A few weekends ago, Bridey and I went to a retreat called W.O.M.A.N. – ‘Women of Magick and Nature‘. I’d learned about it earlier this year, and had been looking forward to going for some time. Despite how ‘connected’ I tend to think I am, it always surprises me to stumble upon some gem of knowledge or activity or event that is totally new to me. WOMAN has apparently been around for years, though it’s gone by several different names and changed leadership over the years – but the spirit of the gathering is in tact (at least I hope so – what I brought home from the experience was absolutely wonderful).
Over the course of the weekend, I got to meet so many bad-ass Texas witches – who have been around for years and both been instrumental in shaping the Pagan community in Southeast Texas and guiding the women who will come after them. I love that the traditions that started within Texas are being passed on, and at the same time, new life and vitality and ideas are breathed into them as new ones learn and adopt and grow. It felt good – being part of a group that, with each change of name and hands, both honors what came before while accepting and facilitating the changes to come. It’s a process that’s on-going… not without moments of frustration and sadness for what was lost, I’m sure, but overwhelmingly with love and excitement for that which is yet to come.
One of the things I was surprised to find is how much I enjoyed talking with the older women at this retreat. Having a community with a more diverse mix of ages is something that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mother and grandmothers and aunts and great-aunts (both those by blood and those by choice) would sit around talking and shelling peas, or playing cards. I always assumed that I would have that when I grew up, and I suppose in some ways, I do – but there were often elements of faith discussed in those kitchen-table gatherings and that’s the part that’s been lacking. It was energizing to be in an environment where spiritual ideas and concepts were so openly discussed and considered.
In my friend group, I am one of the oldest there – my kids are older, I’ve been married for the longest… I don’t have anyone to learn from. That’s not to say that I know everything, or that those with less time on the clock can’t or don’t have things to teach me – they absolutely do, and I eagerly accept their teaching just as readily as I do that from elders – but it’s not the same as being taught/mentored by an older woman. There’s something about the way an older woman imparts her knowledge – not universally, of course – personalities are what they are, but in general, the wisdom of years has something unique to offer, and I’ve missed it.
It was lovely being around so many women who wanted to teach and to learn from them. There’s something about the Pagan community, about the willingness to teach and be taught, that I don’t see in other religious communities. Whereas other communities all look to a single leader or group of leaders, at events like this, the floor is open to anyone who has something to offer. We had classes and workshops all weekend long, from divination, to crafts, to astrology… it was really interesting and fun to be part of. I felt like there was plenty of room for everyone’s time and differing opinions were heard and no one was belittled or told that they were ‘wrong’… it was such a great atmosphere.
One of the things I learned that I just love is a style of stone divination. Basically, you choose small stones, one for each planet in the solar system, plus ones for the sun and moon, and (to start with), a stone to represent yourself. Using either traditional or personal correspondences for the planets/stones, cast the stones within a circle (a 3’ loop of leather cord, or on a cloth or other surface with a defined edge). Depending on your preference, you can read the stones with the center point as the present, moving outwards for a timeline, or as the edge of the circle closest to you being the present, moving further along the timeline as you move away form yourself. Stones that are closest to ‘you’ (your signifier in the spread) have more of an effect, or their influence is in play, while those farther away from you have less influence. That’s a very (very) simplistic explanation, but gives the gist of the method. It’s also highly adaptable and open to various personalizations. We were left with the instruction, “Make it your own!”, so I did.
And then, there were the rituals. I won’t go into detail, simply because I feel like those were special times to me, and private. But these ladies went all out for planning and preparation, and it was really just awesome to be part of it.
I am so glad that I went. I struggle with anxiety issues, and as a child, I’d have passed an opportunity like this up. I’d have wanted to go, and been regretful for bowing out, but the stress and dread of meeting new people and participating would have been too much, so I’d have declined or bowed out when it came time to leave. I am so glad that I’ve worked through a lot of those issues. It was still hard to walk into a room in progress (we arrived mid-class), but without a doubt, this was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time and I am so glad that I got to share the experience. There’s another retreat in the Spring, and I am hoping that I get to go!
Over the past few years, I’ve come to recognize the importance and value in creating my own care products. Some things, like soap, I’ve tried and found that I don’t have the patience for, so I buy handmade soaps from reputable artisans, but other things I’ve dabbled in to try it out and found that I prefer making them myself.
Of late, herbal supplements have come under fire for not actually containing the herb that the label says, which can cause effects ranging from ‘nothing’ to ‘severe allergic reaction’, depending on what the supplement capsule actually contained and the user’s health history is. Some of the fillers used were rice flour and soy-based. If you were on a gluten-free or ketogenic diet, that could be enough to affect the user.
Of particular interest to me was that saw palmetto berry was one of the supplements they tested. I have PCOS, and have been taking a bi-phasic herbal blend to help regulate my symptoms, and SPB is one of the ingredients. I’ve been creating my own, because there isn’t a version of this particular blend available commercially, and I like to tweak things to my own use rather than use a recipe I find somewhere else, but I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to ‘think’ that something is helping, or worse – rule it out as helpful because you were really taking a capsule full of fillers.
This has further application as well. For Pagans on a shoestring budget, buying commercially packaged encapsulated herbs might be an easy way to access more expensive and/or uncommon herbs in small, inexpensive amounts for spellcrafting. While not the best quality, sometimes that might be the best option available. But if you’re counting on those herbal energies to aid your spellcraft, what’s the effect of using an entirely different set of energies (based on the fillers or actual product in the capsule)?
For my own purposes, both for personal/healing use and for spellcrafting, I’ve found it less expensive and a way to ensure the quality of the herbs I use, to slowly build up my apothecary cabinet with herbs and oils. I usually buy herbs in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs, essential oils and carrier oils our local health food store or from a company like Young Living, Eden’s Garden or DoTerra, and sometimes even from the grocery store (for tea-tree and avocado oils). I like Wyndmere’s blends (Clearer Skin is awesome!!), and have tried other brands as well. It’s definitely expensive, but when you plan out your purchases over a length of time, you can build a quality apothecary cabinet that you can depend on.
At this point, I’ve built my supplies to the point where I feel the need for cohesive storage, and have started buying containers (when they’re on sale, making them $1 each) and making labels for my herb jars. I’ve recently discovered the KonMari method of simplification, and have been taking strides to make her stance of ‘have nothing in your life that doesn’t bring you joy‘ my own. My herbs and oils, which are essential to my daily practice and family’s health, bring me joy because I know their value, and I want them to be more easily accessed and beautiful. I just created new labels:
I found a couple of old spice racks at Goodwill, and use that to store my oils in (and on – they’re creeping out of the spaces as my collection grows). Eventually, I will get around to re-painting them, but for now, they’re plain wood-grain and lovely in their simplicity.
My goal in writing this post is two-fold. One, if you’re a new Pagan, a new-to-herbcraft Pagan, or a Pagan who is under financial constraints, to let you know that ‘slow and steady’ is the way to go. It takes time, but eventually, you get to the point where you have the tools you want at your disposal. It’s absolutely worth the time and effort (and delay) that it takes to build your cabinet to ensure that the quality of the products you’re using is as good as you can make it. Secondly, to encourage those of you who haven’t taken the leap into herbcrafting for health use to give it a try. Start with something simple and easy, like tinctures (which only require herbs and alcohol or vinegar), or something honey-based, like elderberry syrup or ‘throat coat’ (made with honey, lemon and ginger – just add slices of lemon and ginger to a honey jar and let sit. Add a tablespoon to hot tea. Re-fill with honey when it gets low; add new lemon and ginger occasionally). Once you get some of those basics under your belt to build confidence, you can branch out into creating your own supplements. It feels good to take charge of your health, and to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
I have been wanting to post this for some time, and am at long last getting around to doing it – yay! I have finally created a Shadow Book that I am happy with. I’ve experimented for years with different combinations of methods for creating and maintaining my Shadow Book, or as more proper pagans than I call it, Book of Shadows (I’ve always called it a ‘shadow book’ and am too old to change that habit now, so deal with it). Here it is, in all it’s unveiled, gigantic glory!
Over the years, I’ve tried various books and journals and binders, only to find that nothing was big enough to house all of the information that I wanted handy. Or, if it was big enough, I’d find or write something that needed to go between two pages that were already written on. I’m also notoriously fickle, so I’d end up wanting to change the way the sections in the book were ordered, which is impossible in a traditionally bound book. So, frustrated, I’d try another method.
Binders worked well for me for a long time. I used two main three-ring binders, and a variety of small notebooks for reflections and journaling. That got tiresome, as everything had its specific book that I had to keep up with. I’m a pretty organized person, but that was too many books to keep up with, even for me. To make matters worse, when I was working, inevitably I’d want something that was in another book or binder, and have to stop, locate the information and then continue. Such disruptions became bothersome, to the point that it was interfering with my practice – why bother if I was constantly under-prepared (and by under-prepared, I mean some bit of information that would flicker to life in remembrance once I got started – not things I should have had prepared before beginning).
But now, I have all of my information – what would traditionally be separated into a Book of Shadows, a Book of Mirrors and a Grimoire, all between two covers. Because of the way this book is maintained, adding new information, or changing the way information is organized is a matter of removing the cover, adding or shifting pages around, and replacing the cover.
I was inspired by some of the more commercial journals that I’ve seen on YouTube, particularly Pagan Scrapbook Supply. I love her books and supplies, but I am definitely not in the market to spend in excess of a hundred dollars for something I was reasonably sure that I could make for myself. And so, I started crafting! I knew that I wanted a post-bound Book. As a formerly avid scrapbooker, post-bound albums have the best flexibility when it comes to making changes; even PSS used the same concept (but with straps instead of posts, and two instead of three). All I really needed was the front and back cover. My first version was made from an old scrapbook that I had. It was the bare-bones, cardboard covers that tied with a string that I found at a dollar-store years ago. I cut the cover down (from 12×12 to a more manageable 8.5×11) and then used a variety of glues, papers and paints to make it look like old leather. I was semi-successful. It worked, but ultimately was a little more ‘rugged’ than I wanted. As a first attempt, it wasn’t bad, but was crooked, and not as solid as I wanted.
The next version, and what I am currently using, involved a pre-made, 8.5×11 post-bound scrapbook frame that I found at the craft store (similar to this one, with extension posts and multi-size posts). With a coupon, it was $10. I’d have done this straight away had I known that there was a commercially produced 8.5×11 size album available. All of my Books before have been printer-sized; I didn’t want to change to a larger page (or a smaller one). This album was exactly what I was looking for.
Initially, I had each page punched and inserted, but like the books in the video above, found that for maximum visibility, they needed to be mounted. So I used old file folders to create a bracket for the pages to stick to. Rather than have each page on a separate bracket, some brackets hold several pages (mounted to the fronts and backs) so that I have sections of related information where necessary. I’ve also found that plastic page protectors work in a pinch, but I dislike the look (and feel) of the plastic in my book. I do have some pages (herb info, mostly) that are currently in plastic page protectors, but will remove them eventually and mount them properly.
To create the page mounting strips, I traced a plastic page protector that could hold an 8.5×11 sheet of printer paper, and traced the area where the holes are, then cut it out and replicated it (dozens of times!!). It was time-consuming, yes, but the result was exactly what I wanted. Then I coffee-stained (like tea-staining, but with coffee – smells *amazing*) the 500+ pages that I’ve collected in my various binders over the years, mounted them and added them to the book.
What I ended up with is an amazing (if slightly bulky), useful tool that houses everything I need, from basic information, to more personal reflections, correspondences, recipes, spells and relevant material all in one place. Another feature that looks odd now, but becomes less so as time goes on (and more is added), is that there is ample room for embellishments and additions to the pages. I am an avid ‘art journal-er’, and my Shadow Book is eventually going to end up with the same treatment as my art journals – as a platform for my art. In this particular case, I still need my Shadow Book pages to be legible, but adding embellishments that add to the look, feel and general attractiveness of the book is part of nurturing my spirituality that I have been neglecting lately, and I am eager to get back into the process.
Though I tend to keep the pages of my Shadow Book private (you probably won’t see me doing a flip-through on YouTube), I don’t mind answering questions about the contents, so if you have a question, please feel free to ask in the comments. As I said though, I’ve combined the elements traditionally separated into the Book of Mirrors (personal reflections; a diary of one’s path), a Book of Shadows (practices; Sabbat and Esbat Rites; history, etc.) and a Grimoire (spells, recipes, etc.). I also keep blank pages in the center of the book so that when I wish to add notes, I can write in the book itself, and then move the pages to the appropriate section later on. This keeps all of my notes and things in one place, which I find helpful (and space-saving).
The last touch, which will probably be a while in coming, will be to create the spine cover. I need to get black posterboard (or regular posterboard and cover it with fabric) to make the spine look neater; it’s not required, but it will lend a more finished look to my Book. If you’ve made your own Shadow Book, I’d love to see it! If not, I hope you’re inspired to create one of your own. It’s something I’ve found to be very rewarding. Happy crafting!
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.
Once again, Houston PPD has come and gone. Can I just mention how much I love PPD events? The community is so cohesive, and seeing people I’ve met in the past, and meeting new people is always so electrifying!
This year, our PPD was held in October, rather than the traditional September. It was cooler out, which was a definite plus, but it was scheduled for the same weekend as the annual Witch’s Ball that’s held in Galveston, which was not so great. I think we lost some of the usual PPD attendees due to the conflict. Hopefully next year, we won’t have them scheduled at the same time.
Even with the conflict, we had a nice turn out! We were on the roof/parking garage area of Khon’s Wine & Darts. We had a section of the upstairs space blocked off, with the vendor spaces surrounding an open area. The stage was at one end, for the performers and entertainers. This year’s performers included Sparkling Shadows belly-dancers, drummers, and some amazing singers (including my favorites, Robin Kirby, Ginger Doss & Bekah Kelso).
There were two Rituals; one nearer to the beginning of the event, and the main ritual (Summerian), hosted by the lovely Kaleen Reed. I only caught a bit of the main ritual as I was downstairs taking a breather and grabbing something to drink, but it was lovely, and I am sad to have missed it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to walk around, because I was vending! My local Circle decided to snag a booth and vend this year (our first year vending). We had a ton of stuff, all handmade (or handcrafted/upcycled) by our Circle-mates. We brought 4 of our kindred, along with me and Bridey, and had a really great time!
Travel altars, beaded spiders & Blessed Kitchen plaque by Bridey; Scara’s bracelets, and mini travel altars, plaques, goddess bowls, catrinas, tarot boxes & prayer beads that I made.
And amazing Goddess Dolls by Magnolia Moon Crafts. Please go check out her page to see these dolls in better photos – they really are great. I have Blodeuwedd on my altar and she is absolutely beautiful!
All in all, this was a great vending experience for us. I think we made more connections than money, but we were able to donate some of the funds made to our Circle’s treasury, which was part of our goal in vending. We’re considering heading out to Austin’s PPD next year in addition to Houston’s.
If you’ve never been able to attend a Pagan Pride Day event, please try and make that a goal for 2014! It’s been such a great experience for me. Being Pagan can be such a lonely path; gathering with the larger community is so refreshing. Having this community here to bring my kids into is another boost – for them to see that they’re not the only kids ‘like this’ is awesome.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I haven’t gone away! The end of the year is always very busy, what with holidays and birthdays in my family. But things have settled down again, and I thought I’d get back into the habit of updating with Pagan Blog Prompts.
From what I gather, they’re following along with the Pagan Blog Project, which takes a letter of the alphabet as a prompt. This week’s letter is ‘D’, and the topic is ‘Divination’.
My favorite form of divination is the tarot. I’ve gotten really lax about practicing, but my enthusiasm is returning. In fact, yesterday, Bridey and I met with a new person interested in joining our local Circle, who reads, and that interest piqued my own.
I have always had great success with the tarot. I use the Medieval Scapini Tarot most often. I’ve used other decks, but this one reads best for me. I used to read every couple of weeks, and could track changes I always write down the spread and put it in a journal so that I can see what things have happened. I’ve read for others as well, and seemed to be pretty accurate. I love that there is so much information in a spread.
Our local circle was hosting a tarot class each month, using the Rider-Waite deck, but we’ve gotten away from that. We’d take 3 or 4 cards from the deck and write everything we could see or feel or get form the card, then share those observations, then look up the traditional meanings. It was a really good exercise – a fun way to learn to read intuitively. I was surprised at how often my intuition corresponded to what the traditional indications were, and surprised by some of the ones that didn’t match up! It’s been an interesting study to compare the imagery between the RW deck and my deck. Some of the images are similar; others are completely different. I plan to go back and use my deck alone in the same manner, and see how my intuition with it compares to the RW deck.
I’ve used other methods of divination as well: scrying, pendulum, deep meditation and tasseomancy (tea-leaf reading). I really enjoy tea-leaf reading, but am not very practiced at it. I had some friends over for a tea party some time back, and we practiced our tasseomancy skills, but I haven’t employed this method on any sort of regular basis.
I have a pendulum board, and this is probably the method that I use most often for a ‘quickie’. It’s great for yes/no questions or for a quick response, but less helpful for a more in-depth answer. It took me a log time to get the pendulum and board to work for me. It wasn’t until I made my own pendulum that I saw results.
To make my board, I used a slab of wood from the craft store. The one I chose was unfinished, and had bark on it still. Then I drew out the design I wanted, and used a wood-burning tool to make the design. I used acrylic paint to color, then lightly sanded and sealed it with spray poly.
Scrying… oh, boy… scrying and I don’t get along, LOL. To be honest, I’ve not put much practice into it. We’ve had scrying at two different Sabbat rituals over the last year or so and I have not been successful either time. I do have a scrying mirror, and have tried water scrying and we tried it with leaves once… maybe I just do it wrong! In any case, I am comfortable knowing where my skills are and where they are not!
This cycle is the sixth; I am amazed that it’s already my shift again. After my last shift, I wanted to make a devotional candle to burn during my shift – one that was specifically for Brighid. This is what I ended up with – I love how it turned out!
I used a white glass 7-day candle that I found at the dollar store, some craft necklace chain, wire and beads from my jewelry-making supplies. Then I found a picture of Brighid that I liked, and printed it, then ran it through a sticker-maker so that I could attach it to the candle.
This particular candle is one that came without any pre-printed decoration. The glass was clear, so I only had to remove the price sticker and clean the glass before putting the sticker on. I also created a sticker for the back with the history of Cill Willow and my upcoming shift dates. Upon reflection, I should have checked my dates more carefully; I made a mistake in the counting of days and was off, so I had to fix the dates. I’m going to end up re-printing the back sticker.
For this shift, I started the day off in a sour mood. I woke up late, my phone was acting up (I could hear people, but they couldn’t hear me), my modem was acting up (randomly turning itself off and refusing to re-load correctly), the kids were acting obnoxious – it just wasn’t a good day. As the evening crept closer though, things started to get better – in tiny, almost immeasurable increments, but they did start getting better.
My dad called and invited us all to dinner and the boys to watch the football game, so that eliminated the need to cook dinner. I also got to spend some time with my dad, which was nice. Then I left the kids at his house for a while and went back home. I had a couple of hours to myself; I got out my jewelry-making supplies and played with my beads for a bit while listening to the ever-soothing Lord of the Rings soundtrack. I’m a huge geek, and LotR just pushes all of my buttons, so that was utterly enjoyable!
The the men-folk came back home, so I retired to my bedroom to re-decorate my altar for Samhain (it was still decorated for Lughnasadh – I seem to have skipped Mabon altogether, which is unusual for me, but I just wasn’t feeling it). I lit some amber/sandalwood incense that I found at The Witchery in Galveston (that stuff has become my new favorite incense – I burn it all the time!) and just took my time cleaning my altar and putting the old decorations away. I cleared off some of the things I’ve been keeping on it for a while, and pulled out some things that I haven’t used in a long time; it’s nice to see those things again. I used a purple silk altar cloth and brand new purple candles, which is different; I usually use more neutral colored candles. I also cleaned out my ‘magic trunk’ and organized my herb jars under my altar in neat rows. I’m really happy with how it looks, and am breathing easier now that my trunk is all clean and organized. There’s definitely truth to the old saying about physical clutter being linked to mental clutter.
At bedtime, I put the flame out (my LED candle needs batteries), and re-lit it this morning for a few minutes before I extinguished it so that the kids and I could meet up with some friends. When we got back home this afternoon, I re-lit my flame and went to take a nap before we had to leave again, and had the flame next to my bed. I fell alseep quickly, and dreamed, but can’t remember what about now; something about my sister and I in an SUV going somewhere, I think.
This shift was odd in a way; while I was focused on making a connection, I didn’t feel particularly connected to Brighid. I feel like her influence was there, as both the inspirer of creative pursuits was there, as well as her role as a Goddess of the Hearth, but I didn’t feel like She was as attuned as I have in the past. Not that I expect her to be all in my face or anything, but I feel more like I was reaching out more and in the past She was reaching for me.
In any case, it was a lovely shift. It was just the thing I needed after a very chaotic day yesterday, and a busy day today.