The Wiccan Mysteries

Basically, this classification is an attempt to codify for the purposes of teaching (and not for ossification) the Wiccan mysteries as I understand them.

The classification basically comes down to five core Mysteries, which, in my idiosyncratic fashion, have labeled Hers (the outer nature of the Goddess),His (the outer nature of the God), Grail (or Cup; Her inner nature), Descent (His inner nature) and Union (Their inner nature). I see the details of Her and His mystery, (and the classification system itself as described in the previous sentence) as being public domain, hence non-Oathbound, having derived them from festival circuit Paganism. The Grail mystery is Oathbound to First Degree; the mystery of the Descent, to Second; and that of Union, to Third. All concern the nature of the Gods themselves, and their relationships to one other, the universe and to us.

Hers: The Lady as Magna Mater, Mother of Life, Creatrix. It's also concerned with her triple nature as Maiden, Mother, and Crone and how the face she turns to us will change with the cycles of the moon. Yet she herself is eternal and unchanging — the changes are only the way in which we perceive her, wherein lies the mystery. We celebrate her mysteries at esbat and in the cycles of the moon.

His: The Lord's nature as the ever born, ever dying God, and the various stages of the life cycle he follows in that guise. We celebrate his mysteries at sabbat and in the cycles of the sun.

Grail: This Mystery is contained within the Charge of the Goddess.

Descent: This Mystery is contained within the Legend of the Descent of the Goddess.

Union: This Mystery is celebrated with the Great Rite.

(copyright to Adrienne, 1991. This material can be freely distributed, so long as it is clearly attributed to Adrienne.)

I found these Mysteries with a lot of hard work, study, intuition and help from the Gods. Perhaps it would be helpful if I described the process of finding these Mysteries.

It all started many years ago, from a chance remark from Sekhet Sophia, a Second Degree Gardnerian who was a member of our coven at the time. We were speculating about Mysteries, and something she said led me to think long and hard about Mysteries and what they were.

For years, ever since I started in Craft, Mysteries were part of our practice. Yet these Mysteries were never articulated, never discussed. So I looked as to where the Mysteries had to be.

I started with the Grail Mystery. Initiation in a Mystery faith should, logically, lead to being introduced to a Mystery. Again, logically, the only part of the initiation ritual that specifically talks about Mystery is the Charge of the Goddess. Everything else is concerned with practice or expands upon that specific piece of ritual.

Therefore, the Mystery must be contained within that piece of liturgy (it being one of the few pieces of liturgy we have).

Second Degree initiation ritual also has one, specific piece of liturgy, the Legend of the Descent. Therefore, the Mystery must be contained within that.

Third Degree initiation ritual does not contain liturgy or instruction, but it does contain a specific (and very difficult) magickal act. The Mystery, the experience of that Mystery must be contained within that magickal act.

So, after exploring the specific meanings of these pieces of ritual, I found that they all fit in neatly with other habits and practices and lore that I had been using for literally years. None of the insights I found were strange or ill fitting. Some were surprising, adding a depth of understanding of the structure of the universe, of the nature of the Gods and of my place within the universe as a Hidden Child of the Gods. I had experienced these Mysteries before; I had not fit them together into a coherent and cohesive mystical and theological structure.

Once I had these three Mysteries, I added on "His" and "Hers", recognizing that, without these concepts of Mother Earth and Dying God, there is no foundation to the other three Mysteries. The Oathound Mysteries are built on this foundation of experiencing the Gods as visceral and real beings, not just intellectual and mystical constructs.

The model was only ever intended to be a teaching model for me, so I could keep focused on Mysteries and the importance of keeping the Mysteries as the core of my faith and practice.

As I said in a previous message, I presented this material (actually, the Oathbound version of this material) to several Elders of Gardnerian Wicca in Europe for feedback. They, like me before I looked at it, had not really discussed Mysteries, hence I did not get as much feedback as I would have liked. However, I did get confirmation that what I found was well within the Gardnerian understanding of Mystery and it was quite possible that Gardner himself would have approved of the model and the insights I found. Of course, this cannot be verified.

What was of particular interest to the people I shared this with was the method by which I found the Mysteries. I looked into the rituals that we use for initiation, the parts that make up the ritual. Others who do the same exploration may find different things than what I did, considering that Mysteries are experienced, not simply taught.

I think anyone, Wiccan (by any definition) or not, would find it useful to look into the rituals that speak particularly to them, look at the rituals and practices that are at the core of the faith. That is where the Mysteries for that faith will be found.

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