magazine

Tea Time Reviews & Conversations with the Fair One

August, 2018

Welcome to our newest review column! I’m the Fair One and I’m pleased to bring you wonderful products from Pagan Owned businesses you may not have heard of, but SHOULD!

I will inform you about the wonderful product I will be reviewing, then next, the business owner and I have a great conversation about their shop, products, ideas, and more. So sit back, have a nice cup of tea with me and let’s open the door to our first shop!

 

Persephone’s herbal learning box

This month, over a nice cup of hot brew I am opening up the from Persephone’s herbal shop. The box itself is lovely, with a great message on the side.

A nice reminder to us all!

Upon opening the box the first thing you see is bags of herbs!!! Three, nice size bags, of that month’s herb, which is Mullien, in two different forms.

You get 2 bags of appox. 0.7 oz of Mullein Leaf and 1 bag of appox. 1.1 oz Mull-ein Comfort which is a mixture of a few herbs with Mullein and is a tea. The back of the packages tells you the ingredients in each bag and gives you any warnings or instructions that are necessary. You, also, receive 2 packets of Mullein seeds with approx. 200 seeds in each. Last, a high gloss magazine of , History, & More all about Mullein.

The packages of herbs are air tight sealed to ensure freshness. The tea, is delicious. Perfect for this column! The magazine quality is amazing. There are articles are awesome. It teaches you how to sow your seeds. The pictures of Mullein are beautiful. It is a great keepsake to have to always remember what the herb does and how to use it.

I was blown away by this product. I could not wait to have a conversation with Christina, co-Shop Owner of Persephone’s with her husband Jared. My Speech is in bold black and Christina’s is in green bold.

Hello Christina!!

It is such a pleasure to meet you. I was very excited to receive your herbal learning box!

The pleasure is mine!  Jared and I were excited to hear that you wanted to learn about our box and share your experience with your followers!  PaganPages.Org is amazing!!

Until now, I haven’t had any sort of formal way to learn herbs other than looking them up in my books or on the internet. You know you research a keyword here or there or look up lists now and then for this or that, but you don’t truly STUDY herbs that way I feel. It’s usually a hurried look up for a spell or ritual. A knowledge that you retain is something that a lot of us Witches are looking for. I have looked into courses, but they can run you a lot of money and they do not come with any supplies. I think you are providing with your herbal learning box, an affordable, amazing way to learn herbal healing & magick. How did you come up with the idea for a herbal learning box?

Jared and I both grew up around natural remedies and have always appreciated traditional healing methods. Though we appreciate and respect the role modern medicine plays in today’s society, we know it isn’t always the best or only solution.  We had wanted to open an herb store here locally in Memphis and be a reliable source for herbs, spices, and teas. But we figured it would be best to start online due to the costs that are endured with a brick and mortar. As we knew that the knowledge we grew up with wouldn’t be enough of credentials into today’s world, we decided to enroll in an herbal school.  We aren’t finished with it, honestly, but we’ve already learned so much more on top of everything else we grew up with and learned through life.  And that’s when we realized that there isn’t much out there that offers exactly as you said – the education with the supplies.  So Jared came to me one day and was like, “What do you think about subscription boxes?!”  And that’s where we started!

Your box is a beautiful mix of the Magickal and the Mundane, with a tale that speaks of a tea for a spell and correspondences and an article of a cure for a breathing ailment. Your Booklet is very complete and I am very impressed by it. It’s made of superior quality. The pictures are a high resolution and beautiful. You capture the herb & its flower in so many amazing lights. It’s breathtaking.

I wish I could say I took them all, but I’m blessed with the internet and paying for the rights to use them.  The magazine is my pride and joy and I have so much fun working with it every month. It’s always stressful because I never want it to be a repeat. I always want it to be something you’re excited to thumb through, and always aim to make it educational for all ages – that’s the #1 goal. Always.  While we strive to keep religion and faith out of the pages as a focus, there are many ways it is brought in – mostly through historical and cultural information. I come from a magickal background, even though Jared doesn’t, and we feel that no matter which side of the hedge you stand on understanding the core values of the flora around us is key to a healthier lifestyle – mundane or magickal.

You have guest writers in your booklet who write the articles and include a bio and picture of them. How do you find your authors? The articles are each unique from each other and informative! Giving you different views on the herb.

We’ve had a few different writers over the 1.5 years we’ve been doing this. To tell you a secret, most have been personal friends that come from a magickal background.  But part of the agreement all writers make is that it must be non-magickal focused.  We love out magickal subscribers and supporters, but we aren’t here to cater to one specific group.  Herbs and their secrets are important to everyone and we don’t want something faith or religious based to scare away people who could benefit from this knowledge.  All of our writers understand this, and usually follow up with something along the lines of “that’s a great way of looking at it and I can appreciate that!”

I have to tell you, the word search is a genius way to have us memorize important key words about the herbs!! I loved that you added that touch of fun activity into the booklet!

The word search came about as an idea to get kids involved actually.  A fun and simple way to learn the key focus points of a word.  And I hope as a momma-to-be that if my child was doing it and they didn’t know a word, they’d ask me and it could be even more of an educational experience – not just about the herb of the month, but also about general knowledge of life. We are toying with ideas of coloring pages or putting together a coloring book… but we’ll see.

This is a Monthly Subscription Box? How do you choose what herb you will focus on each month? Is there a certain way you choose what to put in the boxes each month? This month you include 2 packages of leaves, 2 packages of seeds, and a lovely tea. Do you always include so much?

Hahaha.. That’s a tricky question.  We plan months in advance.  The writers always have a minimum of a month to write.  They are submitting articles for a magazine a month before the box goes out.  Example: We just finished with the magazine that’ll go out in the August box and they’re writing articles now for the September box!  So it can get confusing.  We actually have a secret lair with the void of Facebook where we brainstorm ideas.  Herbs are chosen based on a few things.  #1 is always whether it is poisonous or not.  Because we have the tea, we cannot use something like belladonna or hemlock in a box. I’d love to as our deadly flora friends are so very important to learn about, but we can’t morally, ethically, or legally supply people with these things.  After that we have to make sure that seeds and herbs can be sourced from reliable and ethical vendors at costs that are beneficial for everyone.  While we do strive to give subscribers the best possible, we can’t go into debt doing so.  I can admit there are many months we still go deep into our own pockets simply because we can’t resist giving everyone the best possible.  Our most expensive month was cinnamon and that’s because of the seeds had to be imported in from solid vendors overseas and we had to rush deliver them due to the very short lifespan of the seed.  We try to avoid situations like that, though, because if someone didn’t open their box timely and plant their seeds right then – they lost their germination window.  And that isn’t the experience we’re looking to provide. 

 

We have 4 boxes.  There’s the Seedling Box, the Herb and Spice Box, the Tea Time Box, and the Full Harvest Box.  The Seedling has the magazine and the seed packets every month, whereas the Herb and Spice will have magazine and bags of herbs. Tea Time is the magazine with a bag of tea, leaving the Full Harvest subscribers enjoying the full bounty of all of it.  

You work really hard on your herbal learning boxes and it shows!!! Your shop Persephone’s hosts your boxes, yes? Can you tell us more about your shop and what other items and services you provide?

The subscription boxes are the main focus, but you’re right – not everything we do. Now that our new site is up (and ever so amazingly beautiful thanks to Jared’s handiwork) we have herbs, seeds, and teas coming into the shop also.  Tea blends that are found in the boxes will not be available to the public until after the subscribers have received their boxes first.  We look at it as a way to let subscribers enjoy that first sip of satisfaction for their subscription to the boxes.  We also have our body care line, Kora’s Gift. Kora’s Gift includes lip balms, lotions, soaps, an amazing eye cream, and pretty much anything you can think of! Haha..Jared is always brainstorming more things to work with and provide people with to help bring them back to what nature has to offer instead relying so much on chemicals and ingredients that aren’t safe for you. Kora’s Gift is Jared’s baby – not even going to dispute that.  He’s the math and science brain needed to formulate everything properly.  He will stew over formulas for weeks to ensure that he can always use natural products, get ratios right with each ingredient while ensuring they do what is needed for the end goal.  I can’t do it. As we say, he’s the brain and I make it look pretty, as I do all the label and packaging designs.  Only thing I can’t take credit for design-wise is that beautiful box the subscriptions are shipped in.  I couldn’t top Jared’s design if I tried!  But when he came to me with it, I looked at it like the wheel – can’t reinvent something if it isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed.  We are bringing in eCourses in the very near future, also.  We’ll have courses we put together as well as guest teachers!  We’re excited about this but we’re making sure the foundation of the online system is solid first before we release to the public. I’m giddy over it, though!  

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate getting to know you and your shop. I have really enjoyed Persephone’s herbal learning box and Suggest it to anyone and everyone who would like to learn about herbs, not just Witches. It is a fantastic, hands-on way to not only fleetingly learn but to actually memorize and take in great information! Thank you for creating your herbal learning box and sharing it with us!

And we thank you for this opportunity!  We’re so happy to know you enjoyed everything!  We enjoy doing it and it makes all the struggles and headaches endured well worth it knowing everything likes what they receive.  We have so much we want to do and offer because we love herbs and the natural world so much but it’s a baby step process of making sure that whatever we do offer is the best quality for you guys – be it supplies or education.  This is a passion of ours and we just want to keep doing it for as long as you guys want us to! Thank you again for this experience!

 

Wow, I have to thank Christina for this great interview! Now that was a great conversation with an awesome woman, new momma & business owner. Jared is a genius with products & Christina is a business whiz! What they have done is brilliant for us! This has certainly been the best way I have fond to learn about herbs. I am looking forward to their upcoming eCourses and I encourage our readers to look into their shop, upcoming eCourses, as well as the Subscription Boxes. This has been the most knowledgeable and affordable way to learn that I have found. The herb & spice boxes start at $13 a month. While the seedling sachet starts at $12 a month. I stand behind Persephone’s as a quality company.

 

Here is a Picture of everything that was in my box this month (minus the cat):

 

Christina has sent information and correspondences on Mullein for our readers!! Thank you, Christina, for everything!!!!

 

Mullein

Planets: Mercury, Saturn

Element: Fire

Nature: Feminine

Gods, Goddess, & Heroes: Jupiter, Hecate, Circe, Odysseus, St. Fiacre. Given the folklore and alternative names for this plant, I suspect you could probably associated with assorted crone deities and death deities as well.

Festival: Samhain, Midsummer

 

Add the flowers to a recipe for a yellow magical ink – perhaps steeped in vodka with tumeric and saffron heated with frankincense or pine resin. Use for drawing prosperity sigils, sigils of the sun, wealth, success, and strength. Witches can use the soft leaves soaked then dried in beeswax or tallow to make a torch for rituals of necromancy.

Mullein is used to see manifestations of spirits, to see into the otherworld, and to commune with the spirits and deities who dwell there. It is used for divination and dream work or a combination of the two (prophetic dreaming).

If making ritual candles of your own you may use Mullein stalks for the wicks or burn a whole stalk as a candle of itself.

Powdered mullein can be used in spells that call for graveyard dirt. It belongs to the crossroads, to Saturn, and to the underworld. It is Hecate’s torch and Lucifer’s staff. It is a key and a door. Mullein resembles a torch with it’s tip covered in bright yellow flowers with orange and red pollen mimicking flames. Perhaps Hecate’s saffron robe was dyed with rich yellow Mullein flowers instead of actual saffron. The flowers were once used in ancient Roman dyes and pigments.

In Indian lore, mullein is considered a sure safe guard against evil spirits and magic.

The little fuzzy hairs which cover every inch of a mullein plant are very irritating to the skin and mucus membranes. Use care when collecting, and always strain liquids with mullein in them very well to remove the little hairs before ingesting. Never smoke mullein without a filter! (Not that we are advocating smoking anything). Source: http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:mullein

Mullein was first introduced into the United States in the 1700s when it was used to poison fish in Virginia.

Mullein protects you in your sleep helping to combat both evil spirits and nightmares.

As it helps one to fall asleep when ingested, Mullein makes an excellent tea to encourage prophetic dreams and as an aid in lucid dreaming or astral travel while asleep.

Some people keep a packet of Mullein Leaves under the pillow to Prevent Nightmares.

In Great Britain it was used to help bring back children who had been kidnapped by fairies.

Various Native Americans knew a good thing when they saw it and used this Eurasian native that became naturalized in North America to return people to their right mind. For instance, the Hopi mixed the leaves with osnomodium to be used as a smoke by crazy people and those who had been betwitched. The Navajo wrapped the leaves in a corn husk to be smoked to help a mind return if it was lost, and the Potowatami smudged unconcscious people with the leaves to help them return to consciousness. Consider mullein useful in centering the spirit and add it to the pipe smoked as an aid to astral work.

Others wear the leaves in their shoes or Bathe for 5 days in MULLEIN Tea to engender Courage and Drive Away Enemies and Wild Animals.

Mullein Leaf Powder mixed with Graveyard Dirt also appears in a few old recipes for Goofer Dust. When burned with a mixture of Psychic Vision Incense and Commanding Incense and MULLEIN Smoke is said to be powerful in spells against Enemies.

It is mixed with dill, salt, and fennel and sprinkled around haunted areas to repel malicious spirits or ghosts, and it is a substitution for graveyard dirt in the recipes of various spells.

Mullein can be used to bring clarity and inner light, to help a person stand firm and develop inner strength (think of Mullein’s appearance for a moment – strong, upright central stem, almost represents a backbone really, with the flowers at the top as the head.) It can be good for those who struggle with their conscience – perhaps to help them see whether what they did was right or wrong and how to learn from their mistakes if their choice was wrong.

Mullein is a very good plant for those who feel they have lost their sense of ‘self’, to help them figure out where their boundaries are and develop into the people they are supposed to be. I’d be inclined to give it to those who have gone through a traumatic or life changing experience and who need help processing it all and learning from their experiences.

It protects those who carry it against wild animals.

Apparently if you put it into your shoe it will prevent you from catching a cold.

The dried herb guards against nightmares, evil spirits and negative magic and is added to sachets and charms to hang over doors and windows for these purposes.

It is also used in men’s love magic.

Some think that the Latin name ‘Verbascum’ is a corruption of the original word for beard, ‘barba’, alluding to the wooly appearance of the plant.

The plant was certainly known by the Greeks and Romans – Pliny suggested that figs should be wrapped in Mullein leaves to help them keep fresh for longer.

The stems were used as replacement torches by legionaries and were dipped in wax and used as candles at funerals – this usage continued up until the middle ages.

The flowers were used by Roman women to make a blonde hair wash.

Apparently both Circe and Odysseus used the plant – Circe used it as part of her spells, and Odysseus used it to protect himself from her spells, amusingly enough!

In the Middle Ages, Mullein was grown in monastery gardens as a protection from the devil.

Again, conversely, Mullein was used as candles in witches spells, though if the plant was gathered in a particular set of circumstances – the sun in Virgo and moon in Aries – the plant could be used to guard the bearer against sorcery.

Mullein is an ancient sacred plant that can be used in the midsummer celebrations. Flares are made with the flowering spikes that serve as a representation of the Sun god. Mullein protects against all evil, and in particular, against lightening. However, bringing Mullein into the house for no good reason is said to cause lightening to strike.

A great site for more information: https://www.buildingbeautifulsouls.com/symbols-meanings/flower-meanings-symbolism/mullein-meaning-symbolism/#Spiritual

**

About the Author:

Jennifer Sacasa-Wright is simply a Witch. She runs PaganPagesOrg eMag.  She loves hearing your opinions & thoughts on the eMagazine and welcomes comments. You can email her at jenniferwright at paganpages dot org.  When she is not working on PaganPagesOrg she is creating in some other way & trying to make the world a better place with her family.

Interview with Author Rebecca Beattie: Nature Mystic

April, 2016

Rebecca Beattie: Nature Mystic

RebeccaBeattie

 

Author of Pagan Portals: Nature Mystics, Rebecca is also a regular contributor to the UK’s premier Pagan magazine, Pagan Dawn, and is in the process of writing another book called Urban Nature Mystic. I had the chance to find out a bit more about Rebecca, and about nature mystics.

Tell us a bit about Pagan Portals: Nature Mystics. Who are Nature Mystics?

Nature Mystics are people who connect with Nature as a part of their spiritual lives, and experience mystical epiphanies in nature. A mystical epiphany is something that brings knowledge from outside of yourself, something you would not have otherwise known. They might have a slightly ‘otherworldly’ air, as they exist between different realities, and not just our supposedly solid, physical world. Nature Mystics can come from any religious or cultural background, and the mystical experiences will differ from person to person, depending on their worldview. For example, someone from an Abrahamic religion may frame that experience as being one that fits within their religious framework (seeing a burning bush is one example), while a pagan may encounter a god like Pan or Cernunnos, nature spirits, or elementals. The key thing is that the experience happens whilst being immersed in Nature. It is the Nature Mystics’ ability to transcend all religious or spiritual labels that appeals to me (although I realise it also conversely creates another!)

What inspired you to write this volume?

I was doing a PhD on Mary Webb, who was a much forgotten writer of the early Twentieth Century. She used to meditate in nature for long periods, and then awaken with a fully formed novel in her head, which she would then have to write down frantically, before she lost the details. Using this method, she wrote her first novel in three weeks. I fell in love with her last completed novel, Precious Bane, when I was fifteen, but always struggled to see how she fitted in with mainstream writing of her time. When I started doing an MA in Modernist Literature a few years ago, and I spent a good chunk of my time wondering where Mary Webb could or should be placed among her peers (writers like Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Vita Sackville West, Evelyn Waugh etc) and she just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The Bloomsbury set looked down on her as she made her own clothes and wasn’t fashionable enough, but she also didn’t fit in with the Victorian writers of the generation before either, as her subject matter really wasn’t Victorian. She felt like a Modern Pagan, but I knew that Modern Pagans didn’t emerge until a few decades later, after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951. I started to research other writers of the time, to try and trace who she might sit alongside, and I discovered that quite a few writers also had very pagan elements before they ‘should’ have, writers like D.H. Lawrence, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Mary Butts etc. I revisited Hutton’s Triumph of The Moon to look for clues, and had a bit of a lightbulb moment, when Ronald started talking about the influences that contributed to a culture from which Modern Paganisms could emerge. Gerald Gardner and his peers were not working in isolation. These elements were all found in both Webb and the other writers I was re-discovering. That was when I realised there was a whole research project there, waiting for me to dive in.

This is your first work of non-fiction. Will you be writing more?

Absolutely! I love writing, full stop, but I realised non-fiction allows me to write about the things I am interested in. It’s not academic, but it is definitely influenced by my academic training, and I absolutely love the research angle. All those libraries to visit and get lost in! At the moment I am writing another ‘Work In Progress’ blog for Moon , which is called “Urban Nature Mystic”. In it I am exploring how we practice our Nature based faith systems whilst living in the city. Someone once asked me how I could be a ‘proper witch’ whilst living in the city, and my immediate answer was, how could I not be? Nature is all around us, even in the most urban settings. It’s great, as it enables me to reflect on my own practice, and the differences between Dartmoor (where I grew up) and London (which has now been my home for nearly twenty years).

How was the process different to writing a novel or a short story? Was it more challenging?

In some ways the process of writing is similar, as you have to have the same discipline, but they do use slightly different skill-sets to get there. With non-fiction, you get a chance to go down the rabbit hole and explore topics that you are fascinated by, and then share that with other people. One of the dangers in post-graduate research is the risk of getting lost in the research and forgetting what it is you are ‘supposed’ to be doing. You can end up going off on tangents, and getting lost in the woods. Writing non-fiction gives me a chance to go off the designated path and deliberately get lost. It can give me a legitimate reason for exploring, and examining, and uncovering truths I was not consciously aware of. I am absolutely passionate about reading and writing, and the non-fiction writing enables me to share those enthusiasms with other people, and really see the world from a different angle. With fiction writing, you get to show people the view inside from the character’s head, which is a different skill entirely. I trained as an actor originally, and that skill is very useful when writing fiction, as I get to put on another person’s skin, and walk around in it for a while. Non-fiction keeps me inside my own head a bit more.

You enjoy walking; do you have a favourite route?

Where I grew up on Dartmoor, I had one favourite walk I used to do regularly, that I really miss, even now. It took me across the moors to a little valley with a brook that flowed through it. I used to sit for hours under a beautiful old Willow tree, and tell it all my troubles. For years I really resented the fact that I couldn’t go there as often as I would like, and then, more recently, I have tried to stop looking back with regret, and instead focus on what I have near me now. I realised I need to walk regularly in order to ‘walk things out’ in my head – it helps me to think through what I need to write about next, lowers my stress levels, and enables me to connect up with my gods. Although I have an active spiritual life with my coven, the walking becomes my day-to-day practice, and keeps me sane. Last year I discovered there are a number of ‘green trails’ all though my part of North London, and I have now discovered a trail that is my favourite walk. It goes through a nature reserve, and then winds on towards a farm with a riding stable. Finally, it ends in a wood where there is a pond that I can sit by and contemplate the world. If I am lucky, I get to see cows, horses, lots of birds, and the pond at the end is visited by the occasional swan or heron. Even when it is not, it is a lovely place to just sit and watch the reflections of clouds, or ripples on the surface of the water.

What’s the most mystical or magical place you have ever been?

Dartmoor is a very mystical place for me. Wherever I go in the world, I will always have an invisible cord that ties me to it, so much so, I have already bought my burial plot, several decades ahead of time (hopefully!) so I know that I will always end up there, just next to my Mum. There are a lot of other very special places where we can connect to the Divine in nature, and it is usually the really wild places that I connect to, like Scotland, or the Isles of Scilly.

I think the most mystical place I ever went to was Egypt. I have had a lifelong fascination for Egypt, and went there eight years ago. I went with the intention of visiting as many temples as I could in a week.

From the moment I landed there, I felt more awake than I have ever been. It is the first time I have consciously had that sense of ‘knowing’ about a place, the feeling that you have been there before. I was drifting up the Nile seeing sites that were so familiar to me, and when I visited the Temple of Philae near Aswan, even though the island itself has been moved from its original location, I could tell you where the gardens were laid out, and what went where around the temple.

Egypt is also one of the places where I have felt the presence of the old gods most clearly. It was a week of deep emotional shifts, and coincidences, and magic, and I would be lying if I said I came back the same person. I had been studying Psychic Development classes at the College of Psychic Studies, and also learning NLP and undertaking my work of the first degree in Wicca, so I had a lot of different development work going on. I think I felt my way around the tour that week, which is how I could connect so deeply to it all.

And the most mystical experience? A truly magical moment you could recount for us?

I think the key with Nature Mysticism is that you are connecting to life in a way that most people wouldn’t notice, as they go about their day to day lives. There is a big dollop of mindfulness involved, and you also have to be prepared for experiencing things that your senses can’t quite explain, and also for knowing things that you wouldn’t otherwise know. Some of the most mystical experiences can also be the most personal – the moment when a friend of mine came and tugged on my hair when I was at his funeral (he was a very playful person) or midwifing my mother through a terminal illness was pretty mystical. There is also an element of ‘knowing’ things – insight that comes from those mystical encounters that I couldn’t otherwise know. But it is also incredibly subtle – I won’t tell you that I experience daily visions of the Goddess while commuting to work on the Underground. Mystical experiences can be indicated by minute details – for instance, under my willow tree on Dartmoor, I would gradually start to see the ground beneath me undulate in waves, which I knew was not ‘physically’ possible. For me those mystical moments in nature are a way of ‘checking in’ to see what’s next on the agenda – a life in Wicca is also a life of service, so it’s a bit like checking in to get your instructions for what you need to do next. Also, the insights that come can’t always be shared – you have to get a feel for what you can and can’t appropriately tell people, without them thinking you are barking [crazy, for the American readers!].

How do you think the perception of modern paganism is changing as it becomes more widely understood through books like your own?

I think that the biggest change we have seen in recent years is the shift from ‘Modern Paganism’ to ‘Modern Paganisms’, as we have realised that it is perfectly acceptable to have many different blueprints for this faith system, and they are all as valid as each other. What appeals to people is the ability to follow your own path, and not to have too much dogma or doctrine imposed on you (unless you like that kind of thing). In the past we have gone through periods of debunking old myths (such as the unbroken line to pre-Christian societies) or the de-bunking of the myth-makers, like Margaret Murray who wrote The Witch Cult in Western Europe, or Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote The Mists of Avalon. I feel like we have spent many years apologising for some of our roots (when we are not arguing over them!) whereas now, I think we are coming back round to acknowledging that, while those myths may not be true, it doesn’t mean they are invalid. Margaret Murray’s view may not have been factually accurate, but it still influenced a lot of people, which means it still has value.

Although my own background and training is in Wicca, I wanted to ensure that “Nature Mystics” was a book that transcended some of those labels – it can be just as relevant to a Traditional Witch, as to a Druid or a Heathen as it could be to a Wiccan. The readership seems to be reflecting that back to me, so I *think* it may have worked. The thing I love most about researching our cultural (and specifically literary) roots, is that it gives us space to embrace all of those ideas we love so much, such as the idea of Priestesses of the Goddess living on an island that is only one step in the mist away from the ‘real world’ or the world of faery, or the idea of rats and moles encountering Pan in the woods, or the idea of a woman leaving her home in the 1920s, to go and join a witches’ coven in the countryside. We can embrace those magical moments without having someone come along and break the spell, even if those moments are essentially fictional. And the poetry that comes from these authors’ love of nature seeps its way into the language of our prayers and rituals.

Did you always want to be a writer? What’s your ‘day job’ and how do you fit it around your writing, or vice versa?

As a child I was absolutely adamant that I wanted to be an actor from the age of about seven. I kept this going for quite a few years, until I was feeling quite bitter and unhappy as I had a lot of creative energy that was going to waste, as you had to land the acting work before you could use that energy. Having one of those ‘what if this is as good as it gets?’ moments, I decided that I needed to take a sabbatical, and would only return to acting when I could feel positive about what I was doing. This coincided with decision to spend more time exploring my spiritual life. Although I had spent many years as a solitary witch, I had met my HPS, and was just embarking on the beginnings of my year and a day. One of the tasks given to me was to explore your local folklore. As I was researching, I came across the story of the Lychway on Dartmoor – a pathway lead to the Parish Church across the open moors, before the Turnpike roads were built. If you lost a relative and were living in my village, you would have to have carried your dead loved one across the moors to bury them, a path that was said to be ‘eight miles in fair weather, and fifteen in foul’. My dad and I did the walk, and it was exhausting, even on a nice day (and we did it over two days). As I was walking, I started to think of a short story of a girl who had to make this journey, except when I sat down to write it, the short story kept growing and growing, and it became my first novel, “The Lychway”. Although it was a bit of a surprise at the time, I realised I got the same buzz from writing as I got from acting, only I had more control over writing, as I could do it any time I wanted to, as long as I had a pen and some paper. Somehow I never went back to acting.

I have always maintained a day job alongside the creative work I do. Although it started as a necessity, it has become a habit, and it has the dual functions of keeping a roof over my head, and also freeing me to write whatever I want to, as I don’t have to be governed by what will bring the money in. It also keeps me very grounded as I work in a drug and alcohol charity. When I started there sixteen years ago, I told my colleagues not to get used to me, as I was only staying for a month. (Did I mention I also like to think of the Divine as ‘the cosmic joker’?)

What other projects do you have on the go?

As well as the non-fiction writing, the full time day job and keeping my sanity intact (barely!) I am also studying for a PhD. Through two years of a traditional English PhD about Mary Webb, I struggled to make her ‘fit’ into among her Modernist peers, and realised I had to bring my interest of Paganism in as well, which was a bit of a no-no as far as my old university was concerned. I decided to jump ship and switch to a Creative Writing programme. Now I get to write a novel about Mary Webb, as well as explore my Nature Mystics a bit more for the critical commentary part of the project, so I get the best of both worlds.

Aside from that, I also write regularly for Pagan Dawn, and I also have the Urban Nature Mystic blog going for Moon .

If you had to recommend three books that highlight our connection to nature most beautifully, which three would you choose?

My first choice would be Mary Webb’s novel, Precious Bane. The lead character, Prue Sarn, has a facial disfiguration, which it is believed was bestowed upon her by way of a curse, as her mother crossed a hare during pregnancy. Prue is also accused of being a witch, and has to deal with the prejudice she encounters in her community, as they believe that if there is something wrong on the outside, it must reflect the inside. Prue is a Nature Mystic, so she gains consolation for this prejudice by going out into the landscape to commune with the unseen force that resides in Nature. There are some truly magical encounters in the novel, and reading it for the first time (at the age of fifteen) enabled me to make sense of how I saw the landscape around me. Webb writes the landscape as a magical, mystical space which has agency, and a space in which anything can happen.

Second would be Robert Mcfarlane’s book, The Old Ways. I loved his descriptions of walking the landscape and the feelings he encountered, especially the encounter he had with a mysterious force among the trees in the middle of the night when he was trying to sleep. The encounter occurs on the South Downs, and it is really eerie. Usually, Macfarlane is quite logical – It reminds me that even the most logical of us can still make room for the mystical.

Thirdly, I would probably have to say Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel, The Enchanted April, in which two very downtrodden women decide to flee the boredom and dissatisfaction they encounter in their own lives by running away to Italy for a month. The descriptions of the gardens overlooking the sea are so arresting in their intensity. As more people come to the house, they all gradually start to unfurl and find themselves among the flowers and the birdlife. The descriptions are really beautiful, and the place has a real sense of magic.

What is your favourite Pagan festival and why?

I really love the Wheel of the Year, and it has to be my favourite part of the Pagan path(s) as it allows us to pause in whatever we are doing, and just focus on nature. It’s a reminder to be mindful. This is going to sound a bit gloomy, but my absolute favourite festival is Samhain. I lost my mum to cancer about eleven years ago, and I love the fact that Samhain gives me an opportunity to focus on her and my other ancestral spirits. Attending Samhain circles was a really important part of my healing during the years when my grief was new and at its most raw.

On your website you say you help others who are creatively blocked to unblock themselves. How do you do this?

I have a few tools in my toolbox that help with this, but they don’t all get an airing at the moment. Firstly, I am a master practitioner of NLP and a certified coach. So, at times when I haven’t had the PhD on the go, I can use my coaching skills to try and help them work through things (although these days it is mainly me that I work with!) The other tool I have is as a proof-reader and editor for other writers. Again, it’s not something I get to do much of now but I really like the challenge of coaching other writers through their work, as it enables me to help them, and also to reflect on my own practices. It is something I return to from time to time, and I can see a time in the future (probably post PhD) when I dust this one off and use it again. I have worked with quite a few authors on their novels, and it is really rewarding, especially when you see someone getting a light bulb moment after struggling with something for a while.

As well as writing and studying for your PhD, you make beautiful jewellery and pendulums. How do you find the time for everything?

With some careful time planning, but also by following the natural patterns of my own energy cycles. I am definitely a morning person, so I have developed this slightly bizarre habit of doing most of my writing on the tube, during my daily commute to central London. I actually go out of my way to make this last as long as I can, choosing a route that gives me the time I need to have a fairly concentrated burst of writing. I tend to be a ‘short bursts, very often’ kind of writer. I wrote all four of my previous books this way, and it seems to work.

At weekends I tend to have more at home time. The beading work seems to work best then. It’s something I can pick up and put down, as my time and energy allows. I also used to make natural soaps and bath products, but when I started my MA I had to hang up my soaping shoes, as there just wasn’t time for everything. I think we have natural cycles for things, and times and moods that elicit different bursts of creative energy. It’s just a case of needing to work out what works, and then you harness it. But I also have to be quite ruthless about how I choose to spend my time. It doesn’t leave me much time for ‘shoulds’, which is never a bad thing. You know, ‘I would like to go for a walk, but I should be painting the bathroom’. Stuff the painting, I say!

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I try and swim several times a week. I have an outdoor (heated) pool I go to in central London, which is just magical. On really cold days you get a mist that rises from the water, and I really love lying on my back in the water, watching the clouds and the birds flying overhead. It’s my water element moment.

At weekends, I take time for myself by walking. My husband is a night owl, which means he is still snoring while I am awake early with ants in my pants. He doesn’t love mud as much as I do either, so I use the mornings to go off walking while he has a lie in. These are my earth and air moments.

I think there is also something truthful in the idea that if you are doing the things you love, you find the energy somehow. I know when I am engaged in all the things that fit my life’s purpose (to have as many creative adventures as I can) somehow it all flows naturally. When my energy levels nosedive (I have M.E.) then I have to hibernate for a while so I can come back renewed.

And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2016?

One of the things I am looking forward to is doing more talks. I gave my first talk at Treadwells hop in Bloomsbury recently, and I felt like a duck who had found her pond. Somehow it harnesses all the skills I have learned over the years and brings them all together in one place. I loved every minute of it – from the talk, to the question and answer session, to the social time afterwards. It was really nice meeting readers face to face and being able to share our enthusiasm for our literary gods, and people have been really enthusiastic. It’s a great (and immediate) way of getting feedback, and knowing if you are on the right track or not. And it’s also a lovely way to share the research I am doing.

Find out more about Rebecca at http://www.rebeccabeattie.co.uk/ and follow her blog at the Moon website.

Interview: Anne Newkirk Niven Editor of Crone,Witches&Pagans, and SageWoman Magazine

December, 2009

anne

She lives in Forest Grove, Oregon, with her husband and three sons.
Anne Newkirk Niven happens to be a great inspiration to me in my Pagan and Magical studies, on the top on my people who inspire me list.
I first encountered Anne’s work directly as an Editor and Pagan publisher, when I sent in one of my articles/interviews as a contribution to one of her magazines. She mercilessly stole the article from the magazine I submitted it to, and placed it in another one of her magazines! (this is a true story and switching the article to the other magazine is something I am forever grateful for, of course!) I guess this is something you can easily do, and all in a day’s hard work, when you happen to be the Editor -N -Chief of the magazines. I want to thank Anne for taking time out of her very busy schedule to conduct this exclusive interview for Thorn magazine.

How did your interest in Paganism begin?

I imagine, like most Pagans, that there really never was a time when I *wasn’t* Pagan; it’s just that I didn’t have a name for it. I was a pious, evangelical Christian child, but with a mystical heart. My head was with the Gospels, but my heart was with the Earth, and eventually, as a young adult, I discovered the Goddess through reading two books: The Mists of Avalon (which was a gateway for many in my generation) and Starhawk’s original version of The Spiral Dance.

What word or words best describe you or your belief system, Spiritual or otherwise?
( Witch? Pagan? Goddess?….you get the picture 🙂

I’m a Gaian Witch with Christo-Pagan leanings. Which, of course, is to say that I’m a Pagan heretic, just like I used to be a Christian one! My primary connection is to the Earth Goddess, which is what makes me a Gaian. I do magick (though relatively rarely) which is what makes me a Witch. And my primary connection to the God is through a lovely working relationship with Jesus. I also have worked, upon occasion, with Brigid, Isis and Oshun (I was turned on to this relationship by a cowrie reading done by Luisah Teish) and I have an ongoing, if subdued, relationship with Our Lady of Guadaloupe. You can tell a lot about me that I answer a question about my belief system in terms of my relationship with various deities, because I’m pretty much an iconoclast and have little use (in my personal life) for doctrinal formulae.

Fortunately, I got myself booted out of a rigid, fundamentalist church when I was only in third grade for my insubordinate questions, so my relationship with Christianity as a religion has primarily been with the liberal wing of the United Methodist Church. I received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from a (nominally) Presbyterian college and went to a liberal Christian seminary whilst I was exploring my spirituality, receiving a Master’s of Divinity as an out-of-the-closet Pagan with Diana Paxson as my supervising pastoral mentor. I was consecrated to the Goddess and God by the Fellowship of the Spiral Path over twenty years ago, but I have not kept up my membership in that (or any) Pagan organization. I’m pretty happy as a solitary, at least for the moment, although I’m hoping to change that in my new home in Oregon.

Have you ever encountered any static from anyone (Pagan or otherwise?) while publishing for being a Witch with Christo-Pagan leanings?

Of course. I’ve been rather closeted, to tell the truth, because when I am open about my personal faith with Pagans I often get castigated, sometimes extremely harshly. (I’m not currently connected to many Christians on a personal basis, but the Christian friends I have are all very supportive of my Pagan beliefs. But then, they are liberal, social-gospel type Christians.) An editorial I wrote in SageWoman back in the nineties on this subject ignited a firestorm of protest; the one comment that stays with me to this day was a letter from a reader who wrote, (sarcastically) “Thanks for poisoning the sacred well.” I understand the need of many Pagans to avoid contact with Christianity, and I respect that by hardly ever commenting publicly on this subject other than excising vitriolic anti-Christian diatribes from our magazines. Encountering this type of prejudice has probably contributed substantially to my personal (not professional) distance from participating in Pagan groups and events. It’s very common, of course, for a new religious movement to reject the language, deities, and trappings of its predecessors (look at how the Christians have treated Jews over the centuries) but I used to naively believe Paganism immune to such influences. Historically, modern neo-Paganism grew up in a Abrahamic, primarily Christian, culture, so its rejection of that religion is a healthy part of its development. But I’m hoping that as the neo-Pagan movement develops more fully on its own, it will gradually moderate that stance. I already see this developing in the form of inter-religious dialogue between Pagans and Christians.

paganwitches

How did you get involved with Pagan publishing?
(Laughs). It’s a long story, but, in brief, I was trying to make a living. That’s why I laughed, since that sounds absurd, really. But it’s what happened. In 1988, I was living in Point Arena, California, a tiny coastal community in the middle of nowhere, having given up pursuing a career in the Christian ministry (for both personal and thealogical reasons) and my husband was operating a small print shop. I saw a copy of SageWoman and called the publisher, Lunaea Weatherstone, and asked to have the job of printing the magazine. Her printer at the time had done a bad job for her something like printing pages upside down and backwards, and she said, “yes.” After a long series of events, SageWoman came to be in my hands, and I ended up as her publisher. I’ve been doing this work ever since!
It must be a lot of work to publish Pagan magazines. Are there a lot of challenges in the work?
Well, yes, it’s pretty tough to make a living in any kind of publishing these days! The work is challenging, but rewarding, and I love it. I’m quite aware that I’m very fortunate to have been able to do this work for so many years. Publishing is not for the faint of heart: there’s financial challenges (like the fact that we barely break even on newsstand copies), lots and lots of creative challenges (you try coming up with a suitable illustration for a five-page spread on Satanism, like we did in PanGaia issue 50), and, of course, simply not enough hours in the day. But it’s by far the best job I’ve ever had.

You’ve told us about SageWoman; tell us about some of your other magazines.
SageWoman is the mother of all our titles. We wouldn’t even have a publishing company without her, and I still love SageWoman as much as when I saw my first issue. A women’s circle — in print — seems like an evergreen concept to me, and our readers seem to agree. But as a happily-married woman with three sons, it seemed odd to me to be publishing material only for women. In 1991, we started a men’s counterpart to SageWoman named The Green Man. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really community support for that title, and in 1995 it morphed into PanGaia, which was co-gender and therefore reached a wider audience.
Later we started a Pagan family magazine, The Blessed Bee, which we ran for eight years (and still have all those lovely back issues available) but like The Green Man, we just couldn’t find enough of a market for it, so we closed that title a couple of years ago. newWitch came about as a result of my husband Alan and I waking up on September 10, 2001 (yes, the day before 911) with the concept of a magazine specifically to break new ground in Pagan publishing. It was a fully-formed idea right out of the box, and the timing was fortunate — if we’d had the idea even 24 hours later, we would never have had the chutzpah to go ahead with the idea.
After newWitch, we went the other way entirely: to creating a magazine specifically for Crone-aged women. Crone: Women Coming of Age is the only one to grow from another title that we didn’t publish ourselves. A magazine named Crone Chronicles, published by our good friend Ann Kreilkamp, had a decade-long run and ended about five years ago. Last year, I realized that the concept might be ready to return, and called up Ann K. to see if she would collaborate with me on a re launch, and she said yes! So that’s how Crone came about.
During your time as a Pagan publisher have you noticed other Pagan Zines come and go? (what do you think keeps a good Pagan Zine going, and why do you think some of them cease publishing?, has the Internet affected the Craft of Pagan printed magazine publishing?)
(Laughing) Oh, my goodness, I couldn’t even count all the Pagan ‘zines I’ve seen come and go. We printed a good number of them; remember that we were small press printers before we were publishers. The mortality rate is truly staggering, but probably no more so than for magazine publishing in general; industry pundits like to say that only one magazine in ten survives two years, and less than 2% make it a decade. It’s like opening a restaurant; everyone thinks that they know how to cook, but actually running a food-based, customer service business is devilishly difficult. Pagan magazines have the additional challenges of facing a tiny niche market full of iconoclasts and free-thinkers (who are therefore unlikely to subscribe and difficult to market to potential advertisers) and the fact that Paganism is still a counter-cultural movement. For example, even after all these years, we still experience problems acquiring full newsstand penetration, especially for newWitch, because of prejudice against Pagans. And don’t even get me started on the difficulty of delivering our magazines to our incarcerated subscribers. We also have to mail everything in sealed envelopes, which is very expensive, because folks are reasonably worried about being “outed” as Pagan. It’s simply something we have to live with.
Add that to the fact that every Pagan zine I’ve ever heard of is run by volunteers (with a high propensity for burnout), massively under-capitalized, and with little or no experience in publishing or in running a small business, and it’s a miracle that there are Pagan zines at all. But the Goddess clearly inspires us and that’s what keeps all us Pagan publishers going, I’m certain.
As for the Internet, it has affected all publishing, Pagan and secular alike. It is a double-edged sword; we do a lot of business through the internet, and it makes it easier for folks to find us, but the Internet has brought about an explosion of free content (some good, some bad) that’s difficult to compete with. Unlike mass media titles, we depend on our actual readers, not our advertisers — though we value their support — for most of the revenue. So it’s absolutely vital that folks be willing to subscribe (or at least, buy on newsstand) our zines in order for us to survive. If everyone just says, “I can read that for free on the Internet” I’ll be sacking groceries in no time flat.
What is one of the best things you like about your job being a Pagan publisher and Editor? (what is most rewarding, or most humorous?, etc?)
Aside from simply having a job that’s contributing to the Goddess and building the Pagan community, what I like best is weaving together all the material I receive into a (hopefully) harmonious whole. I think of myself as a patchwork quilter, or perhaps, a choir conductor — the creativity is in melding the voices, not showcasing my own ideas.
Recent news I hear is PanGaia is merging with newWitch magazine, is this true?
That’s true; we are no longer going to publish PanGaia per se, and it was incredibly tough to make that call.
The proximate cause of no longer publishing PanGaia as a seperate title was both financial and personal. Financially, PanGaia always operated on a break-even basis, at best — and although it had a small core of dedicated readers, it never developed a large enough base to support itself, so it was always a (financial) drain on the rest of the company. Personally, we are slimmed-down to the thinnest staff possible — just our family — and I simply didn’t have the creative energy to manifest three magazines four times a year. I finally had to kick myself out of my denial over those two issues and do what needed to be done.
I spent an entire morning crying my eyes out when I finally came to grips with the fact that we could no longer publish PanGaia. Then, I picked myself up, and thought about how to take that circumstance and turn it into transformative energy. PanGaia has always been the most in-depth and serious of our Pagan magazines. If SageWoman was all “heart chakra” and newWitch focuses on issues more related to the first three chakras — issues of power, sex, groundedness, spellwork — then PanGaia was the “third eye” of the set. Although I thought that keeping these subjects corralled in their own little domains, I finally realized that carving up Pagandom (mentally, of course) into the “serious” audience and the “fluffy” audience was no longer useful. That’s where the idea of merging newWitch and PanGaia came from. We decided to expand the magazine to 96 pages and rename it Witches and Pagans to express the combination of the two audiences.
What has been the reaction to that change?
At first, I was really worried, because I got a fair bit of kickback from PanGaia readers who thought the new magazine would be too fluffy or, even more surprising, had a bad reaction to the W-word. I had people tell me, “I can’t subscribe to anything with the word “Witch” in the title.” I was flabbergasted, which I guess means there’s still some naievate lurking in my soul.
But as soon as the first issue came out, the reactions turned around completely, and I’ve been quite gratified that most folks seem to understand what we are trying to accomplish: a rich, deep, and comprehensive magazine that covers the entire Pagan movement. Our first issue has sold so well that for the first time we were asked to resupply Barnes & Noble with issues.
Since your time being involved with the Pagan Community, have you seen positive changes/growth since the earlier days?
A couple of things jump out at me — the increased popularity/mainstreaming of the idea of Paganism, and, conversely, the fragmentation of that community into an almost uncountable number of sub-cultures. When I first heard of the Goddess/Paganism, there was no mainstream consciousness of it at all, and now most everyone in touch with pop culture has at least heard of the concept, if nothing else than through fictional characters in mass media. During the time I’ve self-identified as Pagan, I’ve seen that title go from being freaky to trendy to blasé. It’s rather staggering, really. Of course, there’s still tons of prejudice and misinformation out there floating around, but a Witch (or Pagan, for that matter) today is more likely to be castigated by the mainstream for bad fashion choices than accused of sacrificing infants on the dark of the moon.
At the same time, this growth — and the increasing acceptance of Paganism by consensus reality — has changed the nature of the Pagan community itself. I remember a time when being Pagan was spoken about in whispers, and there were so few of us that we all felt we were part of one big family. (That didn’t keep family quarrels from breaking out, of course!) Now the community feels more like a movement or a confluence of communities than a single entity. I’m not speaking of the usual fracas of witchwars and the like, that’s all pretty penny ante stuff. But far more significantly, I’m actually seeing that the Pagan movement is more like the (to use an old term) “Rainbow coalition” — a gathering place for discrete, separate, self-identified communities joined primarily by some pretty vague (but meaningful) overarching concepts and needs. Primary among these concept is respect for female-named and aspected divinity — I know of very few, if any, solely masculine-identified Pagan paths — and an eco-spiritual consciousness that connects more meaningfully to immanent forms of divinity than transcendent ones. The Pagan movement also strongly values individual choice and what academics term “situational ethics.” The one thing every Pagan will fight to the death (metaphorically, of course!) is the right to worship deity in her/his own way.


What are some of the best things you like about the Pagan Community now?

It’s exhilerating to see the explosion of Pagan communities, for every possible need and desire. Paganism is an open book, and everyone is writing their own version of the good news; that kind of creativity shows the underlying vitality and, dare I say, deep connection to deity that only a genuine spiritual path can create. I’m also very happy to see signs of increasing intellectual vigor among Pagan writers and scholars and a maturing of Pagan ethical thinking. It’s a very exciting time to be Pagan, especially in a new political environment less dominated by an intolerant “my way or the highway” modus operandi.
Do you have any visions or hopes for the future of the worldwide Pagan and Magical communities?
I’d love to see the evolution of Pagan communities of faith integrated into people’s everyday lives, beyond the festival-based summer communities, and even beyond virtual online communities. I’d like to see open, public house circles — similar to the “house churches” which were so integral to the growth of the early Jesus movement — where any Pagan could come to worship. I’d love to see more Pagan social ministries — a sector of religious activity in which the Abrahamic faiths still almost completely dominate. Pagans — outside of the Reclaiming-style movement — haven’t yet largely embraced the fundamental connection between worship and work; that is to say, between being good and doing good. One place which is screamingly obvious that we need to move forwards in developing Pagan community is in outreach and genuine service to outcast communities. I’m especially aware of the enormous, tsunami-size growth in the number of incarcerated Pagans who have absolutely no meaningful pastoral services. And yet, as a community, Pagan prisoners are one of the largest sources of new Pagan adherents. As our movement continues to expand, mature, and develop, we will need to move beyond personal spirituality and morality into a more integrated, community-based path. Otherwise, we will never complete the transition into a self-sustaining spiritual path that stands the test of time.
Any thing you would care to leave us with in parting?
What I would like to say, directly to the Pagans reading this, is simple: keep your heart open. It’s very easy, as spiritual pioneers, as explorers, innovators and creators, to paradoxically become rigid, dogmatic, and self-righteous, to believe that we (however big that “we” is) are the only ones in connection with the divine. That’s the point when the Divine fades, and revelation becomes dogma. As long as we listen, really listen, to each other, without judgement and fear, I believe that we Pagans will continue to blossom and root ourselves deeply in our communities. I believe deeply in the transformative and creative nature of the Pagan reformation of western religion: I think it’s no accident that neo-Paganism blossomed just in time to bring a new bio-philic eco-thealogy to our anxious, fragmented, post-modern civilization. I believe in spiritual, as well as biological, evolution, and I think our movement is an important part of the next step in human spirituality. I hope, I pray, I aspire, for us to fulfill that destiny.

This interview was previously excerpted, adapted, shortened, and published in issue of Thorn Magazine http://www.thorn-magazine.com/fourthestate.html