Day 7: Witches and Sacred Symbols

Symbols. My gods, sometimes I hate symbols.

This is, of course, because I’m a lit student. We quickly learn that everything can be a symbol…and that you get extra special brownie points if you can argue a case for symbols no one’s ever seen before. So too are the symbols of Wicca. Among some Wiccans, the brownie points go to the Witch who’s just uncovered the latest obscure “correspondence.” Oy! Common sense, people!

So it is with noted trepidation that I approach Day 7. But you know, it’s not that bad. Roderick basically begins by nodding toward the work of anthropologist Adolf Bastian, whom he says “was first to recognize that certain basic principles reoccur as symbols through the world’s mythologies and religious systems.” (These ‘elementary ideas’ as Bastian called them are along the lines of “life must feed on life” or “life does not end with death.” You know, the really big ones.) Bastian went on to say that although the ‘elementary ideas’ are basically the same across culture, the different sayings and interpretations differ from one culture to the next. What Roderick extends this to is the thoguht that “Wicca taps into these elementary ideas through symbols and ideas common to all cultures.”

You know, I understand that symbols ‘speak a poetic language’ and that Wicca uses them as ‘the primary means for reaching and transforming the deep mind (unconscious.’ I get that. And I agree with it. But I am a little confused with Roderick’s explanation. The headnote is fraught with quips like “The sunrise, a circle, the change of season and fire are examples of Wiccan symbols that transcend culture, time, and place,” but Roderick never says what these objects are symbols of. And the ‘of’ makes all the difference. Maybe it’s the lit nerd in me talking…but the object isn’t the important part of the equation. Worrying about how “the critical mind erroneously interprets symbolic information as fact, etc” isn’t all that important. A symbol isn’t a symbol until the object delivers an “Ah!” moment. At that point fact really doesn’t matter anymore. The poetic nature takes over.

So I’m just a little grumpy about today’s notes. But I do think that I need to start looking at the world around me and stop noticing objects for themselves. I’ve lost my poetic vision, and I need to get it back. And today’s exercise is a great place to start.

Practice: Sunrise, Sunset, Symbols

Take time today to witness either the sunrise or the sunset. It is important that you don’t substitute an “imagined” sunrise or sunset–really go outside and engage in nature. As you experience either the sunrise or sunset, take note of your feelings and your state of mind. AFter this, take time to commit your thoughts to paper regarding these questions:

  • What did you experience internally as you witnessed this event?
  • From this experience, what do you imagine this sunrise or sunset could symbolize?
  • Now think about a symbol from a spiritual path from your past. Spend time contemplating this symbol’s meaning. What could this symbol mean for you today?
31 am.

Photographic proof I saw 6:31 am.

It is a rare thing that I wake up before 9 am these days. I go to bed very late, and seem to require above 8 hours of sleep. But I felt compelled to aim for the sunrise instead of the sunset. For me, the sunrise is about birth and the sunset death. I see so much of the ‘death’ end of things these days that I really wanted an opportunity to experience the other side. And perhaps maybe the newness of starting a day so damn early would help shift my mindset for the rest of the day, too.

Internally, I experienced a whole helluva lot of tired. I woke up a little earlier than the required 6:31 am to make a cup of fortifying tea, but didn’t leave much of a chance for it to take effect. But once I did settle down to watch the subtle changes of a sunrise, I did feel a calm. The sun began to reflect off the low lying clouds in a small riot of yellows, oranges, pinks, and lavenders, the mist over the grassfield across the street began to roll off. The dew began to coagulate and dissipate. The world was tossing off her nighttime blanket and taking a stretch. It was calming. It was reassuring. It was hopeful.

So yes, I think the sunrise well symbolizes birth and rebirth; new beginnings, awakenings; hope and the very beginnings of realized potential.

After such a pleasant beginning, I don’t particularly want to think about the tried and trite symbols of my spiritual past. What am I going to say? The cross? The lamb? The dove? The cross is often a symbol of death and rebirth, the lamb of innocence and trust, and the dove of peace. I can’t say any of these have changed for me. In Wicca, the equal-armed cross is a symbol of the elements, but that is a slightly different cross than the Christian one. It’s not quite the same thing. Meh.

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