Empowered: National Women’s History Month

What it means to be empowered differs from person to person. For some, it’s taking strength in personal traits, such as confidence or modesty.  For others, action and results remains the core part of their empowerment.  All are completely valid and beautiful paths in becoming strong people.

To be empowered as a woman creates opportunities and breaks society’s “glass ceiling.”  Today because of the tireless efforts of our mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors, there are women in high positions of every branch of society.  Do we still have a lot of work to do, oh of course yes.  But think of where we would be if the women that have come before us had not taken a stand to break the patriarchal structure of society.

For myself, I have found empowerment through two threads in my life.  The first is my relationship with the Goddess.  She has always been next to me, reminding me that I have value.  As I believe in her, I believe in myself.  I especially find this in work with my patroness, Persephone.  Her story of her becoming Queen of the Underworld reminds me that even in the bleakest circumstances, you can find your strength and grow to love.  The second is a series of fantastic examples of empowered women in my life:

  • My grandmother:  She pursued advanced education in a male-dominated field at a time when women rarely went to college.  She also has been a source of encouragement in my life and instilled in me the value of faith no matter what religion a person may be.
  • My boss: I met my employer almost 10 years ago and she’s a good family friend.  Not only did she help me in my college search, but also gave me my first job.  Her academic path is a similar to mine, so she has been a wealth of knowledge over the years.
  • A Sunday School Teacher: When I was in middle and high school, my parents required that I attend Sunday school despite my extreme moral objections.  Fortunately for me, my teacher picked up on the fact that none of her students wanted to be there and used the time as an open forum to discuss personal problems and current events.  She treated every kid with immense respect, recognizing that our parents and teachers did not give us this luxury.  And she set me on my political path.  One day I got really upset about environmental policy (I still do) and when I asked her who could fix that problem, she simply said, “You.”

Men empower women as well by becoming living examples that the gender dichotomy is bull shit.  For myself, I had a fantastic high school teacher who worked tirelessly to eliminate students’ preconceptions about gender hierarchy.  He emphasized free thinking and self expression as tools to self empowerment.

Ladies, this is the month in which we celebrate these women  and men in our lives.  They have helped to form us and teach us what it means to live our lives on our own terms.  As you are empowered, may you empower those around you and continue the cycle.

© Ariadne Woods

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Witch Tips: Starting a Magical Library

I love books so much I am making them my career as a librarian.  They are an investment of space and knowledge.  When it comes to collecting books on Paganism, Wicca, witchcraft, and related activities (tarot, herbs, etc.), there are so many to choose from on such a wide range of topics.  But if you live in an apartment or have a small income, you can’t buy every book off Amazon.  How do you proceed, though, if you really want to grow a working Pagan, Wiccan, or magical library?

  • Think of the Amount of Space You Have: I have 2 drawers in my dorm room and 1 drawer at home to store all my Pagan things.  That includes books, herbs, incense, candles, spells, etc.  Until that changes, I have to keep that set space in mind when making any purchases, especially books.  
  • Start Small:  Buy one book at a time.  Read each book and finish it before buying a new one.  This method will not only ensure you read what you have, but also keep you from over spending.
  • If Possible, Buy Local: Not every community has a local new age store.  But if you are fortunate enough to be in a town or region with access to one, it is an invaluable resource.  For one, it is good for your local economy.  Also, the more you frequent a shop, the more the staff will get to know you and perhaps can give good recommendations.
  • Amazon, etc.: Internet shopping can also be a fantastic way to obtain books.  It can also be addicting.  My big word of caution is you should do research on the book you want to buy if you have never read or seen it before.  That way, you know what you are getting.

Now, what to put in your library?  It’s maddening for me to say it’s up to you, but that is how you should work.  For example, I have never had the desire to read Silver Ravenwolf, but she may really speak to you so go ahead and buy a few of her books.  Of all of my books, here are my five favorites:

  • The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
  • Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
  • Living Wicca by Scott Cunningham
  • The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk
  • A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith

One piece of advice I can give is to note your buying habits. In looking at my list, you can see that I read a lot of Starhawk.  I pretty much can guarantee if I have a few dollars to spend and I’m trolling Amazon and their algorithms recommend one of her books, I will like it.  Keep a running list of your books and bring it with you to bookshops and festival gatherings.

For anyone with a large collection of Pagan, Wiccan, or magical books, do you have any additional pieces of advice?  And what are your favorite books?

© Ariadne Woods

A Note to New Pagans

I don’t really think it matters how someone comes to Paganism.  You’re here and you have a lot of questions and a few doubts.  You are about to enter a world you may never knew existed.  Enjoy this beginning.  Savor the newness and fulfillment of a spiritual and religious life.

So now what?  What is the next step?  Honestly, I can’t tell you.  For me, I did a lot of Googling and reading.  I thought what I needed to do is “catch up” on what I missed and fill the gaps in my knowledge in order to be a good Pagan.  But you know what?  The strongest memory from the first few months into my path is one full moon I laid in my backyard and watched fireflies.  The simple lesson of stopping and appreciating the world the Goddess has given us stuck with me every day.

Not that reading isn’t important.  Knowledge is power and the more you know the firmer you will get in your practice.  But often, new Pagans get lost in the overwhelming amount of information.  The best advice I can give you is to start in two places: the myths and some history of Neo-Paganism (my recommendation: Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler).  Yes, learning about ritual is important too.  But understanding the background behind these sacred rites deepens your understanding of your practices.

You are going to be super excited about finding Paganism and feel the need to tell everyone.  Or alternatively scared shit-less because you think you could be judged, harmed, or humiliated because of your beliefs.  Coming out as Pagan is a personal decision.  You need to balance your personal growth and personal safety to decide to whom you can tell.  If it is everyone, great!  You are one of the public voices that will help debunk misconceptions people have about Pagans, Wiccans, and witches. If you can’t, that is fine.  Draw strength from this secret and come out on your own terms.

Whatever path you choose, I bless you in you endeavors.  Stay strong and remember this time in your life.  It will change you forever.

© Ariadne Woods

Ostara Recipes

Ostara is one of my favorite Pagan holidays.  It’s a time of newness and growth.  In the last few days, it has been getting warmer, the first flowers have bloomed, and the earth is starting to smell lively again.  Take advantage of this feeling of the season in your meals and feasts.

  • Herb-y Egg Scramble: Eggs are an essential symbol of rebirth and Ostara, so they are highly appropriate to the season.  My favorite way is the following: Beat the appropriate amount of eggs with a little milk, salt, pepper, and herbs.  My favorite combination is fresh chives, thyme, and parsley.  Cook as you would a usual batch of scrambled eggs.  After plating them, sprinkle with cheese.
  • Milkshakes: Forget Shamrock Shakes.  Grab a blender and make your own at home.  Experiment with combinations of ice creams, syrups, and fresh fruit.
  • Spring Salads: Leafy greens are a nice way to bring that fresh spring feeling to your table.  Try arugula for a peppery taste, crisp butter lettuce, or traditional spring mix.  Dress the greens with homemade dressing or a new bottle from the grocery store.  Never made a dressing before?  Try this Lavender-Honey Mustard dressing (You will need to scroll down a little the direct link goes to the wrong place).
  • Pancakes, Crepes, or Pannenkoeken: These can be made for every meal and occasion.  To make them seasonal, think about the fillers and toppings.  Try honey butter on pancakes or farmer’s market cheese baked in some pannenkoeken.
  • Mead: My local pub labels this on the menu as the “Drink of the Gods.”  This honey drink is perfect for ritual or just as an evening drink.

© Ariadne Woods

Personal Forms of Goddess Worship

One of my favorite lines from The Charge of the Goddess says “Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.” This concept epitomizes freedom, creativity, and independence in Goddess worship.  While structured rituals have their place within Paganism, the deities recognize that there are no restraints on the sacred practices.

Now I don’t think everything we do glorifies the Goddess. Laundry, for one, is as mundane as life gets.  Acts of dishonor, deceit, and most forms of criminality are violations of personal and sacred ethics, therefore the God and Goddess aren’t going to like performing them in their name.

The question at hand is what constitutes worship outside of the circle? I think the answer is personal.  Since the inherent principle is from within, only you can know what glorifies the Goddess.

For me, there are a few activities that honors the Goddess:

  • Dancing alone or with friends
  • Climbing trees
  • Taking walks in my local park
  • Making food
  • Taking long baths
  • Drinking tea on my porch
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family

The key element to personal worship is intent.  Keep the Goddess and the God in mind and the act will be seen as what it is.  A beautiful expression of love and worship.

Witch Tips: Spring Cleaning

The days are getting longer.  A few days ago I woke up to birdsong.  Wool coats are going back in the closet.  My family established the tradition of spring cleaning when I was a little girl when the weather gets warm enough to keep a window open for an hour.  Even if you don’t have time to clean everything in your home top-to-bottom, here are a few simple tasks to do before Ostara.

  • Junk Drawer: I’ve got one.  You’ve got one.  We’ve all got one. It’ll take you (hopefully) an hour to go through, discard, and reorganize.  If it’s at work or school, take 5 minutes of every break and go through a section of the drawer at a time.
  • Awake the Earth: If you have a garden, start working the soil and clearing leaves from the fall.  Plan your space for the new planting season.  Give a small offering to appropriate spirits and deities.
  • Open a Window: Fresh air is healthy and therapeutic.  It may be too cold to spend large amounts of time outside, but a little bit will go a long way to ushering in spring.
  • Clean Your Altar: Some people think that physically cleaning an altar affects the energies of the space.  I kind of think the deities and spirits you work with will get more offended if their sacred space is messy than if you shift the energies.  I will say I like to keep chemicals and synthetics out of sacred space, so use natural cleaners.
  • Reestablish Relationships: Sometimes you become a little relaxed in your spiritual practice, especially in the dormant energies of winter, making you feel spiritually messy. Create a small ritual to speak directly to your deities to strengthen your bond.

© Ariadne Woods