Friday, December 27, 2013


Originally posted to the Pagan Blog Project 2013 as Week R
**Technical difficulties posting.Sorry!**

The longer nights give me more time to read and ponder; to examine my life and consider how I will make the changes that need to be made. The Irish call this time of contemplation the Place of Deep Indwelling. Like seeds placed in the rich, dark soil of Autumn which incubate, sending their roots deep into the earth and their leaves sun ward, I work at regeneration and revival of my spiritual life.

Building a personal spiritual practice takes time: time to read and digest. Time to study and put into practice. To see how well things work- and what doesn't work.

I only keep what resonates within me. There are many things which I find interesting, but I know are not for me. Some things which were beneficial early in my spiritual formation are discarded when they no longer make sense or no longer work. When I first came to Paganism, I had no teacher other than the natural order. I developed rituals and spells on my own based on what I felt. Later, when I was introduced to a formal occult tradition, there were many rules and guidelines to learn and follow as a member of a coven. I did so for a year and a day, and several years more as I achieved the tradition's degrees. I studied esoteric traditions along side the courses that lead to my ordination into a mainstream Christian denomination. I saw nothing that contradicted one or the other, until I took a sabbatical and began discernment...and then I began 'cleaning house', sweeping away those things that no longer served the greater good or grew who I was becoming.

Rules are needed to keep chaos in check,but too many rules create their own disorder and confusion. I kept the basics that made sense: the belief in the Divine and the Source of the Universe; maintaining a daily devotional practice; practicing the tried and true methods of spellworking and magick. The rest I allowed to gradually fall away: rigid belief in specific orders of worship; preconceived notions of Divine expectations; rules I was told needed to be followed to the letter, lest dire consequences result. The less I participated in groups, the less my practice was influenced by others.

I love pomp and liturgy, but they have their place. I began this path listening to the voice of the Divine through Nature, without labels, degrees, or roles to execute. In the past year I have returned to the simple practice of allowing the gods to guide my worship and magick. The result has been a relationship with the Divine that is more conversational than just me kneeling in the temple in supplication. I can cast my solitary circle whenever it feels right to do so-with or without the tools and assorted accouterments. For me, this has resulted in a less pretentious, more genuine-feeling form of the Craft.

I know in my heart and with my head that I will never return to the formal mainstream religion I left. Not that it was wrong-just that I doesn't fit in the plan for my own spiritual integration and growth. The same can be said for the esoteric traditions I have studied: I am keeping what feels right and applies to where I am currently in my understanding of the Craft. I may never celebrate in those circles again, but I will give credence to their contribution to my solitary practice.

Like the salamander or the Phoenix that continuously regenerates, I rise again, content that my spirit is reborn anew.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Questions... and Answers

image via Bing
Originally posted for the Q week of the Pagan Blog Project 2013
How do you respond to questions by others about your Pagan spiritual practice?  Does your stomach suddenly knot and your mind race race for a reply? Are you defensive and ready to pounce? Do you cast a weary eye and blow them off? Or do you launch into a lecture about the Craft?

None of the above responses seems correct to me. To the nonchalant passerby who's seen my Celtic pentagram pendant and remarked, " Nice Star of David", in the past I have often responded, with a smile or a simple "Thank you"...and felt a wee bit dishonest later. Now I smile and quietly say, " It's actually a pentagram. " Most people will smile or shrug in return; if they raise an eyebrow, I will add," It's an esoteric symbol of the elements and spirit". Or if they're feeling a little embarrassed about their mistake they will answer," Oh...".  No huge theological confrontations, no debates on The True Religion, no accusations of Devil-worshipping. The fact  is, the majority of of the people you pass on the street don't care what you're wearing, or what your tattoo symbolizes. Most of the time they're just trying to make small talk because most of us are uncomfortable with silence and feel we have to say something-anything-to fill the void with sound.

Remember, you choose how to respond and you are the master of your emotions. "Easier said than done!", you say...Well, yes...and that's why we all need to develop a personal version of The Elevator Speech []. Developed as a marking tool to make a quick, memorable impression of a business or brand, The Elevator Speech is now being touted by human resources experts as a personal mission statement for job seekers. Psychologists, however, have seen the value of making it a part of everyday socialization skills, e.g., as a introduction. In the religious community, it has become a personal mission statement of sorts, a way of empirically describing your spiritual path without being confrontational.

The Elevator Speech gets it's name from the length of time it usually takes for an elevator to travel from the ground floor of a building to the top floor-typically 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The typical Elevator Speech contains three key points: market (who you're talking to), contribution (what you do), and distinction (how what you do has value). To put this into the perspective you will need to develop an Elevator Speech to describe your spiritual path, you must determine those points you want a non-believer to know without sounding as if you are proselytizing: e.g.," It's a pentagram, and is worn by many Earth-centered spiritual traditions as a symbol of their faith because it represents the four elements of Nature and Spirit." wasn't that simple and to the point? No zealotry involved! No snappy retort or snarky attitude-just the facts, because that's all they need to know for now. You are now, of course, free to elaborate should this individual and you later go for coffee after you disembark from your theoretical elevator. The Elevator Speech naturally creates the opportunity for further discussion should that follow.

Your Elevator Speech has allowed you to let the other person know a little about you without making them feel like you're trying to jam your faith down their throat. If you can't believe this  brief exchange can be effective, consider this: With these few words the God/dess has allowed each of you to retain your dignity through the process. You have been given the opportunity to educate another while expressing the essence of your faith in a non-offensive manner. Your language, approach and what you have chosen to highlight have delivered a core message without out imparting too much information and putting someone off, and you have done no harm in the process. The article cited here from Pathos was written by a Unitarian Universalist with UUs in mind, but can easily be adapted by Pagans and other non-mainstream spiritual traditions: It is worth reading because it has information that can assist you in formulating a personal statement of your beliefs if you don't have one already, and help in writing that Elevator Speech for yourself.

You may find yourself needing to write several versions of The Elevator Speech for various occasions, like if a co-worker asks you what that naked fat lady you're wearing around your neck represents, or if your mother inquires about your Penkhaduce from the Grey School of Wizardry. Whatever you do, let your words flow naturally. I advise avoiding the inclusion of tradition specific jargon or other language that will only confuse those from outside your religion. A smile in return in a great opener because it lowers the other person's defenses, promotes friendliness, and confidence ...then you can launch into your Elevator Speech.The more you practice it, the more confident you will become. []

But then, again...What if the other person sees your pentagram and goes off on a religious rant about Satan, or the "evils of the occult"? As unnerving as this type of attack may be, your Elevator Speech can be used as a grounding point for you and a positive springboard for engaging this individual in a non-confrontational manner. Take a breath before you reply, center yourself and say something like, " The pentagram has been used as an esoteric symbol in many of the world's religions including Christianity and Islam. As a Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen, my faith tradition does not believe in the existence of Satan/the Devil. Our tradition is centered around the recognition of the wonders and beauty of the Natural World." And then, Gentle Friend...walk away. I mean do not owe this individual any further explanation. You have stated your belief and defended your faith and nothing more be done lest you wish to engage in a full blown theological battle. These types of individuals want to goad you into a screaming match to show everyone else around them how uncouth, rude and character-flawed Pagans are and so they can secretly gloat over your counter attack of their God while appearing to be a victim. Don't fall for it, it's a psychological trap. Make your statement and move out of their space as quickly as you can. ( And in doing so, please try to be tolerant and understand that some folks are just well meaning and think they're doing no harm. They are only doing what their religion tells them to do in the case of someone 'unsaved'. Many fundamentalist denominations place blame on an individual who fails to offer salvation in the name of their God to others; you have the right to refuse-politely. Thank them for their concern about your spiritual well-being, and if necessary gently remind them that Paul and Barnabas shoot the dust off the feet of the city that rejected them...and suggest they do the same. That usually ends any further attempts at conversion with no argument).

So...The next time you're asked to describe your religious beliefs, how will you answer the question?


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And So This Is Christmas...

And so this is Christmas-

and what have you done?
Another year over
A new one just begun.
Happy Christmas (War Is Over),John Lennon and Yoko Ono

One of the things I've recently observed within our Pagan community is how many of us still celebrate the Christmas holiday in some fashion- be it to mollify our non-Pagan families and friends- or just out of habit. This morning I found myself replying to Christmas greetings from a wide variety of friends online-many whom are Pagan. I also keep Christmas in my own way- mainly as a small way of remembering my grandparents and others who have crossed the Veil and because of the memories of Christmases Past. In my own solitary spiritual practice, I celebrate Yuletide, which incorporates the Winter Solstice and the 12 Days of Christmas, with a bit of Saturnalia and the weeks of waiting known as Advent thrown in for good measure.

I have stood in the cold winter evening to celebrate The Longest Night with friends,walked thorough a wonderland of snow to Christmas Eve Service, shared a feast with Pagan friends,and sat at my kitchen table reading Christmas stories, then performed a ritual to celebrate the birth of the Divine Child...and it has all felt right and genuine to me. There is no set criteria of how to celebrate Christmas in current society; it's a secular holiday of Santa and sugarplums, with no strict religious mandates for many. Personally, I don't have a problem crediting the 25th of December with being the birth of Jesus because my worldview is that the day/time/season is more than that. My psyche gravitates more to it being Winter and a time of nesting and simply being. Something within me wants to celebrate these last precious few weeks as a time apart by being festive. So I haul out the tree, cover it with ornaments that are the keepers of memories,deck the halls and celebrate the season by cooking foods I seldom or never eat at other times of the year, giving my friends tokens of appreciation for our friendship, and honoring the people who have contributed to my life in large ways and small ( those who bring a smile or a laugh, and those who have hurt me so deeply that years later, the memory still  makes me cry). As much as I detest the commercialism, I love the excitement and expectation, the glitter and momentary excess of Christmas. I love the still moments when I look up at the stars and marvel at the vastness of the sky, and sitting in a room lit only by the lights on my tree. I love the feeling of sacred space and holiness of candlelight, the peel of the church organ playing O Come All Ye Faithful, and the simplicity of a single guitar playing Silent Night.

But it is not Christmas for me until I have heard John Denver sing Christmas for Cowboys, or fretted over baking fruitcakes and cookies and taken in their wonderful smells. Christmas is not made sacred until I have made and eaten a luxurious antipasto on the green Jadeite or yellow Fiestaware platter my grandfather used to build his amazing creations filled with fine Italian meats and cheeses and topped with a crown of tuna in oil and sliced red pickled eggs ( It's been 26 years since he died,when I took over the tradition first for the family, and now, just for me). It is not special until I place Aunt Laura's favorite white plastic reindeer on a branch ( always the first ornament on the tree) or my favorite Kermit the Frog from the 70's just beneath the angel that belonged to my grandparents. It is not all waxing warm, fuzzy nostalgia, it is also recalling the drinking to inebriation  and resulting fights, and the fact that some of the toys I thought Santa had brought me were returned to the store the day after neighbors, friends and family visited because Mom and Pop wanted to save face and didn't want anyone to know how poor we really were. My anger and resentment from childhood has faded since then, replaced with sadness and aching for their actions. I don't pretend to understand all of their motivation, but so many years later, I kind of get it.

Christmas these days is a place I deeply dwell in my soul. Perhaps it's that way for you, too. Old habits are difficult to break, which is exactly why so much of what we now recognize as Pagan practice was adapted by the Christian Church when the new religion was created with the intention of eradicating the old ways. I'm not getting into any self-righteous finger-pointing, just stating fact. For thousands of years, there has always been the birth of a Divine Child celebrated during this time. It doesn't matter if his name was Jesus or Mithra or Sol Invictius. What matters is the hope of being born and reborn, the yearning for goodness and the possibility of benefit to all living we can bring. This is reflected in the words of a poem I love (later a UU hymn) written by Robert Lehman in 1913:

Within the shining of a star we catch a glimpse of who we are;
in every infant born we see the hope of our nativity.
The miracle of each new birth can shake and save the stony earth;
triumphantly the newborn’s cry
strikes echoes from the waiting sky.
Be well. Do good as much as you can in the world. Laugh alone and with friends and family, drink moderately and be merry, break out the glitter and shiny stuff, hang the greens-especially the mistletoe-and sing out whenever you feel like it. Soon, today will be the day after yesterday, and will never be again.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fruitcake and Other Delights

Dark. Rich. Sumptuous. Nothing says Festivus to me more than a fruitcake- a real fruitcake, not one of those pathetic things from the grocery store. Make ahead, pour on the brandy to cure it, and wait...definitely worth it. Serve it in little chunks with strong coffee. Food of the Gods. Enjoy!
fruitcake recipe

"...Visions of sugarplums danced in their heads..." Have you ever wondered exactly what a sugarplum actually  was? Maybe a plum rolled in sugar? Sugarplum is a term originating from the 1600s that described any decorated dried fruit-dates, apricots, prunes, figs, apples- a confection/candy made from a ground mixture of fruits, nuts and spice usually rolled in sugar to coat it, then sliced into pieces. They are also known as sweetmeats and were considered a luxury to be indulged in only on special occasions. In modern terms, sugarplums are a type of thick confit-diced fruit cooked in syrup or water until nearly dry, dropped by spoonfuls or rolled into logs and coated with chopped nuts, powdered sugar, or colored sugar. They can also be wrapped in thin dough and baked as a type of cookie or tart. A whole date stuffed with slivered almonds is a simple way to make sugarplums.

Mincemeat was a mystery to me until I actually made it myself- and it's delicious! The original recipe contained ground (mince-ed) beef, venison or rabbit, with beef suet, ground up fruit, nuts and spices, combined with whiskey, brandy or rum. Most mincemeat recipes nowadays omit the meats and/or suet and use vegetable shortening. It is available commercially- but it's pricey, and I think it tastes a bit 'off' or sour as it comes from the jar, so I 'doctor' it with a bit of brown sugar and brandy. The mixture can be used in pies ( I have a terrific recipe for pumpkin custard pie that calls for a layer of mincemeat under the pumpkin filling; the top of the pie is either left plain or covered with chopped nuts and crumb topping like that used on French Apple Pie. Usually mincemeat pie is baked with a double or lattice crust, but I have also made it in tartlets, folded tarts. A particularly wonderful way to use mincemeat is to spoon it between layers of buttered phyllo; it just melts in your mouth! I have also included a cup of mincemeat in fruitcake: it makes the cake extra spicy and moist.

If you'd like to try your hand at making mincemeat the traditional way, I've provided a link to a recipe by Alton Brown. There are numerous recipes for making mincemeat online, but this particular one is close to the one I've used before.!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Fire In The Belly

Warding off the chill of late Autumn is often a challenge: the damp,penetrating cold seems t
o seep right into your bones. While Autumn is my favorite time of year-who doesn't love the colors of fallen leaves?-it's also the herald of my favorite time of year in the kitchen.

The tastes and smells of Autumn are as invigorating as the landscape. The bouquet of Autumn spices -allspice,cinnamon,ginger,nutmeg,cloves,mace, cardamon -
warm the body and soul not only in the kitchen, but raise the energy vibration in rituals during the cold weather months.

Allspice's masculine/fire (think Mars) energy is applied when it is combined into mojo bags or incense to attract luck or money. Cinnamon reflects the feminine side of  these qualities (influenced by Venus) with the addition of success and power. Ginger adds earthy heat; try drinking a tea containing ginger prior to engaging in ritual and feel the power of the Sun/Mars/Ra within. Nutmeg awakens the vastness of the planet Jupiter and has been carried as a prosperity amulet for centuries. Cloves is an excellent ingredient in mixtures intended to raise spiritual vibrations, and it's useful for driving out negativity. Mace is the outer covering of the nutmeg and increases psychic ability because it opens the Third Eye.
Cardamon-the spice that gives Chai Tea it's distinctive flavor- has been used in Asia to 'inflame' the fires of passion.

All of the above mentioned spices correspond to vitality and a robustness for life. Perhaps that is why they appear in various combinations in our favorite savory Fall/Winter foods.

Monday, November 18, 2013

From My Personal Grimorie: Cold Conjuring

As I write this, we've entered the late Autumn. Gone are the bright riot of color seen in the earliest days after Mabon. Now that the trees have shed their leaves, all that remains are their stark, gray skeletons. When the wind blows at night, the wooden bones clatter, and the crisp brown leaves dance in circles. These are the evenings when I settle in with a cup of hot tea to ponder and read by candlelight: I have entered the Place of Deep Indwelling, a palpable place when I feel drawn down, down the spiral of space into the most ancient of times. The cold outside is oddly exhilarating as it contrasts against the warm air inside. I find that some nights, when I cannot sleep, opening a window just enough to allow a finger of cold air curl in relaxes me.

Occasionally, I also do this when I meditate, because I find the shock of cold helps bring clarity quickly when I'm attempting to empty my mind. The primal rawness of cold is a wonderful focusing tool.

If the weather has dipped below freezing and there are icicles, I gather a few clean, fragile points to use in magickal workings during ritual. I suppose they could be stored in the freezer until ready to use, but I have always taken them just before I cast my circle, when I believe they are most potent. I have used icicles in place of quartz crystals with very satisfactory results. Place the ice points on a pretty dish or ornamental tray so that the top of your altar isn't marred as they melt. Depending on the nature of the spell, the water resulting from the melted icicles can be bottled and saved for use later, or poured outside and returned to the earth.

If you know anything about the basics of spell work, then you are aware of the result of putting a poppet or spell bag into the freezer. Placing these things outside ( selectively) will have the same result.

I have found that a bowl of snow has many uses as well: projecting pure, white energy into the bowl while the snow melts will provide a naturally consecrated amount of blessed ("holy") water to be used in the future.
It can be added to any spell that calls for spring water; or used to anoint yourself or ritual items. The water left from melted snow is naturally powerful because it already contains the energies of water, air and earth. It is imbued with whatever minerals it has come into contact with during it's formation in the atmosphere. Snow also has its own particular form of crystal energy. A bowl of  snow can be used for scrying (look for shapes to appear as it melts. Water left in the bowl can also be used for scrying. I have gathered snow in a metal bowl, allowed it to melt, then put it outside to re-freeze and used the surface of the ice for a different version of scrying (Metal or freezable plastic is best. Don't use pottery or glass that will crack or shatter). Droplets of condensation from melting snow that has been heated is especially good to use in ritual washes for the body, tools, or the altar. ( A lovely winter floor wash can be made from heating snow until it melts, then adding pine needles, a pinch of cinnamon, and a drop of lemon or lime. I don't recommend using orange juice as it can leave a sticky residue.) In this way, either snow or ice can be used as the liquid in which to suspend herbs for aromatherapy. I do not recommend the use of either snow or ice in anything you will consume/drink, because they could contain harmful impurities if taken internally. If you do use snow/ice in this way, be sure of the safety of your source.

Finally, did you know that snow can be used to make a figure to be used in the same way as a wax candle?
You don't have to have any artistic talent to do this: it's a little like making a poppet out of snow. Mold the figure by compacting snow roughly into any form you want, visualizing your desire while doing do, or place herbs, etc inside the core of the figure as it is being made. Fix it with your intention, or incorporate it into your spell work. The magick is released as the figure melts on its own.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hallowtide Visitors

As dusk fell like a silent pall,the dry leaves spin around my feet in little dust devils. I packed all the treat bags I found in the bottom of the tote where my Halloween decorations sleep all but six weeks of the year and headed for the street corner in front of my apartment building. It was barely dusk, but the town had decreed a two hour window for Trick or Treating-perhaps a wise decision since someone in the next town saw a mountain lion stroll through their back yard just last week.

A little weather working had been in order earlier in the week when there was a fear of snow; as it turned out, the evening was mild, if breezy. At the stroke of 8 o'clock all the ninjas, witchlets and dinosaurs disappeared from the streets like magic...or perhaps they were enticed by the Great Pumpkin being shown on four TV channels simultaneously.

In the cemetery just beyond the town limits, the dead began their annual trek to join the living. I didn't see anything, mind you, but I felt them awaken from their long sleep and cross soundlessly through the Veil. There were hundreds of them, their spirits flowing along like a river as they filled the streets.
I wanted to connect with them, to discover who they were in life, and where they visited from the Afterlife. I tried, but no one came.

At last, when I'd given up trying, a lone little spirit came was Tinker, my long-dead familiar. I felt the softness of kitty feet kneading on the mattress, and finally she curled into a ball and snuggled behind my knees as she did in life. We drifted peacefully off to sleep together.

I don't pretend to know anything about the Afterlife except that I believe with all my being that there is a place where our loved ones wait for us. I don't exactly support the concept of Heaven in the Judeo-Christian way, because I think that if there is actually a Heavenly Reward ( as promised), it's a place each of us create specifically for ourselves to dwell until we're reborn. My only thoughts on the subject of reincarnation is that perhaps our spirit somehow blends into the great Cosmic Cake Mix where the essence of who we are contributes to the formation of someone or something new. Perhaps a glimpse of us is recognizable now and again to those we leave behind, and that's why we so often identify a loved one in a gesture, a smile or a vocal inflection. Perhaps memory can call up physically the feel of a long-dead cat sleeping lovingly on a bed. Perhaps it's simply yearning and imagination. Whatever it is, it's valid experience. Does our longing for what we've lost create just the right vibration to manifest into being the Dead? Is that why it's so necessary to keep speaking the names of our ancestors; so they can continue to be with us? I ponder these things, especially during the Days of the Dead,when the shadows are long and silent.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Into The Future...

This Halloween/Samhain marks the third anniversary of the creation of Broom With A View. When I started this blog, I wasn't sure anyone would want to read it, or even what I would want to write about...but the support from the community has been overwhelming, and I am humbled.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You...the journey continues.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Pagan Standard Time

image via Google
Week P of the Pagan Blog Project 2013
Let's spend a minute discussing Pagan Standard Time-but only a minute, because in my humble opinion, that's all it deserves. PST is the bane of all ritual leaders, event planners and anyone with a courteous bone in their body.

At the risk of sounding like a Victorian spinster Aunt with nothing more to do than police the behavior of others, I'm here to share my displeasure that this pathetic excuse for continual tardiness still exists in our community...and that some of us still find it hilariously amusing.

I suspect Pagan Standard Time was so enthusiastically embraced by those in our community who needed to extend their angst with The Establishment to all areas of their lives. Eschewing any vestige of what is acceptable in society in general,as it were, is a hallmark of the bohemian/hippie-dippiness of a specific personality type that was attracted to Paganism/Wicca in a bygone era and is unfortunately being
echoed by a new generation eager to practice a form of these magickal paths which they believe reflect back to a Golden Age of Occultism in the 60's and 70's. While I find that period interesting in a historical context, I am left absolutely cold by the attitude of shedding civilities just because we can. Being punctual does not make you any less militant in the eyes of those you seek to impress; it doesn't make you a sellout or a member of (gasp!) The Establishment. Patty Wigington of's Pagan.Wiccan page summarizes it in a nutshell here:

What being "on time" may do, however, is show you are trustworthy, dependable and responsible. All of those things are required of a good leader ( along with many other characteristics, to be sure). It shows you take your spirituality/religion seriously-to both others and yourself. Some of our worship and magickal practice requires specific timing for particular things to happen. Saying, " Oh, the hour for this spell to be at it's peak of power is the ninth hour in Scorpio on Tuesday...but I'm going to be tied up watching a rerun of Bewitched, so I'll just do it at Midnight on Wednesday. The hour and astrological sign doesn't really matter", and then wondering why things didn't turn out the way you hoped? Well, that, dear one, is squarely on you if you lapse into the use of Pagan Standard Time. Humor a side, it is truly inconsiderate to continuously show up late at  rituals or meetings. It affects the entire vibe of the occasion and shows disregard for the rest of the group. Of course there are times when an individual will be unavoidably late due to an unforeseen circumstance, and those occasions are taken into consideration and forgiven.

Pagan Standard Time is one of those things we should cast far from us, for it has outlived it's usefulness- if it ever had any.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ordinary Time

Pagan Blog Project 2013, Week O
By the sixth century, the Christian Church had developed an order of worship which followed the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The date of the celebrations following the Jewish Ritual Year and pagan or agrarian observations of the seasons were co-opted by new, Christ-centered holidays. These holidays-holy days- corresponded to the specific events which eventually formed the Calendar of the Christian Liturgical Year.

High Holy Days usually had a corresponding season of their own: Christmastide, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent. Days which were not designated as holidays were kept as feast days of a particular saint. The Communion of Saints was kept in the forefront of the public memory this way.[] During the Church reforms of the 1970's, Ordinary Time was restructured.

In the Wheel of the Year, we find a different concept of time where every day is sacred just for being a new beginning. Everyday has the potential to be celebrated and for worship to take place, not just the Eight Sabbats[]. All of life-and everyday-is sacred. There is no need of it being a special day to be in awe of Nature's gifts and beauty. We can be thankful for our homes and loved ones and worship the gods whenever we choose. Because of this, "ordinary time" may be the most spiritually beneficial of all times in our common life and community.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Feeling In The Air

Pocahontas Cemetery.
Photo credit:
While the weather is still seasonal here in the mountains-that is to say that the days are sweater-worthy and the nights cause the proverbial "frost on the pumpkin", I sit in the gazebo with a cup of hot tea late at night in stillness. This little mining town is a different place after the sun goes down and the sidewalks roll up: Like all places that have know hardship and hard times, that has been visited by suffering, there is an air of bitter sweetness that haunts the night. On one of our frequently foggy evenings, I caught a glimpse of the shadows of someone leading a mule down Center Street not long after I moved here. Their forms were solidly discernible in contrast to the mist. I am quite certain it was an apparition that had come out of the many spiritual portals I suspect exists here. About a week later I learned that there is a brace of stables used when the coal mine was in operation around the corner I saw them turn just before they disappeared: I found the buildings which are currently used for storage on an evening stroll. In 1884, there was a huge explosion in the mine that killed over a hundred men, women and children. Most of the victims are buried in the cemetery just outside of town-many in a mass grave. Their spirits are palpable to me much of the time.

Tonight, there is the spirit of another, however. It is not human: a child of Cernunnos ambles down from the mountain, his hooves barely audible on the brick street. His rack of antlers is small, but his long legs give him an air of elegance as he reaches up into the branches of the apple tree just beyond the parking lot of my new home. As he pulls a piece of fruit free, many more apples rain down on him. He continues to graze and consumes several of the small but succulent fruits. When he is satisfied, he disappears silently into the darkness, leaving me feeling that I have been extraordinarily blessed by Nature to have shared this moment.

As night grows longer, there is only the sound of locusts, but there is a vibration, a thrumming as the Veil thins around me in this place. I know those who have lost their lives or lived in this town will be returning as soon as that thinning is complete and they are able to cross to walk among the living for a short while. So much of the history of this place is connected to Death; yet I wonder if the appearance of the deer isn't a subtle sign that despite this, the annual cycle of Life is very much still continuing amid the decaying buildings.
It seems to me that we focus so much on the past that we forget that how we live here now will be the history of tomorrow. So many of us are waiting for this place to draw it's last breath that I wonder if they have forgotten that a sudden breath of air might be all it needs to live.


North Star

Week "N" of the Pagan Blog Project 2013

Several months ago, my friend Ann recalled a dream she had about the North Star. Ann is a gifted musician and teacher, and my " go to" elder in the Pagan community. She is a bright, funny,sassy, and smart crone who's not afraid to speak her mind. She is most often right. This dream, however, perplexed her.

The other night I had my own dream about Ann's dream. I've been interested in dream interpretation for nearly 30 years since I was involved in a Jungian analysis group sponsored by CenterPoint. I've used the information from that group as the springboard for most of my analytic work. This is the first time I've actually dreamed about someone else's dream. I lay credit for that directly to the work of Scott Cunningham in his book Dreaming the Divine [].

Sleep is indeed sacred. We enter an altered state of consciousness known only to our psyche. I believe that during sleep we connect most truthfully and easily to our higher self and Shadow, unimpeded by any attempt to influence what is personally true through masking by the psyche. In the state of regenerative sleep, we are free of any interference from mind chatter.

Back to Ann's dream about the North Star...

In the dark firmament of the heavens, the North Star is at a fixed point ( in the Northern Hemisphere; in the South, of course, it is the South Star). Navigators have used the North Star for this purpose. It is a reliable reference, a constant. Regardless of whatever else changes, the North Star is always there when we need a grounding point, or someplace from which to start. Ann herself is much like this. She is a reliable life resource, a wise woman and elder. Her opinion is respected by those in our little earth-centered spirituality group. A wealth of information on many subjects and traditions, she is our very own Crone Priestess-although I suspect she is blissfully humble about this. A master magickian, she has taught me to apply simplicity and patience to my workings. Whenever any of us feel adrift, we find ourselves wondering what Ann would say about whatever it is we're discerning.

Ann doesn't know that she is the North Star; I believe it's something she should come to own in the future. Her dream presages her gift of constancy and presence in the community as an elder. We have far too few like her, both in her discernment and ability to nurture. I aspire to this as I stand at the doorway to my own Cronehood.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth...Although a few times in the last month or so it has certainly felt like it to me. At Summer Solstice, I was presented with the opportunity to move to the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, and because it felt so right, I did. If moving to North Carolina six years ago " felt like coming home"-and it very much did at the time-Appalachia has felt even more so.

Especially this tiny former coal mining town tucked away in an unimaginably green valley. It is so remote that it feels like I now live in that place you see on ancient maps where the ocean runs over the edge of the flat Earth map. You know it- the place where the caption reads, " There be dragons" usually appears. (Okay, it's not actually like that: there is a bus three days a week that carts us off to the various surrounding towns ten miles away...and there is a Super Walmart and a Dollar Tree.) At night, when the sidewalks have been rolled up and the inky sky is illuminated by a billion stars, it feels very primal and wild. And it is.

Over the Summer, I've been occupied making my new place into a home, adjusting to life in a region I've visited but never lived in. The population of the town I actually live in is listed officially as 300; I'm still wondering if that's counting all the dogs, cats and pigeons...and an occasional wild duck or two. Still, the
mountains are literally a breath of fresh air, and I am eagerly awaiting the change of the leaves. This is a town that typifies small town America, and specifically Appalachia. Last week there was an Autumn Jamboree in the much larger neighboring town where the highlight of the event  was the apple butter being made in a huge open cauldron, some very good country music made by local bands, and a fireworks display. There was a rather large assortment of handicrafts being offered, and at least a dozen "welcome" tables set up by area churches. ( You cannot throw a rock here without hitting a church: all the major JudeoChristian denominations are represented, including-surprise!-a synagogue). An even bigger surprise was the conversation I had with a woman the other day who matter-of-factly told me that she knew of a few Pagans in the area:" They're nice people.They call themselves witches. They don't worship the Devil or dance naked, and they don't curse people. They are earth-centered and love Nature." Now I have to admit, this nearly made my head spin around a few times...Here I am in the mountains where Southwestern Virginia and West Virginia are nearly indistinguishable, and someone I've just met ( who has no idea I am one) begins telling me about the local Pagans! WOW...this is why I still have hope for a future where we can openly worship without the local populace arming themselves with pitchforks,folks.

Yesterday, one of those small local churches decorated the main street of my new adopted hometown with scarecrows because it's "harvest season". There is a Pumpkin Festival taking place in mid-October.

More to come...I'm going out to enjoy the locusts chirping.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Being Pagan

We live in a constantly evolving Universe.  Change goes on within and all around us all the time. We are forever in a state of flux. Our personal beliefs and cosmologies change. I don't see  things in exactly the same way that I did 20 years ago because I'm a different person today than I was then. Things change, and that's okay. Because really? In the larger scheme of things  we don't have a choice in the matter. Acceptance of that tiny fact is the first step to integration and growth.
Depending on whatever new I learn, my opinion about people, situations and how things are  re-formulated. My thoughts about things evolves as I incorporate new knowledge into my understanding.  I am not the same person I was even five minutes ago on a molecular level. The world is not the same as it was yesterday. This is factual and born out by the saying" The Truth is not what you see, but what you believe about what you see." Your  viewpoint isn't the truth, but it is your truth. Belief is merely an assumption.

Pagans (for the most part) are particularly analytical people. We are experts at deconstruction. What it seems we aren't very good at is knowing the difference between authentic examination and tearing things apart-including and especially, each other. This, in my humble opinion, is why we have the same conversations over and over about defining who is Pagan and who gets to play in our sandbox. And I have to admit, I often wonder why this is so important to know in order to determine what we stand for morally and ethically. I suppose there is an argument about knowing who you are before undertaking an action, but personally,  I believe right action should take place no matter who you are.

Talking about whether we engage in right action because we are human or because we are spiritual is a chicken versus egg argument. To quote Buckminister Fuller, " We're all passengers on Spaceship Earth." [ ]. The compassion we have for one another, especially for the suffering of others, and the way in which we respond in helping them to come out of that suffering is something that stems from empathy. We relate to how it feels because we can put ourselves in that place. In that instance, what we call ourselves doesn't matter. By nature, humans are helpers at our most basic level; that's the way we are wired. We have a need to serve in the most beneficial and satisfying way for others and ourselves. While that may be influenced by our spiritual beliefs, for the most part it comes out of a concern for the welfare of others and the way we would like to be treated. Altruism is two sided and not entirely selfless: yes, we do want to help others, but in turn, should the need arise,we hope to be helped ourselves. The majority of us ascribe to the moral and societal rules of common decency, regardless of whether or not we believe in the existence of a deity.

In other words, it's not who you are, it's what you do that makes a difference in the world. To be perfectly blunt, the only person who should care about who you worship, or how you go about it is YOU.    It's not my place to tell you whether or not you are a Pagan. It's none of my business, because, you see...I don't care. Truly, I don't. I don't care if you venerate Wonder Woman as the Goddess, or believe the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz are angelic messengers, or see Imminent Divinity in the Titans.

If you do, then that's fine with me. You don't have to fit my personal definition of what is and isn't  Deity, and you don't have to buy into mine. As it's so often said,we can agree to disagree. I have enough on my plate dealing with defining and forming my own personal theology. I practice as I choose, when I am lead to do so by Spirit. I really don't owe any explanation of who or what I see as Divine, and I certainly have no need to justify my spiritual practice. I don't seek or need  the validation of others [].  Take it and accept me for who I am or leave it and walk away. ( The only time I will call bullshit is if I see someone irrefutably  ripping someone else off).

You would  think  that as often  as  we have this conversation in our living rooms or  in the pub, the subject of "Who-is-and-isn't-a-Pagan" would  be a non-issue to the majority of  us by now.   I recognize that our community has exploded in numbers in recent years and there are a lot of new-comers at the table who may need to sort things out, but what I'm seeing isn't limited to that kind of spiritual formation. What I'm seeing is not only a lack of tolerance for diversity, it's exclusivity. It's widely understood that the word 'Pagan' is an umbrella term covering the many traditions and varieties of serving the gods. [ttp://] There are no membership  rules for who gets to join the 'club'.  So frankly, when I see someone appoint themselves as a gatekeeper for the community, I do think we need to react and disabuse the individual of that notion swiftly...Kudos to those who have done this respectably, such as  Jason Mankey [ ] and the collective at Pagan Activist  []. You can ask questions about someone's spirituality without questioning their practice.

Because, you see, as I've said before, it's my path, and I'll travel it my way, thank you very much.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Making Medicine

Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming
Originally posted as Week M of the Pagan Blog Project 2013
In the general culture of the First People (aka Native Americans), medicine is defined as the spiritual and magical power of persons, items, and activities. Medicine is recognized as a gift of Spirit; Medicine Makers are imbued with this power through their totem animals, empowered objects, or a vision. Often the power is passed by a shaman or healer to their student, or a familial or tribal elder. The power and use of making medicine is usually demonstrated through the link to its source, that is, its origin. There are specific forms of medicine for events ( such as False Face Medicine for the Iroquois Longhouse Ceremony); or connected to totems (Bear Medicine,etc.); activities (healing,divination,hunting); rites of passage (Corn Maiden,vision quests) and myth and lore according to culture (kachinas,emergence myths). Medicine, when understood this way is more of a concept than a word.

Directly connected to these things are the creation of medicine societies, their purpose usually reflected by a specific type of esoteric knowledge held by its members for protection, healing or some other contribution to the tribal community. Membership in these societies is gained through linage, clan, election, or by one who has received healing in some manner [].

The act of making medicine is as diverse as there are methods. A particular  ritual which comes to mind immediately in pop culture involves the use of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus, a polemic ceremony practiced as a sacrament in the Native American Church. []. Though peyote ceremonies vary from group to group, the goal of connecting with deity and the rite of spiritual communion is always the same. It should be noted here that when this fairly new rite was first being practiced, it was viewed with disfavor among many traditional medicine men, as a possible detraction to their indigenous spiritual practice. A generation later, many of those same practitioners had themselves become "Roadmen", and the peyote ceremony was seen as just another form of road-opening ritual[,%20reduced.pdf].  Other forms of making medicine involves bundles or bags filled with stones,herbs,fur, hair and nail trimmings,feathers-nearly anything relative to the magick desired to be activated.  Medicine bundles can be fore any purpose: petition, offering, or to simply show supplication. A unique application of this tool is the despacho medicine bundle which originated in the Andean culture, but has been adapted by North American tribes and even Pagans []. The Navajo Blessingway is a creation story, illustrated by the making of mountain soil bundles (soil from the four sacred mountain placed upright in a basket []. Another common name for a medicine bundle is a jish.

Activation of the medicine being made is at times a rite unto itself. The secretive Green Corn Dance of the Seminole in Florida is an instance of this [].
Another is the famous Medicine Wheel, an arrangement of stones where meditation, song and dance are performed in a designated place of power throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming has been maintained by one tribe or another since it was built 300-800 years ago. It is the keystone of a complex of archaeological areas, each designated to a specific form of spiritual/magickal practice. It is also an astrological calendar in the same form as Stonehenge
[]. Medicine Wheels can be reflective of various energies. They can be used as a magickal circle, or as a sacred space to honor the powers of Creation. Like a labyrinth, each direction of a medicine wheel can be "walked", it's stones asked to lend their animistic power to your question.  They can be used as a type of shrine where offerings of tobacco or cornmeal are made. It is an excellent place for meditation on life's uncertainties, or can be a conduit between the worlds. The grounding energies of the stones will allow you to gather your discoveries and reflections, giving clarity to any problem you may bring into the circle. Every successive visit to the Medicine Wheel will provide you with insight and a new perspective of your thoughts.

Each of us have the gift of personal medicine; it is the spiritual quality that which makes us who we are. e
Medicine, as viewed by the First Nations, is the embodiment of animism. Every thing in the Universe  has it's own particular form of life, and therefor its own special medicine. When the individual discovers his or her spiritual gift of medicine, they become more integrated beings. Looked upon this way, this integration is wholesome and therapeutic. The individual begins to understand and accept all parts of themselves-including the ones they'd rather not claim. Jungian psychology calls this the shadow self, that which sits just below the level of consciousness. This process of integration can be achieved on ones own, or with the help of a Medicine Maker, usually a shaman.

One of the features of personal medicine is discovering your True Name. As in other magickal traditions, this form of identification describes the person's character and gifts and is not just a convenient label. The characteristics attributed to the individual through this naming may reflect those of a particular animal, or a talent. Grasping the deeper meaning of the name means a particular synergy has been achieved within the understand of the individual.

Making Medicine is not something that can be exhaustively covered in a single blog entry, so I would encourage you to further explore the subject on your own. There are many good books on the subject, and one I would personally recommend is Voices from the Earth by Nicholas Wood ( ISBN 0-8069-6609-2, Godsfield Press). It's a great springboard to deeper learning on the subject and pleasurable to read. Be Well and Be Blessed!

copyright 2013, AmethJera

Lucky Bone

I have this pin. I love it.
Originally posted as the "L" week for the pagan Blog Project 2013

It's no secret that I love a good challenge, especially when it pertains to the Craft or the practice of Magick. Many times when I know I have to write an entry for the Pagan Blog Project about something that begins with a specific letter, I will grab one of my occult encyclopedia's off the shelf and find an entry as a starting point for that post. This week it's  the letter L, and what  caught my eye was a two sentence paragraph about Lucky Bones.

I will be the first to admit that my knowledge about using bones in magick is limited to divination and necromancy. I only have an imprecise notion about using bones as talismans, and what I do know is specific to Native American fetish work. So writing this post is going to be a learning experience for both of us, and I'm excited about that. I will begin with this disclaimer: I do not advocate the harming or killing of any animal simply for the procurement of these items. I do realize that some spiritual traditions engage in animal sacrifice, and I respect this when it is done in a humane manner with the least amount of suffering to the creature. This is not a judgement about other religious traditions or their beliefs, and I do not mean to be disrespectful of those spiritual practices. My own personal policy is that I would only seek out these items from roadkill or animals taken for food. There are many forms of "Lucky Bones" used as charms; a few examples follow.

Most of us are familiar with the wishbone which has become a pop culture icon. It's represented in jewelry as pins, pendants, earrings, rings and charms, used in graphic art to illustrate advertising for things considered "lucky".

The humble wishbone is actually a fused clavicle  in birds known as a furcula, ( literally, "little fork" in Latin).  The folk lore surrounding the wishbone being used as a type of magical fetish can be traced to Medieval times, where the wishbone was more than likely that of a goose. Geese were commonly available before the introduction of turkeys to Europe, and were frequently eaten at holiday feasts [Edward A. Armstrong in "The Folklore of Birds" (Dover Publications, 1970)]. The wishbone was a much sought-after prize, and it's association with being lucky stems from a tradition with superstitious overtones, where the long ends of the bone were pulled in opposite directions until the "Y" broke just short of the joint. The individual who ended up with the largest piece would, in theory, be awarded a "lucky break", their wish would come true. On the other hand, the person with the smaller piece would have earned a "bad break", where chances of their wish coming true would be slim []. As time went by, the bones of other fowl would be used in this fun pastime which echoed tidings of good luck and wish fulfillment.

In the areas of the countryside where raccoons are known to be indigenous, there is a " lucky bone" tradition in folk medicine/magick that involves the penile bone of the creature. ( Most carnivores, with the exception of humans, have a retractable bone in their penis that help with extended periods of mating. Ever hear the phrase "having a boner"? Now you know where it originated!) These bones, as you can well imagine, go by many names in differing areas, not all of them repeatable in polite company. Especially in Appalachia, the baculum (Latin for " little rod") of  a raccoon is regarded as a talisman. They are believed to be especially useful in favoring romantic relationships, where a young man wishing to be lucky in love, gave a raccoon dong to his lady to tie a string around and wear as a necklace. ( I admit that  the bone from a raccoon's sex organs doesn't immediately spring to mind as a Valentine's Day gift to me. I'm just sayin'.) They are also precious to gamblers, to be used as a "lucky charm" while engaging in games if chance. They may be fashioned into jewelry, such as necklaces or pins (much like this golden beauty by Finch and Company in the UK:'.

In hoodoo and some forms of voodoo, a black cat bone is a used for luck. Most of the descriptions of this fetish don't specify an specific bone from a particular location in the animal's body; there are various methods of determination. Suggested methods of obtaining such an item is horribly cruel, in my opinion, because it always involves the suffering and death of the animal in an unaccaptably inhumane manner. "Black cat bones" are available commercially from several online occult suppliers, but many are a sham- they are usually chicken bones, or even chicken bones that have been painted black.

Another form of "lucky bone" originates from the head of a sheep (or a pig in some areas). The description of a triangular or "T" shaped bone is vague at best. After hours of research (and even consulting with my favorite go-to guy  the notable hoodoo practitioner, root doctor and contributor to the Hoodoo Quarterly, Carolina Dean ) I was no closer to solving the mystery of what this "lucky bone" actually was. Frankly, we were both stymied and intrigued . The Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions (pg. 234) only describes it as " a T shaped bone from a sheep's head, used as a lucky charm and protective device against (malevolent) witchcraft", with the notation of Northamptonshire, 1851. Farther along in the entry it states that it is a "T shaped bone used as a talisman, the shape of (Tau) cross, used on Drudical monuments or worn around the neck, or in a shoe by children" (Denham, North England). The same source refers to it as a charm carried by fishermen on the Yorkshire coast ( to ward off storms and drowning at sea), reminiscent of the Hammer of Thor known as Mjölnir. The Prose Edda mentions that the Mjölnir, despite it's qualities as a fearsome weapon of power, was also a charm that could be " so small that it  could be carried inside his (Thor's) tunic". ( The word used in the translation is feitico, meaning "sorcery" or "charm" in Portuguese.)

Finally, The Hand of Destiny, by C.J.S. Thompson (1932), also mentions the "lucky bone" as coming from a sheep or pig's head, with no other description. My personal hypothesis, after comparing the anatomy of both animals, is this bone could quite possibly be the Os nasale, a small, thin, flat, roughly triangular bone on the top of the nose. Because of the location, it would be easy to access and remove after the animal was butchered and during the preparation of the head for cooking. It seems to be the only bone common to both animals of that shape and small enough to carry in a pocket or worn as a pendant. I could be totally wrong, but I strongly suspect that I'm not.

copyright 2013, Amethjera

For a wealth of information on hoodoo and rootwork, please visit Carolina Dean's website at, or his fan page on Facebook.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

From My Personal Grimorie: Binding Jar

I am not malicious by nature...but I am not afraid to protect myself, either. We have knowledge of magick to use to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. There's a rather worn-out saying that "A witch who cannot hex cannot heal". I look upon this type of magick as doing both.

Making magick is not something I take for granted because it's a gift. I try to only use that gift to be beneficial- and never to be malevolent.

But there are times you need to defend yourself against emotional/physical abuse or psychic attack. If you have the knowledge, then you have the power. As a practitioner, you have a duty to use the power in a way that will bring about the best solution for everyone involved in a situation...Sometimes, as a last resort, when the conflict has not and cannot be resolved any other way, you draw upon your knowledge to summon the powers of the Universe to assist you.

Creating a binding jar is not something I do lightly; I can only recall two times in the last 20 years that I've made one. The one pictured above was made the other night because, frankly, I was at a loss as to what else to do with a situation where someone I love and care about has been enduring continual harassment from a group of individuals who are posting negative, damaging, outright lies on a social media site concerning a situation. We've attempted to apply logic and reason, but the main perpetrator of this deed is especially out of control. None of us can spend endless hours policing his vicious lies and having them removed. Two weeks of this extraordinary situation, where everyone's  patience has just been tried over and over has called for extraordinary measures. I will not "blast" or banish another human being, but I will use whatever means necessary up to that to protect myself and those I love if I am in the right beyond the shadow of a doubt. This kind of magick is not for the faint-hearted, or the quick-tempered. I always use a cooling off period and examine my motivation and intention deeply before acting, and I believe you should, too.

To make a binding jar, you will need a small clean jar, a candle to seal it; a piece of paper and a pen to write your petition on; black thread; some sort of herbal hexing or binding mixture, and sea salt. In his book The Witch's Shield [pg. 166], Christoper Penczak describes the method he uses to make a binding bottle and gives an excellent over-view of the technique. I have my own which is similar but uses a few variations.

I compound my own hexing powder, which is a combination of crushed cloves, garlic, hot red pepper , frankincense, myrrh, vervain, dragon's blood  and sea salt, all in equal amounts. Depending on what it will be used for, I add other herbs with the appropriate correspondences, and if I don't have the herbs, I use the essential oils. Once I assemble all the ingredients, they are added  into my mortar, three ingredients at a time, making certain they are well ground while focusing my intention and /or reciting words of empowerment. The intention of the spell, with the names of all the parties, is written on a small piece of paper which I carefully fold away from me nine times, tying it at least  three times around with a black thread. I also seal the edge of the paper with a few drops of wax. I fill the jar a bit less than half full with sea salt, drop in the paper, and nine whole cloves, then top it off with more salt. After screwing on the lid, I charge the jar, including words of binding, and seal it shut around the edge by dripping wax from the candle. The candle can be any color you deep appropriate for the work, or white. After that you can either place the jar in the freezer to 'freeze' the actions you wish to bind, or bury it in the earth to 'ground' the binding.

Usually, before I conjure the work, I write out the binding on a separate sheet of paper so I can create the very best wording possible, and re-copy them as part of the ritual onto the actual piece of paper I will be putting into the jar of salt and herbs. I like to take my time performing the spell, because if it's worth doing, it should be done thoughtfully and in a respectful manner. I usually do the conjuration as a part of a larger ritual inside a cast circle, but, as always, I urge you to follow your own inclination to imbue the work with as much of your own personal energy as possible. You may wish to call upon a particular deity to assist you with the work ( I suggest Hecate, but you may prefer another). I do not recommend the inclusion of any demons or lower entities, because the purest form of intention for this work is to merely bind the actions of the individuals, not to cause them harm. Remember, maleficence begets maleficence, and if you send out evil, it will return to you.

copyright 2013, AmethJera

Monday, June 3, 2013

Witchin' In The Kitchen

cookie jar by
Original to the Pagan Blog Project, week K
My name is AmethJera, and I am a Kitchen Witch. I'll admit it. I love being in the kitchen. Occasionally, I'll share a recipe on this blog, or something from my personal grimorie.

A little historical context: The traditional Kitchen Witch looks like this amazing cookie jar from Storybook Ceramics
[ ] with a few variations depending on the source. She represents the Russian Arch Crone Baba Yaga, also known as the Bone Mother. Although often depicted as sweet faced old woman with a rather large nose, she is far from the average grandma, and numerous wild stories about are pepper cultural legends. Here's one of the most over the top I've found on the Web: [ ].

All I have to say out for those little old ladies, no matter how cute they look! Things aren't always what they seem.

Somewhere along the line, the marketing geniuses (heavy sarcasm here) replaced the European peasant version of the Kitchen Witch with the western version of the witch-on-a-broom. I suspect the agenda behind this was to reinforce the familiar stereotype... and because most publicists and those in marketing believe that consumers/the public is a bit sub-par in the imagination department and we must be told and shown what is meant, because, you know...We just can't figure things out on our own. The ornamental wicked crone in the pointy hat riding a broom was introduced to the modern day kitchen as a decorative accent...and as a subliminal talisman. Many are deliberately cute. Not all of them ride brooms...I have seen variations on wooden spoons, egg beaters, and forks.

However the Kitchen Witch is portrayed, her presence in the  kitchen-ancient or modern- is a reminder of the days when the kitchen was not only used for meal preparation, but as a social center and classroom.
Family and friends gathered in the comfort of an intimate kitchen not far from the warm hearth, for bodily nourishment and to sustain the spirit and soul as countless hours of story-telling (mythical and historical) took place. Genealogies were handed down, stories of the famous and infamous people and places in the area, all in the cozy kitchen in front of the stove or the fire while being renewed by a bowl of soup. Because it was more than likely the warmest part of the house and they would not mold, herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes were dried in the kitchen. A primitive form of herbalism took place as people not only learned to cook food, but to compound medicines for various common ailments. There is a thin line between folk medicine and folk magic, and in some parts of the world the two are inseparable. A Kitchen Witch doll- which is actually a magickal poppet- is wholly appropriate to be hung in the modern kitchen as a reminded of our historical roots.

Blessing for a Kitchen Witch

Little Witchling I adore
Keep us safe from harm and more-
Bless the food we need each day,
Guide us in the Mystical way.
Bless my hands and heart and hearth,
Watch over all with sacred mirth.

copyright 2013, AmethJera

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On a Lazy Afternoon

The first five months of the year have gone by amazingly fast; I have no idea where May actually went, except that it is irretrievably gone. Gone. And I have no flippin' idea where it went or what I was really doing during that time. other than putting order to my life...a big task in itself, but nothing that should have let an entire month slip by practically unnoticed on this blog.

So here I am today, as the late afternoon slips into early evening, enjoying the stillness of an empty house and the sun shooting golden streaks across the floor of the room where the computer is located, buffeted by a gently rotating fan to hold back the sudden surge of heat. This is, of course, The South. Heat is a notoriously Southern characteristic this time of year, one which adds to the charm of the region.

Only two days into June, and I want to spread myself out on a lounge chair with a large glass of iced (not
too) sweet tea, enjoying the chirping tree frogs, the magnolias and watching for the occasional fox  meandering across the back yard. I want to sit beneath the low moon in the sky and watch fireflies, and do read. Summer is three weeks away, but already I can feel the urgent pull of the season of plenty.
I have stated before on this blog that I am not a "Summer" person; living in humid The South has certainly not changed that. I am not thrilled by heat, humidity, baking myself in the sun, or sweating. My
Scot-Irish/German/Italian complexion and red hair bear testimony to that. I burn too easily, and I am allergic to many sun blocks on the I am a reluctant participant, continuously seeking shade and a cooler spot in the yard. I am content to watch the flowers reach up to the sunlight at mid-day between chapters of a not too serious 'Summertime' novel. This summer, if everything goes smoothly and I have moved to the Virginia mountains as I am planning on doing, I will attempt to tackle the Deryni Series by Katherine Kurtz, volumes of which have sat on the upper most shelf in my bedroom collecting dust.


One thing in particular I will continue working on is my personal solitary practice. It feeds me spiritually and emotionally and I think the introspection makes me a better person. I know for a fact that it makes me a better writer, because I make the time to be alone with my thoughts. I love the spiritual head-space the Irish call The Place of Deep In-Dwelling. It's my 'happy place', although it's not always comfortable to be there. More than just "thinking just good thoughts", it's where I work through my thoughts and wrestle my personal demons. Sometimes it gets crowded down there, and even though I'm by myself, I am rarely alone.

A tool that I've found particularly useful is Teo Bishop's liturgy from the Solitary Druid Fellowship. Perhaps it's because we both share the same background in the Episcopal Church, but the language and form he uses is comforting and familiar. His most current blog from Bishop in the Grove centers around using contemplation as a devotional technique I have to admit that this is something I've done most of my life and haven't had to think very deeply about, because it came naturally. In the early days of my spiritual practice, before I ever attempted to name it, I would go somewhere comfortable and settle into an attitude of meditation (usually in nature, but there are numerous indoor spots I favor, also). After a period of mindfully being in my head, the prayers, or devotions would simply flow through me; that this happens spontaneously still amazes me. Even though I say it happens spontaneously, I'd like to think there is some input from the Imminent Divine in all of this so it's a conversation rather than a monologue. I think that Teo has nailed that in this post, and so I'm recommending it as a starting point if anyone is interested in incorporating it into their practice.


As I am writing this-laptop on the table in the screen porch- there is a fat grey rabbit happily munching on the plants about three feet from the tree in this above photo. It is voracious and determined, totally ignoring the human at the table and the tapping of the keyboard. It is a wondrous and serene moment in the dimming light of late afternoon, one of those small gifts of the natural world that is only dispensed in small doses.

copyright 2013, AmethJera

Monday, May 27, 2013

Goodness and Grace

"You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain

Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire..."

~Jerry Lee Lewis, 1957. Lyrics by Otis Blackwell & Jack Hammer

The conservative 'hard line' of both the Protestant Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches are recovering from monumental blows delivered by their prelates. Both His Holiness Pope Francis and The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church,  have managed to outrage the more traditional element of their respective faith traditions by delivering statements which not only go against their respective dogma, but negates a few of the Christianity's most flaunted tenants.

First, the Presiding Bishop, speaking to a crowd in Venezuela on May 20th, told the gathered faithful, "Salvation comes not from being cleansed of our sins by the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, but through the divinization of humanity through the work of the human will."[ ]

Wait... are these the words of the leader of the Episcopal Church, or is Bishop Katherine actually sounding a lot like Aleister Crowley? ( "Love is the Law, Love under will.", Liber Al vel Legis [Book of the Law,1904, L 1:57] However you feel about Crowley as a human being, he was an intelligent, well-read and gifted man. I will admit that I personally find some of his habits ( and resulting attitude) repugnant, but, were some of Gandhi's [].

Whatever has lead Bishop Katherine to this new definition of salvation, it is spiritually deep and personal; you don't just toss centuries of dogma aside when you are the supreme leader of a large religious movement...even if it is badly constructed dogma. Especially if you do so knowing full well and good that it will cause more anal puckering among local diocesan Bishops and clergy than a lemon enema.

What The PB actually did was make the distinction between atonement and salvation. In basic Christian theology, atonement refers to the pardoning of human sin (forgiveness) through the crucifixion of Jesus, therefor reconciling Man and God. Salvation, on the other hand, is the protection or deliverance of the individual from consequences either by the grace or whim of a deity. When the sacredness of humankind is recognized as equally important as that of a god, then the role of co-creator with Divinity is put into its rightful place. The Divine is seen in people, and is know by their actions toward each other and Nature.
That is what I believe was meant by the Presiding Bishop's statement. It is a simple truth when the embroidery is stripped away.

Three days later, on May 23rd, Pope Francis stated that being an atheist is fine- as long as you do good.
There is an innate goodness in all of us. No human being begins their existence as an evildoer; it is the choices and path that individual follows later in life that defines them.

Holy Schism, Batman, two of Christendom's major players just mouthed the same words many Pagans have been saying since the first of us crawled out of the primordial bog. We are not only not afflicted with 'original sin', but we are good people from the start, and because we are ourselves divine. God/dess is within us. We are not reaching outside ourselves, but looking in. If that which you seek you cannot find within, you will never find it without- isn't that what Doreen Valiente was trying to convey in the Charge of the Goddess? Look inside, examine the heart, and you will see not only what is inside the heart, but the soul.

Goodness is the birthright of humankind. What an astounding revelation, given what we've been lead to believe through our formative years. There is goodness within us. Great balls of fire, the flame just leaped up and caught hold, and the chaff was burned away....

AmethJera,copyright 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013


(Originally posted as the "H" installation of the Pagan Blog Project 2013)

The value of morals, ethic and honor drew me further into Paganism after my adaptation into this spiritual form of worship. In a world where all of the above are frequently tossed into the arena of conversation-usually with a self-righteous jab of some sort- I've found they are, sadly, only words.

But not to me. To me they are imperatives, in the same way it is necessary to breath to get oxygen. While I may sound a bit
unintentionally smug, I will not apologize for keeping my sense of altruism intact. For one thing it keeps me honest, if with no one other than myself. As another, it reminds me of characteristics to admire and strive toward because I believe that how we treat ourselves and others lays open out credibility and trustworthiness in the community. If you wish to gain the respect and admiration of others, then personal integrity in one's beliefs and actions is the only way to achieve that.

Being a person of honor shows in the awareness of
ones image. How do you want your character and life to be perceived? That's rather a simple answer to me which involves asking the question, "What is the face that you show to all of society?"