What Does the Wiccan Phrase Blessed Be Mean?

The term
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The phrase "Blessed Be," which is pronounced with an emphasis on the final syllable of "blessed" (bless-ed), is nearly ubiquitous among Wiccans and many other neo-pagans. It is typically used as either a greeting or a farewell, much like the Christian "God bless you," Islam's "salaam" or the Jewish "shalom." In context, it is often understood as shorthand for "may you be blessed by the Goddess," as it appears in the long version of the Wiccan Rede, but its origins lie in the Gardnerian tradition's Five Fold Kiss ritual.

1 Gardnerian Wicca

Gardnerian Wicca is named for its founder, Gerald Gardner. Made public in 1954 with the publication of Gardner's "Witchcraft Today," it is considered to be the first modern Wiccan tradition and, while the veracity of Gardner's claims as to the antiquity of the belief system he promulgated has since been questioned, most Wiccans agree that it is from Gardnerian Wicca that all other traditions are ultimately derived. Gardnerian Wicca and its contemporaneous variation, Alexandrian Wicca, are often referred to as "British Traditional Wicca" and Gardner, himself, as the "Father of Modern Wicca."

2 The Five Fold Kiss

While the phrase "blessed be" appears in many different religious traditions, it made its first appearance in Wicca as part of the Gardnerian rite of the Five Fold Kiss, part of their "Drawing Down the Moon" ritual. As a ritual blessing, it is also often used in initiation ceremonies. It involves, as you would expect, five sets of kisses placed on the feet, knees, womb or phallus, breasts and lips with the accompanying words: "Blessed be thy feet, that have brought the in thy ways; Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar; Blessed be thy womb/phallus, without which we would not be; Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty/strength; Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names."

3 Its Usage Today

Clearly, given its prevalence among Wiccans of virtually every tradition, "blessed be" has become much more than a simple reference to a decades old ritual that is itself far from universally observed. It has become an idiom and, as such, is linguistic shorthand not just for the blessing from which it came but for the act of blessing, itself. Its use as a greeting and farewell communicates two things. First of all, it confers a blessing upon the hearer but it also implies that the person who utters it is blessed as well. They're more than simply glad you're here. They're actually better for it -- blessed, in fact.

4 Deeper Cultural Significance

The significance of the phrase goes deeper than its literal or even underlying meanings of welcome and blessing. Its usage, like all idioms specific to a particular culture or subculture, implies a level of familiarity and belonging. In offering and -- perhaps more importantly -- returning the greeting, both people involved acknowledge their connection as members of the same larger whole. In this way, the phrase "blessed be" is truly performative. It not only offers blessing but also helps create and reinforce a sense of community and connection that might often be otherwise lacking in such a diverse and often solitary religion as Wicca.

Aaron Thorpe has been writing on social and cultural issues for more than 20 years. He studied history and English at Portland State University. In addition to his work here, Thorpe also writes short fiction and essays which he publishes on his own blog, The Bitter Optimist.