December, 2009

Happy Holiday Season!!

December, 2009


Merry Meet & A Merry Yule to you all!!  We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season!!

This issue of PaganPages is packed full of good reading.

A review on Raven Grimassi’s Book The Cauldron of Memory


An interview with Anne Newkirk Niven publisher of PanGaia, Crone, And Witches & Pagans Magazines.


Looking for ideas on what to make this holiday?  Try Hearthkeepers delicious ideas in her column HearthBeats: Notes from a Kitchen Witch.  Yummy!!

Monthly Horoscope

December Monthly horoscope 2009 Sagittarius & Capricorn


Sagittarians while you generally hate selfish and mean actions, your life’s goal is to help others, but you dislike those who persistently ask for favors and never give back. Keep a watchful eye on violent outbursts as some will try and push your buttons just for fun.


Capricorns, Success is coming your way this month. All your endeavors will be met with success. All of your foes will succumb to defeat and will not be able to bring you down as you will reign successful in all you set upon doing.

By: Michele Burke

Monthly Prayer

Awaken to the sunlight bright
Restful from the long dark night
Goodnight good Goddess, Blessed Be
Awaken my God to shine down on me
I thank you mother for all you give
In my true path I shall live
Trying my best to do what’s right
I know that you will give me sight
To see the things I need to know
And feel the things to help me grow
God and Goddess you are in me
Holding, Loving, Teaching me

author: I’m Skylla, a solitary wiccan from Western Maryland.  I am happily married with one teenage daughter and work full-time in the health industry.  I am a vegetarian, animal activist and feminist.  I graduated with degrees in History and Political Science and am always seeking new experiences and knowledge.  I love reading, researching, debating, computers, writing, crafts & music…and the list goes on and on!!

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

December, 2009


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

How did your interest in Paganism begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This interview was previously excerpted, adapted, shortened, and published in issue of Thorn Magazine

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Pagan Theology

December, 2009

Pagan theology:  roots and influences

So I’m teaching a class “Paganism as a Religious Tradition” and the other night I wanted to cover the progression of modern Paganism from its inception with Gardner to the present.  While that’s a big task, its’ not as big as it seems; I find that many of the Pagans I encounter are not well informed about the roots of our faith, despite a very large number of books on the subject [1].  So a lot of detail and fippery was just as likely to overwhelm as inform, and the class was geared toward a more general religious seeker audience anyway.   I didn’t want to do the same old boring chronological who begat whom begat what.  And so I was searching for a different way to organize our history.

But before getting into organizing principles, I first want to talk about why history is important.  I’ve talked about this a little before, but want to mention it again in a more general context.  There are many different ways to use history.   You can use it to justify the legitimacy of whatever it is you are doing now.  Nation-states are great examples of historical precedence, and our legal system is based on the idea that what has been decided in the past should be given weight when considering the present.  Religions also use the historical record as a way to buttress legitimacy directly and indirectly.   The religions of the book have an innate basis in history, without certain historical events these religions would lose a lot of their theological underpinnings.   Likewise, all religions rely on tradition, ritual, and inter-generational common practice to establish their authority over various aspects of social life, marriage, for example.  Changing those traditions can be fraught with implied threats to the underpinnings of religions place in society, as may be the case with the current resistance to providing marriage as a civil right.

Given that the modern Pagan movement has that “modern” appellation it can seem less worthy or somehow “just made up.”  Of course people make up almost everything except the fossil record (and sometimes even that gets fabricated).   I believe that our counter-argument is that Pagans do have a history, it just wasn’t written down as clearly as some others, and there were many institutions in the West that actively attempted to suppress or eliminate the memory of whatever was preserved [2].

You can also use history to understand why some things are done or believed today.  For example, the reason we celebrate Christmas is because historically many different tribes celebrated some sort of holiday around the winter solstice.  In particular the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, and some argue that Saturnalia is a direct predecessor to the modern Christmas.  Certainly the need to celebrate the end of increasing darkness and the beginning of the return of light is cemented in our, and other, cultures [3].   Understanding the origin of various things that you are doing can deepen their meaning, and allow you to build on the past to create new practices.

With the latter idea in mind, I wanted to organize modern Pagan history in a way that both made sense and was interesting.  Looking across all of the various people and ideas that contributed to what has become modern Paganism I believe you can see several deep channels running amongst all of the tributaries, streams, and swamps that make up everything that we are doing now.  Those main channels can all be traced back to the origins of modern Paganism in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Even though all these elements can be found in our modern practices, to keep the historical origins of them clear I choose to label them from their source, as opposed to what they eventually became.  They are:

  • Spiritualism.  This movement, which originated in the 18th century in America,  was monotheistic but had a strong belief in spirits.  It, along with Theosophy and New Thought, was an influence on the New Age movement, and comes down to us in the form of the human potential movement, New Age beliefs including various forms of psychic and healing practices, and the current fascination with ghosts and their hunters.   While the tradition begins with Spiritualism and Theosophy [4], the general influence has been one of individualism and active access to “the other side”.  This uniquely American tendency has influenced not only the modern Pagan movement, but it has also influenced the broader concept of religion and spirituality.  Recently the idea of spirituality and self-fulfillment through religion has been taken up by many other religions, and has generated the whole “spiritual but not religious” trend that is seen amongst all forms of religion in the United States [5].   The individualist tradition, which is perhaps a better name for it, has also drawn and incorporated beliefs from Asia, including Buddhism (meditation) and Hinduism (chakras).  While Asian influences also came into the Western Occult Tradition (for example through Crowley’s study of Yoga [6]), the most theologically influential have been those that addressed the individual and their potential.
  • Romanticism.  The romantic tradition begins in the 18th century with the Romantic Movement in England, and the Transcendentalists in the United States.  This movement is characterized by a veneration of the natural world, which is seen as somehow more authentic, wild, or compelling than the human.  As part of the romantic tradition, there was a revival of interest in ancient, and particularly Celtic/Druidic, religious traditions in the middle 18th century [7].  This leads directly to our current interest in revivalist traditions, Druidic, Northern, Egyptian, and Roman/Greek.  For modern Pagans this tradition of seeing value in “wild nature” is also related to the 1960’s interest in ecology and the natural world.  A focus on the natural world in the 1960’s and 1970’s brought the Gaia movement and earth-centered, sacred earth beliefs, into the modern Pagan movement.
  • Goddess cult.  In the early years of the 20th century there are a number of individuals who were speculating about ancient Pagan practices, and their meaning in the modern world.  Robert Graves with his book The White Goddess, created a speculative tradition of Goddess/God worship across Europe.  He created the idea of the triple Goddess, of the sacred moon/sun duality, and other ideas that were taken up by modern Paganism.  Margaret Murray in her books Witch-cult in Western Europe and God of the Witches developed an anthropological argument for a European-wide Goddess cult that, she speculated, had survived into modern times.  She argued this cult was what the Church was trying to destroy when it began burning witches in the 13th through 17th centuries.  While much of Graves’ and Murray’s (and others [8]) work was later discredited as inaccurate and unsubstantiated, the feminist movement in America picked it up and incorporated it into a sacred theaology of Goddess worship.
  • Western Occult Tradition.  By far one of the greatest influences on modern Paganism has been the Western Occult Tradition.  This loose amalgam of ritual magic,  Occultic practices, and secret societies has been a unique feature of the West since Pagan times.  Working alongside the established religious traditions the practices and beliefs of the Occult tradition have influence both mainstream and alternative religions.  The primary influencers for modern Paganism have been the high ritual magical traditions, derived from Crowley and the Golden Dawn by Gardner, the folk traditions which drew from the Medieval Grimoires, and the practices and rituals of the Masons (again through Gardner).   All of these various high magical traditions have intertwined and interacted in complex ways over the centuries, but they have influenced almost everything else we are talking about here.
  • Traditional witchcraft.  While Gardner is said to have derived his influences from a traditional New Forest coven [9], most of his direct ritual and theological influences appear to have been from the Occult and Goddess traditions (Crowley and Murray).  Instead, the folk traditions have seen their practices incorporated into the modern Pagan movement more through diversity, networking, and publications, as things have gone along.  Examples of traditions that have influenced modern Paganism include Cochrane, Pickingill, and Sybil Leek [10].  Its difficult to determine what influence has come from a traditional practice, and what has come from other influences, because of the use by traditional Cunning Men and Witches of the same medieval sources that many of the Hermetic traditions also drew from.

These threads came together in different ways.  First Gardner in a brilliant combination of Witchcraft, religion, and magic brought together the Goddess tradition, the Western Occult tradition, and traditional into his new idea of a religiously framed Witchcraft.  He was associated with Crowley, and it is generally believed he knew a lot about “high” magical practices.  Gardner was also a Mason, and he was formulating his theories about Witchcraft in the years (1940-1950) after the publication of Murray’s books (1921 and 1933).  His incorporation of all of these forces, along with a healthy dose of Romanticism (which, in his case, was incorporated as nudity), resulted in a mix that was both adaptable, and inspirational for what would later happen in England and America in the 1960’s.

British traditional Witchcraft had a seriousness and formality that was brought to the United States by Raymond Buckland and others in the 1950s.  Here it encountered a strong naturalist and conservationist tradition, and the growing feminist movement.  The ideas originated by Gardner were sufficiently rich, and adaptable, to incorporate these new ideas into the existing framework of Witchcraft and occult tradition.  The mix exploded in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s into a wide range of traditions that mixed and matched these key elements in different ways.   In the 1960’s people like Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Starhawk, and Z Budapest took the basic ideas of Gardnerian Witchcraft and mixed in an emphasis on the Goddess, nature, and New Age concepts.

Each of these major threads in Pagan history has led us to what we have today.  In fact I’d claim that our traditions and actions could be traced back to these early influences and how they have been combined and melded into modern practices.  From Spiritualism we have ultimately drawn a lot of the Eastern, New Age, related influences in our work, from healing to crystals to the manipulation of energy within our bodies (Chakras).  From the Romantics we have incorporated the reverence and awe for the natural world, and a strong movement toward Reconstructionist religious traditions.  The Goddess Cult has given rise to feminist Witchcraft and all of the Dianic and feminist traditions.  It has also given us a powerful mythology of persecution.  While the myth of the Witch trials that Murray created has been discredited, the idea that our religion was essentially wiped out in Europe by modern Christianity is not a fiction.  It reminds us that Witchcraft and Paganism have existed in the shadows for a reason, and given us a reason to come out of the shadows.

From the Western Occult Tradition we take most of our formalisms, our rituals, circle castings, quarter callings, and other actions.  We also have all of the details we’ve inherited from that tradition, from correspondences to astrology to magical practices.    Witchcraft, and modern Paganism, are both direct products of that occult tradition, and its influences can be seen and felt everywhere within the traditions.  Likewise traditional Witchcraft has heavily influenced both the practices, and diversity, of the Craft movement.  What, exactly, was derived from traditional practices, and what was derived from the occult traditions, is very hard to distinguish.  Certainly the idea of covens, of solitaires, and charms and curses are things that derive directly from traditional practices.

But we come back to the underlying question of “why does all this matter?”  It matters for many reasons, not the least of which is that we are honoring our ancestors (a good thing at this time of year).   But for me the most important has to do with understanding where modern Paganism is going, not where it has been.   A key question is “is there another influence that is ready to claim a part of modern Paganism?”   One example might be the eclectic movement (of which I am a part) that participates and accepts practices inspired by a wide range of Pagan or indigenous traditions in addition to the Northern European ones.  (You have not been to a Yule celebration until you’ve been to a Shinto inspired Yule celebration [11]).   Or perhaps it is the incorporation of warrior protector traditions by those who serve our country in the Armed Forces.  Or hunters and low impact farmers who seek to live out our relationship to the seasons and food in ways that are different from how we do now.

While I don’t know where modern Paganism is going, what I do know is that Paganism is fundamentally an adaptive and open religion.  In that way its like open systems hardware or software.  The “code” or “DNA” of Paganism is not a fixed, closed, system that cannot be changed or undone.  It is constantly taking in things that fundamentally change it, and its followers, relationship with the world and each other.  Book religions, while they have sects and schisms, are never as adaptable to fundamental theological changes as is Paganism.   The merging of Witchcraft and Paganism, of earth-centered values and Paganism, and of feminism and Paganism all represent deep shifts in the very ideas behind Pagan religion.

Perhaps that is what an exploration of our history can really teach us.  To be open to change, to participate in the dance of ideas, and to be ready for when a new one comes and sweeps everything else away.

It is up to us, all of us, to work to build our religion on the pillars our ancestors gave us, and to thoughtfully incorporate into it the next, and the next, and the next big idea that comes.  Because that is the spiral dance of the Goddess, ever changing, never the same.  Just as in the world, so in theology “She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes, we are changers, everything we touch can change” – Starhawk

[1] The best and perhaps the most canonical one for the British Pagan revival is Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon.  For a less scholarly but one closer to the action you could look at Valiente’s Rebirth of Witchcraft.  For the United States Margo Adler’s inspiring Drawing Down the Moon is essential, but more recently Chas Clifton in Her Hidden Children:  The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America has done a great job of detailing the connections between the various threads that I discuss here.  I’d recommend them all.   At the same time I do not claim any credentials as knowing anything about the history of anything, I’m just trying to put things together in ways that make sense to me.

[2] What we can’t claim, which is both interesting and frustrating at the same time is that we are indigenous practitioners of what was essentially a religious practiced based on both place and tribe.  We are not at that place, and, while some of us may be related to the “tribe” about the only thing we tend to share is the same last name or great-great-great grandparents.  On the other hand this is a completely specious argument when you open up the filters and include the book religions.  Christianity, for example, was essentially a Jewish sect that rearranged itself to allow Gentiles to enter into the religion.  Much of the legacy and Bible ties to Judaism, which is a very tribal religion.  Of course the counter-argument is that Christianity and Islam, because they are deliberately designed to break the tribal paradigm, are something completely different than the tribal religions of their origins.

[3] The whole question of holidays is a complex one, like asking who invented the light bulb you are looking at (Edison, right?  But what about Sir Humphrey inventor of the carbon arc lamp? Or, if you are looking at a CFL, Ed Hammer).  It depends on exactly what you mean by “holiday” and “invented.”   For example, Christmas as we know it is a Victorian (trimmings, customs, etc.) and a commercial (stores, wrapped gifts, etc.) invention of the 19th and 20th centuries [see, for example, Stephen Nissenbaum.  The Battle for Christmas, New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1997 or, if you don’t want to buy it you can read a review/summary here:;col1].   In ancient times the feast of the Nativity replaced both the celebration of the unconquered sun (Sol Invictus), itself a relatively recently created Roman celebration, the Saturnalia, and the Kalendae of Janus.  But for much of its history, including Roman Pagan history, the midwinter celebration looked more like our Halloween (pranks and misrule) rather than our Christmas [for the best commentary on all this see Ronald Hutton.  Stations of the Sun, Oxford, 1996 which you can also read the review of here:;col1].   The adoption of Christmas = nativity was a late one in the Church, coming in the 300 (first association) to 500 (council of ?X) CE period.

[4]  Theosophy is a blend of Western Occult traditions and eastern thought constructed by HP Blavatsky in the late 1800’s [see, for example HP Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine].  It is of the “ascended master” tradition where beings of greater wisdom and influence communicate and assist people on this plane of existence.  It continues to exist in the form of the Theosophical Society.  There are a lot of books out recently on the whole spiritualism movement, for example Todd Leonard’s Talking to the Other Side: A History of Modern Spiritualism and Mediumship: A Study of the Religion, Science, Philosophy and Mediums that Encompass this American-Made Religion, IUniverse Inc., 2005 was critically acclaimed.

[5]  This trend toward being “spiritual” but not participating in the social construct of “religion” has been given a lot of attention in the religious studies literature.  It has also come in for a lot of criticism as being Narcissistic and detached from the idea of compassion, charity, and good works (a general and common criticism of “New Age” religions as well as Paganism).  See, for example, Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution, why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, Blackwell 2005; and Robert C. Fuller, Spiritual but not Religious:  Understanding Unchruched America, Oxford 2001.

[6]  See, for example, Lawrence Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt:  A Life of Alistair Crowley, St. Martins 2002.

[7] In the first chapter of The Triumph of the Moon,  “Finding a Language,”  Hutton gives a detailed treatment to the evolution of Pagan ideas through the 19th century.

[8]  In addition to Graves and Murray, George McDonald Fraser with his Golden Bough was also critically influential in establishing an underlying concept of what ancient European Paganism looked like.

[9]  For surveys of the origins of modern Witchcraft in England see Hutton, Valiente, or for another view Michael Howard (ed.), The Roebuck in the Thicket:  An Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition, Capall Bann 2001.  For a survey of what happened in the United States see Adler or Clifton.  I am assuming a basic familiarity with the story of Gardner, and some of the other traditional British traditions that arose at roughly that same time.

[10]  W.E. Liddell and Michael Howard, The Pickingill Papers:  The Origin of the Gardnerian Craft, Capall Bann, 1994.  Sybil Leek, Diary of a Witch, Prentice-Hall 1968.

[11]  Before everyone I actually agree with gets upset I’ll point out that I believe that Paganism is inherently tribal, and that my “tribe” is Irish/Welsh/Celtic and we have enough to do to understand and claim our traditions without bothering anyone else.  However as an eclectic I don’t mind participating in and understanding what others do, even though I may not be drawn to that myself.

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Across the Great Divide

December, 2009


Parapsychology Today

The scientific study of the paranormal has been established for well over 100 years and although the members of the field take experimentation and theoretical discussion quite seriously, it remains the subject of ridicule by many in the general scientific community and the public. While his formal education has been in mainstream clinical psychology, R. Wolf Baldassarro has been a participant in investigations and an ardent scholar of the latest theories and data since the mid 1990’s regarding the field of psychical research. Beginning in 2005 he returned to full-time paranormal investigations and in January of 2009 created the Paranormal Research & Information Society of Michigan (PRISM) to study, catalogue, and educate the public on paranormal phenomena. The personal experiences and scientific studies have provided Wolf not only with a wealth of knowledge but first-hand observations of paranormal phenomena.

In recent years the practice of ghost hunting has increased in popularity due to various reality television shows, prompting interest in all levels of groups from teenagers just looking for a good time and a cheap thrill to serious scientific inquiries and experimentation. Many of today’s so-called ghost hunters consist of teens and young adults sneaking into cemeteries and abandoned buildings at night with little respect for local law, citizenry, or the deceased. Some are simply worried about being taken seriously by landowners or lack the knowledge of how to go about obtaining permission and the necessary permits.  Concerned with the lack of integrity and sincerity in many of these groups and the need for better understanding of the theories and data-gathering equipment he wrote a comprehensive reference book that separates the facts from the fiction with regards to the do’s and don’ts of a proper and professional investigation called “A Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide”.

The specific genre and subculture of interest is still quite new in literary markets, with many books of the genre simply recounting narratives of case studies and displaying a limited understanding or amateur knowledge of the terms and tech. This concise field guide stands apart from so many others in the genre by providing not only a detailed history of parapsychology but the wide range of terms, theories, phenomena, tools, and technology used and encountered in parapsychological study in an unbiased manner through examining both the pros and cons of popular tools and analytical techniques. Being an experienced and practicing shaman he even delves into working with spirit communication and psychic shielding.  It also includes local legends of the Detroit area, such as the ghosts of Belle Isle, and a sample of investigations he has either been a part of or are of particular interest to further explore. Step-by-step instructions are given in great detail for a thorough and scientific investigation of paranormal claims by someone educated and actively participating in the field of study from the founder of Michigan’s premier ghost hunting and paranormal resource organization. As such, A Ghost Hunters Field Guide would not only be an indispensible aid to those in the field, but of interest to any fan of the paranormal or local history.

International interest in PRISM continues to grow and the group’s active participation on sites like Facebook and MySpace continues to draw attention and requests for information and investigations by other groups, fans, local businesses, and residents. With this rising international recognition of PRISM, a vast network of ghost hunting groups around the world, scientists and theorists in the educational community, and fans of such shows as Sci-Fi’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International, the potential of major theoretical discussions and discoveries is immeasurable. The book is extremely well written and designed to make it a priceless reference while in the field by providing a working knowledge of everything you need to make your own investigation a success.

“The easy part was writing A Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide”, Wolf explains.  “The hard part is generating a buzz within the network of ghost hunting organizations around the world.”

Based on how popular the subject is today and confident that the information is not only correct, but to the point and as up-to-date as possible, the book and its topics are sure to stand the test of time along such international names in the literature of parapsychology as Loyd Auerbach and Hanz Holzer. The educational and practical applications of the material are sure to become models for paranormal study and the topics generated are clearly observed in the group’s tagline, “All possibilities are seen when looking through a PRISM”.

*Note from the author- Hello and greetings to the readers of Pagan Pages.  When not busy pursuing the mysteries of the afterlife with Paranormal Research & Information Society of Michigan (PRISM) I write novels, poetry, and blogs on various subjects. I have been a repeat guest of the Magick Taboo podcast and my literary accomplishments include having been twice featured in the Mused BellaOnline Literary Review, releasing 4 self-published books as well as art prints of selected poetry works, and I have been a special advisor on the Konxari card project by the IRM Foundation. It is my hope that readers of Across the Great Divide will experience enjoyable yet thought-provoking content.  Each month we will explore the mysteries of the unknown together as we discuss the world of the paranormal in entertainment and in science.  There will undoubtedly be controversial topics from time to time but they will be broached and discussed fairly and equally.  It is my hope that we all learn from each other and benefit from each others experiences and knowledge.  You are invited to submit questions, comments, and concerns to me at any time via my email at [email protected] In future columns I will present for the entire readership one question or comment from the mail bag for discussion.  For more information about me please visit

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Review: The Cauldron of Memory by Raven Grimassi

December, 2009

The Cauldron of Memory


By Raven Grimassi

Once again Raven Grimassi has gifted us his readers with another enlightening and inspirational exhibition into the realm of learning how to retrieve our ancestral memory who we are and from where we come by guiding his readers through a powerfully effective arrangement of creative visualization, meditation, magickal techniques and path workings for the three inner levels of our person abundance, enlightenment and regeneration. The Cauldron of Memory is based on the up and coming Science of Morphogenesis and the assumption that ancestral memories are stored deep within our DNA as a source of energy.

~ Michele Burke, Pagan (2009)

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Faeries, Elves, & Other Kin

December, 2009

The Faeries of Winter


For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the month of December is chilly and cold, if not downright frozen and filled with ice and snow.  Yuletide and the Winter Solstice is usually not a time when most people are thinking of the fae, yet even on the longest night of the year, they are still all around us, carrying out their ancient duties.

It is easy to see Jack Frost hard at work, creating delicate crystalline patterns on windows and biting exposed noses and fingertips.  A true winter faerie seen at no other time, he travels between the hemispheres on the back of the chilliest gusts of air as Old Man Winter.  In Russia, he is Father Frost, a veritable blacksmith able to forge great swaths of frozen tundra by welding together water and earth.  Travelers had best take care to avoid his icy and deadly embrace.

Let us not forget his feminine counterparts.  The Snow Queen, a Danish faerie, brings the winter snow and lives in a cold, white palace; to embrace her is to embrace death.  Childless and beautiful, she is always on the lookout to snatch away a child whose absence will go unnoticed.  The Germanic hag faerie Frau Holda and the Teutonic hag faerie Frau Holle make snow by shaking the feathers from their feather bed and quilt, respectively.  On Yuletide, Frau Holda rides across the sky in her chariot carrying her sickle to assure an auspicious harvest and bringing blessings to the newborn and dying during winter.  Sometimes she will throw gold coins down to the deserving below.  These ancient “hags” eventually became the current day Mother Goose.

Of course, we all recognize the “right jolly old elf,” Santa Claus, whose “big, round belly…shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.”  Like many Germanic traditions adopted by Christianity, Saint Nick left behind him a host of kindred.  There is the Swedish jultomte, the king of the house faeries.  He delivers Yuletide presents and receives Yuletide pudding in payment for good behavior in the coming year.  In Iceland, there is the julbuk, a horned faerie dressed in furs who is part goat and who visits homes at Yule.  He will leave peacefully if he is well fed; if not, he will rot the stored grain and spill the stored beer.  The Norwegian julenisse is another house faerie, one who looks like a little old man dressed in red with a red cap.  He makes his abode under the stairs or in dark, unused corners, and creeps out at night to eat leftover porridge left for him by the household children.  He is also a bringer of Yuletide gifts.

The Celts brought evergreen trees into the home not only because the Druids venerated the tree, but also because the tree symbolized the eternal aspect of the Goddess that never dies.  They decorated the tree with items meant to manifest blessings in the year to come:  charms for love, fruit for a good harvest, nuts for fertility, coins for wealth, and candles to lure back the sun.  We recognize this custom today as decorating a “Christmas tree.”  Scandinavians took this idea a step further.  They brought evergreen trees and greenery into their homes so the forest elementals (such as hamadryads) could use them to enjoy the warmth of the hearth and find rest from the weary cold.  This also afforded the woodland faeries the opportunity to join in the Yuletide festivities.

For reading to young children on Yuletide, I highly recommend D.J. Conway’s “The Yule Faeries,” a story reprinted and quoted often around the web as “author unknown.”  With the central theme being the rebirth of the baby Sun King, it is “a must” for pagan parents, and the book in which it appears is appropriately categorized as “juvenile fiction.”

If you want to work with a flower faerie during the winter, one is available:  the lily.  This flower faerie will connect you to the mysteries of new birth and beginnings, and will help in the development of purity and humility.  You can bring a lily, which grows from a bulb, indoors as a potted plant, and some can even be “forced.” A good choice would be Lilium “Bright Diamond,” a hybrid lily with pure white up-facing flowers.  Warning:  Many varieties of lily are toxic to cats.

So, as your Yule log is blazing away merrily in your hearth this Yuletide, spare a thought for the faeries and invite them in with a sprig of holly or a golden bough of mistletoe to share in the light and fun.  Some faeries will flock to southern locales (like some Canadians I know) and others will snooze away the winter dark.  However, as long as Mother Earth never ceases in her course, there will always be fae out and about, guarding the spirit of Nature and ensuring the continuation of Her courtly dance of life and death as the Wheel of Life turns.

    Bibliography and Works Cited/Recommended Reading:
  • Andrews, Ted, “Enchantment of the Faerie Realm: Communicate with Nature Spirits & Elementals,” Llewellyn Publications (2002)
  • Conway, D.J., “The Ancient Art of Faery Magick,” Crossing Press (2005)
  • Franklin, Anna, “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies,” Paper Tiger (2002)
  • McCoy, Edain, “A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk: Reclaiming Our Working Relationship with Invisible Helpers,” Llewellyn Publications (2002)
  • McCoy, Edain, “Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways,” Llewellyn Publications (2002)
  • Moorey, Teresa, “The Fairy Bible,” Sterling Publishing Co. (2008)
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The Good, The Karma, and The Evil

December, 2009

Most of us are familiar with the concept of Good and Evil.

Indeed a few religions adhere to this type of dualism.

This philosophy has captured not only our imaginations in art and other mediums, it has dictated how we live, how we view the world and how we view each other.

Is the Universe really comprised of “Good and Evil”?

Of Karma or the Three Fold Law?

In Nature there is survival and there is death. How do we view this ever changing scene of survival? Is the lion “evil” as it  kills the baby antelope?

Is the antelope good? Lions have been known to attack people. Antelope, well not so much.

Many people would root for the antelope and hope it gets away. Some may root for the lion, she needs to eat too right?

A shark breaches out of the water chasing after the sea lion. A deadly dance of hunter and prey and is too heart wrenching for many to watch. The shark has been cast  as a man eating creature.

Although hunters too, the sea lion is not known for being a man eater.

Is the shark “evil”  and the sea lion “good”?

Are these hunters evil because they have killed humans?

The Western ideas of good and evil cast shadows and light on our very way of life.

If something is “evil” then it is to be feared and if possible, destroyed.

If something is “good” then it should be worshiped.

Those that do not worship  “good” are then following the “evil” path.

Herein lies the problem.

What  is considered “good” may be considered “evil” to others and vise versa.

This causes intolerance, indifference, violence and war.

Many Native American Indian tribes considered it a rite of passage from boyhood  to manhood  if he could steal another tribe’s (or in many cases settlers) horse. This was acceptable to American Indians. The colonists considered this to be unacceptable. Stealing of course was “evil” to them. Apparently though, not if it was in their interest to take Indian land.

Good and evil.

Who decides?

In this case the colonist with war, much violence and loss of life on both sides and the demise of Indian culture.

There are many different philosophies to good and evil. Some think of Karma, others think of The Three Fold Law and others think of No Harm.

Is the Universe that simple?

Doling out suffering to those doing bad things and doling out good things to those that live rightly.

It is impossible to live without harming.

Sitting down to a steak dinner has done much harm, to the animal most of all however,

there are those that say the meat industry is harmful  to the environment and those that say meat is harmful to the body.With growing evidence to support both claims.

Are those vegetables organic? Were they produced with sustainable practices?

How many small animals were killed in the harvest of those vegetables?

Is the coffee you drink fair trade? The chocolate?

Were those jeans produced in a sweat shop? Is the cotton organic?

How about those birth control pills? Were they produced using mares?

The battery in that hybrid vehicle causes harm to the environment.

The very act of living and consuming causes harm.

I’ve heard Christians say “God will make them pay for what they have done.” I have heard  Pagans say  “Karma will get them, they will pay.” Do we pay for our “sins” in this life?

What about the next life?

Will we become that cow in the factory? Will we become that child forced to pick poisoned cotton for those designer jeans? There is no a human being or creature on this planet that does not suffer. From the rose attacked by a parasite to the eagle with the broken wing and the lion with a broken jaw, to the little boy locked in a closet.

Earth suffers too.

From her rivers of clogged arteries to her soil and poisoned choked air.

What did Earth do to do deserve this? What Karma in her past life led her to this path?

Most importantly I think the question we should as is…

What can we do?

Can we move from this type of dualism thinking to that of kindness and compassion? Can we move from paying for our harmful ways and making others pay to working on solutions to make life better for everyone including the planet?

I think so.

This does not excuse those that have caused harm to us neither does it excuse our own harmful behavior. What it does is stop the cycle of harm because we were harmed.

I am reminded of a pagan parenting story of a little girl who was hit with rocks on the play ground because she believed in faeries. The mother asked her what did she want to do?

She replied “I want to let them go”.

And the cycle is broken.

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Hearthbeats: Recipes from a kitchen witch

December, 2009


Merry Yule and a wonderful winter season to you all. This time of year in the Northern Hemi we are preparing for the snow and the cold and the season of sleep for Mother Earth. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year. We welcome the rebirth of the Sun with feasting, dancing, music and festivities. Decorations include wreaths, boughs of holly, mistletoe, evergreens, and lots of lights.

In the Southern Hemi you are settling into summer, on the longest day of the year, with the Sun at its highest point in the sky, Pagans rejoice in the Sun’s life-giving warmth and ability to make things grow.

In this article I am going to be sharing some wonderful cookie recipes. Mostly for Yule, but can be used whenever.

Almond cutout cookies


  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Red and green colored sugar and/or sprinkles, optional


  • In a small bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add egg and extracts; mix well. Combine the flour, cornstarch, almonds, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture just until blended. Shape into two balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut out with lightly floured 2-1/2-in. cutters. Place on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with colored sugar and/or sprinkles if desired.
  • Bake at 350° for 7-9 minutes or until set and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks. Yield: 28 cookies.

Anise Butter cookies


  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 4 teaspoons aniseed, crushed
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange juice concentrate and aniseed. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 2-1/2-in. round cookie cutter. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  • Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over cookies. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Yield: 5 dozen.

Austrian Nut cookies


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • Slivered almonds


  • In a bowl, combine flour, chopped almonds and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Form into a ball; cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a 2-in. round cutter and place 1 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread 1/2 teaspoon jam on half of the cookies; top with another cookie.
  • For frosting, combine chocolate, confectioners’ sugar and butter. Spread on tops of cookies. Decorate with slivered almonds. Yield: 20 sandwich cookies.

Browned-Butter sandwich spritz cookies


  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup


  • In a small heavy saucepan, cook and stir butter over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  • Set aside 2 tablespoons browned butter for filling. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and remaining browned butter until smooth. Beat in the egg, yolk and vanilla. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Using a cookie press fitted with the disk of your choice, press dough 2 in. apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-9 minutes or until set (do not brown). Remove to wire racks to cool.
  • In a small heavy saucepan, bring syrup to a boil. Cool slightly. Whisk in remaining confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat reserved browned butter until light and fluffy. Beat in syrup mixture until smooth.
  • Spread 1 teaspoon of filling over the bottom of half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies. Yield: about 3 dozen.

Chewy Oatmeal cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup each raisins and chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, molasses and vanilla; beat well. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in the raisins, pecans and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets.
  • Bake at 350° for 9-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes before removing to wire rack. Yield: about 5 dozen.

Brownie cookies


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar


  • In a bowl, beat the sugar, egg, oil, chocolate and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Shape dough into 1-in. balls; roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 2 in. apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks. Yield: about 1 dozen.
  • Note: Dough will be sticky. Dip hands in confectioners’ sugar when shaping dough into balls.

A cheating way to make brownie cookies is to use brownie mix follow the directions but omit the water. Place by the tablespoon and bake for 8-9 minutes(less if you want them chewy)

Chocolate mint fantasies


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • ICING:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 to 2 drops green food coloring
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon shortening


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in chocolate and extract. Gradually add flour and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. (Dough will be soft.)
  • Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 6-8 minutes or until firm. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, extract, food coloring and enough milk to achieve desired consistency; spread over cooled cookies. Let set. In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Yield: 4 dozen.

Cinnamon Snap cookies


  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Additional sugar


  • In a large bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Roll into 1-in. balls, then roll in additional sugar.
  • Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set and tops are cracked. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4-1/2 dozen.

Cracked cookies


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar


  • In a bowl, combine the sugar, egg, oil, chocolate and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill dough for at least 2 hours.
  • With sugared hands, shape dough into 1-in. balls. Roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.

Coffee cookies


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Additional sugar


  • In a bowl, combine sugar and oil. Dissolve coffee in water; add to sugar mixture and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the sugar mixture.
  • Roll into 3/4-in. balls, then roll in additional sugar. Place 2 in. apart on lightly greased baking sheets; flatten with a fork. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: about 5 dozen.

Pecan Crescent moons


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups ground pecans, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg white, beaten


  • In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the egg, yolk and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Shape dough into a ball. Chill for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
  • Meanwhile, for filling, combine 1-1/4 cups pecans, 1/4 cup sugar, peel and milk; set aside. Divide dough into four portions; shape each into 12 balls. Flatten each ball into a 2-1/2-in. circle; top each with a scant teaspoon of filling. Fold dough over filling; seal edges. Curve ends to form crescents.
  • Place on ungreased baking sheets. Combine remaining pecans and sugar. Brush egg white over tops; sprinkle with pecan mixture. Bake at 350° for 17-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 4 dozen.



  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Divide dough into fourths. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
  • Roll out each portion between two sheets of waxed paper into a 12-in. circle. Remove top sheet of waxed paper. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle each with 3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar and 2 tablespoons pecans. Cut each into 12 wedges.
  • Roll up wedges from the wide end; place pointed side down 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Curve ends to form a crescent shape. Bake at 350° for 24-26 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Brush warm cookies with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar. Yield: 4 dozen.



  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar.
  • Shape dough into 1-in. balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

Happy Hearth and Blessed eating…
Until next month

The Heartkeeper

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Reaching Reiki

December, 2009

with’s Alice Langholt

This month’s column is on the benefits of Reiki for kids, teens and pets. Reiki healing is natural and helps with balance. Balance covers many areas, including physical, emotional and spiritual. Reiki for physical balance strengthens the immune system, releases pain, releases stress, and strengthens the body’s capacity to heal. Reiki healing for emotional balance removes blockages, adds positivity, relaxes and soothes, and gives a sense of well-being. Reiki healing for spiritual balance helps open and fine-tune the connection to one’s intuition. One may become open to receiving divine guidance, notice signs, and become aware of opportunities falling into place. These are some of the benefits of practicing and receiving Reiki healing.

Reiki is helpful for kids who may have nightmares, anxieties, emotional concerns, aches and pains, illness, and other issues. Parents who have Reiki can channel Reiki energy to their kids to help balance their children in all of these areas. Kids can also learn Reiki and have this tool for themselves, for a lifetime. My kids come to me for Reiki when they have a headache, before going to sleep, after a nightmare, when bumps and bruises happen, and when they are upset. I give them Reiki liberally when they are sick. They also self-heal with Reiki, knowing that they have the power to do this for themselves. They give each other Reiki too, and it’s a really nice way for them to express caring to their siblings.

Teens are naturally unbalanced. Hormones and drama are a part of a teen’s everyday life. Teens who know Reiki are able to help themselves cope with the stresses of teen life. Reiki can help a teen feel more clear-headed, focused, and become more grounded, in a better place to deal with their daily life. Teens who know Reiki can use Reiki for themselves as needed. Parents can give their teens Reiki and strengthen the parent-teen bond which can become fragile during this time.

Reiki is good for animals as well. Dogs, cats, and other pets enjoy Reiki healing. Pet owners who give their animals Reiki are helping their pets heal, relax, and be healthy. Reiki gives pet owners an additional way to bond with and help their pets. I have some canine Reiki clients who have healed quickly from injuries and illness after receiving Reiki healing. I see these dogs about every other week. They relax during their Reiki session, and for days afterward they show great improvement in temperament and health. I’ve also sent distance Reiki to a horse after he had surgery. The energy helped the horse rest more comfortably.

Everyone has the ability to learn Reiki – it’s inside everyone, available for the accessing. For self healing, giving healing energy to others, manifesting goals, or helping kids, teens or pets, Reiki is something that can enhance one’s life. Learn more at my website

Peace and blessings.

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December, 2009

I hear the owl call
The wind gathers a howl
Cloaked in shadow
I hear you

I shall not lay
I shall not stay
I shall not give away
What is mine

Wrapped in serpants
They Whispered blame
And the night fell around
In droplets of shadow and sound

Those demons your friends
Strike fear in the hearts of men
And their creation of sin
But I know you

As I know the wind
And the rain
All that is sacred
Turned to shame

The Dark Moon shines
Like fire and ice
Those secrets and lies
Hidden well in despise

In each of us
A sparkle of you
In each of us
The garden will grow

Howl of storms
Petals of war
Breath of innocence
Change the course

Dawn turns to dust
Night begs to breathe
Lilith, bring your wave
Wash all the shame clean

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