Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who is Aradia?

Aradia is the central figure in the book ‘Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches’ written in 1899 by Charles Godfrey Leland. Leland claims that his book, ‘Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches’, was written based on a manuscript he obtained through his ‘witch informant’, who he referred to as Maddalena. The book contains stories and myths as well as spells, rituals, prose-poetry and blessings.

There are varying claims as to whether Aradia was a goddess, daughter of Diana, or whether she was the mortal woman, Aradia di Tuscano born in Tuscany, Italy in 1313. ‘Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches’, includes a story of Aradia’s birth that supports the former theory of Aradia’s origins.

In 1981, Raven Grimassi published ‘The Book of the holy Strega’, in which he supports the theory of Aradia being a mortal who was taught witchcraft by her aunt.
The common story of Aradia is that she taught witchcraft in order to free women of the 14th century from the oppression of the time. She gathered followers and taught a belief system and practices that empowered and released them.

Aradia is sometimes referred to as La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful pilgrim) or Mistress of the Fairies (in reference to Diana being sometimes called Queen of the Fairies). She has also been linked to the names Erodiade, Herodiade and Herodias.

Some of the words attributed to Aradia have been interpreted as to instruct practitioners of witchcraft to perform their rituals naked and are thought to have been influential in the choice for some modern-day Wiccans to work sky clad. Sexual acts have also been referenced in relation to Aradian teachings and rituals, particularly by Aiden Kelly (co-founder of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn), which Leland astutely refers to in the appendix of “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches’, stating, “They adored forbidden deities and practised forbidden deeds, inspired as much by rebellion against Society as by their own passions."

Another important impact of the stories of Aradia on modern Wicca and many of the associated topics of debate is in the postulation that witchcraft is the ‘Old Religion’, and that modern practices are a survival of ancient pagan beliefs. For this reason, debates on this subject will often include reference to Margaret Murray, an advocate of the theory of modern witchcraft being a revival rather than a reinvention.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What is Circumambulation?

From the prefix circum-, meaning around, round about or to encompass or surround, and the word ambulate, a derivative of the word amble, meaning to walk or move from place to place.

Generally, circumambulation is to walk or move around something, especially as part of a ceremony or ritual. In a religious or spiritual context, circumambulation is performed around a special object, just as a shrine or an alter, or sometime it is performed with a special object, such as an element representation when casting circle in Wicca.

Many religions use circumambulation as part of worship. A Catholic priest may circumambulate an alter, other priest or person, gifts etc while swinging a thurible of incense (also known as censing) as part of a blessing or ceremony. The number of times and the method used to swing the thurible is significant and, in some denominations, forms part of the liturgical law.

Muslims circumambulate the Kaaba seven times as part of a Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Buddhist use circumambulation as a means to connect through focus on the object they are walking around. Even today, visitors to the Stupa, which is a popular Buddhist site in India, circumambulate the site in order to reflect on the many sculptures that make up this site.

Pradakshina (Sanskrit), literally meaning 'the the right', consists of walking usually in a clockwise direction around in a 'circle' as a form of worship in Hindu ceremonies in India. Typically, Pradakshina is done after the completion of traditional worship (pooja) and after paying homage to the deity and can be performed around the sacred fire as part of the Hindu marriage ceremony.

In Wicca, the casting of the circle, which creates a sacred space for ritual, meditation etc, is done using circumambulation. As with many other circumambulatory practices, direction is important. Wiccans cast (create) circle in a deosil direction, meaning 'with the sun' and open (release or deconstruct) circle in a widdershins direction, meaning 'against the sun'. Many Wiccans acknowledge that the direction of the path of the sun is different in the northern and southern hemisphere and will cast and open circle accordingly. In the southern hemisphere, deosil is anti-clockwise so this is the direction that the circle is cast in (i.e. north -> west -> south -> east) and widdershins is clockwise and therefore the direction that the circle is opened (i.e. north -> east -> south -> west). These are reversed in the northern hemisphere.