2 - Meeting the Goddess and God of the Witches
I am that soundless boundless, bitter sea
All tides are mine and answer unto me
Tides of the airs, tides of the inner earth,
The secret, silent tides of death and birth
Tides of men's souls, and dreams, and destiny -
Isis Veiled, and Ea, Binah, Ge ...
(Dion Fortune The Sea Priestess)
The pagan religion of witchcraft is one in which each seeker sets out on a personal inner quest to meet and communicate directly with various aspects of the goddess or god of their chosen tradition. It is not a faith, so 'belief in invisible deities, and orthodox dogma should have no part in the matter.
In this chapter I will try to set out some of the widely held ideas about the Goddess and about her consort, the Sun God, so that you can make your own choices as to whether they have any validity for you, if their attributes appeal to you, or if you feel drawn towards their myths or their symbols.
No one, inside the Craft, would ever insist that someone has to accept these Great Ones in a particular form, or that they have to be worshipped in only one way. The seasonal festivals celebrated by coven witches often act out the life cycles of the Goddess in her various guises, and her Son/Lover. In some cases the High Priestess and the High Priest raise their own consciousness to become united with these deities, and so perceive them and show them to the rest of the coven in a very intimate way. Those who follow the Old Ways alone will come to know each aspect as a real being, as a friend and guide.
What is said about the nature of the Old Ones by someone other than yourself can only ever be their own personal description, just as another person may try to describe a piece of music or the flavour of a rare delicacy to someone who has sampled neither. Words are inadequate, and can at best only be vague impressions of what can often be a very deep and emotional experience. Because there is no 'bible' of witchcraft, there is no single source of inherited myths and religious stories, shared by all neo-pagans. It is felt that the gods are continuing to live out their own lives, and so with each cycle of the Earth among the stars, there will be a slightly different version of their story.
The pagan gods and goddesses are not fixed and completed beings, whose will is immutable and whose actions are distant. All of them are immanent, close to us, accessible. If we make the effort of prayer, invocation or magic, we will be able to perceive them, in a way we can actually comprehend, seeing them as great beings of power. All that can really be taught is the simple ways in which this meeting, on another level of our being, can be brought about, so that seekers can see for themselves how that religious relationship will best fit into their own concepts and philosophy.
Firstly, though, we do need to understand something about the eternal, ever-changing, many-faceted and varied guises in which the Great Mother and the Sky God are perceived among those who try to walk in their ways. The Goddess is an undying, threefold being, who can be understood as our original starborn Mother. She is commonly associated with the planet Earth, as Mother Nature, the Earth Goddess, Gaia, the First Parent, self-fertile, bearer of all living creatures, human, animal, and often all plants and other sentient life forms.
We know that all living things are born of the Earth, made of its substance, taken in with food and water. We know, too, that the Earth is a small scrap of star stuff, captured by the nearest star, our Sun, so our own original heritage is from the stars, at the birth of creation.
The Goddess in many of her pagan pantheons is also the Moon Goddess, triple-faced and triple-phased. The young Moon Maiden, child sweetheart, beloved mistress, growing daughter of the night, is her waxing form. Full-bellied Moon Mother, full-blown rose of light, travellers' joy, guide and companion on the magical paths, she leads our monthly revels.
In her waning phase, she is the dark-visaged hag deep-steeped in wisdom, crotchety and sharp, but she is the giver of knowledge to those who will face her in the darkness, and as a dutiful grandchild ask for help. The Moon Goddess also has a hidden face, at the dark of the moon, when the night sky is empty and the light of the stars alone illumines the wild places. This aspect of her you will need to discover for yourself, man or woman, for this is part of the Mystery of moon magic, and is not spoken of in words.
The Goddess is also Ocean, the great sea from which arose the evolving forms of life, third mother to us human beings. The first mother is Earth, the second the moon awakening mind, and the third mother, all the sacred waters, from spring and pool, to lake and river, to mighty sea and moon-led power of the tides. Those who become her children will find her in all her aspects, alive in wild places, and in those magic rings, circles out of time, between the worlds, created by ritual and controlled desire.
The Goddess is nameless, yet she has many names in many lands and pantheons. If you examine their mystery you will find not names but titles, attributes, 'job descriptions', even, spelled out in many tongues. The Goddess is the Ruler of Change, of Times and Tides, and as such she is the Mistress of Magic, for that is 'the art of causing, controlling and shaping change, in this world and the inner worlds'. She is the Giver of Oracles, for nearly all the ancient sacred centres had their sybil, or oracular priestess, working under the thrall of the Goddess to offer wisdom to those who came to ask.
She is the Birth-Bringer, the Death-Taker and the Rebirth-Giver also. She is the Initiator of the magician, the Inspirer of poets, who have drunk from her magic cauldron or heard her singing in the light of dawn. She is the Enchantress, the Spell-Weaver, the Charmer and Binder, the Measurer of Life's Thread and She Who Cuts the Thread. She is Our Lady in Darkness, ruler of the Underworld, the Otherworld, Queen of the Dead and the Unborn. She is the Healer and Restorer, and she redeems our forgotten, childlike selves, if we call upon her.
If you look at the names applied to her in the ritual invocation at the head of this chapter (taken from one of Dion Fortune's novels, The Sea Priestess), you will see several names attributed to the Great Goddess. Isis, she who rules the pantheon of gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, as Isis Veiled, the Queen of Nature. The name Isis, Aset in Egyptian, means 'Throne', so she represents the 'seat of power', the base, the structure of that which is worshipped.
Ea is the Mother of Time, Soul of Space, Oldest of the Old. Binah, the dark Mother of All, the great sea, the female principle, yin. Ge is the sphere of the Earth, root of such words as 'geology' - the science of rocks; 'geography' - mapping the Earth; 'geomancy' - a magical form of divination whose symbols are drawn in the earth. None of these sacred titles is a name.
Similarly, if you start to look for images you will find many, in every culture, apart from Islam in which all depictions are forbidden. You will discover paintings, carvings, embroideries, rock pictures, statues, pottery figures, even huge earthworks, like that at Silbury Hill in the South of England, depicting or symbolising the Great Goddess in her many guises, or displaying her various traditional symbols.
From the great image of the moon in the sky, which is also her symbol (for she is not the physical mass of the moon), to the tides which it creates within the mighty oceans and smallest rivers, to the rising waters of springs: the seasons of the Earth, and the substance of the Earth beneath our feet, on which we have our homes and being, all these are parts of her. All are sacred, and held as holy in her name. All have power which we may draw upon, once we gain the key which unlocks her secret wisdom.
The Goddess has to be invoked, that is, called up in the imagination by using poetic description and symbols associated with the aspect which you seek to contact. If you are new to this idea, keep it simple. Use a prayer or description from a classical source, when you are in a quiet place. It is usually best out of doors, and simply standing beside a river, in a garden or any natural setting, where you feel at peace and free. Read the words, or imagine the image, then close your eyes and relax and see what happens. Here is a description taken from Apuleius' story The Golden Ass in which the hero, Lucius, invokes the Goddess and ...
I had scarcely closed my eyes before the apparition of a woman began to rise from the middle of the sea with so lovely a face that the gods themselves would have fallen down in adoration of it. First the head, then the whole shining body gradually emerged and stood before me, (poised on the surface of the waves ... Her long thick hair fell in tapering ringlets on her lovely neck, and was crowned with an intricate chaplet, woven of every kind of flower. Just above her brow shone a round disc, like a mirror, or the bright face of the moon, which told me who she was.
Her many-coloured robe was of finest linen ... and along the hem was a bordure of flowers and fruit ... The deep black lustre of her mantle, slung across her body from the right hip to the left shoulder and caught into a great knot, was embroidered with glittering stars ... and in the middle beamed a full and fiery moon ... All the perfumes of Arabia floated into my nostrils as the Goddess deigned to address me: 'You see me here, Lucius, in answer to your prayer. I am Nature, the Universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are.
My gesture governs the shining heights of Heaven, the wholesome sea breezes, the lamentable silences of the land below. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names, and propitiated with all manner of different rites, yet the whole round Earth venerates me.'
This fragment of a magical book, of adventure, folly, sacrifice and communion with the Goddess, in which Lucius is transformed into a donkey until the Goddess frees him and makes him her priest, contains the very essence of pagan worship and the invocation of Isis very powerfully demonstrates the kind of image words can conjure up. Similar esoteric verses, prayers and invocations will be found in the works of many poets, ancient writers, priests of the old religions which predate Christianity, including the Bible.
The Song of Solomon contains beautiful love poems dedicated to Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom, describing her face in terms of flowers, her breasts as white deer, feeding among lilies. Do not overlook this book because it seems to reject the power of the wise one. In fact both the Old and New Testaments contain much magical and pagan information, if you are willing to search it out.
The God of the Witches is also many-faceted, being symbolised by the sun in the sky, and, because of the changes that the turning seasons bring, he is an evolving deity too. He is also depicted surprising frequently as having horns or, in Britain and France, the antlers of a great stag. Like the Goddess, he has many titles, which often refer to his being a Horned God; Herne, or Cernunnos, or Pan, that archetypal half-man, half-beast, ruler of wild creatures in the ancient forests.
Like the Goddess, he has three aspects. His hairy legs and hoofs link him with the animal kingdom, as their guardian and shepherd; his human body from the waist up, containing his human heart, shows that he can feel for the humankind in his care, and is their Lord of Life. His noble brow, dark, thoughtful eyes sparkling with humour, and above those the lordly antlers, show he is Divine, in his own right.
These antlers are the symbols of the sun's rays, of the power of Light, of co-creation, and like the points on the earthly king's golden crown, they signify royalty. The God of the pagans walks in three worlds: the lowly land of all beasts, wild and tame, with their simplicity; the man-made realms and agricultural/industrial complexes, for he has always been the Magical Smith, the Maker and Designer: and above these he is the Divine Sky Father.
In the story of the Goddess and the God which may form the underlying pattern of the pagan cycles of celebrations, the God is born of the Lady in midwinter and, like all nameless gods, is known as 'Mabon, son of Modron,' literally 'Son, son of the Mother,' in Welsh. It is a familiar idea, found in many faiths world wide, of a magical son born in humble circumstances to a mother who does not appear to have a husband.
How can she? For the God is also his own father, loving his mother, becoming her husband, and yet she outlives him. The God is a cyclic being, closely related to the greenery of the land, being born in winter dark, growing through the days of spring, coming to his full strength, with the sun above, at midsummer, and learning of his impending sacrifice at harvest. Here he is cut down, willing victim to the reaper's blade, offering his seed as grain to sustain the people as autumn chills the land. Dead, he is mourned by the Goddess, his widow, who never dies or deserts her children. In the dark months of winter she renews her youth, casting off the face of the hag, and regains her beauty, ready to encounter the young lord in spring.
It is these Mysteries, that of the dying, sacrificed God and the undying, changing Goddess, which form the foundation of pagan worship. The seasonal festivals act out the life cycles of these First Parents, their magical birth, growth, wooing, loving, fulfilment and departure to the Underworld, beyond our knowledge.
Although each changes, both the God and Goddess of the witches are immanent; they can be approached for prayer or consolation, for guidance or for healing. It is through this very personal interrelationship that true paganism is expressed.
You will come to see whichever aspects of these Old Ones you most need to help you. By regularly seeking them out in the silent places of your heart and in the natural places of the world, you will get to know them as if they were friends, parents, lovers, teachers, healers or wise old guides throughout your life. Because they are above all agents of change, how you see them, in dreams, meditations and rituals, will reflect what you expect to see. Their substance is not of this world, immutable and fixed, but a plastic, astral substance which can appear in many shapes or characteristics.
If you ask to see them as they are, perhaps you will see only light, or feel power, or fire only you can discover that. It is because they have many attributes, evolved through humanity's long childhood, and many faces, names, associations and powers that it is important to consider the concept expressed by Dion Fortune, that 'All Gods are One God, and all Goddesses are One Goddess, and there is One Initiator.' She is only echoing earlier words put into the mouth of Isis by Apuleius, writing 1800 years before.
This multiplicity of deities can seem confusing to some people, unless the foregoing is taken into consideration. You are dealing with a variety of aspects, personified by people as many gods and goddesses, but just as the Roman Catholics have many saints, all being credited with their own life stories, martyrdoms and specialities, so did the earlier pagans see their own deities. Underlying both traditions is the concept of a Creator or, to the magical folk, an Initiator, by whose power those lesser, more tangible and approachable saints, gods or angelic beings come into existence.
Most pagans do not reject the concept of a creative or generative force, shining as light through the beings of the gods and goddesses, but comprehend it as something beyond, something too ephemeral to define. You will find references to 'Illumination' or 'Enlightenment', 'Seeing the Light', and the ecstasy of At-Onement' or 'Unity with All Creation' which occurs during mystical experiences. This is an altogether higher experience than those commonly undergone during rituals, although such work can lead very ordinary people to have some extraordinary visions and inner awakenings, even if such transcendental happenings are not sought or expected.
Here is a fictional character's response to encountering one of the aspects of the Lord of the Wild, taken from what some people might think is a strange source, a children's story book, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Some of the animal characters are looking for the otter's child and are led to an island:
In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage ... till they stood on a little lawn of marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard trees crab apple, wild cherry and sloe. 'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance, 'Here in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him ... it was no panic terror indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy - but it was an awe that smote and held him ... And still there was silence in the populous bird-haunted branches; ... and still the light grew and grew ... The summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked on things ... rightly kept hidden.
Trembling he obeyed ... and then in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, whist Nature flushed with incredible colour ... he looked in the eyes of the Friend and Helper; he saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the still parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, ... the little round form of the baby otter ...
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
Sudden and magnificent, the sun's golden disc showed itself over the horizon, and the first rays, shooting across the level water meadows, dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.
The whole passage, from the chapter 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn', is well worth reading thoroughly and its symbolism and powerful images used for meditation. Similarly beautiful invocations of Pan are to be found in the magical invocations of Aleister Crowley, the pagan poems of Doreen Valiente and in the novels of Dion Fortune, especially The Goatfoot God.
You will need to seek out those depictions, invocations and images which most closely call to your inner vision the form of the Great God of Nature, the Lord of the Wild or the Horned Hunter, antler-crowned, who leads his mysterious pack of hounds across the sky, harbinger of storms or tempests.
These are not tame powers, however; neither God nor Goddess needs to be seen in the same context as gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Doreen Valiente conjures up the experience in the words of part of her poem, Invocation to the Horned God:
Come, O come, to the heartbeat's drum!
Come to us who gather below,
When the broad white moon is climbing slow,
Through the stars to the heaven's height.
We hear thy hooves on the wind of night!
As black tree branches shake and sigh.
By joy and terror we know thee nigh.
We speak the spell thy power unlocks,
At solstice, sabbat and equinox,
Word of virtue,
the veil to rend,
From primal dawn to the wide world's end.
It is the combined feeling of excitement and sacredness which shows to neo-pagans that their God and Goddess are in some way present in rituals or in the celebration of festivals, many of which enact their life story. The ideas which you may explore for their validity for yourself include the most widely accepted concepts about the Mighty Ones.
First, you need to consider the multiplicity of their natures, both Male and Female, Mother and Father, Immanent and yet Holy. You need to be aware that many pagans accept the idea of a Creative Spirit, Initiator, First Emanation from the void. You also need to be aware that the principle of reincarnation is common among pagans and witches, who hold that every living creature has an immortal spirit which, evolving as it goes, lives through many lives.
Some of the themes of meditations and self-explorations may well lead you to recall your previous lives, in other 'selves', and the knowledge you had then, the relationships and long-lasting bonds of love or hate which re-emerge in this life to bring joy or pain. Within this concept of eternal and evolutionary life is the concept of karma, an Eastern term meaning not just 'fate' or 'destiny' but an interlinked chain of action and response in our human affairs.
It is not a simple 'knock for knock' arrangement tying two parties into continuing conflict, but a theory which suggests that good actions will lead to pleasure and those which are harmful, to yourself or others, will hold you back by limiting your freedom. Each action you make in the world affects the entire universe. If your action is basically evolutionary, you will move a fraction forward; if it prevents evolution, then you will suffer the consequences. It is for this reason that the skills of real magic are only bestowed, by the Goddess, on these who can handle the power with care.
Love, honour, respect and personal responsibility are among the watchwords of most successful witches and magicians. You have to learn that even to offer healing, unasked, can be a harmful act, for it interferes with the life pattern of another human being. If someone is 'miraculously healed' without learning from the experience, it will have to be repeated, and if you tried to heal them, then perhaps you will suffer some illness.
Most of the traditional sorts of spells the old witches were asked for were those to make people fall in love with the witch's client, or to break up marriages, or grant power to those who were not ready to handle it. Today most of those sorts of requests would be met with a long counselling session, perhaps using a form of divination to help the client sort out his or her own love life. To win love you have to deserve it by being a lovable person - there is no other way!
Spells and magic will not lead to power or riches or fame unless the one who seeks such rewards is ready and capable of handling these, and all of them have their price. To be powerful, in any field, means that you are also controlled and responsible, sensible and caring.
To have wealth implies that you have earned it, not stolen or conned it out of its rightful owner. There are many things which witches possess which are incredibly valuable, yet have no monetary price, nor can they be bought or stolen. These include peace of mind; harmony and joy in their relationships, both earthly and with the gods; success in their chosen fields of life, perhaps without the added burden of fame; a wisdom and inner knowledge which will answer most of life's problems, and an enduring patience which will see them through the rough patches. Most of the ordinary standards by which success is measured do not apply, but you can see by the light in their eyes rather than the money in the bank how well they are doing in the Game of Life!
Although covens do have High Priestesses and High Priests who may well have progressed through stages and degrees set by their Tradition, the direct communion with the Old Ones will make all sincere seekers into their own priesthood. Having a qualification of some sort has not always been a necessity to this sacred calling. The oracles are chosen by the Goddess, who speaks through them, but without diminishing their awareness or entrancing their minds, a very different concept to that of mediumship, or channelling, as it is sometimes called these days. Those who walk in the Old Ways may well find that in verse and ritual, in song and dance the Great Ones can indicate their will through those who are dedicated to their wisdom.
Another valuable task certainly carried out by witches of old, as they served their communities, was that called, in the Celtic Church, 'Soul Friends'. These people, men and women, were respected for the way they lived their lives and would be freely consulted by anyone in trouble, of heart, mind or spirit. It was possible to discuss spiritual or emotional matters with them, in a lonely grove or quiet garden.
There was no offering of forgiveness by an unsanctified priesthood, but gentle comfort, support or guidance. All these things have been sadly neglected in our hurried world. To be able to turn to a wise friend, whose views would be impartial yet caring could go a long way to easing the spiritual deprivation of our towns and cities. Soul Friends were companions of children, who might tell of rough treatment by their elders; or of single women deserted by their menfolk yet trying to rear children alone. They helped the elderly, slowly walking to the gates of death, yet comforted and guided by those wise in such matters. Perhaps the witches of the New Age will restore such a sacred calling to their repertoire, and be willing to listen and advise both pagans and others who seek such consolation.
You cannot be forced to believe anything, but you can allow your own inner being, your own eternal, reincarnating (if you accept it does) spirit to show you what is truth in the matter of religious action or faith. Seek to understand, rejecting nothing until you have really tried to comprehend. This goes just as much for aspects of the faith you may be trying to exchange for pagan philosophies and practices, for the seeds of much valuable learning may be hidden in holy books, as well as bigotry, nonsense and out-of-date ideas. Read for the poetry, the words in praise of deity, the actions of the satisfied heart and awakened spirit. Examine the words and works of any pagans or witches you come across.
Would you really like to be like them, hold their world views, their attitudes, biases and concepts of deity, without bending your own truly held beliefs? No true religion will suppress debate, honest examination of its sacred texts, or discussion of its tenets by any seeker who is trying to understand. The more rules and restrictions, the more hollow the teaching and empty the lore. The witches hold one sentence as their Law: An it harm none, do what ye will.' 'None' in this case implies everyone and everything! 'An' in old English means 'In order that' and 'will' is your soul's own true will, not the whim of the moment.
Another underlying principle of the paganism of witchcraft is the idea that every individual contains a spark of the Creator, manifested as both God and Goddess inside each of us. Those who take up the duties as a New Age priest or priestess will eventually learn, directly from those deities within, how to handle their powers, speak with their voices, bless with their benediction. It is not something which can be expressed in a book, but has to be learned patiently, by personal dedication and commitment to that path.
It is not an easy option, either, for to serve the Creative Principle is a very hard, heavy and enduring task which, once taken up, cannot be set aside for human reasons. If you work through the exercises, make the effort required to attune yourself with the powers of Nature, interact with the God and Goddess as they may appear to you in dreams and visions then eventually their twin powers within you will awaken.
Some Traditions teach only of either the God or Goddess within, but in reality, because our immortal, reincarnating spirits may be either male or female, there dwells deep within the nature of both sexes. When this is awoken our understanding of relationships, friendships, love and passion is increased immeasurably. It is by working with the God and Goddess within that we may gain much of our magical power, and alongside that the will to control it and the responsibility to use it properly.
If you look at the earlier part of this chapter, you will see which are the main attributes of the God and Goddess as they exist and are available to everyone, and then you may be able to choose those aspects which you most need to invoke in yourself, using your inner God/Goddess force to do this. Gradually you will learn the ancient art of symbolism and magic, wherein a certain sign, number, colour, tree or flower may represent that which you wish to contact, and by its ritual use, or even mental imagination, you will be able to ask clearly for specific help, and receive just that. The rituals and charms, the talismans and spells of the Old Ones were much less sophisticated than the ones some magically-minded witches use today. Both sorts work, but a return to the older, simpler and more natural methods will do no harm.
You may already be encountering difficulties because you are choosing to redirect your life, and walk an uncommon path, but if you are really intent on walking the Old Way you will need to persevere.
Again, the second Moon requires you to carry on research as well as looking at what is going on in the community around you. Look at every tree you see, take every opportunity to witness or join in local well-dressing, bonfire processions or morris dances. They all contain hidden jewels of our forgotten pagan heritage. Also find time to be quiet every day, meditating if you know how, or at least mulling over what you have read, what you have written in your Book of Illumination, and all the ideas flitting like bats through your mind, by day and night.
Here are some more things to do in your second Moon of training. Consider what it means to have a Goddess and a God with many forms. Also read and think hard about religious experience, what it should do or may have done for you in the past. What would you consider a mystical experience to be like?
Divide one page of your Book of Illumination into two columns and write 'The Goddess' at the top of one column, and 'The God' at the top of the other. Begin by writing in each pairs of names, attributes, symbols or titles, matching the Goddess as Moon with the God as Sun, for example. Sometimes you have three Goddess attributes and only one God name, but you will gradually find balances. You should be able to continue this list through several pages, especially if you take some of the classical deities as well as the local ones.
Sit silently with your eyes closed, relax and then ask the Goddess to show herself to you. See what happens after a few minutes, and write it in your Book. On another occasion ask for the God to appear, and again record what you see or experience. Then ask to see them both.
Draw a large circle (round a plate) and enter the Festivals, taking the top to be north. In segments, add symbols, colours, flowers and all the other things you personally associate with each feast. If you don't know very much yet, rather than copying from this book, add more after each festival passes.
Look at poetry, more or less at random, in bookshops or the library. Try to devise your own brief invocations for the elements that surround your circle. Work with the basic powers rather than elaborate god-names which you may not fully understand. Try to open up your emotions rather than treating this as an intellectual exercise.
Walk about out of doors and visit somewhere that you would consider sacred, be it religious site, highest local hilltop, ancient monument, old tree or spring of fresh water. Try to discover how and why it feels different to any similar 'non-sacred' place. Relax with your eyes closed and stretch your senses.
Here are a selection of books to look out for:
Robert Graves, The White Goddess (Faber)
Marian Green, A Harvest of Festivals (Longman, out of print)
Marian Green, Natural Witchcraft (Thorsons)
Miranda Green, The Gods of the Celts (Alan Sutton)
William James, Varieties of Religious Experience (Penguin)
Caitlin Matthews, The Elements of the Goddess (Element Books)
Don't expect any of these books to be a very easy read, nor do any of them explain exactly about the Old Village Witch or Cunning Man because there is very little written about them, except as parts of learned studies by folklorists, but they are a treasure house of useful ideas.