Archive for the ‘pagan’ Category

On Monday, we came home from our annual week-long summer camping holiday at Canada’s largest Neo-Pagan festival, Kaleidoscope Gathering. We had a truly fantastic time, spent time with friends, met great people, gave a Tarot workshop, attended workshops and rituals, and relaxed at our lovely campsite by the river.

Tuesday we spent trying to come back down to earth, and I went to pick up our pup Carter from his foster parents in Ottawa.

Wednesday morning t! went back to work and I started the day with some time in my garden, and did a morning meditation & tarot card draw, followed by some very useful and cathartic journaling. Four hours later I found myself typing a resignation letter for the part-time job I’m currently doing. I hate it, it sucks my time and energy, chains me to the computer indoors when I want to be working outside, and the person I’m working for is a nasty bully. Plus I’m severely underpaid, and the number of hours I’m billing per month add up to little more than pocket change. The only reason I haven’t quit before now is that I was afraid that if I tried to quit, he would bully me into changing my mind and I would end up feeling even worse about myself and the job!

After I hit “send” on the email, and the proverbial weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I started thinking about how to make (or mark) a “fresh start” on this new path.

One of the books I pulled off my bookshelf after we got home from Fest was my friend Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s Hearthcraft book (which the publishers insisted on calling The Way of the Hedge Witch, even though it’s about hearth & home magic.) And while flipping through it again, I started thinking about the energy in our home, and how it affects me and makes me feel. Making our home more welcoming, cosy and “homey” is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and something that the icky part-time job was specifically stopping me from doing, for a variety of reasons. My own spirit feels renewed and refreshed after spending a week at KG, and I want to expand that sense of renewed energy to my immediate environment, our home. So my Spell for a Fresh Start is going to centre around clearing all the old, stagnant, negative energy out of our house and replacing it with fresh, happy, productive, creative energy.

I decided that the first thing I needed to do was get rid of anything in the house that was dead and/or decaying, in order to banish stagnation, death, and decay from our environment. So yesterday:

  • The dried remains of some flowers got composted and the vase they were in thoroughly washed
  • I cleaned all the science experiments and soggy vegetables out of the fridge, and washed out the veg drawer
  • I cleaned up all the hairballs that the cats had horked up in the basement while we were away for a week
  • I took the dead mole out of the freezer[1]
  • I washed out the two coolers from the camping trip and all the icky tupperware containers that had held our camping food, and
  • I even snipped all the dead leaves off the houseplants.

Then I went out for a walk with Carter, and picked a fresh bunch of wildflowers – wild purple asters as it turns out – and put them in the clean vase.

Today I will start on sweeping, to further clear the stagnant energy out of the house. Since we have a big house,  sweeping (and vacuuming, for rooms that have carpeting) will probably take me two or three days (or more, now that I remember that I have to pick everything up off a floor in order to sweep it). I’ll try to get into every nook and corner of every room (except t!’s office, but he thoroughly cleaned it before our vacation), which will mean moving furniture, and get all the cobwebs off the ceilings too. As well as cleaning, and sweeping away any stagnant energy, this should also get rid of the last of the dead bugs off the windowsills, etc. And now that I realise what this plan entails, I’m thinking it may take me up to a week! That’s OK, I have some spare time while I’m waiting for the tomatoes in the garden to ripen so that I can start the canning…

I’ll check in again in a couple of days to talk more about how it’s going[2] and what I plan to do next.


[1] SKIP this paragraph if you are squeamish. You have been warned! The cats, as they are wont to do, did a lot of barfing while we were away. When t! when down to the basement after we got back, he found a mole in the basement, eating the half-digested kibble in the cat barf (ewww!) Not having a better plan (he couldn’t bring himself to simply step on it), he put a mouse trap next to the pile of cat barf. An hour later when we checked the trap, the mole was caught but not yet dead. We scooped the mole into a plastic bag and dropped it into the freezer – death by hypothermia is one of the kindest ways to go, and how I usually dispose of deformed baby chicks.

[2] Yes, I know traditionally you’re not supposed to talk about a spell while you’re doing it. I don’t know who made that rule, but like with everything I do, I follow what feels right to me regardless of what the books & traditions necessarily say. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Green Witch and not Wiccan. Plus, how are us Solitary Witches suppose to learn anything if we don’t share? Sometimes when I do I spell, I tell no one about it, not even my husband. But this one feels right to talk about. So I will.

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I don’t follow the Wheel of the Year, but Spring is the season for growth, renewal and new beginnings, so today I did some magic:

First, I poured out all my fears onto a sheet of paper – writing furiously until the paper was full. I took the sheet out to our compost bin, and buried it deep under a layer of mould and rot and ash. Then I opened the door at the bottom of the bin and scooped out a bucket full of fresh, crumbly compost.

I took my bucket, shovel, and an egg out to the vegetable garden. I dug a deep hole and lined it with seeds and herbs. I whispered my dearest hopes and dreams to the egg, and then carefully planted it in the hole with offerings of tobacco, rose petals, sacred water, and a bucket of fresh compost.

May your fears crumble away and your dreams grow strong. Happy Spring.

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Happy Winter Solstice

Tonight we had a couple of friends over for a solstice bonfire and dinner. We didn’t do any king of ritual, we just chatted, and caught up, and enjoyed each other’s company. It was lovely.

Right now there are people in my life who are either nearing, or at, the end of theirs. It’s difficult to focus on a celebration of the return of light when I am so conscious of their lights being extinguished; and so all I want to say is this: Thank you for everything you’ve given me. May your passing from this light be gentle and may your journey continue onwards.

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This morning we woke to a howling blizzard. I took more satisfaction than usual in the morning ritual of kindling today’s fire from the still-glowing coals of yesterday’s, and watching it catch and then roar.

Heating with wood is like baking your own bread. It takes a fair amount of planning, organization, effort, and hard work, but you have not only a greater appreciation for the end product (even an imperfect loaf of home-made bread tastes better than store-bought), but a communion with the process. You have to tend the fire throughout the day. Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned – a log is wet or rotten and doesn’t burn well. Sometimes you forget to check it and it burns down too low, and you have to waste kindling (which you split last week with great effort and freezing fingers) to re-start it. But it’s all part of the process – and part of a direct connection with the elemental energy of fire.

And even if it weren’t for the environmental and spiritual benefits, just knowing that if the blizzard should knock the power out, we’ll still be plenty warm is worth the extra effort.

Carter, our half-husky, took two steps outside, and turned around to come back in (we let him – who’s to argue when the dog thinks it’s too nasty to be outside?). I think I will spend a good part of the day baking, and maybe put some soup on in the crock-pot as well.

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Photo post: Morning walk

Carter and I go out for a walk every morning around 8am. Sometimes I take one of my field guides, to identify wildflowers or trees. Sometimes I take a bag to gather herbs. Sometimes I take my camera:







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Herb harvest

Despite the atrocious weather that is blighting our poor garden, the local wildflowers are doing wonderfully well. I’ve started taking either a notebook, or a collecting bag, or my camera out with my when I walk the dog, to start recording and identifying and harvesting herbs and wildflower seeds. I’ve been amazed at how many of the “standard” medicinal and magical herbs grow in the fields & roadsides around our house:

Wild Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)


It looks just like regular cultivated chamomile without the white petals. The petals are there, if you look really closely, they’re just tiny and tucked in at the base of the flower. I’ve collected some of the flower heads and I’m drying them for use in teas.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)


Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)


I’m going to collect some leaves and roots to try washing with it. Apparently it’s really good for delicate fabrics and also makes a gentle shampoo – I wonder how it would work on the dog?

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)


I’m very excited about this find – there’s a lot of it growing in the nearby fields, so I’ve harvested quite a bit and it’s hanging in bunches to dry from beams in the (cool, dark) basement. This could save me some money over the winter on the St. John’s Wort supplements I usually buy to treat my SAD. I’m going to try making an oil infusion, as well. I wish John Lust’s The Herb Book was a little more detailed in some of it’s instructions “…put fresh flowers and leaves in a jar and fill with olive oil. Close the jar and leave it in a sunny or warm place for 6 to 7 weeks, shaking it often.” So do I pack as much herb into the jar as I can, or loosely fill it, or just put a couple of sprigs in the jar? I guess I’ll have to experiment. 

Other herbs I’ve found growing nearby and will be collecting, but don’t have pictures of yet:

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Mullien (Verbascum phlomoides)
Sumac (either Rhus glabra, Smooth sumac or Rhus typhina, Staghorn sumac – I need to get out my tree book to check)
Wild clover (Trifolium pratense)

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Music in the Pines

We spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening at the Whispering Pines campground in Curran, which is about 35 km due north of us, hanging out at the Music in the Pines music festival. It was wonderful and we had a great time. Music in the Pines isn’t technically a Pagan festival, it’s a music festival that happens to have a large pagan contingent in attendance, partly (or maybe largely) because it’s held at the same site as Kaleidoscope Gathering.

Music in the Pines is the re-incarnation of the Echoes music festival, and in it’s first year, MiP did really, really well. The attendance wasn’t high (which made for a wonderfully relaxed, welcoming, friendly atmosphere) but the bands that played on the main stage were all great, fun to listen to, and very well received by a small but enthusiastic crowd.

The relaxed atmosphere meant we got to spend a lot of time just hanging out and talking (mostly about music, art, and paganism) with some new friends. We spent a couple of hours sitting under the canopy of Brad MacDonald’s gypsy caravan, admiring his exquisite hand-carved stringed instruments, soaking up his knowledge of instrument-making, and talking to him and Bob (aka SilverSage, the pagan elder statesman of Maxville) about music, and wood, and trees, and artistry and craftsmanship.

I took a whole bunch of pictures of Brad’s stunning creations (with permission, of course), but I’m only going to post one here to give you an idea of what his work his like, because I don’t feel right posting a lot of pictures of his work without explicit permission:




We also spent a fair bit of time talking to Jeremy of Rythymndrums in Ottawa, partly because he’s a very cool guy, partly because t! fell in love with this Vudu drum:


vudu cutout


and so it came home with us, partly because of his 100-mile policy of drum manufacture (he even gets his rope made locally – how cool is that?) and partly because I ordered a hoop drum from him that I will be collecting at KG. And I’m hatching plans for quilted drum cases for both t! and myself…

We are now very definitely planning to go to KG in August, and very much looking forward to Music in the Pines next year. We might even enter the Bardic!

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Flowers on my altar

I don’t generally post (or even take, for that matter) pictures of my altar. It’s a personal thing, not generally for sharing, and it’s a working altar, not a honouring / worshiping / show altar that would make it more photogenic.

Nonetheless, there is something that I’m excited about and want to share: There are fresh wildflowers in a cup of water on my altar:


Why is this so exciting? Because I’ve been looking forward to it since we decided to move out here, almost 2 years ago. I love flowers. I adore having fresh flowers in the house. When I lived in the UK I would buy myself a little bouquet from the flower stall in the high street to cheer myself up when I felt down.

Then I moved back to Canada, and flowers from shops were much more expensive, and I realised that their carbon cost was huge. So I was limited to what I could grow in my own garden – which wasn’t much, since the garden was mostly given over to growing vegetables. Daffodils and tulips in the spring, some lilacs from the neighbor’s tree that leaned over our fence, the flowering tops of chives.

When we decided to move out here, I had a vision of wandering out into the fields and picking wildflowers whenever I liked. Now I can. And I do. And it’s wonderful.

The yellow flowers in the picture are a mixture of swamp buttercups, yellow goatsbeard, and some variety of wild mustard. They are starting to fade, so tomorrow I will replace them with the white daisies that are  blooming this week. Next will come the Indian paintbrushes in beautiful shades of deep orange – a very few are open in some parts of the field, with many more to come.

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Rowan Tree Farm

On Saturday, in the pouring rain, a bunch of our pagan friends came out to our homestead and planted and blessed our fruit orchard with us. In the field to the east of the house, we planted 6 heritage apple trees, 2 cherry trees, 2 plum trees, and 2 rowan trees in a spiral. I planted the first tree, a rowan, and named our homestead: Rowan Tree Farm. Then everyone else took a turn planting a tree and blessing or dedicating it in whatever way they wanted to. I was incredibly touched by how very personal some of the dedications were.

Despite the rain it was a lovely ritual and a wonderful day. Thank you, all.

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My Pagan Path, Part 1: Becoming a Green Witch
My Pagan Path, Part 2: My Green Witch Practice (What I do and Why I do it)
My Pagan Path, Part 3: Challenges and What Lies Ahead


Here are the questions I was asked about Parts 1, 2, and 3:

I was asked if my views on animism extended to “inventions” or “man-made” objects, such as cars or computers.

Yes and no. Here’s how I see it: All things in the natural world have their own, natural energy or spirit. Things that are man-made have the creative energy that was invested in them as they were made. So, for instance, all works of art have a great deal of energy, imparted to them by the artist as part of the creative process. Similarly, something made by “by hand” a craftsperson (be it a knitted sweater or a hand-made violin, or a piece of furniture made by a woodworker) have the energy that the craftsperson invested in it as they made it. Things that were made by a factory assembly-line, such as a computer or a car do not have any energy. But they can acquire energy if someone owns, and loves, and invests energy in them. So a car that has been lovingly washed and upgraded and named and talked to by its owner does develop a ‘spirit’.

I was asked to expand on my experiences of gender in paganism (mine and other people’s).

From what I’ve read, I’m fairly unique in pretty much ignoring gender in my practice as a pagan. It might be because gender is not terribly important to me in any part of my life, or because I had to seriously work through my gender identity when I was a teenager, and so gender seems to be more of a continuum than a dichotomy to me. Also, as I mentioned in Part 2, the vast majority of plants have both testes and ovaries, and so don’t have gender. When I’m cooking, I’ll taste a dish and think “I want to make it more spicy,” not “I want to make it more male”. Perhaps gender will come into my practice more when we’re raising animals for food (the baby chicks arrive on May 3rd).

I think there’s a few reasons why sex and gender is so important in a lot of pagan practice:

– Dualities (male/female, light/dark, moon/sun, full moon/dark (new) moon, yin/yang) are a way of organizing information, ideas, practices. There is a lot of energy in the tension between opposites. Personally I don’t see male/female (or moon/sun) as opposites, but many people do.

– Celebrations of gender and sexuality in paganism are in part a reaction against the religions that vilify sexuality and stipulate gender roles. People who feel strongly about celebrating their sexuality are often drawn to paganism. Paganism at its best is a quest for honest self-knowledge and a lot of people have hangups about sex that they need to work out (e.g. accepting themselves as sexual being after years of having been told that sex was dirty), so that comes out in their pagan practices.

– A lot of current pagan ideology comes out of 1970s American feminism, when many women really needed to find ways of expressing female power in a patriarchal society. Hence the emphasis on the Goddess to the exclusion of the God, the feminization of the earth, the celebration of female fertility as symbolised by menstrual blood, and imagery that includes “connecting to the Earth Goddess through your womb.” As someone who has chosen not to have children (and there is a great example of the way I tend to ignore gender: I said “As someone who”, rather than “As a woman who”), my womb isn’t central to who I am as a person and therefore not central to my spirituality.

– Sexuality is a way to raise a lot of very powerful energy, so if you have a problem that you want to throw a lot of energy at, sexual energy is an option. I don’t use it because I have a strong connection to the earth, so if I ever need a lot of energy for something, I use the earth’s energy, because I find that an easy way to do it – other people don’t, and may find accessing sexual energy to be a lot easier for them.

I was asked to talk a bit about why Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky is one of the books I found most inspiring to my green witch practice.

This is difficult to do without giving a lengthy summary of the book, but I’ll try. Terry is an astute observer of human nature who really ‘gets’ the difference between a traditional, practical, earth-based magical practice and the brand of ‘wtichcraft’ that we most often see in the media. For example, this bit where Tiffany (the 11-year old witch-in-training) and Miss Level (her teacher) have been to visit an old widower in his cottage:

“Well, couldn’t you help him by magic?”
“I make sure that he’s in no pain, yes” said Miss Level.
“But that’s just herbs.”
“It’s still magic. Knowing things is magical, if other people don’t know them.”
“Yes, but you know what I mean,” said Tiffany who felt that she was losing this argument.
“Oh, you mean make him young again?” said Miss Level. “Fill his house with gold? That’s not what witches do.”
“We see to it that lonely old men get a cooked dinner and cut their toenails?” said Tiffany, just a little sarcastically.
“Well, yes,” said Miss Level. “We do what can be done. Mistress Weatherwax said you’ve got to learn that witchcraft is mostly about doing quite ordinary things.”

He also, in his inimitable way, pokes gentle (or not-so-gentle) fun at those for whom ‘looking the part of a witch’ is more important than the actual witchcraft:

“Oh, I can see the problem…Your amulet with the little owls on it is tangled up with your necklace of silver bats and they’ve both caught around a button. Just hold still…”

Petulia couldn’t resist occult jewellery. Most of the stuff was to magically protect her from things, but she hadn’t found anything to protect her from looking a bit silly.

But what it really comes down to is that in this book, Terry captures what it is for a witch to have a connection to the land, and describes it beautifully:

“She tells the land what it is, and it tells her who she is.”

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