working

A Spring Equinox Ritual

March, 2019

Here are some words from a Spring Equinox Ritual performed between three witches with a focus on the Morrígan. You could speak the words on your own, or with a group, and you can decorate your sacred space with flowers or appropriate tools, depending on your path. I’ve left out any specific calls or hails, as you can add these as appropriate to your own beliefs. You will need an object or symbol that is important to you at this time of year, a seed, and a pot of soil (per person.)

Spirits of East, creatures of air
Light of the bright morning,
Venus on the horizon
Warm winds chasing chills
Birds singing, anticipating the coming spring.
Be with us now, when light meets dark as equals
And give us humour and grace
To celebrate the coming spring.

Spirits of South, creatures of fire
Heart of the mountain and breath of the volcano
From the centre of the earth to the core of the sun
Keep us alive through the vacuum of space.
Be with us now when light meets dark as equals
And give us inspiration and creativity
To dance into the coming Spring.

Spirits of West, creatures of water
Drop in the ocean and flood in the field
From the heart of the cloud to the blood in our veins
Filling us with dreams and emotion.
Be with us now when light meets dark as equals
And give us wisdom and insight
To flow onward into Spring.

Spirits of North, creatures of Earth
Ant crawling quickly; raven soaring by;
From the tallest mountain to each grain of soil
Grounding us so we can reach for the moon.
Be with us now when light meets dark as equals
And give us courage and strength
To build great things this spring.

Lady of light, Ceridwen stirring her cauldron
Silver web of the moon and golden disc of the returning sun
Remind us of warmth, love and laughter
And the earth coming alive beneath our feet.
As you hear your lover call,
May you also hear the words and deeds
We perform tonight
At this time of equal dark and light.

Great Lord of the Land, Cernunnos the hunter
The thrill of the chase and the pumping blood in the vein
Remind us of challenge, growth and rebirth
And the green returning like an awakening spell.
As you hear your Lady call,
May you also hear the words and deeds
We perform tonight
At this time of equal dark and light.

And to you, spirits unseen
Ancestors from behind the veil
Loved ones from our time and others
And the great woman who binds us all
The heart of the crow
The soul of the Warrior
The mind of the mystic;
Morrigan, wise lady,
Shed your aspect of Crone and join us
As Light meets Dark as Equals.

We gather today at this moment of reflection
The pause in the planet turning
The moment when all suddenly stills
And the greatest magic becomes possible.
You have a symbol that you have chosen for this rite.
Look at the symbol.

What does it mean to you? (a minutes meditation on the chosen object/symbol)
Now speak, and tell us how this object resonates with you.

Each person (or just you, if performing solo) takes a turn speaking about the object they chose; this can be as simple as how it made them feel, or something they want for the coming season, or simply a memory it evoked.

As one, we have spoken our innermost thoughts
As one, we stand now, as we will stand throughout the year
As the sun returns, and we feel the warm hands of Lugh
Kind upon our faces,
Let us remember that we all stand as a little sun
To those in need of warmth.

As a circle, we are un-ending
As a loop, we flow and turn
Now balanced, at this point of equinox, we can move forward or backward.
Let us choose the onward path
Where flowers grow and great trees house the owls
And beauteous nature holds court.
We now choose one thing we wish to nourish throughout this planting season
And we will speak of this again at Beltane,
When Fire reigns and the veil is thin.

Everyone takes a seed and places it in a pot, thinking of that which they wish to grow/nourish/change for the better over the weeks leading up to Beltane. The idea is that the seed will sprout to represent the progress made. We share bread and mead at this point, but do whatever is right for you on your path, or with your tribe.

Every drop of rain
Tickles and delights
Every gasp of air
Fire reignites
Earthed in loam and clay
Reaching for the sky
Sea to East and West
Spirit soaring high
Spring has come again
Shoots burst from the soil
Feeding souls and hearts
With play and merry toil.

Dismiss and say farewell to the elements, the deities, and spirits of place in which ever way is appropriate. Stand in the energy of your sacred space and breathe in the promise of the coming spring.

***

About the Author:

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

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestorsand Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

October, 2018

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times October 2018

Bright Blessings,

This is the end of the growing season for me due to the kinds of plants I grow, and I’ve already started fall cleanup. It’s also the time I begin planning what I will plant in fall, and I decide what I might like to consider growing come next Spring. I am busily reading bulb catalogs and selecting next years seeds.

Pulling the zinnias is always heartbreaking, but we had such heavy rains earlier in the month, they had been knocked over onto the sidewalk so badly, and I had no choice. They wouldn’t have been left another week even, however, as they were spent. The stems and roots were packaged up as yard waste, and the flower heads given to a neighbor friend who dotes on the neighborhood birds. The birds just love to munch on zinnia seeds in the flower heads!

Also, we are rolling towards Samhain, the final harvest, and in Westerville, the town just North of Columbus where I live, that means we are having pumpkin patch trips, apple picking days at orchards, and the last of our tomatoes we proudly grew all Summer are blessing us with abundant bounty.

It also means poison ivy for those of us doing cleanup. BAH! A neighbor told me to vinegar spray the heck out of them, and I am going to do that today.

I also did not plant as much this year and I’m glad I didn’t. My back has taken a turn for the worse, and although I am in physical therapy now, it’s been getting progressively worse for about five years now. I may have to accept downsizing the amount of plants I do from now on, and I am not happy about it.

The Good and the Bad

Like in the garden, there is good and bad in all things. Everybody wants the good, but facing the ugly realities happen to be something few care to do.

Instead of the typical Sabbat based article, I will be reviewing a couple of things that came up in pop culture that has a lot of feathers ruffled in our communities, discuss some things from a generation ago, and why we ought not to be so quick to fly off all angry or offended.

The Box

The first thing that made so many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans angry was the Witch Starter Kit Sephora was about to release.

Various individuals blew up all over social media calling it theft, appropriation, offensive, infuriating, intolerable, and what have you. Many bloggers condemned it as sacrilege, and disrespectful of Witchcraft and Wicca, and there was such a public outcry, Sephora pulled the product, and they apologized.

Apparently, I am the only Wiccan/Witch/Pagan who was not in any way upset by this product.

Before you boycott me, or burn effigies of me, hear me out.

I am going to number the reasons why it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to be upset about this product.

  1. There are tons of similar kits out on shelves and have been for quite some time. What, you think the “Starter Voodoo Kit” you nabbed at Barnes and Noble or Half Priced when you were 17 were authentic and written by a real Voodoo priestess? Think again. You think the “Crystal Pack” you nabbed at a similar shop, or even a metaphysical store were by a real elder of the craft? Not necessarily. Both mainstream shops, and metaphysical shops sell such items on a daily basis and have for quite some time. Nobody who is raising hell and crying that Sephora’s kit is a great injustice to our sacred traditions seems upset about the other kits at all. This is no different.
  2. Look what is in it.
  1. A tarot deck, which you can get almost anyplace these days.
  2. A rose quartz crystal, which again, gets sold in kits constantly. We had a stash of different ‘crystals’ at a cavern where I was a tour guide, and you can nab then at various trendy shops at malls these days. Many non-metaphysical stores carry magical crystals, and nobody complains.
  3. White sage- which, I am sorry is not in any way European. It is Native to the American Southwest, and South America. So don’t tell me that was misappropriated by this company from European based Pagan and Witch traditions. WE took it from Native Americans. We take a LOT from their practices, and that is a proven fact. Witches use white sage, and don’t think twice about the fact we got it from somebody else. If we are allowed to incorporate practices from others, then others are allowed to incorporate our practices into theirs as well.
  4. Various good smelling tubes of something something.

Each of these products is sold to, sold by, and used by Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches on a daily basis. They are also sold by non-magical practitioners who want to earn money. Even some mainstream groceries carry essential oils these days, and I know of more than one organic market that has nag champa, white sage, and tons of essential oils for sale. Nobody bats an eye about that. Sephora is just one of many companies creating a product that the magical public uses.

Furthermore, in the apology they released, they said “Our intention for the product was to create something that celebrates wellness, personal ceremony, and intention setting with focus on using fragrance as a beauty ritual.” That is magic folks. And glamour. Witches are well-known for using certain looks, and scents to illicit responses, and beauty and making others find us pleasant smelling will draw more people to us. Rose quartz also initiates love and affection. It’s just another magic kit.

  1. Not everybody in our communities who sells to us belong to the tradition of merch they are selling. I will reword that to make sure people understand what I am saying. Every metaphysical shop where I have ever entered was ran by somebody who practiced a particular path, but sold things for members of many other paths besides their own. Some shop owners are not initiated, and just self-educated, and are very good at running a store. At no time in the 13 years I have been active in the Pagan/New Age/Metaphysical community have I ever heard one individual remark on this fact, let alone refuse to by merch for Wicca from a Druid, for example. It would make no sense because how would we be able to buy anything if we were so picky? Sephora’s product is no different.
  2. Furthermore, not everybody in our community who is either a business person or clergyperson has any education, training, or affiliation outside of their own thing. Don’t believe me? I have met more than one self-initiated, self-ordained “Priestess” who recognizes no elders, and put herself in charge because she wanted to be the boss. They have no issue finding followers. I have also known non-clergy who read a few books, and declare titles for themselves they swear was bestowed celestially, and everybody else is just too unenlightened to understand. There are always a number of them at every large gathering, and they slip in and out of our circles seamlessly. We “don’t judge” and we “are inclusive” and put up with a lot of bullshit because we are terrified of somebody getting mad at us for questioning them. Why do we accept this at face value from people who come to our gatherings who are not one of us, yet we raise hell over a product that is actually usable? Furthermore- who is the actual person who designed the kit? Are they Pagan or not? Would it matter if they were?
  3. The people who make tarot cards are not always practitioners. Some are just good at art, got a deal, and have bills to pay. Furthermore, the people who do the assembly line work cannot possibly all practice magic or be Pagan. Nobody seems to mind about that. The people selling you the merch at a non-Pagan shop may or may not practice magic or one of our religions. Again, nobody seems to care. How do you handpick your tarot cards? Do you research the manufacturer and artist and pick over a deck because they do not adhere to your tradition? Nobody does this. It would make no sense. So why are we mad at this manufacturer but none of the other ones? It is not possible to buy all things for our religious or magical practice only from others who practice just as we do.
  4. Is it because it’s more mainstream? Well, how many times have Pagans. Wiccans, and Witches decried the fact the mainstream often rejects us? Now that we are “socially acceptable” enough for things we use to be saleable in a mainstream shop, as we swear up and down we deserve to be, we are insulted. I am sorry, but we cannot have it both ways. “It’s a corporation so they have no right to take our money” some have said. Really? I will mention Barnes and Noble and Half Priced again. I am not sure which of the three companies I mentioned makes more money, but all of them are pretty large, successful businesses.
  5. Our practices are derived from other practices. Period. I have already mentioned our use of white sage. But let’s talk about Wicca in general. An excellent publication that is one of the most controversial in our history is Aiden Kelly’s Inventing Witchcraft. In it, he published parts of Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows. The entire Book of Shadows is now available for free online at Sacred Texts. Here is the link- http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/gbos/index.htm Nobody was supposed to see that except initiates, as it was secret, and for members only. Some Wiccans were very angry with Kelly for this. Oh yeah?
    Well, Kelly demonstrated line by line just WHERE Gardner got certain things from. Some from Crowley, some from Rudyard Kipling, some from varied other sources, some on his own. But Gardner and early Wiccans swore Wicca was ancient, from an unbroken tradition, and unchanged for centuries, even thousands of years. My question was- if it was all SO secret, why did Gardner and others put ads in the newspapers, contact journalists to do interviews, write books for publication, and generally put Wicca in the public immediately? Because nothing was secret, nothing was ancient, and they wanted to attract as many as possible. That is fine, it being a small, secret tradition for the few, and it is now readily available for anybody who will buy a book cannot both be true at the same time. Furthermore, Doreen Valiente, a true High Priestess, took one look at some of Gardner’s ritual writings, and said “No way.” She rewrote quite a bit herself. Kelly’s book can be had from Amazon.com, and here is the link.
    Wicca is not an ethnocentric ancient religion that went underground and reemerged when Gerald Gardner decided to publish books. It’s Gardner’s creation. It’s one I am thankful for, but it’s something that was pulled together and created from the many things that inspired Gardner. We, those who practice that have no business criticizing others for doing the same things we, ourselves do.
  6. We do not own the practices we utilize, and are not allowed to tell other people they cannot practice what we do unless we give them permission. Many other religious traditions, including atheists who believe in energy and spirits use the things we use, and follow some of the same practices. We do not have the right to dictate they are not allowed. Even somebody who thinks a kit at a shop is pretty or interesting or looks fun has the right to buy it and use the things without our guidance, permission, or approval.
  7. Nobody is making fun of us. Nobody makes us look bad but ourselves. I could list all the things I have seen and the people who I have met in the community who have driven me to tears of frustration over the years with their bullshit, but I know good and well the rest of you have seen pretty much the same things, so I won’t bore you. We also almost never call people on their shit in our communities unless it is childish arguing online over some discussion topic. I would really like to see us focus more on the condition of our own community instead of pitching fits about how some people who don’t belong in our circles views us.
  8. It is not the mainstream’s job or responsibility to portray us correctly. That is up to us. I am so over the people crying over Charmed or the latest horror flick’s wrongful use of the pentacle. I am sick to death of hearing people passionately declare Hollywood makes us look like devil worshipers and is to blame for misconceptions about us. No. Again, that’s us. And that did not come from Hollywood originally. It came out of the fact we use terminology the Xtains have used for centuries to denote devil worship. The word “witch” was never used to indicate something good until Gardner “reclaimed “ the word, swearing up and down the Inquisitors misunderstood the indigenous religions and demonized them. If you read what the witch trials looked for, you will not find one damned thing about Mother Earth, the goddess, blessing babies, handfastings, honoring elders, or blessing the garden. You will find sex with the devil, killing innocent people, enslaving people, poisoning neighbors they had a disagreement with, turning into rabbits to eat all their neighbors vegetables, causing crop blights, and insect infestations, peeing in a hole to create a hailstorm, making epidemic illnesses, etc. The word Coven, the number 13, the black hats, a horned man all in black, and brooms were all things “confessed” to during torture during witch trials. Nobody ever did those things. So Christians were taught there were evil people worshiping the devil doing all the awful things you could think of, and we are a new religion of people using the language set by the Inquisitors having “reclaimed” the terms? Likewise, the terms “Pagan “ and “Heathen” was used in the Bible to denote terrible people, and yet we call ourselves these things and demand to immediately be identified as the good people we actually are as opposed to the horrible people the words have been used by Xtians to describe. I think this is unfair of us.

The Commercial

Now I come to a commercial that is making people mad as hell also, and to me, it’s not infuriating either. Here is the video:

 

 

It’s about a 15 second commercial for Constant Contact marketing. It shows women sitting in a room of their business products, one meditating, the other playing a digeridoo. I will add both are white girls who look like they are about to run to Starbucks for their Pumpkin Spice Latte on the way to yoga. That sounds good right now!

They click on the page to see how many folks have looked at their listing through Constant Contact, and there are a lot! The girls are tickled pink, and one says “Oh, my goddess!” and then resumes her digeridoo playing.

And people are losing their minds about this also.

Here’s the thing. I know a LOT of New Agers and Pagans and Witches and Wiccans who look, act, talk JUST LIKE the actresses in the commercial.

I am sorry if you have not had the pleasure of meeting such delightful people, and if you find these people insulting or infuriating somehow, but this commercial in no way makes fun of or misrepresents these types of folks in our communities. There are a lot of folks just like these gals in our communities, and it was a realistic representation.

So, on one hand, we throw a fit about Hollywood not portraying us just as we are, but if somebody portrays us just as we are, we are also very angry. Then again, if they do not mention us at all, we feel left out.

The upset reactions by so many to these things says a lot about how much growing up a lot of us have to do, and I have no sympathy about how offended some people are.

Just because you are offended does not mean that you are right.

The Working

I had thought of doing a dispelling anger working for people who find it so necessary to get upset and offended over things like this, but I have a better idea. I want to make you laugh. One of the people I studied with utilized laughter as banishing, and I have found it to always be very effective.

I am not making fun or ridiculing. I want to show how silly we can be sometimes. I get mad sometimes too, but getting offended, and assuming people are trying to harm us or disrespect us every time they mention magical practice does nothing but make our day and life negative. It’s important to stop when we have a knee jerk reaction, take a step back, breathe, and really look objectively at things.

Or consider this- There are now so very many of us, and we have become so much a part of the mainstream – we are now portrayed by the mainstream, and products for our personal use and for those who aspire to join us have made it into mainstream stores.

This is SO good.

Enjoy this lighthearted take on being offended by one of our funniest practitioners.

Blessed Be.

 

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

Book Review – Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation by Stephanie Woodfield

August, 2018

Dark Goddess Craft:

A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation

Author: Stephanie Woodfield

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications

Copyright:2017

I decided to do more than just a review of this book. I wanted to work through it. I read the whole book, but I picked which Dark Goddess to work with as I read each section. Ms. Woodfield explains upfront the nature of the Dark Gods or Goddesses as she has come to understand it. I feel that she is right, about how only in the modern times have we picked the labels of Light (Good) and Dark (Evil/Bad). Our ancestors didn’t classify things in such a manner, because to them the Underworld wasn’t seen as Evil or Bad. It was the same as what we see today in the world, but it did have its differences.

Ms. Woodfield breaks it down into three different parts, The Descent, the Challenge, and Rebirth. The first two parts have 4 Goddesses with which to work. The Rebirth is the only part that has 3 Goddesses only. There is a mix of Goddess with which to work. Ms. Woodfield has Devotional Work and Rituals for Greek, Hindu, Inuit, and Yoruba Orisha. There are others as well, and this is just a sample of what she gives.

There is the Descent first. Here you have four different Goddess, and you get to pick which one you want to connect to in your working. I picked Hekate, and she is already a Goddess I relate to daily. In doing the Devotional operations that Ms. Woodfield put in the book and working the Ritual, I deepened my connection with Hekate. Through this working, I also learned some more about myself, and how I see the world around me.

Next comes the Challenge. Here is where I felt the real work came in for myself. You may find that the Descent is where you face your main challenge and this part is more comfortable for you. Here I worked with Eris. For me, this happened when there was a family crisis and working with the Goddess Eris was calming for me. I can see why the old saying of “What a Deity causes, they can also take away.” I thank Eris for helping me through this time of chaos.

Rebirth has 3 Goddesses from which you can choose. They are Blodeuwedd, Scáthach, and Persephone. I had a bit of a challenge here seeing Persephone as a Dark Goddess because I have always thought of her in the role of the Maiden, but she is also Queen of the Underworld. And working with her in this way was liberating to me. I felt that I had a rebirth in two ways.

I found this book to be insightful in that it helped to change and challenge my views on Dark Goddess Craft. Ms. Woodfield has written a book that I think will help others find their way forward with Devotional workings and Rituals. I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Woodfield’s writings.

Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey through the Heart of Transformation

***

About the Author:

Dawn Borries loves reading and was thrilled to become an E-Book reviewer for PaganPages.Org. Dawn, also, has been doing Tarot and Numerology readings for the past 25 years. Dawn does readings on her Facebook page.  If you are interested in a reading you can reach her at: https://www.facebook.com/Readings-by-Dawn-1608860142735781/

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

April, 2018

Bright Blessings!

We have “sprung forward”, and are rejoicing that the daylight hours are longer. Some of us are STILL adjusting to the time change, however happy we are about it. Spring officially starts in four days from the time I am writing this, and many have already had their Sabbat celebrations for it.

Like many others, I am coming out of hibernating with the warmer, longer days. My energy levels have increased, and my mood is more enthusiastic. I have been a LOT more busy, and that means that I have forgotten to pace myself. As a result, I have had a couple days when absolutely nothing got done, and I sat around a whole lot.

One thing that has gotten done is massive patio cleanup, and hand fertilizing of the raised garden bed we built some years ago. I have carefully crumbled eggshells, cut up fruit peels, and thrown in both tea grinds, and used coffee grinds.

I am glad I live in modern times and get to “cheat” and throw in store bought soils as well. Soon, peas will be planted in the beds, and after those are spent, pretty flowers, all of which I have seeds for already!

Spring is a big deal at our house!

In Nature, everything is sprouting, and the snowdrops are already glittering through last fall’s dead leaves, on the forest floor. Daffodils are about to sprout, and our crocuses came up first, and soon, fritillaries will follow suit.

Birdsong has returned, and gets louder daily. Squirrels, and bunnies are jumping all over the place, reminding us of how very alive the Earth is. I’ve even seen a couple of mosquitoes already!

Everything in creation from plants, to animals, and even people , are seemingly awakening from Winter’s deep sleep, and are raring to get out in the sunshine and enjoy life!

Some of us spend time outdoors, gardening, and “grooving with Nature”, as my Priest puts it, but are more into the arts. We create, we dance, we enjoy music and theatre. Many of us LOVE to read! What is better than a nice book, and a hot cuppa’ in a cozy room with Spring light streaming in?

Those who are prolific readers are in for a real treat!

A new book was published recently, and let me tell you, it’s an exquisite read.

It’s called Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), which is part of The Bury Down Chronicles by Rebecca Kightlinger and is set in Thirteenth Century Cornwall, England. It is magical, chock full of mystery, the Old Ways, and Family Traditions. This book draws you in immediately, and Kightlinger’s descriptive narrative voice is so deep, you actually FEEL like you are THERE, watching in person. The firelight flickering in the darkness is so well detailed, you can almost smell the woodsmoke, and the faces of the women are so well described, you can almost reach out and touch them. You need this book, like , yesterday. Step into Bury Down with Kightlinger’s book.

 

 

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with Kightlinger via emails, for an in depth, very intimate interview, in which she speaks not only of her book, but her own background, and women’s issues.

First, please have a look at her amazing website:

https://www.rebeccakightlinger.com/

 

And next enjoy the interview! Afterwards, this month’s working will be provided below.

 

Interviewing Rebecca Kightlighter

 

Saoirse (S)– Bright Blessings, Rebecca. First, tell me a bit about yourself and your work!

 

Rebecca Kightlinger (R)My book, Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), is about the daughter of a midwife in medieval Cornwall. Megge’s mother and aunt– a healer and a seer, respectively—each hold an ancient grimoire that they must pass down to their daughters, who will then become their apprentices. The books are companion tomes that together enable the women to harness the knowledge and wisdom of every previous heir to the books. They are able to query these ancestors in order to learn the secrets that enable them to serve the people of their village. The problem is that although Megge wants nothing more than to become a woman of Bury Down and be truly a part of her family, she is frightened of her mother’s book. When the time comes for her to accept it, she refuses. 

The stakes are very high for Megge’s mother, so she and Megge’s aunts must bring Megge to accept her charge and assume her role as a woman of Bury Down.

The themes are the desire to belong while being unable or unwilling to do the one thing that will make you a part of the group; the desire to find and follow your own path despite pressure to follow one laid down for you; and the closeness that can unite two people of different generations, the younger being able to learn from the elder, who brings wisdom and unconditional love.

I was an obstetrician gynecologist for many years; but in  2010, a serious injury to my right hand brought that work to an abrupt end. It was then that I started writing fiction. One day in 2011, when I was writing another story, letting scenes play out in my mind and describing them on paper, I saw not New York City or Amsterdam, where that story was set, but a pastoral scene: a grassy hill where sheep were grazing and a girl dressed in rough, heavy woolens was sitting on a big rock at the top of the hill. The girl seemed to look right at me and said, “When you’re done with those Dutch people, I want to go next.” And when I had finished the other story, she showed up again and just started telling me about her life and the lives of her ancestors. At the time, I knew very little about Cornwall and even less about the middle ages. But Megge spoke to me clearly, and with humor, showing me the scenes, and I felt this was something very real, though I had never before experienced anything quite like it.

Having been a visitor to Lily Dale spiritualist community many times, I called a medium, Jackie Avis, to talk to her about it. We had a telephone visit, and even before we started to talk about Megge, Jackie said she was seeing near me a big, very old book with a heavy wooden cover carved with symbols. She perfectly described The Book of Seasons, the book Megge was so afraid of. Our long conversation set my mind at ease, making me comfortable inviting Megge into my life. 

I knew that in order to tell this story well, I would need some serious writing skills, so I applied to The University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. Poet Annie Finch was the director, and we spoke by phone. It was she who accepted me into the program.

In the summer of 2013, I went to Cornwall to visit the place I thought might be the region Megge had described as home. Arriving at Botelet Manor, where I was staying, was an incredible experience. Everything Megge described was right there. There is even a house on the manor that had been there during Megge’s day. The remains of Bury Down hillfort, built thousands of years ago, stood at the site Megge had described as the healer’s grove, where women came for healings at night. The church, the village location, and the castle were all as I had seen as she spoke.

Writing this book has been the most rewarding experience, and I hope this comes through in the book. 

 

S- I will add, I am a psychic advisor/seer/reader, or whatever people choose to call me also. I am thrilled you spoke with a seer! I refer to this as a gift of spirit, as do many others. I feel we all have gifts of spirit including, speaking with the dead, healing, comforting the grieving, ability to use prayer to intervene in other’s lives, etc. What are your personal beliefs and views about oracles/seers?  Do you feel you have gifts of spirit, and if so, what are they? It sounds like a spirit showed up and told you her story! Is that right? What is your spiritual path, and how does that influence your writing of this book, and your writing in general?

 

R- My mother and great-grandmother had strong spiritual gifts, and it may have been their openness to spiritual communication that has enabled me to accept this communication without fear, judgment, or censure. Like you, I think we all have the ability to perceive the presence of some who are now, as Megge says, in the ether. I sometimes feel my mother or father very near and have had communication of a sort with my mom through dreams after she passed. She told us in her final days that she would “stay nearby as long as possible” to comfort us after she passed, and when she did, I felt her spirit in the room with us for a good long time. It was a sense of joy I’ve never forgotten. 

I believe strongly in the power of intention and prayer, and I know that people’s needs are somehow made clear to the person who can help. I’ve been in that situation many times as a physician, and I know it’s true.

Is Megge a spirit? I can’t say. All I know is that when I’m ready to write, she seems to come and take me through her story. I don’t see or hear her with my senses, but her words come through me onto the page along with scenes as clear as any you’d see in a movie. And the only time this happens is when I’m at my typewriter or keyboard, ready to write. Her home, her village, and all the people in her world are just as vivid and consistent as anything in this world. 

I don’t know what my spiritual path is or where it is leading. One thing for sure is that my daily life is much more solitary that it ever was, and this feels right. It’s not lonely or boring in any way. The writer’s life seems to suit me now, where it would have been wrong for me before this. I used to have a busy practice, which I loved, and I worked with and taught some wonderful, caring, skilled, intelligent people. My patients, mostly middle-aged and elderly women for the last ten years of my practice, were smart, canny, funny, and insightful. I loved being their doctor. I remember talking to a lot of them about matters of the spirit, and I saw that as we all got older we seemed more in touch with it. It stopped seeming like something outside ourselves and became a source of both comfort and, well, interest, for lack of a better word. As I and my patients and friends began to experience more of the spiritual, we began to talk more openly about it and realized that we were having many of the same experiences. 

Other authors, I’ve learned, experience a similar kind of communication in their writing. One young man related in a lecture that when he sat down to write, he would close his eyes and see his narrator arrive at the door and ring the bell. He would let her in, and she would tell him her story. At a recent book-signing event, I asked the author how he invented his characters, and he kind of laughed and shook his head. “They just show up,” he said. “They do whatever they want. I had no control over this story.” Other writers have no idea what this means. They construct charts and plot points and have the beginning, middle, and end mapped out before they even start their story. Many search newspapers for inspiration or ideas, or capture snippets of conversation that they write down and build a story around. That sounds harder to me, more cognitive, but is probably a more efficient use of writing time!

For me, the cognitive part begins after a scene is down. I research the era and place–I visited the place Megge described–and cut and splice scenes, sometimes changing names or details where needed. But I don’t change the overarching story. I stay true to what I’m seeing so the story can continue to move forward. It may sound funny, but I want my narrators to trust me. I want the narrators who are waiting in the wings to tell their stories to know that I won’t mess with them too much. 

It feels like there are countless narrators/spirits out there waiting to tell their stories and searching for someone who can “hear” them. Is this how we return to the living world? Through a storyteller? Is this why many stories somehow just ring true? I can’t say. The first novel I wrote was narrated by an entire town. I had asked my husband for a manual typewriter for Christmas one year. He bought me an Olivetti, and I sat down at it for the first time ever and had no idea what to write. So I closed my eyes and thought, “Who has the story?” And in seconds, probably thirty or forty people showed up in my mind’s eye, all looking like working-class people and farmers from the 1930s, and all jostling to be the one to tell the story. It seemed they had all come back to tell their part of a horrific event that involved all of them but that that none of them knew the whole story of. Each one ended up telling his or her part, often interrupting each other and correcting details. Every night, at 8 pm, I sat down to write. For an entire year. And the whole story came out, all the details that had been kept secret. When it was done, those narrators disappeared. I’ve not heard from them again. One day, when Megge’s story is done, I’ll go back to that one. I hope I will have developed the skills by then to tell it well.

And this is probably much more than you wanted to hear! But it is unusual for me to be able to relate this kind of information about myself and my writing to someone who will understand and not judge. I’ll be very interested to learn if others have this experience and how they deal with it. How it first started and how they reacted. To me, it felt natural, inviting. I’ve never questioned it, and I hope it never stops

 

S- As somebody with a medical background, how does the past misunderstanding of illness, combined with superstition strike you? What do you have to say about it? Have you ever seen similar attitudes in today’s world?

 

R- There have always been and probably always will be superstitions about illness. Back in the Middle Ages, when so little was known about the body in health or illness, it’s understandable that people would confuse association with causality. The scientific method hadn’t yet been designed to distinguish between the two. So, when a patient made a spontaneous recovery from illness after taking a remedy or submitting to bloodletting, charms, or prayers, the association of that treatment with recovery meant that it must have worked! Word went out, and the treatment became more widely used.

My feeling is that even today there are treatments that work but whose mechanism of action we don’t understand despite considerable scientific research. Additionally, there are many treatments and remedies that might be beneficial but that will never be adequately studied simply because no one has a sufficient stake in the results of controlled, double-blind studies. And if the research might show that the product doesn’t work, it’s a gamble. For this reason, some approaches that are considered “superstitious” or “magical” may never be scientifically proven safe and effective, even if they are. 

But, while superstitions in healing can sometimes result in harm, I’m less concerned about that than I am about people harnessing the power of superstition to do ill to the most vulnerable in society. We saw this in Megge’s story just as many have seen throughout history: the most powerful in society using both superstition and strong beliefs against the most vulnerable.

In the worst cases, superstitions are thinly-veiled excuses for committing violent acts. In The Midwife and the Witch, author Thomas Forbes cites “the crowing hen.” From the time of Aristotle until as recently as the late 1800s, a female showing masculine characteristics or behaving “like a man” (i.e., talking) was said to foretell doom. Often, this resulted in the death of the offender.

Whistling maids and crowing hens

Should have their necks wrung early.

(Scheftelowitz, 1913; Jones 1880)

A German proverb prescribed punishment for both hens and women who would dare make their voices heard:

When the hen crows before the cock

and the woman speaks before the man,

then the hen should be roasted 

and the woman beaten with a cudgel. 

(Abbot, 1903)

So, to my mind, the danger of superstition is not so much that the superstition itself will directly harm the believer, it is that others often use the power of belief to control and punish. In the case of Megge and the midwives in her life, someone uses both religious dogma and fanciful beliefs as an excuse to harm both women and children. 

 

S- Attending University in Maine placed you in New England- not horribly far from Salem, Mass. where one of the most famous accounts of witch scare happened. Have you studied this much, or have any insight into it? 

 

R- I’ve studied witch trials from all over the world and in different eras. When I first started looking into the history of this horror, I went to the Cornell University special manuscripts library and studied some original trial transcripts. 

I came away with a picture of ordinary women being tried, often tortured, and put to death after having been accused of witchcraft, sometimes by her neighbors, and often out of fear or retribution. The accusations rarely made sense, and the atmosphere of misogyny and hatred was almost palpable in these documents. Those who controlled communities engaged in witch trials needed a scapegoat for their rage and to control those in their jurisdiction, and this was often either the most vulnerable member of the community or the outsider.

Midwives were often targets of accusations, especially in the Middle Ages, as they treated the most frequently maligned portion of the population–women–and they often did so through techniques and remedies outside the understanding of the medical and religious communities. This made them suspect, and suspicion made them victims.

 

S- Magic is all around us, and in many forms. Your ladies in your book understand this, and practice well. They understand the power of blood bonds, as well as adoptive family bonds. They understand the power of women working together in a man’s world. They understand the power of working in generations. Today’s neo-practitioners are 50/50 in love or hate with this idea. Some shun it, and recognize no elders, believing they are born very powerful and don’t want anybody telling them how to practice. Some like me value our elders, who are passing our craft on to us. This is more ancient, and what the women of Bury Down are doing. I see value in both, personally. In your historic readings, what have you read about passing traditions down? About mentors and students? About family traditions? What examples can you share from history?

 

R- Nearly every profession, skilled trade, and educational or spiritual community relies on one generation teaching the next through both formal, didactic education and mentorship or apprenticeship. The alternative to being thought by someone more skilled or educated is to be an autodidact. People will dispute this, but while I understand that many of us possess innate talents and gifts that we can develop to some extent on our own, I think raw talent needs shaping from the outside, otherwise one’s learning tends to center on readings and teachings that substantiate our own theories and biases rather than challenging or questioning them with an eye to dispelling misconceptions, arriving at a truth, and honing our skills. 

Living by and passing down traditions is documented in religious, cultural, medical, artistic, and every other societal group or profession I can think of. While there are many short-lived splinter groups organized and led by one person, religion and spiritual traditions probably provide the most universal example of laws, rules, mores, and history transmitted to children through their parents, their schools, and their religious/spiritual leaders and teachers, with didactic learning supplemented by sometimes very intimate, inter-generational mentorship in the home. This is documented throughout history in religious texts and in literature ranging from The Iliad to the Mists of Avalon and The Red Tent

Another example of passing down traditions is the oral, storytelling or bardic tradition strikingly manifest in The Mabinogion, a suite of eleven Welsh prose tales passed through generations by storytellers (another profession whose practitioners learned from masters from the preceding generation).

Finally, witchcraft and magic have a long tradition of being practiced by those who draw on ancient knowledge coupled with the skill and insight of a master practitioner. In preparing the manuscript of Megge of Bury Down, I studied numerous grimoires including Picatrix, a compilation of works from the ancient, the medieval and the Renaissance eras, which urges its readers and students to learn from sages: “The wise who are endowed by nature with intelligence never cease nor neglect to seek and inquire that they might learn and understand the secrets of the sages, who sealed them up in their books and wrote them in hidden words, that the aforesaid might search them out by careful investigation until they attain what they desire…” [The Picatrix, Trans. Greer, John Michael, and Warnock, Christopher. Adocentyn Press, 2010, 61.] 

While I am neither witch nor magician, I see in the writings about spiritual practice the value of sages, of teachers, of mentorship. This is the basis of Megge’s story and path. She seeks and finds mentors throughout her life; and this, I believe, is what many people have always intuitively known they’ve needed, have sought throughout history, and continue to seek.

 

S- What that we have not discussed would you like included in my article, please?

 

R- Megge of Bury Down is the story of a young girl growing up in another time and place. It is historical in that it takes place in the past. But it is not really about the history. It is magical realism in that Megge’s family is charged with passing down two grimoires whose power preserves the spirits of their ancestors. But it is not about the genre of magical realism. 

The historical research and the literary technique here serve story: the story of a girl growing up in a family of women. A girl who wants to be one with the mystical women she admires but whose fear and misconceptions keep her apart. A girl who must find the courage to look past her fears to a terrible truth and find a new path. It is about the love, the traditions, and the teaching that unite generations. It is about the women of Bury Down, but it is mainly about unbreakable bonds, crafted over lifetimes, that precede us into each life, sustain us as we find and do the work we came to do, and then guide us into the next. 

 

Many thanks, Rebecca for this amazing interview! Blessed Be!

 

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This Month’s Working

Our next Sabbat after this is published is Beltaine. For the first time in years, I am not hosting!

I’m also not planning to attend Sabbat anybody else hosts!

What will I do with myself for Beltaine this year?”, I wondered.

I thought on it, and was inspired by some things I saw, and decided to send out an appeal to other women to do a One Month Challenge with me instead of a one-time Sabbat rite.

In Wicca Beltaine, May traditions crown a May King and May Queen, and they represent the Goddess and God in ritual, blessing everybody, and bringing life, growth, and in some traditions, sexuality to the people in the ritual.

There are a lot of “Sabbat Pagans” who attend Sabbat, and seemingly forget they are Pagans until the next gathering.

What can I say? It saves time for some folks.

Not everybody has the time, or ability to do lengthy daily, or even weekly devotions. It is easy to assume that we do, but the truth is, for some people, it’s just not happening, and it’s not in any way a choice.

What I thought of was a way to, for 30 days, bless other women, and ourselves, thus blessing, venerating, and adorning the Goddess in each of us women. Collectively, then, we adorn the Mother Goddess through the bodies , hearts , and souls of her daughters, the Earthly representations of her.

The topics brought up in the interview, specifically of abuse of women, and children made me think of an ugly truth. We often focus on abuse men direct at women, and completely ignore the toxic competitiveness we have with one another.
“That bitch thinks she is something, doesn’t she? I’m prettier than her!” Instead of “You go girl! Shake that tailfeather!” We sometimes become jealous that another woman has pride, and we are afraid if she is proud, she will take away the good things about us. Instead, we need to ALL root for one another.

It is not a competition- we should ALL want to help each other succeed.

I see examples of women who are not fat at all get attacked online, and called fat by women who are obviously jealous. Why does this happen? Because we think we don’t look as attractive? Because we would rather she be physically ill and bulimic or anorexic than comfortable in her skin, and healthy?

And why do we make fun of the “scrawny” girls? Maybe they DO have an illness, but this does not mean they should shroud themselves away, unfit to be seen.

Why do we place unfair demands on mothers? If they work, they are accused of putting career before family. If they are stay at home moms, they are accused of being ambitionless freeloaders. If they are tired, and not all made up fancy from keeping up with kids, we accuse them of “letting themselves go”. If they do not want children, they are accused of refusing the “responsibility” of being moms. If they have a lot of kids, we ridicule them, calling them breeders, sluts, and baby factories.

These harsh words do not just come from men. They oftentimes come from other women.

We cannot do this.

We need each other.

We need to build one another up.

This is the inspiration for my working.

Without Further adieu, I would like to share my working with you.

If you would like to, do this working with me.

 

Saoirse’s Solitary 30 Day Adornment of the Goddess/Crowning of the May Queen

For thirty days, do these three things. If you forget a day, oh well, nobody will know!

You may journal every day what you do if you like, but you don’t have to.

  1. For 30 days, give an honest compliment to one woman per day. Build another woman up with your words. Words are mouth magic, and we create whatever we want to with them. Use your words every day to build one woman up to bless, and adorn the Goddess.
  2. Reach out to one woman in the next 30 days, and do something nice for her that will make a difference in her life. It can be small, or great. Maybe you know a lonely woman who loves coffee. Dedicate one day every other week from now on to sitting down to coffee with her. Say you know a woman who is trying to eat healthier. Encourage her, and share recipes with her if she would like that. Say your neighbor loves plants, but says she has no time to garden this year. Gift her with a hanging basket, and offer to help keep it watered if she needs it. What you do to make a difference in one woman’s life can be a great thing or a small thing, but it will make a huge impact.
  3. Finally, do not forget the Goddess in you. It might be easy to do something good for others, but not yourself. It’s time to do one of the kindest things for yourself.

We are often our own biggest, and harshest critics, and while yes, others may tear us down, we sometimes internalize toxic voices, and tear ourselves down worse than anybody else.

Think of something you really find frustrating about yourself. This can be something as simple as age spots on your skin, or something big like, having panic attacks. This is to be a thing that always bothers you. Something you are upset with yourself about.

Now, you are to start forgiving yourself of whatever this is.

This is going to be the most difficult part of the challenge, and it will last beyond 30 days. It may entail deprogramming, tears, or the resurfacing of past aches, but it’s very important.

While we can easily see the Goddess in others, and nurture that, we also need to see the Goddess in ourselves, and nurture that as well.

Enjoy the Spring, Beltaine and being the Goddess you are.

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

 

 

Does My Life Belong to Me?!

April, 2018

DOES MY LIFE BELONG TO ME?!

 

We are on Easter Break. My 17-year old son needs to do revisions for his upcoming A Levels in Physics and Further Maths. He works best alongside someone so we divide up the kitchen table between us. I decided to write this piece because I had been pondering the question for some time. My son decides to play some music to help things along. “Is that Shakira?!” – “No Mum, it is Fat Rat! That is a DJ by the way. I doubt you know anyone I listen too…” I adore silence when I am writing but, as usual, it was not to be!

 

This may sound like a weird question with an obvious answer! Of course my life belongs to me, right?!

In theory it does yes, but being alive means making choices and choices bring commitments. The moment I choose to have children, those children are entitled to a large chunk of my time, energy and life force. The moment I choose to get married, a new unit with an overarching spirit all of its own comes into being: The Marriage (as well as two separate individuals). This is why the sum is always more than the parts combined. The dynamic multiplies again once a couple has children: there is now a Family, as well as two, three, four or five individuals…. There are now five people having relationships with four rather significant others.

The moment I choose a profession and invest in training in that profession I need to accept the demands and boundaries of that profession. Being a medical doctor, nurse or midwife will mean working night shifts in hospitals. Even a plumber will get phone calls about emergencies at all hours. An undertaker cannot so easily take time off either as people will not stop dying over major holidays.

As a shamanic practitioner I, too, used to get emergency phone calls at all hours. As a mother of young children working from home (with no hospital and no team to divide the workload) I eventually learned to take my home phone number off-line and to make an agreement with myself regarding what “opening hours” I operated and how many emergencies a week I can fit in at short notice (if any!) This is called drawing lines and operating healthy boundaries! (By now I also have a team of three people dividing up work in my practice).

So yes my life belongs to me but for my life to belong to ‘me and me alone’ I would need to stay single, not have children (or elderly parents) and perhaps embark on a life as a self-sufficient recluse in a very inaccessible area. (And when emergencies occurred I would have to deal with those on my own – or not be able deal with them and perhaps suffer serious illness or injury without receiving medical attention or loving care from another person). Yet, these are choices some people make to get away from the maddening demands of modern life. (A percentage of people have always done this, long before “modern” times, they have become trappers, sailors or “desert saints” and walked away from their communities). My own husband has one brother who went to sea at age 16 and reappeared years later with a Japanese wife (he then abandoned to raise three children completely on her own in Sweden). Today we call this commitment-phobia and yes, commitment is scary!

Yet, there is a level even beyond this web of social interactions, beyond being a member of a family and community. This is the point where people who follow a spiritual path may well see things differently from what is considered the norm in our society. Since western society embraced science as ‘our new religion’, the Church and priests have lost the control they exerted for many centuries. We no longer believe in Hell or live in sin. We don’t go to confession either. Only few people today believe that a male fearsome god will judge our souls once we die. In many ways this has liberated us and allowed a much higher level of individual expression, which can only be a good thing (to my mind). Having said, that: collectively speaking we have also lost the concept that we owe gratitude to our Maker and that we did not incarnate on this planet just to please ourselves and inflate our egos…

It is my personal belief, shared by many people following a committed spiritual path (of any description and not necessarily a religion!) that we come to Earth to be of service. That we all have unique gifts, our own unique energy, that is required at this time. This is because we all vibrate and operate in a larger Web of Life where all sentient beings are connected and together create (co-create) both reality and the future, the world our children’s children are to inherit.

Therefore I believe that I am here to serve and to evolve (meaning to learn, to grow in awareness) but I am also here to play my part in a larger whole. This means that I am currently wearing a human coat here on Earth for reasons beyond the personal level of relationships and raising children and so forth.

I have an on-going dialogue with my helping spirits about this and they say that I am here to be a spiritual teacher and teach others about living from a place of profound creativity and joyful creation. Along the way I also turned out to have a bit of a “freak talent” for healing work – but personally I see that as the journey back to creativity and living in joy. Being ill or dis-eased is the flip side of that coin. Once people re-discover their innate ability to create they can create healthy vibrant reality (as well as art, poetry or music etc.) and this will trigger the process of self-healing (activating the Inner Healer). Once I became aware of this key principle I switched my focus from offering one-to-one healing sessions to teaching larger groups.

The spirits making my life purpose crystal clear has been helpful because it has allowed me to focus and drop many things that are not my cup of tea in this lifetime. Out with dinner parties but roll on classes and powerful ceremonies!

The fly in the ointment is that “the hermit gene” runs strong in me. Before I fall asleep I fantasize about retreating to place far (FAR) from civilization and turning my back on the world. I am a profoundly solitary person, happiest alone in my studio or alone in the Forest. My idea of heaven is to be dropped in a completely inaccessible place with enough food supplies, fire wood and art materials for months – so I can immerse myself in creative process without distractions. It is when we are truly alone, without company, without internet, without external noise that we hear the voices of the spirits more clearly. So yeah, that is my dirty secret! I find it hard to always be on call. As a mother of three teenagers this is and will remain my reality – and I actively (happily!) chose it! The contradiction runs deep in me and this solitary trait runs in my family. My middle son has got a bad case of this “affliction” as well!

Having many students (and some clients) as well as children means working long hours every day again (often including weekends). I often look around me at people I perceive to have “easier lives”. Hang on! Let me rephrase this: lives with less pressure and way more leisure time. Here I am thinking of women who call themselves a “full time mother” of two teens aged 16 and 18 (with one about to leave home!) Or a woman whose children left home 20 years ago but she never returned to work (in the conventional sense). She shuttles between her garden and her yoga lessons. To my mind these are ladies of leisure. You may of course disagree.

On one level you could say: they raised their babies and their husband earns good money (so there is no financial need to work) – why not settle into a life of gardening and coffee mornings? Or another level I think: but aren’t they uniquely positioned to really make contribution to larger society? They have good health, many skills and financial security… they HAVE IT ALL! Why not use these things for the larger good of others than themselves?

Am I being judgemental here?? I know this is and remains one of my shadow aspects, (the flip side of being visionary) so it is a definite possibility. Not everyone has my driven personality and (what some have called) a supernatural energy level). Not everyone feels called to grapple with the bigger issues in our world (such as clearing family lines of centuries worth of accumulated trauma or contributing to paradigm shifts – or at least imagining that one is doing so!)

Cycling back to where I started, I think the question this article poses can only be answered by individuals in a very individual way. We all have different personalities, different star signs and different circumstances and dreams too. What I do know is that in my own life I continue to learn (fast and furiously) because I am a teacher, because I am in constant interactions with students and teens from a place of holding responsibility. It has been said that we teach what we most need to learn and probably my greatest passion in life is learning and becoming the best person I can possibly be, by the time I die. (And what I am in the process of becoming is not going to please everyone!)

I also truly believe that if everyone embraced life in this way – the world would be a better place. I am not going to apologise for thinking that! So… to answer my own question: my life force belongs to me (meaning I choose what – and whom! – I spend time and energy on) but my life ultimately belongs to Mother Earth and Spirit as much as it belongs to me personally. I am in service to Life – not the other way around. I would not have it any other way…

 

My son has decided to go on break. He says: “Mum, could you please take over as my dragon slayer for a moment because I need to nip out for a moment?!” Fat Rat has gone silent. Outside the window snow is falling upwards…

*Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, Easter Sunday 2017

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Norseshamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

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

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

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

 

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Yule

December, 2017

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Yule

I’m always a bad witch, but apparently I really suck at this Yuletide thing. I mean I make my own gifts! I like snow! When people say “season’s greetings” or “Merry Christmas” I smile and mean it! I’m a monster!

The cynical average British Pagan just sort of rolls their eyes at me. I don’t Cringle early. I spend November and December making gifts and decorations (I’m a bit slow this year but we have been adjusting to new medication this year, but I have plans)! I don’t even go and get really drunk!

I mean I clearly suck at this witching thing!

Of course it can be a pain! Its hard work, it’s expensive (though often nowhere near as costly as Samhain in our house). I know you get pine needles in the carpet, but the tree! Ah the tree! We put up our tree either on Yule itself or the day before. It’s always real. Always in soil.

It’s the smell to me. Is it even Yuletide without the smell of pine, holly and orange and clove? The energy of bring a living being into your home. Changes it. It is magickal.

We have handmade ornaments, ones we make each year and ones me made when my daughter was very little. The sun star that goes a top our tree is one she made when she was about 5 or 6 years old from air clay, acrylic paint and ribbon. To me it’s treasure! We always had a candy cane (not a very British treat) to eat while we decorate. We always listen to Jethro Tull and sing along.

The other ornaments are made of cinnamon quills, star anise and dried orange slices, florists wire and ribbon. We make tradition Christmas cakes with lots of fruit steeped in spiced rum, covered in marzipan and snow white icing. No neon red cherries though. We would make in loaf shapes and large rounds dependant on who was getting them. Single folk don’t tend to want to buy a big cake just for themselves but enjoy it.

The fruit perplexes many modern folks especially in America. Yet raisins, plums and dried fruit were mixed with sugar and spice as a herbal remedy to coughs, colds and infections right up until the beginning of of the 20th century. Spiced fruit became traditional, medical and they added some dried breadcrumbs or flour! Minced pies are medicinal! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

The biggest mistake folks make with their dried fruit is just that! They leave it dry! The fruit was only dried because it needed to be preserved. In the food dried fruit was soaked sometimes in strong black tea with spices or with alcohol! Merry Christmas comes from being merry, which meant drunk! Once the fruit as steeped sometimes overnight sometimes longer, then it’s ready for pies, and cakes!

Come on though! It all sounds like far too much hard work! I mean it’s just a day!” A day? Don’t let folks rob you! Yule is two weeks! Two weeks of family, food and gifts! Now some of you might think this is excessive and more work, but actually removing the pressure and spreading it out makes it a much better holiday! We tend to trim and decorate the tree on the solstice (on the 21st of December) and have in the evening our big meal). The first of our gifts are given. Our daughter might have got her main gift on the solstice or later. Each morning having what would be a stocking filler. Again this means no gift is unappreciated. Each gets its own moment! It isn’t lost in the crush of “OPEN EVERYTHING”. It is quite common for us to open our home to pagans and non-pagans alike whom might not be having a great time. Maybe they don’t have a family to celebrate with. Maybe it’s a break-up. Maybe they are just sad. We sit down and feast together. A roast bird and all the trimmings! I confess I’m lucky as while I do a lot of meal prep my husband cooks the dinner. It is his way of honouring his grandmother who was like a mother to him.

It’s quite odd, but my favourite day is usually the 22nd, because everyone else is in a panic and well, all I have to do is the dishes! I tend to try and make this day “be kind to retail staff day”. I really smile. I say thank you and mean it. I know what fresh hell retail can be!

I might have other meals (when my family and my husband’s Pops was around sometimes we’d do a Christmas day meal too) or Boxing Day (which was traditionally the servant’s day off to celebrate Christmas in the UK). Yet given the choice we declare it a duvet day, watch Doctor Who and eat left-overs and fish finger sandwiches (fish sticks).

Yuletide and the mid-winter season has become a lot about “stuff”. Yet if you let it, if you let go of the cynicism, and rush, if you make it, it really is magickal. Of course you can do rituals and rites. Mix a little “mojo” with your “ho ho ho” but you have to let it in! It’s the spirit of giving, of kindness, of new beginnings!

 

 

Tree Blessing

A candle

A handful of compost or earth

A sprig of holly

An acorn or dried oak leaves

Fresh green ivy.

Incense (your own blend but frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon works well)

Water.

 

Carefully (and you might need gloves) holding the holly and ivy walk around the tree three times clockwise. This can be spoken but it is better sung.

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown,

Of all the trees,

That are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

The rising of the sun!

The running of the deer!

The playing of the merry music

Sweet singing to inspire!”

 

The ivy is then tapped gently against the tree three times. Then the holly. Then they are both then put aside.

Lord and Lady of the Forest dream.”

Spirit of the resting green,

A vessel hear our words:

Spring will come.

Warm winds will blow.

[Waft and blow incense onto the tree]

Water will again flow.

[Pour a little water onto the roots of the tree.]

Earth will again make things grow.

[Place compost at the base of the tree. Light candle.]

Fire, the suns light shall glow.

[Walk the candle around the tree clock-wise. And place on your altar or hearth.]

The oak King is born! The sun is returning! *spoken*

*sung* Joy to the world!

The Lord has again come!

Let Earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room!

Heaven and nature sing!

Heaven and nature sing!

Heaven, heaven and nature sing!”

You could now dress and decorate the tree. Eat sweet treats and maybe even sup a glass of spicy mulled wine! Eat! Drink! Be merry and bright! With all of my bad witch heart bright blessings and seasons greetings!

 

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

December, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times December 2017

Bright Blessings!

With Yule just around the corner, you are likely planning festivities, gatherings, and family nights!

Growing up, of course, my family celebrated Christmas, and large scale was the rule. Everybody sent cards, bought gifts, planned dinners and lunches, and I can say Christmas for many of my family members was one of the biggest events of the year.

After I moved out, and started my own traditions, I scaled back the complicated Christmas festivities, and after converting to Paganism, reduced it further to just a single day for Sabbat. The Winter Solstice is a big deal for me, because I am so happy about the fact the sun will grow stronger, and “be reborn”.

I typically do a firepit fire, and libations alone, although I’ve attended public Sabbat and officiated for friends before.

Many different topics can be explored in Pagan Yule or Winter Solstice observances, but this year, instead if exploring things related to the Wiccan or Heathen male gods rebirth, the topic will be mothers.

Yule and Mothers Night

Anglo Saxon Pagans, according Bede, writing in the 8th century:

… began the year on the 8th calends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, “mother’s night”, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.”

They supposedly venerated the Disir, or the mothers, mother goddesses, protective mother ancestors, and held sacrifices in their honor. They gathered, feasted,

Yule lasted three days in Pre Christian days, but a lot of modern people observe it for twelve days, beginning December 20 or 21, with Mother’s Night being the first thing observed. Many do a ritual honoring the protective female mother ancestors and goddesses. Some give food or other gifts to them, light candles for them, and ask them to protect, watch over, bless, and ensure good coming harvest.

Some sources state Mother’s Night was the final festivity in Yule, and it was observed then in honor of the goddess Frigg. She wove people’s fate for the new year on that day, which was counted as New Years, and Frigg was honored. It was said she had knowledge of the future, but would not tell anybody what it was! She also was unable to alter the future, as evidenced by the fact she foresaw her son Balder’s death, and try as she could, she was unable to avert it.

I have attended candle lighting ceremonies Norse friends observe for some of the twelve days. They do candlelight vigils all night, with a prayer on the hour every hour, and network with one another from household to household if they can’t do it all under the same roof.

Of course, it is the women/ Matrons of our community who do this.

Some of these women have moved out of state, and some are no longer in contact with one another, but those marathon candlelight vigils are one of many things that are still maintained by almost all of the women to this day.

This is an appropriate introduction, I think for this month’s topic.

Mothers, and most specifically, mothers who have lost children.

Somebody’s Mother

I had the privilege of reviewing the beautiful film Somebody’s Mother, which was created by The Tollman Sisters, Gabriela and Evelyne. It’s been very successful in the US, and is headed to China!

I watched the film, myself and I recommend it. It’s a film that will make you think, and gets right to the difficult to face, let alone discuss issues that come when you lose a child.

As somebody who has been trying to have children for twenty years, and have been unable to, this film really hit home. The Tollman sisters explored so many of the things you deal with after such loss.

In the film, one sister’s baby died, and the other loses custody of her son after inability to take care of him that was not in any way her fault, and that she never meant to happen.

In the instance of losing custody due to inability to care for a child, the number one thing I see happening in the lives of my loved ones who have children is they become so focused on making their kids their all, they become completely unaware of their own needs at times. This is due to the great love they have for their children that compares to nothing else in their lives, and to a loving parent, no sacrifice for their children is too great. It can mean that sometimes, they don’t know how to ask for help, and they forget that even parents need support too. The topic specifically explored is postpartum depression, which I have seen more than one mother I love deal with it.

In the instance of the death of a child, I have been told by more than one parent that the death of a child is something you never fully recover from, and one that literally takes a part of your heart away that you never get back.

The stages of grief are explored intimately from the viewpoint of both sisters, and done in such a way that viewers can relate.

The film takes a very compassionate view of suffering many films exploring pain lack. At one point, in the film , it was said “I don’t know why I needed to go through it…I don’t know why I needed such pain.”

The film shows how loss of a child impacts the relationships of the parents of the children with one another. I don’t have the statistics of how many people’s marriages or engagements are called off when a child dies, but I’ve seen it happen quite a lot. The film presented a relationship surviving, and another not surviving.

The film portrays the inability to function normally in your own life after such a loss, and the great lengths people go to in order to keep up appearances, so people leave you alone about what happened. Sometimes, not talking about something that is tearing you apart emotionally is part of coping with it. It also shows how sometimes, that is absolutely impossible, however, and many of us have endured well meaning questions after losing a child we are not ready for like “ When will you have another baby?”

The love of sisters and how they are one another’s number one supporter, and closest friend in good times, and bad is intimately portrayed. It is a beautiful testament of the Tollman sisters devotion and love for one another as well.

Finally, the film shows how to pick up the pieces after unspeakable tragedy, and find hope for the future.

The link to the film’s pages follow, as well as a trailer.

http://www.somebodysmotherfilm.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/

 

Trailer-

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/videos/504423143047518/

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

Interviewing Gabriela Tollman

I had the opportunity to ask Gabriela Tollman some intimate questions she lovingly answered. Her words are as heartfelt and nurturing as the film.

 

Saoirse- Some of the women I interviewed about loss of their children are deeply suffering, even decades later. Some wanted to share, but could not bring themselves to talk about it. What words of advice, healing, and wisdom do you have for women dealing with loss of their children, be it through death, or loss of their living children?

 

Gabriela- It is an intensely painful experience to live through the loss of an infant, and it has been important for to let myself cry all of my tears. I spent two to three years crying. What helped me cope and carry on was the understanding that everything that happens in life has a reason. I know this idea does not comfort everyone, but it helped me. I began to see the events of my life, and the loss of my baby Charlie as a way to further advance the development of my soul. I also found many healers and teachers who helped me. Brian Weiss’ book Many Lives Many Masters was integral to helping me transform my pain into a spiritual lesson. Other books and healers that resonated with me are Anita Moorjani Dying to Be Me, and A Course in Miracles.

 

Saoirse-What do you recommend to these women to find strength when their own strength seems to vanish?

 

Gabriela- Writing down my story was an immense help for me. I wrote down anything I was feeling, thoughts and ideas in journals. These writings eventually became part of our film, Somebody’s Mother. Creativity of any kind helps transcend circumstance. It allows one to rise above and take control of grief and pain instead of it controlling you.

 

Saoirse- In what do you find comfort when it seems things are at their worst, to get you through until things are better?

 

Gabriela- As mentioned above, writing and creating helped me transform. Other practices that have helped me transform the pain are meditation. I practice transcendental meditation and this truly was the tipping point in getting me through that horrifying pain of grief. TM allowed me to find a place of peace inside myself, and release the oppressive negativity, anger, denial, fear and anxiety of grief. It is an incredible tool for all types of trauma and grief recovery. I also practice yoga, hiking, swimming, and am a certified hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is extremely effective for those who have a difficult time meditating, as it delves into the subconscious where I find peace and answers.

 

Saoirse- If you are religious, how does your personal devotion carry you in these times of grief? If you are atheist, but philosophical, how does your personal philosophy and values do the same? 

 

Gabriela- One of my favorite quotes is by David Bowie “Religion is for those who are afraid of hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I am spiritual. The works of Brian Weiss, an MD, hypnotherapist, writer and teacher changed my life. He writes a lot about past lives and lessons that we need to experience in the flesh in order to grow, evolve, transcend and raise our vibrations. Another brilliant healer and teacher that I follow especially in difficult times is the work of Marianne Willamson. Her teachings of A Course In Miracles help me find understanding. A COURSE IN MIRACLES offers a lesson for each day of the year, which is an incredible practice for self-healing and transformation.

 

More on this beautiful film follows the working at the bottom of this article.

 

The Mothers Stories

I could write volumes about how my personal miscarriage and being childless breaks my heart, but instead I reached out to friends who have lost their children. Their names are changed for confidentiality, but they were good enough to share their own heartbreaking stories with me, and all of you.

First, my friend Patty lost a child to death, and custody of another.

Here is our conversation about it:

 

Patty- In 1998, I gave birth to Anthony Joeseph Oliver. He only lived 3 days. He was born on March 14th and died March 17th. He had potters syndrome.

Me- Oh gods! How does it make you feel?

Patty- Kind of bad still, but it gets easier. I also have a daughter who I don’t get to see who turned 18 in May. I wanted so badly for her to know Anthony, her big brother. He would have been 20 in March.

Me- I wish that had happened for them too. Have you ever been able to get a hold of your daughter?

Patty- No, but I’m hoping she tries to find me. I think she lives in Missouri. I miss them. It’s kind of hard to talk about it.

Our discussion ended at that point. Patty just couldn’t bear to talk anymore, and I understand. My prayer is she is able to make contact with her living daughter.

 

The next woman I interviewed is 20 year old Jade, who lost her child very recently.

This is her story;

Marceline was a very healthy baby up until the last two weeks I carried her. I was seeing Riverside doctors as well as Knox Community doctors. KCH refused to coordinate my care with Riverside, and wouldn’t believe me when I said she was ten days ahead of development.

Since I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, Marcy was already going to be bigger than a baby from a low-risk mother. I started going into labor at about 34 weeks, but KCH said I was too early, and stopped me. I went into labor again at about 36 weeks, and they didn’t really stop me since I was at the minimum week requirement, but they were going to give me a steroid shot for her lungs.

They had warned me about it last time I went into labor, and I had asked Riverside how it would affect me. They said I didn’t need it, and if they gave it to me it would possibly send me into Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which would hurt my baby. I told KCH I didn’t need it, and they told me I was getting it whether I liked it or not.

About a week after that, I went in for a non-stress test, which I did twice weekly. I was scheduled for 10:00AM. I switched rooms three times, and they took an hour trying to find her heartbeat. They brought in an ultrasound machine to see if they could find it, but the machine wasn’t functioning properly. The next two weren’t, either. It was about noon at this point, and I’m already panicking.

I was already at a higher risk for a stillborn birth, and I was afraid that’s what was happening. Mike, my fiancé, was watching the monitor since I couldn’t see it. He told me that the cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and he could see her heart and circulation stop.

The doctor that was operating the machine told me, “I’m so sorry, but your baby has passed away. We can’t find her heartbeat.” I feel like I screamed, but I was in so much shock that I can’t remember clearly. I remember crying that entire day. It took them another two hours to start me on a Pitocin drip, and another two to start the epidural. I had to lay with my dead child laying still in my belly, because they were forcing me to deliver vaginally.

They told me that I run the risk of not healing properly from a C-section. I honestly would’ve taken that risk if it meant they could revive Marceline. I had to lie and wait until late that evening before I could deliver her. It was over an hour that I was in labor. Marcelne had shoulder dystocia, and was stuck in my pelvis. My pelvis was too small for her. They were using the vacuum on her.

I remember screaming, and feeling everything, even with the epidural. Mike, Mom, and my best friend Mickey all saw the cord around her neck, and heard the doctor say, “Oh, that’s wrapped tight.” I saw her turn a little to block Mike from seeing her cut the cord. Marcy was born at 1:16AM on Sunday, July 9th, 2017. They let Mike cut the cord, then laid her on my chest.

The skin on her cheeks had started to slough off from the cord strangling her. When I let Mike take her and hold her, they wouldn’t let me up to see him. I don’t remember much after that, and I think I had fallen asleep. The next morning the nurses had brought her in so I could see her. Her poor little hands were so cold. Her lips were so dark they were nearly black. I remember sobbing as I held her and being so afraid to touch her, thinking she would disintegrate if I did. When everyone had left the room, and it was just Mom and I with her, we sang her her lullaby, Loch Lomond.

I begged her to just come back to me, to us. I told her how much we loved her and how badly she was wanted, and how I was so sorry this happened to my poor little fox. She weighed 8lbs. 12oz., was 20.5 inches long, and looked exactly like I did when I was born. I didn’t get to hold her anymore after that. I could barely hold myself together; I barely can now.

The doctor also told me it was my fault she died, saying it was complications from diabetes that killed her. They also tried talking us out of getting an autopsy done on her. The autopsy results were eight pages long, and there was only one thing that may have been linked to my diabetes, but was not the ultimate cause for her inter-uterine demise.”

It is my prayer that the blessings from the goddess be upon my beautiful friend that she may become a mother of healthy children, and that she may heal from this terrible tragedy.

 

The next woman who shared her story was Mary.

I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I was in and out of group homes for most of my teen years, so I was actually kind of excited that I would finally have someone who loved me who didn’t get paid to. (Teen logic). A few weeks later, I went to a party with some friends in a nearby hotel. I was the only one there not drinking. My baby’s life was too important to me.

Everyone was passed out on the beds in piles, except for me and one guy who was still drinking. I’d noticed him before, and he was cute, but I was in a relationship, so he was off limits. Besides, he was a cop’s kid, and he drank way too much, knowing he could get away with anything. I shook my head and decided to use the bathroom and find a place to go to sleep. He followed me to the bathroom. I won’t go into details, but he raped me on the bathroom floor, and no one even woke up. The next morning, I left before anyone else stirred. Once he had left the bathroom, I had spent the night curled up crying on the bathroom floor, so I was able to tiptoe out unnoticed. I called my best friend and asked her to come get me. She lived nearly two hours away, but she came, and instead of taking me home, she took me back to her house.

That night, I started spotting. Being so young, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t tell anyone, just got a pad and pretended everything was fine…until it wasn’t. By the next afternoon, I was bleeding heavily and having stomach pains so bad I couldn’t stand. I told my best friend what was going on, and she and some friends who were at the house took me to the ER. Of course, by then, it was too late to save the baby. That opportunity had passed the day before, if it ever even existed.

After the miscarriage, things are kind of a blur. However, I do remember what the doctor told me after my D&C. “You’ll never be able to get pregnant again. It was a miracle you were ever able to in the first place. And if you do manage to get pregnant, you won’t be able to carry a baby to term.” Just a few months later, I was pregnant again. This time, she was nearly a month late.

I was in the custody of DCS when I had my daughter. Less than two weeks after I had her, I turned 18. I told my case worker I wouldn’t leave the home for young mothers when I turned 18. I lied. I left on my birthday. She was livid, and actually tried to have my daughter taken from me. I fought like I had never fought before. No one was ever going to take THIS child away. I’d have died first.

Because of the miscarriage, and because I knew she would likely be my only child, I grew up and threw myself into motherhood head first. The late 80s were a time when almost all moms bottle fed their children, and preferred strollers and bouncy seats to skin on skin contact. I nursed my daughter, and improvised a way to carry her on my chest, much like today’s baby slings. She slept in a bassinet that was right beside my bed, and there were nights I would wake up and put my hand on her back, panicking a little until I could feel the rise and fall of her breathing. I never went a day without telling her I loved her, and I never went a night without reading a story and tucking her in. Perhaps I was TOO close to her, but I never wanted her to doubt my love.

The doctor was partially right. I was never able to have another child after my daughter. I tried to move on, but every year I would think about how old my first child would be if they were alive. Today, they would be 28. My daughter is 27. She is a beautiful woman with a wonderful life. I always told her growing up that she could be anything she wanted, but that all I wanted for her was happiness… I still feel that way. And she has it. That’s all a parent could ask for.”

I have thanked these beautiful women for sharing their stories, and they will be invited when I do the ritual I have written for this month’s article. It was very difficult for me to write this, as I could not stop crying the whole time. I will be blessed during this ritual as well.

I tried to think of something simple, but meaningful, and what I would want somebody to say to me for my grief over my own childlessness. I also looked to see what other liturgies I could find for women mourning loss of children, and I did not find much. I don’t ever remember hearing of such a ritual, and what little I did find was specifically for either funerals or miscarriages. I found nothing for women who are barren unless it was to pray for fertility. I found nothing for women who lost custody, as society tends to assume these women deserve that, but I’m not so quick to judge. I found a couple of Pagan prayers about miscarriage, and quite a few Catholic liturgies. I wanted to do something where the women bless and support one another, and as the women I am inviting venerate different gods and goddesses, I did not write this to be specific to honor a goddess, or to fit any one pantheon.

 

The Working

Instead of just honoring the Mother goddesses, living mothers, and mothers who have joined the ancestors, for your Winter Solstice Celebrations, I suggest a blessing for living Mothers who have lost children.

Decide if you want one officiant to act as a Priestess, or if you prefer to delegate parts and readings to multiple people, depending on the needs of your group.

You will need:

  1. One large candle for The Goddess,
  1. One candle for each child attending women have lost,
  1. A large pitcher of water, and cups to drink from.
  1. Boxes of Tissues in case anybody needs them because they are crying.

First, cast circle as you normally do, or leave the circle open as preferred.

Then light the large candle to welcome the goddess. Because of the solemnness of this rite, a silent lighting is acceptable unless you have a special way you want to welcome her.

Each woman should take the pitcher of water in her hands and bless it as she sees fit. The communal blessing is what will make this ritual powerful, as it is one another we oftentimes look to for love, and strength. Prayers, or focusing energy to bless the water as feels appropriate for each woman is acceptable.

After the water is blessed, have each woman light a single candle in honor of each child they have lost, saying the child’s name and sit all the candles in a circle around the blessed water.

The reading, as followed can be done by one person, or each person can take a part to read.

The unbreakable bond of flesh of our flesh transcends the body and mind, and unites through spirit.

Though their bodies are far from yours, their mother, your soul connection to your children is forever.

Though your life with your child ended, you are still their mother, and always will be.

Let the love of the Divine Mother who you manifest in this life fill the void the loss of your child left.

You, a vessel of life, create more than just human beings. You create life through joy, kindness, laughter healing, and love.

May the blessings that you, a reflection of the Goddess, bestow upon those around you be returned to you tenfold.

May those whose tears of sorrow you dry, dry your tears. May those who you bless with tears of joy fill you with joys beyond compare.

May the waters we have blessed heal us, wash away our sorrows, and restore things we thought our pain took from us forever.

May the Mothers mourning loss of connection with living children be reunited with them, and have a long, happy life together.

May the Mothers whose children have died be reunited with them in the place of the ancestors, if they do not reincarnate together.

May you have the love and support of other mothers around you. Know that you are never alone. You have the connection to the Divine Mother, and all Mothers on earth who embody Her.”

Next, give everybody a cup to drink of the blessed water.

Each woman will then take turns talking to their child, or children and think of something they would have done for their child. Since they can’t do that, let the Mothers take a pledge to do something for another child in honor of the child or children she has lost. It can be something as simple as babysitting for a single parent you know for free, or something as great as adopting or fostering another child who has no parents.

Next, take down circle as you normally do, and potluck.

Blessed Yule, and Blessed Be.

 

Below is more information about Somebody’s Mother.

 

From the Press Release about Somebody’s Mother-

FILMMAKER’S COMMENTS

I feel shattered, pieces of me flying everywhere. Some parts of me are back in the hospital with the ghost of Charlie. Some parts are on the other side with Charlie’s soul, floating, dancing in the light. Together the two of us, our forgotten love. The love we didn’t get to share in this lifetime because he died. My little baby died. He was born too early with a terrible infection. He became terribly septic and was suffering. We released him from his pain and took him off life support. He floated away back to the other side and he died. Some part of me is there with him. Another part is on the floor at Trader Joe’s, where I was just shopping but had to run into the bathroom, and beg God for mercy; from the pain that I was experiencing just walking through the bread aisle.

Grief showed me all its colors, textures, shapes and sizes. When I lost Charlie it felt as if I was never going to get out. One day, I had a vision in my meditation, that Charlie came and said I need to make this story, I need to talk about grief and loss and that there is a connection to the other side. He’s not lost, its just another realm. And so we began to change the script we had worked on. Making something, first by writing it down in the script, then re-enacting it out during production and finally observing it in the editing slowly allowed me to befriend the grief. The parts of my body rejoined other parts. Parts of my soul rejoined the other parts and the new fragmented me became whole again.

During a scene in our film SOMEBODY’S MOTHER I sort through a purple box, which was actually my Charlie’s baby items. These items were given to us from the hospital NICU and consisted of Charlie’s little hat, a lock of his hair, and his footprints. I hadn’t been able to go through that purple box since returning from the hospital over a year prior. I decided to go through it for the first time while we were filming. During the scene, I wept. I felt purified and cleansed. It was beyond healing, it felt shamanic. By fully embracing the pain, I somehow transcended it.

I wasn’t just doing it for me but as a way to understand others; who had or were going through this. I learnt that extreme pain forces us to leave our bodies and reconnect with something deeper than ourselves. In this process, we shatter into a million pieces destroying who we once were, our former selves; our ego identity to rebirth into a new self with new knowledge and a reconnection to “source” energy. Charlie taught me this. Making the film allowed me to fully understand it, and not become lost in the grief or hardened by it. Instead it helped me open and soften. The experience deepened my understanding that this pain is a universal experience, which ultimately made me more of who I am. — GABRIELA TOLLMAN (Director, Writer, Actor, Producer)

My sister and I were interested in exploring contrasting themes. So many women we know want to get pregnant so badly and when they do; they don’t enjoy motherhood. It’s complicated. The role of a mother; is expected of women. It is assumed that the role of a mother should come easily and feel natural, but this is not always the case. Not everyone should become a mother.

We wanted the audience to feel how lonely these two women feel. If we are disconnected from honoring loss and disconnected from pain then how do we move forward in life? If Anna had allowed herself to express the confusion as a mother, her guilt, shame and fear perhaps she could have sought help instead of walking away from her four-year old child and leaving him in a car. So many women go through postpartum depression but feel so much shame that they act out instead of seeking help. We wanted to explore these topics, these dark places that nobody really wants to see – the places that are uncomfortable for an audience to experience and yet when they do, they feel relieved that they survived and deepened their understanding along the way.– EVELYNE TOLLMAN (Writer, Actor, Producer)

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

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About the Author:

 

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

MagickalArts

December, 2015

To Join (or Not to Join) A Magickal Group

This is an article I wrote many years ago and I’ve decided to share it in this month’s column. As the community and spiritual paths of pagan practice become increasingly more available, so too are the opportunities to become intimately a part of that expanding community. What that participation looks like and how in depth are multi-faceted. It is particularly timely for me since I have been in process of Hiving and forming a new coven within our Tradition, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. And, so in this spirit I pose the question that should be explored before committing to any one path of spiritual community.

The choice to remain a solitary practitioner or join a magickal group, coven or lodge is a very personal matter. Both offer benefits and detriments. Even if you consider yourself to be a solitary practitioner, there will be celebrations and stages in your development that will generate a desire to share, commune and connect. Similarly, those who choose to join a group will have specific times in their path of journey where they may wish to celebrate and/or practice in private; leaving group work behind.
Solitary Practice

Many pagans choose to walk a Solitary path. In former years this could be a very lonely, albeit a fulfilling one. We are fortunate to be on the Path at this particular time as there are many festivals and open events that both solitary and group affiliated members can attend. Meet-up Groups that have a pagan flavor are in abundance throughout the United States and the opportunity to interact without the deeper commitment of joining any organization has never been more accessible.
For some, group work and the structure needed to have things run smoothly is too restricting and limiting. For others, jobs, lifestyles or family obligations prevent the individual from attending group functions (there is usually a minimum requirement of events throughout the year that a group member would be expected to attend, unless there are emergencies), and this creates stress for both the group and the member. If a ritual at 2:00am is all you can easily fit into your schedule, most groups will not be accommodating to that and the pressures of having to fulfill attendance obligations can often sour the group experience.
Those who work as solitary practitioners often develop a very creative outlook that is largely self-directed. This is primarily because everything they do ritually or devotionally is generally self-generated and created and therefore they become quite adept at improvising. Working alone also guarantees that everything will be done at your own pace, in your own way and ultimately makes you solely responsible for your own experience, success and failures. Many prefer this freedom to connect to their spirituality by creating their own traditions and ways of offering up devotion to those deity and spiritual beings they commune with.
Group Work

Depending on the Tradition you are interested in joining there will generally be a specific length of time and protocol specified to facilitate the orientation process. Within our coven and Tradition we require at minimum a six-month “getting to know you” period where the prospective dedicant (newly dedicated member) attends open events and interacts with the other members of the coven and Tradition. Other groups accept members immediately and are less structured in their process of fully integrating you into the group and/or specific Tradition and still others have a lengthy process of education and training and when and if you are felt to be an acceptable candidate you are then invited to join as a member of the group.
Working within a group provides opportunity for direct sharing, access to those who are more experienced than you and the feeling of an energetic community and bonds to those who are your spiritual family. You will also have greater opportunity to network and meet others if the group you select holds open or sister events in collaboration with others in the Tradition, Coven or Lodge. Ritual work becomes a group effort in which you are able to be simply the participant and are able to open yourself in a deeper way since you are not the sole person responsible for the workings at hand. It provides the ability to see how others structure their practice and exchange ideas and suggestions about different approaches and subtleties. Now, of course, these are all things a solitary practitioner can experience in an open ritual; but the depth and openness that is shared between those within a group often occurs at those times when you are setting up or preparing for ritual before guests arrive or sitting in a group- only social event.
Some considerations you should have as you decide on what group is the best fit:
The group you select to petition for membership should offer a stable and fair structure of spiritual progress with resources to further and enhance your personal growth. Working within the group should feel like a spiritual family and these should be people that you trust to see you at your best and your worst. The energetic connection that you weave with this group of people will strengthen and build as you continue to work together and it is a very intimate relationship that requires respect between all of membership.
You should never feel pressured to do anything that you do not consider to be safe or is coercive in nature. Unfortunately, not all groups are ethical in their actions and offer up empty promises of the gifting of great powers and knowledge of the mysteries in exchange for sexual, monetary or other favors. Some traditions do work skyclad (naked) and perform sex magick as part of their magickal rites, but do so with the consent of all concerned and are up front from the very beginning, ensuring that everyone is on board. Bottom line is- if it doesn’t feel right to you and is not in accord with your beliefs you will probably not make much spiritual headway.
The leadership of the group should be people who live by example those teachings that they have been entrusted to pass along. There should be a comfortable exchange between leadership and membership such that any discord, or misunderstandings can be discussed and resolved in an ethical, intelligent and mature manner. Respect is key here, on both sides.  Respect that leadership has the best interest of the group, Tradition and its members always in sight. And, respect that membership will be supportive and helpful in maintaining a positive working environment and good intent for those they work with.
There should be encouragement of all members within the group to excel and progress in their magickal studies at a pace that will provide challenge but also allow for life events to take priority as needed. And, although healthy and constructive criticism is a great motivator there should never be an ill-intended push or encouragement towards unhealthy competition for recognition, roles or initiations among members. There will be many times when you will feel challenged unjustly and perhaps even feel as though you are not progressing in the way or at the speed at which you feel you should. A good barometer is to step back from the situation for a moment and ask yourself if you are just annoyed at the inconvenience or is there something truly and viably wrong.
It has been my experience that frequently the people who are meant to become members of our group, find their way to us through a synchronistic moment. They happen to be in the right place at the right time, find our website and decide to come to an open event or become interested through a friend who is already a member. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Take the time that you need to make an informed decision and never allow yourself to be pressured into joining a group. If a group is that desperate for new members, there are most likely other areas in which they will exert or force their will on the existing members- the number one “no-no” in pagan philosophy and ethics.

The bottom line is that if the group is a viable and healthy one, they will want to take their time in getting to know more about the potential members who come knocking on their door, and if the fit is right there is no need to hurry matters.  Neither your nor their interest in having you join them will diminish or lessen. If it does, perhaps it was not the place for you after all. The commitment to a group should be entered with the thought that this will be a place of working and growing for several years. There is no short track to magickal mastery and those who frequently leave and join groups, as well as groups who have a fast moving revolving door usually do not stand the test of time and longevity.

A Timely Choice

Just as all of life’s experiences change and flow as you change and grow in years and time, the decision to remain solitary or join a group will follow its own meandering course as well. Many start as Solitary workers; come to a crossroads where the progress they require includes working with others in a committed way, and when the lessons are integrated go back to Solitary practice. This is the nature of all spiritual growth regardless of tradition.
The start of your journey is begun of your own accord and decisions about how and in which direction it moves are formulated by you and you alone. As you move along the path of your making there will come a point in the road where the need to offer the mysteries learned in a broader and more communal sense rises to the surface. The yearning to share and exchange this wisdom with like-minded people and the security of feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself is the gentle rise of the hill ahead that offers no glimpse of what lay on the other side. You reach the summit of this path and begin the process of gathering to yourself all of the outer influences, interactions, joys and sorrows you have experienced. You take in new sights from this higher vantage point. These spread out before you in panoramic view. And, as the choices blur and thin in detail in the vastness of what can be, you look around and see that you have returned to the space of standing alone and quiet in your inner sanctum; new choices ahead and new paths to walk. And, so the cycle begins anew.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to join a group or remain a solitary practitioner. The important thing is that you continue your practice. That you seek out the resources you are guided to when and where you are led. And, when the time is right, you gather with like- minded individuals as one in celebration of the Pagan Path.
Blessings on your journey!

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

October, 2009

*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

Working Witch

Ever since I was a child, I have been a Healer. It began in my youth, fostered by programming from the church that it is our right to lay hands on the sick and they will be healed. I had never looked at the process any other way.
When I reached my teens, and money was slim and none, I discovered herbs and began ferreting out their secrets. Having a new weapon against dis-ease, I knew I would be a far better Healer, having both spiritual means, and physical means to help people.

Later, when I discovered my inner-witch (who clearly had been working her own magic for years, unbeknownst to me, consciously) I expanded my worldview, but my mission remained the same.
I just found that I had the ability to make change happen in other areas, as well as physical and spiritual healing.

Discernment became divination. An exorcism, cleansing and blessing. Prayers were chanted and candles and incense were lit. Energy was transferred and nothing had changed, except I now felt personally connected to the Divine, and no longer needed to attend church to fellowship, worship or petition my gods.

I had always been the sort of spiritual warrior who was called upon when someone moved into a new house, and became fearful about sprits and paranormal activities. As a Christian, my duty was clearly to remove the spirit, and restore the home to order. So, it really isn’t that different now, when I cleanse and bless. Except that I have respect for the spirit’s needs, as well.

I have been working as a part time witch for a good many years. I make medicines, read cards, run a small shop and do workings for friends of various sorts.
I never charge for my magic, though, occasionally, I will charge for some materials if I don’t have them in stock (rare. I have an extensive magical cupboard). It goes against my personal ethical construct to charge for magical workings, however I am always happy to accept token offerings from the client, as they are led.
I feel magic has been given to me, freely, and I am happy to share. I have always felt I “worked for the Universe”. And, while the paychecks aren’t steady, the benefits are out of this world.

I always insist on participation (on some level) by anyone I work or read for. Magic is best when engaged in by multiple focused partners, and this always aids in the results.

When someone I know has a problem they cannot manage on their own, through mundane channels, they come to me.

I have done UnCrossings for unfortunate friends. I have unhexed some who had been interfered with. I helped a friend find true love. I have healed numerous friends and family members and have cleansed and blessed countless homes over the years.

But, I have never felt that I was working full time, until lately.

Most recently, several serious situations have arisen in my life where I have been called upon to render magical aid. Some so serious that days worth of layers of magic have been required to remedy them.
I have been working round the clock for a week on a particularly dangerous situation, and while we have come out on the right side of it, it has been nearly all-consuming.
Today, I have been given my next assignment, and it is every inch the doozy the last one was.

It is vital that I remember to remain in my body and feel the sensations as they occur. I have been besieged with fatigue after long periods of energy transfer. I have had to remember to put some energy back. My dreams have been loaded with powerful images, so even while I am sleeping, my spirit is working these things through.
I have been trying to be mindful to eat when I am hungry and to keep my husband fed, during the course of things.

I can tell things have changed on some deeper level, because my husband has asked me for the help on one very specific occasion, and this is completely out of character. He knows I work for people, sometimes. He also knows that there are altars and candles in places, and that this means something. But he never knows what, and we don’t discuss it at all.
He just finally came to a place where he could not solve a serious problem through mundane means, and believed that I could help him with this one. He believed that there was some bad magic afoot and knew that I can help with things like this.

It was a amazing thing, to have him ask me to help him using my magic. He has not made a peep about the incense which burns nearly round the clock. He hasn’t mentioned the strange collections of things on the coffee table out in plain sight. He has been enormously supportive of the work, and has respected the sacred space.
It is its own miracle in the life of a working witch, married to a pagan-friendly but not pagan mate.

My work in his situation has been successful, and he is a believer more now than ever of my “hocus pocus” (to his credit, he did finally stop calling it that the first time I made a healing salve that cured absolutely everything it touched, including a major second degree burn he suffered).

With some spells coming to an end, and new ones being formulated, and worked, I find my life has changed. I am working full time for the Universe. Just as I sort of always wanted to.
As I said, the paychecks aren’t steady. But the benefits…who can argue with miraculous abundance?! Not this witch.

I know the life of a working witch is not for everyone. But I believe if you have a gift, it is up to you to share it with those who do not. Even if you are in a place where the idea of someone asking you to help them through magical means seems absurd, just wait.
People tend to notice what we can do. And even the pooh-poohers come around when they need some help they can’t ask anyone else for.

If you are open to this life, it will find you, and you will have more work to do that you have time for. I only know this, because it has happened to me.

Praying you all are finding work for your magical hands to do!
Bright Blessings!