March 2019 for Celebrating The Old Ways in New Times
March 2019 for Celebrating The Old Ways in New Times
I cannot tell you how excited I am that it is almost the Spring Equinox! To prepare, I assembled a precut garden box today, and have been diligently bagging up the dead leaves from last fall I spread over the garden beds I already have. I never buy mulch that way! Once the thaw starts, I dig out the leaves, and just throw them away.
While I joyously begin celebrating Spring at Imbolc, the fact I can see the green fingers of garden bulbs pushing up out of the earth reminds me the growing season is set to begin very soon. I am buying seeds left and right, and soon, we will start stockpiling the pea gravel and soil for the new garden bed!
The undesirable parts of things like cleanup, spending money on supplies, and lifting and carrying heavy things must be performed to benefit from the beauty of the victory garden we covet. I, for one, hate the sight of worms, and have ever since I was a child. I, however know that without those blind wrigglers, my garden will not grow, and if I don’t see them, I know something is very wrong.
Like the garden, our lives are made up of all sorts of things. Things we like, and things we dislike. More than that, we also like and dislike things about specifically our own selves.
Turn on the television, and you can almost always find a makeover show, or some type of advertisement for a service or product that will completely transform you, supposedly getting rid of some aspect of yourself you loathe. Our culture supports that self-loathing, as they use it as excuse to earn money from us.
Now, I am not saying we ought to forego improving ourselves. What I am saying is that all of us have something we CANNOT change about ourselves that we imagine to be some monstrosity. Some hate the shape of their feet, the sound of their voice, the fact their hair is naturally curly or straight. Some hate having an adams apple, and some think their neck is too long or short. Some want to get rid of freckles, or bleach their skin which they imagine is too dark. Almost all of us have demonized some aspect of ourselves we simply cannot help.
But we are not monstrosities in any way. We simply misunderstand these parts of ourselves, and radical self-acceptance is the only solution. What better time for that than the Spring Equinox, which is often used to get rid of the old and bring in the new? Instead of throwing out some part of ourselves, why not change our way of thinking instead?
This Month’s Review
To fit with this theme. I lucked into an interview with Gabiann Marin, author of the awesome book, Monsters and Creatures. I found the book to be well written, well researched, and an easy read. Of course, she could not include ALL monsters and creatures from all of time in the book, but she packed in quite a lot into the neat 196 pages.
From the Basilisk to Zombies, Marin draws readers into the fascinating world of creatures, and provides more than just lore. She includes historical anecdotes, and education about real phenomenon.
I highly recommend the book, and it can be had through this link.
Not only was I fortunate enough to review this good book, but I got to interview the amazing Gabiann Marin!
Saoirse – First, let me say, I was impressed with your book Monsters and Creatures. I never know what to expect from a reference book on creatures- and I was thrilled because I found your book very well researched.
You packed so very much good information into it. How long did it take you to gather all of that in formation, and what was the process for research you used? What background in research do you have, and what is your philosophy about educating your readers as an author?
Gabiann – Thank you. The research part was quite interesting. I have grown up with many of the creatures in the book in so far as I have loved and read mythology and fantasy and history since I was a small child. In fact the very first book I bought for myself (at the age of seven) was The natural history of the vampire by Anthony Masters and I still have that book. So I guess it took a lifetime to gather all the information.
The greater challenge was how to get all the information I wanted to talk about into such a small book. I didn’t want it to just be a dictionary of fantastic beasts. I’m a writer and the power of all these creatures are in their stories and I wanted to be able to share that… Give a context of these creatures in history and psychology and society.
I have been a professional writer for a long time as well as an academic, so I read widely and have a pretty varied interest and abundant curiosity in just about everything – so I find researching information pretty easy.
The process for this book was really to decide what monsters and creatures I wanted to include. The publisher was pretty adamant the popular ones were included… Which I agreed with… But I was also intent on introducing readers to more unusual and lesser known creatures and tell their stories too.
Saoirse – What made you decide to write about this topic, specifically? This appears more like a long-term interest in these beings turned into a good book to share what you have learned with others. Am I right?
Gabiann – Yes. I love animals and the natural world and am fascinated in how we, as humans, connect to and understand nature. I have always believed the stories of monsters and creatures are some of the most potent and informative ways that we express our love and fear of the world around us.
Saoirse – As I am Pagan, I know a lot of people who embrace belief in human connection with supernatural beings. One friend said these “creatures” may be nothing more than manifestation of spirit people perceive so well, they mistake them for flesh! While we know about logical explanations like- manatees can be mistaken for mermaids, etc- what is your take on the theory my friend presented?
Gabiann – I have a rather unique perspective on people’s belief systems and how they engage with the mystical, the natural and the supernatural… And that is that however someone perceives these creatures – as real or imagined, as pyschological manifestations or as historical creatures… They are probably right.
We manifest our understanding of the world and ourselves through the stories we tell and that shapes how we treat each other and the world around us. Spirit reaches us through story, symbol and myth.
If your friend perceives spirit as a unicorn or a dragon.. Then that is how spirit presents itself to her. She is using these stories exactly how they were meant to be used – for her to step beyond the human condition and understand the world beyond herself.
Saoirse – I want to know all about you! Tell me about your writing in general, and beyond that, YOU in general? What made you decide to write? What else are you good at? What projects are you working on, and what else is in the workings?
Gabiann – That’s a big topic… Where do I start?
I suppose I have always been a writer, I wrote my first short story at the age of eight and won my first literary prize when I was fourteen. I became a professional writer when I started University. I was originally going to be a vet but ended up at the last minute studying writing instead. My mum was surprisingly OK with this!
I started my professional writing life writing film and theatre reviews and then actual plays. I worked as a corporate copywriter for a few years but realised it was a bit soul destroying so shifted over and became a writer for charities and causes I believed in… Like Amnesty International, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace.
I also wrote for Australian television for a few years but it was a hard road back then with very little Australian content being made. So in 2000 I began writing children’s books. In 2003 I wrote a book for young readers about a child in Australian Immigration detention called A True Person, which won a few international awards but most importantly was the first book in Australia to tackle that issue.
I still write social justice material in fiction form but moved into editing and writing non fiction after leaving an academic job in 2016.
Currently I am dividing my time between teaching writing and film at University, while editing and writing non-fiction, original and adapted film scripts and completing a fantasy fiction book about Medusa.
Saoirse – Tell me about your personal spiritual path, and if it influenced your work on this topic.
Gabiann – I am Wicca and have been since I was quite young, however I am more a pagan in the classic sense, in that I believe there is a natural force which guides the world and creates and determines life. I believe we need to understand and respect this force… Which currently as a global entity we are not doing.
All of my work has, in some way, reflected my belief that people are part of – not in conflict with – the natural world. And the natural world is actually supernatural, in that it contains spirit as well as material things. This is hardly controversial, as literally everyone in the known history of humankind has believed a version of this – yet for some reason mankind have been intent on focusing on the differences in this belief and killing each other over how we individually choose to understand and express that spiritual essence . To me spirit is nature herself… Everything in it is amazing. It contains things which we are only just beginning to understand.
I don’t follow any organized religion because I believe that most of them limit us into hatred and division with both ourselves and the other beings we share this planet with. But I have a huge respect for most religious people who are just trying to find ways to connect with the bigger sense of power around them. I believe that when we are in contact with the natural world… Go beyond the realms of mankind’s selfishness, greed and violence, we can connect to that spirit. But honestly I do not think we as humans are the most important things on this planet. Not the single or indeed the main focus of any spiritual force which may exist. The trees and the rocks and the mountains have watched us rise and they will watch us fall. Creatures we can barely imagine have roamed this earth thousands of years before we were even conceived of.. And other creatures will no doubt walk across our fossilized bones. And that is a good thing. Nature is immortal. So the smallness and pettiness of humanity and our need to find meaning and place has always underpinned my work. As well as a commitment to kindness, justice and understanding … Towards each other and all beings.
Saoirse – Have you had any personal encounters with creatures or spirits you would like to share?
Gabiann – I think there is magic in the world, and spirit… particularly animal spirits, can help you find your way to that magic.
When I was in my twenties I had a very hard time. As I believe most young women in their twenties do in a world that is constantly telling us that as females we are simply not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. Then one night I had this amazing dream of two tigers who embraced me when I thought they were going to rip me apart.
I woke up realizing that I was worthy and strong and loved. I still believe today they were manifestations of spirit telling me to stop worrying about all the silliness around me and understand that my purpose… the purpose for all of us, was simply to be a good person. Once I realized that, life became much clearer for me and I was able to follow a path that wasn’t so concerned about whether I fitted in with the very narrow ideology of being a compliant, acceptable, quiet woman. Which I certainly am not! And rather tell stories and be part of the world in a way that expanded, not limited my and other creatures existence.
I am still very spiritual and have engaged with spirit in many ways since then. But I remember that dream so clearly even now. It’s why I became a pagan and a feminist.
Monsters and Creatures, as well as its companion book – Gods and Goddesses, was written as an introduction into the history of humankind’s need to use story and myth to understand the world. They are small books but I hope they pack a punch and give people a bit of an insight into what unites us – which is story… and what defines us – which is how we understand the world around us.
They are both written to be fun, informative and easy to read and I really hope people engage with them. Our continuing fascination with supernatural creatures is one of the many things that unite us as people. And sharing these stories is the best way to create connections between us across time and cultures.
I am happy to engage with readers but have a limited social media profile as I find the online world to be somewhat mean-spirited and focused on conflict. I have a facebook authors page and an Amazon Author’s page through which I am happy to engage with those wanting more information about me.
If you are interested in getting a copy of any of my books they are widely available through Amazon as well as most good book stores.
Saoirse – What is your FAVORITE Monster/Creature you included in your book, and why? Any encounters, dreams, or visions of/with it/them?
Gabiann – This is a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child!
All of them are my favourite in different ways. I love the more unusual ones like the Japanese Yokai because they are just so quirky and, although they can be a bit nasty, they are essentially just really cool, interesting little creatures who don’t bother anyone and just hang about doing their own thing.
Researching the book I found the bird-like creatures the most fascinating as they were probably the ones I knew the least about. Again they are usually positive, kind creatures who help rather than harm us.
But I guess if I had to pick a favourite it would have to be Medusa. She resonates about the power of women and her story is one of injustice. She was never a monster, just someone who was trying to live her life. She only harmed those who attacked her and she was a victim of one of the most heinous and cowardly acts in all of mythology. It is impossible, I think, to see the story of Medusa as anything but a parable about male violence against women and the hatred of the established patriarchy of strong independent females. For that reason she probably resonates the strongest.
I am actually writing a fiction book about her – its a crime caper comedy believe it or not!
For more information on Gabiann Marin Visit:
The Sabbat this month is Spring Equinox, known by many Pagans as Ostara. Many take Bede and the Grimm’s word for it that Ostara was a Germanic goddess who had a hare as companion and eggs were auspicious to her.
Unfortunately, no evidence that this was a goddess exists in imagery or writings prior to Bede.
But since writings can be lost, and many passed traditions on orally, there is a chance this is true. It may also be true that Xtianity absorbed the Pagan rites to Ostara in their Easter practices.
One thing that is NOT true is the ridiculous meme claiming Ishtar was the goddess Ostara because the name is similar to Easter. Ishtar was never venerated in the British Isles, and ancient British pagans had no knowledge of her whatsoever. Xtians converting British Pagans did not adapt Middle Eastern Pagan practice either.
If Ostara was a goddess, she was, as Grimm, and Bede say, Germanic.
Both Ostara and Easter are celebrated with the new life of the Earth, and new spiritual life for worshippers in mind.
But while Xtians think of it as their god rising from the grave, and Pagans think of it in earth based terms, another way to look at it is rebirth of way of thinking.
Earlier in the article, I spoke of the things we loathe about ourselves that are things we cannot control.
Examples I shared were of physical things we might not like, but have no ability to change. Other examples include things such as the presence of depression that is being treated as well as possible, but is a lifelong condition, memory problems after stroke, inability to digest a favorite food anymore, inability due to medical reasons to have kids, or even being divorced when you did not choose to be.
My challenge this time is to think of that thing which you cannot change- and forgive yourself for it.
Believe me, I do not say this lightly, as I have things I am upset with myself for. I say things like “I am sorry for the way I am” and “I wish you did not have to deal with the fact I have X problem.”
This is perhaps the least productive thing we do as human beings. In essence, we punish ourselves for something we have no control over.
We make ourselves out to be guilty, when in fact, if we could change whatever it is we hate about ourselves, we absolutely would.
So, the self-loathing stops. Now.
It’s going to take a conscious effort to undo your counter productive way of thinking about yourself, and replacing that with forgiveness, and amping up the self-love, and it’s one a one time, “fling a spell and forget it” thing. It will take a different amount of time for each person, and you may have to tweak the working to suit yourself.
I want you to know that you are a perfect reflection of the creator, and what WE think of as flaws are sometimes just things our culture spits at. We have to train our minds to resist this cultural poisoning, which is basically abuse, and VERY toxic. We have to sometimes be the goddess or the father god for ourselves, and know better than the crap we are told.
This working entails giving a gift to yourself. You are worth it! This is done in parts. How far apart you space the parts is up to you.
To start, get a plain white candle and a small receptacle to burn paper in.
Get paper, and writing materials.
Part 1– You are going to sit down and write a letter to yourself.
You are going to make it as long as you like. Go into great detail about the thing you loathe about yourself and go ahead and cry out how much you wish you could change things. It is okay to type and print out the letter if you’d prefer not to hand write it. Include in the letter why you understand you can’t change this. Say all you want to about it and how you feel about it. Just get it all out. You don’t even have to have one sitting be the whole letter. It can be as long or as short of a letter as you want. It can even be just a paragraph or less long.
Part 2– Then you are going to write your goal for changing thinking. You are going to have to really think about what thinking you need to discard, but also what thinking you need to replace it with. Then, you need to decide what action after the change of thinking you are going to take. Be as detailed or as vague as asking your goddess or god for guidance.
Part 3– Have your initial letter, and then your other papers which list your goals and planned changes, have your receptacle to burn in , and light the candle. You can do this at your altar if you want to, but you can even do this outdoors, or over the kitchen sink, or stove if you prefer. Do this at the place where you are most comfortable burning papers.
Read your letter aloud to yourself. Let it all sink in, and as you are reading, feel how crucial it is you let this self-loathing go. Then read the second papers, and truly tell yourself that you are going to lay aside the old way of thinking, and start the new way of thinking.
When you have read it all, take one more sheet of paper, and write out a very short summary of everything on the papers.
Burn the papers, keeping the summary.
As the papers burn say, “Out with the old, in with the new, I am the goddess/god, and I am whole and perfect. So Mote It Be.”
Once the papers have burned, release the ashes to the wind, and let your candle burn all the way down. Clean your area up, and place your summary somewhere you can look at it to remind yourself of all the things you wrote. Because, remember, this is a long-term change, not something you are going to release and forget. We have to make conscious efforts to transform, most especially our way of thinking. There is no “putting it out there to the Universe to manifest”. We are going to do this ourselves, for a permanent change.
Part 4- Gift yourself something representing the change you are making. If you hate your feet, get regular pedicures or start wearing shoes you really love but thought you could not wear on “those” feet. If you are upset you did not reach a goal, and the opportunity is gone, celebrate a goal you DID make. If you are upset you have a chronic condition that is never going to go away, pamper yourself somehow and reassure yourself you are not to blame.
Blessed Spring, and New Beginnings!
About the Author:
Saoirse is a recovered Catholic. I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.