Hearth Moon Rising: Invoking Animal Magic
Hearth Moon is an ordained priestess of the Dianic tradition, who has taught magic for over 20 years. Her book, Invoking Animal Magic, sets about exploring the power and wisdom of our animal allies. Hearth Moon was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and her writing.
Mabh: What is the root of your (beautiful) name? How do you prefer people to refer to you?
Hearth Moon: Most people call me Hearth or Hearth Moon; I answer to either. The story behind my name is really too long for an interview.
MS: Invoking Animal Magic is tag-lined as ‘A guide for the Pagan priestess’. Do you think it is only women that will gain insight from your book? Is this deliberate?
HMR: The majority of readers interested in this topic and in my writing are women, and the “Pagan priestess” in the title says unapologetically that I am tailoring the book to this audience. I think it’s better to be upfront about where you’re coming from. The feedback from men and women has been positive. One gentleman asked during a call-in radio program if men were allowed to read the book. I assume he was wondering if it would violate a women’s mystery, if the goddess Diana might sic the hounds on him as she did Actaeon if he opened the cover. In truth there’s no danger of that (but I applaud this man’s caution). There are a few activities in the book that are only recommended for women, but those are spelled out clearly.
MS: You say in your acknowledgements that you had a great deal of support and encouragement along the journey of producing this book, but what was your main inspiration that led you to put pen to paper?
HMR: I think my longstanding affinity and interest for the subject meant that I would eventually write a book about animal magic. I’m surprised in retrospect that it took me so long to get around to it.
MS: You speak of the obscure reference material that had to be tracked down; what was the oddest or most quirky bit of research material that you used for this book?
HMR: One of my most serendipitous finds was a book called The Laboratory Mouse, by Clyde Keeler. It’s a unique book, long out of print, that looks at mice from a cultural perspective. I had been pulling together the numerous references to mice in folklore and ancient texts and trying to put them in a coherent framework. I discovered through this book that humans have been breeding mice for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, and this was a crucial piece of information that helped me develop my mouse chapter.
MS: What was the biggest challenge during the production of IAM?
HMR: Definitely the biggest challenge involved finding images that had no complicated copyright issues. A lot of museums put stipulations on reproducing photographs of ancient artefacts that preclude their use in a non-scholarly general interest book like this one. This is why you see the same few images in so many books. Wikimedia Commons has been continually adding non-restrictive photographs of ancient art to their database, so I expect this is going to become less of a problem in the future.
MS: And the most rewarding moment?
HMR: I think for me the writing was its own reward in many ways. I discovered by writing a book that I take more pleasure in the process of what I’m doing than the outcome. While writing the book, I set aside several hours a day, four to five days a week, for the process, and I enjoyed it immensely. Then when the final manuscript was off to the publisher, all I really wanted to think about was the next book. The whole experience makes me think of a friend, who would spend a few years building his dream house, then lose interest once it was completed, sell it, and begin work on a new dream house. I had thought he was unclear on the dream house concept, but I actually understand his mind-set now.
MS: Your bio tells me you are a licensed outdoor guide. Tell us a bit about what that entails, and how you became qualified in this area.
HMR: New York State does not allow anyone to lead a group in a designated wilderness area for remuneration unless they are licensed. To become licensed you have to take safety courses and pass a test showing that you understand back country survival tactics. Where I live a lot of people do guide work, and some make a living from it. I became licensed because I thought this would make people feel safer about going into the woods to do magic with me.
MS: I’ve seen some pictures of the Adirondack Mountains where you live, and it looks just beautiful. How connected do you feel to the nature around you, and how does this lend itself to your magical workings?
HMR: I feel fortunate to live in the Adirondacks. The earth and water energies are very strong here. It is a beautiful and wild place, and it has the benefit of longstanding environmental protections. I don’t just feel connected to nature here—I feel challenged and tested. I’ve been through winters where the night time temperature would drop below -40°F (that’s also -40°C!) for weeks at a time. A foot or two of snow is nothing to us, and you can fall into deep traps in your snowshoes, so you have to be careful about hiking alone. Having a realistic appraisal of your abilities is essential to survival here. Magically, living here has taught me to ride natural rhythms, to adjust to the materials and energy patterns that are around me. My awareness has deepened in many ways.
MS: When did you first start working with animals on your magical path, or has that understanding always been there at some level?
HMR: Animals have always been an important part of my life, so when I began studying to be a priestess, I naturally gravitated toward animal magic. I was fortunate to have teachers who were knowledgeable about the subject, and even in the early years of my training I practiced in natural settings outside the city, often at night, where the topic would spontaneously arise as we encountered animals literally along our path.
MS: I love the way you tie your experiences with animals back to ancient myths and legends. What is your favourite ancient animal tale, and why?
HMR: Of all the legends in the book, I like “The Three Feathers” the best, because I find the image of a giant wish-fulfilling toad so hilarious. The fairy toad-mother effectively dispels all the evil toad stereotypes.
MS: Do you have pets, and if so, are they part of your magical life, or simply companions? Indeed, can the two be separated?
HMR: I have a Siamese cat, and she is my familiar who helps me with my magic. Animals move easily between the worlds, and they can always be a part of magic, but with a familiar the magic is directed consciously. The bond between witch and familiar has to remain solid, and it’s a time consuming high maintenance relationship, so I don’t have or want other pets.
MS: Unlike most Pagan books on animals, you talk about the ‘undesirables’ such as roaches; do you ever get frustrated with the general human attitude that some animals are better than others, simply because they happen to be cute or cuddly? Or do you think this is simply human nature?
HMR: It’s a fact of life that animals can be rivals as well as allies. The interests of humans and other animals are not going to coincide at all times. Magic is one way that we can negotiate with animals to ensure that our needs are respected, because ultimately we have to learn to live with other species.
MS: Do you have a favourite animal, or one you connect with more for a particular reason?
HMR: My favorite animal is whatever one I am working with at the time. So no, I don’t really have a favorite. I have a lot of favorites.
MS: Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon?
HMR: In my next book I will be delving more deeply into animal divination, examining how to interpret signs in the physical world and on the inner planes.
MS: And finally, as we move into winter, can you describe your perfect winter’s evening to us?
HMR: I have a lot of perfect winter evenings during the year, since the winters here are so long. As the late afternoon darkness falls, I like to sit in my snug house with a cup of tea, a good book, and the cat on my lap. Outside the snow is falling steadily. There is no traffic in the village, and the silence is so profound you can hear the snow falling. Ideally, I have no long distance driving plans for the next day to spoil the effect of the heavy snow. I can sip my tea, pet my cat, and make plans for tomorrow—snowshoeing maybe, or cross country skiing, or tracking animals in the fresh snow.