Monday, November 29, 2010


Having last month accepted a very large commission for four portraits, I've had very little time for much else, blogging included, but I did manage to spend a few brief hours with friends over last week's holiday: good friends and some fairly newer acquaintances, one of whom turned out to be a practicing witch and pagan (and here I thought I'd be the only one in the room that evening). For the life of me I cannot remember how the conversation over dessert turned to the subject of hymns, but indeed it did, and from there it was a quick hopscotch to paganism. With her husband an Episcopalian, this lovely lady stated how truly beautiful the hymns are in his church, which prompted me to remark on how horrible they are in the faith in which I was raised: Lutheranism (or as I like to call it "Catholic Lite"). There has never been more plodding, heavy, dire, nor depressing music ever composed. If you're looking for a soundtrack by which to commit suicide, the Lutheran Hymnal is the book you want. My new friend laughed loudly and said, "Try growing up Jewish." And this got me thinking.

Though we come from many faiths and backgrounds, is there a common thread that draws people to a life of paganism? True, some are lucky enough to have been raised by multi-generational pagan families, but in today's world, most of us come from a place far, far removed from witchcraft, wicca or paganism. For myself, having always been drawn to the rituals and spirituality of my Native American ancestors despite my rather conservative upbringing, it wasn't a giant departure from my inner beliefs to openly practicing the earth faith I have embraced for many, many years. Still, there is something to be said for the pagan path vs the more conventional spiritual paths society (and family) has to offer.

Paganism as a general rule comes with little or no guilt and certainly with no all-powerful body of (usually) megalomaniacal, egocentric men telling us what we can and cannot do, what is right, what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is most certainly not. The freedom of paganism is not only a beautiful thing in and of itself, but it also allows the follower of this faith to make their own choices when it comes to good vs evil. And most of the gentle folk who call themselves pagans make these choices wisely, far more so than someone who thinks they can make last minute amends for their wrongdoings on their deathbeds. While not all of us follow the path of wisdom in this faith, I find that the majority of us do.

If you took away from me the endless circles I've cast, the powerful spells I've written, the library of books I've amassed, you won't have hurt me in any way because those are not where my spirituality lies. Those are mere adjuncts to a pagan and witchy life well-lived. If all that were gone today, I'd be left with what really matters to me: the four elements, the sun and the moon (especially the moon), the earth including her rocks, trees and herbs, the magnificent ocean, animals, and the gentle touch of the Divine; the Great Spirit in all I do. These are why I left the mind-numbing drudgery that was the faith of my youth and embraced wholeheartedly my free-spirited and compassionate pagan self.

"Beeches and Bluebells" courtesy of the always-brilliant Giles C. Watson.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer


We return thanks to our mother, the earth,
which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars,
which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to the sun,
that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in Whom is embodied all goodness,
and Who directs all things for the good of Her children.

An Iroquois Prayer of Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holbrook on flickr.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Treat the Earth Well

Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.

An Ancient Native American Proverb

Photo courtesy of Giles C. Watson on flickr.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Moons and Totems 3

Everybody knows their western astrological profile and most people also know their eastern, or Chinese, astrological sign as well, but few know their moon profile from the Native American culture and the totems for each moon. As with the two more mainstream belief systems, the moon totem profiles are not only a very accurate read of an individual's personality, but they also add a rich dimension to who we are and where our weaknesses and powers come from.

Popping Trees Moon
November 11-December 10

Those born under this moon tend to prefer to periodically isolate themselves from the larger group, taking time to withdraw from society while they explore their inner selves, emerging with greater self-knowledge and understanding. The people of the Popping Trees Moon are wise, patient folks who know when to act and when to wait. These are mysterious, deep people who prefer to keep their feelings and ideas to themselves; a very spiritual people.

The element for this moon is earth and the animal totem is the owl, a wise creature who appears to hear and see all. The Popping Trees Moon's plant totem is the dandelion, a tenacious plant not easily disposed of, and its mineral totem is aquamarine. Aquamarine is a feminine, ethereal stone which brings to its user the ability to express themselves clearly. A stone that produces inspiration and inspired thoughts, it also confers upon its bearer a sense of peace and calmness, as well as the ability to know how and when to act in any given situation. Aquamarine brings courage without swagger. Lastly, the color of this moon is indigo, a color that can change appearance before your eyes. Is it blue? purple? black? Indigo is the color of one's third eye, that part of our subconscious that gives birth to intuition and our sixth sense. It is the color of spiritual understanding.

Everyone is most compatible with those people born under the moon opposite to their own and the opposite moon of the Popping Trees Moon is the Flowering Moon (May 11-June 10).

Photo courtesy of Foto Martien on flickr.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A New Moon Goddess Charm

New Moon magick is dedicated to new beginnings and projects, feeling your personal strength, gaining inspiration, and honoring your intuition. It is the moon of the Maiden Goddess. With tonight's new moon, this is the perfect time to perform a brief ritual to harness this moon's powerful magick.

What you'll need:
a sheet of white paper, ink
dried herbs for grinding: verbena, vervain, mugwort, rue, clove, hyacinth, bay leaf
rose essential oil
a white candle
a safe, heat-proof surface to work on
a small square of white cloth, big enough to hold the herbs
a small length of white ribbon

Take the sheet of paper and write down what it is your heart desires to achieve. In a small bowl grind together one teaspoon each of dried verbena, vervain, mugwort, rue, clove, hyacinth and a bay leaf. Add a few drops of essential rose oil and mix well. Place this bowl on your altar along with a white pillar candle.

Invoke the maiden goddess Diana (or any other maiden goddess that you've chosen to work with) and ask that she strengthen you and free you to live the life you want to live, to be the person you wish to be. You want to invite into your circle not only a young goddess, but one with a great deal of personal power, one who isn't at all timid about success. Place the herbs in the middle of the cloth and tie the bundle with the ribbon while chanting:

"Lady of the dark moon,
Strengthen me and free me.
Grant me the courage
To Fear not, to be me."

Hold your newly made amulet to your heart. Burn the paper in the candle. Give thanks to the goddess for aiding you in starting your new project, new life, new behavior, et al.

Photo of Diana courtesy of Bulfinch's Mythology.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day of the Dead

Here are a few photos of this year's Samhain/Day of the Dead altar. I believe that this is my favorite sabbat of the year mostly because of the deep connection I feel with my ancestors and with those loved ones who have recently (or not so recently) passed from my life. To sit before this altar, burning sage, lighting black candles, and meditating on those I wish I had known and those I dearly, dearly miss is very moving. I practice divination in front of it during the days around the sabbat and then I take the cornmeal and tobacco I place on it to honor my Native American ancestors and spread them on the earth beneath the birches at the back of my property. A part of me wishes that this time of year lasted longer than it does, but then, if it was of a longer duration it probably wouldn't be nearly as magickal as it is. So until next year...