Glossary of terms


Published: Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pagan: One who follows or practises an earth-based or nature-based religion.

Neo-pagan: Any of various movements that have flourished since the 1950s, when the British anti-witchcraft laws were repealed.

Wicca: A Neo-pagan religion founded by Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, in the 1940s. Wiccans often refer to themselves as witches. The religion allows the devout total freedom in their practice of the faith, provided it harms no one, as stipulated by the Wiccan Rede:

“An’ it harm none, do what ye will.”

Druidism: A spiritual philosophy founded on ancient Celtic teachings. Modern Druids gather in groves.

Eclectic paganism: A mixture of beliefs borrowed from various traditions and theologies, which may include Celtic, Norse, eastern

European and Native American.

Pentagram: The five-pointed star symbolizing Western paganism. Each point represents the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

Pentacle: A pentagram surrounded by a circle and often fashioned into a pendant.

Coven: An organized group of Wiccans, witches or pagans who work and perform rituals together to help each member achieve their individual goals. It normally consists of three to 13 people.

Wheel of the Year: The yearly cycle of the seasons through the eight sabbats, or Days of Power. In pagan mythology, a goddess turns the wheel to shift the seasons.

Sabbat: Any one of eight Wiccan solar festivals, marked by the four solstices and equinoxes and four other dates in between. They are Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain.

Athame: A ceremonial knife, sword or dagger.

Book of Shadows: A book of rituals, recipes and training techniques, and rules employed by a Witch or a coven. Each tradition has its own version of the book, and each book is different as it is traditionally updated by hand. Also known as a grimoire.

Circle: A sanctified area in which magical worship and spells are performed. Can also be used to designate a particular group of Witches or pagans.

Balefire: A communal bonfire lit during the sabbats, particularly during Beltane, Litha and Lughnasadh.

Herbalism: The employment of herbs for the practitioner’s use or benefit.

Spell: A specific ritual designed to change a condition. Also known as spinning, weaving, casting and spellcraft.

Glossary of terms

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