Twenty-Five Questions

A friend of mine is teaching a course on Wicca and asked all her friends to answer twenty-five questions to show the diversity of opinions within Paganism. I am posting my answers here not just so my readers can get to know me better, but also in hopes that other bloggers will answer these questions on their own blogs.

  1. What Do You Call Yourself?: A Witch
  2. Using Common Terms, Describe Your Path: Solitary Pagan with strong Wiccan influences
  3. Do You Draw from a Particular Path, Not Your Own, Frequently?: Reclaiming (i.e. the works of Starhawk).
  4. Any Path Intimidate You?: Shamanism is fascinating, but I don’t think I’m disciplined for it.
  5. Favorite Herb: Lavender
  6. Favorite Gemstone: Chevron Amethyst
  7. Favorite Divination Tool: Tarot
  8. Favorite Tools: Candles
  9. Favorite Sabat: Mabon, although I am stricter at adhering to the esbats.
  10. Favorite Season: Fall
  11. Favorite Pagan Book: The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
  12. Favorite Book with Pagan Themes: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  13. Favorite Myth: Thor and Loki dressing in drag.
  14. Patron God/dess: Persephone
  15. Other Aligned Deities: Selene, Hecate, Janus
  16. Favorite ‘Pagan’ Saying: “From the Goddess we all come and to the Goddess we all return.”
  17. Most Commonly Used Offering: Either incense or beer
  18. Believe in the Rede?: Sort of; harm is relative and hard to define.
  19. Meditate?: Yes, using prayer beads
  20. Magic?: All of the time
  21. If Yes to 20, Dark Witchcraft, Light Witchcraft, or In-between?: In-between because I think dark/light is a matter of perspective.
  22. In or Out of the Broomcloset?: Half and half.  Out to friends, in to family.
  23. Solitary or Coven Member: Solitary
  24. What Forms of Social Media Do You Use as a Pagan?: WordPress, Tumblr, and Witch’s Voice
  25. If I Wasn’t Pagan/Wiccan, I Would Be…: a Humanist.

© Ariadne Woods

PS: Anyone who answers these questions, can you please comment with a link to your answers so other people can read them?  Thanks a bunch!

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Pagan Death Rites

The typical Pagan funeral is similar to a formal ritual, but with some variations. Of course there is the Casting of a Circle, Calling of the Quarters, Invocations, Raising of Power, Grounding, Cakes and Ale, and Sending Forth.  But sprinkled in this service are several variations.  For one, there should be a section to explain the methodology of the service because there will be non-Pagans in attendance.  Also music tends to play a larger role than in normal rituals because it has a calming effect on the mourners.  Lastly and most importantly, there is a Time of Sharing of stories about and words to the deceased by family, friends, covenmates, coworkers, and acquaintances.  Usually a Priestess or Priest conducts the service, regardless of if the Witch was a solitary or not.

Of course different traditions have other elements to the funeral service.  For example in Ásatrú, the body is buried with items the person will need in the afterlife, and there is a celebratory toast to the person who has passed.  It definitely depends on that tradition’s conception of the afterlife.  If you adhere to a particular tradition, check with your Priestess, Priest, or another source for nuances in the service.

Another factor that plays a part in Pagan services and arrangements is how green the burial can be.  In some communities there are Pagan or green cemeteries, such as the Circle Cemetery, which is perfect for a deceased Pagan.  For people without access to eco-friendly plots, having the body prepared and interred with as little environmental impact as possible can be a challenge due to local regulations.  Look into the greenest possible solution for the person who has passed.  Cremation is also an excellent option.  The most important thing to keep in mind is the wishes of the deceased balanced with legal requirements.

A type of service most people don’t consider is rites for familiars and pets.  In my opinion these funerals can be just as elaborate and meaningful.  CharmingPixieFlora discusses this topic at length, but also check with your local pet cemeteries for burial options.

After the service, some families or covens choose to hold a party or wake to celebrate the person’s life and accomplishments.

Further Reading and References:

Starhawk’s The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

Funeral Wise

Witch’s Voice for Priestess and Priest listings

© Ariadne Woods

Rethinking the Elements

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Think about the Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit, etc.  What do you associate with these forces?  Any seasons, cardinal directions, colors, creatures, or attributes?  Do you have a special connection with any of them?  Do you even perceive Elements that are not listed?  Now, think about why you have these associations. Did you read about the correspondences in a book or article?  Did your mentor or coven give you this wisdom?  Or is it something you developed in your own practice?  Lastly, think about if you agree with these associations.  Have you moved or relocated since first establishing your relationships with the Elements, so they shifted cardinal directions?  Has your practice changed?  Or have you found that you don’t agree with an aspect anymore?

I encourage you to do this questioning every once in a while, especially if you move a lot or have had a serious change in your spiritual beliefs.  Things change, so even if you feel you have standing correspondences with the Elements it is good to reestablish and reconnect.

© Ariadne Woods

Review: Everyday Magic

The Everyday series by Dorothy Morrison is an iconic set of grimoires in the Craft canon.  While this tome is the most general of the works, the other three deal with solar, lunar, and tarot magic.

When opening this book one of my first impression is how modern it is.  Flipping through it casually one comes across spells for computer problems and plane travel.  It is refreshing to encounter a wide variety of issues some of which are part of everyday life.  Morrison also advocates for the use of modern technology as magical tools.  She makes the argument that a mortar and pestle were once the height of advancement, so why shouldn’t witches adapt to current tools?

Another element is the opening chapters, which discuss spellcasting theory, correspondences, and symbols.  She discusses the role of the moon, sun, days of the week, colors, common plants, and gemstones in magical work.  However Morrison shines when talking about the role of magic and the variety of theories surrounding the art.  One poignant point about if witchcraft should be avoided due to its nature to cause a ripple effect comes down to intention.  “We need to be absolutely certain of what we want before beginning any magical work and very specific in our requests of the Cosmos when we set a spell in motion” (76 Morrison).  She presents a strong consideration of any concerns a witch may have.

Morrison makes the point that she tested the spells in the book, so to give credit to her work I did a few.  I won’t tell you which ones, but they were simple to follow and worked exceedingly well.  While I don’t think a novice witch should try some of them, there are workings for a wide variety of skills.

Overall this book is essential to a witch’s arsenal.  Well done, Ms. Morrison.

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Common Problems with Spellwork

Not everything goes right all of the time.  You could have the perfect candle, the best timing, and the freshest herbs, but something still happens and you feel like the spell is going to fail.  No worries.  Here’s a few pieces of advice to help you keep your cool.

  • The Candle/Incense Went Out:  If you’re still in ritual, relight it.  If not, the spell is done and dispose of the materials.
  • Something Shatters: I’ve never had this happen to me, but if you’re burning something or using a glass container to hold a candle for a long period of time it can happen.  Clean it up and consider the spell done.
  • You Can’t Concentrate: Take a moment and just breath.  Try to calm down and get your blood pressure lowered a little.  If you can’t, clean up and do the work another time.
  • Someone or Something Interrupts You: First of all, minimize the chance of this happening: turn off your cell, tell your roommates or family to leave you alone, put your pets in another room (familiars excepted), etc.  But if it does happen, play it by ear and have a good perspective on the matter.  If your dog breaks your circle, that is so much less of a big deal than if one of your kids is bleeding and needs medical attention.
  • You Don’t Have the Appropriate Materials: This is where indexes come in handy!  Look up the type of spell and see what materials will work for you.  Most spellbooks have them in the back.  I prefer Scott Cunningham’s indexes in the back of any of his encyclopedias or Dorothy Morrison’s because they’re comprehensive and easy to use.  However as you do more and more work, you’ll develop an instinct about what materials will work in a spell.
  • You Feel Like the Spell Didn’t Work: Calm down and be patient.  Trust in yourself and your abilities.  And sometimes a spell needs time to work out, so try to distract yourself.
  • You Don’t Like the Outcome: Tough shit. Accept it and move on.

© Ariadne Woods

Am I Fluffy?

The term “fluffy” is something that gets bounced around quite a bit in the Pagan community, but the meaning of the colloquialism is a little murky.  When I started my practice, everything I read informed me that “fluffy” meant practitioners that saw everything as love and light and unicorn and rainbows.  I have since learned that is not the only definition.  Some people believe that the term is connected to the type of magic you do, or in some cases the fact you do magic at all.  Others connect the term “fluffy” to newer Pagans who come to their practice with a hyped up sense of enthusiasm.  Still others say that people who follow particular paths (namely solitary paths) or the guidance of certain authors (often Silver Ravenwolf).  These are all very different ideas with different connotations.  So what does this term actually denote?

A while ago I decided on my personal definition of “fluffy” as people who practice magic or any faith without understanding or without deeper meaning.  For example if someone does magic all of the time without any deeper understanding of energies or the involvement of the quarters and any appropriate deities, then that’s a little “fluffy.”  Everything that you do in this life has an effect on you, your family, your friends, your lovers, and even complete strangers.  I don’t claim to have the answers of why that is (although I have personal suspicions).  But doing magic or invoking deities without this concept in the back of your head is not only ignorant, but also irresponsible.  I get that this happens, especially with new practitioners, so as knowledge expands so lessens the “fluff.”  I admit to having my “fluffy” moments, especially early in my practice.  My early rituals before I really started reading and listening to my moral compass really had no meaning, because I was invoking deities and powers just for fun.  Now, that horrifies me to practice that level of ignorance. Also, being enthusiastic does not make you “fluffy” rather than just excited to be doing what you are doing.

I encourage other people to share their definitions of “fluffy” or their “fluffy” moments.

© Ariadne Woods

The Moon as a Symbol

The moon is brought up a lot in Paganism as a tool, as a symbol, and as a spiritual guide.  For many practitioners she is a source of divine inspiration and admiration.  There is a lot of symbolism around this celestial object, often associated with its moon phase.  Observing the moon is considered a spiritual practice, one I encourage.  This is just a quick guide to the symbolism of the moon although there are several books on the subject (see below!).

The waxing moon occurs from between the new and full moons.  I like to establish it from the day after the first sighting on a waxing crescent to the day before the full moon.  In its archetype, the waxing moon depicts the White Goddess or the Maiden: free-spirited, untamed, and young.  Diana, Greco-Roman Goddess of hunt and children, is the major deity associated with this phase.  In magic workings this is a good time for increasing energy and gaining.

The full moon occurs for three days in the lunar cycle.  You can feel it in your bones as well as see it in the sky.  She is the Red Goddess or the Mother: creating, nurturing, and powerful.  The deities associated with this phase are Tsukuyomi and Selene, Shinto God  and Greco-Roman Goddess (respectively) of the Moon.  All magic can be performed at this part of the cycle.

The waning moon is from the first sign of decrease in the moon until it is no longer visible.  The Black Goddess or the Crone represent this time: wise, introspective, and empowered.  Hecate, Greco-Roman Goddess of magic and crossroads, is the deity of the waning moon.  Releasing and banishing magic can be performed at this time in the cycle.

The dark moon is when the moon is not visible in the sky.  It is the darkest energy in the lunar cycle.  Some people believe that no magic can be performed at this time, but I think it is a universal time similar to the full moon.

The new moon is the first visible crescent of the moon in the new cycle.  She is associated with new beginnings in both spiritual and magical activities.

Further Reading:

Everyday Moon Magic by Dorothy Morrison

Grandmother Moon by Z Budapest

© Ariadne Woods