May, 2009

Merry Meet & Welcome

May, 2009

Welcome to the May Issue of PaganPages! We hope you all have a safe and wonderful Beltaine. Be sure to visit out page and tell us what you did for the holiday! We love to see how our readers celebrate and learn new ways to honor the seasons.

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This issue is very exciting. We have an exclusive interview with Ghost Hunters International’s Barry Fitzgerald

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and an interview with Eliza Blanchard author of A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers.

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Our good friend Celia has also updated us on her May Appearances to share with our readers, so be sure to check that out!

We hope you have a happy and safe Beltane and as always…

Happy Reading!!!

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Vampire Folklore

May, 2009

With mainstream media placing the vampire subculture in the spotlight, society has begun to wonder who or what causes an individual to choose such a lifestyle.  Society also ponders and searches for reasonable yet scientific explanations that would cause an individual to exhibit vampiric-like traits.  One of these scientific explanations comes from the medical field, and that explanation is called porphyria.

The word porphyria comes from the Greek word porphyros, meaning reddish-purple (Melton 486).  A reference to reddish-purple or purple color is made because people who suffer from the rare disease typically have darker urine.  This urine may appear even darker after exposure to light.  The purple color is caused by an excess of porphyrins, a substance found in bone marrow (Guiley 231).  These porphyrins normally do not accumulate in strong concentrations (APF “About Porphyria”).  The disease was first recognized in the case of King George III, and the disease manifested itself in the sovereign with symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, constipation, dark urine, headaches, and convulsions (Ramsland 71).  Using King’s ailments as a general guideline, porphyria can be described as a condition with any of the following:

* Severe sensitivity to light
* Reddish brown or purple urine and teeth
* Severe anemia
* Jaundiced skin
* Skin lesions
* Progressive deformation of cartilage and bone especially around the face and fingers
* Nervous disorders including hysteria and bipolar disorder (Guiley 231)

However, the American Porphyria Foundation has recognized eight forms of porphyria, and each form displays different combinations of the conditions listed above

(APF “About  Porphyria”).  The most common of the eight are acute intermittent, and cutanea tarda.

Acute intermittent and cutanea tarda porphyria appear to be the most common of the eight types of porphyria.  Acute intermittent porphyria masks itself by appearing as other common ailments.  This type is commonly hereditary and causes an enzyme deficiency.  The deficiency alone does not trigger the condition.  It has been shown that hormones, drugs, and dietary changes amplify the problem.  The symptoms of acute intermittent porphyria are abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, back pain, muscle weakness, urinary retention, palpitation, and seizures (APF “About: Types of Porphyria, AIP”).  The other most common porphyria, cutanea tarda, focuses more on the vampire idea.  The most significant problem in individuals who suffer from cutanea tarda is sun inflected skin blisters.  They have increased hair growth as well as darkening and thickening of the skin (APF “About:  Types of Porphyria, PCT”).  One could see clearly, then, how one with this type of porphyria could be labeled as a vampire by those who are not educated in true vampire folklore.

While those who are educated in vampire folklore would be quick to argue against porphyria being linked to vampirism, one argument could still hold.  In 1985, David Dolphin speculated in a writing offered to the American Association for Science that porphyria may explain some reports of vampirism.  In the paper, Dolphin analyzed a treatment for porphyria that included the injection of heme.  Additionally, he hypothesized a concept in which those who suffered from the disease drank blood from others as a means to fight it off.  One could argue that Dolphin came to this conclusion due to the iron deficiency found in some porphyria sufferers.  While some have dismissed this paper altogether, it has gained both attention and negativity from the medical and vampiric communities (Melton 486).

Porphyria is a rare disease that has a variety of symptoms that could be mistaken for vampirism to those who are not readily acquainted with vampire folklore.  Some of those symptoms include an aversion to sunlight and excessive hair growth.  Furthermore, although it is highly debatable, those diagnosed with porphyria may try to use blood to combat their plight.  Therefore, one could see where it is possible to debate how one could consider porphyria the true vampire disease.

Works Cited

American Porphyria Foundation.  2009.  American Porphyria Foundation.  26 Apr. 2009 < http://www.porphyriafoundation.com/about-the-apf>.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen.  The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters.  New York:  Checkmark Books, 2005.

Melton, J. Gordon.  The Vampire Book.  Detroit:  Visible Ink Press, 1994.

Ramsland, Katherine.  The Science of Vampires.  New York:  Berkley Boulevard Books, 2002.

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The Days of May

May, 2009

The Days of May

May, the fifth month of the current Gregorian calendar and the third month of Spring’s rule, derives its name from the Roman Springtime goddess Maia, whose divine powers encouraged the growth of crops.
The traditional birthstone amulets of May are the emerald and the agate; and the hawthorn and lily are the month’s traditional flowers.

May is shared by the astrological signs of Taurus the Bull and Gemini the Twins, and is sacred to the following Pagan deities: Artemis, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Pan, and all gods and goddesses who preside over fertility.
During the month of May, the Great Solar Wheel of the Year is turned to Beltane, one of the four Grand Sabbats celebrated each year by Wiccans and modern Witches throughout the world.

May 1
The Beltane Sabbat is celebrated by Wiccans and Witches throughout the world annually on this date. Beltane (which is also known as May Day, Rood Day, Rudemas, and Walpurgisnacht) is derived from an ancient Druid fire festival celebrating the union of the Goddess and the Horned God. It also celebrates the rebirth of the Sun, marking the “death” of Winter and the “birth” of Spring. At dawn, morning dew is gathered from grass and wildflowers to be used in mystical potions for good luck. Throughout the day, Nature is celebrated by feasts, games, poetry readings, and clockwise dancing around a brightly decorated Maypole.
In ancient Rome, the deity worshiped on this day was the Spring goddess Maia, whose divine powers encouraged the crops to grow. The month of May is named after her.
On this date in the year 1776, the Order of the Illuminati (an occult sect and secret order dedicated to the study of forbidden books, Tantric mysticism, and ceremonial magick) was founded in Bavaria by Adam Weishaupt.

May 2
On this date, an annual fertility festival featuring a man wearing the costume of a hobbyhorse, a devilish mask, and a pointed hat is held in England and throughout rural regions across Europe.
Ysahodhara, the consort of the great god Buddha, is honored in India with a sacred festival that takes place on this day each year.

May 3
In ancient Rome, an annual women’s festival in honor of the earth goddess Bona Dea took place on this date. Sacrifices of sows were made to her in order to promote fertility in women, and the unveiling of sacred objects for only women’s eyes to see was included in the celebration of her rites.

May 4
Fairy Day. According to Irish folklore, it is on this day that the mischievous fairy folk emerge from their hiding places. To prevent human children from being stolen by the fairies and replaced by grotesque changelings, an offering of tea and bread must be left on the doorstep for the little people. For protection against fairies while traveling (especially through heavily wooded areas or open fields), wear your coat inside out. This is said to cause them such great confusion that they are unable to cause any trouble.

May 5
On this date in the year 2000, according to a group called the Lemurian Fellowship, the legendary lost continent of Mu will rise up from the Pacific Ocean.
In various parts of Mexico and Central America, centuries-old rain ceremonies are performed every year on this day by shamanic priests and priestesses of the Old Faith. The ancient goddesses who preside over rain and fertility are honored and invoked with prayers and offerings.

May 6
On this day in the year 1938, the Long Island Church of Aphrodite was established in West Hempsted, New York, by the Reverend Gleb Botkin, a Russian author and son the court physician to the last Czar of Russia.

May 7
On this date (approximately), a festival called the Thargelia was celebrated by the ancient Greeks and Ionians in honor of Apollo, the god of the sun, prophecy, music, medicine, and poetry. The festival was held once a year on the sacred island of Delos, the traditional birthplace of Apollo as well as the goddess Artemis.

May 8
In Cornwall, England, the annual Furry Dance is performed in the streets of Helston on this day in honor of the old Celtic Horned God in the guise of Robin Hood. The festival, which features street dancing and a day-long procession throughout the town for good fortune, is one of the oldest surviving Springtime ceremonies in the world.
Theosophists commemorate the death of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky on this day, which they call White Lotus Day.

May 9
An annual rite called the Lemuria was performed on this date in ancient Roman times to appease the restless spirits of the dead (Lemures), who materialized on this day to haunt the homes where they had once lived. The Lemuria was also held on the eleventh and thirteenth of May. As part of the rite, black beans (symbolic of the Underworld) were tossed as offerings to the ghosts and a powerful prayer was recited nine times.

May 10
The sacred marriage of the god Shiva to the goddess Meenakshi is celebrated annually on this date by faithful followers in Madurai, India. Sacred hymns are sung and offerings of incense and white flower petals are made at all temples dedicated to Shiva.
Tin Hau, the Chinese goddess of the North Star, is honored annually on this day with a festival in Hong Kong.

May 11
On this date in the year 1659, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned all celebrations of Christmas in the New World after declaring the event to be a Pagan festival of superstition and “a great dishonnor [sic] of God.”
In England, Christmas festivities had been banned by the Puritans seven years earlier. It wasn’t until the year 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne that the law banning the celebration of Christmas was repealed.

May 12
On this date, the annual Cat Parade is celebrated in Belgium in honor of the furry feline, an animal sacred to the ancient Egyptians and often used as a familiar of Witches.
Aranya Sashti, a god of the woodlands, is honored in India on this day with an annual festival. He is identified with the Pagan honored deities Pan and Cernunnos.

May 13
On this date in the year 1917, the Goddess in the guise of the Virgin Mary appeared to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal. The event, which was the first of six divine appearances from May 11 to October 13, drew worldwide attention.

May 14
The Festival of the Midnight Sun is celebrated annually on this date by Pagans in far northern Norway. The festival, which pays homage to the ancient Norse goddess of the sun, begins at sunrise and marks the beginning of ten consecutive weeks without the darkness of night.

May 15
On this date in ancient times, the Romans performed an annual purification rite consisting of the “sacrifices” of twenty-seven straw puppets to the river god of the Tiber.

May 16
On this date in the year 1918, famous Italian spiritualist-medium Eusapia Palladino passed away. She was best remembered for her ability to enter a state of trance and levitate during seances.

May 17
In the Philippines, a Neo-Pagan fertility ritual is celebrated every year on this date by married couples who wish to have children. The rites (dedicated to Santa Clara) continue until the nineteenth of May.

May 18
The Feast of Twins. On this day, festivals honoring twins are held annually in the African republic of Nigeria. It is widely believed among the Yoruba people that all twins are born with abundant magickal and supernatural powers.

May 19
On this day in the year 1780, a strange and unexplained darkness draped most of New England, turning daytime into night. Many folks believed that a Salem Witch’s curse was responsible for the day of darkness, since no other explanation for the phenomenon has ever been found.

May 20
On this date, a sacred festival called the Plynteria was celebrated annually in ancient Greece. The festival was held in honor of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and battle, and the patroness of the city of Athens (which was named after her), and included the ritual sea cleansing of her statue, followed by prayers in the Parthenon and feasting.

May 21
On this date in the year 1911, Peter Hurkos was born in the Netherlands. He developed astonishing psychic powers after recovering from a coma, and became world-famous for solving crimes through the divinatory art of psychometry. He passed away in Los Angeles on May 25, 1988.
On this date in the year 1946, Gwydion Pendderwen was born in Berkeley, California. He was a Celtic bard, a cofounder of the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft, and the founder of a Neo-Pagan networking organization called Nemeton. He died in the Autumn of 1982 as a result of a tragic automobile accident.

May 22
On this date (approximately), the Sun enters the astrological sign of Gemini. Persons born under the sign of the Twins are said to be communicative, curious, charming, and often nervous and fickle. Gemini is an air sign and is ruled by the planet Mercury.

May 23
The Rosalia, a sacred rose festival dedicated to the springtime flower-goddess Flora and the love-goddess Venus, was celebrated annually on this date in ancient Rome.

May 24
On this day, an annual harvest ritual called Sacred Furrow Day was held in Cambodia. As part of the rite, the farmland would be plowed by members of the royal family in order to appease the ancient gods of the harvest and to ensure the fertility of the land.
The birth of the Greek moon-goddess Artemis (who also presides over hunting and wild beasts) has been celebrated each year on this day since ancient times. As a lunar goddess, she has been an influential archetype for many Witches and worshipers of the contemporary Goddess religion. Artemis is equivalent to the Roman moon-goddess Diana and is identified with Luna, Hecate, and Selene.

May 25
In Europe (especially France), this day is sacred to Saint Sarah of the Gypsies and also to an ancient Triple Goddess who rose from the waters of the ocean.
In ancient Greece, the birthday of Apollo, the twin brother of the goddess Artemis, was celebrated annually on this date.
On this date in the year 1581, famed occultists and alchemist John Dee first realized his natural gift for looking into the future through the art of crystal-gazing. He served for years as the royal astrologer of Queen Elizabeth and had a reputation as a powerful wizard.

May 26
Sacred Well Day. On this day, it is traditional for Pagans and Witches (especially in Ireland and Great Britain) to decorate sacred wells with wreaths and to toss offerings of flowers into the water in honor of the deities and spirits of the well. This custom dates back to the ancient Romans, who celebrated an annual well festival called the Fortinalia, which took place on this day.

May 27
On this day, the Secular Centennial Games were observed in ancient Rome. The goddesses Diana, Prosperina, and the Three Fates were honored in nighttime healing ceremonies.
On this date in the year 1948, Morning Glory Zell was born in Long Beach, California. She is a priestess and vice-president of the Church of All Worlds, and is a practitioner of Celtic Pagan Shamanism.

May 28
A sacred rite called the Pythian Games was enacted every four years on this date in ancient Greece. The rite honored the slain serpent-goddess Python, and was celebrated in Delphi, the most venerated shrine in all of Greece.

May 29
On this day in ancient times, the god Mars was honored by the farmers of Rome with feasts, prayers, animal sacrifices, and annual rites of purification. The Ambarvalia festival was also celebrated on this day in honor of Ceres, Juno, the Lares, and the Family Goddesses.

May 30
On this date in the year 1431, French heroine and military leader Joan of Arc was burned alive at the stake as punishment for committing the crimes of Witchcraft, heresy, and “being given to the forbidden arts of magick and divination.”

May 31
On this day, the annual Triple Blessing of the God Buddha is observed by Theravada Buddhists. To celebrate the god’s birth, enlightenment, and passage into nirvana, shrines and houses are decorated with flowers and special prayer flags. Offerings of flowers, incense, and rice are also made. The Triple Blessing often lasts for three consecutive days.

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Sacred Sites

May, 2009

Beltane in Ireland

For this issue of Sacred Sites we begin by wishing you a Happy Beltane! This month we are in Ireland with a group of travelers exploring sacred sites. We hope you’ll journey with us in spirit as we make our way across the mystical emerald isle.

This will be an interesting opportunity to experience the difference in celebratory styles, not only culturally speaking, but from within the Irish community itself. We will meet a transplanted American living in County Kerry, a solitary Witch, in the heart of Ireland and a member of Teampall Na Callaighe that lives in Kells.

In the upcoming issues of Pagan Pages we will share with you the details of our Pagan pilgrimage, along with interviews from local Pagans, photos of the rituals and ceremonies we attend, as well as insights from the travelers themselves.

Journey with us as we travel across Ireland to celebrate the Celtic Festival of Beltane. Here are a few of the ancient sites and windswept landscapes we will be visiting.

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare – (Irish – Aillte an Mhothair, lit. cliffs of the ruin) an impressive wall of rock rises to a height of almost 700 feet above the churning Atlantic Ocean. The view from Hags Head overlooks the sea, standing to greet the fierce wind.

Special Note: For any movie fans out there – The Cliffs of Moher were filmed as the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride.

The Burren National Park, County Clare – The word Burren derives its name from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic. This region of limestone hills contains a wealth of rare flowers and prehistoric stone monuments. The Burren is a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare to Ireland grow side by side. Its geology, flora, fauna, caves, archaeology, and history set it apart as a place of great mystery and beauty.

The 100 square mile area boasts rivers, castles, lakes, towering cliffs, lush green valleys, barren rock mountains, and constant relics of ancient civilization; round towers, stone arches, dolmens, ancient churches and high crosses.

Within the Burren exists the Poulnabrone Dolman, one of the most dramatic stone grave markers, said to be about 4000 years ago. Like a piece of sculpture, it is one of the most photographed in the world.

Special Note: Our intrepid group of travelers will attempt to locate the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Admittedly, it has eluded this traveler in previous attempts. Apparently obvious to many a tour bus driver, this American has not yet learned the secret handshake and special password that is required to locate this structure. Well hidden from the road, it seriously needs some sort of marker, of course that would ruin the beauty of the Dolmen – sigh of angst.

Druids Stone Circle, Kenmare, County Kerry – An ancient ring of stones said to be a druidic site just outside Kenmare.

Torc Waterfall, County Kerry – Just one of many in the Killarney area and is known as the most famous. The roar of the falls can be heard as you approach, the source of the water comes from a place called the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” and falls 70 feet onto the huge boulders below.

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Torc Waterfall – County Kerry

Ogham Stones – A set of eight stones situated near the side of a road near Beaufort Village. Ogham stones are usually gravestones and bear the name of the deceased and often details of his descent.

Charleville Forest Castle, County Offaly, Tullamore – Surrounded by a 700-year old Oak forest (the oldest in Ireland), stands Charleville Castle, known for generations as one of the world’s most haunted castles.

Legend states that Charleville was built on the site of an ancient druid burial ground and it is said that Druids conducted ceremonies here. There is a grotto on the property that we’ve yet to see, hopefully some fairy rings – keeping our fingers crossed.

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500-year-old Oak Tree at Charleville Forest Castle

We have been invited to celebrate Beltaine at Charleville with a Maypole Dance, Ceremony, and the lighting of the Bale-fire with our host Mary Alagna.

Brigids Well Kildare – (Cill Dara in modern Irish originally derived from Cell Dara in Old Irish, meaning “Church of the Oak”) One of the many wells named after the Goddess Brigid also known as Saint Bridget. I’m told that at this location there are two Wells, one just off of the car park that is a Pagan site and one farther away that is a Christianized site.

Loughcrew Cairns & The Hill of the Witch (Irish – Sliabh na Cailligh) Onto the Boyne Valley in County Meath, as we step back in time to visit the passage graves of Loughcrew. We join our local guide Gemma McGowan as she takes us on a tour of Loughcrew as well as other historical sites where they celebrate the Ancient Celtic Festivals of Lughnassa and Samhain. Gemma is an Irish member of Teampall Na Callaighe.

Monasterboice – An interesting monastic site near Drogheda in County Meath. The impressive ruins include a large cemetery, two churches, one of the tallest round towers in Ireland and two of the tallest and best high crosses.

Looking forward to reporting back to you in June.

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Forest Moon

May, 2009

Change

So, I pick up my pen once again to write my thoughts as they flow. But do they flow? Not always, but sometimes one must ponder. I look out my window, and it’s raining outside and cold. Not the normal weather for Washington in June, it actually snowed in the mountains. You watch the news and see nothing but the murder and mayhem of today’s society and you have to wonder where it’s all leading. You know. I eat breakfast every morning in the Madigan Hospital cafeteria where I work in the Safety office and that’s the only time I’m forced to watch the news. I was thoroughly appalled the other morning to watch an old man crossing the street and get struck by a car in a hit and run and not a damn person out of twenty mind you even so much as moved to help him for one full minute. I say again, I’m appalled. What if that was your dad. What if that was your grandfather. Has our society become so numb, so ignorant, and so apathetic as to simply leave our wounded where they lie? In combat you would never see that. Our motto in the military is “Leave no man behind”. The military isn’t that great mind you, but some of the values they instill in their Soldiers shames the civilian sector. We lead the way in technology, we pave the way in the medical field, and we put our civilian counterparts to shame when it comes to values that all as a society should live by. Now don’t get me wrong the military can learn a lot of valuable lessons about some values as well. We are told to be honest and have courage, yet the militaries own policy on homosexuality is don’t ask don’t tell so ultimately your told to lie about your sexual preference. Let’s talk about the rank structure. If you are a Private and you don’t want to go to war you will be court martialed and do some prison time potentially for disobeying a direct order; however, if you’re an officer you will be moved to a cushy office where you can finish off your time even though you have abandoned your Soldiers since you didn’t go to war with them. What is this telling our younger generation of Soldiers, and worse yet what is this showing our civilian counterparts as a whole. You are probably asking, “Eric, where are you going with this?” and I’ll tell you. Look out your window, look at the news if you dare. Everything is evolving, and everything must change. The keyword here is change. It is time for Mother Earth to move forward and She is changing with or without our approval. We will change with Her or we will die as a species that is the blunt truth. We, as a species have not taken care of our home, and we’re getting to the point of not taking care of each other. I remember the days of not locking your doors, of being able to get gas without paying first and oh, wait, gas was only $1.50 a gallon and we thought that was high. Politicians are crooked as ever and you can’t trust your neighbor anymore. This isn’t a negative article, just a truthful one. Now, how do we fix the problem? We change. As Pagans it is our duty to take care of our Mother. You can also make a start by taking care of your fellow Pagans. Who cares what degree you are, who cares how many credentials you have. You’re a Pagan and that should be all that matters, now own up to the name. Pagans take care of each other. I saw a lot of good when I started the Troop support system called Desert Moon Network, and I saw a lot of good Soldiers and Airmen come and go when we were deployed together both times in Iraq. Total I saw over one hundred Pagan Military come and go throughout Iraq between 2004 and 2006 when I was in Iraq. We had our good and we had our bad but at least we came home alive and we all grew spiritually. Our Pagan civilian counterparts ensured we had all supplies we needed and then some and it was a great support system that still goes on today. Combat makes one change, just as our Mother, will make us as Pagans change. Take a walk in the woods, enjoy the trees talking to you, the wildlife watching you and you will be reminded again and again of why you would want to change and stay with your Mother. Take the family and go out on a camping trip, which we as a family will be doing in July. Lastly go to your nearest Pagan Pride Day in your community and reflect with your fellow Pagans, attend a Pagan meet-up, or go to a Pagan coffee that is held in some communities. Put your differences aside, and talk the Path, talk about your commonalities be it Druid, Asatru, Wiccan, or just a good ole Witch. It doesn’t matter; we all worship the same energy. Universal Energy everything is, was and will be. Some may be offended by these words, and so be it, if the shoe fits. Sometimes a shake-up is needed and Mother is shaking us all up so let’s wake-up. I’ll close with this. If we all got along as a Pagan community we would be stronger then most main-stream religions, Sabbats would be one helluva celebration, and imagine the energy we would raise to heal our Mother. Until next time. Blessings.

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WiseWoman Traditions

May, 2009

Weeds in Your Garden? – Bite Back!

I always say the gardener’s best revenge is to eat the weeds. I’ve been doing it for thirty years and can testify that my health and the health of my garden has never been better. Here are a few hints for gardeners who’d rather eat their weeds than hate them (and for non-gardeners who are adventurous enough to try out nature’s bounty).

View your weeds as cultivated plants; give them the same care and you’ll reap a tremendous harvest. Harvest frequently and do it when the weeds are young and tender. Thin your weeds and pinch back the annuals so your weeds become lushly leafy. Use weeds as rotation crops; they bring up subsoil minerals and protect against many insects. “Interplant” (by not weeding out) selected weeds; try purslane, lamb’s quarters, or amaranth with your corn, chickweed with peas/beans, and yellow dock, sheep sorrel, or dandelion with tomatoes. And, most importantly, harvest your weeds frequently, regularly, and generously.

Overgrown radishes, lettuces, and beans are tough and bitter. So are weeds that aren’t harvested frequently enough. Give your chickweed a haircut (yes! with scissors) every 4-7 days and it will stay tender all spring, ready to be added to any salad. If you forget a patch for two weeks, it may get stringy and tough and full of seed capsules. (All is not lost at this stage. The seeds are easy to collect – put the entire plant in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and use the seeds that fall to the bottom of the bag – and highly nutritious, with exceptional amounts of protein and minerals.)

Unthinned carrots and lettuces grow thin and spindly; so do unthinned lamb’s quarters, amaranth, and other edible weeds. Wherever you decide to let the weeds grow, keep them thinned as you would any plant you expect to eat. Here’s how I do it: in early spring I lightly top-dress a raised bed with my cool-method compost (which is loaded with the seeds of edible weeds). Over this I strew a heavy coating of the seeds of lettuces and cresses and brassicas (cultivated salad greens), then another light covering of shifted compost.

Naturally, weed seeds germinate right along with my salad greens. When the plants are about two inches high, I go through the bed and thin the salad greens, pull out all grasses, smartweeds, cronewort, clear weed, and quick weed (though the last three are edible, I don’t find them particularly palatable). And, I thin back the chickweed, mallows, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, and garlic mustard and other edible wild greens.

Keep those annuals pinched back. You wouldn’t let your basil go straight up and go to flower, don’t let your lamb’s quarter either. One cultivated lamb’s quarter plant in my garden grew five feet high and four feet across, providing greens for salads and cooking all summer and a generous harvest of seeds for winter use.

When a crop of greens has bolted or gone to seed in your garden, you pull it all out and replant with another crop. Do the same with your weeds. We eat the greens of garlic mustard all spring, then pull it out just before it bolts (making a horseradishy vinegar from the choicest roots) – often revealing a generous crop of chickweed lurking underneath.

Some of my favorite garden weeds:
Annuals

Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus)

Young leaves, old leaves, even non-woody stalks are delicious as a cooked green; chop and boil for 30-40 minutes. Serve in their own broth; freeze leftovers for winter use. Use instead of spinach in quiche (you may never grow spinach again).  Collect seeds throughout the autumn by shaking seed heads over a lipped cookie sheet; or by harvesting and drying the entire seed head. Winnowing out the chaff is tedious but soothing. There is a special thrill that comes when you toss the chaffy seed in the air, and the breeze catches it just-so, and the seeds fall back into your tray, while the prickly chaff scatters “to the four winds.”

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Young leaves and stalks, even flowers, in salads. Blend with virgin olive oil and organic garlic for an unforgettable pesto. Add seeds to porridge.

Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium alba and related species, e.g. Chenopodium quinoa)

Young leaves in salads. Older leaves and tender stalks cooked. Leaves dried and ground into flour (replaces up to half the flour in any recipe). Seeds dried and cooked in soups, porridge.

Mallows (Malva neglecta and related species)

Leaves of any age and flowers (the closely related Hibiscus flowers too!) are delicious in salads. Roots are used medicinally.

Purslane (Portulacca oleracea)

The fleshy leaves and stalks of this plant are incredibly delicious in salads and not bad at all preserved in vinegar for winter use.
Biennials

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Roots of non-flowering plants harvested after frost make a vinegar that is deep, and richly flavorful as well as a world-renowned tonic. Petioles of the leaves and the flowering stalk are also edible; for recipes see my book Healing Wise.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis)

Year-round salad green. Leaves used in any season, even winter. Roots are harvested before plant flowers. Seeds are a spicy condiment.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Leaves finely chopped in salads. Flowers are beautiful edible decorations. Roots of non-flowering plants, harvested in the fall, and cooked.
Perennials

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)

Leaves eaten at any time, raw or cooked, but especially tasty in the fall – not spring! Roots harvested any time; pickle in apple cider vinegar for winter use. Dandelion flower wine is justly famous.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Leaves add a sour spark to salads. Cooked with wild leeks or cultivated onion and potato they become a soup called “schav.”

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Young leaves cooked for 40-45 minutes and served in their broth are one of my favorite dishes. Seeds can be used in baked goods, porridge.

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)

Roots pickled in apple cider vinegar are tasty and a boon for enriching the blood. Leaves, especially young ones, are eaten raw or cooked.

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Gems of the Goddess

May, 2009

Hecate:  The Great Mother

Hecate (also known as Hekate) is the Greek Goddess of the Crossroads.  Her name means the “The Distant One”.  She guards the household; she is the protector of everything newly born and the Goddess of Witchcraft.   Hecate completes the Triple Goddess of Maiden (Persephone), Mother (Demeter) and Crone (Hecate).   Some of her titles are “Goddess of the Dark Moon”, “Goddess of the Witches”, “Mistress of Magic” and “Great Mother”.   She is a very powerful and active goddess so if you invoke her, be ready for a lifetime of service to her.  Hecate helps us to understand the darkness of the night and life so we can experience the light in our lives.
Hecate was one of the only Goddesses who was allowed to retain her authority by Zeus once the Olympians took control.  She could give humanity anything they wanted or take it away.   Hecate also was one of the “virgin” goddesses (like her cousin Artemis) who wouldn’t sacrifice her independence for marriage.   As time went on, Hecate was unfairly classified as an “old hag” because she could assist during times of the dark moon, during mediumship, dreams and she had great experience with death and death transitions.  Despite that, she is also known as a “Moon Goddesses” and her rulership was three-fold – earth, sea and sky.  Because she could create or hold off storms, she is the goddess who was the protector of sailors.
Hecate helps you during the crossroads in your life.  She is known for her foresight.   Many are known to gathe r at the crossroads and leave leftovers outdoors as offerings.  Hecate was usually depicted with her sacred animals but these animals and even herself in some situations were shown with three heads.  These three heads were seeing into the past, present and future.  Hecate also traveled with an Owl.  An Owl represents wisdom and even though she isn’t known as the goddess of Wisdom, she rules trivia.  Hecate is known to have a special type of knowledge.  She is also known as a compassionate goddess that dispenses justice but know that it will be blind and fair justice.
Since Hecate has the gift of prophecy, she is known to have told a sad and frantic Demeter what had happened to Persephone.  Even when Persephone was in the Underworld (or the “Otherworld”), Hecate was welcomed by Hades, who was thankful that Hecate could be Persephone’s confidant and friend.  Because of this friendship, Hecate developed into a Goddess that was comfortable with the=2 0Underworld and the Dead, hence being seen as someone who would accept those that were misunderstood or shunned.  She was known to travel with outcasts as her role of “Queen of the Night”.  This role earned her a mixture of honor and fear because she was walking with those that lived on the outer fringe.
Because of her experience with the Underworld, Hecate also worked with people making their transition to the Underworld.  She would comfort them as they passed and would stay with them if they needed transition to the Underworld.  She knew of the mysteries of birth and death and could protect and assist with both.
Hecate is here to help you make your transitions in life – not just birth and death but the symbolic births and deaths.  Hecate pushes you to let go of what is familiar and comfortable so you may bring out the depths of your soul and know and experience your life lessons.  Her festival days are January 8, May 3, August 13, October 31, November 16 and December 31.  Her gemstones are Moonstone, black tourmaline, hematite, smoky quartz – dark stones.
Even though Hecate’s reputation is of an “old hag”, Hecate is far from it.  If you are looking for profound changes and digging deep to do the work for them, Hecate may be the Goddess for your transformation.

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Goddess Cards

May, 2009

Beltane

goddesscards


The May Queen

For thousands of years, the official beginning of summer on May 1st was celebrated in the joyous fire festival of Beltane. Beltane means “the fires of Bel.”  Celts believed that, at this time, the shining God of the Sun returned to Earth to banish winter and marry the Earth goddess. From this sacred union of god and goddess, fertility and abundance would return to the world, ensuring the survival of the people for another year.

Beltane celebrations reflected these ancient beliefs. A May Queen was selected to represent the virgin goddess. Her consort, the May King, or Green Man, was chosen to unite with her in the sacred marriage of Sun and Earth. (In earlier hunter-gatherer times, Herne, the Horned God, was paired with Diana, the huntress.)

On this joyful day, many participated in fertility rites. May 1st was the only day in the year when couples, married or unmarried, were free to go into the forest and make love with anyone they chose. Happy lovers returned to the village in the morning, laden with flowers they’d gathered to make wreaths for their hair, garlands to hang in the trees, May baskets for loved ones, and decorations for the village Maypole.

Maypole dances also symbolized the union of male and female, god and goddess. Ribbons were woven together round the pole in intricate patterns of red and white as dancers moved through ritual steps.

Great fires of new wood were lit on hills. Couples leaped across the flames three times to affirm their commitment to one another. Cattle were driven between fires on their way to fresh summer pastures. Families walked between the bonfires as well, believing that they, like their animals, would be purified and healed of winter’s ills through exposure to the sacred fire and smoke.

Many of these pagan rites were later absorbed or outlawed by the Church, in an effort to wean people from the “Old Religion.” Some of them survive today, in modern celebrations that still seek to honor life, love, beauty, and the sacred fertility of Mother Earth and all her children.

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For a Good Time…

May, 2009

Just like a good joke, it’s all in the… (wait for it)… timing.  Pagans put a lot of importance on timing and for good reason.  We pride ourselves on being more than clever about getting stuff done.  After all, that’s what magic is all about: getting stuff done.  And to get it done, you have to do it at the right time.  You can’t hit a moving target if you don’t pull the trigger at the right time.  You can’t put the cart before the horse.  And you can’t catch the right train unless you’re standing on the platform at the right time.  In magic, where you are making small changes to get big results, timing is always a critical factor.

Knowing when it is the right time to do something is important in any operation, but it’s not always obvious.  Part of the problem is there are thousands of unknown factors that happen without warning and we can’t know exactly when or where they might come into play and mess with our best-laid plans.  Magicians of all sorts have attempted to figure out some way to lessen the effect of these factors but haven’t come up with any sure-fire method that helps.  Magical hours of the day, where certain influences seem higher than others (thus making particular operations more likely to succeed) are not consistently reliable.  Astrological influences can be predicted but there too we find mitigating circumstances constantly popping up.  Time is problematic no matter how much we try to avoid the negative factors inherent in its passing.

Probably the most noticeable time problem in Pagan work is what has come to be known as PST – Pagan Standard Time.  The term is code for a litany of problems that inevitably crop up at any planned event and put the schedule further and further behind.  It’s the ‘excuse’ as to why the ritual is late by a half hour and the lunch that was scheduled to be right after the ritual is later still by another forty-five minutes.  Nothing seems to be on time at many Pagan events and it’s all passed off as being PST.  Of course, this problem isn’t unique to Pagan events; most large events have the same problems.  It usually stems from poor planning.  To be more precise, it comes from not understanding how long it will take to do something.

If it takes fifteen seconds to wash one dish, how long will it take to wash four?  You say a minute?  Wrong; it’ll take probably closer to a minute and half.  That’s because once you’ve washed the first dish, it will take a few seconds to get back to the beginning step for washing the next dish.  Now, let’s say it takes one person five minutes to wash a dozen dishes.  How long will it take for two people to wash a thousand?  About forty-five minutes?  Wrong again.  It will take better than an hour because of the time ‘wasted’ by the two people trying to interact in the same space.  How do I know this?  Well, I’ve been the guy planning events enough times to know some of the pitfalls that happen because of not allocating enough time for things to get done.  It’s called experience.

So, to get the dishes done in time, we need to get the dishwashers in the scullery an hour ahead of time, right?  Wrong again.  They’ve got to show up on time, (good luck!), get on their gear so they don’t end up soaked to the bone, and then set up that stack of dishes so they can get them washed.  That adds at least another fifteen to twenty minutes.  Then add another ten because one of the crew forgot something back at the tent and had to run and get it.  Or maybe somebody had to use the bathroom.  Or the alarm clock didn’t work (well, it might have worked, but the person didn’t get up).  Okay, the dishes will take about two hours.

Better add another twenty to that for cleaning up the scullery afterwards and putting the dishes away.  Okay: two and a half hours, tops, right?

We can only hope.

You see?  This is the sort of time problem that happens at gatherings of all kinds.  And, like I said, it isn’t confined to only Pagan events.  But it’s a good example of how we can misjudge the timing of things and end up with real problems.  This same brand of misjudgment can wreck havoc with our spells and other kinds of magic.  Experienced magic workers have an edge because they’ve been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it.  But even experience won’t always help you to figure out when to start something or when to send the energy on its way.  Whatever is a witch to do?

Use your gut.  That sounds pretty uncertain but sometimes it’s the only way.  Sure, you’ll be wrong sometimes, but you’ll probably be surprised at how often you’ll be right.  Our rituals and training are designed to make us into beings that are in greater harmony with our surroundings.  And that has the effect of making us better able to go with our feelings, our hunches, our gut, and have things turn out right.

Highly skilled martial artists seem to have an ‘instinct’ for knowing where and when the next strike will come from or how their opponent will move.  It isn’t something a novice is able to do; it takes considerable training.  To someone watching a match, it seems ‘almost like magic’.  And, in a certain sense, it is.  But it is magic that (like all magics) requires a great deal of training and experience.  After years of training, the martial artist learns to use his or her skills in timing and their level of ability takes a leap forward.  Another way of say that would be: the martial artist learns to trust their gut.

But even the most skilled among us can be wrong.  We mistake a bit of indigestion for another signal and we make the wrong move or select the wrong moment to do something.  Being able to know the ‘real’ gut feeling from the ‘false’ one is difficult at best and sometimes simply impossible.  But often the gut is the only thing to go on.  In one way or another, nearly every bit of magic requires us to make time-critical decisions.  Using good timing is part of the art of magic.  Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your sense of timing.

Nearly every faith has its holidays.  Pagans have what is commonly called the Wheel of the Year – the series of solstices, equinoxes, and quarterly seasonal celebrations used to highlight points in the timeline that help us learn the lessons of Nature and the seasons of our lives.  Most of us also celebrate one or more phases of the moon each month.  Our calendar is full throughout the year.  Those who follow it consistently find that their lives begin to smooth out, that there are fewer problems that get in their way.

This is no accident.  By putting ourselves on this schedule, we begin to attune our lives to the processes of Nature, the forces that are constantly flowing in, through, and around us.  The story that weaves the holidays together for Pagans provides a model for understanding the energies that predominate and empower our world.  When we mark these days through worship and celebration, we force our bodies and minds to align more perfectly with those forces and make us move with their flow rather than against it.

It’s not brain surgery; it’s magic.

Similarly, if we keep our days on a consistent schedule we will find that we have fewer disruptions and are able to get more done.  Simply being consistent about when we go to sleep and wake up helps enormously to put our lives in order and we are healthier and more energized because of it.  Scheduling our day so that we give ourselves plenty of time to get things done, even when it might seem we aren’t cramming enough into each day, will actually allow us to produce more, enjoy more, and experience more than if we were to run around willy-nilly and try to accomplish more than we could do well.  But remember that a schedule alone isn’t going to do this for us; we have to maintain that schedule by staying on time.  Actually, to be on time, you will need to be early.  Very few people can be on time to the very second, so getting into the habit of being early means that you are allowing for the unexpected.  When you plan on being early, you can take care of the unexpected bumps and potholes with greater confidence and still accomplish what is planned.  If you don’t have to take care of anything unexpected and you actually arrive early for your next scheduled event, you will be more relaxed and better able to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.  And you’ll enjoy life much more.  No more frantic, last moment scurrying.  No more slapdash results.  No more having to make excuses or feeling that you haven’t given life your best.  Although there are instances of seemingly being able to warp time with magic, in the long run you’ll do well to figure on the clock running pretty consistently and each moment to be filled with what we call life… your life.

You can’t control the flow of time, but you can exercise some control over the events and energies that it brings.  You can use time as an ally by respecting its power and not fighting the direction of its flow; keep looking forward.  Your magic will function better when you keep all of your energies attuned to this inexorable force.  When you stay aware of time and the role that it plays in all your endeavors, when you respect its power and learn to use it in your magic, you will benefit on every level.

You’ll have a good time.

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Role of a Mentor

May, 2009

The Accidental Teacher

After I wrote the last column, dreaming of a day when I could teach someone as I have been taught, it occurred to me that I have already done that.  I may not have conducted a class, lead a group or mentored someone, but I still have had teaching moments in which I helped another Pagan on their path or explained something about our ways to non Pagans.  On many occasions I have been an accidental teacher.

Soon after I started on this path, I noticed that some dictionaries included the word “devil” or “evil spirits” in their definition of the word witch.  I wrote to an organization called Pagan Educational Network when I found out they had embarked on a project to provide publishers of dictionaries and encyclopedias with accurate information on the meaning of the words “witch” and “Pagan”.  Even though they wrote back that the project had ended, I joined the group because they were involved in addressing misinformation.  This was the beginning of several years of me writing letters.

My pet project was the depiction of witches in the media. I would watch the TV listing and pore through magazines and newspapers for anything about witches, real or fictional.  At that time, witches were a popular theme in entertainment and we saw Sabrina and Charmed on TV and The Craft and Practical Magic at the movies.  (1) If a depiction struck me as particularly good or bad, I would write a letter praising, critiquing, or correcting depending on the situation.  The same reaction applied to news stories.  I was particularly pleased with a TV segment from Toledo where a high priestess talked about a dispute with neighbors over a backyard fire pit then answered questions from callers and an article in the Toledo Blade about two Pagan groups in nearby Ottawa County.  Someone from the Blade called to thank me for my comments and asked if I wanted my letter published as a letter to the editor.  Hopefully letters such as this encouraged the media to report on and depict us fairly and accurately.  Despite the growing acceptance of our ways, their were negative depictions.

I would of course point out the error of those who claimed we worshipped Satan or performed blood sacrifices.  I saw an article in a newspaper from Mississippi that matter of factly talked about African based Paganism, but next to it was an article that condemned Wicca as Satanic.  Undoubtedly the worst news story was in a weekly newspaper in suburban Toledo that used one of those “satanic cult experts” who Kerr Cuhulain used to write about in his column Exposing The Lies on www.witchvox.com as its source for information on Paganism.  It depicted our faith as a haven for psychotic teens bent on violence and destroying society.  I laughed at a quote from this supposed expert, “One minute they are rolling around on the ground naked, the next they are trying to kill someone,”  because a few weeks earlier on the spur of the moment during a late night Mabon ritual, I removed my clothes and lay skyclad on the dewy grass.  Killing someone was the last thing on my mind as I experienced spiritual bliss.  The letters I wrote to attack such lies at least let those responsible know we would not take it in silence.  I wrote to Pagan Educational Network as well so they could include my efforts in their newsletter so hopefully I inspired other Pagans.

I saw every letter I wrote as a learning experience both for the recipient and myself.  Also, I could be a voice for change.  Back in 1998, Camel cigarettes ran a magazine ad depicting three women around a table casting a revenge spell on the ex-boyfriend of one of them, with a poppet used as a pincushion and several books lying around, with the titles of two of them, both Pagan books, at least partially visible.  (2) I wrote a letter of protest joining about 5000 other Pagans which resulted in letters of apology from the company and the ad being pulled after only two weeks.  After a few years though, I became tired of letter writing and when I wrote to Nintendo complaining about a wicked witch in the game Banjo Kazooie, I knew I was taking this too seriously.  Who among us does not delight in the over the top portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West by Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz?

Not all my letters were concerning entertainment and news.  Before I had internet access, I wanted to communicate with other Pagans in other places, so I did it the old fashioned way, exchanging handwritten letters with pen pals.  I placed an ad in Circle Network News (now Circle Magazine) describing what areas interested me at the time.  I received almost a dozen responses, replying to every one.  Most never wrote me back, but I corresponded with three of them for a while.  As with each Pagan friendship, it was both a matter of teaching and learning.

There was a woman in Mississippi who went by the name Silver with whom I exchanged letters with ideas and stories of experiences for about a year.  I don’t remember much of what we talked about but she told me that when she used internet access at the local library, she was told that Pagan websites were inappropriate.  I encouraged her to find another way, and she was able to go to an Atheist friend’s home to use his computer.  The longest running pen pal was Deb from Virginia with whom I corresponded for about two years.  Besides exchanging ideas, we also taped Pagan music for each other, introducing each other to new bands.  Kurt was a Californian with whom I exchanged letters for about a year and a half.  When I met him, he was in prison, so I heard firsthand the difficulties that Pagan prisoners face trying to hold ritual, celebrate sabbats, obtain books, tools and supplies and receive visits from high priests.  A lot of people are wary of contact with prisoners, but my experience was rewarding and he was eager to learn and make a fresh start in life.  Just to be safe, I used a PO box, but I did that with all my pen pals.  The last time he wrote me, he was on parole in a halfway house and excited about the future.  We had intelligent discussions and I want to share an excerpt from a letter I wrote him.

“Your letter raised some interesting points and certainly has me thinking.  One of the challenging things about being Pagan is that it requires one to think and examine personal beliefs in the light of reality and experience, rather than memorize the “party line”.  The points you touch upon remind me of those who ponder what relevance a “fertility religion” can have in a day when family planning is the norm.  The problem lies in a literal definition of the concepts of harvest and fertility.  As you explained, in the past, a sufficient harvest was essential to the survival of the tribe, as well as having children and both farm and hunted animals having young.  No amount of technology will ever negate the fact that we still depend on the Earth for survival and what we do to the Earth eventually returns to us.  In 1988, we saw crops wither and die in the fields when it didn’t rain for about ten weeks and a few years ago, fields along Lake Erie and the nearby Sandusky River were flooded by sudden heavy rains.  While it is true that nobody starved because of these events, as would have happened in the past, Mother Nature will always have the last word.  It could even be argued that the marinas, resorts, condos, and Cedar Point amusement park in this area are dependant on a good annual “crop” of tourists.”

I have sadly forgotten what I discussed with Pagans I met via the mail or online, but I remember one well.  Deb from Tennessee posted a message on a board saying that she had been told that a witch had to buy all their magickal tools before attempting ritual and spend a lot on them.  She was asking if this was true.  I posted a reply that this was not true as it was not necessary to have all tools up front and the price had nothing to do with their effectiveness.  My chalice was a glass goblet I bought one Yuletide at a fast food restaurant for 99 cents, my wand a stick from my yard, and I had several items that I found or had been given to me.  I summed it up by saying,  “Your tools are merely the means, props as it were; the magick is in you, not them.”  She thanked me for my help and we have remained in contact, although infrequently now, ever since.  She returned the favor by offering my son and I advice when he informed me he was gay, as she is a lesbian.  She also gave me a shoulder to cry on when my son passed away and when my first marriage fell apart.  Pay attention in your day to day life and I bet that you too will find that you are an accidental teacher.

Footnotes

(1) Rhymes With Rich http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,285482,00.html

(2) Pagan Passion http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/09.03.98/pagans-9835.html

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