interview

Interview with Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

March, 2017

Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

 

Rachel

 

Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

Rachel Patterson, or Tansy Firedragon, is an accomplished witch with a passion for learning. She has written numerous books and is the High Priestess of the Kitchen Witch Coven, and an Elder of their School of Natural Witchcraft. I caught up with Rachel to find out a bit more about her craft and her writing.

Mabh Savage: Can you summarise what it is to be a Kitchen Witch?

Rachel Patterson: It is a term that has been used in the past to describe someone that is a bit of a food expert and actually nothing to do with witchcraft at all. It is also a term used to describe a Scandinavian doll that is hung in the kitchen to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

Now whilst I do like to think I am a bit of a whizz in the kitchen I am also most definitely a Kitchen Witch. I follow the path of the old ways, I work with the Goddesses and the Gods and I work the Craft. So, what makes me specifically a kitchen witch? I like to use whatever is at hand, I don’t need fancy schmancy tools or expensive items and I work a lot of my magic when I am cooking food or working with herbs and plants.

I do have beautiful tools to work with but I find that most of the time I prefer to use whatever nature provides, for instance I have several beautiful hand crafted wands but what I tend to use is my finger. When I am working in a circle I cast it with herbs and I use natural items such as stones and feathers to represent the elements. I do have a cauldron but you could use an old casserole dish, I don’t use a chalice as such, I use a glass from the kitchen cupboard (although you can get some interesting and beautiful glasses from charity/thrift shops). If you want an athame then a vegetable knife or even a potato peeler work perfectly and if you want to use a wand how about a wooden spoon?

The kitchen is and always has been the centre of the home probably originally because the fire was kept going to cook the food and was therefore the warmest room in the house. It is a place where I feel comfortable and ‘at home’ and that is not just because I love food…It is in my kitchen that magic happens.

MS: You also go under the name Tansy Firedragon. Is this your magical moniker, and can you tell us how it came about, or is it a secret?

RP: Tansy Firedragon is indeed my Craft name and I have used it for many years. Tansy came from a visit to a local Roman palace where they were hosting a Celtic re-enactment day. There was a lady cooking ancient Celtic recipes and a lot of them used the herb Tansy, one in particular caught my attention and that was Tansy pudding. The name resonated with me and as I love working with herbs and cooking it seemed to fit me well. Fire is my favourite element to work with and I work with dragon magic a lot so that fell into place too.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about the talk you recently did at The Enchanted Market, in Bracknell?

RP: The Enchanted Market is now in its third year and is run by Max and Baz from the band Spriggan Mist and it is a wonderful event to be a small part of. My talk this year was about Animal Magic and working with spirit animals. I talked about where to start to find your spirit animal guide, how to connect, how to keep working with guides and we also did a meditation to meet an animal spirit guide. We had lots of different animals appear such as deer, frog, bat and even a dung beetle!

MS: How many students does the Kitchen Witch School have, and how do you manage your teaching alongside being an author and a busy witch?

RP: The numbers vary as we are online and therefore open to students from around the world but I co-run the school with my friend Tracey Roberts (Sunchylde Dryadmoon) and we split the students between us so that we can always provide one to one mentorship. It is very important to us to always be available to our students and never to take on too many so as to be overwhelmed. We also have a team of Hearth Guardians who are students that have worked through the three levels at the school and have either already earnt their High Priestess titles or are currently working on it. They provide another level of support to Tracey and myself but also to the students.

I am always busy! I also have a job out in the real world and two school age children so life is definitely all about finding the balance. Thankfully I work from home so it is easier to fit everything in, I don’t always achieve it but I try. The key for me is having a schedule, I use bullet points in my diary to plan out each week. And in recent years I have also learnt that it is OK to say no sometimes. I always felt that I had to do everything that everyone asked of me, which leads to being totally exhausted and overwhelmed. Now I weigh up each request and see how it fits into my diary and how it impacts other things. My family and own wellbeing has to come first.

 

animalmagic

 

MS: Your upcoming book is Pagan Portals: Animal Magic. How did this volume come about?

RP: Working with animal spirit guides is one of my favourite areas of the Craft to work with and we teach about it within the Kitchen Witch School and we have run workshops as well so it seemed the natural next step to put it all together in a book.

MS: Who will this volume appeal to? Does it matter what path the reader is on, or is it accessible to people of all spiritualties?

RP: Hopefully to everyone! Although I am a Witch I have also delved into all sorts of magical pathways including Shamanic practice so it has elements of all sorts within the pages. I hope it offers something for everyone no matter what journey you are on.

MS: Previously you have written about topics as diverse as Hoodoo and The Cailleach. Do you find that you can work across many magical paths, and do you have a favourite type of magic, one that calls to you more than others?

RP: My witchcraft journey started in Wicca but probably because at the time that was the only structure of learning available to me. I did complete all three of the Wiccan degrees but I also started to venture off in different directions. I love to learn and I love to study so I have ventured into Hoodoo which I found I was working with a lot of anyway as it has folk magic roots but I have also studied all sorts of different pathways taking bits from each one that resonated with me and added them to my own practice. I am a bit of a miscellaneous witch really. In fact, at a recent talk a lovely lady suggested that I was a cocktail witch; lots of different flavours blended together with a paper umbrella and a plastic monkey…I like that description.

If you had to pin me down I guess the path of a Kitchen/Hedge Witch is my real calling with a bit of goddess spirituality thrown in for good measure.

MS: You write a great deal about magical food and plants. How did you first discover the intertwining nature of food and magic?

RP: Working with herbs was one of the first areas of the Craft that I really connected with. I love gardening, cooking and eating so it all felt very natural to me. Once I had worked with herbs for magic it seemed only logical that food ingredients would have magical properties too.

As a busy working mother and wife, I have to work a lot of my magical practice into everyday chores and cooking is one of my passions and also a daily necessity so it just fell into place that I add magic into creating food.

We also started baking cakes for our open rituals and workshops…we have ended up with a bit of a reputation as cake witches…

MS: Is there a special or sacred place where you can relax and unwind, away from the hustle and bustle?

RP: My garden is my sanctuary. It is not large (we live in a terraced house on the edge of a city) but it is the place that I love to escape to. There is something magical about sitting in the peace and quiet of the garden surrounded by plants that I have grown and tended.

MS: What’s your favourite festival throughout the year, and how do you mark or celebrate this?

RP: This is a tricky one because although I originally learnt and followed the dates of all the sabbats, a few years ago, I realised that I was not connecting very well with most of them mainly due to the mad weather we have. I suspect Mother Nature is menopausal. When it was too warm to wear a coat on the winter solstice and geraniums were still flowering in January it all seemed a bit upside down. So, I started to work more with the energy of each month rather than dates of festivals on a calendar and then it progressed and now I actually work with the energy of each day. One of our lovely Hearth Guardians calls it ‘falling off the Wheel’.

My birthday is 31st October (yes really) so I should like Samhain best but I prefer the energy of December and the build up to the festive season, so Yule is probably the festival I feel most connected to.

MS: What books can we expect from you next, after Animal Magic?

RP: I have three more signed contracts:

Witchcraft…into the wilds – the manuscript for that is nearly finished.

“A book that leads us through the wilds of nature and back to the roots and bones of witchcraft, a natural witchcraft that works with the seasons and all the natural items that Mother Nature provides drawing on magical folk lore and a little bit of gypsy magic too. No fancy schmany tools or ceremonial rituals, this is about working with the source. Mother Earth provides us with the changing of the seasons and within that turning of the year she gives us everything we need to work magic with from natural energy in the form of storms, rain and sunshine to tangible items packed full of magical energy such as seeds, leaves and stones.”

And then probably for 2018:

Pagan Portals: The Triple Goddess

“An introduction to the mystery and magic of the Triple Goddess exploring her history, meaning and individual faces.”

And:

Beneath the moon: Witchcraft and moon magic for a deeper practice

“A full and in depth book about working with the moon and the magic that she offers.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Do you have music that you enjoy, or a favourite book to lose yourself in?

I love to cook, specifically baking whether it is bread or cakes.

I love to read and my favourite author by far is Terry Pratchett.

My husband is in a rock band so music is always a big part of our life and my favourite band is Fleetwood Mac.

I make sure I have spare time and that is spent with my husband and children.

Who has been your biggest inspiration along your magical journey?

I have had some very good teachers during my years but I think the honest answer to this question is ‘my students’. The people that I have walked beside during their journeys have taught me so much.

And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

I am very blessed to be able to do what I do so continuing to write and share with others that which I have learnt and to spend more time with my lovely family. I do count my blessings, perhaps not as much as I should but I am thankful for the life that I lead…so more of the same for 2017 would be great!

Find out more about Kitchen Witchery at http://www.kitchenwitchhearth.net/ and http://www.rachelpatterson.co.uk/, and you can follow Rachel on her own blog, at Witches and Pagans and via Patheos.

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. See is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Merry Meet

December, 2016

marciayuleornies

 

                       Welcome

 

Our beautiful Front Page Image is the artwork of Marcia Stewart (RocknGoddess)interviewed in this issue of PaganPages.  

 

 

We have a Fantastic & Packed Yule Issue for you this month with some great features, such as…

 

mandalastones1

 

A Book Review on the book Meditative Mandala Stones By Maria Mercedes Trujillo Arango.  

 

 

starcat

 

An Interview with author  Nikki Starcat Shields.

 

paganway

The Final Episode of Patrick Kavanagh’s short story series Kiara!

 

gifts1

 

 

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone is running themselves ragged trying to find the “perfect” gift for each person on their list. Well Susan Morgaine decided to help us out this year with her article “Crafty” Gifts for Witches & Pagans: A Guide to Yule & Holiday Gifts

 

and much much more!!!

 

Join us on Facebook  & Twitter!!

 

 

 

Interview with Author Raven Grimassi

June, 2016

Raven Grimassi: Communing with the Ancestors

Raven

I was sent a copy of Raven Grimassi’s latest book, Communing with the Ancestors: Your Spirit Guides, Bloodline Allies and the Cycle of Reincarnation, and was immediately intrigued by the beautiful style of writing and the inclusive nature that encompasses people of all paths. A full review of the book will be available on Pagan Pages next month, but in the meantime, I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Raven some questions about this fascinating volume.

Mabh Savage: Tell us about Communing with the Ancestors. What was your main aim with the book, and what type of reader will get the most out of it?

Raven Grimassi: The primary purpose was in deepening the work of connecting with the Ancestors.    It’s important that we enlist the aid of the Ancestors.  I feel that the readership for this book is anyone who wonders about the purpose of Life and about the role of reincarnation.

MS: You say that in your book you avoided focusing on any one particular cultural view or practice, which makes this book very accessible. What culture so you most identify with though, when communing with your own ancestors?

RG: If I had to focus on just one, then I relate most to my Italian heritage.  However, I am also German and Scot and I do not ignore this lineage.

MS: Is everybody capable of making a connection with their ancestors, or the ancestors?

RG: Yes, definitely.  The Ancestors are part of our DNA, they reside within us to the cellular level.  Even adopted people who don’t know their lineage can connect deeply with their bloodline heritage.  The Ancestors have never lost track of them for they reside within them.

MS: You speak of ‘getting out of the way’ during the writing process. Can you tell me more about that?

RG: When I struggled with writing this book, I head the inner Ancestral voices say “Stop trying to write this book and let this book be written.  I had to stop forging and directing the work, which meant I had to let things come through me as opposed to from me.   The hands on the keyboard were mine, but the material was coming from some other source.

MS: How did you first come across the concept of the Spirit Rider?

RG: Like so much else in the book, it was passed to me from the Ancestral voices. At the core was a concept I found in studying the Mayan Vision Serpent, an entity intimately connected with the Ancestors. I had also run across some material on the Hawaiian Huna concept of connecting with the Ancestors through a Shamanic technique that requires projecting consciousness outward from the tailbone of the spine. The purpose was to meet the Ancestors. From this two concepts, something formed and was passed to me. I was given the imagery of the Spirit Rider as a serpent form in which the Ancestors can connect with us through our spines.

MS: You write in a beautiful, metaphorical style. Do you think there is magic in poetry?

RG: I think that the essence of magic can be conveyed through poetry.  can also initiate a magical consciousness that can open inner portals that lead to visions and enlightenment.

MS: You mention that in writing the book you became a student to it. What further lessons have been imparted since the completion of this volume?

RG: It’s been an ongoing process.  The most activity has been around trying to firmly grasp where the persona worn by the soul comes from, and what exactly is the “pool of consciousness” that legends suggest was the original of the human consciousness.

MS: The ancestral realm you speak of; is this what lies beyond what many Pagans refer to as ‘the veil’?

RG: I’ve come to see the Ancestral Realm as the residing place of those who came before us.  It is connected to the Earth Plane and the Elemental Plane, even though technically it is in the Otherworld or Inner Dimensions.  That being said, I think that what is found on the other side of the veil is the Afterlife Realm, a temporary realm in which the Dead dwell for a time.  This is different from the Ancestral Realm.

MS: What part of the landscape gives you the closest connection to the ancestors?

RG: In general, areas with distinct rock formations seem to hold memory best.  This includes manmade formations such as Stonehenge.  Caves are excellent gateways to the Ancestors, and lakes and wells are also good points of access. 

MS: Are you working on any more books at the moment?

RG: I always have at least two books going at one time.  My primary focus at present is to complete a book I started over 30 years ago.  It is an examination of the Witch Lore contained in the writings of folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland.  In the book I will also present new findings about his “Witch informant” and the authentic tradition that she revealed to Leland.

MS: The writings in Communing with the Ancestors sound like quite an intense process. How did you relax or take time away from it?

RG: I actually don’t take time away from a manuscript that I am submitting to a Publisher. I work every day on it, and the process takes months to finish (anywhere from 3 to 6). I often take my meals while writing, and there are no days off.

MS: And finally, what are you most looking forward to over the next few seasons?

RG: Reconnecting with family and with old friends. Too much time has passed while pursuing my work.

Raven’s latest volume can be purchased here and more information about his previous words can be found at his website http://www.ravengrimassi.net/.

Interview Author Kenn Day: Body and Soul

October, 2015

Kenn Day: Body and Soul

Kenn-Day-Show

Author of Post Tribal Shamanism and Dance of Stones, Kenn has been a working Shaman and healer for many years, with his own practice since 1989. He now also offers workshops for those wanting to understand and experience his practice. Kenn was kind enough to chat to me about his work.

 

Mabh Savage: What does the term Post-Tribal Shaman mean?

 

Kenn Day: I coined the therm “post-tribal shamanism” many years ago, specifically to differentiate from the many rich and varied tribal traditions. I did this because, on the one hand, I knew that the modern, Western, post-industrial and post-TRIBAL world that I live in, still requires the presence, gifts and skills of shamans, offered in service to a rather different client base than that of a traditional tribal shaman. It was clear to me that there are important differences in how we can work, effectively and appropriately, with folks in this culture as compared to those raised in a tribal setting. In some cases, techniques which are completely appropriate and effective for the tribal shaman, working the tribal culture, would be not as effective, and even potentially damaging when applied to people living in our modern setting.

Further, and equally important, I wished to be absolutely sure that I was not committing cultural appropriation. Respecting those cultures which still have active and thriving shamanic traditions is essential to the post-tribal path.

 

MS: You’ve been ‘delving into the mysteries of the human spirit’ for over 30 years; what prompted you to write this book, Post-Tribal Shamanism, when you did?

 

KD: I actually avoided writing this book for many years, before finally realizing that it would be a valuable resource — both for my own students, as well as others with an interest in exploring how shamanism emerges into our lives as modern humans.

 

MS: What was your biggest challenge during the production of the book?

 

KD: The biggest challenge was clearly the movement from the spontaneous, conversational way of speaking that I use when teaching, into the necessary rigidity of the written word.

 

MS: Who do you think this book will appeal to the most? What kind of person will get the most out of it?

 

KD: First and foremost, it was written for my students; for all of those who attend my workshops and work with me, either in person or at a distance. But secondly, I wrote it to respond to those who have a soul-level hunger to connect with their ancestors, the Earth, Spirit and all the other aspects of the world that we have become so disconnected from.

 

MS: Would you say this is a follow up to your previous book, Dance of Stones, or is it an entirely separate volume?

 

KD: Well, Dance of Stones was my most effective tool of procrastination. I literally wrote that book in order to avoid writing this one. At the time, back in the late 90’s, I was concerned that I would come out with “just another book on shamanism,” which would quickly fade into the background of all the other books on shamanism that had been popping out like mushrooms after a rain. Dance of Stones was (I believed it would be) more interesting, in that it is a narrative rather than a textbook.

It helps that Dance of Stones is also based on my own experience. I was trying to decide what I could do about writing a book, when a new friend invited me for a road trip in Europe. Soon after starting off on that trip, it became clear to me that it would form a good basis for a book on shamanism — and it has!

 

MS: Shamanism is very ‘in’ at the moment. Why do you think this is?

 

KD: My spirit ally and mentor, Grandfather likes to say, “The nature of the soul is to awaken. The nature of the ego is to avoid that!” At every moment in history, there has been a tension between those parts of us that want to awaken to see everything as it is, and the parts of us that want to remain in the trance of ego — pretending that the world is exactly as it appears to be. Sometimes the soul nudges us toward wakefulness and we find ourselves looking for something beyond the superficial answers of ordinary “reality”. This search for deeper reality eventually transforms the ego into more of a reflection of the soul, rather than its adversary.

Another answer for that question is simply that, the world has always needed shamans, and it needs them now more than ever. We have become very disconnected from some of the most important elements of what it means to be fully human. The response of our collective soul is to put out a call to those who might be able to help us move back into relationship with our humanity. This means connecting to our ancestors, to the Earth, to Spirit and so much more!

 

MS: Do you consider yourself a Shaman, or do you avoid labels and simply see Shamanism as one aspect of your identity?

 

KD: I do call myself a shaman, and have done so ever since Grandfather got it through my head that it was more ego-driven to refuse to call myself a shaman, when I was clearly filling that role, than it was to just let it be. After all, shaman is just a word. We use it because it conveys a certain Mystery more effectually than any other word. It connects us with the ancestors and the traditions that come before us and it allows us to work deeply, at a soul level, with those who we are in service to.

 

MS: Tell us a bit about the training courses that you do.

 

KD: The training course has always been an expression of my need to share these teachings with others, who might also put them to use in the world.

I began with just a couple of workshops, which have gradually evolved into a foundation series covering 8 weekends, with a variety of advanced coursework for those who are still interested after completing the initial series.

One thing that became clear early on is that I am incapable of teaching the same workshop twice. I can cover the same material, but somehow it comes out very differently with each new class, and of course it evolves over time as well. My intention with the workshops is to provide opportunities for the students to directly encounter the teachings and the Mysteries, in a way that gives them some practical skills to take home with them. Very little of that can be communicated by me talking, or by the handouts I pass around at the beginning of the class. Rather it is done by gradually introducing, one layer at a time, a complex pattern of practical exercises, discussion, trance and direct experience of those elements of the human experience that lay outside of what most of us have learned to think of as “reality”. In other words, the workshops are designed to gently and gradually blow your mind, making room for expanded awareness and deepening connection.

 

MS: As well as Shamanism, you are versed in shiatsu and qi gong. Do you find that generally a healthy body leads to a healthy spirit? Do you look at fully holistic healing- mind, body and spirit?

 

KD: Focusing on just one part of the pattern — Body, mind, soul or anything — is counter to the shamanic perspective. In shamanism — at least in post-tribal shamanism — attention is always being directed toward deepening integration, awareness and transformation. Getting too caught up just in the health of the physical can be a very effective way to avoid looking at the whole. That said, if one part of the whole is unhealthy, it generally indicates that all the parts are unhealthy. The challenge is often in determining how that shows up in each part, and what can be done about it.

Going back to your mention of Qi Gong though, the Chinese have been practicing shamanism continuously for thousands of years, and have a well-developed language to describe the various processes we encounter. Since I am versed in Chinese medicine, which in turn is based on those earlier shamanic practices, I often use terms derived from the Chinese traditions. I also regularly teach my clients and students Qi Gong exercises or Tai Chi forms, in order to help them embody principals of shamanic practice.

 

MS: Have you ever had any clients that were not open to the healing process? How do you deal with this?

 

KD: This all depends on the individual. What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone. I try to be open to allowing the client to drive the process as much as possible. If they need to leave and work with someone else in order to move forward, I need to support that. If they need to be challenged to do work that is uncomfortable for them, I will do that. If they need to have appropriate boundaries clarified so that the work is safe for them (and me) I do that as well.

Going back to the idea that the soul and the ego are often at odds over which direction we are taking in our lives, I try to acknowledge and respect the ego, while continuing in service to the soul.

 

MS: What’s the most common ailment, malady or condition you are asked to help with?

 

KD: I would describe it as the “invisible wound” of disconnection; the deep trauma that arises from feeling a lack of belonging. I go into this in great depth elsewhere. I even have an entire weekend workshop and a chapter in my book about it. It can show up as anything from addiction and depression to chronic pain and fatigue.

 

MS: What are the challenges with remote healing?

 

KD: The biggest challenge for me is pretty easy to overcome, rather surprisingly. That is the simple shift of two people in very different places into a space where we can work together. I do this by extending Medicine Body around both of us and rooting into the land spirit in both locations.

 

MS: Tell me about your role as a Spiritual Technologist.

 

KD: I borrow the term from my mentor and dear friend, Elisheva Nesher. Essentially, I use it to refer to ritual, ceremony, rites of passage and related practices. I have served as ritual director for pagan gatherings, officiated weddings and funerals, as well as many rites of passage in between those two. These are powerful tools that allow us to recognize the important shifts. For instance, a lot of people go through their adult lives feeling like they are still teenagers or children. Having some effective rites of passage into adulthood can make a big difference with this.

 

MS: And also a bit about Soul Solutions?

 

KD: Soul Solutions is the name of the Systemic Constellation Work practice that I have with my wife Patricia Sheerin. We both went through a two year training with Heinz Stark (http://starkinstitute.org/) in what is essentially a form of group shamanism. It is powerful work, and can often cause healing movement in areas where nothing else seems to work. www.soulsolutionshome.com

 

MS: Are you currently working on any other books?

 

KD: I am working on two different books, on and off these days. One is on a set of teachings I received through terma transmission back in the early 80’s. I still have very mixed feelings about publishing anything on those, but I’m closer to it now than I have been in the past. The other book I’m working on is called Grandfather Tales and is simply a series of stories about and from my spirit ally, who I address as Grandfather. And to answer your question, no, he is not my biological ancestor.

 

MS: What do you hope the coming year holds for you?

 

KD: More opportunity to teach — to pass these teachings on to receptive students, and to continue to learn more myself through at process. That has always been what draws me forward.

However, more and more, my attention is focused on being the best husband and papa I can be. With a wonderful wife and six year old daughter, that is the most important part of my life right now. I am enjoying life and all the blessings of my ancestors more now than ever before. I would like to continue that for many years to come.

Before I forget though, we are taking another group over to Ireland next year, which is always a lot of fun! We still have a few places open, if you know anyone who might be interested. They can find out more on the event page at https://www.facebook.com/ events/1468464340140809/1488264091494167/

 

Kenn’s books are available through Amazon and all good retailers. Keep up to date with him at www.shamanstouch.com.

Interview With Z Budapest

October, 2015

FOR HER DIAMOND BIRTHDAY, Z BUDAPEST IS A REAL JEWEL!!

INTERVIEW WITH Z BUDAPEST – APRIL 23, 2015

Recently, I had the privilege and honor to interview Z Budapest. For me, like so many of us, Z Budapest was my first introduction to a women-based spirituality that so filled a need, a hunger for a deity that belonged to me, to us , after lifetimes of being told we were worthless in the patriarchal religions of our birth. For those of us who were/are also feminists, Dianic Witchcraft brought our spirituality and our feminism together in a way that had been lacking. To most of us, the fight for women’s rights and equality and our fight for a women-based religion, seemed a perfect fit. Personally, I will always be grateful to Z for showing me the way to the Goddess, because, truly, it changed my life.

z

Zsuzanna Emese Budapest was born in Budapest, Hungary on January 30, 1940. She is a natural and hereditary witch. She came to the US in 1959, where she married and had two sons. She was a member of Chicago’s famed Second City troupe. Growing up with an understanding of Mother Nature as spiritual, she began to practice Goddess Spirituality on her own. Identifying as a feminist, she became involved with the women’s lib movement and was a co-founder of the LA anti-rape squad, after a woman was raped on Sunset Boulevard. This squad has gone through changes but is still in existence, now known as Peace Over Violence.

In the early 1970’s, she founded the Susan B Anthony Coven Number 1, the first Dianic coven in the country, the one to which we all aspire to. In the mid-1970’s, The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows as published, was re-published as The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries in the mid-1980’s.

She was arrested for tarot reading in 1975, and even though it took 9 long years, the law against psychics was removed and her conviction was overturned as unconstitutional under the Freedom of Religion Act.

Z is the author of many books, including the aforementioned Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries. She has led numerous rituals, workshops, and retreats in her lifetime. Her various websites offer women information on the Goddess, Dianic Witchcraft, online classes, online tarot readings, and other offerings.

While I asked a few questions of Z, I mostly let her talk, as she has lived a most interesting and varied life.

SM – I am honored to be able to speak with you like this.

Z – Well, bless you for that.

SM – I have most of your books in a book-case right next me . I started studying in my teens and was more traditional but when I became more involved with feminist movement, it made more sense to me to just practice Goddess Spirituality. I found you, and a whole new world opened up for me. Your books were like coming home to me.

Z – I had a small book and candle shop in Venice called Feminist Wicca and I painted the Goddess names all over the space – Isis, Astarte, Demeter, Hecate. When people who come into my space, they would look up and say, oh, I’m home. That was the general feeling of women who came in that we do share a collective soul. It was appreciated than and people have written about it. No matter where you are, once you put the names on it, it becomes a temple. This was a temple.

SM – I have a few specific questions that I would like to ask, but if there is anything you would prefer not to answer, just let me know.

Z – No, no, go ahead. I am writing 2nd part of my autobiography, called “Second Destiny” and all these things and questions stir it up.

SM – I Understand you left Hungary in 1956 and came to America in 1959. That must have been quite the experience for a young woman.

Z – I finished high school in Innsbruck, a bilingual school I got a scholarship in Vienna to be a linguist and I liked that. I planned to learn English after German. I was studying English already when I got my visa to come to the United States. I came on an old army plane that they put the refugees on, a bare bones airplane. It was the first airplane I had ever been on. and it was a long ride.

SM- it must have been so scary

Z – it was and it was not. Because when you are young, and I was raised on books and I was looking forward to it. I lived with books, and I was not so scared. I was so tired though and I fell asleep and my head fell on the fellow next to me who was a Hasidic Jew. I fell asleep on him and slept a good long time on his shoulder but he did not wake me up, he did not mind and he did not make me move. When I woke up and realized what had happened, I apologized deeply and profusely, but he said not to worry.

SM – So, you spoke Hungarian, then you spoke German and you now speak English Are there any other languages that you speak or would like to speak.

Z – I have my eyes on Spanish. and have always been to attracted French, but Spanish is spoken many more places now. i thought I would go with Spanish as I live in an area with Spanish-speaking people. But, I didn’t get to that settled down space in my head to really learn. But It will happen. My father learned Russian when he was 60 years old. He hated the Soviets but he loved the language. The Soviets had the old classics. He could read Tolstoy in the original and he said it was a totally different feeling, a totally different experience.

SM – So I read in your biography that you were in the Second City Improv Comedy troupe in Chicago —

Z – Yes, that was my only education that I consider important in this country . I did not learn anything useful at the University of Chicago it was supposed to be the best university and when I got there I thought to myself, where can I tie into. I tied into the German department so that I could continue with my German so I would not lose it. We had to write our homework and I would do my homework in German, and after the third time, they called me in and told me they wanted me to do my homework in English which really pulled my grade down. My scholarship was B+ or better, I got free education. if I got less, then I had to pay. I asked them, this education you are offering me, what will it be good for when I am done. They said I could teach German literature in a high school and I thought about it. and thought no one would want that, and so, I had to look for something else.

When I was 4 years old, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote all the time, all the time. I created imaginary stories for myself. There were very few children’s books. I just grew up entertaining myself and made up my own stories until I got hold of books again in my early teens, and I just never stopped reading them. I consider myself raised by books; my parents worked, nobody was home; I was alone. It was a way to have an inner life and not be disturbed. I was sick a lot, which was more reason to read. Essentially, I was very well read by the time I was a teenager and that influenced my writing style and I had a very mature style.

I won a big award. I got the 2nd tier and the first one, the top one was to a 21-year-old. My 2nd prize was for a short story and they called me in, and this was through the radio in Budapest, to make sure I was not cheating. They said that when they read my story that they thought it was a history teacher who wrote it. I said no, no.

My mom was an artist, a sculptor. very well-known. My biological father was only married to her for a few years, the first few years of my life. They got divorced after the war. I was living with my father for a while. But then, my mother put me in a nunnery because there was no food in the city and they figured only the christians had food and I just could not believe my luck. There were other children, other kids, to share my stories, my fantasies with. The nuns loved me . it was great time, but I also learned that the nuns were hypocrites and they were lesbians. The way they behaved. They didn’t have a word for it but we knew that Sisters Josephine and Gabrielle were a couple. They were definitely connected emotionally. If any of us that did anything that Gabrielle did not like, oh, my god, Josephine went ballistic and she got the rug beater.

SM – How old were you when you were there?

Z – From 6 to 8, very formative years. We learned there was no use for male priests. The one we had, he was old and always drunk. When he had to work, the nuns would fix him up, dress him up and lead him to the altar. He was not doing his job. Catholics have this thing back and forth – the priest would say something in Latin and they answer him. I was in the choir and I didn’t repeat anything he said, so I didn’t do my part. The nun passed out the communion and it was totally clear to me the male priest did nothing and the women covered for him and we had to pretend that he was truly doing his job and was not at all drunk. it became great fun when we went to confession because we used to confess things that we read in the bible. We were 7, me and my best friend and the priest would be asleep and he would never wake up and he would sleep through our confession every day. if he did wake up, he would say do your 5 Hail Marys and the other one. then he would sleep again. Then we got really bored and started to make up stories like we did murder…..nothing woke him up. <laughing>

I liked the spiritual lifestyle though. I like there were times for sleep time and for building an altar. They taught me altar building, which turned out to be very useful.

I liked the peace you get from meditation. it didn’t matter to whom you talked to or prayed; it was an exercise of the mind turning inward. I enjoyed that.

They did show me quite a few tricks that I could use later. My total belief in the Christian ways of doing things was never there; my mother just said well, don’t listen to what they say, just eat their food.

She was worried that if I didn’t get enough food in my formative years, I would have brain trouble, that my brain would not develop. I know now that lentil has everything you need; all the minerals and vitamins that you need. Meat is really not that important. Meat came about once a month as this was post-war Europe and nobody had much to eat. The nuns were very creative They fed about 400 women a day. They would batter elderberry flowers and fry them up; fried up in batter, it looked like pieces of meat. Very creative.

Ultimately all my schools that I went to ended and I had to move to another place, a new school. I never had a graduation with the same people who had been together. I never went to a prom. I had nobody from that time in my life except one woman, that was one relationship that I had – not as lovers, but as best friends when I was 9 until 16. It was so full of deep emotions, such emotion both ways. She was always encouraging me to write and I would help her with writing assignments that she was having trouble with. I could write in different styles and they did not notice it was not her. we had all kinds of scams that they did not know about.

SM – When the time came when you were in LA and you first came up with Susan B. Anthony Coven, how did that come about and how did The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows come to be The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, which so many of us thing of as our Bible. At least, that is how I have always thought of it.

Z – Yes, yes, I do too. I felt we needed our own scripture, real scripture for us. Some I wrote, some I edited, some I corrected and some was written by early members of the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1. The way I was pushed, each time we gave speeches in colleges and sometimes high schools, there would be some guy waving a bible and saying things like we were satan’s daughters. I thought, gee, we have to have something to wave back at them. it’s a shame that we do not have a holy book. So, I thought I shall write one. All of my writing has come for to this – a holy book for us; who else would write a holy book? My friends said you have waited all your life and all your lifelong devotions to writing comes to you to write our holy book. I have all of our holidays, the Dianic holidays which we still do not celebrate enough; and some were women only and some were both sexes. it took a while to write properly – I don’t type well. Sue Dixon typed up the Holy Book and bless Sue wherever she is.

In the 1970s, we were still forming. The goddess movement was happening. I was proselytizing tirelessly. i thought if you don’t have spirituality with a movement then you have nothing. You have to have a moral high ground to stand on. The Holy Book gave us that; it gave that to the practitioners. I kept saying do not follow this verbatim. if you have a better idea, use that. You have to have your own ideas. So lots of people started writing books about this angle and that angle of the their rituals, but still the accusations came of being satan’s daughters.

The fight for abortion was really, truly important to me anyway and to millions of other women. This was all about men making laws and taking control of our lady parts. We have vaginas. They do not have vaginas and they should not make laws about our lady parts. This was the impetus. I went to every march. I have never had an abortion or been raped, but I could not imagine being stuck with a baby and see the rapist in that child every day, horrendous.

SM – All of this was going on at the same time of the feminist movement, the coven started, lThe Feminist Book of Light and Shadows turning eventually into the Holy Book.

Z – The Holy Book was always there, but no one would publish it; it was too long, too subversive. I was turned down by many publishers. We carried it in a big luggage to the 3rd Goddess Conference in Boston – 2,000+ women were there, 2,000 already in the Goddess movement. 2,000 women to come, to take on the travel and deal with the inconvenience, but most of us were young, so it was bearable and then all kinds of miracles happened.

The 1970’s had the seeds for everything for the future. We could not get loans, write checks. We could only use money orders. The women couldn’t buy a house. You needed a husband’s signature. So, we said let’s forget about it and make our own bank. We opened the first women’s bank in West Hollywood and women got houses and loans, and they paid it back. It was going well until big business noticed that the market was changing and started giving loans and money to women. Credit cards came a long time after that. That’s how we cracked the financial ceiling.

The feeling was there and we were very hopeful. My friend opened a Dianic garage to teach women how to do fix look the small things on their cars. We had a Women’s center, we had karate, we had so many things.

SM – These are wonderful stories that are not in your formal biographies. You were at the beginning of everything for women, not just spiritually but politically

Z – Yes, and we knew each other. We knew where to go to meet people . any time we needed each other, we were there, any time a need came up, one of us would do it. We would line up in we would support a sister. We would teach woman how to drive because that was another problem. They would be intimated at the test. They would flunk because they were women, there was prejudice against women drivers.

The best one was for the rape victims. When nothing would happen at the police station, we would start showing up with the rape victim and fill up the place to support our sister. She would tell her story and then the next police would come in and want to hear the story and we would say, you missed it and we are not going to allow our sister to go through it the horribleness of it again.

SM – Is that how the anti-rape squad got started? I know you were one of the co-founders of that. I wanted to make sure we talked about this since April is Sexual Abuse Awareness month.

Z – in Hollywood, the media was on every other corner, the Hollywood media, and when there was an event, we made sure they knew about it and when we started this anti-rape squad, they wanted to hear about it. We gave interviews about how 1 out of 4 women were raped and every minute a woman was attacked, and things like that. We had our facts down because the media never bothered to find out facts. Then I put the cherry on top by saying rapists should be hexed because they have too good of luck and get away so I started thinking about hexing rapists and other assault guys. Criminals need luck, they often get away. One of us gave daily reports on one guy. She saw that her rapist drove a big truck and she saw that his place was put up for sale, he was driven out of town. We leafletted the neighborhood and where he worked with his picture to show the world what he has done, that this man was a rapist. He was driven out-of-town. It was a pushback. The women were prey but they did not want to learn self-defense and said that men were good; until we started the hexing and the wool fell off their eyes.

There was one who killed 13 women, who were prostitutes. He just tossed their bodies onto the freeway, so they called him the freeway killer. I thought if I don’t go after this guy, I would never find out if I can, and no one else would do it, so I would. So I

improv-d a ritual and got candles and set them up on the seashore, and got all of the first names of the victims. i thought, I will call them, they probably have not gone too far away yet. So, I spoke to them, I called on them by name. Let’s get him, let the earth give him up, let the weak one give him up, let his family give him up. This man had a cousin who was his ally in this. The cousin got picked up for shoplifting and said his cousin would be angry when he heard this and started bragging about his cousin the murderer. They took him home after he was done with the police, and they found the torture instruments and when the guy came home, they got him – this was 3 days after the hex was done they were brought down, so I thought this was the formula Call the victims by name and ask them for help.

SM – I remember when you spoke about hexing that there were some that said we, as witches, are not supposed to do that, that we are not to harm anybody.

Z – <laughing> – Oh, bullocks, bullocks bullocks – That is so against the Goddess’ justice. The Goddess’s justice says that even if you have not been harmed, if you were not killed, if you are a female, and a sister was harmed, you identify with that woman.

SM – You said, “if you cannot hex, you cannot heal”

Z – Yes, you cannot heal and sometimes the hexing is the healing. Women find out they have powers and with the spirituality of the goddess, it is the power of the divine. You have allies on the other side but you must be doing it, not justing talking about it, but actually doing something. In this case I was outraged. Once I was no longer male-identified, which I was for a long time, I found myself. Women who are male identified never find themselves. You have to start with identity. Women internalize the fear of fighting back. They believe you will get it back ten fold. No. No. If you attack the innocent, it will return to you; 3 fold, 10 fold, it does not matter, it will return to you. if you do not attack the innocent, then it is justice, evening out the scales. The Furies tend to come down on these big crimes. Make them go to jail, that was always the best way – criminals attack each other, and rape each other and get diseases and then they die.

Yes, one of our friends, a member of the rape squad was brought down by 5 young men, they all raped her and beat her and took her bike, left her for dead in the street. Made me very angry. She did not want to go to the police because they were black, and she was a communist and she did not want to propagate that black man stereotype . I could not talk her out of that so these guys were fair game. Don’t take too long but you have to prep the women so they are not afraid. Don’t do any hexes with people who have scary feelings. If they are women, it doesn’t matter if they are Phd’s or whatever, they go after them; they see a female, they are not really interested, they just want to exert power over you. They do it in groups, and I have a whole theory about that. The group rapes are homosexual acts that are acted out on women and they are usually men who are afraid of their own sexuality but want to see other men’s penises in action. A woman gives them an out; they are not out, they are not homosexual. It is very dangerous when gay guys don’t come out. it’s not always expressing itself in violence but the uneducated yahoos, when they kill someone it is very intimate.

I love gay guys otherwise. I did have some friends when I lived in Oakland. They were called the Order of Perpetual Indulgence and they dressed as nuns on roller skates. They were incredible sluts lying down on their roller skates on the streets of San Francisco fighting against intolerance. A very good friend of mine died of AIDS. He was running for mayor in San Francisco against Diane Feinstein. Diana had such good humor, he pinned a button on her lapel that said get happy for mayor. Everybody was so young.

But, age is a social concept. However, I inherited from my family, bad hips and bad joint. I was already aching by the time of my 50’s and I spent my 60’s putting my body back together again. I had actually three operations because the second hip replacement didn’t work.

SM – I understand that. I’m trying to also put my body back together again. I find that the spiritual aspect of my life helps me with the physical aspect of my life, if that makes sense.

Z – Yes, it does. You know what, our bodies are incredibly smart and everything inside our bodies has a job and they do their job. But, when they go up against inherited things, there is not much they can do. My operations were done in Hungary, they did a good job. I could not afford it here as I was too young for Medicare. It gave me a way to go and meet folk. the peasants from the countryside. It is more territory now, and so colorful. So many people, so many different foods. Women do the embroideries and you wear the most fantastic outfits. My people were nomads and women wore their Goddess outfits. Spectacular costumes passed down from mother to daughter with feathers and crowns – the young girls always wore crowns which was a crescent shape on their head, very intricate; it was the moon and they wore the moon on their heads. These outfits have these cultural marks and you can trace them to their origins. It is all about the embroidery. You were in your goddess outfit and you were beautiful.

I have been collecting pictures of my countrymen with their outfits. They started to get into modern clothes at the end of the 19th century, and they now they just take their nice clothes out just for holidays.

Many of these photos are in my first book, called “First Destiny – My Dark Sordid Past as a Heterosexual”. https://www.createspace.com/4973374

It has tons of pictures of my first 30 years. I am now working on my second autobiography, “Second Destiny”, but no subtitle as yet.

SM – This year is your 75th, your diamond birthday and you just got the SAGA award……

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Z – Yes, it was from a matriarchal association; The Association of Women in Mythology. All very smart, educated women who teach this in school. But I wasn’t happy that they do not come to my festivals. I have bi-annual festivals and the next one is in 2016. These women, they are book ladies, they do not do camping – they don’t go smell the earth. In my rituals, I actually make the women kiss the earth and once they kiss the earth, they says they never realized the earth smelled so good. The forest is clean and does smell good. The intellectuals do no like this so much but I have to forgive that.

SM – In their own way, they are spreading the word of the Goddess. They recognized you and gave you the credit that you so richly deserve for the life you have led teaching and serving the goddess in the way that you have.

Z – Serving the goddess, and also creating jobs for those who serve her. I fought the law that was against reading tarot; I fought against it and I won after nine years. The Supreme Court struck it down.

SM – When they arrested you for reading tarot, it took 9 years to change the law. After the trial, before all of the appeals, were you able did you back to reading tarot, or did you have to wait the nine years for them to change the law?

Z – I could read because they are not everywhere. The way it was administered before was a revolving door law, you got busted, you paid the $100 and you went back to work the next day. They would just bust psychics. I was there with Zelda, who wrote books on astrology and was in her 80’s, said, you are young, you fight this. I will pay the $100 fine and move on. in her case, she probably did not do much after that because of her strength but I had the Dianic witches, who were also old and these were my teachers. They had the best occult supplies . I would tell them my idea of a spell and they would give me the appropriate supplies and they were not that expensive and I could afford it. The older sister, she took my hand; she was 85 years old and kissed it, kissed it – that never happens that an older woman in witchcraft kisses the hand of a younger women and she said you will win but not in the way you think you will. I thought I don’t care any which way, just so there is no law against us.

After learning that Z had been in a car accident in October, 2014; hit by another vehicle, suffering a head concussion, which has resulted in headaches, I decided to ask just one last question so that she could go rest.

SM – What would you wish your ultimate legacy to be, for women and Dianics specifically and the pagan community in general?

Z – i would like to see a huge tradition now; huge numbers of Dianics that we don’t even know about coming out of the woodwork, proclaiming themselves publicly. I would like to see them celebrate our rituals publicly; celebrate the goddess in the street, in the park. Many pagans are doing this every year in their annual activities, but I want Dianics to be part of the American psyche. I want women to immediately be able to access their divine selves and I want them to see that male gods don’t work for us, never have, never will. Get over it already.

Practice verbal hygiene which means don’t put yourself down, don’t put your sisters down. You don’t discuss things out of fear. Step away from the fear and do this for the future generations. Just Fearlessness. They say I am fearless, I am not. I have never engaged in a fight I can not win. You have to weigh, what if I win, what if I lose. My purpose was to destroy the law, that was my target. I had to lose the trial but I would have to lose so that I could appeal over and over again and wear them down and let the Goddess step in.

SM – There are really no Dianics around here, even in local covens. Our local Pagan Pride Day has an annual ritual but has no DIanic ritual. On the Dianic Tradition Facebook page, Bobbie has been listing all of us by state. There is one other Dianic in Massachusetts and we have already gotten together once.

Z – Yes, yes. That is what the internet is for. Women are coached even online; women are coached everywhere. Sisterhood needs to be perceived as normal. Ultimately, that is the goal that sisterhood is normal. Women are made into entertainment animals, taking away their humanity and men like that because we are not in a sisterhood, we are fighting against each other, instead of being with each other as sisters.

SM – I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you and for everything you have given me and brought to my life, bringing me to the Goddess as you have.

Z – Blessed Be

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

http://zbudapest.com

http://dianic-wicca.com

https://zbudapest.wordpress.com

http://www.witchtrial.net

https://freevenicebeachhead.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/z-budapest-feminist-witch-who-fights-back/

TO CONNECT WITH OTHER DIANIC WOMEN AND FOR CLASSES WITH Z, PLEASE CHECK OUT THESE LINKS:

Susan B. Anthony Coven #1

http://susanbanthonycoven.com

Dianic Tradition Group on Facebook where women can connect globally.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DianicTradition/391850594334740/

Susan B. Anthony Coven #1 on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/sbacoven

Interview with Nimue Brown: Druidry and Dreams

September, 2015

Nimue Brown: Druidry and Dreams

paganportals

 

 

Nimue is the author of Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan prays, Spirituality without Structure, Druidry and the Ancestors and Druidry and Meditation. Somehow, despite all the writing she does, she finds time to be an active member of the Pagan and Druid community, run a very popular WordPress blog, work with other Pagan authors and the publisher Moon as well as being a musician! I was, therefore, very grateful to grab a few minutes with Nimue, to ask her a few questions about her inspirations, her motivations and her life as a pagan.

Mabh Savage: You’re an incredibly prolific writer, with 5 books out with Moon in the last two years or so, plus Intelligent Designing for Amateurs, and the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels you do with your husband as well as independent publications. You also blog regularly; where do you find the time? How do you keep your muse stimulated?

Nimue Brown: Finding ideas has never been much of a problem for me. There’s so much out there to be inspired by, confused about, angry with, curious about… and I think about everything a lot. In terms of finding the time, I’m self-employed, juggling all manner of peculiar paying gigs, but there are always spaces for writing. I don’t have a television, and I hardly ever get whole days off, so that’s the trade-off.

MS: You do interviews yourself for the Moon blog; who has been your favourite interviewee so far?

NB: Interviewing Ronald Hutton was quite an experience. He’s something of a personal hero, and he doesn’t give interviews very often, so I knew I was incredibly blessed in getting to do that and was also a bit terrified, but it was an amazing thing to do. All of them have been interesting though, it’s something I very much enjoy doing.

MS: My favourite publication of yours is a contribution to the Moon : Pagan Portals series, titled Spirituality without Structure. Can you tell us a bit about this book? What inspired it, and what is its goal?

NB: I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years looking at world religions, mostly to compare prayer practices. [When a Pagan Prays, Moon , 2014] However, alongside what I’d been intending to do, I started realising there are a lot of curious commonalities in how religions function, and they aren’t to do with spirituality at all, most of the time. Partly inspired by Alain du Botton’s Religion for Atheists, and partly by the census figures that show ever more people moving away from conventional religion, I thought this might be useful to explore. What can we take from formal religion that is useful? What, in those formal structures is not helpful to a spiritual life? How do you go about walking your own path and building your own practice? Those are questions I have attempted to answer. Small book, big ideas.

MS: Despite being a ‘Pagan Portal’, can the ideas within be applied to someone who has been involved in any faith or spirituality?

NB: Yes. I’m very interested in the work of heretical Christians like Mark Townsend, so am confident that Spirituality without Structure would be quite readable for anyone chaffing inside a religious structure. Whether we belong to a formal faith tradition or not, the only authentic spiritual experience is the personal one, and I think there is more commonality there, than there are differences caused by the methods we use to seek those spiritual experience.

MS: The tagline of the book is The Power of Finding Your Own Path. Do you think that many people who are interested in Paganism get swept onto paths that are popular but actually very unsuited to that individual, simply because there is more info readily available about these particular paths?

NB: Yes. Many people come to the less well known Pagan paths having been through a flirtation with witchcraft, first. Certain kinds of Paganism have a much stronger and more visible public presence, and people feel some resonance and are drawn in, even though it’s not a perfect match. The theatrical Druidry of white robes and big public gatherings gets the most media attention, and it can take those of us who are more muddy, feral and chaotic by nature a while to find out where we fit. Often the things that bring people to Paganism are not as impressive and enlightened as we might want them to be, but if a film, or World of Warcraft, Dungeons and dragons, or a fantasy book makes you realise a thing, it is simply a doorway. Many people come in via the strangest of doors, and go on to make their own journeys. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, these seem like very natural transitions to me, as people discover their own nature and way of doing things.

MS: Do the thoughts within the book, about moving away from formal religious ideas, reflect changes in your own life?

NB: My background as a child was loosely Pagan, although I went to a Church of England school. I was an eclectic Pagan until I realised I was a Druid, and then I’ve gently shuffled about inside Druidry, finding the Bards and the feral folk. However, I’ve been active on the Pagan scene for a good fifteen years now; I’ve watched a lot of people making those transitions, struggling with old faiths, struggling with new ones… I’ve mentored a fair number of people along the way, and heard a lot of stories.

MS: You speak about being termed as a ‘general eclectic Pagan’, which in my experience usually means anyone who is Pagan but doesn’t fit into any of the pigeon holes such as Wicca etc. Why do you think, as Pagans, we are so keen to label and define ourselves? Does this only occur in groups, do you think?

NB: It’s very useful for identifying likeminded people. I don’t think it’s a particularly Pagan inclination, either. I have other labels… Green, Steampunk, gothic, folky – these are tags that alert kindred spirits. If I see someone else who is a Pagan Steampunk for example, or a folky Druid, I know we’ve got some common ground and may well get along. It helps me choose which events to go to, which books to read. There’s so much information out there, the internet gives us access to about 2 billion people, and there are a lot of books and events. Anything that gives us a fighting chance of filtering that down to something useful and meaningful, I am very glad to have in the mix. Probably when we all lived in small villages, it wasn’t so much of an issue.

MS: Although you’ve found your own path, do you still consider yourself a Druid?

NB: My path is within Druidry. ‘Druid’ is a huge term covering a vast range of practices and beliefs. Nobody is ‘a Druid’ these days, nor, I think, historically. The ancient Druids had all kinds of different roles. Modern Druids are swelling in numbers and starting to reflect that. Some are political, some are healers, some are wild and some specialise in civilization. I think this diversity is a really good thing.

MS: Is druidry so attractive because of its lack of religious bias?

NB: I’m not sure that’s it. I think the absence of dogma is very attractive to a lot of people. It’s very community orientated, a lot more child-friendly than some paths and a lot more fluid than many as well. You can be a member of more than one group; you can shift between Orders to study, or study alone. We have enough commonality to be able to gather in big groups and share, but a lot of room for individual expression. I think the room for innovation is appealing, and the sense of something organic, always growing and shifting is an attractive thing to be part of.

MS: In Spirituality Without Structure, you state that one must be spiritual on one’s own terms, to avoid subservience. Do you feel that religions or paths with elements of subservience in are somehow less spiritual than those that have none? Is any worship of a deity a form of subservience? Or simply connecting with the divine?

NB: Some people choose subservience to deity as part of their path. If that is the way you manifest your spirituality, it really is no one else’s business! However, most religions encourage subservience to other people, and that’s a whole other game. It is the power religions give to people and the demand that we abase ourselves before other humans, in the name of the divine, that I think is innately lacking in spirituality.

MS: Do you think it’s possible to have a wholly spiritual life and still be part of an organised, formal religion? Is it a natural progression that as you remove the external trappings of religion, you become closer to the world/universe/divine/nature, or does it depends on the individual?

NB: I would think that’s wholly possible. There are many good things in the traditions, writings, creativity and inspiration of formal religions, and in theory they should also be a good means of sharing all that. For some, the tradition is really important, and the need to challenge the ways in which other people misuse and corrupt those religions. It takes a generosity of spirit to work in that way, but for some the calling is very much to go back into those formal religious spaces and try to inject some soul to offset the politics.

MS: And finally, what’s an average day like in the Brown household?

NB: Increasingly, there are no average days, which I like! Monday mornings there’s a community gardening project we go along to, we walk at least once a week, there’s a Friday coffee morning for arty people we like to attend. I try and make sure I have a whole day off, if not 2 in any given week, and not to work more than ten hour days. Some of my time goes on marketing work for Moon , and I do odd small jobs as a reviewer and freelance media support person, I read a lot. I do a lot of crafting, and when I’m working on the first draft of a project my afternoons are often a mix of crafting and writing. I find the crafting gives me time to think. Currently I need the day by going out to see the bats. In that mix, being a parent, dabbling in folk music, cooking, meditating, spending time with friends, sitting with other Druids, and anything else that strikes me as being a good idea!

All Nimue’s books are available from Amazon and other good retailers, and you can keep up with her blog at https://druidlife.wordpress.com/.

Interview with Halo Quin: A Fae Existence

July, 2015

Halo Quin: A Fae Existence

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Halo Quin is the author of upcoming Pagan Portal, Your Faery Magic. I caught up with her to find out a bit more about the Faery world, and about Halo herself.

Mabh Savage: What was the main inspiration for your upcoming book, Your Faery Magic?

Halo Quin: The main inspiration for Your Faery Magic was my experiences as an enchantress. I’ve spent my whole life following a fae path, looking for faeries, working with them, visiting the realm that is their world, and I found very little Faery specific information that properly prepares the seeker for such work. I had to work out the process for myself, by learning from various magical traditions and applying what I’d learned.

I had three main motivations for it though, firstly I wrote the material that became Your Faery Magic when I needed a guide through a disenchanted time in my life to the magic I loved and felt at home in – Faery magic – and, at the same time, I wanted to put into context what I’d gained from working within various traditions. The thread I follow through every tradition I encounter is that of the Fae, so I wanted to honour that. I also wanted to offer the work I’d done to the world so that others who are picking their way on this path have a light that might help them find their way. Because I love books this seemed like the obvious route!

So YFM is a guide to uncovering the magic of Faery for yourself which then allows you to bring enchantment into your life, written originally so I could do exactly that for myself.

That material was then both refined and expanded, with the help of someone with editing skills, into something that could guide someone else through a process I’d developed instinctively under the guidance of the Fae.

MS: Is there a release date as yet?

HQ: Not yet! But the release date should be finalised next month, and I’ll be keeping everyone updated on my website (www.aworldenchanted.com) and facebook page. (www.facebook.com/aworldenchanted)

MS: How have you found the book writing process? What have been the challenges and triumphs?

HQ: The hardest part for me was ensuring there was enough guidance to help people through the process but not so much that they would feel dependent on the text, alongside the issues of the reality of faeries. The term ‘fairy’ conjures images of sweetling flower fairies from the Victoria era for many people, but for me, and in many more traditional tales, the Fae are wilder than that. Avoiding the trap of thinking of them as just the diminutive form, the garden Fae which we most often encounter in our tamed natural spaces, whilst not invoking the Unseelie elements was an interesting balancing act.

MS: Do you think there are many people who feel disengaged with the world, simply because they have not realised their connection to magic or the natural world?

HQ: Very much so. Our culture specifically promotes a disconnected view of the world and deliberately distances us from our place in nature. We are encouraged to live in ways which run counter to our natural rhythms, inside physical and metaphorical boxes which keep us from relaxing into a healthy relationship with the world we belong to.

MS: Have you experienced this yourself?

HQ: For most of my life I have been very lucky, I spent my childhood chasing faeries and being encouraged to follow my own heart and my own way of being – though occasionally that annoyed my family as one of my natural patterns is a slow-but-steady day to day life, constant rushing does not sit well with me so the fast pace of modern life is stressful, so I unconsciously but deliberately slow down. I don’t think I’m the least bit unique in finding that kind of pace stressful, but I am unusual in that I was encouraged to find my own pace even when it left my school reports littered with comments like ‘always away with the faeries’!

When I wrote the material for this book, however, I had found myself stuck in a job that required living in a space that depressed me, away from my friends and the magic that supports me. It took me some time and a leap of magic to find my way out of the hole I was in, and deliberately connecting with the Fae and writing the foundational pieces of my Enchanted path out in detail really helped with this. I began creating ‘Pixie Kisses’, suggestions for play and enchantment for folk in a similar situation, and they helped too!

MS: Does everybody have some natural magic within them?

HQ: Of course! We are all natural beings and magic is everywhere, so natural magic must be within each of us. The skills and understanding required to consciously tap into that magic are often drummed out of us though – trust, playfulness, connection, self-knowledge, respect for the natural forces, and so on – but everyone that wants to learn those again can do so. The fact that the ideas resonate with you mean you can feel the magic in them and the longing to tap into that gives the motivation to overcome the challenges on the path.

MS: Who will get the most out of this book?

HQ: Anyone who loves faeries will get something from this book, even if it is only a different perspective on them to what is most often published. However, it was written with someone at the early stages of their path in mind, I really wanted to lay out foundational work that can encourage the creativity and confidence in the reader to unlock their own relationship with the Fae and their own Faery Heart, the natural magic inside them. Once you’ve got that, you can go anywhere.

MS: And what impact would you like to see the book have? What would mean the most to you, in terms of what your readers get out of your work?

HQ: What I would love, really love, is for people who have been struggling with feeling that disengagement to discover their own power to connect with the Fae and to re-enchant their lives. Beyond that I hope that it gives a different voice to the story of Faeries. We’re in a time where our relationship to nature and ourselves is so important. We, as a culture, both need to come home to ourselves and reconnect with the world in respectful ways and the Fae, who are real whether you understand them as spirits or as metaphors, are a clear route to that place. When we know who we are and feel good in ourselves we can share that joy in empathetic and respectful ways to protect those around us and build a better world. And we really need to build a better world for all of us.

This is why re-enchantment is so important to me.

MS: Tell us a bit about your other projects. What is the Goblin Circus, for example?

HQ: Oh goodness, ok. So I’m a storyteller, an artist and am currently working on my PhD thesis – in philosophy of art and how creating art can help us to re-enchant the world. I tell tales locally, folklore, myths and legends specifically, under the name ‘Blue Hare Storytelling’. I’m currently working on a novel/performance based on parts of the Welsh mythology of The Mabinogian, which is part of my research for a multi-cultural, multi-gendered Oracle deck called Healing Hearts. The Goblin Circus, however, is a synthesis of all the things I love. It is a one-woman-many-goblin multi-media, multi-platform storytelling circus! In part it is a storytelling show, just me, as the Ringleader, bringing the circus to life on stage (which debuted in February at a pagan conference). Then it is an art project, illustrating the Circus through paintings, posters and a comic. Then it is also a walkabout show, which will be me and others exploring several (hopefully) events over the summer in character. I also have notes for a novel and various other things for it too!

The important thing about The Goblin Circus for me, though, is that it is where enchantment has led me and I can already see how it is spreading the enchantment around by inspiring others. In following the steps to get out of the hole of disenchantment, I found myself surrounded by Goblins and inspired to start a Circus. I put myself in their hands and the ball began rolling…

You can find links to all of the projects I’ve spoken about on www.AWorldEnchanted.com, including the circus, if you are so inclined.

MS: After having a look through your projects, I was fascinated by the idea of intuitive art. Can you tell me a bit about this?

HQ: Very simply this is a form of divination where I tap into the energy of your life or a situation during a conversation and I then doodle you an artwork… which I then interpret as we go and at the end as though it were a tarot card. I have followed this up with an acrylic painting on canvas and a more in depth reading. The art then acts as a talisman and the reading offers clarity. I also use this technique to listen to the spirits and my Muse on which direction would be good to take projects, new stories and so on, which is fun.

MS: When did you first discover your intuitive, magic talents?

HQ: I always knew I was magical. When asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ my earliest answer was always ‘A Faery’. I discovered paganism when I was 10 or 11 years old, so I never really lost my belief in the magic of the world.

MS: What support did you have along the way?

HQ: !!! I love books; they have been my guide and inspiration throughout the years. Aside from that, my mother had brought me up to listen to the trees, so I listened to the spirits of the world around me and followed the guidance I heard. The time I ended up in a tangle, which I mentioned earlier, was when I’d stopped listening and started trying to work out what to do purely logically.

MS: What piece of advice would you give to anyone taking their first steps into the world of the Fae?

HQ: Read faery stories! Spend as much time outdoors as possible, soaking up the fresh air and clearing your head. Make an altar, even if it is only a picture hung on the wall or a candle on a shelf. We have to make space for them in our lives if we want them to join us. Oh, and ask the Faery Queen for guidance and protection. Not all Fae are sweetness and light, just as not all humans and animals are. It is part of her role to help those that ask for it sincerely to build the bridges between our worlds, and she’ll send you help in navigating what can be quite a tricky land to manage.

MS: You speak about the importance of storytelling; something very close to my heart! Is there a particular story that resonates with you more than any others?

HQ: I love the tales of Blodeuwedd and of the Birth of Taliesin, but the story that always makes my ears prick up is Thomas the Rhymer and his visit to Faeryland!

MS: Finally, is there a special place you go to when you need inspiration; worldly or otherwise?

HQ: I go to the sea if I can and near trees on the river bank if I can’t. I don’t like to be wet but just sitting and watching the water washes my spirit clean and makes space for inspiration to return.

Keep up with Halo at http://www.aworldenchanted.com and look out for Pagan Portals: Your Faery Magic coming very soon!

Interview with Luke Eastwood: A Druid’s Journey

May, 2015

Luke Eastwood: A Druid’s Journey

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Luke is a musician, poet, painter, photographer and the author of The Journey and A Druid’s Primer, as well as numerous articles on subjects ranging from politics to horticulture. He currently writes a blog for Moon on Druidry and Celtic belief. I caught up with Luke to quiz him on his many projects.

Mabh: What inspired your original interest in Celtic culture?

Luke: It has been so much part of my life for so long that I can’t remember where it started. My father sometimes enthused about Bonnie Prince Charlie and King hur, which left a deep impression; my Granny bought me fairy tales – I remember being read ‘Peronique’ (a Breton tale I still have) in a picture book version before I could read myself. I had a set of Ancient Briton and Roman soldiers about 1 inch high that often fought for hours on my bedroom floor, the Romans usually won as they had all the sexy weaponry!

MS: And how did this lead to your involvement with Paganism?

LE: I had been a Roman Catholic but found myself dissatisfied with it, although I did feel attracted to the teachings of both Jesus and St. Francis. I could see that the true roots of Christianity had become obliterated by the Romans and in looking through the dark history of the Church I discovered that much of R.C. ritualism is derived from European and Middle-Eastern paganism. At this point in time I had come to regard Jesus as a prophet, like Moses or Muhammad, so it was not much of a leap for me to abandon Christianity completely and become a Pagan. Being strongly connected to nature, Druidry/Druidism seemed the obvious best fit, although I did investigate Buddhism, Hindu pantheism, Hermeticism and Wicca on the way to choosing this path.

MS: I know from experience that studying Celtic history and mythology can be arduous and time consuming, although always rewarding. What have been your finest resources, and what source do you return to again and again?

LE: Yes it is extremely time-consuming but ultimately rewarding as you say. Apart from the many people I’ve learned from (often informally) I’ve found many books to be incredibly useful and/or insightful. To name just three I’d suggest – ‘The Religion Of The Ancient Celts’ by J.A. McCulloch, ‘Irish Trees – Myths, Legends & Folklore’ by Niall Mac Coitir and ‘The Celtic Heroic Age’ by John T. Koch & John Carey. can be wonderful but book knowledge alone is useless in my opinion. Experience of living and working spiritually is far more important but at times the ‘knowledge’ accumulated suddenly elucidates an experience or gives some frame of reference that completes the picture. Without the living and breathing experiences, the sum of all I’ve read is just so many pages in a dusty old tome, as dead as the wood from which the pages came!

MS: You paint, write poetry, books and articles, make music and take some beautiful photos as well. Is there any particular medium in all this creativity that you connect to more than the others, and why?

LE: No, there isn’t a preference I’m aware of. It has occurred to me that I’ve gone through several creative phases in my life, some overlapping slightly. In the last few years writing has been my main focus and it will probably continue to be so until my intuition draws me elsewhere. I am unable to work to order creatively for myself, I do only what feels right, so I’d be hopeless if I had to rely on it for an income. I suspect I’ll return to playing music fairly soon, it’s something that has always been part of my life in some form.

MS: What drew you to Druidry initially?

LE: I can’t really explain it. I think it appealed on a subconscious level. I had great difficulty in finding out about it, most of the books I found were very shallow and uninformative, which lead me to explore other less obscured areas, such as Hindu Culture. However, I remember walking past a bookshop in Swiss Cottage, London in 1996 and seeing ‘The Book Of Druidry’ by Ross Nichols in the window. I rushed in and bought it, even though it was £20 or something ridiculous like that. This was the first book I’d come across that was written by a real Druid as opposed to some academic or historian.

MS: And now, what is the most vital part of being a Druid for you?

LE: For me, being able to go outside and watch the world happening seems more vital than anything. If I were unable to do that I think I’d be incredibly unhappy.

MS: Was this part of what inspired you to write The Druid’s Primer?

LE: I didn’t feel that any one single Druid 101 book was sufficiently in-depth or comprehensive to provide a useful guide in one volume. I’m not sure that TDP is either, but it is my attempt to compile all the basics from all of the Celtic traditions I could find. In particular I was keen to promote the Irish traditions and knowledge which has been neglected, as well of that of the other Celtic/ex-Celtic nations.

MS: What advice would you give to someone with an interest in pursuing Druidry?

LE: Try to find the fine line between experiential, intuitive practice and academic, knowledge acquisition. Knowledge was always an important aspect of Druidry but so too was creative, empathic and intuitive skill. To be balanced I think we need to try to develop both sides of ourselves in a harmonious way so that what we do and what we know become integrated completely into who we are.

MS: Can someone be a Druid without worshiping any particular deity, or perhaps without honouring a deity at all?

LE: Not everyone would agree with me, but I would say yes to both. I would say that it is essential to have some understanding of the Celtic concept of deity and the mythology associated with it. However, many people have a nebulous sense of deity or even regard nature itself as the source of divinity or perhaps even just the source of life. I don’t see why such theological differences would stop someone from being able to live a Druidic life; I’d say that sincerely walking the path is more important than points of dogma.

MS: Tell us a bit about your recently republished book, The Journey. What was the key message you wanted to convey?

LE: In truth the way that we live is more important than what we profess to believe. Our deepest beliefs and concerns are demonstrated and manifested by the choices we make in how we live in the world. Much of the truths about human experience and the universe (from a human perspective) seem to me to be independent of the religion from which they originated. It strikes me (using a crude analogy) that many religious people are obsessed with the colour of the car they are driving or that other people are driving, when what is really important is keeping your own car on the road!

MS: You play an astonishing range of musical instruments; do you think this talent ties back to Celtic ancestry at all?

LE: I really can’t give a definite answer. I can say that my recent ancestors and relatives, including my father and grandfather have been very musical. I’ve been listening to music since I was born so it’s almost part of me at this stage. My siblings and my daughter all play instruments too, I guess it’s a minor compulsion in my family!

MS: And do you have a favourite instrument?

LE: I suppose guitar is my most played instrument but recently I’ve an urge to get back to playing the cello. I’m very rusty right now, but it has such a wonderful sound I really think I should make more time for it.

MS: Your bio says you are currently working on a novel; can you tell us a bit about that?

LE: It’s a sci-fi with a spiritual element to it. I’ve projected some of the current concerns relating to secularism and religious strife into the future surrounding one particular character who experiences a momentous, life-changing event. That’s about all I want to say, any more might reveal too much.

MS: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

LE: I’d very much like to write a book on sacred sites, cross referenced with some of the most ancient writings related to each of them. Although I love photography it might be interesting to work on this in conjunction with a photographer with a different view of such places.

MS: Do you still write poetry? What themes inspire you?

LE: Yes I do, but only when I feel inspired. That might happen three times in one week or once in a year. I appear to have no control over when I write poems. Nature, love and modern society are three themes that seem to crop up over and over again; usually something that has happened or something I’ve seen will inspire me and the words will just come flooding out.

MS: You write on many socio-political themes. What currently has you fired up?

LE: Injustice is something that makes me very angry – injustice to the weak and impoverished of the world and also injustice to the natural world. I think that inequality is a perennial problem and in some countries it seems to be getting worse not better. As the human population grows the stresses on the planet and on human society are growing, I really think that we need to collectively find creative and fair solutions fast if there is going to be any kind of future worth having.

MS: Tell us a bit about Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach. [Gathering of Celtic Spirituality]

LE: I was very inspired by Féile Draoíchta (Festival of Magic & Spirituality) in Dublin, which is run by Barbara Lee and Lora O’Brien. Basically I decided to copy their idea and move it outside into a rural setting, but focusing more specifically on the Celtic end of magic/spirituality. Both ladies have been very supportive with advice and Lora also gave us a talk in August just gone. 2014 was our 5th year and I’m delighted by how it has gradually grown since the first one. For me being outside is the main plank of my spiritual practice and I’m keen to provide others the opportunity to share that kind of experience with other like-minded people.

MS: You’ve had a very interesting spiritual journey it seems; from being raised Catholic to an interest in Buddhism, to studying Wicca and eventually becoming a Druid. Do you feel that where you are now is where you are meant to be, or is there still a further journey ahead for you?

LE: Yes I suppose it is a bit strange, I guess I’ve wandered like a stray dog until I found a comfortable spot to rest! I’ve learned a great deal from exploring these different paths and I’d be a different person than I am today if I had not done so. I do feel that I am where I am meant to be right now but of course there is still more to come. We are always learning every day, there is always something new to learn. I think that the day that I feel I have nothing further to learn from life is the time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Luke’s books are available through Moon books, from Amazon and other retailers, and you can find his other projects on his website. Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach has its own Facebook page and more info can be found on the Irish Druid Network.

Interview with Hearth Moon Rising: Invoking Animal Magic

April, 2015

Hearth Moon Rising: Invoking Animal Magic

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Hearth Moon is an ordained priestess of the Dianic tradition, who has taught magic for over 20 years. Her book, Invoking Animal Magic, sets about exploring the power and wisdom of our animal allies. Hearth Moon was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and her writing.

Mabh: What is the root of your (beautiful) name? How do you prefer people to refer to you?

Hearth Moon: Most people call me Hearth or Hearth Moon; I answer to either. The story behind my name is really too long for an interview.

MS: Invoking Animal Magic is tag-lined as ‘A guide for the Pagan priestess’. Do you think it is only women that will gain insight from your book? Is this deliberate?

HMR: The majority of readers interested in this topic and in my writing are women, and the “Pagan priestess” in the title says unapologetically that I am tailoring the book to this audience. I think it’s better to be upfront about where you’re coming from. The feedback from men and women has been positive. One gentleman asked during a call-in radio program if men were allowed to read the book. I assume he was wondering if it would violate a women’s mystery, if the goddess Diana might sic the hounds on him as she did Actaeon if he opened the cover. In truth there’s no danger of that (but I applaud this man’s caution). There are a few activities in the book that are only recommended for women, but those are spelled out clearly.

MS: You say in your acknowledgements that you had a great deal of support and encouragement along the journey of producing this book, but what was your main inspiration that led you to put pen to paper?

HMR: I think my longstanding affinity and interest for the subject meant that I would eventually write a book about animal magic. I’m surprised in retrospect that it took me so long to get around to it.

MS: You speak of the obscure reference material that had to be tracked down; what was the oddest or most quirky bit of research material that you used for this book?

HMR: One of my most serendipitous finds was a book called The Laboratory Mouse, by Clyde Keeler. It’s a unique book, long out of print, that looks at mice from a cultural perspective. I had been pulling together the numerous references to mice in folklore and ancient texts and trying to put them in a coherent framework. I discovered through this book that humans have been breeding mice for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, and this was a crucial piece of information that helped me develop my mouse chapter.

MS: What was the biggest challenge during the production of IAM?

HMR: Definitely the biggest challenge involved finding images that had no complicated copyright issues. A lot of museums put stipulations on reproducing photographs of ancient artefacts that preclude their use in a non-scholarly general interest book like this one. This is why you see the same few images in so many books. Wikimedia Commons has been continually adding non-restrictive photographs of ancient art to their database, so I expect this is going to become less of a problem in the future.

MS: And the most rewarding moment?

HMR: I think for me the writing was its own reward in many ways. I discovered by writing a book that I take more pleasure in the process of what I’m doing than the outcome. While writing the book, I set aside several hours a day, four to five days a week, for the process, and I enjoyed it immensely. Then when the final manuscript was off to the publisher, all I really wanted to think about was the next book. The whole experience makes me think of a friend, who would spend a few years building his dream house, then lose interest once it was completed, sell it, and begin work on a new dream house. I had thought he was unclear on the dream house concept, but I actually understand his mind-set now.

MS: Your bio tells me you are a licensed outdoor guide. Tell us a bit about what that entails, and how you became qualified in this area.

HMR: New York State does not allow anyone to lead a group in a designated wilderness area for remuneration unless they are licensed. To become licensed you have to take safety courses and pass a test showing that you understand back country survival tactics. Where I live a lot of people do guide work, and some make a living from it. I became licensed because I thought this would make people feel safer about going into the woods to do magic with me.

MS: I’ve seen some pictures of the Adirondack Mountains where you live, and it looks just beautiful. How connected do you feel to the nature around you, and how does this lend itself to your magical workings?

HMR: I feel fortunate to live in the Adirondacks. The earth and water energies are very strong here. It is a beautiful and wild place, and it has the benefit of longstanding environmental protections. I don’t just feel connected to nature here—I feel challenged and tested. I’ve been through winters where the night time temperature would drop below -40°F (that’s also -40°C!) for weeks at a time. A foot or two of snow is nothing to us, and you can fall into deep traps in your snowshoes, so you have to be careful about hiking alone. Having a realistic appraisal of your abilities is essential to survival here. Magically, living here has taught me to ride natural rhythms, to adjust to the materials and energy patterns that are around me. My awareness has deepened in many ways.

MS: When did you first start working with animals on your magical path, or has that understanding always been there at some level?

HMR: Animals have always been an important part of my life, so when I began studying to be a priestess, I naturally gravitated toward animal magic. I was fortunate to have teachers who were knowledgeable about the subject, and even in the early years of my training I practiced in natural settings outside the city, often at night, where the topic would spontaneously arise as we encountered animals literally along our path.

MS: I love the way you tie your experiences with animals back to ancient myths and legends. What is your favourite ancient animal tale, and why?

HMR: Of all the legends in the book, I like “The Three Feathers” the best, because I find the image of a giant wish-fulfilling toad so hilarious. The fairy toad-mother effectively dispels all the evil toad stereotypes.

MS: Do you have pets, and if so, are they part of your magical life, or simply companions? Indeed, can the two be separated?

HMR: I have a Siamese cat, and she is my familiar who helps me with my magic. Animals move easily between the worlds, and they can always be a part of magic, but with a familiar the magic is directed consciously. The bond between witch and familiar has to remain solid, and it’s a time consuming high maintenance relationship, so I don’t have or want other pets.

MS: Unlike most Pagan books on animals, you talk about the ‘undesirables’ such as roaches; do you ever get frustrated with the general human attitude that some animals are better than others, simply because they happen to be cute or cuddly? Or do you think this is simply human nature?

HMR: It’s a fact of life that animals can be rivals as well as allies. The interests of humans and other animals are not going to coincide at all times. Magic is one way that we can negotiate with animals to ensure that our needs are respected, because ultimately we have to learn to live with other species.

MS: Do you have a favourite animal, or one you connect with more for a particular reason?

HMR: My favorite animal is whatever one I am working with at the time. So no, I don’t really have a favorite. I have a lot of favorites.

MS: Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon?

HMR: In my next book I will be delving more deeply into animal divination, examining how to interpret signs in the physical world and on the inner planes.

MS: And finally, as we move into winter, can you describe your perfect winter’s evening to us?

HMR: I have a lot of perfect winter evenings during the year, since the winters here are so long. As the late afternoon darkness falls, I like to sit in my snug house with a cup of tea, a good book, and the cat on my lap. Outside the snow is falling steadily. There is no traffic in the village, and the silence is so profound you can hear the snow falling. Ideally, I have no long distance driving plans for the next day to spoil the effect of the heavy snow. I can sip my tea, pet my cat, and make plans for tomorrow—snowshoeing maybe, or cross country skiing, or tracking animals in the fresh snow.

Hearth Moon’s book Invoking Animal Magic is out now through Moon and is available from Amazon and other book retailers. You can find out more information at http://www.invokinganimalmagic.com.

Interview With Yvonne Ryves

March, 2015

Yvonne Ryves: Weaving the Web

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Yvonne Ryves is a practicing shamanic healer, shamanic drum maker, holistic therapist and trainer. Living and working in West Cork, Ireland, she runs courses on energy healing and shamanic work. She has recently contributed to the Shaman Pathways series with the book Web of Life, cited as a new approach to using ancient ways in contemporary times. I caught up with Yvonne to find out a bit more about the book.

Mabh: What inspired you to write Web of Life?

Yvonne: For some time before I wrote Web of Life, I had been aware of how often I came across ways of working which were powerful and useful but which did not really fit me, and so caused me to adjust either them or myself accordingly. For example I had been struggling on and off for about four years with working with a medicine wheel and not being able to hold on to any of it enough to work with it. A healing blanket made for me, which contained the spirit animals I work with, really highlighted that I actually work within an amalgamation of cultures; some Celtic, some Native American, some Andean and that this was completely right for me. This got me thinking and made sense of why the medicine wheel as such didn’t fit me. Alongside this I had become increasingly aware of how other cultures have guidance e.g. in the form of medicine wheels, wheels of life and the wheel of the year, for example, but those of us who are not from such cultures or backgrounds have nothing to guide and support us. Out of this thinking came the need to create something that could be taken by anyone regardless of culture or beliefs and be developed by them to create something unique to them and with which they could work. This turned out to be the Web of Life.

MS: Who do you think will get the most out of this book?

YR: Everyone! And I really do mean that. I think we all benefit from opening to the connection we have with all that exists, learning to listen to the guidance and knowledge that is around us and using it to assist us in moving through our lives with greater awareness of what we are choosing to create as we do.

MS: So, would you say the ideas within this book could be adapted by those not on a specifically shamanic path?

YR: Undoubtedly. My aim was to create something that was accessible and adaptable by everyone regardless of their culture or belief. Web of Life is not specifically shamanic; rather, it is based on the belief that everything that exists is alive and communicates with everything else that exists, a belief that is shared by Pagans, Shamans, Buddhists, Wiccans and also some scientists to name but a few.

MS: Tell us a bit about the Shaman Pathways series this book is a part of.

YR: The Shaman Pathways series is a collection of short books by a range of authors and published by Moon , which look at different aspects of shamanism. There is a parallel series Pagan Portals also published by Moon .

MS: Shamanism is often regarded as a South American or native American idea; how well does shamanism translate into our western culture?

YR: The origins of the word shaman actually come from the Tungus people of Siberian rather than South American or Native American. It has though grown in use as a general term used to describe tribal cultures which work in similar ways to those seen within the Tungus people. There are many aspects of shamanic practice but the one thing that makes it different from everything else is the ability to walk between worlds and work with spirit helpers or guides.

Shamanism in some form was probably used by every culture that existed and not restricted to any one culture. Although the names that were used were different (e.g. Witch, medicine man or woman, sin eater) they were all forms of what we now would term as shaman.

In the West we have always had a shamanic culture even if there is little evidence of it having existed. I think that the world needs shamanism and that in the current climate people are seeking a way to reconnect with this element of their lives. Shamanism here is not necessarily tribal shamanism, nor does it need to be. As everything adapts, so has shamanism so it is very relevant and translates easily into our western culture.

MS: How did you first become interested in shamanic ways?

YR: While I was doing my apprenticeship as a Reiki Master I had some spontaneous past life recall one of which was as a young Native American child being shown how to identify and work with the plants in the woods by my Grandfather. He has lead me ever onwards since that time although it was a few years since I had a name for what I was being taught and a name for shamanic journeying. By the time I had these names it was just something that was part of me and what I did.

MS: You do many aspects of magical work including Reiki and holistic therapy as well as shamanic healing; would you say, overall, that you are a healer?

YR: Mmm that’s a difficult on [laughs]. I had an argument with one of my students years ago about just this. I denied that I was a healer, instead holding onto the belief that it was the energy that did the work and that I was just a channel for the energy. I could also add to that, that it is my spirit helpers that do the healing when I do shamanic work but this really negates what I do and my role within the process of healing. Overall though I would now say that yes, I am a healer.

MS: Web of Life is quite a slim volume; any plans to expand upon it?

YR: Not specifically. I could so easily have made it a much bigger book and included more background on Medicine Wheels, more theory behind the idea of a web of life for example, but I wanted it to be immediately accessible to people including those who might never have picked up a book like it before. I made a conscious decision therefore not to do this. I really wanted to give readers their freedom to create something that works for them rather than have to adapt a way someone else has created. I believe therefore that people, once they have worked with Web of Life, will create their own unique ways to expand their work with their webs.

MS: And what other projects do you have on the horizon?

YR: I am in the process of writing a book about shamanism and labyrinths which is something I am very interested in and have another idea for a book lurking but nothing firm yet.

I have also been contacted recently about shamanic training and this is something that I would like to look at in the future, both in person and distance training if I can find a practical way to make it work.

MS: A few of us with family in Ireland have observed that talking about life as an alternative practitioner or Pagan doesn’t have to be so ‘hush hush’ anymore. Living in Ireland, do you feel as if Paganism is on the rise there?

YR: Yes I do. There are still those who see anything alternative as being the work of the devil of course but in general people here, even older generations, are much more open than in the past and there is a growing interest in returning to the roots of our ancestors. I have really noticed an upsurge in those offering access to courses relating to all forms of paganism including shamanism. I actually find it very easy to be authentic here and never feel I have to hide what I do or what I am.

MS: Do you feel a connection to the land where you work and does this help with your healing?

YR: Yes very definitely. The land, and my connection to it, is vital for the type of healing I do. I rely a lot on being in contact with the energies around me and being able to call upon their assistance when I need to. I am blessed with living in a place that has amazing energy.

MS: Your academic qualifications are in teaching and education. Is this still a big part of your life?

YR: Not teaching in the traditional sense but passing on what I know and what I have learnt to others is still a big part of what I do whether this is in person or through my writing. I have tried many times to walk away from teaching but it is such an intrinsic part of me and my path here that I have now just accepted that. I do love seeing others grow, develop and find their own paths and it now feels like a gift to be able to be part of this.

MS: Does the teaching experience spill over into your spiritual endeavours; do you use the same skills when passing on your knowledge of shamanic skills, for example?

YR: Yes very much so. I have always been a facilitator rather than someone who is didactic and this is still how I work. I myself learn best by doing, through experiential learning and this really is how I pass on skills and knowledge now.

MS: You have a diverse range of experience and your bio tells us that you are now studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. What is the common theme in all your endeavours; what drives you to learn these skills?

YR: I think the common theme of all of it is going where I am led. I rarely know why I am drawn to do something, but trust that somewhere in it all is something I need. It’s a way of being that has taken me to some interesting places now but I can honestly say that none of it has ever been wasted. It might be several days, weeks, or even years before I understand why I did something but in the end it does all make sense. Sometimes my guides take pity on me and I am given some insight before I start but this is rare and to be honest makes it all so much more fun.

I think that whatever I do I learn more about myself and the more I learn the more I can help others.

MS: And finally, where do you see yourself in your own Web of Life 5 years from now?

YR: Oh that really is an impossible question for me to answer and always has been. I have never been able to visualise where I will be in 1/5/10 years’ time for some reason. I can remember during some training being asked to do this and honestly not being able to. I think it’s linked to my going where I’m led, going with the flow as it were. If I live this way, if I trust I am being looked after and guided then I only need to know about the now. When I plan my life path within my own Web of Life it is only to connect with the energies/teachers who are going to help me with what is ahead. I know if I work with them I stand a much better chance of learning the lessons that are there for me, understanding what is going on and not missing something important. With every path I weave in my Web of Life I weave it in the knowledge that it will take the time it needs, so I never know whether the part of the path I have woven is a short path or a long one.

Yvonne’s book Shaman Pathways: Web of Life is out now via Amazon and all other good book retailers.

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