flat tops.
AMULET A consecrated object, usually a small colored stone or a piece of metal inscribed with runes or other magickal symbols, that possesses the power: to protect a person or thing from threatening influences; to inspire love; and to attract good luck. Astrological jewelry, four-leaf clovers, and a rabbit's foot are several examples of modern amulets popular among Witches and non-Witches alike.
ANATHEMA A sorcerer's curse or an offering to a Pagan deity. It is also the word used in the Roman Catholic Church as part of the formula in the excommunication of heretics. To anathematize is to place a curse upon.
ANGAKOK A Central Eskimo Shaman, medicine man, or magician who uses various sacred songs, invocations, and incantations to cure the ill, control the weather, and drive away evil spirits from the village.
ANGELICA A mystical plant associated with early Nordic magick. It was worn as a charm in the fifteenth century to protect against the dreaded plague. (According to folklore, an archangel revealed in a vision that the plant would cure the plague.) In many parts of the world, country peasants believed that angelica possessed the power to guard against evil, and they hung its leaves around their children's necks to protect them against the spells and enchantments of sorcerers. Angelica is both a culinary and a medicinal herb, and according to the seventeenth century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper, it should be gathered when the moon is in Leo.
ANJARA In Hispanic folklore, a type of supernatural Witch who appears in the guise of an elderly woman to test out the charity of mortals. The Anjara watches over animals and is believed to possess a golden staff which has the magickal power to transform everything it comes into contact with into riches.
ANIMISM The spiritual belief that everything in nature, animate and inanimate, possesses an innate soul in addition to a body.
ANKH An ancient Egyptian symbol resembling a cross with a loop at the top. It symbolizes life and cosmic knowledge, and every major god and goddess of Egyptian mythology is depicted in works of art carrying it. Also known as the crux ansata, the ankh is used by many contemporary Witches (especially Wiccans of the Egyptian tradition) in spells and rituals involving health, fertility, and divination.
AN-SHET Another word for a Witch's magick wand.
APPARITION The appearance of a person's phantom, living or dead, seen in a dream, trance, or in the waking state as the result of astral projection or clairvoyance.
AQUARIUS In astrology, the eleventh sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the Water Bearer. Aquarius is an Air sign, and is ruled by the planet Uranus. Its energies are masculine-yang-positive-active, and its polarity (its opposite sign of the zodiac which expresses the opposite characteristics) is Leo. The quadruplicity (quality) of Aquarius is Fixed (meaning resistant to change and a natural perfector.) Persons born between January 20 and February 18 are under the sign of Aquarius and are said to possess the following traits: unconventionalism, self-expression, friendliness, independence and a rational, analytical mind. Aquarians are often temperamental and have a tendency to daydream, which often gets them into trouble at work or at school. In matters of love, Aquarius is believed to be most compatible with Aquarius, Gemini, Libra, and those with Moon in Aquarius. The parts of the human body said to be ruled by Aquarius are the shins, ankles, and the circulatory system.
ARIES In astrology, the first sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the Ram. Aries is a Fire sign, and is ruled by the planet Mars. Its energies are masculine-yang-positive-active, and its polarity (its opposite sign of the zodiac which expresses the opposite characteristics) is Libra. The quadruplicity (quality) of Aries is Cardinal, (meaning enterprising, outgoing, and a natural-born initiator). Persons born between March 21 and April 19 are under the sign of Aries and are said to possess the following traits: independence, courage, intelligence, pride, optimism, short-temperedness, and sometimes self-centeredness. In matters of love, Aries is believed to be most compatible with Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, and those with Moon in Aries. The part of the human body said to be ruled by Aries is the head.
ASTRAL BODY The double of the physical human body, but made of a much finer substance with a shining and luminous appearance. It is connected to the physical body by an etheric umbilical cord and is able to pass through solid obstructions and float about unhindered by gravity, space, or time.
ASTRAL PLANE The plane of existence and perception which parallels the dimension of the physical and is the plane that the astral body reaches during astral projection and death.
ASTRAL PROJECTION An out-of-the-body experience achieved by any number of trance-inducing methods or imagination techniques; the separation of the consciousness from the physical body resulting in an altered state of consciousness. Also known as astral travel.
ASTRAL TWINS Two or more unrelated persons who share the exact same birthdate and are said to possess identical personality traits and sometimes even matching physical appearances. Both individuals must be born on the same month, day, year, and hour to be considered true astral twins.
ASTROLOGY Stargazing; the ancient occult art, science, and practice of divination and prophecy by interpreting certain celestial patterns. In astrology, the influence of the Sun, Moon, or the planets in the solar system upon the course of human affairs varies according to which section of the zodiac they are positioned in.
The majority of modern day Witches, Neo-Pagans, and New Agers in the United States and Europe believe in the power of astrology. Many are skilled stargazers who cast astrological charts; use astrology for prediction, counseling, daily guidance or discovering past lives; or perform magick in accordance with the astrological positioning of the Moon, which exerts a powerful influence over the casting of spells.
ATHAME A black-handled ritual dagger with a double-edged blade, used by many Witches to draw their magick circles and to both store and direct energy during magickal rituals. Before using, an athame must be properly cleansed and consecrated to remove any traces of negative spiritual, magickal, or psychic energy. The athame is a sacred tool and is never used for the drawing of blood, either human or animal. The athame, which is used in most Wiccan rituals as well as spellcraft, is a symbol of the masculine aspect, and corresponds to the ancient element of Air.
AURA A single-or multi-colored light produced by heat energy and electromagnetic energy that emanates from the bodies of all living things; a psychic field of energy surrounding both animate and inanimate bodies.
Witches, and others, who are gifted with the ability to see auras with the naked eye are said to possess aura-vision — a form of clairvoyance. The reading of the aura has been practiced since ancient times and is known to all cultures. It has often been used for analyzing hidden character traits, diagnosing illness and disease, and prognostication. (For more information on the reading of auras read A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Gerina Dunwich, Citadel Press, 1997.)
AUREOLE A circle of mystical light, similar to an aura, which is said to surround the head or body of a mystic, saint or deity; a halo.
AUTUMN EQUINOX SABBAT Also known as the Fall Sabbat, Alban Elfed, and the Second Festival of Harvest, this is one of the eight Sabbats celebrated yearly by many modern Witches, Wiccans, and Neo-Pagans throughout the world. It is held on the first day of Autumn, which normally occurs on or near September 22, and is a time for thanksgiving, meditation, and introspection. On this sacred day, many Witches rededicate themselves to the Craft, and Wiccan initiation ceremonies are performed by the High Priestesses and High Priests of covens. Many Wiccan traditions also perform a special rite for the Goddess Persephone's descent into the Underworld as part of their Autumn Equinox celebration.
AZIZA In Dahomean folk belief, elflike spirits of the forest known as the "little people," who give to humans the power of magick and knowledge of the worship of the gods.
BALEFIRE A sacred outdoor fire burned by Witches as part of a Sabbat celebration, particularly the festivals of Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, and Autumn Equinox. Dancing deosil (the Wiccan term for "clockwise") around a balefire often takes place to invoke the deities, raise magickal energy, or celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year. Slips of paper, upon which prayers, wishes, thanksgivings, and requests for healings have been written, are sometimes cast into the fire. Many Witches use a balefire for fire-scrying (the divinatory art of gazing into vision-producing flames), and in many instances libations are poured onto the flames or coals to honor a particular deity or ancestor. The following day, long after the balefire has burned out, the remaining ashes can be used for divination, or are collected for use in spells and potions.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wicca A to Z"
Copyright © 1997 Gerina Dunwich.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Also by Gerina Dunwich,
Part One: Magick, Myth, and Mysticism,
Part Two: Goddesses From Around the World,
About the Author,