November, 2015

Merry Meet

November, 2015

madness

 

                   Welcome!

 

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In This Issue…

Sheena

An Interview with an incredibly creative and talented witch this month, Sheena Cundy.

 

fates

An Excellent Book Review on “Summoning The Fates, A Generational Womans Guide to Destiny and Sacred Transformationby the wonderful Z Budapest.

 

clearquartz

 

Stones Corner discusses Dream Stones and their Meanings

 

and…

 

Coriander

 

Our Apothecary tells you all you need to know about Coriander

 

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We are always looking for new talent.  If you are interested in writing email us at [email protected]

 

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Join us on Facebook, Twitter, & Etiary!

 

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November Correspondences

November, 2015

The name is derived from Novem, the Latin word for nine, as November was the ninth month in Rome’s oldest calendar.

THE SNOW MOON

The ninth month in the old roman calandar.

In Celtic traditions it is the beginning of the new year, considered a month of beginnings and endings.

Astrological Signs: Scorpio, Sagittarius.

Nature Spirits: Banshees and other beings who carry messages between worlds.

Herbs: Ginger, hops, wormwood, hussop, patchouli, mugwort, nutmeg, star anise.

Colors: Black, white, purple.

Flowers: White lily, dahlia, chrysanthemum.

Scents: Rosemary, dragons blood, lilac, pine, wisteria.

Stones: Topaz, obsidian, onyx, Apache tear.

Trees: Pine, cypress, yew, elder.

Animals: Bat, wolf, sow, dog, snake.

Birds: Owls, raven, falcon.

Deities: Astarte, Calleach, Cerridwen, Circe, Cybele, Freyja, Hathor, Hel, Holda, Horned God, Kali, Maman, Nepthys, Sekhmet

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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

November, 2015

 

On Initiation and The Old Ways

 

As we are in-between Sabbats, I thought I would submit an article on a different topic. Initiation.

It is certainly a sacred event in and of itself, and it is also a hot debate topic in Paganism today.

Introduction

I had a couple of conversations recently that made me think deeper on the topic of initiation and the way Pre-Christians did things.

One source I am too lazy to dig up states that the earliest discovered human burial was from about 100,000…ish years ago, and it is believed by some to be the first evidence of religion. It is said this shows belief in an afterlife.

Considering the fact there are about 4,200 different religions in existence today, Christianity being only one of them, I believe there is no one right way to be religious, regardless of what some may say.

Also, if we have been religious for as long as my un-cited source says, there is no way in hell modern humans who are neo-Pagans can completely recreate all the things that used to be done before Christianization. Especially since Christianity is just a couple thousand years young. It is also not possible for Christianity to exclusively have all the answers and for all other religions to have it all wrong.

No matter what faith tradition we belong to, if we are trying to reconstruct pre-Christian faiths, we are recreating religion to suit us, and we are aware that people always have. Unlike many groups of people faithfully recreating religion the way it was before, however, Neo-Pagans in North America are increasingly turning away from groups, initiation into traditions, and recognition of established clergy in favor of custom tailoring solitary practice.

What is the result? Many of us joke we have as many different Pagan religions as we have Pagans in the room at any given time. Joking aside, solitary practice seems to be working for a lot of individuals. That can’t be a bad thing in my opinion. Isn’t religious practice, after all, about bringing the worshipper closer to whatever god or gods they worship?

So what use is adhering to tradition in modern times at all, especially for a religion that solitary practice works so well for? Is it necessary? Is it useful? Is it for everybody? Are initiates better than non initiates?

This debate started before many of us were born, and the debate will continue long after all of us have crossed the veil.

I am one who believes in the power of initiation and in keeping traditions even if it isn’t for everybody.

Why, and why not in this day and age?

First, why not?

I have heard lots of reasons from individuals why they opt for Solitary neo paganism. These are a few.

*We don’t need elders and leaders to give us every scrap of inspired writing anymore. We are no longer illiterate and can read and interpret for ourselves if we do our homework. The Internet and publishers houses have provided plenty of information cheap or for free.

*It saves time. You don’t have to deal with other people when doing your own research and many are sick to death of other people telling them what to believe or how to worship. You can pick and choose what is useful to you and not waste time with something that seems to have no value to you. Who says one person’s way will work for the next person, anyhow?

* Many claim their current practices stem from memories of past lives that only they remember or understand and nothing else makes any sense to them. These past lives may be from thousands of years ago, their languages are extinct, and no physical artifacts remain to draw from. Established traditions in today’s world may be meaningless to such individuals.

*Some people say they have yet to find a tradition that makes sense to them, and they feel it is a waste of precious time continuing to search when they could be spending time focusing on their own personal research and growth instead.

*Many are also quick to point out that drama in the metaphysical and Pagan communities distract from their own practices and relationships with deity. Some folks have worked for years with groups only to have burned out, and they need peace and solitude, or to heal. What is worse, some cannot imagine a return to any group out of fear of more drama or hurt.

Oh yeah? Well…

These valid arguments aside, I believe that there are plenty of people who shun traditions and initiation into such who are simply lazy and disrespectful individuals. While not everybody falls into this category, we can tell if somebody is genuinely applying themselves to self-learning and improvement or not. One way is by whether they say disparaging things about people who are initiated or belong to groups in general.

I have been spit at so many times by people who are very vocal that they are proud to be self-taught. They claim to be Wiccan, Odinist, Druid, you name it, but never completed any coursework within an established group or organization. They oftentimes say it is because they think initiates are stuck up, holier-than-thou’s who brag about knowledge. If I ask what group they belong to, and upon them answering they read some books and found things on the internet, I make sure to point out that titles are earned within organizations. Such individuals shoot back I oughtn’t label them, although they just one heartbeat before falsely labeled themselves. When I further point THIS out, they get even angrier with me.

Here is the thing…

It is okay if you are not initiated. It is also okay if you are. Initiation is not for everybody. Initiates are no more superior as human beings than non-initiates and vice versa.

If you don’t want to bother with going to all the trouble of being initiated and fulfilling all the duties attached to belonging to a certain tradition, that is just fine. Really, it is! But, why would you want to label yourself as being such when in fact you are not? And why get mad when initiates tell you to get your paws off their tradition if you are not going to join up? You either joined, or you did not, period…which brings us to an ugly topic…

Misappropriation and Cultures we don’t belong to

If you are one of the mostly white neo-Pagans in North America who claim belonging to a VERY old tradition because you had a dream or past life memory about it, then you show zero understanding of how ancient tribal traditions worked and how the people continuing them today function.

You’d also forget our neo-traditions are not the ancient tribal ones. These new traditions pull aspects of old ones into modern practice , however they are not the actual traditions that ceased to exist upon Christianization or upon extinction of a peoples.

Go on and talk to a person who belongs to an existing tribal tradition, be they Vodun, Native American, South American Pagan, you name it, and your discussion will likely drift towards “cultural misappropriation”.

There are lots of white, instant ancient Pagans who hold all the secrets the pyramids told- even though they never went to the pyramids. There are just as many who build a sweat lodge in the back yard, or charge hundreds and thousands of dollars for seminars at fancy retreat centers, but are not affiliated with any Native American tribe. They have also completed no courses of study with Native Americans to reach ordination in that tradition. But they learned how in a book, and they might have authored a few of their own they will gladly sell you! They know all about how aliens built Stonehenge, or where they believe Atlantis is. They probably even have names they claim come from those ancient civilizations that they gave themselves and they want you to call them by.

I understand, white people, I really do, because I am a white American , too. I was swept away by the energy at powwows and struck by the power of the African tribal dancing I witnessed. I wept uncontrollably and felt it was religious ecstasy. I also felt it in Mexican Cathedrals that are a few hundred years old ( yes! GASP! Xtians!!!!!!) and on the grounds of places where Aztecs did human sacrifices. I see the beauty in those unbroken traditions and those deserted places. But I also realize they are not my traditions.

Because we are more sensitive to the power of energy and magic, we see and crave the power in those indigenous traditions. Christianization stripped our indigenous practice and dulled down what they did preserve. We have to dig and dig and dig to learn our lore and study the history of our people’s old practices.

On the other hand, all this indigenous stuff is right THERE…right in front of us! Merchants will sell a lot of “ authentic” stuff. Even better, sometimes, you can just show up uninvited and dance or whatever they are doing once you pay your admission fee! It is exhilarating to feel the power of being in those circles. It is absolutely intoxicating. Enough people will let you do it- as long as you are paying to do so, but guess what, white people? You are not Native American, or Peruvian, or African, or whatever. You are still white, and while you are allowed to pretend, it does not hold the same power it does for the actual initiates, and it never will.

Unless they are selling you something or you have been adopted, or accepted as a student into their tradition, (it can happen) these people do not like you snooping around. It is considered disrespectful profaning of the sacred. If you don’t believe me, or you think I am a judgmental, self-righteous bitch or that I am assuming I can control everybody’s personal practice, go try it. I don’t suggest anybody take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

Then and Now

One thing that separates modern solitary neos trying to recreate old practice from the old practitioners- besides time, of course, and actually belonging to that culture- is that the old religions were not focused on the individual. They were focused on the community. Many European high days that we have reworked as Sabbats were based on the seasons and the harvest. It was a community thing. Planting, nurturing, harvesting and storing crops were a group endeavor. Ancient European Pagans did not cast their circle and light a candle on high days by themselves. They helped with the work, and they feasted and prayed and gave sacrifice together afterwards. Just like everybody else and with everybody else.

Also, the way we get ordained differs. A lot of folks self-initiate into a newly created tradition, and oftentimes start new groups that they themselves have supreme power over. They recognize no elders, yet claim instant eldership for themselves, and bristle when the inevitable happens and somebody tells them they are full of shit.

I sometimes call myself the most hated Pagan in Columbus, because I have many times told such individuals what I think of them.

Their response entails them accusing me of insinuating I am better than everybody else because I was initiated by somebody who was initiated. I am often reminded of the fact that Wicca is not old anyways. I point out I don’t think I am any better. I just think you can’t claim to be Wiccan if you are not initiated into Wicca. The same goes for any other religion or tradition that requires initiation or passing classes to attain membership. I do not understand why people find this so difficult to understand. So you did not get baptized, have a first communion, and get confirmed a Catholic? Then you are not a Catholic. It is that simple, and it is the same with any tradition that calls for initiation.

What I also find so difficult to understand is how we have so many instant “urban shamans” and other instant holy people who have never studied with a real holy person. How is it that we have so many instant High Priests and Priestesses because they read things on the internet but never studied under a clergy person? How many white voodoo practitioners do we have who have never attended a real voodoo ritual, and would not kill a chicken to save their own life? And so on and so forth.

Many of these individuals demand kow-towing every time they enter the room and are dying to acquire followers. They are easily spotted because they are often anxious to pick an argument with established facilitators and elders. If somebody asks them for proof of some claim or why they do things a certain way, a tantrum often ensues. These folks are dying to be in the spotlight and take on a lot of responsibilities, but have a difficult time sharing the credit for team efforts.

Welcome to modern neo-Paganism. Everybody is an instant Priest or Priestess and you better bow to them just because they read a lot on their own, and they will be mad at you if you do not!

The Ancients and Ordination

Like most every neo, I research. I have discovered that not many of these old traditions worked the way we do by allowing instant ordination of clergy. As a matter of fact, I believe that absolutely none of them did.

Typically, you had your priestly orders, which had a small amount of members, and then you had everybody else. Or as Xtians do, you have the clergy, and the congregation is separate. A majority of the people belonged to the congregation. The Clergy might have had a job they did, like their own field to plow…but to be clergy was their JOB and the congregation, or tribe supported this. An excellent example of this today is how the Christians employ their clergypersons full-time . They get days off, sick time, insurance benefits, and vacation time, just like any other profession.

Modern neos, on the other hand, often resent paying a fee for classes or supplies and expect their priests and priestesses to provide a free location, all supplies, and not even ask love offerings in exchange for the work of ministering. We have a sense of entitlement in Pagan circles. The attendees oftentimes think it is the responsibility of the priests and priestesses to be on call 24/7 and foot the bill for everything as well. Priests and Priestesses are publically criticized and demonized if they charge money for services sometimes. I have seen Covens dissolved because of this dynamic and this is one thing I believe that is keeping us from having our own sanctuaries for every community. This is one reason why so many Pagan and metaphysical stores go out of business.

This was not practiced in the old days. In days of yore, tribute may have been paid to the temple for maintaining things or a tax or tithe would be collected. The clergy made administrative decisions for the town or tribe. They decreed war, they decreed death, they beat the shit out of people, or humiliated them as punishment in the town square, and they decided political alliances with other towns, nations, or tribes.

An example comes from The Celts, by Gerhard Herd on page 149:

In all public and private quarrels, (Caeser asserts) the priests alone judge and decide. They fix punishments and rewards, where crimes or murder have been committed, or boundary and inheritance disputes arise. If a private person or persons fail to respect their decision, they can exclude the men involved (where need be, the whole tribe) from public worship. This is for them, the worst punishment imaginable. Those thus excommunicated count as godless criminals; all men must avoid them and eschew talk with them, lest the infection be passed on.”

Unlike modern Pagan groups, if somebody from the town came and said to the Priests “I don’t have to do what you say because I am studying on my own, and you can’t tell me what to do!!!!!!!” they were cut off. It was as simple as that. They did not break off and start their own druid circle or whatever and compete with the clergy that had been established for generations.

Excommunication from the Catholic Church and the Amish shunning are two examples of this ancient practice being carried into modern times. In the old days, the “old ways” dictated you did as you were told by who was entrusted to lead.

My Way, Your Way

Pre-Christian Pagans had a set way of doing things. They had certain days they did things. Events were decided by celestial activity and were announced by the people who had learned how to read seasonal signs as to when the events should occur. Everybody went along with this because it was the way things had been succeeding for generations. The stone circles in the British Isles are a good example of this. When the sun aligned with a certain stone, or a certain opening within a certain structure, events such as Samhain began. It let people know when certain planting or harvesting activities were to occur and when to do certain things with the livestock based on the weather. The priests were responsible for keeping track of this. I highly doubt there were people who argued with the timekeepers and did not “want to” harvest at the right time because they did not “want to be told what to do.”

Responsibility for these things was handed down to people who demonstrated they could maintain the post. It was a big job, and not just anybody could do it.

The Chosen Few

Clergy membership was sometimes established by blood lines or decided at birth. The holy person’s daughter or son, for example would succeed them, or some youth who was pointed out by some omen or by some ability that superseded anybody else’s. Sitting Bull, for example was chosen because he was very generous and intelligent. At the age of ten, he had his first successful bison hunt, and he gave away most of the meat to elders who could not hunt for themselves. Those were considered to be early signs of good leadership skills.

It was often within small towns or tribes where few people left and few moved into that ancestor veneration was a huge part of the tradition. Priests’ blood relatives succeed them oftentimes. One practitioner by the name of Isaiah Oke was a Nigerian juju priest who began training at age ten under his grandfather. It was his birthright to continue the priestly tradition and it was entrusted to him to write down the rituals and teachings. He wound up converting to Christianity instead and completely destroyed the ancestor altar where relics and items had been venerated and maintained for generations! His fascinating story can be read in Blood Secrets, as told to Sam Wright.

All the same DNA was swirling around within some clergy circles, like Oke’s. If you suggest this is valid, many white neo Pagans will immediately scream from the rooftops that you are a racist. But in days of yore, you had tiny villages that nobody left and nobody came into very often if at all. Like royalty tries to keep kingly titles within the family, some clergy keep priestly titles within family. This practice can be found in some tribes where families belong to clans and each clan has jobs they do for the good of the tribe. They teach skills to succeed at these tasks so the whole of the people benefit. It is a form of specialization, and for many, this system works. It is done for practical reasons, not racist ones.

Us and Them and their blood and taboos!!!!!!!!!

We say we are resurrecting how they did things, but we look down on nearly everything they did. Not just by how they studied, (from childhood, and for decades), how they observed taboo (strictly), how they became clergy (by birth or by omens or capabilities, and after being chosen by existing clergy) but also how they worshipped and what they gave to the gods.

Blood. It is a sensitive topic for today’s Pagans. We’re sick of being accused of sacrificing kittens,and babies, and virgins, and puppies to the devil. The fact remains, that blood sacrifice, sometimes including human sacrifice, was a huge part of many ancient pre-Christian religions.

I will refer to The Golden Bough by James Frazer to reference this.

Various examples of pre-Christians using humans as sacrifice are listed in the section “ Human sacrifices for the crops”. The colorful language used by Frazier, who was writing prior to 1922 illustrates the attitude many have about these practices. He refers to the practices as “savage”. Many of the people’s practices, from various South American tribes, to places in India, and the Philippines are listed in great detail. From how the sacrificial victim is killed, how the body was chopped up before it is given to the earth, and whether cannibalism occurred are included.

So, ritual murder, butchering a human body, and then eating part of the body was a pre-Christian Pagan practice in many cultures. Of course, animal sacrifice was sometimes used instead, as in many Germanic tribes. Let’s not even mention stories of the groves of trees dripping with body parts the Druids reputably were in charge of, or the divination they did with the entrails of somebody they killed. Oops! I mentioned it! Let’s completely forget they used to watch how a ritual murder victim thrashed as they died for a form of divination as well.

I cannot think of one neo-Pagan I have met who would roll up their sleeves to help with this type ritual, let alone condone it, but ritual sacrifice was a major part of old ways. Various tribes in Ecuador and the Amazon are said to still practice killing people for head shrinking, and that is done sometimes for the purpose of making sure there are few enough people alive not to upset a balance. That my friends, is very Pagan.

We also forget taboos were a greater part of those ancient societies than even most modern Christians embrace. For example- while Gardner incorporated ritual nudity into religious practice, nudity was seen as unacceptable by many European Pre-Christian Pagans. It was used as torture and indignity during Roman crucifixion. They also forced the condemned naked into arenas for execution. While Romans at the time were Pagan and did beautiful nude statues of the gods, to be naked and tortured and killed was seen as great indignity, not as sacred.

People point out that some Gaulish tribal peoples ran naked into battle and it was stated their nudity made them feel closer to their gods- according to Romans, that is. However, the Gauls still wore clothing, and their priests, the Druids, were attested to have worn white robes, not to have officiated naked. I am not criticizing skyclad ritual. I am simply pointing out that to be naked in ritual is not characteristic of many pre-Christian Pagans. It is utilized by some in Wicca because some of the founders of Wicca were practicing nudists and preferred nudity. Period.

Sex!

While open relationships may be a huge part of what a lot of the folks who circle in Neo-Pagan groups embrace, having sex outside of marriage was immediate grounds for public shaming, genital mutilation, or even death in some Pre-Christian villages. Tacitus wrote about the punishment of having her head shaved and being paraded and whipped naked through the village that a woman would endure if her Germanic Pagan husband caught her being unfaithful in certain tribes. You find attestations of polygamy in the pre-Christian Jewish communities- but only for men. Women were not to have multiple mates, and like the mother of Jesus, if she was suspected unchaste before marriage, a woman could be condemned to death by public stoning…unless of course, she had been raped, and her rapist agreed to marry her.

In ancient Rome, some of the rich were well known for their lavish orgies. What many do not know, however, is that some of the attendees at some of those orgies were slaves, and the sex those servants engaged in would be considered rape in many cases today- because they couldn’t say no. Back then it was a matter of rich people using their slaves, or property as they saw fit. This does not resemble being in an open relationship by today’s standards.

It is also forgotten that the cultures take on sex is one reason Christianity became popular in ancient Rome, especially amongst women. Christianity encouraged chastity in a world where if somebody outranked you, they could screw you as they saw fit. Soldiers could be expected to have to bend over and take it up the ass from superior officers regardless of whether they wanted to or not, and it was derisively joked that Caeser took it up the ass from Mark Antony. The Christian mindset, on the other hand, was that your body was yours and gods, as opposed to everybody’s who outranked you, and this was very well received. Despite what a lot of modern neo-Pagans want to believe, ancient Rome was not a paradise of sexual freedom where everybody did as they pleased.

The Trojan War happened because a woman openly took another lover and fled with him against her husband’s wishes. This occurred in a Pagan Nation, by the way. It was instigated by the gods themselves, but human beings reacted to such an insult with war, and an entire city fell. This was hardly a culture being supportive of people doing as they saw fit sexually.

It was common practice in some Apache tribes to cut a woman’s nose off if she was judged unfaithful. This was an old practice of theirs predating the colonization of the Americas by Europeans, and therefore Pre-Christian.

Hinduism, also values chastity outside of marriage, and they have many ascetics who take lifelong devotions of celibacy. Hinduism is believed to be the world’s oldest religion and certainly not monotheistic.

So, we see that not all non-Abrahamic disciplines advocate zero sexual taboos.

What about women?

Sex aside, women are assumed to have been revered above all in all parts of the world before the Abrahamic religions became supreme. Not so. Any ancient religion where the lead of the pantheon is male- is a male dominated pantheon, and often also a male dominated people as evidenced by cultural practice. Zeus and Odin are just two examples of this. Male dominated tribal societies did not venerate the great mother above all or put women on a pedestal of human divinity. Many times, women were seen as inferior to men, although Pagan pantheons have female goddesses as well as male gods. It cannot be denied that in some cultures like Ancient Egypt, women had better rights and status than women in ancient monotheistic Israel. But like the Germanic Pagan woman accused of adultery mentioned , not all women who belonged to polytheistic non-Abrahamic religions had equal or superior social status to men.

One culture long hailed for their worship of goddesses is the Mesopotamians. Specifically, a story is told in The Epic of Gilgamesh, where the beautiful goddess of love, Ishtar, is insulted, and her advances refused by a human male, Gilgamesh. He later defeats the monster she sends to punish him for this. While Gilgamesh’s friend dies for this, Gilgamesh survives, and his insults of her do not keep him from becoming famous for all his heroic deeds.

In ancient Sumeria, one of the Mesopotamian cultures, women went from being a daughter to a wife, and if her husband died, a widow, and they were allowed to remarry. Not only were women identified by their relations with the men in the family, but a mortal human could insult a goddess and still prosper. This is not equal status for women just because there were goddesses.

Moving along to Africa, because of white Neo-Pagan fascination with Voodoo , (which originated in Africa before people took it to Haiti) I will bring up the topic of breast ironing and female circumcision. These are Pagan peoples living in some villages in an estimated 27 African nations that still practice female circumcision also called female genital mutilation. For those who don’t know, it is a belief by some Pagan Africans that the female body is impure and pieces of it must be cut off to make a woman fit for marriage. Parts of her vagina, that is. Girls as young as toddlers are held down and parts of their bodies are sliced off without painkillers or anesthesia, and sometimes, it is enough to induce death. This is hardly veneration of the female divine in the form of human women.

Breast ironing is a more gradual process of beating on a girl’s breasts over time to deform them and flatten them, thus making the breast less attractive. It is painful, and sometimes heat is applied, and the victims are sometimes unable to breast feed in later years. It is done by many mothers who say they are trying to protect their girls from rape or early marriage. This is also not worship and veneration of women over men in non-Abrahamic cultures.

I have actually spoken with people who converted to Christianity from African and Haitian tribal faiths because of these ancient practices and Christian condemnation of them.

Those gorgeous Noble Savages!!!!!!!!!

One of the many ways we romanticize pre-Christian Pagans is to assume they were all gorgeous and always dressed BDSM style or in ball gowns or other expensive, uncomfortable clothes. We portray them in heroic looking capes and assume that they all rode pedigreed horses and gloriously won battles. In reality, they were agriculturists oftentimes and they butchered their own meat they either hunted or raised at home. Many of them were poor and worked for a landowner or were enslaved. The rich, the royals, and the Priests were separate from the peasantry oftentimes, and there were far more peasants than rulers. It was not a fun, glorious, magical life. They were sometimes knee and elbow deep in dirt and shit and worms and animal guts all day. The ruling class might be in battles, but it was not glorious. It was hell. There were no antibiotics, and a major cut meant gangrene set in and you could die soon or lose a limb.

When they were building the mounds and stone circles, I know for sure they bitched about their bad backs, and they did not have deodorant, so they oftentimes stunk by modern standards. Depending on where they lived, the average life expectancy was 40 or in places like Egypt or Rome, as young as 22. Many of them had lost some if not all of their teeth to rot by that time. The flu or upper resp killed them. Wintertime killed them. Having natural, unfiltered water and no pharmaceuticals to combat bacteria killed them. Having no vaccinations killed them. Worse yet, despite our obsession with valorous, glamorous natural tribal beauty, they were butt ugly and unspeakably smelly by today’s standards. They did not use cosmetics and skin care like we do. Precious few could afford the hygienic paraphernalia let alone had time to be gloriously gorgeous and richly dressed all day. That was oftentimes for special occasions only and the peasantry may never be able to have the time let alone the resources to dress up like we portray them.

Of course, I am not insinuating that every non-Abrahamic ancient person suffered and died early. I am just saying it was not all glorious fun constantly until the “evil” Abrahamics came and took it all away from us!!!!!!!!! I wish more Neo Pagans realized this.

Undoing our own illusions from the old ways can only help us as Neo-Pagans to learn more about what the past was actually like and what was actually practiced.

What they are like today

I had a wonderful opportunity to experience unbroken traditions. It was a trip to a pueblo in New Mexico a couple of winters ago.

Under the false impression my family ancestry included Native American heritage, which it actually doesn’t, I had begun studying Native American history and doing Native American beading. I was very proud of all the things I learned from my suburban table off the Internet. I friended Native American people on Facebook, and went to as many powwows as I could. I watched movies, and read books. I volunteered at our local Native American Center. I nominated people for awards for community service.

The Pueblo was different. It was a settlement people had been living in for a thousand years. It was adobe, so unlike our wood and drywall houses in the Midwest, they just smooth new layers of adobe over old layers to upgrade the structure as needs be. Photos from nearly one hundred years ago of this settlement look identical to how it looks today. There is no electricity and no running water. People wearing jeans and who drive cars live there the same way people did generations ago. Properties have been passed on from generation to generation. National publications have undertaken major photography shoots at the pueblo, and pictures from decades ago that became famous can be seen in some of the silversmiths shops, displayed with pride. People learned their crafts from parents and grandparents who learned from their parents and grandparents.

These people did not LOOK like the Midwestern Indians I had met. For one thing, they all looked related and they all were very dark. Many of the indigenous Midwestern folk I met were almost as light as me. As a matter of fact, the Pueblo people resembled the ground they used to make their adobe homes from. Their facial features were also more distinctive, and you could tell immediately who was related to whom. Trithfully, they all seemed related. All of them had this sense of identity that identified them as a unified PEOPLE, not a person, individual and separate from everybody else around them.

Sure, everybody did their own thing, but togetherness seemed MORE together. And individuals walking alone really did not seem to actually be alone. It was as if all the people who had lived in that Pueblo for a thousand years still went about their business. They were present, their hands helping bake the bread. Their voices spoke in unison with the drum maker as he spoke of his creative process. The people who taught the potters to create their masterpieces seemed to be there, having had a hand in creating pieces the artists offered for sale.

These practices, while not religious necessarily, have been passed down from generation to generation. The techniques have been improved over time and everything one person learns from another has been learned by dozens or more before.

What is Tradition?

This is a testimony of how powerful it actually is to belong to a tradition. Every word that was spoken to me by these people seemed to be uttered by multiple individuals simultaneously. Every breath taken was taken by all the ancestors of the living people breathing them. When they created, their teachers and their teachers teachers created with them.

Of course, everybody who learns a tradition changes it a little bit. Maybe this drum maker decides to use some new materials that were not available to his mentor. Maybe when he sings and plays his drum, he writes new songs to share that nobody has sung or played before.

Tradition is a living, breathing, ever evolving thing. Much remains the same, but just as much changes to accommodate the people currently keeping that tradition alive.

Being a part of a tradition is not a fear of change or a compromise of individuality, but a participation in something that is more powerful than all the individuals combined and a sustainable way to express individuality.

And that in and of itself is magical.

So while today’s Neo Pagans may oftentimes look down on tradition and initiation and learning from a mentor, I see great value and great power in it. On one hand, a lot of people are starved for tradition, because they can see the beauty and power in it, but the taboos needed to be observed, and the ability to put aside personal views and just cooperate proves too much for many of today’s American Neo Pagans. We were raised in a culture of instant gratification and with little discipline, after all, and participating in a tradition is both time consuming and you have to do as you are bloody well told sometimes.

The Benefits

Belonging to a tradition is not for everybody, but there are perks to at least looking into it, and below is what I feel are just a few of them.

  1. To learn from somebody with more experience than you. Believe it or not, there are experts even in these new traditions who have been at it for a long time, and have a lot of knowledge they will gladly share. My Priest is old enough to be my father and has been participating in groups and has been studying on his own since before I was born. While I may be smart and can experience things on my own, I listen when he speaks. Learning about forty plus years of somebody else’s experience combined with what I am currently experiencing enhances my knowledge.
  2. To share progress and what you have learned with other people, maybe helping one another along, is another benefit. Two heads are definitely better than one. Three, four, or even ten, are better. We come together to share thoughts, learning, and experiences, and sometimes, just to reassure one another. What gift one lacks, another can make up for. What one person did not think of, another will. Together, we learn more than we could learn on our own.
  3. To contribute to something that was in existence before your participation, and to leave a mark that will live beyond your membership. This point was effectively illustrated to me at the pueblo. A tradition may only be as good as it effectively serves its members, but it is greater than its members. Contributing to something that is greater than you is just one perk to contributing to a tradition.
  4. To give yourself time to experience things. Self study may not give the motivation to stick with something that a mentor encouraging you to keep trying can. Maybe you self-motivate better than most people, but it never hurts to be motivated and encouraged a little more sometimes.
  5. To measure progress. Degrees, grades, turning in assignments, and graduating to posts of responsibility gives you goals to reach for and review of work helps show what you can work towards for betterment.
  6. To provide opportunity to later become the mentor, helping new people the way your mentors helped you. The circle is unbroken in this way.

Working within systems is not for everybody. But just because it may not be for you does not mean traditions are useless or that people who prefer to practice them think they are better than you. On the other hand, If being in a tradition is your thing, do not be so quick to look down on all self taught people. Some of the greatest thinkers like Crowley and Gardner did much of their own research, even though they worked with others and had mentors.

Changing Times

In many ways, today’s Neo-Pagans are not at all practicing the old ways. Times have changed and people have changed. They way we live our lives and the way we structure religion has changed. We are inspired by the old ways. The very fact so many Neo-Pagans are inspired to research, and talk about old traditions helps keep the knowledge of them alive. Despite that, we are not in fact, actually practicing the old ways, unless we are actually participating in traditions that do the things the old traditions did.

We look to tribal peoples who have been practicing pre-Christian ways in unbroken lines of ancestry for inspiration, yet we refuse to acknowledge those are THEIR traditions, and that we cannot partake of because we are NOT them. We have the option to be adopted into their traditions if we are accepted. We rather, stay as outsiders, learning from internet and print, often published by other outsiders who are making money off claiming to belong to traditions that are not their own. In this way, we misappropriate those practices, and are incensed when initiates who have studied and worked for degrees or titles for decades speak up and say “No, you are not one of us.”

What is better?

Initiation or self-study?

Both.

We need both.

We need people keeping old practices and we need people creating new practices, even solitary ones.

Believe it or not, we need the self-taught people that spit at other people’s practices , traditions, and community work too. Occasionally, they unearth something nobody found or realize something nobody else realized.

So, worship.

Practice.

Be.

Respect traditions. Respect individuals.

Blessed Be.

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In the Words of Mama Bear

November, 2015

Take a look around the Pagan community these days, we have some amazing philosophers and some wicked intelligence. People like Raven Grimassi, who is so grounded and well versed (beyond well versed) in his craft and Jason Pitzl-Waters who founded the Wild Hunt. These people never cease to amaze me by the things they write, the ideas they inspire and sometimes even by the way they make me research something just to learn a little more. While writers and practitioners are amazing, we are in dire need of community leaders, in order to help our communities and causes move forward.

Paganism is amazing. The freedom, the whole antiauthoritarianism vibe really speaks to a lot of people who may have been mired in authority in their past. It’s a fact that people who have escaped those authoritarian clutches can get really hung up in their nervousness about people getting power crazy and trying to impose their beliefs on a group. Unfortunately organizations will fail without someone (or multiple someone’s) stepping up to take the reins of day to day operations. I also know that Coven leaders, Meetup leaders, Festival organizers, well they are all ambassadors to every community by facilitating events, rites, and community service. These amazing leaders have learned that democracy within a group is a handy tool to have and that working with the community, instead of above it is what really makes them leaders. Men and women who live in their spirit and walk their truth lead by example and encourage others to do the same.

Now, on higher levels, such as international, national and state levels, leadership needs to take on more of the tone of an advocate. Fortunately, discrimination against Pagans is fairly rare(in my experience) but there is a ton of misinformation about what Paganism truly is. People believe that the pentacle is a symbol of evil, that Pagans sacrifice black cats on Samhain, and that anytime a Pagan festival is held it’s nothing more than a naked –Pagan-kegger-orgy in the woods. There are organizations that work to dispel the misinformation, work with local law enforcement to prevent discrimination and be a resource to the community when it faces these problems. However, those organizations are few and far between. As an overall community, we need to begin developing more pagan advocacy organizations so that we as Pagans have a louder voice in this world.

As a community, we need to rethink the way we think about leadership, and who we entrust in these positions.  It isn’t about the power of one person, but the power of the entire community coming together.

Let’s look a little closer at problems faced in the local community first. (Names changed to protect those who need it)

Susan K. Broomstick is a local pagan celebrity. She is incredibly smart, yet incredibly young and has a great little locally owned pagan business and routinely donates her time, talents and heart to various functions across the community without discrimination because to her, that’s how the pagan community is supposed to work. She has noticed a huge problem with bullying, gossiping, flame wars, and ad hominem personal attack on many community leaders. She offers up her space and her finances to bring a “Big Name Pagan” in who specializes in mediation, leadership and repairing of community to help heal the rifts in the community. When she reaches out to the community leadership she is told in no uncertain terms that “It’s none of your business”, “No one wants that” and “Who do you think you are? You’re just a child”. She is called out publicly on social media and is, for lack of a better terminology, crucified for offering to help.

Those who criticize and flamed Susan are prime examples of community leaders who have no place in the pagan community. They are those people who flame others and react to them with anger, resentment and discord to someone who only offered love and healing from a place of concern. Often times these angry people are overly bitter about things they have no control of. It spills out into their circles, groves, covens and hearths, to public rituals and events. They continually seek discord and drama, and react to anyone younger or in a better place spiritually with this vitriol.

Secondly is Raven Elder. Raven runs a local pagan gaming group. Many nights you’ll find him hanging around the new, young and impressionable at his gaming sessions in the back room of a local restaurant that he conveniently owns. When asked about his path, he brushes people off and points them in the direction of the game room and encourages them to order something off of the menu. He’s been named Pagan Paragon of the Year, and is highly regarded as a person of high esteem. He never donates to local fundraisers, and does nothing for the community that he doesn’t get paid for.

Raven seems to be more of an opportunist using the pagan community as a source of income, while the leaders who flamed Susan on Social Media seem to not comprehend what it takes to lead a community, especially one that is hurting. These people and ones like them are the ones that the pagan community has to step back and carefully reconsider if they really do want them leading.

Yet every day, in cities around the country, we see people just like the ones we mentioned. People who want to help, give all they can to help and are beat down and flamed at every opportunity, and people who are celebrated for using the community to reach their financial goals.

What constitutes a good leader? What traits should you look for when choosing whom to put your trust behind?

First of all, do a little magic of your own when making the decisions of who you entrust with the leadership of the pagan community. Use the internet. Find out their real name and Google it. Secondly, watch and learn. How do these people act? Do they give to the community of both their time and talents? Before they act or speak, do they think? Is what they do or say true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind? Do they reach out to others? Do they support pagan events and programs in the community? Do they facilitate pagan events? What makes them worthy of a leadership designation?

Use your common sense and better judgment when choosing and empowering pagan leadership and watch your community blossom.

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A Moment for Meditation

November, 2015

The 5th Chakra

As I mentioned in the previous columns, when doing any chakra work, it is imperative to keep yourself grounded. While you can use any grounding exercise that you prefer, I have always used this one in my chakra classes:

**Stand up, grip toes to the ground, long deep breathing, visualize your roots going deep into Mother Earth, keeping you grounded and centered. Inhale and bring the earth energy up to the base of your spine; exhale and let the energy return to the Earth. With each inhale, receive healing energy from the Earth; with each exhale, release all negativity. This will not hurt Mother Earth, as long as it is done for healing and revitalization. Activate your feelings of consciousness and open yourself up to the limitless possibilities surrounding you.**

med1

*From my 7-Week Chakra Course*

(Photo Credit: synchromysticsmforum.com)

The Fifth Chakra is also called the Throat Chakra. It’s name in Sanskrit is Visuddha, which means *pure or purification*. It is located right at your throat. This chakra is all about TRUTH. The color of this chakra is blue; it’s element is the Ether/Spirit and it is considered a “masculine” chakra.

The Fifth Chakra is the balance between your heart and your head. It is the gateway to the higher levels of consciousness. This chakra is all about communicating with one’s self and others, creating connection, being heard and being understood. One of the best ways to open the throat chakra is through mantra. Mantra is sound that sets up a vibration and helps to liberate us from unwanted thoughts. Chanting and singing makes us happy; it is the song of the spirit/soul. (Please see my previous column on Mantra – http://paganpages.org/emagazine/2015/01/a-moment-for-meditation-5/)

When this chakra is balanced and functioning properly, you are able to fully communicate with others; you are able to also comprehend when others speak. You are confident, clear and focused. You may find yourself being an inspiration to others, being able to educate and elevate through speaking the truth, honestly and openly.

Conversely, if this chakra is unbalanced, you may find yourself unwilling or incapable of speaking the truth, as you are unable to connect to it. You may be afraid of communicating and unable to accurately express yourself.

A wonderful breath exercise for this chakra is *Dog Breath*, not the most wonderful of names, but accurate. This healing exercise will help to cleanse the toxins from your throat; helping to clear out lies of the past and leave you able to speak your truth, as you see it:

Sit with your mouth open and extend your tongue as

far out as it will go and begin to pant rapidly, like a dog

would do (hence, the name). Pant deeply putting your

lungs and navel into it. Move your navel with the breath, so it

is as if your are pumping your belly.

Do for 3 minutes

(From The Eight Human Talents by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa)

Any exercise where you put a stretch on the throat will strengthen this chakra. You can try standing, bringing your hands straight up over your head, clasping the palms together. Inhale and begin to gently do a back bend, stretching the throat. Exhale the breath and you come back to the standing straight position. Do this for at least 3 minutes, with powerful breath.

med2

Rolling your neck (gently) in a circular motion, or in a figure-8, is beneficial, as is Cobra Pose:

(Photo Credit: tinareale.com)

Additionally, for this chakra, you can do the following breath visualization meditation:

**Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Breathe low and deep. Visualize that you are lying under a beautiful blue sky. Watch the clouds as they pass. Feel that beautiful blue coming down, surrounding you, surrounding your spirit. Stretch your consciousness up into that blueness, and then beyond, into space. Feel yourself amongst the stars, continuing to reach out with your consciousness. You are one among the stars. Feel the universe enveloping you, filling you with peace and contentment. When you are finished, start to slowly bring yourself back, bringing with you that feeling of peace.**

(*From my 7-Week Chakra Course*)

med3

After the meditation, continue to lie down on the floor and relax for at least five minutes or alternately, sit quietly with a relaxed breath. Stretch your arms up toward to ceiling several times before moving.

(Photo Credit: chakralover.com)

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Until next month, when we continue with the Sixth Chakra, I wish you peace, joy and happiness.

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Thriftcrafting: Witching on a Budget

November, 2015

Magical Matches

Merry meet.

If you are looking for a tool for a special ritual or an easy gift, try decorating match boxes.

matches

I had a partial deck of miniature tarot cards. Cutting off the white borders with a paper cutter made them the right size for putting on boxes of matches. Some decks, such as the Rider-Waite, are just about the perfect size for the large box of kitchen matches, requiring only a very small portion of one edge to be removed.

I used spray adhesive to affix them, but just about any glue will do.

By choosing cards to fit someone’s personality, astrology or goals, you can make a thoughtful gift set that can be a given on any occasion. Selecting cards to represent the quarters can make lighting each of the candles extra special. The same is true for selecting cards to align with the intention of the ritual at which they will be used.

Seek out partial decks or ones you no longer use, and buy matches from a dollar store for the biggest bargain.

The match boxes can also be covered with photographs or images clipped from magazines.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

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Book Review: Summoning the Fates By Z Budapest

November, 2015

Summoning the Fates By Z Budapest

I have just finished Summoning The Fates, A Generational Womans Guide to Destiny and Sacred Transformationby the wonderful Z Budapest*****

fates

If you have ever asked why me?” or “why do bad things happen?, then this is the book for you.

This book was a joy to read.  I felt as if I were sitting at the feet of one of my teachers, listening to her stories, learning from her wisdom.    Almost immediately,  her love for her mother leaps off the beginning pages, which was so touching.  

We are most  familiar with the Greek Fates of Clotho (the Spinner) who spins our life thread, Lachesis (Disposer of Lots), who measures out our life threads and Atropos (the Inevitable), who cuts it off.  For this book, Z uses the names of the Norns: Urdh, Verdandi and Skuld, which as she says, are the words for being itself.  

Urdh is all that has gone on before; Verdandi rules the present; and Skuld is what will be.

Z explains to us how to reach out to each of them, going beyond words, and connecting on a spiritual level.  As always, we start with an altar and we are told how to set one up for each of the Norns.  

Each Norn/Fate is with us throughout our lives.  Through them, we learn our destinies, our missions in life.   Urdh, Verdandi and Skuld each have their own section of the book.  Each of them has their own “fate dates” which are important years in each of our lives.  Urdh is with us from birth until the age of 25; Verdandi is with us for our second major cycle from about 30 58 years of age where we then come into the hands of Skuld.  There are several years of overlap as we are handed from one to another.  What should we expect from each of these major life cycles? What questions can be answered by becoming more fully aware of the Fates in our lives?  

The book is filled with folk and fairy tales, which feel as if Z is reading them to us herself.  Through these tales, we are taught about each one of the Norns; questions are answered, lessons are learned.  

The sections on each Norn are filled with stories, rituals, spells.  These sections are interspersed with *Interludes*, more stories and tales, some personal to Z, some folk, but all entertaining and filled with the wisdom of the Norns and of Z, herself.  

I enjoyed this book immensely.  As I were reading about Urdh and Verdandi and their missions and destinies, much became clear of my own life and experiences.  I am looking forward to what Skuld has prepared for me, as I will be entering my 58th year.

I recommend this book to anyone with questions about what has happened to them, what is happening now and what they have to look forward to.  Whether you wish to call it Fate, Destiny or Karma, some of your answers are here.

*****Z Budapest is the Mother of Womens Goddess Spirituality.  She is a prolific author, leader of rituals and celebrations, fighter for women and witchesrights.  She is the found of the Womens spirituality Forum and Dianic University.  If you dont know her, this is the time and place to start:  http://zbudapest.com/about-z-budapest.html  *****

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An Interview with Sheena Cundy: Crafty Crone

November, 2015

Sheena

 

I was lucky enough to catch up with an incredibly creative and talented witch this month, Sheena Cundy. Sheena is a well-known healer and the creator of The Magic of Nature Oracle, a vibrant divination deck based on the flora and fauna of Britain. She is also the songstress of the band Morrigan’s Path. In between all this she teaches tarot and horse riding. Sheena took a break from all this to answer some of my questions for you lovely readers here at Pagan Pages.

Mabh Savage: So, first of all, what is a crafty crone?

Sheena Cundy: She is a Witch of menopausal age, shrewd and creative with wisdom to pass on to others. Crafty Crones was a name my sister Tania and I created when we first started working together about five years ago. As young Crones and sisters of the Craft it seemed to fit and I find myself growing more into the role as time goes on…It is a magical path of continually stepping into the transformative energy of the Crone, embracing her power and integrating it into one’s own personality. She can be a hard task master, but if the Witch wants to grow and learn, there is no better teacher.

MS: And you also use the term Chapel Witch to describe yourself. Where does this come from?

SC: I am very fortunate to live near a 6th century Celtic chapel on a wild and rugged part of the Essex coastline. I head down the beach most days with my dog and spend a lot of time in the chapel, my spiritual home. It’s a humble and incredibly sacred space – pulsating with energy – and I sing, pray and work magic within its walls.

It feeds my soul.

MS: Tell us a bit about your upcoming novel, The Madness and the Magic.

madness

 

SC: Minerva is a modern day Witch battling with the hormonal horrors of the menopause, while her teenage daughter Rhiannon faces the trials of an unplanned pregnancy. The tale weaves around Minerva’s ridiculous antics to snare the local guitar-playing vicar – involving tarot cards, crazy spells and lots of brandy – and Ronnie’s turmoil and a sorry horse tale. It’s quite mad in places and yet strangely magical in others. I loved writing it… it cheered me up no end and kept me out of prison while going through the ‘murderous tendencies’ phase of the menopause. If it can cheer other people up too, that’s a bonus.

MS: Does the story have any real life influence? Is there any of you in Minerva?

SC: Indeed there is, and especially now I’ve written the book, there seems to be a lot of Minerva in me. It can be confusing and I have many stories for the continuing saga of Minerva running through my mind constantly… if it’s going to happen to me, I will make sure it happens to Minerva. It’s the best way I’ve found, to keep a balanced (and half-sane) perspective on life. If you can laugh at yourself, nothing is too hard to handle.

Also, I can enjoy and indulge through Minerva the intoxicating effects of brandy, her favourite tipple. As I’ve been teetotal for three years now it’s the healthiest (and safest) way of reliving my drinking days!

MS: Is this your first foray into writing fiction? Did it come easily to you? What challenges did you find?

SC: I’ve written a number of short stories, but never anything of this length. Fifty thousand words seemed a huge mountain to climb when I decided to write a novel in a month as part of NaNoWriMo: an online challenge. The truth is, I thrive on doing what I love; there’s nothing like creative writing, and I do like a challenge. This opportunity ticked all the boxes and I had to have a go. I wanted to see if I could do it; if I could discipline myself to finish a first draft in thirty days. It was an act of magic, I can tell you. I found out more about myself in thirty days than I could ever imagine. I loved it. I am in my element when I’m writing. It’s something I need to do to be happy.

MS: I understand a sequel is already in the wings. Will this follow the same characters?

SC: Mainly, yes. I have one or two new characters germinating but there is so much more to tell about the old ones! I feel a definite urge to delve deeper into their characters and discover more about them through another story and I’m almost ready to make a start, but not quite yet. Magic happens when its good and ready…it’s all about timing.

MS: Moving away from fiction, you’re going to be writing about psychic development; what does this mean to you?

SC: Good question! My whole life has been about psychic development of some kind and I think that applies to us all whether we realise it or not. We are all souls on a spiritual journey and it is through our psychic development that we learn and grow. To be writing about this excites me and scares the hell out of me at the same time. You could say it’s my next mountain, stretching me to greater heights! I know I can do it, but it will be hard work.

It’s different to writing fiction; although still creative, I feel there is more pressure to ‘get it right’. However, the right balance is fundamental and to produce work that is authentic requires us to be ourselves is what I keep telling myself. I would get far too bored writing anything too serious and that is one of the reasons why I want to do this. To write a book on psychic development which is light hearted enough to entertain, and yet sincere enough to be taken seriously will give me great pleasure.

MS: Do you think being a Pagan gives one a very different perspective for psychic development?

SC: Another good question… and one I am pondering over at the moment as this is the aim of my new book, Your Magical Nature – Psychic Development from a Pagan Perspective. I think a Pagan’s outlook is a far more natural one and certainly more magical. Combining those two aspects and a bit of fun (Pagans are good at that) is enough to inspire the dullest of minds, surely? Watch this space!

MS: How long have you been a Pagan and how did you find your path?

SC: I have been a Pagan all this life but only fully aware of it for the last twelve years since officially dedicating myself to the Craft.

From childhood, I have always loved nature and the great outdoors, animals, people and music. All have featured strongly and still do, except now I have the perfect spiritual expression, through the Craft, to be my true self. The spirit of the Witch, I believe, is carried over from many lives and cannot be ignored or denied. We answer the call in our own time, when we are ready.

MS: As the season turns autumnal, what (and how) will you be celebrating?

SC: Mabon was spent with my coven sisters. Every turning of the wheel, we work in ritual together, strengthening our connection with the earth and each other.

I also celebrate down on the beach with my dog Lola, the land, sea and sky and in the home by decorating my altar with seasonal delights. Foraging in the fields is always a joy this time of year… the hedgerows are still dripping with blackberries and you can never make enough crumbles!

MS: And later, as we move into winter? What are the highlights of the darker season for a Pagan writer and musician?

SC: I love all the seasons, but winter has to be the best for writing. The Crone’s influence is closer than ever and I plug into Her as my source of inspiration… my muse. Musically, any time is good for song writing but winter is a good time to record and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

MS: You sing and write for Morrigan’s Path. How long have the band been together, and how did you all meet?

SC: Morrigan’s Path are two years old, still growing and evolving. The band grew out of a duo Ian (husband) and I had together and through other musical connections and synchronicity. We are all good friends who love creating original music and have the best fun doing it.

MS: You use a mix of modern and traditional instruments in your band. Is it important to keep the use of traditional and folk instruments alive?

SC: What’s important to us is the live energy we create and yes, I think that comes through better with acoustic instruments. Plus, if we need to play in the middle of a field with no electricity, we can! We tend to veer away from the mechanical and sometimes over-produced sound and more towards a raw and earthy feel. Strip everything back and you’re left with something far more natural and magical.

MS: Do you think music is, or can be, a form of magic?

SC: I think music is one of the most powerful forms of magic there is. It has the power to influence our thoughts and feelings in a multitude of ways, consciously or not. It can and does change lives.

That’s magic.

MS: What gigs or events does the band have coming up?

SC: We are playing locally at a spiritual gathering next week (Oct 25th) in Maldon, Essex. I have been asked to talk more about the Morrígan and how She inspires the music, so I’m excited about that. It’s always lovely to go into more depth with an audience that’s open to it!

[Note from Mabh- sorry we couldn’t get this to press before the event, dear readers!]

…and we are playing at my book launch party for The Madness & the Magic (Dec 12th) again in Maldon – at The Blue Boar hotel. It’s in a beautiful (Georgian) function room with loads of atmosphere, just the place for a celebration!

Free entry at both gigs and everybody is welcome!

MS: Tell us a bit about your Magic of Nature Oracle.

SC: My sister Tania (artist) and I created this card deck based on the seasons, trees, animals and birds of British wildlife. The oracle is a simple but effective way of connecting to the natural wisdom and healing of the earth for guidance. Three years in the making, self-publishing is hard work on many levels, but the feedback so far has made it a worthwhile labour of love!

MS: How does the oracle differ from tarot?

SC: Thirty nine cards instead of seventy eight make it easier for a start! We wanted to move away from the complex symbolism of the tarot, which not everyone resonates with, and use nature as a theme. Most people can relate to a fox or an Oak tree! Each card’s energy relates to a soul lesson, recognised as an experience and a gift and concludes with a magical mantra as a way of reaffirming the guidance. However, like any oracle, the cards are essentially a mirror reflecting back to us where we are in our lives.

MS: Do you think anyone can learn to do readings with cards and oracles?

SC: Anyone who is attracted to them and willing to learn, yes. It is that pull we feel towards something which calls us to move in a certain direction. With tools of divination, it is always a call to discover more about the self and make sense of the world, and those who are naturally gifted – with the right people skills – will extend that to others.

MS: When you’re not writing and creating, how do you like to relax?

SC: I do find it hard to switch off totally. Even when I’m out with the dog, I’m hatching something! Spending time with Ian and our two boys, having a laugh, watching a good film, reading and yoga are pretty much top of the list… as is socialising and singing with my band. Anything that grounds me to the good earth and makes my life magical will free me up.

MS: And finally, what goal would you like to have achieved by Samhain next year?

SC: Staying healthy is the ultimate goal, so I can keep writing, producing and enjoying the magic. Our health is our wealth…

I would love to see The Madness and the Magic as a TV comedy drama. I think it has the potential but I need to find the right way of getting it there… where there’s a Witch there’s always a way. I’m working on it.

I also intend to have the sequel to my novel and Your Magical Nature written and submitted for publishing. The next Morrigan’s Path album will be out (we’re seven songs in at the moment) and I would love to be out playing more and reaching a wider audience.

Work aside (!), we are planning to breed from Lola next year, so Springer Spaniel puppies will be featuring prominently in a rather smelly, bouncing up and down kind of way. Variety is the magic of life and definitely keeps the creative juices flowing!

 

Find out more about the fascinating work of Sheena Cundy at the following links:

http://www.sheenacundy.com

http://www.morriganspath.com

http://magic-inyourlife.blogspot.co.uk/

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Notes from the Apothecary

November, 2015

Notes from the Apothecary: Coriander

Coriander

 

November is an odd month for herbs if you live in a temperate climate. There are a few still hanging on in the garden; maybe a tough sage or some rosemary that’s well rooted in, but many of the deciduous plants have already dropped their leaves, so we home herbalist have to rely on either dried product, or those herbs that we can grow from seed on a bright windowsill.

Coriander is one such herb. It grows quite easily as long as it is kept moist and warm, and with a bit of tender care can bring a vibrant verdancy to the cold season.

The Kitchen Garden

Coriander is also called cilantro, Chinese parsley and Mexican parsley, although Mexican parsley may also refer to verdolagas which is a completely different plant. If you shop in Asian superstores, you may find it referred to as dhania.

In cooking we tend to use either the seed or the leaves. The seeds are like little, round, crunchy balls, that give off an amazing citrusy aroma when toasted or dry fried. These can then be ground to make a spice mix or paste, or left whole to add texture as well as flavour.

The leaves are still citrusy but earthier and warmer, and in my opinion you can rarely use too much! They are best really, really fresh and even the stems are tasty as long as they aren’t woody.

Asian cuisines such as Indian and Pakistani make good use of coriander, as does the very different Mexican cuisine. This is an herb that does equally as well in eye wateringly hot dishes, as it does in mild, refreshing dishes, such as raita or guacamole.

You can also add it raw to salads, which I like to do with a little splash of soy sauce. Experiment!

Apparently the root can also be used, and is prevalent in Thai cookery. The root of coriander is harder to come by in shops though, so you may need to grow your own.

Once the warmer weather returns, plant some coriander outside in a sunny spot. The flowers will attract hoverflies, one of the best organic pest controls there is.

The Apothecary

The leaves of coriander are absolutely stuffed with good news vitamins. Vitamin A, or retinol, boosts the immune system, helps maintain good vision and is very good for the skin. Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, keeps our cells healthy and helps the body heal itself. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and healthy bones. Coriander is full of these vitamins, as well as calcium and potassium.

Coriander was used as a medicine, as far back as ancient Egypt. Seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs, and it is thought that they were used as an aphrodisiac.

In modern aromatherapy, coriander fragrance oil is used to ease the mind and fight fatigue. It has a calmative effect on the digestive tract, and is supposed to help detoxify the body. It can also be used as an ingredient in massage oil to help relieve stiffness of the joints and improve circulation; an application recommended by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine. This can be applied in cases of rheumatism and arthritis. Always consult a doctor first!

The Lab

Coriander, like many of our herbs with ‘volatile oils’, has anti-fungal properties. A very recent (2014) study found that the herb was potentially very effective against oral thrush, and the same study strongly encouraged further research into other health benefits of coriander.

The dislike of the taste of coriander is a hereditary trait!

The Witch’s Kitchen

It’s important to understand that we believe, due to archaeological evidence, that coriander has been widely used for over 3000 years. This herb has a majestic history, and deserves respect.

In Ancient Egypt coriander symbolised eternal love and enduring passion; the unity of body and soul. This is most likely why it was used as a burial herb for loved ones.

The Book of Exodus speaks of manna, a substance like coriander seed but much tastier. This sustains the people of Israel as they search for a new land.

Coriander can have a slightly narcotic effect, but you would have to eat a huge amount before experiencing this! However, a couple of seeds in some incense, with the right intent, could aid a meditation for visions, or aid a sleep for dreams.

Continuing the Egyptian theme of passion, coriander has been used in love potions throughout the centuries. Now personally, I don’t approve of love spells, but if that’s your thing, coriander is certainly a potent ingredient.

Coriander is also associated with longevity and immortality, healing and overall good health, and the element of fire. It may be associated with Mars but occasionally it is also linked to the moon.

Home and Hearth

Make a cloth sachet and fill it with cotton wool and a few coriander seeds. As you sew the sachet together, think of your most wanted goal; something you wish to draw near to you. Visualise your goal complete, as you place the seeds in the sachet and seal it. Keep the sachet on your person for a whole cycle of the moon. If you move closer to your goal in this time, keep the sachet in a safe place. If not, bury it with thanks and try again, or meditate upon your goal first.

Cook a meal for loved ones with coriander as a garnish, as a symbol of how much they mean to you, and how unbreakable your bond is.

Make a pentagram of coriander stems and hang it on your door to attract positive energy into your home.

I Never Knew…

…until very recently that Salsa Verde (the Mexican type, heavy with coriander) is absolutely beautiful after a shot of tequila! The herby sauce completely removes the sting of the alcohol.

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MagickalArts

November, 2015

SAMHAIN- November 7.2015

 

Although last month may have seemed more fitting for this article, October 31st is not accurate date of Samhain if celebrated from the perspective of the astronomical occurrences that in ancient days marked the Great Wheel of the Year. The astrological date always in November, usually somewhere between the 5-8th. This year, it will occur on November 7th. So, with these intentions in mind, I share with you the mystery of Samhain’s parting of the Veils…..

 

The Hounds nip at my heels

Pushing me precariously forwards

As I move through the dark

Veil of Samhain Night.

 

I breathe deeply feeling the

Pain of sharp teeth and hot

Breath as grateful reprieve

Comes as winged feet take flight

Soaring and carrying me upward.

 

Time pulls at my back drawing me

Down into a descent of shadow and light

I breathe deeply and feel the strain of

Forward momentum gaining speed

And clarity shatters the fetters of illusion.

 

Thoughts gather and commune in

My mind each measured by scale of

Will and intent as the breath of death

And decay swirls around me.

 

The Hounds nip at my heels

Still running at fevered pace

My breath coming in shortened

Gasps and heart that beats

Like syncopated drumming.

 

The Hounds nip at my heels

Coming closer still until

I offer up my dues and surrender

To the renewal of rebirth

Returning to manifest life

With Hounds laying

Obediently at my feet.

 

Samhain and its counterpart, Beltane, are the time of access to the wisdom of the natural world and the Ancestors. The energy that is called forth at Beltane and communion with the nature spirits and the Fae stands as the point of inception and quickening of what will move, expand and grow in its form and scope towards the next opportunity. When it comes half wheel cycle to Samhain this energy of communication with and greater access to what lay beyond our physical realms has matured and deepened as we call to the Ancestors to offer up their wisdom. It is this wisdom that will carry us through the darkening of the months, the turning within and the introspection that holds within its womb the spark of Light that will be birthed at the Winter Solstice. 

 

As we enter into the Dark Half of the year, the winter months and the Sabbats that are held within that space we bring with us the expectations of this growth. We have finished harvesting what had been nurtured from the time of the previous Winter Solstice forward and we hold expectation that the ripe fruits we have carefully selected from this harvest will sustain us through this time of fallow fields, frost and cold. We approach the opening of the veils with great expectations of coming face to face with what visions and mysteries are rooted in our core state of being and align ourselves with the energies of the Dark Goddess and the wisdom of the Crone. It is Her wisdom that takes us into the realms of the Ancestors and the blessings they wish to bestow.

How have you honored your ancestors? What will you call to yourself of the darkness that lay within you?

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