Wicca Wednesday – Odin

The following excerpt is from Judika Illes’s wonderful new reference book The Weiser Field Guide to Witches:

Lord of shamanism, ecstasy, and esoteric wisdom, Odin is the patron of poetry, magic, and the heroic dead. Known as the All-Father, he is a patriarch, an occult master, a restless,wandering wizard, and a formidable trickster. The patron of witches, occultists, and spiritual seekers, Odin is a magical practitioner and spiritual seeker, too. His thirst and quest for wisdom is endless. Odin willingly traded an eye for one mouthful of water from the Well of  Wisdom. Determined to master the runes, Odin pierced himself and then hung for nine days and nights in shamanic ritual on the World Tree. He died a shamanic death in order to be reborn as the rune-master. The Tarot card The Hanged Man may depict this ritual, not a literal hanging.

Devotion to Odin once spread across the entire Germanic and Norse world. Other versions of his name include Votan, Woden and Wotan. Wednesday is his sacred day, literally Woden’s Day. He reputedly answers to over 175 different aliases and noms de guerre. Odin’s familiar ravens, Hugin and Munin – “Thought” and “Memory” – fly all over Earth each morning, returning with news, gossip, and secrets to whisper in his ear.

Odin travels all over Earth as well as through the sky, riding his magical steed and leading a procession of spirits, ghosts, heroes and heroines. Their passing is signalled by storms and powerful winds. Post-Christianity, this parade of spirits became known as the Wild Hunt. The Church described it as a parade of the damned, and warned the faithful to keep away lest they be ensnared and forced to join. Odin is the primary Wild Hunter. Sometimes he leads the Wild Hunt alone; sometimes he is accompanied by a female co-leader. Allegedly, if you hear a raven’s caw at night, it means the Wild Hunt – and Odin – draw near.

Odin sometimes wanders Earth in the guise of a shabby, dusty traveler. The clue to his identity tends to be his missing eye, although it is not always easy to spot. He may also travel disguised as a bird. Those who are gracious to him are rewarded. Those who are rude eventually regret their behavior.

Odin continues to be venerated in various Neo-Pagan spiritual traditions like Asatru, as well as by witches. He stars in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle of opera and appears in many works of fiction, including a pivotal role in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, American Gods.


If you find yourself in New Orleans this weekend, wander on over to Witchy Living – they will be hosting a book launch and signing for Judika Illes on Friday October 15th, followed by a special workshop on “Spells and Spirits of Samhain” on Saturday October 16th. http://witchyliving.com/judikailles.html

Hecate and Dark Moon Magic

The following is an exerpt from the always informative and highly enjoyable Pure Magic; A Complete Course in Spellcasting by Judika Illes:


Hecate, the Queen of the Night, emerged in what is now modern Turkey. She is most famous as the companion of Demeter in her quest to find her kidnapped daughter, Persephone. Hecate is believed to be the unseen witness to every crime; she can be appealed to for justice, particularly when the crime is of a sexual nature against a woman or female child. Hecate would eventually serve as Persephone’s handmaiden in her capacity as Queen of the Underworld. Freya and Hecate would serve as the models for European stereotypes of witches, Freya as the dangerously seductive witch, Hecate as the wizened crone.

Hecate holds dominion over life, death, regeneration and magic. She rules wisdom, choices, expiation, vengeance and travel. Hecate guards the frontier between life and death. She serves as intermediary between the spirit world and that of humans. Hecate holds the power to grant or deny any human’s wish.

Hecate most typically manifests as a mature woman or as a black dog. Dogs are her sacred creatures. Cerberus, the three-headed hound who guarded the gates of the Greek underworld, may or may not be Hecate in disguise. Hecate has a particularly strong bond with her familiar animal; even when manifesting in human form, Hecate is rarely without canine companionship. On the rare occassion when she turns up alone, there will be some sort of dog reference so that you’ll recognize her; she often circles in the manner of dogs. Her attributes include a toad, a pomegranite, a key, a cauldron, a broom, torch or knife.

Hecate is most powerful during the dark moon phase. She only accepts offerings and petitions after dark, the only acceptable illumination being candles or torches. The last day of each month is dedicated to her and is the best time to ask for favors, inspiration or instruction. In addition, Wiccans celebrate November 16th as Hecate Night. Midwives, herbalists and magical practitioners may consider themselves already among Hecate’s initiates. Garlic, honey and lavender are favored offerings. Traditionally, offerings for Hecate are placed on a stone or small plate and left at a crossroads after dark. Do not return for the plate or any part but consider all of it part of the sacrifice. (In other words, if you don’t want to lose a plate, use a paper one.)

Traditionally, Hecate’s followers held dinners in her honor. Devotees feasted and shared their magical knowledge. Leftovers were placed outside the door or at a crossroads for Hecate and her hounds. Cynics scoff that these leftovers were actually consumed by feral dogs or homeless people without realizing that this was Hecate’s intent, this is one way she accepts offerings. Her ancient devotees also stained their palms and soles with henna in her honor. She recognizes herself in this gesture. Any action on behalf of dogs, Hecate’s sacred messengers, is probably the offering she appreciates most.

If you happen to be in Salem Massachusetts on October 30th (and really… where else would you rather be?) stop by OMEN Psychic Parlor and Witchcraft Emporium and sign up for Judika’s workshop  “Introduction to Spellcasting.”

“The Yoruba Model for Practical Spiritual Interaction” – Wicca Wednesday*

The following is from Judika Illes’s wonderful compendium Pure Magic: A Complete Course in Spellcasting

The Yoruba people of West Africa use the word orisha to name spirit powers. Anyone wishing to do extensive spirit work would do well to contemplate the structure of traditional Yoruba religion. The Yoruba are a monotheistic people; they have one supreme creator, Olodumare, who encompasses both male and female. Although Olodumare loves humans, we are not the center of the universe. Among Olodumare’s other creations was the concept of delegating. Olodumare created assorted spiritual beings, the orisha, each possessing its own department of interest, to assist in Earth’s harmonius operation. Just as there are orishas whose function it is to encourage agriculture or wilderness, so there are orishas who facilitate every aspect of human existence. Any area or interest that can be envisioned possesses an orisha who serves in a supervisory capacity.

Ogun, for instance, is the patron of metal. He takes care of those who are in close contact with the material: soldiers, jewelers, taxicab drivers. If you were worried about your son the soldier, you might direct your petition to Ogun.

Yemaya is the matron of women. If your personal obstacles fall under the general heading of “women’s troubles,” you’d petition Yemaya instead.

The most conservative count of orishas is 401, although only about forty are actively involved with humans on any sort of consistent, regular basis. Each orisha has various forms that they consistently assume. Each also possesses various preferences in food, fragrance, colors and gifts. These preferences are used as vehicles in two-way communication. Yemaya’s color is blue. To attract her notice, you might somehow prominently feature that color. She, in turn, might use the color to send a signal to you. It’s an eminently practical system and in the case of the Yoruba, still a living, vital one.

*Wicca Wednesday: Each Wednesday Weiser Books Blog will feature an excerpt from one of our wondrous Wiccan titles!