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Ba Bird The word 'Ba' is normally translated as 'soul' or 'spirit', but would probably be better if translated as 'spiritual manifestation'.  The Ba was always portrayed as a human-headed bird, usually a falcon, and was often depicted either hovering over the deceased's mummy, or leaving or entering the tomb at will.

The Ba is one of the specific components of the human being as understood in Egyptian thought.  In the New Kingdom, the Ba was a spiritual aspect of the human being which survived, or came into being, at death.  It was endowed with the person's individuality and personality and occasionally revisited the tomb of the deceased as the dead body was its rightful home.

Babalon Babalon (also known as the 'Scarlet Woman', the 'Great Mother' or the 'Mother of Abominations') is a goddess found in the mystical system of Thelema, a religion/philosophy established in 1904 CE by the English author and occultist Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947) after receiving The Book of the Law (Liber Al Vel Legis) while on honeymoon in Cairo with his wife Rose.

In her most abstract form, Babalon represents the female sexual impulse and the liberated woman.  In the creed of the Thelemic Gnostic Mass she is also identified with Mother Earth, in her most fertile sense.  She is often referred to as a sacred whore, and her primary symbol is the Chalice or Graal.  At the same time, Crowley believed that Babalon had an earthly aspect in the form of a spiritual office, which could be filled by actual women -- usually as a counterpart of his own identification as 'To Mega Therion' (The Great Beast) -- whose duty was to help manifest the energies of the current Aeon of Horus.

He believed, during his lifetime, the Lady of Babalon was firstly personified as Leah Hirsig, who, after several portraits, was consecrated, taking the name Alostrael.  Her consort is Chaos, the 'Father of Life' and the male form of the Creative Principle.  Babalon is often described as being 'girt with a Sword and riding the Beast'.  As Crowley wrote in The Book of Thoth, "she rides astride the Beast; in her left hand she holds the reins, representing the passion which unites them.  In her right, she holds aloft the Cup, the Holy Grail aflame with love and death.  In this cup are mingled the elements of the sacrament of the Aeon."

Bábism Bábism is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion which professes that there is but one intangible, unknown, and incomprehensible God who manifests his will in an unending series of Manifestations of God.  It is a small religion -- current estimates say a few thousand adherents most of which are concentrated in Iran (formerly Persia).  It was founded in 1844 CE by Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819 - 1850) who first assumed the title of Báb (gate) from which the religion gets its name, out of the belief that he was the gate to the Twelfth Imam.

Bábism flourished for a few years in Persia until 1852, then hung on in exile in the Ottoman Empire, particularly Cyprus.  Amongst Islamic messianic movements, the Báb movement signalled a break with Islam, beginning a new religious system with its own unique laws, teachings, and practices.  While Bábism was violently opposed by clerical and government establishments, it led to the founding of the Baha’i Faith, whose followers consider the religion founded by the Báb as a predecessor to their own.

Babylonian / Mesopotamian Tree of Life This image represents the early Mesopotamian Tree of Life.  In Babylonian mythology, the Tree of Life was a magical tree that grew in the centre of paradise.  The Apsu, or primordial waters, flowed from its roots.  It is the prototype of the tree described in Genesis: the biblical Tree of Paradise evolved directly from this ancient symbol; it is the symbol from which the Egyptian, Islamic, and Kabbalistic Tree of Life concepts originated.

The stylised images may also represent the spine and branches of the human nervous system.  Its design is similar to that of the Egyptian Djed and the Norse Irminsul.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (a historical king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, and a major hero in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, the protagonist of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem written in Akkadian during the late second millennium BCE) describes a plant with powers of rejuvenation; the hero acquires the plant only to lose it to a passing snake, which obtains the ability to shed its skin and renew itself.

Bacchus Bacchus was the Roman god of wine, fertility and agriculture; Dionysus was his Greek counterpart, although he was also known as Bacchus.  He was the last god to join the twelve Olympians -- Hestia is reputed to have given up her seat for him.  His plants were vines and twirling ivy.  He often carried a thyrsus, a pinecone-topped staff, along with a Cup.  His followers were goat-footed Satyrs and Maenads, wild women who danced energetically during his festivals.  You can find a brilliant description of a 'Bacchanalia', or feast in honour of Bacchus, in Prince Caspian, one of the Narnia books, by C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963).

Bacchus was also the god of the theatre, since the first plays in Greece were performed in his honour.  There were tragedies, serious stories about heroes and gods, and comedies which made fun of politicians.  See also Crucified Bacchus.

Bagua The Bagua or Pa Kua comprises eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology, which represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts.  Each consists of three lines, each line either 'broken' or 'unbroken', respectively representing Yin or yang.  Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as 'trigrams' in English.

These trigrams are related to Taiji philosophy, Taijiquan and the Wu Xing, or 'five elements'.  The relationships between the trigrams are represented in two arrangements, the Primordial 'Earlier Heaven' or 'Fu Xi' Bagua, and the Manifested 'Later Heaven', or 'King Wen' Bagua.  The trigrams have correspondences in astronomy, astrology, geography, geomancy, anatomy, the family, and elsewhere.

The ancient Chinese classic, I Ching/Y King, consists of the 64 pairwise1 permutations of trigrams, referred to as 'hexagrams', along with a commentary on each one.  The renowned magician, Aleister Crowley, was a well-known exponent of the I Ching.

1 Pairwise comparison generally is any process of comparing entities in pairs to judge which of each entity is preferred, or has a greater amount of some quantitative property, or whether or not the two entities are identical.

Baha'i Faith The Baha'i Faith is a religion which teaches the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people.  Established by Baha'u'llah in 1863 CE, it initially grew in the Middle East and boasts between 5 and 7 million adherents, known as Baha'is.  It has now spread out into most of the world's countries and territories, with the highest concentration in Iran (formerly known as Persia until 1935).

The religion was born in Persia, where it has faced ongoing persecutions since its inception.  It grew from the mid-19th century CE Báb2 religion (Bábism), whose founder taught that god would soon send a prophet in the manner of Jesus or Mohammed.  After being banished from his native Persia, Baha'u'llah announced that he was this prophet.  He was further exiled, spending more than a decade in the prison city of Akkad in the Ottoman province of Syria, in what is now Israel.

Following Baha'u'llah's death in 1892, leadership of the religion fell to his son Abdu'l-Bahá (1844 - 1921), and later his great-grandson Shoghi Effendi (1897 - 1957).  Baha'is around the world elect local, regional, and national Spiritual Assemblies annually that govern the affairs of the religion, and every five years the members of all national Spiritual Assemblies elect the Universal House of Justice, the nine-member supreme governing institution of the worldwide Baha'i community, which sits in Haifa, Israel near the shrine of Báb.

2The Bahá'í Faith was formed from the Persian religion of the Báb, a merchant who began preaching a new interpretation of Shia Islam in 1844.

Bamboo One of the most ubiquitous symbols of eastern Asia, bamboo is a plant with many meanings and, in modern-day industry and manufacturing, a plant with many practical uses.  The evergreen nature of bamboo, combined with the fact that it can endure great physical stress without snapping or breaking, has led to it being a symbol of longevity, strength and resilience in much of eastern Asia.

In Japan, bamboo is one of three plants, along with the pine tree and the plum blossom, that make up a group known as the “Three Friends of Winter”.  Since bamboo and pine are evergreen plants, and since plum blossoms can appear on branches that look completely dead, all are symbolic of life enduring through trying and difficult circumstances, i.e., winter.

The Chinese also place bamboo in a group of signature symbolic plants.  Known in Confucian terms as the “Four Gentlemen”, they are the plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum.  In this instance, the bamboo is representative of summer.  Bamboo plants and bamboo groves were also a popular theme for traditional Chinese brush paintings, and the act of painting bamboo was sometimes undertaken as a meditative exercise.

In modern times, small cuttings of bamboo have become very popular as ornamental plants, and the plant itself is fulfilling a significant role as a renewable resource.  If treated correctly, bamboo can grow to a very significant size in a short span of time, which explains why it is used as a natural and inexpensive raw material for manufacturing paper, fabric and other items.

Banyan Tree A banyan, also spelled 'banian', is a fig tree that begins its life as an epiphyte, i.e. a plant that grows on another plant, when its seed germinates in a crack or crevice of a host tree or edifice.  ‘Banyan’ often specifically denominates the Indian banyan (Ficus benghalensis), which is the national tree of the Republic of India, though the name has also been generalised to denominate all figs that share a common life cycle.  Temples were sometimes built into the trunks of banyan trees.

The banyan tree is considered to be a probable model for the symbolism of the cosmic tree, or Tree of Life.

Baphomet The Baphomet is in the form of a man with horns and goat's legs.  Eliphas Lévi (born Alphonse Louis Constant (1810 - 1875 CE), a French occult author and ceremonial magician) is reputed to be the first person to have drawn the Baphomet, which he claimed was a depiction of the 'Absolute' in symbolic form.  According to the author Michael Howard (born 1922), Lévi based this image on a gargoyle he noticed on a building supposedly owned by the Knights Templar, the Commandry of Saint Bris le Vineux.  During my own research, I have found no reference to this building having been owned by the Knights Templar.

Lévi used the gargoyle as a frontispiece to his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.  In Howard's The Occult Conspiracy, we read: "The Gargoyle is in the form of a bearded horned figure with pendulous female breasts, wings and cloven feet.  It sits in a crossed-legged position which resembles statues of the Celtic stag god, Cernunnos or the Horned One, found in Gaul (France) before the Roman occupation."

There is another lesser known symbol relating to Baphomet (pictured left) used by the renowned occultist Aleister Crowley, and of which we see very little except when he signed his name as 'Baphomet' (pictured right).  Interestingly, this same symbol was worn by the (in)famous Freemason Albert Pike (1809 - 1891), founder of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry.  Do not confuse it with the similar looking Cross of Lorraine (pictured below), which is a heraldic cross consisting of a vertical line, crossed by two smaller horizontal bars.  The lower bar is equidistant from the bottom of the vertical as the upper bar is to the top.

In the ancient version of this cross, both bars were of the same length, but since the middle of the 20th century the lower bar has been longer than the upper, thus resembling a patriarchal cross, the crossbars of which, however, are both near the top.  The Cross of Lorraine is part of the heraldic arms of Lorraine, a region of Eastern France, and originally the symbol of Joan of Arc, known as the Maid of Orleans (1412 - 1431), renowned for her doggedness against foreign invaders of France, in particular, the British.  The flag of Free France featured a red Cross of Lorraine on a standard flag of France.  During WWII, the cross was adopted as the official symbol of the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970).

The citizens of the United States of America were shocked when the first sculpted statue of George Washington (1732 - 1799) was unveiled, particularly as he had adopted the pose of the Baphomet.  It would seem their first president was to set the trend for a deep interest in the occult, an interest which all future presidents and their governments would pursue.

The symbol pictured to the left, often referred to (incorrectly) as the Baphomet, is used by the Church of Satan.  Featuring a demonic deity with the head of a goat (originally a ram) enclosed within an inverted pentagram, it is supposed to be symbolic of Satan himself.  It is rightly known as 'The Mendes Pentacle', and often called The Goat of Mendes, 'The Goat Head', 'The Great God Pan', 'Thanateros'3, Abraxas, and the Horned God.  It is sometimes referred to as the 'Judas Goat' by modern Satanists, and can often be seen worn as a fashion item, particularly as a piece of jewellery normally in the form of a pendant, or even as a tattoo.

3 The name 'Thanateros' is a combination of the names 'Thanatos' and 'Eros' -- the Greek Gods of death and sex, respectively.

Baptists Baptists are Christians but distinguished from such by their baptising only professing believers (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), by complete immersion as opposed to affusion or sprinkling.  Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the tenets of salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation.  Baptists generally recognise two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's supper, and two ministerial offices, pastor and deacon.  Baptist churches are widely considered to be Protestant, although some Baptists reject this identity.

For many years after Henry VIII’s reformation of the Church of England, those with political power had strong control over religious worship.  There were some, however, who wanted to do what they believed God was telling them in the Bible rather than what the king’s officials told them.  One such man was John Smyth (1570 - 1612).  Historians trace the earliest ‘Baptist’ church back to 1609 in Amsterdam, with the English Separatist John Smyth as its pastor -- he and his friend Thomas Helwys (c. 1575 - c. 1616) baptised each other by pouring water over one another.  In accordance with his interpretation of the New Testament, he rejected baptism of infants and established baptism only of believing adults.

Baptist practice quickly spread to England, where the ‘General Baptists’ considered Christ's atonement to extend to all people, while the ‘Particular Baptists’ believed that it extended only to the elect.  The first Baptist Church in England was established in Spitalfields, London in 1612.  General Baptists hold the general atonement view, i.e. the belief that Jesus Christ died for the entire world and not just for the chosen elect, whereas the Particular Baptists adhere to the doctrine of a particular atonement, that Christ died only for the elect.

Baron Samedi See Veves.

Basque Cross See Lauburu.

Bast / Bastet Bast/Bastet was a goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who was worshipped as early as the 2nd Dynasty (2890 BCE).  As Bast, she was the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt, the Nile River delta region, before the unification of the cultures of ancient Egypt.  Images of Bastet were often created from alabaster.  The goddess was sometimes depicted holding a ceremonial Sistrum in one hand and an Aegis in the other, the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget (an article of clothing that covered the throat) embellished with a lioness head.

Bastet was originally a lioness warrior goddess of the Sun throughout most of ancient Egyptian history, but later she became the cat goddess which is how we know her today.  Greeks occupying ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilisation changed her into a goddess of the Moon.

As the protector of Lower Egypt, Bastet was seen as a defender of the pharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity, Ra.  Along with the other lioness goddesses, she would occasionally be depicted as the embodiment of the Eye of Ra, and has been identified as fighting the evil snake named Apep, an enemy of Ra.

Her name was associated with the lavish jars in which Egyptians stored their ointment used as perfume, so gradually became regarded as the goddess of perfumes, earning the title of perfume protector.  In connection with this, when Anubis became the god of embalming Bastet was considered to be his wife for a short period of time.  She was also depicted as the goddess of protection against contagious diseases and evil spirits.

Baton See Wand.

Bees / Beehives Humanity has always had a close relationship with bees, whose honey has been a food staple since before the dawn of civilisation.  As a symbol, the bees' lifestyle mimics that of the human social order -- a cooperative, productive social hierarchy.

In fact, beekeeping is one of the earliest markers of civilised society -- bees provided many of the necessities of advancement, providing not only food, but wax for metalworking, cosmetics, and medicines, as well as the ever-important pollinising of fruit trees and other food crops.

Belenus Belenus (also known as Belenos, Belinus, Bel, Beli Mawr) is a Sun god from Celtic Mythology who, in the 3rd century CE, became the patron deity of the Italian city of Aquileia.  Called the 'Fair Shining One', or 'The Shining God', he was one of the most ancient and widely worshiped Celtic deities and is associated with the ancient Fire festival and modern Sabbat Beltane.

He was associated with the horse (as shown by the clay horse figurine offerings at Belenus' Sainte-Sabine shrine in Burgundy) as well as the wheel.  Perhaps, like Apollo -- with whom he became identified in the Augustan History -- Belenus, was thought to drive the Sun across the sky in a horse-drawn chariot.

Note the resemblance to The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Veritŕ) which stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, at the Piazza della Bocca della Veritŕ, the site of the ancient Forum Boarium (the ancient cattle market).

Bell In many religions the bell is the divine voice that proclaims the truth.  This is particularly true in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.  Bells are a call to worship in Tibet, to hear and obey the laws of Buddha.

In magic, a magical weapon is any instrument used to bring about intentional change.  In practice, magical weapons are usually specific, consecrated items used within ceremonial ritual, but there is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes or does not constitute a magical weapon -- if a magician considers it to be a weapon, then a weapon it is.

However, there does exist a set of magical weapons with particular uses and symbolic meanings.  Some such common weapons/tools include the Dagger/Sword, Wand/Baton, Cup/Chalice, Paten/Pentacle/Disc, Holy Oil, Lamp and Bell.

The phrase 'Bell, Book and Candle' referred to a Latin Christian method of excommunication by anathema, imposed on a person who had committed an exceptionally grievous sin.  Evidently introduced by Pope Zachary (679 - 752 CE) around the middle of the 8th century, the rite was used by the Roman Catholic Church.  In current practice, a simple pronouncement is made to anathematise formally.

The ceremony was described in the Pontificale Romanum (The Roman Pontifical is the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing the rites performed by Bishops) up until the time of the Second Vatican Council.  Subsequent post-conciliar editions of the Pontificale omitted mention of any particular solemnities associated with excommunication, the ceremony for which involved a bishop and 12 priests with candles, with the formula being pronounced in some suitably conspicuous place.

Ben ben See Primordial Hill / Mound.

Bennu See Phoenix.

Besom A traditional Wiccan Besom is a hawthorn stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs which are tied on using thin pieces of willow.  The Besom, or broom, now fills a largely symbolic role in Wiccan practice.  Derived from European witchcraft folklore of broom dancing and flying, the broom is used today for symbolic cleansing or purification of a space which is to be used for a ritual.  While it does not usually touch the ground -- it is normally held a few inches above it -- the Besom is used to 'sweep out' any negative energy.

As a tool, the Besom is usually thought of as masculine in nature due to its phallic shape and symbolism.  However, the Besom's components are of both masculine and feminine orientation.  The handle, an ash stave, is masculine in nature while the birch used for the bristles is thought of as feminine.  The Besom is an important part of Wiccan hand-fasting ceremonies in some traditions, with the couple jumping over it during the ceremony.  Alternatively, they may jump over a small bonfire.

Bindi See Tilaka.

Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing, Aaronic Blessing) This gesture accompanies the Birkat Kohanim, or Priestly Blessing, an ancient Jewish custom.  The Blessing is administered by members of the Kohanim, or priestly class, usually on holidays.  The hands are spread into two “V” shapes, in the form of the Hebrew letter Shin and symbolises the light of the Shekhinah, or Presence of God.

The blessing itself is taken directly from that given in the Book of Numbers:

“The Lord bless and keep you.
The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.”

The resemblance of the gesture to the “Live long and prosper” salute of the Star Trek character Spock is not coincidental.  Actor Leonard Nimoy has remarked on several occasions that the gesture was a nod to his Jewish heritage.

Bishop Fish A Symbol of divinity, doom, destruction, the Bishop Fish is a sea creature that looks like a monk with a shaved head.  It has a fish-shaped body with scales, a large fin, and its fins resemble claws.  It also has a large skull-like head that resembles the mitre of a bishop.  The legend says that a Bishop Fish was captured in the 1400s CE by some fisherman and was given to the Polish king who kept the fish in captivity.  A group of Catholic Bishops requested an audience with the fish which communicated to the bishops with gestures that it wanted to be released back into the ocean.  The bishops talked to the king and convinced him to release the fish.  Upon its release, the Bishop Fish gave the bishops the sign of the cross before swimming out to sea.  Other Bishop Fish have purportedly been captured but unfortunately, they perished.

According to legend Bishop Fish have the ability to trap a fisherman’s boat in a storm.  They enclose the boat in their large fins and hold it captive.   The Bishop Fish then finds out where the daughter of the fisherman lives then takes the daughter and feasts upon her and absorbs her energy.  When it is done eating it releases the ship and the weather clears up.

Bismuth Although mentioned in Alchemical texts it is uncertain what role Bismuth played in alchemical processes.  Bismuth metal has been known since ancient times, although it was often confused with lead and tin, which share certain physical properties.

The word possibly derives from the Arabic 'bi ismid', meaning having the properties of antimony or the German words 'weiße Masse' or 'Wissmuth' ('white mass').  Miners during the age of alchemy gave Bismuth the name 'tectum argenti', or 'silver being made', in the sense of silver still in the process of being formed within the Earth.

Chemically, Bismuth resembles Arsenic and Antimony.  Elemental Bismuth may occur naturally, although its sulphide and oxide form important commercial ores.  The free element is 86% as dense as lead.  It is a brittle metal with a silvery white colour when freshly produced, but surface oxidation can give it a pink tinge.  Bismuth is the most naturally diamagnetic element (diamagnetic materials are repelled by a magnetic field), and has one of the lowest values of thermal conductivity among metals.  See also Other Symbols.

Black Tortoise / Turtle One of the Four Symbols representing four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations -- the Azure Dragon of the East; the Vermilion Bird of the South; the White Tiger of the West; and the Black Tortoise of the North.  Each one of them represents a direction and a season, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins.  Symbolically and as part of spiritual and religious belief, they have been culturally important in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

The Black Tortoise, despite its English name, is usually depicted as a turtle entwined with a snake.  In Eastern Asia, it is not called after either animal but is known instead as the 'Black Warrior' under various local pronunciations.  It is associated with the north and the winter season, and is representative of longevity and wisdom.

In Japan, it is one of the four guardian spirits protecting Kyoto -- it protects the city in the north, where it is represented by the Genbu Shrine, located to the north of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

The creature's name is identical to that of the important Taoist god Xuanwu, who is sometimes portrayed in the company of a turtle and a snake as in Journey to the West4.

4 Journey to the West is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century CE during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en.  It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Blessing A Blessing (also used to refer to bestowing of such) is the infusion of something with holiness, spiritual redemption, or divine will.  The phrase, "Blessed be", is found in many modern magical traditions.  Although it appears in some Pagan paths, it is typically more likely to be used in a Neo-wiccan context.  It is often used as a greeting, and to say, "Blessed be," to someone indicates that you wish good and positive things upon them.

However, the phrase's origins are a bit murkier -- it is part of a longer ritual which is included in some Gardnerian Wiccan initiation ceremonies.

It is important to bear in mind that Wicca is a newer religion, and many of its terms and rituals are rooted in Thelema, Ceremonial Magic, and Hermetic Mysticism.  As such, it isn't surprising that many phrases -- including "Blessed be" -- appeared in other places long before Gerald Gardner (1884 - 1964) incorporated them into his 'original' Book of Shadows.

Blood Ritual A blood ritual is any ritual that involves the intentional release of blood.  A common blood ritual is the blood brother ritual which started in ancient Europe and Asia where two or more people, typically male, intermingle their blood in some way.  This symbolically brings the participants together into one family.  This can be an unsafe practice where blood-borne pathogens are concerned; the use of safe, sterilised equipment such as a lancet can mitigate this problem.

Body piercing can also be part of a blood ritual.  Though piercing does not always cause bleeding, it certainly can.  Piercing has been practiced in a number of indigenous cultures throughout the world, usually as a symbolic rite of passage, a symbolic death and rebirth, an initiation, or for reasons of magical protection.

Blood rituals often involve a symbolic death and rebirth, as literal bodily birth involves bleeding.  Blood is typically seen as very powerful, and sometimes as unclean.  Blood sacrifice is sometimes considered by the practitioners of prayer, ritual magic, and spell casting to intensify the power of such activities.  The Native American Sun Dance is usually accompanied by blood sacrifice.

Some blood rituals involve two or more parties cutting themselves or each other followed by consumption of blood.  The participants may regard the release or consumption of blood as producing energy useful as a sexual, healing, or mental stimulus.  In other cases, blood is a primary component as the sacrifice, or material component for a spell.  Blood rituals are practiced by various groups of people, including those with religious or political affiliations.  Some of the rituals involving blood have been practiced for many centuries, and are still being practiced in the 21st century CE.  The Shi'ite Muslims practiced a ritual called Matam (the Mourning of Muharram -- also known as the Remembrance of Muharram) in 2002 in Britain.

Bodhi Tree The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree located in Bodh Gaya, under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who later became known as the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment.

In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognisable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.  It is a Buddhist symbol for contemplation and spiritual perfection.  See also Banyan Tree.

Bohemian Club Bohemian Grove occupies a 2700 acre camp/ground located at 2060 Bohemian Avenue, in Monte Rio, California, belonging to a private San Francisco-based men's art club known as the Bohemian Club.  This club was founded by Henry Edwards (an English stage actor known as 'Harry') in 1878 CE, its aim being to provide a meeting place for the rich and powerful to escape the 'uncivilised interests of common men'.

The club motto is 'Weaving Spiders Come Not Here', a line taken from Act 2, Scene 2, of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The club motto implies that outside concerns and business deals are to be left outside.  When gathered in groups, Bohemians usually adhere to the injunction, although discussion of business often occurs between pairs of members.

Two future US presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, were pictured with Harvey Hancock and others at Bohemian Grove in the summer of 1967.  The club is feared because despite the attendees claiming they are there for social reasons, many believe they use the meetings for more sinister motives.

Boline The Boline (sometimes Bolline) is a white-handled ritual knife, one of several magical tools, used in Wicca.  Unlike the Athame, which in most traditions is never used for actual physical cutting, the Boline is used for cutting cords and herbs, carving candles, etc.  It has a small, straight or crescent-shaped blade with traditionally, a white handle.

The Boline has been adopted by several other modern forms of witchcraft, but among these later traditions, opinions vary as to whether the Boline is truly a magical tool or is merely of a utilitarian purpose.  Similarly, a white-hilted knife called a 'kirfane' is used, for roughly the same purposes as the Boline.

According to the 'Kitchen Witchcraft' philosophy, the use of magical tools for mundane purposes such as cooking is actively encouraged, and as such there is little or no need for a boline as a separate tool from the athame.  Some traditions, such as that of Robert Cochrane (1931 - 1966), founder of 'Cochrane's Craft', also prescribe the use of a single knife for both ritual and practical purposes.

Book The phrase 'Bell, Book and Candle' referred to a Latin Christian method of excommunication by anathema, imposed on a person who had committed an exceptionally grievous sin.  Evidently introduced by Pope Zachary (679 - 752 CE) around the middle of the 8th century, the rite was used by the Roman Catholic Church.  In current practice, a simple pronouncement is made to anathematise formally.

The ceremony was described in the Pontificale Romanum (The Roman Pontifical is the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing the rites performed by Bishops) up until the time of the Second Vatican Council.  Subsequent post-conciliar editions of the Pontificale omitted mention of any particular solemnities associated with excommunication, the ceremony for which involved a bishop and 12 priests with candles, with the formula being pronounced in some suitably conspicuous place.

Borjgali Borjgali is a Georgian (Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia) symbol of the Sun with seven rotating wings over the Christian Tree of Life which relates to the Mesopotamian symbols of eternity.  It is also related to the Triskelion, another rotational symbol of eternity.  It can often be seen within a Circle symbolising the Universe.

The roots of the Tree go into the 'past' while its palm-like branches are for the 'future'.  The Tree itself symbolises the continuity between the past, present and future.  The Borjgali is usually placed above the tree and symbolises the sun, eternal movement and life.

Nowadays, the symbol is used on Georgian Identity Cards, passports and the national currency (the Lari), and is also worn as a motif on the shirts of the Georgian Rugby Union team -- Georgian rugby players are known as 'Men bearing Borjgali'.

Borrowmean Rings The name "Borromean rings" comes from their use in the coat of arms of the aristocratic Borromeo family in Northern Italy.  The link itself is much older and has appeared in the form of the Valknut, three linked equilateral triangles with parallel sides, on Norse image stones dating back to the 7th century CE.  A stone pillar in the 6th century CE Marundeeswarar Temple in India shows the Borromean rings in another form, three linked equilateral triangles rotated from each other to form a regular Enneagram.  The Omiwa Shrine in Japan is also decorated with a motif of the Borromean rings in their conventional circular form.

The Borromean rings have been used in different contexts to indicate strength in unity.  In particular, some have used the design to symbolise the Trinity as in the image depicted.  The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901 - 1981) found inspiration in the Borromean rings as a model for his topology of human subjectivity, with each ring representing a fundamental Lacanian component of reality (the "real", the "imaginary", and the "symbolic").

The rings were used as the logo of Ballantine beer, and are still used by the Ballantine brand beer, now distributed by the current brand owner, the Pabst Brewing Company.  For this reason they have sometimes been called the "Ballantine rings".

Bossou See Veves.

Bowl of Hygeia The Bowl of Hygeia is one of the symbols of current day pharmacy.  Hygeia was the Greek goddess of health and hygiene, and the associate, wife, or daughter of Asclepius, whose symbol is his rod, with a snake entwined around it; correspondingly, Hygeia's symbol is a cup or Chalice with a snake entwined around its stem and poised above it.

The Bowl of Hygeia has been used as a symbol of the pharmacy profession since as far back as at least 1796 CE, when it was used on a coin minted for the Parisian Society of Pharmacy.  It has since been adopted by many more pharmaceutical associations worldwide, such as the American Pharmacists Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Doctor of Pharmacy Association, the Conseil de l'Ordre des Pharmaciens in France (where it is written in law with another symbol, a green Greek Cross).

Although the Bowl of Hygeia is a common symbol on signs outside of pharmacies in Europe, a symbol showing a mortar and pestle is more commonly seen in the United States.

Brigid's / Brigit’s Cross Brigid's Cross or Brigit's Cross is a small cross usually woven from rushes.  Typically, it has four arms tied at the ends and a woven square at its centre.  Historically, there were also 'three-armed' versions of the cross.  It is suggested that the cross has pre-Christian origins and is related to the Solar Cross.

Brigid's crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland.  They are traditionally made in Ireland on St Brigid's feast day (normally 1st February), which was formerly celebrated as a Pagan festival (Imbolc) marking the beginning of spring.  Many rituals are associated with the making of the crosses, which were set over doorways and windows to protect the home from any kind of harm.

British Legion See Royal British Legion (RBL).

Broken Cross See Cross of Nero.

Brotherhood of Light See Hermetic Brotherhood of Light.

Brotherhood of Luxor See Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.

Brotherhood of Saturn See Fraternitas Saturni.

Buddhism Buddhism is a spiritual tradition focussing on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life.  It has 376 million followers worldwide seeking to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for enlightenment in the 1st century BCE.

The history of Buddhism is the story of one man's spiritual journey to enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it.  Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family in present day Nepal more than 2500 years ago.  He lived a life of privilege and luxury until the day he left the royal enclosure and encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse.  Disturbed by this, he became a monk before adopting the harsh poverty of Indian asceticism.  Neither path satisfied him so he decided to pursue the 'Middle Way' -- a life without luxury but also without poverty.

Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.  By finding the path to enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth and became known as the Buddha or 'awakened one'.

In Buddhism, there is no belief in a personal god.  Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible.  The Path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.  Buddhists also believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty.  These states are called the tilakhana, or the three signs of existence.  Existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again, experiencing suffering throughout many lives.  It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever -- our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of our suffering.

Buddhist Swastika See Manji.

Builders of the Adytum (BOTA) After being expelled from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1921 CE, Paul Foster Case (1884 - 1954) created the 'School of Ageless Wisdom', a venture which failed within a few years.  He then moved to Los Angeles, giving up a successful career as a musician, where he established the Builders of the Adytum (BOTA).  The headquarters of BOTA has been in Los Angeles since it was founded it in the 1930s.  Although it accepts Kabbalah as the mystical root of both ancient Judaism and original Christianity, people of all faiths should have no difficulty accepting their teachings if they are mystically inclined.

BOTA is a non-profit, religious organisation dedicated to spiritual attunement through worship in the 'Tradition of the Western Mysteries'.  Its congregation comprises spiritual aspirants who participate through lesson instructions -- "Irrespective of where they may be geographically, they are participating in mystical-esoteric meditational practices which unify them into a powerful metaphysical body of enlightened worship."

There is no charge for any instructions or other benefits BOTA offers its fee-paying members.  The Order's overheads are supported solely by membership fees, contributions and other donations.

BOTA claims to be an authentic Mystery School, its system being that of the Western Tradition.  Its teachings, which are based on the Holy Kabbalah and the Sacred Tarot, have been handed down from one group of initiates to another since ancient times, and have met the tests of centuries of practical application.  As such, its Inner Order has had all reference to Enochian Magic removed due to the fact that Case did not fully understand it, and considered it to be demonic rather than angelic.

BOTA has Study Groups in several cities throughout the world, these groups providing an opportunity to interact with others who share the same spiritual teachings and practices.  In this way, they gain mutual benefit from the group work, much of which is on the 'Path of Return', aimed at extending intellectual awareness and understanding into an emotional awareness that can affect all levels of our being.  Group Ritual Work has long been known in the Mystery Schools as a dynamic means of invoking such responses.  Ritualistic work uses this dramatic image-in-motion method to aid aspirants to create the most effective type of symbology.

Butterfly Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life.  Many cultures associate the butterfly with our souls  The Christian religion sees the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection, while around the world people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope, and life.  There is no doubt the butterfly has significant meanings for us.

Through heartfelt stories, we have heard of butterflies symbolising the passing of a loved one, or life struggles that people have endured to emerge as a better person.  We have heard stories from cancer fighters and survivors, people who have dealt with mental breakdowns, heartache, and drug addictions.  Butterflies have also been a symbol for celebrations, weddings, life, and our journeys.  In tarot, butterflies often mean transformation, transformation being the main meaning of this symbol in this system.

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