Dancing Under an African Moon

The ultimate power supply

I read about aligning with and plugging into the universal power source that we are all part of in Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein. This clever imagery appeared again several times in Dancing Under an African Moon: Paganism and Wicca in South Africa by Donna Vos, that I have just finished reading. While this book published in 2002 is a bit out of date already, it is the only book I am aware of about Paganism in a South African context and for that reason alone it is worth reading by anyone interested in Paganism in South Africa.

In the chapter “Magick and Ritual – The South African Scene”, Donna Vos states “Practitioners would argue that there is no such thing as white or black magick, because the results are dependent on the ‘intent’ of the magician. So, they see magick as a neutral force, much like electricity. Put your finger in the socket and you’ll get singed; switch on the light and all’s fine.”

My favourite chapter in the book “Let the Witches Speak!” contains sincere, personal accounts by local individuals from various Pagans paths relating details of their experiences, their beliefs and their practices.

One of these individuals explains her daily morning ritual as follows:

“Every morning I do a ritual outside and draw in the positive components of each element that I will need for the day, including worship of the Divine. This keeps me constantly in tune with the energies – like constantly charging a battery.”

The chapter titled “Little Book of Shadows”, a collection of spells, recipes and rituals contributed by these individuals, contains among many other things a detailed ritual for recharging personal energy with the energy from the sun.

Why Paganism?

As I was reading I made a note of reasons people gave for choosing a Pagan path, here are some of them (not necessarily verbatim):

greater personal empowerment and responsibility
personal transformation and self-improvement
greater empowerment to achieve goals
greater self-confidence
spiritual enlightenment
stimulation of personal energies, the psyche and the Divine within
nurturing from Mother Earth
healing with natural energies
balanced, holistic lifestyle
philosophy of interconnectedness
balance of energies (e.g. male/female, light/dark)
greater freedom and tolerance
like-minded community
remembering (practices from past lives)

The broom closet

Not all of the individuals are openly Pagan, some who are gave the following explanations:

“I love the term ‘witch’. I like the drama in the term; it gives me a platform to explain what I believe and what I practise.”

“One of the main reasons I went public was because I was sick of the ignorance of the public in South Africa. Magazines like You published articles where they classified symbols like the ankh and yin-yang as Satanic! Of course the pentagram was on the top of the list. Going public has helped a lot, as far as mainstream white people go. However, I feel that we have simply skimmed the surface of the public in South Africa, as the wide majority of people are black and still believe that a witch is someone who is evil. I feel that people mostly fear only what is unknown to them, and if light is shed upon what witches actually do, we might be able to resume our intended role as the healers and helpers within our communities.”

“I will use the term (witch) more as an explanation, in order to bring across the information I am sharing in a clear-cut, concise manner, giving facts rather than embroidering an issue… It gives me a chance to explain things, and to correct some of the misconceptions some people may have.”

The circle

My main quibble with the book relates to its description of Wiccan circle casting.

In the chapter “Southern Hemisphere Musings”, Vos explains the differences in traditional Wiccan circle casting in the Southern hemisphere versus that in the Northern hemisphere:

“So, simply put, deosil is sunwise. Therefore, in both the southern and northern hemispheres, the circle is cast deosil, even though in the southern hemisphere the circle is cast in an anti-clockwise direction.”

However, the wording of this section is confusing as Vos regularly equates the term “deosil” with clockwise and the term “widdershins” with anti-clockwise. For example, Vos describes how to call the quarters as follows:

“In other words, we call in the same way that the circle is cast, deosil in the northern hemisphere, and widdershins in the southern hemisphere. But remember, in the southern hemisphere we also call the casting deosil!”

I also found it confusing that the phrases “closing the circle” and “opening the circle” were both used in the book to refer to dismantling the circle.

You may also be interested in reading some reviews of the book HERE.

This article was first published on 20 August 2011

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