When the Matriarch Ruled

When we think of the “patriarch” words like “outdated” or “dinosaur” or, better yet “obsolete” often come to mind. This institution of men in charge that keeps women and anyone other than white men from the top of the earnings charts and away positions of power is seen as old and ancient. In fact, we can trace it back pretty darn far to Ancient Greece and many other ancient cultures, but, perhaps ironically, when we peel back the curtain even further, we find that before the patriarchy we had the matriarchy. And since Mother’s Day is RIGHT around the corner I wanted to give the primordial Mother Goddess that has rule since before recorded history her due today:

Venus of Wildorf; the original fertility, mother goddess circa Paleolithic Era (15,000 – 10,000 BCE) — Do note how wonderfully and delightfully CURVY she was!

The -relatively- modern patriarchy went through some lengths to bury this information (much like they did much information about paganism and any religion other than Judeo-Christian ones) by leaving information about these ancient goddess cults as foot notes and obscure texts hidden from the eyes of the general public. Often they are only accessible to a those attending whatever University happens to have the perceived misfortune of containing them. And, unfortunately, when Christianity began its systematic overtaking of world religions, it became the standard operating procedure to rip down statues and “pagan idols” and altars or sacred places due to a scriptural mandate that made it their divine right and calling to do so.

In most academic sources traces of the Goddess cults are coded under the term “fertility cult”; as if removing any words for “woman” makes it more palatable. It was also well-established that these cults placed a value on the magick and wisdom of the flesh; this connect made Christians (and men, of course) extremely uncomfortable. So, it was buried.

From Britain’s African Population- Prehistoric to Medieval Times (beforebc.de)

(But over time devoted scholars and anthropologies have unearthed the sparse clues and put together and painted profound and overarching painting of what was there BEFORE the patriarchy took hold. Centering primarily in Europe, but extending as far as into the Middle East, many a pagan idol (such as the Venus of Wilendorf shown above) has been rediscovered. Some dating as far back as 25,000 BCE, most of them are similar in shape; rotund with large breasts, wide hips, and a generous belly; undeniably female images. To the early Paleolithic peoples, the miracle of childbirth was a complete mystery. By their own understanding, a woman blossomed into pregnancy and childbirth spontaneously which gave the Mother great power and standing within society. This was seen as a divine power and right. So, the Goddess ruled, and women were the elders, wise women, and main providers of their communities as viewed within this matriarchal context. It wasn’t until the Neolithic Era that humanity seemed to catch wise to the male contribution to the process and so the God became the Goddess’s counterpart. (Want to learn more? When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone is a must read! I also recommend The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen if you’re more into Shamanism or enjoy studying indigenous traditions (written by indignous people!).

  • One of the things that I love about paganism is how to uses the observable world and nature around to inform and explain life; whether it be magickal or “mundane”. (Although I frequently point out that the older I get, the blurrier the line between those two things grows!) The Goddess as the main, life-giving divine source just makes sense to me. I might be biased, being a mother AND a woman — but it is certainly a super power; the creative force and energy embodied by the Divine Feminine (embodied within those of all genders). That she would be the focus of worship and adoration seems natural to me.
  • I often feel a stronger connection to this archetype; the primordial Earth/Fertility Goddess than I do to the Classical Olympians of Ancient Greece or the Aesir of Norse-Germanic Myth. I revel in the gritty, dark, visceral energy and sensation of this truly ancient Divine Feminine. Do you prefer to work with specific deities or archetypal energies? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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The Father of Wicca

This week I am returning yet again to my 20th Century Witchcraft Series to talk about the 1950s which was a huge decade for the modern Neopagan revival. No figure was perhaps more influential to the widespread of witchcraft as the man commonly referred to as “The Father of Wicca”; Gerald Gardener. While his history is peppered with unusual anecdotes and a bit of controversy, his contributions have had a lasting and indelible impact on the philosophy and beliefs of modern Pagans. While Gardener was born in 1884 much of his most influential work within the community didn’t happen until much later in his life; in the 1950s. So, let’s learn a little more about the “Father” of Wicca:

Gerald Gardener was born in England in the late 1800s to a middle-to-upper class family that owned its own timber company. However, Gardener was a suffered of asthma and at the ripe young age of 4 his nurse-maid began bringing him to the South of France over winters. This began a long lifetime of travel; in part in search of weather than did not trigger his illness and in part because Gardener very quickly in life developed a love and interest in observing and studying other cultures; fancying himself something of a anthropologist and archaeologist despite never having a formal education. (Indeed, he taught himself to read and write by reading magazines!)

Gardener spent a significant amount of time in British Malaya where he enjoyed studying their cultural and spiritual practices which involved, in great part, rituals involving trance and ritual weaponry. These early beginnings deeply and fundamentally colored his beliefs and later teachings. As early as 1907 Gardener also joined as an Apprentice Freemason beginning his lifelong adventures with the occult. Despite his fledgling interest in anthropology, in his early life Gardener worked on tea and rubber plantations which led him to many other interesting destinations such as Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Borneo where he met more indigenous people with cultures he enjoyed exploring and learning more about.

Gardener spent a significant amount of time in British Malaya where he enjoyed studying their cultural and spiritual practices which involved, in great part, rituals involving trance and ritual weaponry. These early beginnings deeply and fundamentally colored his beliefs and later teachings. As early as 1907 Gardener also joined as an Apprentice Freemason beginning his lifelong adventures with the occult. Despite his fledgling interest in anthropology, in his early life Gardener worked on tea and rubber plantations which led him to many other interesting destinations such as Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Borneo where he met more indigenous people with cultures he enjoyed exploring and learning more about.

In the late 1920s – early 1930s Gardener began to get involved with Spiritualism and Mediumship having several experiences in which he reportedly made contact with the spirits of deceased family members. In fact, he met his wife, Dorothea Frances Rosedale (pictured here), because she was herself a spiritualist medium. He returned to Malaya where he re-immersed himself in the indigenous culture and began excavating (illegally and in secret) there. Throughout his early life as he studied the culture and learned more about the artefacts he unearthed, he wrote some well-received academic papers, including a book, and gave talks on the subjects. (Primarily rituals specifically centered around weaponry which was another one of his great interests.)

Gardener retired young in 1936 (at the age of approximately 52) which freed up his time to pursue further his interests in magic, ritual, and indigenous culture. After retirement he moved back to England at the behest of his wife although the climate still did not agree with him. A doctor suggested to him that nudism might help. (Honestly this really tripped me up in my research — I STILL cannot find any other resources that explain the — even antiquated — logic that was used here.) Gardener became a fast and staunch proponent of the wholistic benefits of nudity which no doubt in great part continued to inform his future writings and beliefs as well.

In the late 1930s Gardener dabbled with an ill-fated Rosicrucian theatre group where he met the members of what would become the New Forest Coven; renowned for Operation: Cone of Power; a much written about ritual in which Gardener and the coven performed a ritual to prevent Hitler from invading England. The coven regularly practiced out of a historice “Witches Cottage” that had been built in the 1700s. (Pictured.) During the ’40s Gardener also dabbled in the Ordo Templi Orialis (OTO) and befriended Aleister Crowley (who passed away in 1947).

Now, we find ourselves finally in the 1950s in which Doreen Valiente (whom this blog post was nearly about, but it was so early in her history it seemed an odd choice to me) met Gardener. She was initiated into his Gardenerian Wicca tradition (skyclad and scourging included). She rose to the station of High Priestess and became highly influential to the evolution of Wicca as it was she who went through great pains to remove much of Crowley’s influence from Gardener’s Book of Shadow from which he taught initiates.

The 1950s is when Gerald Gardener published his famous book, Witchcraft Today including a preface by Margaret Murray (who I talk about at some length in my Roaring ’20s video) who was well-known for a book she wrote in 1921 regarding the persistence of she called “witch cults” through history. The paper was very formative for Gardener so it was, I’m sure, a great honor to have her included in his book. Despite some of the bad, misleading press surrounding the publication, Gardener persisted convince that this type of widespread information — even if not completely truthful — was the only way to make sure the “Old Religion” did not die out.

Gardener passed away in 1964 from a heart attack at the age of 79. Only one person attended as he was traveling overseas at the time. He was originally buried in Tunisia (North Africa), but when the graveyard was threatened with being renovated and built over, people within the Wiccan/Witchcraft community raised enough money to have Gardener interred and moved to a new resting place in Tunis where a plaque marks his grave that reads: “Father of Modern Wicca. Beloved of the Great Goddess”.

Have you ever read Witchcraft Today? Tell me about how you feel it reflects on the modern Wiccan and Witchcraft community in the comments below!

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Fairies and Ghost Stories

What kind of cockamamie blog title is that, right?! I swear it’s not as crazy as it sounds — or is it?? Beltane season is creeping up on us which has a long-standing association with faeries. So, this week I wanted to talk about why that is and some ways you can (safely) work with the energy of the fey this May Day season.

Opposites like [Beltane and Samhain] are like imagery on a tarot card; inverse versions of one another.

– Avani Joy

Christians have Christmas and Easter, but witches — Witches have Samhain and Beltane. And boy, do we love those holidays. (Ok, I know — we love Yule, too, but today we’re focus on warm weather holidays!) What is it about these two Sabbats that capture our hearts and imaginations? Well, interestingly these two days are actually opposite of each other on the Wheel of the Year. When you start doing more studying you find that opposites like these are like imagery on a tarot card; inverse versions of one another. That is illustrated no more clearly, though, than Beltane and Samhain.

The ancient Celts only observed two season in the year; Summer and Winter, a Light Half and a Dark Half of the year. Samhain marks the starts of the Dark Half of the year and Beltane the Light Half. Still following right? I’m sure you’re still waiting to find out what faeries have to do with ghost stories. Hang in there — I’m getting there, I promise! The Celts held any “in-between” time or place as sacred locations or occasions in which the veil between the physical world and the spirit world would become thin. So, at Samhain it was believed that the spirits of our ancestors roamed the Earth at this time, visiting those who lived and taking part in the offerings left for them as was tradition. However, at Beltane the focus was instead on faeries and nature spirits. But… why?

And here we come back around to my mysteriously and potentially confusing blog title.

It was last Beltane season around this time when I came across this concept that really brought my understanding of the Wheel of the Year for this season into sharper focus:

To quote Jeremiah Curtin from his book Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World, ‘The attributes of a ghost – that is to say, the spirit of a dead man – are indistinguishable from those of a fairy.” Indeed, in times gone past fairies, ghosts, and spirits were almost interchangeable and frequently confused in mythology in folklore. This is no more apparent than the myth of the Banshee. Many already know that the banshee is a from the Tuatha da Dananna (part of Irish Fairy Folklore) and it was believed that her scream heralded the death of a loved one. A lesser known detail is that many believed that the Banshee was ancestrally tied to their family; a Banshee for each bloodline.

Here it is easy to see the blurred line between spirit, faerie, and ghost. While the Banshee is the easiest example, the same is true for a lot of old Fairy Folklore. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider that perhaps household spirits or elves might once have been somehow tied to the families that inhabited the homes in which they worked much like the House Elves from Harry Potter. (While JK Rowling’s character is suspect lately, no one can deny that her writings have been remarkably well researched and based in traditional folkloric and occult traditions!)

In Roman tradition, faeries were often equated with “Lares” which were believed to, rather than inhabiting graves, cemetaries, or old houses live unattached to any place at all. Instead they take up residence in fields, cities, and crossroads.

There is also some evidence out there that suggests that over the course of history as the pagan gods and goddess fell out of popular worship that their characteristics and abilities were bestowed onto these fiesty natures spirits. Even in the modern day among many inhabitants of the British Isles. They often refer to faeries instead as “The Little People” or “The Good People” and regularly make offerings to appease them as they are known for their mischief. When working with the fey this is really the best and most important thing one can do to safeguard from their shenanigans. (Although really no one is immune.) And you should never expect anything in return from them for your trouble. Although if a faerie should gift you something, you should feel blessed, indeed!

Either way, fairy folklore persists in the imagination of adults and children alike. I myself find that they like to occasionally do things like steal my keys or cell phone only to be found hours or days later in a perfectly visible place I’ve searched multiple times before. The most exciting interaction by far was when the faeries drew us into and got us hopelessly lost in the woodlands of Rhode Island while visiting my Great Aunt. (Herself a big believer in the fey.) On the upside the one time I really actively worked with them to their benefit I received the gift of a cicada wing for my trouble.

Have you ever had any interactions or dealings with the Fey? Were they positive or negative? I’d love to hear more about YOUR experiences with faeries in the comments below!

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5 Simple Daily Rituals for Magickal Living

Being a witchy isn’t necessarily just about moon rituals, Sabbats, and aesthetic. For many witches it is, but there is something extra special about incorporating your craft into your daily life that bring the magickal into the mundane and reminds us that “mundane” is really just an illusion. Of course, the idea of practicing daily can sound super overwhelming, but this week’s blog post is all about easy daily rituals you can incorporate to bring a little extra magick to your day-to-day life — many of which you already even be doing!

How is it possible you’re already doing some of these things? Well, some of these are normal parts of your morning routine, probably, but there is an important differentiation between your “routine” and a “ritual” that is key to understand. Merriam-Webster defines ritual as:

 1 : the established form for a ceremony specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony. 2a : ritual observance specifically : a system of rites. b : a ceremonial act or action. c : an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.

Ritual | Definition of Ritual by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)

Whereas “routine” is a “usual or fixed way of doing things”. What is the difference between them? What makes an act or action “ceremonial”? The answer is perfect and blessedly simple: INTENTION. By making an active choice to turn a routine into something special, something magickal — it becomes ritual. This is an incredibly easy step to making your daily wake-up a part of your spiritual practice.

What sorts of things can you do in your routine that can become daily ritual? Here are some suggestions of otherwise “mundane” things you can co-opt to become a part of your spiritual practice:

#1 Light Incense

As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, offering smoke is a common offering made to deity in some paths. While we should of course always make offerings in the spirit of giving, it certainly can’t hurt your karma to start the day with giving to those that watch over and protect you.

Additionally, our sense of smell is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain which is responsible for memory recall and emotion. That’s why scent is such a powerful evocator of memories and the same is true for the scents we use in spell and ritual work. Smell can be a valuable psychological trigger to help us get into the ritual mindset.

Some particularly powerful scents to try might include sage, cedar, sweetgrass, frankincense, sandalwood, rosemary, copal, dragon’s blood, or lavender.

#2 Light a Candle

Similar, yet different — there is something undeniable magical about the flickering flame of a candle adding mood light to, well — just about anything! Going through your morning beauty routine is no different. If the only thing separating routine from ritual is intention, the very act of light the candle and having the ambiance of firelight to accompany getting ready for the day, it can be a reminder of the sacred ritual you are performing; think of it the same way as casting a circle. It helps to create the sacred space. You can think of it as creating a protective area over everything the light touches as you go about the rest of your morning ritual.

I do a lot of my getting ready in the morning in my bathroom and I don’t know about you, but a candle in our bathroom is just a staple in there anyway for, well, very mundane smell-reasons. However, there’s no one to say you can’t use it for this, too, and no one will look at you funny for having a candle there.

#3 Wash Your Face

The act of physical cleansing and energetic cleansing can absolutely go hand-in-hand. The sensation of splashing cool water on one’s face can be enough to cool the entire body on a hot day. Why can’t it energetically cleansing the entire body, too? In many traditions the center of the forehead, nape of the neck, center of the palms, and soles of the feet are the most accessible entry points in the energetic field, so it is important to cleanse them often.

While you can certainly use your favorite face wash for this, you can also consider using Florida Water or at the end of your routine, too, which is a staple in some Afro-Caribbean practices in particular which is use for purification and cleansing. (Here are some other great bath recipes you could use for inspiration as well: 10 Spiritual Bath Recipes that Solve All Problems – HoodooWitch)

#4 Have a Cuppa

Whether tea or coffee is your fancy, this morning beverage break is another great opportunity for a little extra magick. If, like me, you prefer tea you can choose herbal teas to match an intention for the day. (Cinnamon for productivity, lavender and chamomile for de-stressing, etc.) You can even choose your mug based on intention, too; Red for productivity and a soothing blue for de-stressing, for example.

If you’re a strict coffee person, you can still infuse your morning brew with magick. You can visualize or trace runes or sigils into the beans, grounds, or even the brewed coffee itself to add a little extra intention to your morning.

#5 Meditate

I know you might be looking at me funny like — I though you said these were things I’m already doing?! But we meditate everyday often without even realizing it. Meditation is usually the practice of intentionally altered our brain waves to be between 4 – 12 Hz. Many associate it with thinking of nothing, but that’s just one TYPE of meditating.

Of course, sitting on your yoga mat in the lotus position in gyan mudra is one way to meditate there are many, many others. Any repetitive act or “routine” can be meditation. One of the biggest ways I meditate is while I’m driving or while I’m working at my day job (which is very repetitive hand motions) which gives me a lot of space to think and allow my mind to wander. I do my best thinking then! Often this is where my greatest inspirations come to me as well.

Alpha consciousness is the spring board for all magick. It’s where I often am when I am speaking to deity and where I received the most back. It comes in subtle imagery and phrases that help guide me along through my path from day-to-day.

Do you have any other daily routines that have become rituals for yourself that I didn’t list here? I’d love to hear about them! Tell me what YOUR daily rituals are in the comments below!

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A Brief History of Dion Fortune

I am SUPER excited to to returning to my 21st Century Witchcraft series this week with the 1940s and I decided that what better way to highlight the energy of a decade than to do a blog focusing on one of the most notable figures within the occult world at that time. Now that I am moving into the 1940s, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to learn and share more about one of the mothers of modern witchcraft: Dion Fortune!

This is not an actual photo of Dion Fortune — the ones out there are really low quality, but keep scrolling to see a few!

Dion Fortune was actually born Violet Mary Firth (also a super pretty name, for the record) in December of 1890. Although she passed away in 1946, her impression on the occult community has persisted and many of her ideas and teachings have become absorbed into the practice of modern witchcraft. Interestingly, Fortune did not actually identity as a witch or even a pagan herself. She was a self-identified Christian mystic and occultist.

Fortune showed a talent and interest for writing and poetry at a very young age. Her work was first published in 1904 at the tender age of 13. A promotional image shot for that publication is the only publicly known photograph in existence of her as a child. (At right)

As a child her family also saw her as “troubled”. They sent her to a horticultural academy for children who were troubled, but by Fortune’s own recollection she was mentally abused and manipulated there. This caused her to make the decision to study psychology and psychotherapy herself. Although she worked in the field, quite successfully, for a short while, she found what she perceived to be in the inefficacy of the technique frustrating and began to dive deeply into study of the occult through the Theosophical Society.

In 1919 she as initiate into the occult group Alpha et Omega which was an off-shoot of the Order of the Golden Dawn in addition to some training under Irish Freemason Theodore Moriarty previously. While she found the ceremonial magick of the Golden Dawn a bit stuffy and sterile, the background studies she undertook in Kabbalah and mediumship formed a foundation for her practice that would guide her through the rest of her spiritual journey.

She became fascinated with the concept of the “Ascended Masters” and over the course of several experiences claimed to have met figures such as Jesus himself, Socrates, Thomas Erskine, and the “Watchers of Avalon” who informed her that there had once been a druid college in Glastonbury, England; a thought that persists even today. Through work with mediumship and contacting these Ascended Masters, she created “The Cosmic Doctrine” in partnership with her friend Charles Loveday which was mostly distributed amongst her student but was published in 1949 after her death.

Fortune and Loveday started their own occult group, The Fraternity of Inner Light, and she was eventually excommunicated from Alpha et Omega due to what was probably some bad blood between Fortune at the leaders of the occult group at the time over her branching off into her own organization. She also briefly rejoined the Theosophical Society quickly rising to the status of president, but left over a disagreement on how much focus should have been placed on working with Jesus as an Ascended Master. Fortune clearly had her own ideas for the ways things should be done that rubbed some people the wrong way.

In the 1930s Fortune’s spiritual path took her in a more personally, introspected direction as she began to focus less on mediumship and more on the construction of ritual. In 1938, Dion published a novel (one of several written in her lifetime) by the name of “The Sea Priestess“. While her works are many, the Sea Priestess has become an integral piece of occult and witchcraft history. Despite being classified as fiction within its pages Fortune as good as lays out clearly for any reader the structure for occult ritual. Fortune describes in the book, from her knowledge of her own training, the important of polarities and opposites (usually described in terms of gender which many are trying to get away from in the modern day). The “friction” between the divine masculine and divine feminine are what create.(Although in her personal life she was often described as being something of a “prude”.) This idea was absorbed quite thoroughly by modern Wicca and Witchcraft. Some have described the ritual in The Sea Priestess as the closest description to “Drawing Down the Moon” as they have ever seen in text.

Fortune wrote other famous occult-related works and rituals including a book about The Greek God Pan in 1936, but never does quite touch on the power and impact of The Sea Priestess; far better describing goddess work than work with the divine masculine. (This makes me personally wonder what this says about gender-based occult practices and if she didn’t write it as well because it wasn’t really taught to her in the same way.) She refers to the need for society to get in touch with the essence of Pan as “vitamin P” in her writing which is just hilarious to me, so I had to pass it on here so now you know about “vitamin P” for, you know, PAN, too. (*wink, wink, nudge, nudge*)

Towards the end of her life, Fortune had the opportunity to meet Aleister Crowley whom she believed to be very powerful and adept as an occultist. She had dreams and aspirations for her late life to unite all the occultists in England, but she fell ill in 1945 and eventually passed away in 1946 from leukemia. Her dream of uniting the occult world never quite came to fruition. Because many of the Fraternity of Inner Light members feared the organization had been becoming a cult that simply centered around Fortune, many of her diaries, photos, letters, and even manuscripts were destroyed.

Her published works include 20 pieces of non-fiction occult works and 9 pieces of fiction including a collection of short stories. (You can find the complete list on her Wikipedia page.)

Have you ever read any of Dion Fortune’s works? Tell me about your favorites in the comments below!

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The True Story of St. Patrick

In the modern day, St. Patrick has become a figurehead to represent the whole of Irish culture as the official “Saint” of Ireland. Him and his, often inflated and exaggerated, life’s history inspired a modern holiday centered entirely around the celebration of that culture, originated in great part by Irish-American immigrants around the 18th century. But so many of his stories are patently false and in many ways, this holiday is one of the least pagan-friendly ones we celebrate today. Let’s do a bit of a dive into the man, the myth, and the legend:

The Man

Before we can talk about everything that’s TRUE, let’s first talk about the unedited versions of the stories that ARE out there. Without going into too much detail, many believe St. Patrick was a British or Irish bishop who was later canonized for his part to play in bringing Christianity to Ireland. Following a couple difference instances in which he believed he heard the “Voice of God” speaking to him (in dreams, mostly) he believed he was given a divine mission to convert the pagans of Ireland. He was credited with using existing pagan symbols to explain Christian concepts to the native pagans; the three leaf clover and the triquetra to symbolize the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost if you are unfamiliar) and superimposing an image of the sun over the cross to create what is now known as the “Celtic Cross”, to name a couple. He is believed to single-handedly have brought Christianity to and eradicated paganism from Ireland ushering in a new era of Christianity and moralism.

One particularly well-known story is that there was one particular instance that St. Patrick gave a sermon that was so moving and inspiring that with it he banished all of the snakes from Ireland by herding them out to sea over the edge of a cliff where he had recently completed a 40 day fast. This awe-inspiring event was classified as a “miracle” and often cited as yet another reason for St. Patrick’s status as a saint.

The Myth

There are so many things wrong with that version of events it’s hard to know where to begin! Firstly, though, St. Patrick was originally a citizen of Rome-occupied Britain (which actually makes him Roman, not British or Irish). He has a long history before becoming ordained as clergy that involved several years enslaved by Irish folks who had invaded and kidnapped him into slavery. After returning home, he did experience a vision that led him to return to Ireland and undergo studies to enter the clergy. He did receive a message in a dream that led him to “Spread the Word” to the Irish pagans using hybridized symbolism. However, this is where most of the truths stop.

St. Patrick, firstly, has never actually been canonized as a saint. However, the story of St. Patrick banishing the snake particulary inaccurate. The first hitch in this exciting, but mythological, tale is that snakes haven’t even existed in Ireland since prior to the most recent Ice Age. If there were no snakes — why does this story exist at all? For a while now, the prevailing theory among many scholars has been that the “snakes” were an allegory for the pagans and Druids that St. Patrick “drove” from Ireland. Some sources suggest this is unlikely due to the use of allegory and metaphor in storytelling of the time, but I would perhaps uneducatedly argue that symbolism and story have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of time. Symbolism is the language of human consciousness. The association between snakes and pagans or Druids is often suggested in the way that snakes have long been paired with “evil” within the Christian context since the story of the Garden of Eden went widespread and Christianity became the “norm” within society. Since pagans and Druids did not worship the “One, True God” the only other alternative they could perceive was that their gods were evil and they were evil by extension.

Those sources that point out that the snake-pagan connection might be tenuous at best also point out that while St. Patrick’s efforts may have significantly effected the population’s balance of Pagans to Christians in favor of Christianity, paganism was still flourishing before and significantly after St. Patrick’s life and death. The Druid penchant for romanticized and exaggerated storytelling may very well explain how such a wild and fallacious fable became so well-known after St. Patrick’s death that it finally became accepted as fact until the Age of Information caught up with its web of lies.

The Legend

When Irish immigrants came over to American in the 17th – 19th centuries St. Patrick’s Day celebrations started as a way to help cure their homesickness and pay homage to the culture that birthed them. Over time the holiday has gathered many traditions; some that are imports from its country of origin and some that seem mostly Irish-American in invention. (For example — corned beef? American. Mind blowing, I know.) What started as a solemn day commemorating the death of St. Patrick with traditional feasting — like every holiday — turned into the rambunction holiday of parades (also a primarily American tradition), day drinking, literally wearing green from the top of your head to the tip of your toes often incorporating face paint and foam fingers, and drinking weirdly green beer like a college football game.

However, many modern pagans don’t relish in a holiday that was literally built on the eradication (or, at the very least suppression) of another — their — religious and spiritual choice. Those that do, often choose to take a different approach by wearing snake symbols to represent what has come to also be colloquially referred to as “All Snakes Day”.

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Tell me what your holiday traditions are in the comments below!

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Preparing to Plant Seeds

We’re officially in that awkward period right in between Winter and Spring. Will we have a blizzard? Or will we have 45°F day that brings promises of Springtime breezes? The conventional wisdom says the Spring Equinox is the time to start all our seeds in planters, but first — in most agrarian cultures — it is time to shake out the cobwebs and bless the fields and no tradition embodies this practice quite as well as the Bulgarian holiday, Baba Marta Day!

Baba Marta Day is a Bulgarian holiday still celebrated today in early March — one of the few holdovers in the modern day from pagan Europe. Baba Marta herself is a folkoric figure who is the personification of the month of March. (Baba = Grandmother, Marta = March!) In the legend, Baba Marta is a temperamental old lady who only smiles when its sunny and is prone to fits of temper — explaining the often unpredictability of early Spring weather.

Traditions involved creating these small effigies/dolls with red and white yarn (called a “martenitsa“). They would be worn on the wrist or body until a stork or swallow was seen signifying the start of winter at which point they would be tied to a blossoming tree, as pictured above. Most sources online suggest that white represents “new beginnings” and red “birth” — a fertility symbol to help bring on Spring. However, let’s be real here. Anyone who’s studied even a modicum of fertility religions or sex magick knows that red often represents menstrual blood (birth) and white represents semen (new life). This is why red and white is often associated with Beltane, but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves!

Baba Marta Day is good, pagan fun and can be a fun way to celebrate the upcoming Spring in and of itself outside the Wheel of the Year. However, I think even apart from this specific holiday now is the time of year to be preparing the seeds we plant at Imbolc. That can be literal in the sense of creating blueprint for your outdoor gardens this year or buying seeds and gardening supplies. However, it can also be symbolic as most things in the Wheel of the Year are and are, in my estimation, intended to often be. They are a gateway to using the energies of the seasons that are echoed within ourselves; As Above, So Below.

It is said that Baba Marta shakes out her mattress and the dust comes off like snow which explains how we get those late season snowstorms, but I think this is also a wonderfully analogous symbol for how this is our last opportunity shed the old to make way for the new. The time for Spring Cleaning is afoot. It is also a wonderful time to ask for blessings on the soil or land where you will be planting for the year. Again, this can be literal or figurative. You can break eggs over the land to bless it (which some argue is the origin of the Easter Egg hunt) or you can petition the gods and/or your ancestors to bless that new project you’re about to undertake.

What projects are you planning for this year? Do you have plans to ask for blessings from Spirit before you start? Tell me about what exciting things are coming up for YOU this Spring and Summer in the comments below!

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The Sacred Symbolism of the Hare

Now that we’re almost to March, Ostara is fast approaching and I figured it was high time to start talking about Spring Equinox symbolism and none is more prolific than the rabbit or hare. However, the symbolism of rabbits and hares is not limited to season and I feel that it is a useful practice to look into the symbols on a wider scale, too. The hare was once a big part of the collective imagination but it has since fallen out of popularity. So, let’s talk about the symbolism of bunnies!

Although today you’re more likely to hear about the “man on the moon”, it was once popular phrasing to instead refer to the “hare” on the moon. Actually, looking at photos, I feel like this pareidolia — the phenomenon of seeing faces in everyday objects — is more like a Magic Eye optical image than a true likeness. (Although in all fairness, I was never able to see those pictures!) But the hare on the moon seems like an obvious image. Maybe it’s just my own desire to perceive pagan imagery in as many things as possible, LOL. Check it out below and see for yourself and tell me in the comments below which YOU think looks more obvious:

(Drag slider back and forth to see for yourself! Man or Rabbit?)

In any case, regardless of what YOU think is clearer, the hare on the moon was once commonplace and its being so widespread of an image led to the rabbit and the moon being connected often across many cultures in mythology and folklore including all sorts of fascinating origin stories about HOW the hare got on the moon especially in Asian and Aztec folklore. Diving into those is a bit beyond the scope of this post today, but it certainly makes for fascinating and whimsical research and reading.

The hare on the moon (alternatively referred to as the “Jade Hare” or the “Gold Hare” in some very old poetry) was often believed to be eternally toiling to grind and macerate herbs for medicine for humanity. In many depictions, the moon hare is indeed seen with a mortar and pestle. The hare also played into some ancient South American folklore as symbolic for both the moon (sometimes as an actual deity/goddess) and selflessness. Across the board, the hare is represented as wise and giving — even considered a bodhisattva (enlightened master) serving humanity.

And, of course I couldn’t wrap up this blog without discussing the much anticipated topic of how rabbits and Ostara became associated with one another. In addition to the rabbit’s appearance in the moon, their observable earthly counterparts are also very well-known for their ability and speed at which they procreate. It became an incredibly easy leap ( — HA, leap?! See what I did there???) to associate rabbits with fertility which has long been a theme of all Spring festivals and feast days. (Actually — pretty much EVERY pagan holiday, period, when you think about it.) But that doesn’t exactly explain the Easter bunny itself. How did we get from the fertility-rabbit theme to where secular Easter has come today?

The most likely theory out there right now is that our modern Easter bunny in America was actually the result of German immigrants and the Pennsylvania Dutch starting in the 1700s. (Remember when I talked about them in my 20th Century Witchcraft video about The Roarin’ 20s?) The Germans brought with them to the United States and folkloric figure called the “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.”. Children would set out their hats as “nests” for the osterhase the night before Easter with the belief that this mythological bunny would lay eggs in them for children who were well-behaved and, well, rabbit poop for those that weren’t. The eggs were often dyed (using natural dye) and designs were scratched into the eggs using a needle or pin. This tradition ran rampant throughout the country eventually leading to our modern day bunny-and-egg traditions.

Why eggs? Well, they were likely symbolic of abundance at a time when food was sometimes scarce. Not to mention their obvious connection to fertility as well — but that’s a story for another day! Have you ever tried using natural egg dye? Tell me about your own egg-travagant experiences with the Ostara bunny and eggs in the comments below! (And don’t forget to tell me if you think the hare or the man in the moon makes more sense either — I’d like to know I’m not alone in this. LOL)

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Making Meaningful Offering Magick

For those witches that follow a Hellenic path, February 21st is a significant holiday called Feralia. Feralia is one of the many ancient festivals that actually led to our modern Halloween. Despite the fact that is it celebrated at a very different time of year, Feralia is a holiday dedicate to honoring one’s ancestors which was primarily celebrated with feasting (as is pretty much EVERY holiday everywhere, LOL) and making offerings to the spirits of those who have passed. So, this week I wanted to spotlight the practice of making offerings and some ideas for the types of things used for said offerings.

Listening With All Five Senses

Before we get to my short list of suggestions for things that can be used as offerings I want to talk a bit about the practice of leaving offerings in general. While you could certainly skip ahead, making offerings is a crucial part of any practice that involves working with deity and while there is often long history and lineage of typical offerings that a deity (or ancestor) is known to like, I think there is something extra special about developing a relationship with one’s ancestors and/or patron deity(ies) and determining what they want specifically from you by way of offerings by simply asking and listening.

Everyone experiences this listening differently and more strongly through different senses but it helps to use all of them especially until you begin to recognize which of yours is the most strong. Most importantly, it is vital that before you even do any asking and listening that you learn to discard your self-doubt and disbelief. Deity speaks softly and subtly, often in symbol and archetype rather than in words that way we often all wish they would. (It sure would be a lot easier to understand!) Too often when an image or sounds comes to us in these quiet moments we are hasty to dismiss it as “brain noise” or our “imagination”. But, what if we could throw that doubt away and accept the noise as God? Accept the whispers as magick? (Because, um… they are??) That space is where deity speaks! You only need to learn to listen with an open heart and discard doubt.

Of course, researching your deity or knowing the ancestor that you wish to work with is and can be an important part of your journey of making offerings, too. It can be a good place to start if you’re still learning to let go of your self doubt or as a springboard for inspiration when gleaning for yourself what offerings your deity or ancestor might most appreciate. Of course every deity or ancestor is going to be a bit different in their preferences, but here are some suggestions that you might find they like when you are feeling out what they want for yourself:

Types of Offerings

Food Offerings

These are some of the most common. What type of food will your deity or ancestor prefer? Look into myth, stories, and history regarding them. Aphrodite might like apples. Hecate might like garlic. Your great great aunt might like twinkies! There are no wrong answers!

A practice that I’ve seen and love is the idea of a platter with many different types of foods — all the better if you have stiff broad leaf trees that grow around you because you can use a large leaf as a biodegradable and beautiful platter for your offering smorgasboard.

Flowers & Herbs

Most deities (and really anyone — ancestors, you, me, etc.) associate with or love certain flowers or herbs. As usual, you can search mythology and folklore for inspiration. If you wildcraft and work with local, wild herbs and plants this can be a part of developing a relationship with the plants. For example, I live in Connecticut where tobacco is grown in plentitude and I’ve also found that Baba Yaga (Russian folkloric figure) loves tobacco.

Dried or fresh flowers can be lovely, too. I think there’s something extra special about flowers that come from funerary ceremonies, too. (You know, how they let you take a flower at the end of a funeral? Those! — Don’t steal cemetery flowers. LOL That’s bad karma!)

Incense & Oils

This is similar to herbs because most smoke comes from smolderings and burning them, but other burnables can be appropriate such as certain wood fires (ash wood for Odin, apple wood for Fae), resin (Copal for Santa Muerte OR Frankincense for Apollo), or oils (Spikenard for Mary Magdelene/Yeshua OR Sweet Birch for Diana). Rosemary can be a useful offering for any Greco-Roman deity.

Oils can be used to anoint statues or other petition objects or poured directly on the earth or stones.

Time & Energy

Maintaining an altar or outdoor space dedicated to a deity or ancestors can be a beautiful type of offering that requires nothing but time and energy. The idea of working with Spirit is one of reciprocation and giving. That doesn’t need to be something tangible! Working with the land or the spaces you live and worship within benefits not just your relationship to deity and your ancestors, but also your relationship to your Self and your living spaces in a way nothing else truly can.

Do you celebrate Feralia or work with ancestral spirits through the practice of making offerings? What types of offerings do the spirits YOU work with tend to appreciate the most? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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Capturing the Neo-Classical

As a people that appreciate both the psychology and entertainment value of mythology AND the alluring aesthetic of antique and vintage home décor and ritual accoutrement, it only makes sense that many of us would love and feel an attraction to the Neo-Classical aesthetic. I hear the questions in your head: “How do YOU know what I like… and what is Neo-Classical even mean anyway???” That’s what this week’s blog is all about: what IS Neo-Classism and how can I recognize it when I am searching for vintage pieces to include in my collection?

Neoclassism was an art movement that also greatly influenced architecture and home décor (as art often does).  In architecture and home design, Neoclassism is characterized by clean lines and wide open spaces of Greek and Roman temples. As an art style it hit the peek of its popularity in the late 1700s following some very important archaeological finds in Greece in the early 1700s that reignited the public interest in Classical art styles, but its influence is still strong even today and it is a common source of inspiration for even modern designers.

Neoclassicism in the arts is an aesthetic attitude based on the art of Greece and Rome in antiquity, which invokes harmony, clarity, restraint, universality, and idealism.

Neoclassical art | arts | Britannica

Neoclassical style as it comes to furniture or home decor is often described in comparison to the French Rococo style from which is evolved as a sort of counter-point. Rococo was extremely ornamental and, for lack of better word, “frilly”. Neoclassism was a step in a more practical, pared down design that preferred columns and symmetry to paw-footed curving flourishes. Neoclassism was also characterized by light, airy colors and materials like marble, travertine, and medium-to-light-toned hardwood.

(LEFT) You can see some of the flowing shapes and design features that were typical of the French Rococo style. (RIGHT) you can see the simpler. yet just as elegant NeoClassical style. (Drag slider for full photo view!)

Where once the Ancient Greek philosophers romanticized Egypt as the seat of psycho-spiritual wisdom, Westerners have since done the same thing to Ancient Greece (as its most prolific during the NeoClassical period) like a twisted lineage of occult knowledge. Of course both were and are colored by modern perceptions and exaggerated notions of what life was really like for these ancient ancestors. Greco-roman classical and neo-classical design feels a bit like a portal that can help us tap into ancestral wisdom and knowledge. We can use the art and styles of those times periods to connect to those ancient peoples who venerated and worshipped the old gods as a matter of fact as opposed to the small, but mighty minority of (Neo)pagans today. This can give us a sense of power and connection to our gods in a way that I feel modern art and decor sometimes lacks.

You can see both Rococo AND Neoclassical styles together in the same room here. When decorating with various period pieces in modern decor, there is absolutely nothing wrong with mixing as seen above! It adds what I view as an almost bohemian twist to the eclectic, old world charm!

Have you been decorating with Neo-classical decor and furniture as a matter of course without realizing it? Or perhaps you prefer the more ornate and flowery French Rococo style? Let me know which one you like better in the comments below!

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The Holocaust and Witchcraft

This week I am proceeding with my 20th Century Witchcraft series with a spotlight on the 1930s! One of the biggest events of the 1930s that forever colored and impacted life since is the Holocaust. In some indirect ways Hitler and the Holocaust influences not only how we viewed Judaism and Jewish folk in general, but may have also had a lasting impact on the credibility of the occult and mystic practices ever since.

Nearly 1,000 uniformed men wearing swastika arm bands and carrying Nazi banners parade past a reviewing stand in New Jersey on July 18, 1937. The New Jersey division of the German-American Bund opened its 100-acre camp at Sussex Hills. Dr. Salvatore Caridi of Union City, spokesman for a group of Italian-American Fascists attending as guests, addressed the bund members as “Nazi Friends.” (AP Photo)

Before there was QAnon there was many other organizations that presented as far right leaning with connection to conspiracy theory and none was probably more damaging to the occult or modern Neopagan/Witchcraft community as a whole as our public standing is concerned as The Silver Legion. The Silver Legion was a group led by a man named William Dudley Pelley; on the surface a group of American Nazi sympathizers, but that’s not what ties them to mysticism, of course. Pelley, prior to his attempt to become the “American Fuhrer” was simply a Hollywood screenwriter, but in 1928 he had an out of body experience that would change his life. In this experience he claimed to meet God, Jesus Christ, and other Ascended Masters and reportedly received information from them that white people were superior and their souls originated from the highest evolution of planets. (Whereas Jews and Blacks did not.) He additionally had a long-standing dislike of Jewish people who he convinced were secretly in positions of power in a conspiracy to take over the world. Together, these became a dangerous a slippery slope.

In the next few years following his “revelations” he dabbled heavily in automatic writing, levitation, telepathy, and of course continued his work with meditation and trance work to connect to the Ascended Masters to receive what he perceived to be ancient and valuable spiritual truths. These truths led Pelley to the strong belief that America needed a white supremacist power with a renewed focus on Christianity and religious values.

In 1933, when Adolf Hitler rose to power, Pelley was inspired and say in Hitler a kindred spirit to emulate and praise for his ideology and political standing. Pelley formed a group call The Silver Legion and over the course of several years, amassed a following of anywhere from 15,000 to 35,000 (depending on the source) of disciples and followers all across the United States due to his touring and recruitment efforts. A lot of sources suggest that a lot of the people that joined the Silver Legion were far more interested in the occult, mystical aspects of membership than they were its anti-Semetic sentiments, but the damage was ultimately the same.

The Silver Legion went on to be an active group until 1941 when Pelley disbanded it due to pressure from the government regarding the dubious nature of the organizations actions and political efforts. In 1942, he was arrested, tried, and convicted of 12 counts of sedition. Pelley received 15 years in prison and was released in 1950. Between his release and his death he did attempt to start a new new age/occult modality called “Soulcraft” which places a great deal of emphasis and work with extraterrestrials and , but it never did get the same traction as The Silver Legion.

One of the biggest things that the Silver Legion made clear as a general message apart from any anti-Semetism was that there was an overwhelming attraction and desire by the general public to, put it simply, believe in magic. Americans were craving connection in this way and it was at a time when witchcraft itself was illegal and Pelley’s was the only offer on the table. Although I can find no other sources to suggest it (in fact, there are surprisingly few sources that talk about the Silver Legion in general!), I suspect that Pelley’s connection to conspiracy theory and anti-semetism caused an indirect association to be made between mysticism and (often racist) conspiracy theory that continues to challenge the credibility of magick and mysticism even to this day.

The Silver Legion is part of World War II history that is often buried or ignored, but a fascinating (if not horrifying) chapter in occult history. Have you heard of the Silver Legion before or was it a surprise to you after reading today? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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Storytelling Through the Art of Secondhand

Several months ago I did a huge live stream video about altar building before I had really narrowed down how to deliver a (slightly) more succinct live stream topic. (I’m sorry, I like to talk and I have a lot to say and I REALLY struggle to do anything less than 20 minutes!) It’s long and a little rambley. Someday I’ll re-do the whole thing, but this week one of the concepts I really wanted to work with in my blog and live stream is the power of storytelling through decorating and altar-building. I came across this wonderful quote that said, “The stories we live and tell provide coherence and meaning and orient our sense of purpose.” And what witch can say that we don’t strive for those things in our altars and spiritual pursuits? So, let’s talk about how we can use altar building and decorating to do just that:

Firstly of course it’s important to recognize that there are numerous types and varieties of altars and shrines that someone might want to build. A working altar (which is what most people think of when you say the word “altar”), ancestor altars, faerie altars, elemental altars, altars for kids, shrines to specific deities or energetic/spiritual beings or creatures, altars built for a specific intentions, and I’m sure still others that I am forgetting. The way you choose to decorate and even arrange and altar can tell a story not just about what the altar is for, but a story of your spiritual journey, and even your life experiences as a whole!

Most of the “altars” that we build are more accurately “shrines” beyond those that are used for rituals or actual spell work. Where altars are often “required” to be set up a certain way based on the tradition a witch follows, there is always room for play with intuitive and practical space concerns. (If you have a small space, sometimes you have to improvise a bit!) So, moving forward I want to clarify that most of this blog post is referring more accurately to “shrines”, but all can apply!

What Comes First?

When you’re ready to design your shrine (whether it’s to your ancestors, faeries, or maybe a specific god or goddess), what comes first? Do you start with a central inspiring item? Or shop based on what you are trying to honor and work with? Of course, just like the chicken and egg question, no one really knows and more importantly, does it really matter?

Either way, it all starts with inspiration. All good stories are about a journey and your altar should be no different. Of course, when it comes to altar building one of the first, most important steps is having an attention-grabbing introduction.

I don’t know about you, but when I first start any book if it doesn’t grab my attention and hook me in within the first chapter I am very unlikely to read the rest and an altar is no different. It should have, as a focal point, something that pulls you in; something of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so that could be something personally meaningful that you love, but may not be the most attractive item to anyone else, or it could be a beautiful vintage or antique piece that you love. It could be the color scheme or the overall aesthetic that you love that just pulls you in. However, by starting with the overall goal of personal, aesthetic appeal not only will it be lovely to look at, but it will invite you in to use and maintain it as a place of beauty and personal significance over and over again.

Heritage and History

You have an ancestral past and personal history that has led you to where you are today. The items you choose for your altars and shrines can be a reminder of where you’ve come from and what you’ve been through to get to where you are today. Even if you didn’t have family that came from a magickal or witchy background, those dearly departed family members still had a big impact on us. Having items that remind us of those ancestors can be a joyful reminder of the lessons they taught.

My paternal grandmother loved to collect old Avon perfume bottles. She was collecting them before they were even “vintage” just because they were pretty.

My favorite perfume bottle was always one that looked like a Siamese cat with gemstones for eyes. When she passed it away it was the very first item I claimed for myself. I kept a few others, but for the rest of my life I will think of her when I see cats (which she owned about 20 of) and when I find vintage Avon perfume bottles when I am on the hunt for vintage and antique treasures. They are a hugely prominent item in my ancestors altars and shrines for their beauty, but they also tell the story of my grandmother and how she helped shape my early life.

Do you have any vintage or antique items that you keep on your altar that help to tell YOUR story? Tell me about it in the comments below!