13 November 2008

Witchy Goddesses

"Magic Circle", 1886.Image via Wikipedia

by Patricia Monaghan

What makes Witches different? Casting spells and wearing pentacles? No. It's deeper than that, more powerful, more revolutionary. It's the Goddess.

Witchcraft is one of the many religions that recognizes divinity in feminine as well as masculine form. Witches are not monotheistic; they do not believe there is only one god who lives somewhere upstairs. To Witches, divinity is multiple: God and Goddess. God in the sky, Goddess in the running water; God in the stag forest, Goddess in the birds of the air. Witches find divinity
everywhere. In creating rituals and art and spells and poems, Witches draw from the great reservoir of human wisdom called mythology. For untold generations, people have created stories that describe how they perceive the Goddess. There are innumerable goddesses, so many
they cannot be counted. Goddesses of the sky and sun, of the moon and stars; goddesses of the rivers and the ocean; goddesses of birth, death, love, war; goddesses of the doorstep and the harvest and the spinning wheel.

So naturally there are goddesses of magic, for magic is one of the most ancient spiritual tools of the human race. Here is a short primer of Witch-goddesses from various lands. You can use their names, their emblems, their stories in your own witchcraft. But don't stop here,
for there are many more goddesses who are shapeshifters, shamans, prophets, midwives, healers, herbalists-- -all specialists in arts that the Witch might practice.

Witchy Goddesses
Adsagsona: Continental Celtic goddess (from France or Germany), called "the weaver of spells." In Celtic lands, words were power; finding the right words was a magical act.

Arianrhod: Welsh goddess whose name means "silver wheel" and who lived on a magical island, either in the sky or in the ocean, where she was served by innumerable maidens.

Carman: Powerful Irish Witch who could destroy anything she chose by chanting secret spells.

Cerridwen: Welsh goddess who could brew magic in her cauldron and knew the secrets of all plants. She was also a shapshifter, able to cahnge her form at will.

Circe: One the most famous mythic Witches, the Greek Circe ("circle") lived on a magical floating island in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by wild animals---lions and wolves and bears---who did her bidding. With magical herbal mixtures, she was able to turn people into animals when they deserved it.

Dahut: This passionate magician-princess lived in Brittany, the weternmost part of France. She built the world's most beautiful city, the crystal-walled Ys, with help of the fairies of the sea---the Korrigans.

Hecate: Famous Greek goddess of Witches, she was worshipped at the dark of the Moon at places where three roads met, for it was said she was the only being in the world who could look three ways at once because she had three heads: serpent, horse, and dog. in her honor, "Hecate suppers" were held, when her followers would feast together and share their witchy knowledge. After dinner, they left the remnants of their food outdoors as ooferings to the hounds
that accompanied their goddess on her midnight journeys.

Heith: This Scandinavian Witch or shaman specialized in casting spells that were so subtle that no onw knewshe had spoken at all---although the thoughts she desired her targets to think appeared magically in their minds.

Hekt: This Egyptian frog-goddess ruled not only human magic but that of the earth as well, especially the magical transfromation of seeds into plants.

Louhi: A fierce, canny Finnish goddess, she was so powerful she was able to steal the Sun away from the sky and hide it in her house at North Farm. She owned the sampo, a magical tool that created abundance, which was stolen from her by a Finnish hero.

Marinette: Among the followers of Haitian Voudoun, Marinette is the spirit of sorcery, causing her followers to wave their arms like owls and screech. She haunts the woodlands at night in the form of an owl.

Medea: Great enchantress of Greek myth, meea was able to create dangerous potions that could either bring love, sleep, or death. She was able to fly through the air in a dragon-powered chariot. She had several human husbands, none of whom were faithful to her, so she eventuelly transformed herself into the goddess of snakes.

Meroe: She was a Witch of Greek legend who could bring the sky down to ceiling height, turn people into beavers, and teleport wherever she wished to go.

Morgan Le Fay: In the legends of Britain and Wales, this is the name of a great Witch who had the blood of fairies in her veins. She was a student, perhaps the lover, of the great magician Merlin.

Nimue: This is the Welsh name for the mysterious sorceress called, in legends of King Arthur and Camelot, the Lady of the Lake. That lake protected her magical world, Avalon, from human sight. There she lived in perpetual summer in a land where there was only beauty.

Pamphile: A legendary Greek Witch, Pamphile could change her shape into anything she desired, merely by anointing herself with an ointment she made from special secret herbs. To return to human form, she bathed in water in which bay leaf and anise were steeped.

Thorgerd: A Scandinavian woman, she was so powerful at sorcery that she became a goddess when she died. One of her skills was divination-- -using magical tools to see the future.

Viviane: This Welsh Witch was one of the lovers of the great magician Merlin, and was the only one of his students who became more powerful than he. She entrapped Merlin in a tree where he still sleeps today.

Yaoji: A Chinese goddess of sorcery, she reveals her closely guarded secrets to us in dreams.

There are other goddesses that Witches honor. Some look for goddesses that represent their ethnic heritage; others for goddesses that rule a certain area of life, such as love or money. There is no one right way to honor these goddesses, but rather many different rituals and cahnts that call them into our lives. Some claim, in fact, that goddesses are really parts of each woman,
and the rituals of witchcraft allow that part to manifest itself.

Whether the Goddess is within us or without, she is real, and waiting to come to the side of any Witch who calls her.
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