Nine Virtues 7-9 of ADF   Leave a comment


According to

: hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition

Hospitality for me is to make sure that everyone feels welcome and warm.  For the guest to know that they are safe in the environment not only physically but emotionally.  That they can share things going on in their lives, share both laughter and tears.  So it’s not just about food and drink but sharing on many different levels.  The amount of trust that’s shown to you as the host is of one of the highest compliments you can receive.  It takes a lot of work to make sure that where you live is a soft place to land for who ever.

In fact even with the Celts it was expected that even the King would welcome one and all into his Hall, and there was a hefty price if he did not accommodate people.  He would lose his throne.

Hospitality has another side to it as well.  And that is of being a gracious guest.  Being able to see that someone has opened their lives and their homes; for you to feel welcomed and important.  To me the concept of a gift for a gift would be for the guest to be grateful for being included into someone’s life.  However always keep in mind that you can misuse the hospitality of someone else.  You must be mindful of not overstaying or expecting the host to wait on you like a slave.


 According to Wikipedia

is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. It is used to ensure normality throughout the medium on which it is being conducted.

In my view moderation is not allowing our appetites to control and dominate our lives.  While I love to knit if that was all that I did then nothing else would get done.  Another word I would use here would be balance.  Finding the balance in our lives is something we should always strive for.  Whether we are within our mundane lives when we make sure we are eating balanced diet or balancing exercise with rest.  Or in our faith, we can’t just live by our Shrine and not interact with the world around us.  While walking the Mists and mediation is good for us so is interacting with your family and friends.  You can take moderation too far as well, every now and then it’s good to sit with friends and have a little too much to drink and just release the tensions that are in your life.  To have a little fun if you would.

Even in our world views there always room for moderation.  We can see that every night when we turn on the news.  Imagine if you would if the government of Egypt has indeed been practicing moderation within the country, perhaps the Prime Minister would have been loved instead of being forced out of office.  In our own country we can see extremism every other day.  We Are Right is a another way of saying WAR, within moderation there would be greater understanding, acceptance within our society and there be less fighting and more peace.  Moderation to me is so important, for that is the best way for all to understand and love each other.



According to

1: the quality or state of being fertile: the birthrate of a population

The definition above is so limiting.  Fertility to me isn’t just about being able to get pregnant and have a child but so much more.  Even with nature the fertility of the soil to produce life giving nutrients to us and the animals of the world is a small part of fertility in my mind.  After all I’ve been Pagan a good many years.  It’s also the fertility of the mind and of the soul.  If our minds weren’t a fertility ground we won’t be able to be creative, or to able to understand complex concepts.  If our souls were a frozen waste land we couldn’t and wouldn’t have the capacity to love and care for others.  Our ability to create Rituals all comes from a mind that it open and ready for new ideas.  Deity has the ability to be in our hearts and minds because we are ready for them to speak.  But if our minds are closed they won’t be able to come in and speak to us.

So to me having an open mind and heart and soul is fertility.  To be able to connect with the three Kindred shows to me that fertility runs both ways.  For if it wasn’t for Their ability to be fertile this planet would be either a ball of ice or a ball of fire.  It took the fertile minds and will of the Gods and Goddesses to find the balance between the fire and the water to creative life itself.  Making sure that in Their creation of us that our minds and hearts were ready for their knowledge and love.  That we would go forth and populate the world and worship them and take care of those that came before us and working with the Nature Spirits to make sure that this would be a rich land and never become a waste land.

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Posted January 4, 2012 by Sandra Yost in Personal Essays

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Guest Post: Apparently Pagan   1 comment

By Marlise Ditchweed, Guest Blogger
Marlise Ditchweed is a wandering witch lost in Pittsburgh from her home of OKC. She has a family based group with her husband and two children that has set up shop in the North Hills. Her formal training is in Georgian Witchcraft but prefers the freedom of the eclectic mix of seeking many paths.

“You aren’t going to raise your baby in that strange religion of yours, are you?” Those words slipped from my mother’s lips as I sat rubbing my swelling stomach and picking out a pattern for the nursery. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that I had a choice. I was raised that when you belonged to a family, you were expected to be a member of that family’s religion. Beliefs were only up for debate once you left home and tried to ‘find’ yourself. “Why wouldn’t I?” I responded. The answer came out as very matter-of-factly, but over the next several years, I would contemplate long and hard on that answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted January 3, 2012 by otterblossom in Personal Essays

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Harm None   Leave a comment

Commonly viewed as the oldest of Laws, the Pagan/Witch community possibly expresses this belief more than any other principle.

A philosophy defined by just two words…and yet…such a concept can be readily devalued when treated as a common idiom.

Regrettably, our use of the word law implies that something is “illegal.” This misperception veils the reality that our primary tenet is the ultimate achievement for which we should continually strive.

The purpose of any goal is to have something to work towards for self-improvement or self-worth, and Harm None is no different. But the journey is just as important as the destination, because that it is what allows us to learn and to grow. And our path is a never-ending sojourn of knowledge, wisdom, and growth whether we are the newest novice or the most venerable Arch-High Priest.

Reincarnation itself is such a process. Our lives are not mere sessions of recidivism, like a boomerang that simply comes back after being tossed into the air. Each incarnation gives us opportunities to grow, to be better than we were…than we are. Harm None is the guiding attitude that helps us achieve this.

Sadly, there are misconceptions as to what Harm None is.

To start, let’s look at some examples of what Harm None isn’t:

  • It’s not re-definable to self-justify our actions, behaviors, and thoughts.
  • It’s not blaming others for our own shortcomings and mistakes (avoidance).
  • It doesn’t mean foregoing our own health: mental, emotional, or physical.
  • It doesn’t mean being oblivious to reality.
  • It doesn’t mean being 100% selfless.

Harm can come in many forms: verbal, physical, emotional – whether by word, deed, or attitude.

Albeit so does Positivity, Joy, and Fellowship.

Attacking, escalating or perpetuating a conflict, enjoying another’s dismay, gossip-mongering, disregarding the rights of others, or seeking revenge…revenge, the most useless of all causes, willfully embraces negativity and are examples of the seeds that destroy. Such is contrary to our ways and beliefs, and these harmful distractions blind us to our own failings and bind us to our own fates.

To those who feel they have a nature’s right to inflict malice upon another, I say for shame, for such is self-serving.

To the detractors who ridicule others for doing their best to uphold our principles and ideas, I say tend to your own hearth before criticizing others for tending theirs.

To those who think they are immune from reciprocity, I say you are deluding only yourself. What we freely give will be freely returned to us, to think otherwise is a mere illusion.

Unfortunately, some wield our philosophy like a weapon, pointing fingers – “hypocrite,” denying our human nature to others, while others protest, declaring impracticality – it is too lofty a goal to even possibly be obtainable, citing the Nth-degree of absurdity.  Such individuals demonstrate a willingness to bring others down to their level, as well as a misunderstanding of the objective our greatest teaching has, which is to…

not intentionally cause harm to others or to ourselves

It also involves taking responsibility when we do harm, and to positively improve ourselves for the better and bring those lessons with us into the next life. The purpose of Harm None isn’t merely warm & fuzzy intentions. It is a proactive approach to life, promoting positivity and fostering harmony and balance – a state of existence commonly said to be valued and desired by our community. And a community cannot be built, let alone stand upon a foundation of negativity, harm, or apathy.

Now let’s look at some examples of what Harm None is:

  • Accepting others as equal to ourselves.
  • Accepting that our rights & freedoms end when they interfere with someone else’s.
  • Helping others as best we can, when and where we can.
  • Looking after ourselves, tending to our needs.
  • Treating others as we ourselves would like (if not expect) to be treated.

Does this mean that we must only think of others?   No.   We have an obligation, if not the right, to look after ourselves, for if we do not take care of ourselves how much help can we be to others? How much harm are we inflicting upon ourselves and possibly to those around us if we ignore ourselves? But, there is a balance between our needs, and how we react towards others.

Yes, we will occasionally stumble – we are human, but that is an opportunity for us to learn from our mistakes and a chance to do better and not repeat past missteps. And we can also learn from others, from their experiences, avoiding their misjudgments or gaining from their wisdoms.

And we should not deny our emotions, for that is, in essence, denying part of ourselves. Discussing how we feel with friends or loved ones is important, because expressing our feelings is a healthy part of being human – particularly when things bother us. Yet, it can be detrimentally overdone, especially when it is accomplished immaturely or continued with little room for abatement (obsessing).

So being realistic is important, not only in how we approach daily aspects and issues in our various lives, but in looking inside and being honest with ourselves.

To those who panic over the random, stray, “bad” thought, thinking it violates Harm None, I say self-reflection is one of the greatest capacities we have, but fear not, for the occasional moment is a fleeting instant with neither energy nor intent.

Doing our best to follow Harm None makes us neither elitist, perfect, blindly happy, nor weak. And yes, we are permitted to defend ourselves. But…the operative word is – defend.

Does following Harm None violate Free Will?   No.   But for every choice made there is Individual Responsibility…for each choice, there is an action, for every action there is a reaction…negative or positive. We call this the Law of Return, therefore to harm another is to harm ourselves, to help another is to help ourselves. And no one is accountable for the choices we make except for us. Hence, we need to think before we act (continually reducing the knee-jerk reactions) and ponder how our intentions and choices will affect ourselves and affect others.

Common courtesy, civility, decency, acceptance, and a general respect for ourselves and for others are the foundations of Harm None with the underlining concept of help others as best we can, where and how we can.

1) Law of Return: commonly referred to as the law of 3, rule of 3, or 3-fold law.

Posted January 1, 2012 by Dave Yost in Personal Essays

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Nine Virtues 4-6 of ADF   1 comment


According to mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

While I agree with the definition as shown here, there’s something missing, the courage to do nothing.  There are times in my life where it took more courage to do nothing.  Such as when someone has said or done something to me that causes either pain or anger.  It’s at those times where it takes more courage to stop and think, or to just let it go.  However, there are times when you must stand up for yourself or others when you see something that’s just not right.  Being able to see and have the courage to interfere when someone else is being hurt.  Or standing up to a friend whose about to drive drunk, I’ve done that a few times.  Or to go to the source when something has been said about you, to drill down to the truth of the matter takes a great deal of courage.

Yes, it takes courage to do something that is difficult for you to do.  Like facing fear, such as public speaking during a Ritual High Day, it takes a lot of courage to stand there with all eyes on you.  But with determination to do what needs to be done it can be accomplished.  Or when doing your first at home Rite by your shrine and being scared of messing it up, takes a will be know that the Kindred won’t sit there and laugh at you, or punish you for doing it wrong but rather know that they smile with patience, knowing that this will get easier as you go along.  The courage to ask something of the Deities without feeling selfish or self centered.



According to

1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility

2: an unimpaired condition : soundness

3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided :

Once again this one isn’t the easiest for it has many implications to it, both mundanely and magically.  Having integrity is to have people know that you’re true to your word, being truthful with yourself and others.  That you have set a code of conduct that can’t be altered just because someone else thinks that it’s foolish.  It’s holding you responsible for your actions and words.  I also think of a saying, walk the walk and talk the talk.  You can’t say to do one thing and then turn around and do the opposite of what you said.  It’s also following your path and not being swayed to go against what you know is right just because of the crowd.

Another word that can be used is honor.  Honor the Kindred the best way you can.  Honor the relationships that you have, and not to expect others to walk your path and not theirs.  Honor in dealing with friends and strangers alike.  To be charitable to others, give of your time, give of your love, to honor oaths that you have taken.  Also being fair to others, understand that your way isn’t their way and that doesn’t make their way wrong.  But also letting go of selfish needs and desires, opening your heart to others needs and desires.  Only doing good while doing magic, make sure that it’s for the greater good and not for revenge or anything of a negative connotation.  Not asking the Kindred to hurt or injury someone, but instead ask that they will learn and walk a better path.


According to continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness

Or how I put it tenacity, not letting a project go until it gets done.  Even when the road is tough and things seem impossible to keep it up even if it’s at a snails pace.  It reminds me of the tale of the tortoise and the hare.  The hare rushed getting the race over and done with, and lost his way.  While the tortoise kept to the path, he never gave up and always knew that the end of the race was before him.  Sure enough the tortoise won the race because he persevered.  My neighbor had a stroke a few months ago, his left side was paralyzed.  He has persevered through his therapy and can now walk with help from a cane and a leg brace.  His left arm is still immovable but again through therapy movement was spotted by his therapist.  I see him from time to time and he has kept a positive attitude knowing that with hard work he can gain his movement back.

Even working the Dedicant Program takes perseverance as I’m finding out.  It’s not easy and the tasks seem daunting, but working the program step by step and not becoming frustrated makes it easier.  With the smallest steps that I have taken I see that it can be done so long as I don’t give up and throw in the towel.  I my opinion if you believe in yourself and keep saying “I know I can” almost everything can be worked through and you come out at the end better and stronger for the journey.  Just looking through my past I can now see where I persevered and came out a better person for it.  I also know that with my tenacity nothing can hold me back accept for me caving into my own disbelief in myself.

Posted December 20, 2011 by Sandra Yost in Personal Essays

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Witches’ Pyramid   1 comment

To Know:

[to have direct cognition of; to have understanding of; to recognize the nature of]

There are many areas of the Craft that can and should be learned, but of primary importance is to know ourselves, our motives and intentions for learning the Craft. Understanding our strengths and acknowledging our weaknesses and knowing how these affect us and all that is around us. As practitioners we should know our inner-self and true nature. And, it does take a person of strength to truly face him/herself, because it requires being completely and openly honest with ourselves. While few people like the proverbial “know it all,” being a dabbler can be just as much of a nuisance, and a practitioner of the Craft who cannot or will not look into the mirror and see what others see is only fooling him/herself.

To Dare:

[to have sufficient courage; to challenge to perform an action; to confront boldly]

To muster the courage. To be willing to take the extra step out of the mundane and into the realm of mystery, belief, and faith. Faith? Yes…faith. No belief system can exist without faith. So it is necessary to dare ourselves. Not to do something foolhardy or blindly, but to learn about ourselves, the Craft, and the world around us. A practitioner who doesn’t dare to try or doesn’t dare to learn is not a practitioner, but merely one who is curious. Yet, this is not as exciting as it might seem, because the typical theatrical portrayals of the Craft are far from reality; so, we also have to have the courage to know the truth about what is and what isn’t.

To Will:

[to express desire, choice, willingness, capability, sufficiency, determination, persistence]

Nothing is ever accomplished without effort. And learning the Craft is no different. It takes focus, energy, and dedication. It also requires patience! In other words, we have to want to know it – we have to have the will to learn it. And learning something new might challenge us to re-evaluate our views of the world. And we have to be willing to grow and change, because learning is a never ending process – it never simply starts with the curious novice nor does it end with the most seasoned High Priestess.

To Keep Silent:

[free from sound or noise; to be still]

Discretion is the better part of valor, but the Craft is more than responsible decisions – it is also learning when to receive (hear), instead of project (speak).  In the olde days, keeping silent was essential for self-preservation, but even in today’s modern society, common sense dictates that not everything should be shared, let alone put on public display for the whole world to see, as if to say, “look at me.” The ways of the Craft are encompassed by this, because growth requires listening.  Keeping silent also makes it easier to take in and enjoy the world around us; allows for a deeper, personal connection with the Divine; and, it is a good method for restoring one’s spiritual resources.


  • The Witches Pyramid has also been called the “Magus Creed.”
  • There is also a “Pyramid of Magick”: Profound Knowledge, Will of Steel, Living Faith, Keep Silent, Love Within.

Posted December 15, 2011 by Dave Yost in Essays, Personal Essays

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Nine Virtues 1-3 of ADF   2 comments


According to Oxford Paperback Dictionary

The definition of Wisdom is:


1. Being wise, soundness of judgment. 2. wise sayings; the Wisdom of Solomon, a book of the Apocrypha.

The virtue of wisdom is fairly important to me, having this virtue means that foolish decisions while still done can be greatly reduced.  There is a line from a movie Jurassic Park, where the scientist who studies chaos theory states, “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something.”  There is great wisdom in this statement.  Pagans, be they druid or witches all have the ability to tap into and use great power for their magick.  But is this always wise to use this power?  Just because we have the knowledge should we indeed use it?  Or how can I use this knowledge for the betterment of myself and others.  Too often in life we have a knee jerk reaction to a situation when the wise course of action should be to stop and think about it.

When we gain knowledge the feeling of having it is wonderful.  However when we apply that knowledge without common sense we can hurt others or ourselves (depending on the knowledge, of course).  Just as an example while we live our daily lives we practice wisdom often.  Such as when we drive to work everyday, while our cars can exceed the speed limit in really ridicules ways but yet we do our best not to.  The reason being, we might hurt someone else if not ourselves.  Not to mention that hefty speeding ticket waiting for us.  So it’s wise to slow down.


According to

1: the quality or state of being pious: as a : fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents) b : dutifulness in religion : devoutness

2: an act inspired by piety

3: a conventional belief or standard : orthodoxy

This one is hard for me to figure out.  To me Piety means to be in service of the Gods, Ancestors and Nature Spirits.  Sounds easy doesn’t it, well it’s not.  We are their instruments and at times that is a very difficult road to walk on.  But yet when we do their work (whether we want to or not) it can lift us higher than this mundane life.  Just to remember that we are loved by the Kindred can make Piety just a little easier.  With a heart felt ritual we can leave our darker days behind and feel the love they have for us remembering them.  Unfortunately, we do have to return to the daily grind of life and the troubles we left when we started.  To me it is also being in service of others, keeping in mind the work we agreed to when we became a Druid.

It’s also respecting the Kindred and understanding we would be no where without them.  They gave us life and it’s up to us to do them honor in everything we say and do, not only to them but to ourselves.  If we just went through the process of Ritual without our hearts into it, how can we treat each other with the same love respect that is given to us each and every day by the Kindred?  Sometimes it is very hard to achieve when you feel hurt and angry so we struggle daily to keep this in the fore front of our minds.  It’s not impossible to achieve but it is a difficult road to walk at times.


The definition of Vision from the Oxford Dictionary is:

1 the faculty of seeing, sight. 2. something seen in the imagination or in a dream. 3. Imaginative insight into a subject or problem ect., foresight and wisdom in planning, a statesman with vision. 4. A person or sight of unusual beauty.

Ah vision a wonderful topic that covers not only mundane but magic as well.  Just while using sight when we go outside we can use our vision and see things differently.  When we see a bird we don’t necessarily see just a bird but the Nature Spirits saying hello.  During Ritual when the gates are open we can visualize the gatekeeper actually opening the portal.  Even while doing this I can see myself completing the Dedicant Program in my mind’s eye.

In magic we use it to not only invoke the well, tree and fire in their true form, but also seeing the end product of our working.  Long term projects even take some vision to see where the project is going and how it will look at the end.  Even the ADF was a vision that Isaac Bonewits had at the creation of the Druidic system he created.  Vision also needs to be a process that involves evolving, after all if something doesn’t work the way you envisioned it, it must evolve and change or else it will go no where.  There’s what has been called the 360 degree view.  One I try to incorporate daily.  We can get lost just seeing in one direction.  There are times when you have to change your sight into something bigger than what you see.  Being able to see all around you, how your actions and words can affect those around you.  You must have the ability to see the small picture rather than the big picture.  Your vision must be adaptable in all circumstances.  So to me vision is an important component within Druidism or Witchcraft.

Posted December 14, 2011 by Sandra Yost in Personal Essays

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Steel Phoenix Writers Group   1 comment

The Steel Phoenix Writers Group is the reincarnation of the former Pagan Writers of Pittsburgh, which had been in existence for most of the past decade. They publish The Steel Cauldron, a literary magazine featuring the articles, stories, poetry, and artwork of local writers and artists.

In person meetings take place the third Thursday of every month, at 7 PM at the Barnes & Noble at Monroeville Mall. The meetings are mostly social but may include reviews, critiques, support, general writing news and discussion, and the never-ending book browsing. When the bookstore closes, the group often reconvenes at TGIFridays for dinner.

Many web-based connections exist for the group:

Steel Phoenix

Submissions are actively being sought for the next edition of The Steel Cauldron! All poetry, short stories, personal essays, and artwork are welcome, although it is suggested that to maintain a Pagan family-friendly publication, that the rating levels be no higher than PG-13. All two-dimensional artwork may be submitted, from black and white line drawings to full color photography. A cover art contest is being held once again. In honor of the group’s name change, a phoenix is asked to be included in the art as well as a steel cauldron for this contest. The winner will receive $50, two copies of The Steel Cauldron, and (obviously) their artwork on the front cover of the magazine. Any non-winning cover art submissions may be used throughout the rest of the magazine. The authors and artists of any submissions chosen for inclusion in the magazine by the review panel will receive a complimentary copy of the magazine.