depression

The Sober Pagan

July, 2018

A Home Group, Finally

I have finally found a home group! I knew as soon as I walked into the room that this was going to be the group for me. The time is perfect – 7:15 a.m. – it meets Tuesdays and Thursdays – it’s easy for me to get to – the meeting room itself is lovely – very Zen, although it’s a room in a Presbyterian Church. But it has large windows that look out on a courtyard with flowering trees and well-tended gardens and places to sit and meditate – much like any Buddhist Temple might offer. I felt at home immediately.

This spring I have struggled through one of the worst depressions of my life – at least, in last ten years. I had trouble getting to the store for basic groceries, let alone getting to an AA meeting or anywhere else. My entire spirituality suffered. I was amazed to find that I didn’t want to live anymore – and I was sober.

There were many dark days and many long sleepless nights.

Even though I thought I had lost my faith, yet I sat in meditation. Sometimes I sat for hours. It seemed like my brain had stopped to utter stillness but it was simmering like a sober stew. I needed that time of quietude. No sound except the chirping of the birds, vehicles driving past the house and children laughing as they walked to the corner to wait for the school bus. I didn’t dwell on any of this – I just noted each sound and let them go.

My son’s father came to town on route to somewhere else. He has over ten years in AA and is a social worker – he works with the homeless in Florida. He is Buddhist and has many years of practice. We spent the afternoon together, talking and meditating.

The next day, I started going to meetings again. The next week, I found this particular meeting – my new home group.

Soon after this, my son – who has six months sobriety – moved back in with me. I am so grateful for his sober support.

It is still a daily struggle. I have to admit that. At least once a day, I have a wicked bad jones. Something always triggers me. It can be almost anything. The weather – the time of day – a certain smell. I white-knuckle it hour by hour. Then – it passes – and I am so grateful that I didn’t give in.

I know that I have complained about AA for years and found every excuse under the sun not to go to meetings. But now I actually look forward to going to the meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I haven’t felt like this about a meeting in over ten years.

Now I wonder – will the Goddess come back to me?

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Book Review: Tarot For Your Self, A Workbook for Personal Transformation (Second Edition) by Mary K. Greer

June, 2018

Book Review

Tarot For Your Self, A Workbook for Personal Transformation (Second Edition)

by Mary K. Greer

To me, any Tarot book written by Mary K. Greer needs attention, and Tarot for Your Self, 2nd Edition: A Workbook for Personal Transformation is no exception. Tarot For Your Self is published by New Page , a division of The Career Press, Inc, Pompton Plains, NJ; it is a 7”by 10” paperback with a glossy color cover and contains 298 pages of nicely-sized typeface printed on white paper.

This is not a typical how-to-read-the-Tarot book. Tarot For Your Self does not only present card images, keywords and sample interpretations. Not that there are no correspondences or meanings offered at all (Appendix A has all that great Little White Book information, with upright and reversed meanings, an affirmation, and questions to be answered for each card), but rather the meat of Greer’s workbook offers great suggestions, explanations, and exercises focused on learning to integrate crystals, pendulums, visualizations, affirmations, numerology, astrology, self-exploration, rituals and meditations into our Tarot practices.

There is a chapter that offers new ways to get to know the cards of the Tarot, and new ways to use the cards for personal exploration. There is a chapter that focuses on getting to know and understand the personalities of the Court Cards. Another chapter takes familiar spreads and breaks them down so that a Tarot reader can make use of useful variations of even a simple three card spread. Greer even addresses yes-no and either-or questions in this chapter.

Throughout the book, along with the many charts and correspondence lists, meditations and visualizations, images and descriptions of a myriad of spreads to fit any circumstance imaginable, are valuable exercises that help a reader to see the cards in new ways and experience how the meanings of the cards can directly connect to and explain our own life experiences. Like any workbook, there is space within each of those exercises for us to record results and descriptions of experiences we may have while doing the exercises. At the end of each chapter is a list of suggested reading connected to the information provided in that chapter.

Besides the information about the individual cards in the Appendix, there is also a history of the Tarot and some theories regarding its origin, and a very useful correspondences chart.

What I like about Tarot For Your Self is that it offers many useful tools that allow us to use our Tarot cards for self-discovery and self-healing. There are exercises for dealing with depression, clarifying relationships, and clarifying money issues. There are meditations for relaxing and grounding. There are descriptions of rituals for purifying your cards, and descriptions of how to formulate a question and how to interpret reversed cards within a spread.

In Tarot For Your Self, Mary K. Greer has created a book that can help new readers to get a glimpse of how much information a Tarot card can offer, and that can help more seasoned readers to tap into the personalities of the cards in order to tell the story of a spread. Here is a workbook that does not require us to memorize keywords but rather encourages us to do the exercises and journal our own unique experiences in order to become personally acquainted with the cards of the Tarot. This is a classic that has stood the test of time, and has something to offer to new readers and longtime Tarot enthusiasts alike.

Tarot for Your Self, 2nd Edition: A Workbook for Personal Transformation

***

About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

 

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding

Seeing the Signs

June, 2018

Depression and divination

(Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash)

Depression is a disease that affects millions of people, regardless of religion, ethnic background, genetic make-up or economic outlook. Many of us take antidepressants, trying to feel better and suffer dubious side-effects from these medications. Some of us become addicted to these meds. Others of us self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and may end up with addictions to these substances. Some of us console ourselves with “comfort” foods, while others of us lose our appetites altogether and even when we are ravenously hungry, we can not eat. Some of us relieve our psychic pain by cutting ourselves. We lose pleasure in many of our favorite activities. Our days are long and boring. Depression robs us of all that once made us happy.

I personally suffer from bipolar mood disorder, which means along with depression, I also have episodes of mania. I am actually what’s called a “rapid cycler” – I can cycle in and out of manic and depressed moods within a single day. I can be depressed and manic at the very same time. But like a day is contained within a week and a week is contained within a month, my days of rapid cycling are contained within seasons of either manic moods or depressed moods. Generally, I am more manic in the early winter and later spring and depressed in the early spring and most of the summer.

Since being formally diagnosed in 1993, I have been on dozens of medications, most of which have been totally useless. I fully believe that most of the medications caused more problems than they solved and most of the problems that I had in the 1990’s and early 2000’s were a direct result of taking psych meds. I was out of my mind most of the time. I have been fairly stable since I reached my Crone years but I still have my moods.

This recent depression was triggered way back in 2016 when our current president was elected and I think many of us went into a deep slump at that time. Certain health issues of mine came to fore, as well as housing problems, and I had to move from New England – which I love – back to Buffalo – which I do love, but Buffalo is like loving an abusive man with addiction issues who’s never going to change. I know that many cities are just like Buffalo but I don’t have the emotional attachment to those other cities. And things really are worse here than they were in 2016 – for poor people, that is. There’s lots of shiny new buildings and expensive restaurants and microbreweries selling drinks that will give me a migraine after the first sip, they’re so damn hoppy. But that’s another subject.

At this point, I have been depressed for well over a year – with seasonal episodes of mania, like the one I’m in now – and it is affecting every facet of my life. If being depressed is defined as “losing interest in things that used to interest you”, then I have got the sickness pretty bad. I love to cook and eat but I have lost interest in food altogether – I go for days, eating nothing other than Cheerios, fried eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I simply do not care. I stopped writing my novel over a year ago – I even took the blog off WordPress – I keep saying that I’m going to restart it – and honestly, I miss my characters – they were like friends of mine! But I don’t write – I barely keep my diary.

One of the things that depression has stolen from me is my desire to use my Tarot cards or throw the I-Ching or study the Lenormand or pull a few Runes or anything. Like my attitude toward food, I simply do not care. It’s like – so what? One day is just another day. And with the madman in the White House, we may not have a tomorrow anyway. So what difference does anything make?

I was cleaning the other day – this is where being manic always works out – and I found my divination journal. The paucity of entries are pathetic. The last time I had done a reading was in February! And honestly, I didn’t remember it.

I did a Tarot reading that day – a Celtic Cross – with my Rider-Waite cards – partly because I felt guilty that I hadn’t done any readings in such a long time and partly because I thought that maybe I would see something new. Maybe it was my depression – but it just seemed to me that the cards were telling me that I was depressed – which I already knew! But maybe it’s just I’m too depressed to be reading my own cards. I don’t know – which brings me back to the whole point of this essay – depressing and divination. What is a practitioner to do?

I have to step out of myself to answer this question – as if I were being asked the question by another person. I would answer, go back to the basics. Pick one card a day and meditate on that card. Read all of your spiritual books and remind yourself of your path and why you are on this path. Go to the park and walk where it is green and quiet. Listen to the birds chirping.

I was told that there is no cure for bipolar disease and I do not think there is a cure for depression – there is only managing the symptoms. But I am going to do what I *told* myself to do – pick a card a day and meditate on that card. Read all of my spiritual books and remind myself of my path and why I am on this path. Go to one of the many parks in Buffalo – even if it means getting on the bus – and walk around the greenery that I have right here. Everything will change. The wheel will turn.

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Learning Lenormand

June, 2018

The Line of Five

Anyone who knows me or follows me on any of my WordPress blogs or Facebook or Twitter knows that I have been fighting a major depression – one of the worst depressions in over ten years. It’s affected every aspect of my life – eating, sleeping, my ability to write – and it has affected my desire to use my divination skills. For years, I longed for a deck of Lenormand cards and now I have a beautiful set of oracle cards – actually two historic decks – and probably the best learning manual on the market, The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards by Caitlín Matthews – but for weeks, the cards have sat on the shelf and the book barely cracked.

Yes, as depressed as I am, I feel guilty about this. I know that this guilt is a residue from my Catholic childhood but it’s there. I know that I *should* be practicing with these new cards – and the Playing Card Oracle deck I just got – like I should have been practicing the piano all those long years ago when I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. But like the preteen Polly of the early 1970’s, I sit and dream of other times. Of California and golden, wind-swept hills. Of Johnny Lancer. Of wild horses that couldn’t drag me away.

My son has been very worried about me. His lease is up at the end of July and he decided that for his last year of college, he is going to move back in with me – it makes economic sense – for him, anyway. But he wants to watch over his Mama – make sure that she doesn’t do herself any harm. Which is sweet – unnecessary but sweet. I don’t mind him moving in. Like everything, there are pros and cons either way.

I got out the Lenormand deck and shuffled it. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing but I thought – just lay out five cards – do a line of five. As explained in The Lenormand Oracle Handbook: “This is a small, useful spread in which the most important card is the middle one, the main focus. It is the basis for any line of cards, whether it be 5,7,9,or 11 cards: the center card becomes the hinge or focus and the two sides are the wings.” (Caitlín, 113).

I shuffled my cards and laid them out accordingly. I focused on the question – I’m not sure if question is the correct term – but the issue – of whether or not it was a good idea for James to move back in with me. Although I am lonely, I do cherish and protect my solitude. And James can be stiflingly over-protective, like most men. Plus, he tends to treat me like I’m much older than I am – like I am as old as my own mother. Which is annoying, to say the least. I mean – I’m only fifty-eight years old – and in quite good health! I just get depressed now and again!

This is what I got:

The middle card (card #3) is the main issue. 25 The Ring is about commitment. Think weddings and marriage but any kind of strong bond. If there is one thing about James and me, it’s that there has always been a strong bond between us. He’s my only child – the only one I was ever able to have – and I almost lost him early in pregnancy. James has a close relationship with his father but he lives in Florida and only visits a few times a year. James has been with me most of his life.

I know that when I got pregnant with James, I felt the he was the one. I had been pregnant numerous times before James – I was thirty-two when I became pregnant with James and my first pregnancy was at age seventeen – and I had suffered so many miscarriages that even my OB/GYN suggested that I have an abortion. But I just knew – this was the one. And without Planned Parenthood in the early months of that pregnancy, I might have lost James, too. I have nothing but great things to say about that organization.

Cards #1 and #2 tell what has led to or influenced this situation. #14 Fox and #30 Lily suggest that there is some kind of trickery going on (the fox) which could affect family welfare (the lily), which is why James is so concerned about me – I am not going into personal family affairs here, but suffice it to say that James is not happy with the ways things have been going with the family politics and he wants to be my defender! Which is seen with the King of Spades on the #30 Lily Card – holding his sword against the fox.

Cards #4 and #5 are the likely outcome. #15 Bear and #6 Clouds is a confused mother – me. #6 Clouds has another King – the King of Clubs – two black Kings means success in court but I am not sure if that applies here! But I might need all the help I can get!

Like many Tarot readings, I do not see a true outcome here. The #6 Clouds card muddled up the whole thing. And yet – perhaps this is telling the whole story. I am not sure if it is a good idea for James to move back in – and yet, I can hardly wait for him to be here. I guarantee you, he feels exactly the same way. What virile young man wants to live with his witchy old mother? But – you can’t argue with economics. If he is to graduate, he needs to live in a place he can afford. I do understand that. At his age, I couldn’t afford to go to college at all – I was working three jobs.

I am sorry that I missed you all last month. I will fight this depression harder and be here with another Lenormand lesson next month. Until then, Brightest Blessings to all of you.

References

Matthews, Caitlín. The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards. Rochester, VT: Destiny : 2014.

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

March, 2018

The One Thing That Keeps Me Sober

 

(Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash)

 

It’s been a terrible winter for me. The weather has been working against me. We had a very snowy and windy winter here in Buffalo – which honestly, isn’t that unusual here – but we also had to contend with a lot of freezing rain and icy conditions on the roads and sidewalks. As a pedestrian who owns a really good pair of boots, I can deal with the snow but ice will keep me indoors since I don’t want to fall and break a bone. So there were many days I would have gotten out but I stayed indoors.

There were AA meetings I would have gone to but between the weather and the local bus service running “Sunday service” on Monday holidays, I have yet to get to a meeting this year! Yes, I know I could go to other meetings but you know how it is when you find a meeting you really like. This one isn’t that far from my house but I do need to take the bus to get there.

The other thing is that at the end of January, I got that terrible flu that’s been going around. If you haven’t gotten sick from this flu, count yourself lucky. Or blessed. I know people who got flu shots and they got wicked sick. I haven’t gotten a flu shot in over ten years and I rarely get sick – a cold every winter and a sinus infection or two – a reminder of my cocaine days – but I haven’t gotten “The Flu” in a long time. But this year, I was so sick, not only did I think I was going to die, I really wanted to. My lungs have never hurt so badly in my life. I thought of my friends who smoke cigarettes and have COPD and I wonder how they deal with this! My son called me everyday and bitched at me for not going to the ER. But I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere. I lost nine pounds in four days. I drank bottle after bottle of spring water. I sipped chicken soup. Eventually I got better. I started eating again. The cough hung on for three weeks. But that’s subsided now, too.

A persistent depression has dogged me these past few days. My aunt, who is 88 years old, had a stroke this summer and is now going into assisted living, since she is always falling and getting tangled up in her walker. She can’t cook for herself anymore. My aunt is the picture of sober living – she never smoked cigarettes, drank, ate very sparingly, and of course never did drugs. But here she is – at age 88 – totally incapacitated and dependent – not to mention depressed and angry. I was thinking about this. What’s the point to live such a sober life, just to end up all messed up anyway?

Of course, this is classic “stinkin’ thinkin’” and how you start on the road to relapse. I know that I had better get to a meeting right quick or at least call one of my sober friends or open the Big Book or one of my other recovery books. And the main thing I have to remember is:

It isn’t about when I am 88 years old. It isn’t about some time in the future that may or may not happen. Or something – like having a stroke – that may or may not happen. It’s about now. It’s about having a good life now. That’s the real meaning of “One day at a time” – it doesn’t mean don’t plan for the future – because we all have to make plans or else we won’t have a future – but it means to live fully in the now.

To me, if there’s one thing that keeps me sober on a daily basis, it’s the fact that I passionately hate hangovers. I used to take them with a grain of salt – they were the payment for having a really good time, right? But now – I don’t want to wake up feeling like that at all. When I was sick with the flu, I thought that I would rather have a hangover but honestly – I don’t want to be sick with the flu or a hangover. And the thing with hangovers – they’re preventable. All you have to do is don’t take that first drink.

Hopefully, I’ll have something a happier report next month. Until then – hang in there and stay sober. Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Notes from the Apothecary

February, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: St John’s Wort

The first of February is ‘Time to Talk Day’, encouraging all of us to talk more openly about our mental health, and thus work towards removing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. With that in mind, I thought I’d investigate an herb that has a long history of use within mental health: St John’s Wort. Do any internet search for St John’s Wort and you will be immediately inundated with ads for whole food shops trying to sell you ‘Nature’s Greatest Anti-Depressant’. But does it really work? And does the plant have more to it than being a crucial part of the pharmacopeia? There are differing opinions on the efficacy of this herb, but it’s certainly popular and not just among your traditional herb users. It’s even recommended by some ‘mainstream’ medical professionals, and shows no signs of losing its popularity.

The Kitchen Garden

As well as improving your mental outlook, this rather lovely plant can enhance the look of your kitchen garden, with its lovely yellow flowers and delicate leaves. Hypericum perforatum, the plant is distinguished from other hypericums by the tiny dots on the leaves, which look like perforations; hence the name.

I have hypericum at both sides of my house; a huge bush at the back which is a riot of yellow in summer. It attracts so many bees, and you can sit on the back doorstep and listen to the entire shrub vibrate with their activity. I have a smaller plant in a tub at the front of the house, which is the medical herb, but I want it to grow a bit bigger before I even start to think about pulling bits off it. A re-potting is in order I think, as I think it has outgrown its current environment.

St John’s wort is pretty easy to grow. It doesn’t like too much sun, so that shady spot where nothing else will grow is ideal. It does need a bit of light, but really not much at all. The spot my shrub is in gets about an hour of sunlight once a day, and the plant is thriving. It isn’t fussy about soil type, and once established doesn’t need much care. It can self-seed, and may spread further than you initially wanted it, so just bear that in mind.

For those with no gardens, the herb is readily available in whole food shops, herbalists and on the internet. As always, do your research, and don’t buy it if you aren’t sure what it is. This isn’t an herb I recommend eating or using as a decoction purely for refreshment, due to its strong impact on the mind. Keep this one for the medicine cabinet only, and only with qualified guidance.

The Apothecary

As previously mentioned, the key issue St John’s Wort is indicated for is depression. Depression is often called ‘the common cold’ of mental illness, but I really don’t think this is a fair description. Yes, lots of people catch colds. But you catch a cold, you rest, you take some paracetamol and after a few days you feel better. Depression is nothing like this. Depression can hit you like a stone, or it can creep up slowly. It can nibble away at you day by day, leaving you strung out and exhausted but still battling on, or it can knock you for six, leaving you incapable of anything. There are different levels of depression, all unpleasant and all needing different types of treatment. That’s why it’s extremely important that you don’t read articles like mine and immediately bulk buy St John’s Wort, as it simply may not be the right choice for you. Speak to a professional or a qualified person, and look at all the options available. Your mind is precious; be kind to it and make informed choices.

The reason many people do choose St John’s Wort, is that is clinical trials, when tested against a placebo and other anti-depressants, the herb was more effective than a placebo, without some of the undesirable effects of the ‘standard’ anti-depressants. St John’s Wort has a particular action on the liver; yet another reason why you shouldn’t take it without medical guidance. It is this action that makes it so effective, yet it also means that it can interact badly with other medicines. It’s a powerful herb, and one not to be taken lightly. You should also speak to your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or using oral contraceptives.

Having said that, the medical opinion overall (based on various studies, including the Cochrane Report) seems to be that research into the medical use of St John’s Wort is very promising, and anecdotally, many patients have had extremely positive results.

Traditionally the herb had other medical uses too. Mrs Grieve tells us that it as used for bladder complaints, including bedwetting in children. Applied externally, it was supposed to help ‘caked breasts’, which today we would refer to as blocked milk ducts.

Folklore

An interesting titbit from Grieve’s Modern is that the name hypericum is from the Greek hyperieum meaning ‘over an apparition’. My Greek is rusty (read: non-existent) so please feel free to correct this; I struggled to find anything to back up Mrs Grieve’s claims, and another source stated it actually means ‘over an icon’ from the tradition of placing the herb around religious statues. It was believed that the aroma of the herb was so strong and unpleasant as to chase evil spirits away.

Other traditional beliefs include the power to protect from lightning. I am not testing this one out. But, I have had St John’s Wort growing near me for many years, and I haven’t yet been struck by lightning… Draw your own conclusions.

The Witch’s Kitchen

An alternative name for St John’s Wort is Hexenkraut, literally German for ‘witchcraft herb’ or ‘magical herb’. This name is also sometimes used for mistletoe, one of the most powerful plants of the druids (see my article here), which gives you an idea of the potential magical power of St John’s Wort.

As has been suggested by the idea that it can chase evil spirits away, the herb can be used for protection. I believe this is why the herb often pops up in boundaries and hedgerows, as it creates a natural metaphysical barrier to protect the boundaries of one’s home or land. It can also be used to exorcise ‘demons’; generally, I find that the only demons hanging around are manifestations of negativity either from myself or those around me, and St John’s wort is excellent at banishing these. Even just having the bush outside the house makes it so much more cheerful; a very basic but very effective magic.

St John’s Wort is also used in prophetic magic. There is a tradition from Germany, of grinding the flowers between the fingers and examining the colour the oils left on the fingers. The more red the colour, the more likely the practitioner was to find love.

Cunningham tells us the plant is masculine, and associated with the sun, and fire. I wonder if this is mainly to do with its ‘sunny’ outlook and bright, yellow flowers. He also tells us that the plant is associated with the god Baldur, but I wonder if this association is actually a confusion of the German name Hexenkraut, which, as mentioned, also means Mistletoe, the plant that ended Baldur’s life.

The medical usage of St John’s Wort tends to focus around improving mental health, so it’s no surprise that the plant is used to banish negativity and attract happiness. It seems to act on this both in a physical (medical) and metaphysical (magical) way.

Home and Hearth

Strew the flowers around the boundary of your home for protection against visitors who mean you ill. A sprig of the herb and its flowers in a vase near the front or back door can help keep positive energy at a high within your home.

Remember…

Your mental health is incredibly important. If you feel low, or you are struggling, please get help. Speak to a professional, and don’t ever, ever start taking medication without getting some qualified guidance first. Just because something is ‘herbal’ does not mean it is automatically good for you, or the right choice for your condition. The following organization may be able to help:

USA

Samaritans USA

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The Trevor Project

UK

Samaritans

Young Minds

Mind

Image credits: Hypericum Perforatum, copyright Aelwyn 2007; hypericum-perforatum(Blatt), copyright Michael Gasperl 2005; hypericum perforatum, copyright Bff 2011. All via Wikimedia Commons.

 

***

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.

For Amazon information, click images below.

Post Winter Solstice Blues

January, 2018

 

*’Knackered’ is a British slang term meaning ‘extremely tired’, in this context anyway.

 

Put away the crackers,

Can’t you see I’m knackered*?

Too many ‘small’ sherries

So many Holly berries!

It isn’t Solstice any more

So clear the fake snow off the floor

Sweep the hearth and lock the door.

No more carols, no more knocks;

No more callers: check the locks!

Pull down festive Solstice Socks.

But leave the ivy, leave the oak

Leave the promises we spoke

To truly honour Sol’s return

To let the midnight fires burn

To cherish love and cherish hope

Even though right now I just can’t cope

With sales and queues and counting cash

January’s cold, mad dash…

Banish the blues, dare to smile,

After all, ‘tis Imbolc,

In but a little while.

 

***

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.

For Amazon information, click images below.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

Interview with Psychic Brittany Quagan

January, 2017

Interview with Psychic Brittany Quagan

Elfin empath goes from panic attacks to helping others heal.

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Brittany Quagan knows the exact moment her whole life changed. She was 22 and working for a corporate insurance company. One day, while having a meltdown in her cubical, a woman she would later learn was a psychic medium and who has since become her friend, told her she the problem was not anxiety.

Quagan argued her therapist would say otherwise, but the woman told her, “You are feeling the energy from everyone around you.”

As strange as it sounded, Quagan knew it was true.

It’s because when I was a little kid I always believed there was more. I refused to believe that I was just a normal person. I absolutely refused to believe it. There were so many things that I knew and so many things that I saw.”

She described a video shot by her father when she was only 18 months old. On it, she tells him, “I have an excruciating headache, Daddy. I think I’m pregnant.”

The crazy thing was,” Quagan said, “my mom was pregnant with my baby brother, but she didn’t know it yet.”

Growing up, there were dreams that came true and information she “just knew. It was a feeling. It was a sense.” Often it freaked out her mother.

It was interesting because everything was linked to my mom; there was this ridiculous link between the two of us: my mom and me. When I was five or six years old, I told my mom she needed to divorce my dad. ‘He’s not for your greatest and highest good. You and dad should not be together.’ She looked at me like I had 15 heads.”

Some time later, her mother did divorce her father.

As a teenager, Quagan was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and labeled a hypochondriac. She remembered thinking, “I’m way too sound of mind to be so much of a basket case.” It was like two wolves fighting, she said, one saying, “This is not happening,” and the other saying, “You’re crazy.”

I always had this sense that there was nothing wrong with me, just that there was something going on that I couldn’t explain, that no one could explain. … The doctor gave me medication, and it was great with numbing everything that was going on around me, but I still felt all the things that were giving me anxiety in the first place.”

In her late teens, she added alcohol to the mix to cope with the anxiety, explaining, “It was the only way to actually dull what was going on with me. I was just a world of fun when people knew me way back then.”

Only it wasn’t fun. It was, she said, “one of the darker cycles of my life.”

Panic attacks were a daily occurrence, and coupled with depression, there were times she was unable to leave the house.

After graduating college, she began working for a corporate insurance company. There came a day Quagan recalled telling the Universe, “I need a teacher … to guide me and help me to heal.”

Things began to happen. Fast. Two days later she got a new job. Two months after that, a mentor stopped at her cubicle to say she’d been noticing Quagan’s panic attacks and explained what was really going on. When Quagan sensed death, the woman could tell there was the spirit of a dead person behind her. When Quagan found herself upset, this woman could tell it was exactly how the person in the adjacent cubicle was feeling.

My entire life changed from that day on,” Quagan said. “She took me under her wing; she taught me about guides and things like that, told me what books to read, gave me meditations.

I started talking to her about energy, how others’ energy can effect us, and about how being empathic – and feeling what others feel, literally – could cause anxiety, and I started to research it further. Next thing I knew, I got a Reiki session done. I felt so good afterwards. All the static that surrounded my head and my stomach was alleviated.”

Quagan began to read extensively.

I read about Reiki, body energy, empaths, building intuition, even connecting to Spirit energy. … Reading about paganism and wicca and those very nature-based spiritual practices and religions was the gateway for me to learning about energy and that it’s such a thing, which led me to read ‘The Secret.’” she said.

The more I read, the more I studied, the more everything made sense.”

She learned not to absorb the energies of others around her and to combat her anxiety with intention and visualization.

The anxiety I had was linked to what I felt from everyone else, just an abundance of energy. If someone next to me had a headache, I’d have a headache without them telling me they had one. If they were heartbroken or depressed, I’d be heartbroken or depressed for no reason. I was a sponge for everyone’s stuff.

Once I learned that piece, that’s when I was able to take that awareness and apply it to whenever anxiety or panic started to creep in, and before I knew it … I hadn’t had an anxiety attack in two months.”

Quagan said, “I stayed on top of my own ass to make sure I didn’t fall back into the pits of negative thinking. You’re rewiring your entire brain to accept a new reality. … I had to remind myself, ‘This is someone else’s’ and ‘You’re not dying. Someone else is dying and they’re talking to you. You’re grounded and protected.’”

The control she applied to that energy set the tone for taking control of the rest of her life.

From there, the intuition just came,” she said.

She took a Reiki class and went on to become a certified Reiki master. She took classes, including an eight-month course on medical intuition.

That’s all about understanding energy and why we have physical symptoms and ailments, and how that’s all linked to mental, emotional and spiritual energy within our body and mind,” Quagan said.

Without quitting her insurance job, she began offering Reiki sessions and intuitive readings.

It all happened very quickly,” she said.

I was doing a lot of teaching, a lot of life coaching. My sessions turned into these intuitive counseling sessions. As I was going along on my journey, I was learning a ton in classes and through my own self-learning and my own personal growth about energy, about chakras, about relationships … about everything.

It really just turned into this smorgasbord of knowledge that I was able to teach people from my own perspective and experience, and people were really growing and transforming and finding peace and finding empowerment.”

Along with her personal growth came business growth.

She was 26 when she quit her full-time job, walking away from a steady paycheck, health insurance and job security. It was as scary as it was empowering. She said it was also a beneficial and transformative time.

I left my boyfriend of four years as we were renovating a house; I left my job; I cut all of my hair off – it was down to my butt – I got a pixie cut. I got rid of anything that wasn’t good for me. … People thought that I was batshit crazy.”

She has had no regrets.

I will never be more thankful for those risky decisions I needed to make to find myself,” Quagan said.

She outgrew the room she had been using in the back of her mother’s hair salon and opened Journeys School for the Soul in Windsor, Connecticut in July 2015. She continued coaching clients who found their way to her, mostly by word of mouth.

Anxiety is my specialty,” she said. “People who have experienced it make the best teachers and healers; it’s not something you can read out of a book.

I coach people what I have experienced myself, things that have worked for me … whether it’s simple anxiety and stress techniques or overcoming drug addiction and alcohol abuse, abuse in relationships, or simply trying to understand why certain relationships have come into your life and how to heal from them. Even just finding your own level of empowerment and letting go of those fears we all have, especially being judged by others.”

Her own daily struggles drew her to embrace holistic and wellness practices.

That’s where I found my peace, and that’s where I found my healing and my calling. This was my path. This is what I felt connected to – to help people find their clarity and their peace,” Quagan said.

She sees herself more as a life coach than a therapist, approaching situations with a fresh perspective and offering practical techniques for dealing with issues in the heat of the moment as well as methods of deep healing.

I get down to the raw and the nitty gritty. I won’t ask how something makes you feel. I want to talk about why you feel that way,” she said. “There is no judgment. It’s about you becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.”

Quagan believes the body contains energy that is comprised of mental, emotional and spiritual belief systems that are linked to physical well-being. By addressing those beliefs through coaching and awareness, she said, “you can heal physical ailments wholly.” She assures clients that healing is “within reach. No one is a lost cause and no one is stuck where they are.”

With only a few clients at first, Quagan had some free time and began writing.

The first in a fiction series was released in August 2016 – “Ren: Awakened.” It’s about Ren Nagel, 17, who was committed to a psych ward because she saw things no one else did. She breaks out and learns who she is, then must control a power she never knew she had and organize a coalition of people she never knew existed – to remind humanity why fighting the darkness is a big part of being human.

The second book, “Ren: Reposed,” is due out in March.

Quagan said of the series, “It’s kind of like my autobiography, but on fiction steroids. There are a lot of parallels to the world today and all the darkness that we face, collectively and individually, and how it’s affecting the world around us.”

She is writing the third book in between clients.

The series is helping a lot of our empaths find comfort and find clarity,” she said. “It opened them up to a whole new reality.”

Recently, Quagan moved to a new space, this time in Simsbury, Connecticut, with a new name – Journeys Holistic Wellness and Anxiety Relief Center. She has three energy healers who are available by appointment, and two licensed counselors. Some can accept insurance.

She is working toward a master’s degree in clinical psychology so she can become a licensed professional counselor and be able to accept insurance.

Transitioning to a new space followed a transition in the focus of the work she was doing.

Before it was a lot of ‘What’s going to happen in my future?’ ‘What’s this?’ ‘What’s that?’ … I like to focus more on the now and the lead up to the future.”

She teaches clients to develop their own intuition.

Everyone has some degree intuition, “some level of being an empathy,” she said, explaining, “If you’ve felt awkward tension before, then you’ve felt energy. We all have the ability to gage the energy of another individual” and know if you are feeling something versus syphoning it or absorbing it from another source. Like any other muscle, intuition can be toned and strengthened. Everyone can benefit from using it in both personal and professional lives.

An exercise Quagan is fond of assigning to her clients requires a regular deck of cards. After calling each card as red or black, flip it over. Do this again and again and again.

The point is not to be correct. The point is to understand how your receive the information. You could be feeling it or hearing it or seeing the color of the card in your mind. Or maybe you just know.

I do that to get you in the mindset of being aware of what you’re seeing and feeling when you’re holding the cards. One of the biggest struggles is that little need to be correct. That screws you every time. When we need to be correct, we do not listen to our intuition and we do not listen to our guides. Stop trying to be right and just tell me what you’re feeling. I don’t care if it’s the craziest things – tell me. It means something. … It’s the things that sound the craziest that are the most accurate.”

In addition to intuition classes, and life and wellness coaching, Quagan teaches a wide range of development and healing classes, Reiki certification and a new intuitive healer certification. She also offers one-on-one mentoring.

She makes herself available to clients day and night, in person, by phone and with Skype.

I get the occasional 2 a.m. phone call,” she said, explaining,

It’s my life and my lifestyle, so the more people I can help the better.”

While most clients are from central Connecticut, she has others on the West Coast and as far away as England, Ireland and India. Most find her by word of mouth. Some find her through her blog or the column she writes for The Door Opener, “Messages, Magic, Madness and More: Windom and Insight from a Present Day Fairy.”

Quagan is looking forward to research results that will be published by Yale University. Late in 2015, she participated in a study comparing schizophrenics to psychics.

Some people who see things and think they’re being attacked. I see dead people and I’m cool with it. I’m hearing voices. This was an extensive study that I’m excited for them to publish it. The results [will indicate] there is a very fine line between the two of us,” making misdiagnosis easy.

Quagan offered three signs that could help identify whether or not you are an empath.

  1. Do you go from feeling energized or happy or even complacent or indifferent and feel your mood change, or do you feel drained?

  2. Do you find that any physical symptoms you’re experiencing are the same as those people around you are feeling?

  3. Do you have digestive issues? (A lot of energy is absorbed by the solar plexus. Anxiety comes from a buildup of absorbed energy physically, mentally and emotionally.)

It’s interesting because when you’re aware that energy is a very real and prominent thing in all of our lives, you really start to realize how much you are affected by others around you, by the entire world coming alive, even season or the moon – all of these things affect us. So many of us are influenced by our external environment and allow it to influence our entire lives … without realizing it.”

Some days, Quagan said, she wakes up and finds she has thoughts, emotions or experiences that are out of character.

It takes me an hour to remember I’m a psychic, an empath,” she said. “Then I listen to my guides [say], ‘It’s not you.’”

Some empaths and energy sensitives don’t realize they are being affected.

It’s almost as if you are so busy being other people, you lose yourself, she said, later explaining, “It’s down to our perception and our ability to control the energy around us.”

She set boundaries and limits so she could go to the mall or the movies and not be “on call.”

I find that just like with anything, there’s spiritual politics; there’s opposing viewpoints with spirituality.” Some think you can’t turn it on and off, but she disagrees, saying she’s worked with her guides to develop a system to turn it on and off.

Being an empath can be managed. While it’s a gift, there is some choice involved. You can set boundaries, you can stop the information if you desire, she said.

While Quagan learned to step away from it, she said others don’t and are sometimes labeled bipolar.

Energy can shape our entire reality, including the boundaries we put up between ourselves and the spirit world, and between us and other people,” she said.

Reach Journeys Holistic Wellness and Anxiety Relief Center online at journeyssoulschool.com or on Facebook at Journeys: Holistic Wellness & Anxiety Relief Center. Call 860-580-9736 or message @journeyssoulschool.

A version of this article first appeared in Valley LIFE.

Stones Corner

October, 2015

Ten “Stress Stones”

Amethyst

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Having a cluster of Amethyst at hand is good for keeping negative energy away. Amethyst helps you think and act at your clearest. Wear an Amethyst pendant continuously for migraine prevention, tension headaches, and alleviating arthritic pain.
Citrine

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Also known as the “Success Stone”. Citrine encourages a bright outlook and promotes happiness. It attracts wealth and joy. It can help stabilize emotions and soothe family problems. Citrine is also good for improving stress-related digestive problems.
Clear Quartz

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Quartz is an excellent general physical system fortifier and protector. It increases mental clarity. Hold a clear crystal at your solar plexus and breath evenly for several minutes to calm your emotions, to relax the body, to clear the mind, and to refresh your energy. Stare into the crystal to clear writer’s block and to increase creativity.
Fluorite

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Fluorite is a stone to unblock stuck energies. For digestive systems problems use the yellow/green color combination. For pains in the skeletal and muscular system, use the blue/white color combination. For head area complaints, use the purple/clear combination. For asthma, wear the green colored Fluorite. To help congested mental thoughts, use a purple cluster in your work area, or position a cluster at your crown chakra while sleeping.
Garnet

garnet
Garnet is an energy revitalizer. Excellent for strengthening the base chakra. It promotes sexual energy (for your self and partner). It helps increase circulation to the legs and pelvic area. It reduces menstrual pain when held or taped over the ovaries and uterus. Garnet can increase sexual stimulation and fertility, too.

Hematite

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Dubbed, “The Anti-Stress Stone”. Hematite reflects back negative energies to the sender (so you don’t end up taking them on yourself). Hematite dissolves the issues when one meets with confrontation. Tape a small piece over the leg and back areas to reduce pain and to increase electromagnetic circulation. Hematite helps balance the meridians.
Malachite

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Malachite is excellent for Type A personalities and for those prone to heart disease and stresses to internal organs. It helps to detoxify the liver and to increase blood circulation. Malachite is excellent for breaking up old energy patterns. Use it with Rose Quartz to soften the effects of a broken heart! Due to the possibly toxic copper content of this stone, keep Malachite away from pets and children, and do not wear it against the skin for long periods of time. This stone is for external use only.
Rose Quartz

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“The Love Stone” – Rose Quartz is very protective and soothing for many issues. Place a large chunk of the stone at your Heart Center for 15 minutes to relax after a stressful day. Rose Quartz helps to unblock anxiety and to promote healing of private emotional issues. It allows one to become more receptive and open to challenges.
Smokey Quartz

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Smokey Quartz is an excellent stabilizer for mood swings. It helps ground feelings of depression, and both absorbs and transmutes negativity. This stone is best worn at the solar plexus, the seat of the emotions. Smokey Quartz is excellent for PMS and cranky persons; and good for persons imbalanced due to extreme stress and burn-out. It provides a protective field for recovery.
Turquoise

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“A Stone of Protection” – Turquoise is an excellent toner for all systems of the body. It helps prevent organs from absorbing toxins and breaking down. Wear this stone at the throat to strengthen your will and to communicate effectively. It helps to sweeten the voice and speak your truth. Turquoise helps reduce premature aging.

Rebel Rede

May, 2010

A Rabbit of Doubt

We all have doubts. We all have those times in our lives when we are down, depressed, and just plain tired. It is during these dark times that we usually start to have doubts about our beliefs and our chosen paths. This is not only normal it is completely healthy. Paganism does not have the rules and regulations that the Judeo-Christian religions do. This aspect of Paganism is a double edge sword though and can work both for and against us. One of the reasons it is so easy for a Pagan (or Wiccan) to “lose” their faith is because we do not have any higher authority pushing us not to fall. We do not have a bible or a pastor who holds us to a strict way of life. We do not have the fear of being sent to hell or the fear of a God-sent punishment. This lack of fear is what makes it so easy for us to fall. On the plus side though, we also do not have any forced guilt when we finally do fall. There is no higher authority yelling at us for making a human mistake. We do not fall before our Gods in fear and beg them for mercy. As Pagans we do not generally believe in the concept of sin or hell. We do not believe that we have to earn the right to an afterlife. We can be human and still be Divine. We can make mistakes or have serious doubts and still be a good person! It is okay to change your spiritual beliefs. It is okay to rename or re-categorize your beliefs and path. You might go from being a Wiccan witch, to a Hoodoo practitioner, to an Atheist, and back to a Wiccan witch all in the same year. The important aspect of doubt is that is helps us to grow. It helps us to clearly define what it is we believe and why. Our belief systems and faith are not perfect. That is alright though because perfection should never be the goal. We should always be striving to grow and learn as people, as witches. Our beauty is in both our humanity and our divinity! Don’t be afraid to fall friends!  Don’t be afraid to follow the rabbit of doubt down the hole to see where it will take you! Wonderland is never far away!

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