darker

Bringing Up the Next Generation of Witches

November, 2018

October is quickly coming to an end, and I have never been more thankful. October brought sickness and trials. It was a difficult month to say the least.

But with October coming to a close, Samhain is fast approaching.

Samhain (or Halloween as Little Bear calls it) has always been one of my favorite holidays. Even when it was banned from my childhood home life.

The veil is thinning, the days grow darker, and the nights become almost black.

Living in the Midwest means the weather is unpredictable at the end of October. It could be sunny and hot, or rainy and wet. As a child, “Halloween” meant snow. I can remember more snowy Halloweens than not.

Little Bear and I will make the best of it regardless of the weather. He has his costume picked out. He is going as a zombie SWAT guy. He’s talked me into being a zombie also. He’s a bit obsessed with The Walking Dead right now.

This year, I let Little Bear go wild and decorate the whole house. We put up window clings, black garland, laid out fake spiders, decorated foam pumpkins, and hung up door covers.

Yesterday, we visited the local pumpkin field/corn maze. They have so many activities and it’s a must every year. They have goats, chickens, rabbits, long horn cattle, corn boxes, corn mazes, pumpkin guns, tug a war ropes, inflatables, wooden trains, etc. It is a full day.

Tonight, is pumpkin carving time. I’m sure that my excitement is at a way higher level than Little Bear’s because of the pumpkin seeds. I have dug out some recipes from Pinterest and plan on trying at least three. I have to do normal salt pumpkin seeds. But I’m going to try a sweet version with cinnamon and brown sugar. The other one I haven’t decided on because there is so many variations that can be done. However, I’m leaning towards a savory that uses sea salt and white vinegar. Not sure how it’ll turn out, but we shall see!

One of my favorite traditions for Samhain is the dinner. Eating dinner at the table is something that rarely happens in our home because of scheduling. But when Samhain rolls around, I take the day off. I plan a meal as if it were Thanksgiving and I set the table. I always set a spot for my sister who we lost back in 2015. It helps to bring her close. Little Bear gets excited and will start talking to her spot as if she never left.

Little Bear started asking questions again about “God” last week. This is a conversation that we have quite frequently as he has a hard time understanding something that he cannot see. So, I go into the explanation again. We have talked about the many different religions of the world. Although I am raising him in a Pagan home, I understand that the Pagan path may not be for him.

I found a wonderful series that touches on the spiritual side without focusing on one certain religion. It’s the The Giggles and Joy series. A three-part series that focuses on positive poems. It’s a neat series that I recommend. You can check out my review on them in this same issue!

The Bad Witch’s Guide

November, 2018

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Shadow Work

 

(Photo by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash)

 

For about the last two months I have spent a lot of time going within and working on my spirit. Some of it has been a choice, some has been circumstances. My health (physically) has been very poor since about July and while I am no longer bleeding nearly to death regularly I felt I needed to find my strength in body and spirit.

I have done a lot of yoga. A lot of meditation, usually every day, sometimes twice a day, and while drawing in the light around me my shadow would not be still. Darkness has a bad rap. It is often mistaken as evil. Rejected and defiled. Repressed and denied, this is the animal within. Animals are not generally evil. Neither is the shadow.

When I started looking at this place, the in-conscious (unconscious doesn’t give it enough credit), in my early 20’s I found it as the wolf. The singer of bones. The true wild. It is that gut animal instinct and for most of us it dwells within our shadow. If I gave it space and respect it spoke to me. It was wise and knowing with strong instincts that are annoying never wrong no matter how much I try and think around them! It kept me alive. Yet this was not some soft puppy. It was the desire to bite which hurt me. Run from the unknown and dig into things I didn’t want to know.

It was never about trying to control the wolf. The wolf is wild and that is how it should be. It was about listening to it, bringing it forward in my mind and analysing why I was feeling this way. The wolf brought me gifts I didn’t understand. Usually dead things from my past. A memory, good or bad. A feeling, usually something sad because I bury the shit out of those!

In slowly accepting my wild-self, that part of the shadow self, I began to go deeper still. Yet I was afraid. I was right to be. For deep in my darkness was a dragon. A dragon made of fire and destruction. A dragon that I could really feel writhe within my gut when riled. This is not a metaphor when that part of me was “woken” my guts would squirm as though something wriggling around in there. A dragon that terrified me. It was scary this beast ripping out of my being and me losing control. Uncontrolled violence and wrath. I locked it down, I repressed it hard. I refused to listen, I even hated it.

It took years of journey work. Years of looking trying to understand. I remember exactly when I met the dragon. I only went to a Dark Moon circle once and as I journeyed I joined a group of female dancers dressed all in red, whom danced covered in sharp blades and barbs. I joined the dance with them and I was cut a few times, we all were. Afterwards in a tent of red drape we compared scars as dancers do, laughing and smiling. Still I was to go deeper. Down, down. Deeper into the caves. At first the caves were cold and water dripped everywhere. Then they became warmer and dryer. There was no light. None at all. Yet I knew the way and there in the dark was a huge faintly glowing red dragon. It was asleep coiled up. Just breathing. It was beautiful. Like copper. I reached out my hand and it was warm and smooth. An eye fluttered open. The voice was like thunder, the deepest sound but gentle. This was new to me.

I asked “what are you?”

I am your pain.”

I began to weep. My fear melted and I realised this beast, this part of myself, had been consuming my pain all my life. That there had been so much especially as a child I didn’t understand I had created this to deal with all the things I was unequipped to understand. Now I understood. That the dragon was like my wolf. A teacher if I listen. A friend if I needed it.

Working in your shadow is a place within The Dreaming. It is both real and metaphor. You might not have wolves or dragons. You might have lions or “demons”. Yet the demons we make are no less real for us making them. They are often woven from our instincts, good and bad and our worst parts. The parts we reject from our Light.

They are our addictions, our vices. Our rages and pain. Our deep grief and sorrow. Yet if we come to them gently and listen they can bring such healing. That is not to say you allow them to indulge. You listen to when, to why, to the triggers. You understand, maybe even speak about it and let the urge go.

When both my parents died within six months of each other and I was cut out of the family by my sister I was devastated in a way I couldn’t comprehend. Being a witch and bi-sexual is just not okay with her. I remember sitting at the dinner table with the real and distinct urge to burn a path of destruction between myself and my sister. Not a metaphorical one. I mean kill and burn everything and everyone I met until I reached her and let fire take her too. It was odd and specific and I simply spoke about it and ate my dinner. A few month later I discovered it was a common tactic by a long dead ancestor (Grace O’Malley) to destroy traitors that way. I gave voice to my shadow, my pain but I did not give into it.

As Samhain comes and then the deeper dark of the year it is an excellent time to look within at the things moving around in our shadows. It is a daunting task, and one often sorely neglected by many magickal practitioners.

 

Simple Shadow Ritual

You will need:

A mirror

Patchouli oil

Candles/soft lighting

Bay laurel leaves

Yarrow (dried)

Frankincense resin

Heat proof container and charcoal to safely burn your herbs.

Notebook or journal.

Soft blankets (get comfy this might take a while).

 

Prepare your space as you would usually. Anoint your forehead and heart with the patchouli oil.

I humbly come to my Shadow’s Gate.

I come to learn not to hate.

I come to see, I come to hear.

Open the Gate as I draw near.

Touch the edge of the mirror with your dominant finger used to anoint yourself in a deosil direction. Keep the light to a minimum but use enough to be safe. Light your charcoal in your cauldron or censor. First adding the yarrow, then the bay, then the frankincense.

Cleanse your body in the smoke and prepare yourself to sit and stare with the mirror. Visualise your “gate” and begin to unlock it. This might take some time. There may be stairs or even just darkness. You may have to “jump”. Your darkness will not be the same as anyone else’s. When you are ready focus on your own face in the mirror. Say:

I see you. I am listening.

You may or may not “see” anything. You might. We spend a lot of time locking this energy away, it may take a long time to open it again. Write what you see in you notebook.

Re-anointing the mirror in a widdershins direction and drawing a banishing pentagram on the glass should you feel the need.

Humbly I came to my Shadow’s Gate.

I came to learn not to hate.

I came to see, I came to hear.

The Gate is Closed I leave you here.

Dissolve your sacred space as you would usually. If you wanted to evoke particular Deities during your opening rites please make sure to thank them appropriately afterwards.

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.