The difference between a pet and a familiar is in the connection you have with that creature. You just kind of know.  I’ve had five cats throughout my lifetime and only one of them I would consider a familiar.  Why?  Every time I am setting up ritual, lighting a stick of offering incense, even doing a little space clearing, she runs up and wants to “help.” Eventually she settles and sits quietly and observes.  Why?  One theory is that these animals are more sensitive to subtile shifts in energy and are drawn to investigate and learn.  To me this makes sense because my familiar also becomes extremely tense during thunderstorms.  While cats are the traditional animal of choice, any animal can be a familiar.

If you have other animals, don’t treat your familiar differently than you do the other animals in your life.  You just have to acknowledge that your familiar has a place in your spiritual life as well as your mundane one.

© Ariadne Woods


Witch Tips: Starting Your Pagan Path

New to Paganism?  Not sure where to start?  We’ve all been there, so no worries.  Here are a couple of activities to help you get started.

  • Reach Out to the Community:  One of the best parts of being Pagan is that the community is a community in the truest sense.  It’s open and friendly and easy to break into.  So, frequent Pagan or new age shops, make a Tumblr page, talk to a Pagan friend, etc.
  • Observe Cycles: Lunar, solar, water, life. They are all around us and are the core of ritual and spiritual practice.  Start with the moon cycle and try to see her every day.
  • Suspend Your Stereotypes: Being Pagan has no correlation to any gender, class, race, nationality, sexual orientation, political philosophy, educational background, social group, or professional field.  As Margot Adler found in her research for Drawing Down the Moon, the only characteristic that dominates the Pagan community is the tendency to be a vociferous reader.  So if you’ve got any preconceived notion about what it means to be Wiccan or Pagan, set them aside.
  • Get Your Hands on a Book: Your library is your best friend.  If yours uses the Dewy Decimal System, look within the religion or metaphysics sections.  If you can’t find them and are brave, ask your librarian.  Sometimes to prevent the books from getting vandalized workers keep books on Paganism behind the counter.  Or they can obtain them through interlibrary loan.
  • Cultivate a Quiet Practice: Spend five to fifteen minutes a day meditating, visualizing, or using prayer beads (a beaded bracelet will work to start).
  • Drink More Water: There’s a rumor in the Pagan community that drinking more water assists in the development of psychic abilities and spiritual awareness.  While that may or may not be true (I’m a little skeptical), you’ll have more energy and will improve your overall health.
  • Buy a Plant: Working with the earth is a fabulous way to develop your faith and an overall sense of peace.  Gardening is a bit of a commitment though.  If you already have one great! In your next planting, add lavender, rosemary, and other herbs to your beds.  If you’re like me and are in your twenties with not much to your name, buy a plant you really like and take care of it.  Name it, water it, and enjoy the connection to this living thing.

© Ariadne Woods

Tools of the Craft

When I started on this spiritual path, everything I read said I needed this, this, and this to practice my craft.  I felt like being a witch or a pagan meant someone who with all the stuff. Bull shit. You don’t need a damn thing to be a witch other than personal commitment and strength.

But why does the books and blogs and other Pagan media present these things as necessary?  Part of it is activities associated with witchcraft and paganism which do require some tools: herbalism, crystal work, divination, space clearing, etc.  As a budding herbalist and a big fan of tarot cards, I admit I get caught up buying new herbs and books.  Another reason is tools make it easier to create a spiritual ambiance.  Candlelight and incense go a long way to put you in the right mood to connect to deities and to do craftwork.  However this notion is partially socially constructed.  We create a mysterious setting because spirituality is considered something part of a higher aspect than usual life in the natural world.  I argue that as part of an earth-based religion, spiritual knowledge is only as far away as walking out your front door and sitting in your yard.

Regardless of their marketing, the tools fall on a varying degree of usefulness depending on the witch or the practice.  For example, athames are considered an integral aspect to Pagan ritual, yet I don’t own one.  However, I do have three incense holders because I use incense as a weekly offering.  It just depends on personal preference.  The only tool every Pagan I know uses is candles.

When creating personal forms of worship, consider looking to a variety of traditions and new technologies for tools.  Prayer beads, originating from Catholic and Buddhist traditions, have become popular in the Pagan community.  Also, computers and tablets are also important tools for researching the craft and connecting to the global community.  Invest in what you know you’ll use, not what you think you need.

© Ariadne Woods

Prompt Response: Just One Book

So I stumbled upon a fantastic blog, Pagan Blog Prompts.  It offers great suggestions to inspire Pagan bloggers and to keep their work open, engaging, and thought provoking.  I’m going to respond to my first one, let’s see how this goes!

If you could recommend just one book to a newcomer, what would it be?

Oh goddess this is going to be hard.

Alright, we all know that’s not very fair. So you can share up to 3 books that you feel all people looking to explore Paganism should read.

Oh phew. I’ve got this.

  1. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk: Starhawk is my favorite Pagan author.  Her work discusses the deep, spiritual side of this religion, not just spells and rituals.  The Spiral Dance changed my life.  But why did I pick The Pagan Book of Living and Dying? The hardest thing for me to grapple with when I converted was what happens after we die.  If there isn’t a heaven or hell, well what are the alternatives?  This book challenges so many preconceived notions and social mores.  I recommend it for anyone serious about converting to Paganism or working over the big questions.
  2. Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler:  I know I’ve talked about this book on my blog before, but I want to reiterate the idea that it is essential for anyone in any faith to know its history.  Hense, this book.
  3. Any Book of Myths: These stories, brought from our ancestors, are the ultimate basis of modern tradition because they not only present stories but also give insight into old school ritual and faith practices.  So, grab your Bullfinch’s or Edith Hamilton and get reading.

© Ariadne Woods

Litha Recipes

The Summer Solstice is coming up fast.  It’s on a Friday night, so why not host a feast!  Here are a couple of tasty recipes to get you started.

  • Roasted or Grilled Veggies: Asparagus, broccoli, peppers, even early squash drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  350 degree F oven for 20 minutes or so.  If you want to step them up, add a couple cloves of garlic to the roasting pan or marinade.
  • Tacos: For me, summer invokes memories of my dad making refried beans and fresh guacamole.  Put the fillings–meat, beans, tomatos, salsa, sour cream, etc.–in small bowls so that each person can have fun assembling their Litha feast.
  • Fresh Fruit: Berries, bananas, peaches, pears, grapes.  Chop, mix, eat.
  • Mediterranean Salad: 1 can of chick peas drained, 1 large tomato chopped, 1 English cucumber diced, 1 small red onion diced, 1 jar of artichokes drained, 1 container of Kalamala olives pitted, and 1 block of diced (you can crumble, but I like bigger pieces) of feta.  Combine in a bowl.  In a small, separate bowl whisk the juice of 1 lemon, a handful of mint chopped, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.  Drizzle over veggies and enjoy.
  • Lemon Pudding Cake with Fresh Mixed Berries: A light, refreshing dessert.
  • Fruit Tarts:  Super easy.  My favorite combination is strawberry-apricot.
  • Mojitos:  This is a drink that pairs well with whatever you make for dinner.  Plus, drinking rum makes you feel a little bit like a pirate!
  • Lemonade:  You can buy this from the grocery store or farmer’s market.  Or get a bunch of lemons, sugar, and seltzer water to make something special and bubbly.
  • Ritual Cakes and Ale: You could do any of the desserts or drinks above.  Or if you want something different, buy a bottle of white wine this week.  Open it up, add a couple of sprigs of rosemary, cork, and refrigerate until your ready for the your solstice celebration.  Pair with short bread (homemade or store bought).

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Outdoor Ritual/Time in Nature Survival Kit

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have not started spending time outside, you are missing out.  Nature is blossoming.  And while I am all for impromptu trips, in the case of outdoor Litha rituals or wildcrafting there are a couple of items that you can through in your bag to aid your experience.

  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, a Wide Brimmed Hat, etc.: Sunburns suck.  Consider also carrying a natural bug spray, especially if you live in areas where insects frequently carry West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.
  • A Pocket Knife: Especially good for wildcrafting.  Or for collecting Queen Anne’s Lace to remind you about the transformational aspects of your ritual.  This object can also become a makeshift athame.
  • Libation or Offering: This happens to me all the time.  I’m on a walk and I feel the Goddess and want to give something back to her and I’ve got nothing.  If you’re like me, you probably like to be prepared for these kind of impromptu moments.  When you are working out, it’s a no big deal because you can carry water.  In other cases, you can also make offering stones or spell stars specifically for offerings in nature.
  • A Field Guide: If you live in the US, your local wildlife service can provide you with a booklet of local plants and animals.  This is great if you are a wildcrafter or if you want to make ure you don’t come into contact with poisonous plants.

What NOT to Bring:

  • Your Cellphone, iPad, etc.: Unless you are going on a lengthy hike in a risky location, leave all forms of technology at home. Be with the God and Goddess. Possible exception: a camera.

© Ariadne Woods