Articles

Welcome

November, 2017

 

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Cover art: Wild Harvest By: Michelle Maiden of ElementalOtherworld 

Michelle Maiden is an English illustrator inspired by myth, folklore, ancient cultures, archaeology, shamanic and mystical traditions, the forms and forces of nature, and her own imagination. Her painting ‘Wild Harvest’ shows a wild woman decorated with the harvest from native northern European trees and hedgerows; blackthorn sloes, hawthorn and elder berries, crab apples and hazelnuts. The image was created in vivid Autumn colours using artists watercolour and pencil crayon. You can find the Wild Harvest Print, as well as the Colouring Page, to purchase at ElementalOtherworld on Etsy.

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First I would like to mention that our site has won an award.  We are #15!! 

 

This award goes to all of the Writers who make PaganPagesOrg possible.  I would like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the tireless work, the late nights, the tender moments & all you do.  We are truly a labor of love.  Okay, wipe the tears…

 

Welcome to the November Issue of PaganPagesOrg!  We hope everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday!  Once again we are back & with a fresh, interesting, NEW Issue of PaganPagesOrg!!   Just a few note worthy features:

 

 

Nikki Sleath’s Book Explains Witchcraft to the Unfamiliar, for PaganPagesOrg She Talks About Her Magick to the Familiar.  Lynn Woike brings us a wonderful Interview with Nikki Sleath.  

 

 

“In this book the author Thomas Hatsis embarks on a quest to research and tell the (until now largely) untold story of a magical substance called “witches’ ointment.”…Imelda Almqvist Reviews The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic.

 

 

In SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals we are introduced to Becky Coates, a fire performer that uses her talent with fire to do Fire Clearings.  

 

 

Worth the Witch, this month, explores a recurring, monthly Pagan box subscription, Box of ShadowsWe break it down to let you know what we really think!   

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November Correspondences

November, 2017

 

(Free Graphic from https://www.vecteezy.com)

 

The name is derived from Novem, the Latin word for nine, as November was the ninth month in Rome’s oldest calendar.

 

THE SNOW MOON

 

The ninth month in the old roman calandar.

 

In Celtic traditions it is the beginning of the new year, considered a month of beginnings and endings.

 

Astrological Signs: Scorpio, Sagittarius.

 

Nature Spirits: Banshees and other beings who carry messages between worlds.

 

Herbs: Ginger, hops, wormwood, hussop, patchouli, mugwort, nutmeg, star anise.

 

Colors: Black, white, purple.

 

Flowers: White lily, dahlia, chrysanthemum.

 

Scents: Rosemary, dragons blood, lilac, pine, wisteria.

 

Stones: Topaz, obsidian, onyx, Apache tear.

Trees: Pine, cypress, yew, elder.

 

Animals: Bat, wolf, sow, dog, snake.

 

Birds: Owls, raven, falcon.

 

Deities: Astarte, Calleach, Cerridwen, Circe, Cybele, Freyja, Hathor, Hel, Holda, Horned God, Kali, Maman, Nepthys, Sekhmet

ME TOO – The Hashtag Phenomenon

November, 2017

Me too” or ~ #MeToo spread virally as a two word hashtag on social media this month (October 2017) to denounce sexual assault and harassment. The context for this is the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Obviously similar allegations have recently been made against the current president of the US, Donald Trump.

The phrase was coined to be used in this particular sense by social activist Tarana Burke as part of an awareness campaign in 2016. More recently it was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano who encouraged women to “tweet” (repost and publicize this on social media) to demonstrate the widespread nature of abuse and misogynistic behaviour. Millions of women, including many celebrities, responded to this call.

So this month has seen the mushrooming of this phenomenon. I have been observing this with fascination (and admiration for the collective courage in action!) and some misgivings both. I chose not to participate and this article explains my reasons for that, first posted as a blog and now rewritten for Pagan Pages, with additional paragraphs addressing some issues raised by people who responded to the original blog.

First a misconception: I was under the impression that the original post asked women to post “me too” if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted at any time during their lives. I was informed that the original campaign invited both men and women to participate. I did not see any posts by men, so I assumed it was an “all women phenomenon”. I admit that I should have done my research before writing about the subject!

I have been trying sort out my personal take on this tidal wave phenomenon. I appreciate that awareness of issues often needs to mushroom to reach a (so called) tipping point or critical mass, where real change can occur – as opposed to everything re-setting to exactly the way it was before a particular volcano erupted. From that point of view it is beautiful to watch the collective courage and candidness of many women (who do not even all know each other personally) in action. I want to acknowledge this fully and wholeheartedly!!

However, for me personally that is only one part of what is happening here .No “#Me Too” message has appeared on my own page. I am not denying that abuse occurred in my life too, but I decided quite a long time ago (after much soul searching and inner work) that I no longer wish to let this define me and who I am today.

Please note that I am only speaking for myself in this article – not for others. Some people suggested that I should have stayed silent and out of things completely. That is a fair point in some ways. In another way I feel that the Western World is (thankfully!) one of free speech. After weeks of reading stories about abuse and sexual assault, I also want to tell a story – a healing story, not a story that adds to the growing rift between men and women in our society. This my choice and reflects on me alone! No one is forced to read it!

As goes for everyone alive today: I became the person I am today because of a complex mix of experiences (some “good” and some “bad”, as viewed in our polarised world). Even the negative experiences brought me gifts – or forced me to develop my own innate gifts.

Someone (author Patricia Cori) ran a post in response saying women need to consider privacy and confidentiality issues before posting this where an awful lot of people can see it. Do we really want this information in the public eye and out there in the public domain?! I agree that this is an overlooked point here – but world history shows that extreme action sometimes brings lasting change. So I trust that women all over the world gave this serious thought before posting. Sometimes vulnerability paired with courage can be a great agent for change, a catalyst!

My own personal perception is that we are “all in this together” – meaning that, sadly, only very few women will escape harassment or abuse during their (average of) 84 years on the planet. Abuse is systemic in our family systems. (I am not saying this is OK or acceptable – I am just saying this is WHAT IS,the larger fabric of human history and reality).

Whatever our ancestors do not heal is passed on future generations because it seeks healing. And awareness of any issue (a “thank you for coming to attention and inviting me to decide on a response or course of action” – please see the other article I wrote for this same issue of PaganPagesOrg about Rage and Spiritual People) is the first step. Abuse, sexism, racism, misogyny, patriarchy etc. – all those things (and many others) are wired very deeply into our culture and family systems. Humanity is still in its relative infancy – we are only just learning different ways of being in the world.

Another issue I have with this phenomenon (as it unfolded, not as it was apparently intended) is that I am the sister of brothers – and the mother of sons. I have no (biological) sisters or daughters. Perhaps that has been a great privilege (or personal teaching) because living so close up to men and boys (in various stages of becoming) for all of my life, I am simply not able to make sweeping statements that all men are “in the wrong here”. I think that the issue is more complex than that. I will say the unspeakable here: women habitually abuse men too!

I am deeply moved by the process of my own eldest son (aged 17) navigating issues in his social circle with deep thought and integrity – always seeking to restore harmony.

As a shamanic practitioner I have done a lot of shamanic healing work with men (and men attend my classes in shamanism). I know only too well that men and boys too get harassed and raped. That “soft or pretty boys” do not always have an easy time of things. That “cooler boys” learn to put on an act in the outside world, (to stay safe and keep their street cred), etc… That co called ‘nerds’ find other ways again of being safe and accepted. That some young men grow up on the streets where “killing someone” is seen as a rite of passage and proof of reaching manhood.

We live in times of many hidden things being exposed and seeing daylight, which is an entirely good thing because that means they can no longer fester and the people responsible are finally held accountable (assuming they are still alive). Here I am thinking of many media stories of priests abusing children (commonly young boys). The Church actively covered up such stories for many centuries and that is not right on any level! The Church is now being held accountable for this. About time too!

Some men certainly harass women and others go as far as assaulting them, or making their lives impossible in the workplace. I do not remotely deny this. Then there are the men who abuse their wives and children but keep their nose clean outside the home so no one knows what is really going down. There definitely is a HUGE hidden dimension to this phenomenon and that secrecy has now been pierced and penetrated so it can no longer veil or shroud abuse. For that I thank everyone who found the personal courage to speak out!!

BUT there is yet another dimension to this.

I have personally worked with men who thought they were having safe sex with a partner they trusted and the woman (often with a biological clock ticking ominously) decided to try for a baby. These men end up in highly challenging scenarios: parenting and financially supporting children they did not truly want (or actively decide to have). Not a great start for a father-child relationship. Some men had really wanted to father the child properly but the woman moved to another area, took another partner and denied the birth father access. I have worked with men who were buckling under the pressure of producing a baby (by partner and prospective grandparents) yet having a deep inner knowing that this was not the right path for them.

In shamanic healing sessions men have cried bitter heartfelt tears and pummelled a pillow with rage – because of all these scenarios they were lured into, or that crept up on them over time until they couldn’t see an honourable way out (meaning that the way out takes the form of depression or a nervous breakdown).

To my mind this is just one way women “sexually abuse men”: by not being honest about the parameters and possible consequences of the encounter. And let’s face it, in Western culture birth control is freely available, meaning not all of these outcomes are “accidents”.

Someone wrote in and challenged me over this: was I saying that birth control is always the responsibility of the woman?! No! Of course it is a shared responsibility!! BUT it is perfectly possible for a woman to say she is on the pill – when she is not. It is perfectly possible to be less than meticulous about using the pill. In longer-term relationships people do not always use condoms.

I have been in social situations where women have shared (after a few glasses of wine) that they are desperate for that last minute baby (before the menopause hits). Other women (after a few glasses of wine) have said things like: “Well, you know what to do… grab yourself a man and get on with things….” I seemed to be the only person present (possibly having drunk fewer glasses of wine) having a big issue with that “solution”.

I have one brother who is an amazing, dedicated step father to one boy. He does many things for that boy that his biological father will not stretch to (including financially supporting him and sitting with him every night to help with homework tasks). He is a major healing influence in that boy’s life. That boy will do well in life because my brother took on the challenge of being a live-in step parent involved in his day-to-day care.

On a completely personal level (and this does not reflect on anyone else, just on me) I decided a long time ago that my life was no longer going to be defined by abuse. Any abuse that did occur was really a “something desperately seeking healing”. So my personal response to such things (whenever and wherever they rear their ugly head) is to respond from a place of sacred wholeness and wellness – and do the healing work that the issue requires. That may include doing ancestral work, doing shadow work, working closely with the earth, reaching out to people and places suffering in ways I have personal experience of. Most of the time my response needs to be (and is) a mix of all of these things.

Writing blogs and articles is also one way I choose to respond to issues of collective concern. This raised the accusation (in one Facebook thread) that I am “a self-appointed guru”. Right! That was an interesting issue to do shadow work on: I am, on a purely factual level, a self-employed teacher of shamanism and sacred art. I run my own school and teach courses all over the world. Those courses are attended by people who choose to be there, of their own free will, and learn ancient shamanic techniques for personal and global healing. I don’t think that makes me a “guru” but I will take that on the chin and say yes: the “guru” archetype is a scary shadow manifestation (one of many!!) of the spiritual teacher phenomenon. I spent about a week doing deep shadow work on that one! Thank you!!

And I now invite every reader of this article to do their own shadow work on this: be brutally honest with yourself… Have you never ever abused another human being? Have you never cursed anyone or spouted abusive language at anyone?! No road rage ever?! Can you not find within yourself some form (however mild) of the abuser archetype? – I f that is truly so, you are better (more evolved and serene) human being that me!

I hold a strong personal vision of all of us accessing healthy expressions of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine in our lives. I actively bring this into all the courses I teach and all the groups I work with.

I have personally come to believe that staying in wounded consciousness (and an over-attachment to painful experiences – which for some people can become an identity and way of life) will ultimately – when a lot of time has passed and all is said and done – just attract more of the same. We live in a vibrational universe where our own vibration or energy signature attracts “more of the same”, not unlike a reverse magnet. We had better change our personal vibration with great care!

I observe that our wounds (once worked, grieved, keened over and healed) can teach us about creating healthy reality – about actively choosing not to perpetuate the dysfunctional imprints so common in our social and family systems.

For all of these reasons you will not see #MeToo appear on my Facebook page or on Twitter. This is a very personal response to a phenomenon that touched my life too as many abuse stories have recently flooded into my consciousness. My own spiritual beliefs require that I formulate a response. Which I have now done – twice!

Thank you for listening to different perspective!

There is no pressure to agree or approve of it.

Be true to yourself!!

With gratitude to all the people who wrote in and challenged the blog that forms the heart of this article. It can be found here:

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/me-too-the-phenomenon/

 

Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 26 October 2017

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She currently divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US.

 

 

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

 

GoodGod!

November, 2017

Meet the Gods: Vishnu

 

(art by Samantha Sullivan)

 

Merry meet.

Vishnu (pronounced Vish-nuu) is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is one of the Hindu trinity along with Brahma and Shiva. Brahma is the creator of the universe; Vishnu is the preserver, protector and keeper of the universe; Shiva is the destroyer.

It is said that during troubled times when the world is threatened by evil and chaos, Vishnu returns to restore righteousness. So far, he has reincarnated nine times: Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narasimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parasurama (fierce man/hunter), Rama (greatest warrior/perfect man), Krishna (mentally advanced man) and Balarama (Lord Buddha).

Each incarnation Vishnu’s avatar – as a person, an animal or a combination of both – was what was most needed at the time. Myths, legends and stories are associated with each. He rids the earth of irreligious and sinful monarchs, kills a demon, raised the earth up out of the sea, sent a ship to save a sage and his collection of animals from a giant flood so they could repopulate the earth, and held a mountain on his back for 1,000 years while the gods and the demons used a serpent to churn up the ocean of milk to create the nectar of eternal life.

It is believed Vishnu will come one more time as Kalki (eternity or mighty warrior) near the end of the present age of decline in which we are currently living, a time thought to be near the end of this world. He will come – riding a white horse and carrying a fiery sword – to rid the world of oppression by unrighteous rulers and heralding the start of a new golden age.

Vishnu is portrayed with a human body, often with blue skin, and four arms. In his hands he carries four objects representing the things for which he is responsible.

The conch shell in his upper left hand produces Om, the primeval sound of creation. His blows call beings of conscienceless to listen to their inner voice nudging them to seek the truth, and leave the darkness of a material life for a higher reality.

In his upper right hand is the chakra or discus, symbolizing awareness and the universal mind. Called Sudarshan, the disc shows the path to a higher awareness. It destroys ignorance.

A lotus flower in his lower left hand represents a glorious existence and liberation.

The mace, a symbol of mental and physical strength and cosmic knowledge, is held in his lower right hand. It is called Kaumodaki, meaning that which captivates the mind, and is associated with time, which is the destroyer of all things; thus it also related to Kali. When pictured as a deity, it is viewed as a female with two hands, held together in a position of prayer or respect.

The garland of victory Vishnu wears has five rows of flowers that represent the five senses and his mastery of them in the whole universe.

The god is typically seen in two positions. The first is with him standing on a lotus flower with his consort, Lakshmi, close by. He is also portrayed reclining on a serpent, surrounded by the Milky Ocean with Lakshmi massaging his feet.

Vishnu rides on the king of birds, Garuda, an eagle. He is particularly associated with light and especially with the Sun.

Vishnu is identical to the formless metaphysical concept called Brahman, the supreme, the Svayam Bhagavan, who takes various avatars as ‘the preserver, protector’ whenever the world is threatened with evil, chaos, and destructive forces,” according to Wikipedia.

He is said to expand into everything, permeating all objects and life forms. He maintains the cosmos and he overcomes all. Vishnu represents the goodness that sustains everything, giving shelter and a place to rest, and reaching that is the goal of all living creatures.

According to “Vishnu: Everything You Need To Know,” written by Ambaa Choate for Patheos.com in 2014, “He maintains the world and so he is very popular for worship. A branch of Hinduism views Vishnu as the ultimate Lord of all. That branch is called Vaishnava. Many people who follow Vishnu in particular are highly devotional, hence … lose themselves in singing Hare Krishna; Hare Rama! Those are manifestations of Vishnu, the God who comes to earth and takes physical bodies to help the world. Because of his avatars (human forms) he is someone that you can really personally relate to more than a distant view of God.”

Because he cares for all life on earth, worshiping him – as himself or any of his avatars – helps with protection, prosperity and wisdom.

Vishnu’s day is Thursday. On that day, people wear yellow, offer yellow flowers to Vishnu, and often fast or eat only one meal consisting of only yellow foods,

His birthday, typically in late August, is Krishna Janmashtami, the largest Vishnu holiday.

Krishna “accepts any offering given in devotion to him, whether it be a leaf, a flower, or a single drop of water. He cares more about the intention of a prayer than getting it ‘right,’” Choate wrote.

A ritual presented in the article for invisible protection against enemies or evil instructs that it be done on a Friday night after 11 p.m. and repeated the next 10 nights while remaining celibate the whole time.

Each time, you are to begin by bathing and putting on clean white clothing. Place a white cloth over a wooden bench and on it put a small mound of uncooked white rice on which is placed a Sudrashan Yantra, which is a protection talisman. Sit facing east on a white mat in front of the bench. Look at the yantra and imagine yourself in its center, protected from all evil. Chant “Om Namo Narayanaya Namah,” which means, “I bow to the name of Narayana.”

Offer the yantra white flowers, grains of rice, incense and a ghee lamp.

End by chanting eleven rounds of “Aum Sudarshan Chakraay Mam Sarv Kaarya Vijayam Dehi Dehi Aum Hum Phat.”

An article on the astri-vani,com blog notes you can pray to Vishnu: or any of his avatars

People whose Moon and Venus are strong will be attracted to Krishna. People whose Jupiter is strong will be attracted to Ram.

The article instructs you to pray only after taking shower and cleaning your teeth. Your clothes should ideally be yellow and clean. Always apply a tilak (a mark worn by a Hindu on the forehead) of yellow sandalwood or a mixture of turmeric and sandalwood.

Don’t touch or be near the Vishnu idol when you’re angry, have ego, are greedy, or full of lust.

To get a wallpaper of Vishnu, visit http://www.bhmpics.com/lord_vishnu-desktop-wallpapers.html.

I also found a 32-minute YouTube devotional video of the 1,008 Names of Lord Vishnu:

 

 

It might provide some mood music, or frame your own practice to honor Vishnu. My thought was to listen to it while envisioning myself safe in the center of this Sudarshan Yantra.

 

 

Merry part. And merry meet again.

 

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About the Author:


Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Notes from the Apothecary

November, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Nasturtium

 

 

My seven year old suggested this beautiful flower for November’s Apothecary notes. He planted some seeds towards the end of summer, and despite us worrying that it was a little late for our reasonably cool climate, they flourished, and I have seen many more across my home town this month, trailing out of gardens like fire tipped vines.

 

Confusingly, the Latin name nasturtium refers to a type of watercress. Whilst delicious, I am going to ignore the watercress in favour of tropaeolum, the plant we commonly refer to as nasturtium. The plant originated in South America, and was imported to Mediterranean Europe at least as early as the 16th century, although there are some anecdotes about the round, shield-like leaves being used on trophy poles in Roman times, which would indicate it left South America much earlier than the 16th Century.

 

The Kitchen Garden

There are about 80 species of nasturtium, but for our purposes I’m going to concentrate mainly on tropaeolum majus, the species most people will have in their gardens with the round, plate like leaves and bright yellow, orange or red flowers that start with a funnel flaring out into five, flat petals. The joyous thing about this plant is it is entirely edible. The leaves and flowers can both be eaten raw, and have a slightly peppery taste, which is similar to rocket or indeed the watercress that gives the plant its common name. The seed pods can be pickled, and have been likened to capers when used in this way.

 

For those who grow their own veg and herbs, plant some nasturtiums alongside your plot, as they will help keep away some pests, and even encourage ‘good’ predators, such as ladybirds, who will eat aphids and help keep your crops healthy. Also, cabbage white butterfly caterpillars love nasturtium, and the butterflies will often lay their eggs on the nasturtiums and ignore the cabbage plants; a behaviour which can be of enormous benefit to gardeners and farmers.

 

The Apothecary

 

 

The flowers are relatively high in vitamin C, yielding about the same amount as parsley but with much more dramatic presentation! Vitamin C is great for boosting the immune system and is necessary for cellular repair.

 

Older remedies include mixing nasturtium with flax and honey, to remove pitted nails. (Dioscorides, Materia Medica). Mrs Grieve discusses the benefits of the oils of watercress, which are similar to what she refers to as the ‘true’ nasturtium, or Indian cress. She advises these oils can be used for promoting appetite, cleansing spots or blemishes on the face, and as an antiscorbutic; a food to prevent scurvy, which is backed up by the high content of vitamin C in the flowers.

 

The plant has also been indicated as a tonic for urinary tract infections, coughs and chest problems and as a mild antiseptic.

 

The Lab

Some green veg, yellow carrots, and eggs contain a substance called lutein, which may have a function in maintaining healthy eyes. The humble nasturtium (the species with yellow flowers) stands alone in this field of research, as having the highest yield of lutein of any edible plant that we are aware of currently. This is an amazing fact, and if more research is done into the benefits of lutein in humans, the nasturtium could end up being a very important medical plant indeed.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

The nasturtium is an extremely hardy plant, putting up with dry soil or soaking conditions, and even surviving altitudes of over 10000 feet. The roots live through freezing winters even when the leaves and flowers die away. This plant represents ‘toughing it out’; storing up your energy reserves for when they’re needed and biding your time. They are the knowledge that sometimes we face setbacks, and that’s OK. It’s OK to fall back, regroup, re-plan or approach a difficult problem from another angle. They also represent tenacity, wilfulness, and never giving up, all associated with the element of fire which is often attributed to this plant with its glowing, sun-like flowers.

 

The associations with sun can be drawn out in many ways; for example, you could leave these flowers as an offering for Lugh, the Celtic god with the shining visage who is often seen as a sun god. He is also a master of all trades and skills, from martial arts to music, so the nasturtium here becomes a symbol of versatility and prowess.

 

Experiment with the flower, and the leaves, and see how they speak to you. Remember, the leaves and flowers will fade and wilt once picked, so time your plant-picking so you can use the parts as soon as possible.

 

Making a meal with the nasturtiums can be a magical affair, using the flowers to bring the warmth of the sun into your meals, and the leaves to bring a peppery spice which also speaks to us of fire, heat and the passions of creativity and love. Focus on your intent whilst cooking or preparing your dishes, or murmur blessings over the meal as you decorate it with the glorious flowers.

 

Home and Hearth

Nasturtium flowers make a great addition to the south of your sacred space or altar, especially at this time of year between autumn and winter, when other bright flowers may be less available. The flowers can be pressed or dried, and used as a permanent representation of the sun to last you throughout the winter. You could keep one of the orange flowers between the pages of a journal, and use it as a focus for meditation, which is particularly useful for those who suffer from seasonal adjustment disorder, to remind yourself of the returning spring and that there is colour and brightness even in the darkest months.

 

The leaves grow on long creepers, and although they are not evergreen, if collected before they wilt, you can use these creepers much like ivy to decorate your house or magical areas; a symbol of the green that lives even in the depth of winter. Nasturtium leaves have the added bonus that as well as being decorative, you can chuck them in a salad and eat them!

 

I Never Knew…

The nasturtium is actually a brassica, just like cabbage!

 

*Image credits: Wikipedia

 

***

 

About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

November, 2017

Hestia & Vesta, the Goddesses of Hearth & Home

 

As we enter into that time of the year when folks gather together with family and friends, what better time to honor Hestia and Vesta, the Goddesses of Hearth and Home, in Greece and Rome respectively.

 

(Photo credit: goddessgift.net)

Hestia is the Greek Goddess of Hearth and Home. She took no human form, but was only seen in the fire of the Hearth.

Homes were built from the center outward; this center always being the hearth, in which Hestia was always welcome. She was honored each morning and evening with an offering from each family, at their respective hearths, Hestia’s sacred place. Hestia was the embodiment of family unity.

If each hearth was the center of the home, then the hearth’s flame becomes Hestia’s altar. Every woman who was in charge of her own household, therefore, becomes a Priestess of Hestia.

There was also a public hearth, where Hestia was also honored and worshiped. This was the eternal flame, the “prytaneion”, which was never-ending and where the first fruits, wines and oils were sacrificed to Her. This public fire represented the energy of all life.

 

(Photo Credit: greekgods&goddesses.net)

Her name means “the essence”, as in the truth of all things. She was one of the most revered Greek Goddesses. She was gentle and kind, loving and forgiving, peaceful and dignified.

She was both the first, and last, child of Chronos and Rhea (Titans). She was the firstborn, and was promptly swallowed by her father, who had a prophecy that one of his children would be stronger than he. He did this with each subsequent child. After Zeus was born, Rhea tricked Chronos into swallowing a rock wrapped in a blanket. He promptly became sick and vomited up each child. Hestia being the first child born and swallowed, became the last child to be brought back up. Hence, the name of “Hestia, First and Last”.

Hestia was courted by both Apollo and Poseidon, but She swore to never be married, to always be true to Herself and make Her own choices, a true Sovereign Goddess.

Her temples were located at Olympia and at Delphi. It is said that the source of Her sacred fire was the lava at the center of the Earth, which connected the Oomphalos to Delphi, which was a city of great energy and wisdom. Her festival day was held on June 8th.

 

(Photo Credit: commons.wikipedia.org)

Of Vesta, it was said, that She was fire and that fire was She. Worship of Vesta dates back to the 7th century BCE.

She, also, did not take human form, although She was later seen as a veiled figure on Roman coins.

Vesta was also honored each day at Her sacred place, the hearth of each home.

(Photo Credit: alamy.com)

In public, She was worshipped at the only round Roman temple, which was at the Forum Romanum. It also had it’s eternal flame. This flame, and the temple were tended by the Sisterhood of the Vestal Virgins. Once a year, on March 1st, this flame was put out by the Vestals and re-lit.

Vesta’s other sacred day was on June 9th, the festival of Vestalia. Food baked on all hearths, was offered to Her, as well as the sacrifice of salted cakes baked on Her sacred flame by the Vestals. Offerings would take place for 8 days, whereupon the temple would be closed, cleaned and re-opened.

 

(Photo Credit: alamy.com)

 

It was considered bad luck and an ill omen for either of these sacred flames to go out.

Vesta and Hestia also shared common symbols, fire and a circle, the circle representing that they were complete Goddesses, in and of themselves.

 

While the following is for Hestia, from The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky, it is also true for Vesta.

I am what’s at the core

the indescribable

the elusive

the living presence

that inhabits and transforms

a building

a dwelling

an edifice

taking it from the realm of

marble

stone

or wood

and with its hearth fire lit

making it a home.

May the Goddesses of Hearth and Home, Hestia and Vesta, bless you and yours during the upcoming holiday season.

 

***

 

About the Author:

 

 

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess, as well as Mago Publications She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

 


Death Masks

November, 2017

At this time of looking back, memories and retrospect I want to share a wonderful experience I had a few years ago. I received an intriguing invitation: a workshop in making a death mask on Samhain with a small group! I didn’t have to think long and decided I’d definitely want to be there. We ended up being with 6 ‘wyld & wicked women’! Some had met each other before. At the time I only knew the hostess beforehand, so I had the privilege to get to know 4 wonderful women.

First we had dinner at a beautiful Samhain-decorated table. We had a very yummy salad, delicious pasta with pesto and salmon, an exquisite quiche and very tasty pizza! The dessert was even better: heavenly cheesecake and divine pecan pie with vanilla ice-cream. We started by reading ‘The Charge of the Great Mother’ out loud. Everyone had placed an extra plate on the table for someone behind the veils. We shared stories about those people and animals while eating in their honour. Lovely stories about beautiful memories… Some put a smile on our faces, some made us get all teary-eyed. It was very intimate and touching; it felt as if I got to know the people and animals, as if they were really there, sitting with us. I dedicated my plate to my dad. I told about our special bond, about my childhood memories and also about his death.

In the temple space we prepared everything for the workshop. We made the masks in pairs. One person was lying down, while the other one put plaster bandages on her face to make a very personal mask, a mask of our own faces. To protect our skin and to make the mask easier to release we covered our face with a lot of cream. I had a nasty cold, so I was a bit nervous whether I could persevere the plaster. I decided to put some straws in my mouth, so I had both nose and mouth to breathe. Still, it wasn’t easy! I started thinking a lot of “what-ifs”. That wasn’t going to help me persist so I went into a meditative state and that was the right decision. I did it!

Then it was my turn to make a mask. I soon felt I was very tired and the cold didn’t make it any easier. I wanted to finish the mask, so I kept on putting plaster bandages. I struggled. I realized it wasn’t working and felt so bad… Finally I asked someone else to take over. That was so hard, I felt I had failed miserably. In the kitchen I cried, but everyone was so kind and comforting! My mask partner got a beautiful mask nevertheless and she wasn’t disappointed (as I had feared). On the contrary, she accepted her own lesson in this with grace; we talked it over and hugged. Looking back now I can see it as it is: a wonderful experience for both of us, and a lesson too… I’m still very grateful for it.

deathmasks

 

Afterwards we all talked about what making the masks had done with us. Generally speaking death-masks are made after a person dies. To do it on a living person can feel strange, especially when the eyes and mouth are covered. You literally shut them up… and the other way around your mouth is covered and shut. Although I had the straws in my mouth, it still felt like that. We shared our experiences and feelings. Meanwhile, it was very late so we set up the beds and dived in! I slept next to the veils in the temple space. In the morning we had a long breakfast / brunch together, closed the circle and said our goodbyes.

Masks of deceased people are part of many traditions around the world. In some European countries it was common for death masks to be displayed at state funerals. Death masks have been a matter of practice from as early as ancient times and making death masks was routine until the late 19th century when photography took over in popularity. However, some death masks were still made in the 20th century and are made to this day. Death masks were sometimes used as a way to identify the dead and at other times the death masks were used as a way to remember the dead person or to use as a way to build their memorial on their grave. Death Masks usually involve the eyes of the deceased being closed but in a few rare exceptions the eyes are left open. This video shows the death masks of many famous people:

 

 

Sources & further reading/watching:

Growing Herbs for Thanksgiving

November, 2017

Growing Herbs for Thanksgiving

Every year at Thanksgiving time, many people scramble to try and find fresh herbs to use

for their Thanksgiving recipes. You find them in the store, in those little plastic

clam shells, kind of dry and wilted. The volatile oils have deteriorated, and while they

taste better than the dried version, you are not getting the best flavor. Growing fresh

herbs is so easy, why not do it yourself this year?

I’m going to separate them into growing groups. Certain herbs enjoy like growing

conditions, and you will save time and have more successful plants if you either grow

them in these groups or by themselves. You can plant them together in a large pot,

individually in smaller pots, or prepare a section of your garden for herbs.

Most herbs grow quickly, so if you decide to plant in containers, be sure to give them

plenty of room to spread out. If herbs become pot-bound, you may find that they require

more water. If this happens, you should re-pot them into a larger container.

Low Water sun Loving Herbs:

Chives, Marjoram, Oregano, sage and Thyme prefer well draining soil and will do well with less water and more sunshine.

If you have a sunny window in your home, you can grow them indoors.

Chives prefer to be grown by themselves and will spread into a lager clump each year.

Marjoram and Oregano are close members of the same family. If you plant them together,

you may notice that the flavor will become more similar in both due to cross-pollination.

You probably want to avoid this. They are also both vigorous spreaders, so give them

plenty of room.

Marjoram grows exceptionally well with most other plants, helping to

improve growth and flavor.

Rosemary, both upright and trailing, grows extremely well in the Tucson area. It is great

in pots and also makes an attractive landscape plant. Once established, it requires very

little water or attention.

Rosemary and Sage make good companions if planted together.

Sage comes in many different varieties. Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) has the strongest

flavor, traditionally associated with Thanksgiving recipes. The difference in flavor is

fairly negligible between the other varieties (Purple, Golden, etc.), so you may choose to

plant them for color or growth habit as well as cooking.

Thyme grows well with any of the other sun-lovers. It has a tendency to spread, so again,

you need to give it lots of room. There are several varieties good for cooking, Common

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) being the traditional cooking thyme. Lemon thyme is also

wonderful for cooking, with a strong lemon scent and mild flavor.

Moisture Loving Semi-shade Herbs:

Basil, Cilantro/Coriander, Dill, Mint and Parsley are all moisture lovers.

They want at least 6 hours of sunshine daily, but may need protection from afternoon sun in the

summer and fall.

Basil and Dill need protection from winter cold, anything below 40 degrees is a killer

cold. Grow these two in pots that can be moved indoors when the cold comes. A nice

sunny window will help them grow big and bountiful.

Cilantro loves the outdoors, as long as the temperature remains cool. When the weather

heats up, Cilantro wants to bolt! Bolting means the plant tries to send up a flower stalk

and make seed. In the case of Cilantro, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the seeds are

Coriander! You really get your money’s worth out of this helpful plant. You can also

save the seeds for next season’s planting.

Mint loves water. If you plant it outside near a hose bib, under a dripping swamp cooler,

or anywhere else moisture collects, mint will not only thrive, but it might just take over!

If you want to keep mint under control, plant it in a pot. Mint is another plant that comes

in many varieties from one large family, so be careful of the cross-pollination and

mixture of flavors and plant them in separate pots. Chocolate-Spear Mint might sound

good in theory, but in practice, it’s not really that tasty. Some interesting mints to try are

Apple Mint, Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint or Pineapple Mint if you are looking for

something new. You can also stick with the classics: Peppermint, Spearmint, Mint Julep

or Mojito Mint.

Now that you know what to plant get growing!

Herbs like plenty of food, so give them a balanced (all-purpose) organic fertilizer regularly.

If you are growing in the ground, this means every 6 weeks or so spring through fall. If you are

growing in pots, then the amount of water you are using means the nutrients get flushed

out more rapidly, so you’ll want to fertilize every four weeks or so.

Removing flowers from your herbs as they form helps keep them full and strong. If you

allow them to go to flower and then to seed, most herbs think they’ve done their job and

get straggly and/or die.

Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year

November, 2017

(The Secret Gathering fine art print is available by Francesca Rizzato at FrancescaRizzatoart on etsy.)

 

One story we Pagans like to tell about ourselves is that we have a balanced world view, honouring the dark as well as the light, acknowledging that both are part of life. But is this actually true?

If you stop and think about it, as we move around the Wheel of the Year we seem to focus much more on celebrating the light than the dark. At Yule we celebrate the rebirth of the sun, and the fact that from now on the light will return. At Imbolc we celebrate with candles the lengthening days. At the Spring Equinox when the days and nights are once again of equal length we celebrate spring and renewal. At Beltane we celebrate the beginning of summer, and at the Summer Solstice we celebrate the sun at the height of  its powers. At Lughnasadh we celebrate the grain harvest ripened by the sun at the same time that we mourn its waning power. At Autumn Equinox we note the balance between dark and light whilst celebrating the summer’s harvest. Only at Samhain do we truly honour the dark, working with our ancestors and practicing divination.

So if the Wheel of the Year is divided by the Equinoxes into a dark half (when the nights are longer) and a light half (when the days are longer), why do we spend almost all our festivals honouring the power of the light and only one honouring the dark?

Well it could be because the light seems a more attractive prospect. Most of us prefer warmth to cold, sunshine to gloom, summer to winter etc. But I think we are missing an important point. In focussing so heavily on the light we are not taking a balanced view. We are neglecting a large and important part of the daily and annual cycle of life, even the cycle of life and death itself. Just stop and think for a moment what life would be like if it were all light and growth and go, go, go. We need the dark of night for sleep, rest and renewal, we need shade from the heat of the sun, we need death and endings to make room for birth and newness. We need the interplay of both light and shadow to make sense of the world, to appreciate depth and perspective.

I am not saying that at Yule we should not celebrate the apparent rebirth of the sun. But perhaps we should acknowledge the importance and power of the dark at the same time. At the Autumn Equinox, as well as celebrating the summer’s harvest, perhaps we could also celebrate the onset of autumn and all the good things that will bring – sitting round a cosy fire, sipping hot chocolate, kicking through piles of leaves, roasting chestnuts, snuggling up in your favourite fuzzy sweater…

Seeds, if exposed only to the sun will shrivel and dry out, never germinating. But those that fall to the ground and work into the damp darkness of the soil will eventually burst into life, sending up green shoots and drawing their sustenance not only from the sunlight on their leaves, but also from the dark richness of the earth.

To be truly balanced and nourished I believe we too need to reach for the skies whilst staying firmly rooted in the ground (grounded). One part of this is acknowledging and celebrating the dark half of the year properly.

Here are some suggestions for working creatively and fruitfully with the dark during this time of year.

  • Celebrate the dark half of the year as a time for rest and renewal.
  • Find a method of honest self-examination that works well for you, truly examine and work towards understanding your shadow self (find a good counsellor or therapist if necessary).
  • Focus on self-care in your rituals. What would truly nourish and renew your mind, body and spirit? Do healing rituals. Give each other massages in sacred space. Share nourishing home-cooked food infused with healing spells.
  • Focus on your dreams and what they are trying to tell you. Keep a dream journal, start a dream group, interpret each-others dreams in coven space.
  • Use a favourite method of divination to delve deeply into your unconscious.
  • Go on a retreat.
  • Try fasting for 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be a food fast – you could try a media fast (turn off the TV, radio and computer, avoid newspapers, books etc) or an electricity fast (turn off everything non-essential).

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking creatively. I’m sure you can think of many more! The dark is not better than the light, the light is not better than the dark. They are equal and complementary. We need both. Let’s celebrate that.

Hypnobirthing: Letting Go of Fear

November, 2017

 

I’m 37 weeks pregnant as I write this, and there’s a very real possibility I may need to go into hospital to have my labour induced as early as next week. I am suffering from some wildly fluctuating blood pressure, which appears (thankfully) to have no clear pathological source, other than the pain I am in from SPD. SPD is symphysis pubis dysfunction; a condition whereby the ligaments supporting the pelvis and pubic bones soften too early and too much, so that these bones are able to grind together, causing agonising pain. I don’t really sleep properly anymore, and of course, can’t take anything but the mildest painkillers.

I was already worried about the labour, as the labour with my first child was quite traumatic and painful, and even though I know, I know I absolutely can do it, creeping anxieties have hooked their way into my mind like poison ivy, sending shoots of doubt to shatter my confidence in my own body’s abilities.

With this in mind, my community midwife referred me to a mental health midwife; a fantastic woman who visits me periodically to make sure I’ve not gone around the twist, and to offer what help and support she can. It was this midwife who first told me about hypnobirthing, something I had not come across before.

In the UK, we have the National Health Service, which means that most of our healthcare needs are paid for by taxes and national insurance payments, meaning healthcare is free at the point of use. Hypnobirthing is not widely available on the NHS, although it is available through some private healthcare providers. It turns out I am lucky enough to be in one of the areas in the UK that is trying to change that; to make this mindful approach to pregnancy and labour available for free on the NHS to those who might benefit. The scheme I became a member of is a pilot scheme, intended to try out the techniques and show the benefits they have, ahead of any potential rollout of the scheme for the wider public.

So what are the techniques? Basically, hypnobirthing sessions are a form of guided meditation, similar to pathworking. A fully qualified midwife leads the sessions, and a small group of us gets as comfy as we can with our huge bumps, and the lights are dimmed and relaxing music is played. Our midwife talks us gently down into a meditative state, talking us through focusing on our own breath, our own bodies, and reinforcing the connection to the baby (or babies) growing inside us. We envisage the air we breathe in as healing, golden light, filling us up and relaxing us completely. She counts down and repeat the word ‘relax’ at intervals, encouraging us to relax our muscles as much as possible each time we hear the trigger word. The idea is that, with repetition, we can learn to relax ourselves and enter this meditative state at will, for example, during labour and the increasing intensity of contractions.

My first session is a little late in the programme, due to an administrative error in the first instance, and the fact that I had to repeatedly visit hospital for blood pressure checks when my other sessions were booked! So frustratingly, I’ve only been left with two sessions I can attend before the arrival of our wee one. However, the midwife leading the course has also provided us (via Dropbox, very modern) with MP3s so we can practice the relaxation techniques at home.

I spoke to one of the other women who has been doing the course since it started. She suffers from lupus and had many anxieties about pregnancy and labour. This is her first baby, yet she now seems more confident to carry her baby than I am with my second! She calmly explains to me how she does the relaxation exercises every night, and has even found similar exercises for her birth partner, to help them be relaxed and supportive during the delivery of the baby. We talk about setting the mood with soft lamplight, and the midwife reminds us we can take a lamp or fairy-lights into the hospital with us to help recreate the mood of our relaxation space. This was news to me, as my delivery room with Nathan had been a sterile, blank walled affair that I had no idea I could try and make my own. This is definitely something I am keeping in mind for my trip to hospital!

 

 

This early on in my own experience of hypnobirthing, all I can say for certain is that I am enjoying the meditations and visualisations, which include taking off a heavy rucksack and pulling out the items, which symbolise fears or anxieties, and dumping them into a hot air balloon which flies far away with them. A sickle represented my fear of the pain. A black rock covered in shards of glass represented my needle phobia (a very real problem when you might have to have a cannula during labour!) and finally, a damp, torn bit of tissue represented my own lack of confidence in my body’s ability to do what it has been designed (in part; not solely) to do.

Waking up’ from the hypnobirthing sessions is like coming out of a deep sleep, but one where you can remember all the details of every dream you had, and one where you retain the benefits of every positive feeling and affirmation you experienced. I can’t say at this stage whether I will be able to focus on the relaxation techniques once the stress of actual labour kicks in, but I do feel more confident, and even being able to relax now, at this stage, with more hospital and ante-natal appointments looming, is a great benefit indeed.

One of the major benefits I have felt so far is the ability to use the ‘3, 2, 1… relax’ technique to lower anxiety about moving in bed, which had become a bit of a nightmare thanks to the SPD, due to my pelvis displacing during the night. The ability to relax and not be so tense prior to the inevitable ‘clunk’ of my pelvis moving back into its intended position has helped wonders, particularly in getting back to sleep after those middle of the night toilet trips!

Next month I’ll be able to write you the natural follow up piece; did it work? With one more midwife led session to go, I will know a bit more about the techniques involved, and will very soon be able to put them into real practice. In another city, where the scheme was rolled out some time back, the number of natural births has increased, and the number of births requiring little or no pain relief has also increased, and the average time for a baby to be delivered has dropped dramatically, which is very encouraging. Less medical intervention means less stress for mothers and therefore less stress for baby, which can only ever be a good thing. I’ll let you know how it works out for me.

 

*Hot Air Balloon, Copyright Kirsten Savage 2017, reproduction not permitted. Photo copyright Mabh Savage 2016.

 

***

 

About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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