(Following is a list of words defined as they would generally be used and understood within the Reclaiming Tradition; variations on or additions to these meanings may be found in the lexicon of other Witches and Pagans.)
Aspurge — v. To purify ritually by sprinkling with salt water; often this is done by dipping a fragrant branch, such as rosemary, into the water and sprinkling it over the participant in a ritual.
Athame (ah-thah’-may) — n. A blade or knife used as a ritual tool; usually, a knife with two sharp edges; (a) tool associated with the East, symbolizing and enhancing the power to choose, to analyze, to define, to separate one thing from another; (b) in some Traditions, used as a phallic symbol. When a Witch chooses not to use a blade because, for example, of its association with weaponry, she or he may substitute a feather, a bone, or like object, or use her own hand.
Beloved Dead — n. People who were known to us and whom we loved when they were alive, and who have crossed over.
Cast — v. To “cast the Circle” is to define the boundaries of the sacred space, usually a circle in which a ritual is about to take place. See Circle, Cutting the Circle, Opening the Circle.
Cauldron — n. A pot, often cast iron and with three or four legs, a handle and a lid, used in various ways for magical work and rituals. In essence a cooking pot, it is a tool for transformation. Objects may be passed through the fire for purification, and people may jump over the cauldron, for example for purification and/or healing. A cauldron may also be used over a fire, for brewing herbal drinks or making special soups to be eaten as part of a ritual. Filled with water, it may be used for scrying.
Chakra — n. From Hindu beliefs, one of seven centers of psychic energy located along the spine, which can be “opened” through certain physical movements and psychic/mental/spiritual techniques, so that the energy can be released and utilized.
Circle — 1. n. Sacred space in which a ritual or any kind of magical work is done, either by an individual or by a group. Often people stand together in a literal circle to begin a ritual, but during the ritual they may move about in any configuration, and are still said to be “in circle.” 2. n. A concept fundamental to the thealogy of modern Witchcraft, generally referring to the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth and to the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. Thus, a sacred symbol. 3. n. Syn. coven. 4. v. To join with others in sacred space.
Coven — n. An autonomous group of Witches who meet together regularly to do magic; it is believed that traditionally a coven had 13 members and met under the full moon. Today they may be any size, and members may be women or men. In some Traditions there are accepted rules concerning qualification for leadership and membership in a coven. In the Reclaiming Tradition covens set their own rules. Most covens meet privately and are not open to visitors except for occasions when they declare an “open” or “public” ritual. Membership in a coven is gained through personal contact. Often coveners become very close and consider each other as family. Syn. Circle
Cup— n. The Tool of the West; used to hold salt water, water or any drink used in a ritual. In some Traditions, the cup is symbolic of the female. It may be a goblet, chalice, bowl, or other vessel capable of holding liquid.
Cut — v. 1. Syn. Cast. 2. To ritually leave or enter a Circle after it has been cast by carefully opening a space to pass through and closing it after crossing the boundary.
Death — n. The state of existence which occurs after “life” as it is commonly defined according to the definitions of Western biology, ends. Death is understood as part of the Circle. Many Witches believe that the “dead” continue to exist on another plane and that it is possible to contact them, especially at Samhain, through a psychic connection. We are all aware of our connections with our ancestors and of the fact that, in some sense, we will live in our descendants. We sing: “What is remembered, lives.” See Reincarnation
Deity — n. Most modern Witches believe in a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses who are associated with many religious traditions around the world, both modern and ancient. Most commonly, Witches call on the deities of Celtic, Greek and Roman cultures, but many also use the names of Egyptian, African, Scandinavian, Native American, Chinese and Indian gods and goddesses. Most Witches try to be careful not to “rip off” other people’s spiritual practices or beliefs, but recognize that different cultures always affect each other when they come in contact, so are open to the influence of other religions which are harmonious with the Craft.
Devoke – v. To thank the deity or deities which have been invoked for a ritual, and to invite them to stay or to leave as they will.
Directions — n. East, South, West, North (also known as the Quarters) and Center. Each direction has an element and particular powers and qualities associated with it; see Elements. The Center is the center point of the Circle. See elements.
Divination — the practice of gaining insight or foretelling the future through magical techniques, such as reading Tarot cards, scrying, reading tea leaves, etc.
Elements — n. (1) four substances (air, fire, water, and earth) necessary to the creation and sustenance of life. Each element is associated with one of the four directions, a particular tool; certain qualities and powers which exist in the outer, physical world and within each person; and certain colors, life forms and natural phenomena. See spirit.
East; athame; powers of the mind, the ability to analyze and understand, and to breathe, smell and hear; the qualities of the wind, freshness, dawn light, sudden insight, rational thought, perspective; white and pales shades of yellow and pink, birds, insects.
South; wand; powers of passion and will, the ability to act effectively, to destroy, purify and change; the qualities of the flame, heat, anger, aggression, affection, sexual desire; red, orange, gold, deep yellow; snakes, scorpions, fire ants, sparkles, the sun, the God.
West; cup; powers of intuition and emotion, the ability to dream, to love, to grieve, to cleanse, to heal, to refresh; the qualities of fluid: mutability, purity, depth; blue, turquoise, purple, silver; fish, cetacea, crustacea, waterbirds; shells, seaweed, blood, tears, sweat, the moon.
North; pentacle; the powers of the body, the ability to create, nurture, nourish, sustain, to destroy and to heal; the qualities of the planet, strength, endurance, fertility, sustenance, sensuality, abundance and diversity; mountains, rocks, trees, caves; all animals and life forms, especially bears, deer, cows; the God; fruits and grains, birth and death, the Mother, the Goddess.
God — n. 1. All that is born, grows and dies. Animal and plant life. Sometimes the sun is considered to be the God because every year it grows bright in summer, fades, dies, and is reborn. The qualities of the God are those of plants, such as growth, vitality, reaching maturity, rising and falling and animals, such as wildness, freedom, vulnerability, innocence, ecstasy in nature. 2. A particular deity from any of many religious traditions, ancient and modern. See deity.
Goddess — n. 1. The Earth, also called the Mother and the Great Goddess, because the Earth is literally the source of life and when people die their bodies return to the Earth. Through the Earth people are connected to the mystery and beauty of the cosmos and Witches consider Her sacred, to be cherished, and worth dedicating their lives to protecting. Qualities of the Goddess are those associated with the Earth, such as endurance, fertility, abundance, sustenance, compassion, creativity (birth), destruction (decay) and rebirth. 2. A particular deity from any of many religious traditions and cultures, ancient and modern. See deity.
Ground — v. To consciously become connected to the energy of the Earth, usually through a meditation. It is considered essential to being able to focus and do magical work, and to prevent psychic distress.
Invoke — v. To call a spirit or Deity into the Circle.
Mighty Dead — n. Those who have died and who are widely acknowledged as great priestesses, priests, and/or teachers of the Craft.
Open — v. (“to open the Circle”) To dissolve, erase, or unwrap the boundary of the Circle which was created at the beginning of a ritual, ending the ritual and removing the designation of sacred space from the location.
Pentacle — n. Five-pointed star figure, with one point at the top, enclosed in a circle. Tool of the North. Used to achieve psychic balance and to enable people to experience various connected energies in a concentrated way, each of the points is associated with different particular powers and qualities.
Purify — v. To cleanse spiritually and mentally, getting rid especially of any thoughts or feelings that might interfere with participation in the ritual or the ability to focus and do magical work. See aspurge, cense.
Reincarnation — n. Most, but not all, Witches believe in some kind of reincarnation or rebirth — either in the sense that we all get recycled because everything comes from the Earth and our bodies go back into the Earth when we die, or in the sense that our individual identity, our spirit, becomes connected to a new person or life-form.
Ritual — n. An occasion when an individual or a group uses traditional practices in order to focus energy for an identified purpose, such as healing, transformation, empowerment, protection, celebration, etc. The basic elements of a ritual in the Reclaiming Tradition are: grounding and purifying; casting the Circle; invocation of the Directions; invocation of the Deity (or Deities); Magical working; sharing food and drink; and opening the Circle.
Sabbat – One of the eight days of the solar year which mark the Turning of the Wheel. See “The Wheel of the Year.”
Smudge – a practice borrowed from the sacred traditions of Native Americans. This is a method of purification using the smoke from a tightly packed bundle sage, sometimes mixed with other herbs, which is wafted around the body.
Spirit — n. The Spirit is the center of the Circle: it is life, which is created by the element of air, fire, water and earth and some Witches consider Spirit itself to be an element. Witches sing: “Air I am, Fire I am, Water, Earth, and Spirit I am.” Many Witches believe that the Spirit is individual consciousness that exists independent of our bodies, and that lives forever, and most believe that all life forms (animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers) have a spirit. Some believe the spirit of an individual enters into another being after death.
Tarot — n. A set of cards with five suits and symbolic pictures, used for divination. There are many different versions and most have a guidebook. They are historical precursors to modern playing cards, known to exist in Europe since the 15th century, and believed to have been used primarily by gypsies and Witches until their use became widespread in recent years.
Tools — n. Objects used for magical purposes. There are particular tools associated with each of the five Directions.
Triple Goddess – n. The Maiden, Mother and Crone, associated with the new, full, and waning phases of the moon, are most familiar in the Reclaiming Tradition. There are other “triple goddesses” recognized in various cultures and historical periods, e.g. the Fates, Clothos, Lachesis and Atroppos; the Moirae or Grey Sisters; the Norns or Wyrd Sisters; and the Morrigan. The Goddess Brigid, or Bhride, is associated with the forge, the flame, and the well.
Quarters — See Directions.
Wand — n. Tool of the South. Usually handcrafted by its owner, consisting of a rod or stick from a few inches long to an arm’s length, which may have been carved and/or embellished with crystals, feathers, or other objects of significance to its owner. Used to direct energy.