Event, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer

Equinox Thoughts

The Equinox is the Feast of the Vanir in our home practice, and while we celebrated with friends yesterday and hailed them at a blot, I would still like to share the original prayer I wrote, in the same format as other prayers I’ve shared recently. Feel free to use this at your own home celebration!

The Autumn Equinox has arrived,
And the nights are now as long as the days
The last of the fruits of the earth are ripening
And the harvest is well underway!

The days are still warm and the leaves still green
But the nights are beginning to cool
Here we are at the balance –
Mid Autumn Equinox, between the Midsummer and Midwinter Solstices!

And on this day, we honor Freyr and Freyja,
Beloved deities of Vanaheim, and all their kin
Come to us now, and join our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!

We ask in return for your blessings,
Help us to harvest what we planted in the spring.

Freyr and Freyja, Hail and Welcome!

Original Prayer by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille

It was a two hour drive northeast to the friend’s house, as we’ve both moved farther away from where we lived when we first met, and that distance is no easy feat with a toddler who hates car rides. Up was not too bad – down home was much worse as we were hours past his usual bed time. Still, the gathering of friends I have not seen in too long was much, much needed. And that got me to thinking about community, which came up as a theme in the blot.

I spent a long time as a solitary witchy pagan animist something, barely aware of a wider community, until I happened across an ADF Druid grove in Baltimore the last few weeks of 2012. Scott and I both found community there for a while, but the distance became too much as other parts of our life solidified and we stopped going in early 2016. That autumn we met the members of the Fellowship Beyond the Star for the first time at Pagan Pride festivals, and we attended some of their meetings as time allowed – though as I moved into my second and third trimesters we got out of the house less and less, and then for the first three months after the Acorn was born in May we did hardly anything at all but take care of the baby, eat, and sleep.

Still, when we emerged from that cocoon, we found the Fellowship community very welcoming, and we also started attending our local UU church, which soon had a fledgling pagan study group. We were putting down roots, finding community around us both physically locally and also in nearby pagan area groups. We still had friends in Baltimore, but that became more connected by social media and less by actual in-person meetings. That doesn’t make those connections seem less valid, though – they can provide plenty of different kinds of support, even though it’s a bit too far for a “whoops I need a ride to urgent care” call.

Now, both local pagan groups (The Fellowship Beyond the Star, and Fox & Fungi at UUCR) have grown some, and I find myself in organizational roles in both. I’ve begun teaching workshops in the local community, and even down in Atlanta this past July. Acquaintances met at community events are becoming friendships, and I begin to see how my small groups might join in networks with other groups to form woven communities, providing the support we all desperately need.

The Autumn Equinox, the middle of fall in my seasonal paradigm, is a time of harvest and in an agricultural community it would also be a time of the community coming together, pitching in to make sure everything was getting set for winter. It’s a time to check in with those local to you, but also with wider ideas of community in this technologically connected age. For my husband’s Jewish relatives and ancestors, it is also time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time to mend bridges and reconnect. We try to continue some of those traditions in our home as well, so there will be apples and honey on my kitchen table soon. For many people this is also when the school year seems to finally be properly underway, with everything settled from the first whirlwind of Back-to-School.

In my work with the Fair Folk, this is also usually the time when the Wild Hunts and Fairy Rades begin. I’ve been learning that the acronychal rising of the Pleiades happens around the Equinox, and that feels significant, though I’m still not sure what exactly that means for my personal practice. I mentioned that this is the Feast of the Vanir for us, and while Freyr and Freyja are usually my focus, with Njord and Nerthus included as well, I also deliberately include the alfar of Vanaheim, whom I believe to be culturally distinct from the beings of either Alfheim/Ljossalfheim or Nidavellir/Svartalfheim. I try to spend a bit of time around this day with my allies there, checking in and just enjoying their company. So far I haven’t attempted to join their seasonal celebrations, but perhaps this year I will ask. Perhaps they can help bring me clarity about the timing of the Pleiades and the Hunts.

Autumn is underway. Communities are pulling together. And Samhain will come faster than we expect.

Devotional Jewelry, Event, Vending

Frederick Pagan Pride 2019!!!

This was our first year vending Frederick Pagan Pride, and it was a really good show for us! There was lots of interest in our products and we ran into a lot of friends (including Monika Healing Coyote)! The Acorn Sprout even “helped” at the table, creating toy car tableaux.

There was sooooo much prep work involved in getting this much jewelry made, but it all came together in time for the festival! We learned a couple of things, too – I think for NoVA we’ll use fewer bracelet racks and more bowls, because people seem more likely to buy the reiki bracelets if they can interact with them first. Practically everything we sell is reiki-attuned and enchanted, and it really makes a difference!

Here’s the whole family, with Aleja waving to… somebody?

Also, we now have more than two dozen deity bracelet designs, from Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian), Hellenic (Ancient Greek), Norse (Aesir and Vanir), and Gaelic (Tuatha Dé Danann) pantheons, and we have a half dozen more on the drawing board! As always, if we don’t have the deity you’re looking for, or if you want a bracelet for a specific aspect of a deity, please don’t hesitate to ask! We love doing custom work!

The Etsy Shop is still on vacation and will be until we have a chance to do inventory following NoVA Pagan Pride, but if you want something, send us an email and we’ll accommodate you as best we can! Locals can come see us in Fairfax, VA on September 28th at NoVA PPD! We’ll be restocked on all the jewelry, and Aleja will also be doing divinatory readings that day!

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 9/14

I’m still just completely in love with my new oil lamp, because I really feel like I get deeper into trance with the larger flame. That, combined with a few other small tweaks to my ritual, seem to be making the entire process easier for me, and I’m excited to see how this (Kemetic) year plays out. But without further ado, here’s this month’s message from Bast and Sekhmet!

As you embark on this new stage of your journey, you need to pay attention and keep your footing so you do not stumble and fall. There is chaos around you and behind you, but do not turn your head to look at battles that are not your own – their smoke will dissipate before it reaches you. We stand guard beside you. Gather your power and reach for your goals. Join in striving with others – you are brighter and stronger together. There is strength to be found in the shape of the Great Pyramid, and you will build your own monuments if you take the time to plan them properly. Keep the flame in your chest brightly burning! Indulge your passions and they will keep you warm.

I hope that helps, dear readers, and I hope you all manage to follow the advice as best you can. The next Bright Moon is October 13th!

If you appreciate these monthly oracular messages, please consider donating to the maintenance of my Shrine!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Form Your Squadrons

Last night into early this morning was a Super Black New Moon in Virgo, and while others can tell you more about that, I took the time last night to go see Na Morrigna, the three Daughters of Ernmas, to ask what message they had for me and my allies and associates this Dark Moon. I met them around a huge cauldron, into which they threw herbs and other ingredients. I breathed the steam, watched images dance across the surface, and gave them my attention as they communicated their message. Here is what I was told*:

“It is time to get back onto the wagon, and take the reins again, but hold them in a loose hand. You are anxious and also have high expectations. Do not dwell on the past, neither its good nor its ills. Look forward. Change is possible, but there is work to be done. Organize yourselves. Form your squadrons – small practice groups within larger networks. Decisive action must be taken by each individual group; be small, swift, flexible, and adaptable. Identify goals and work by consensus. Create your own strategies and share with others in your network. Everyone has a role to play.”

This is perhaps a good time to remind you all that my major role, beyond these Dark Moon messages, is to offer healing (in person or remotely) to others in my networks, especially when illness (spiritual, emotional, or mental/physical) is impairing their ability to perform their own role in the larger work. Such healings are free of charge within the boundaries of an individual’s own agreement with Na Morrigna. (Basically – if you’re a devotee with a right relationship with one of or all of Na Morrigna, and She/They agree/s that you need healing as part of your exchange with Her/Them, I’m happy to oblige, because that becomes part of my exchange with Them. If you wish to pay me yourself, with money or barter, I’m happy to do that, too!) I also do divination for those wishing to understand their own role better (see last year’s Tarot Spread), and I’ve been known to do combination divination/consultation advice for neophyte devotees looking to dedicate themselves with an oath to one or more of Na Morrigna (though as my own relationship is with Anu, Badb, and Macha, my advice is more suited to working with Them over other goddesses sometimes included, like Fea and Nemhain).

Beyond that… Shifts are coming. I can feel that, but I’m not sure what kind. This is meandering into Unseelie Weather Report territory, but keep your wits about you, friends. Shields and wards, ground and center. Keep an eye on large patterns, but a closer eye on your local communities and ecosystems. I don’t think this is going to be an easy winter.

* That is, translated as best I can out of the all-encompassing experience that is deep trancework, into grammatical English sentences. If I am an artist of any sort, I am primarily a wordsmith, and more than two decades writing poetry and prose has perhaps prepared me to take these experiences and find the best words to encapsulate a deep knowing understanding that is transmitted in a way that transcends words. Those who dance with the divine in this manner all have their own preferred medium of expression.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith

Deck: Radiant Rider-Waite
Publisher: Currently published by US Games Systems, Inc; original deck was published by William Rider & Son in London in 1909
Writer: originally the companion books, The Key to the Tarot, and the revised The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, were written by A.E. Waite.
Artist: original artwork was by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith; has been digitized and saturated for this deck.
Overall Rating: 7/10

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot, published by US Games Systems Inc

Cardstock: A little thin, maybe, but pretty standard for US Games. Nothing to write home about. Nice and wiffly but I would bet they’d show wear if I used them more often. Especially those stark white borders!

Artwork: The symbolism is super heavy – everything from the color of the robes to how many stars is pretty much on purpose. So if that’s your thing, more power to you. Besides the Pictorial Key there are dozens of other books about RWS symbolism. I’m really not super fond of Smith’s human figures, though. They all seem a little doll-like to me, but that seems to be her style so it’s more a matter of my personal dislike than her lack of talent.

LWB: It has decent descriptions of the majors but only a few keywords for upright and reversed for other cards, and those seem a little sparse or overly simplistic. I haven’t read the Pictorial Key so I’m not sure how well it compares, but I did buy one of the aforementioned several other books, so I use that instead. (Because, no, I do not have all the zodiac stuff memorized and some of the color symbolism is different from my own understandings.)

Likes: If you want to read tarot books, it helps to have this deck because a lot of them are about this one in particular. Also, a lot of other decks use this same imagery, turned into dragons or elves or cats or whatever. It’s useful if you want to understand the history of tarot divination, too.

Dislikes: I really dislike the Kabbalistic symbolism because I have Feelings about goyim using it. But I think if you’re unfamiliar with that it is easy enough to just ignore and gloss over. I also don’t like how the human figures’ faces have very little expression – I have a few other decks with very expressive artwork and that vibes a lot better with my intuitive reading style.

Overall Recommendation

I really got this deck so that I could start to go “deeper” into the tarot and then I found out that the zodiac stuff and the alchemical symbolism just really don’t jive as well with my reading style. I’m an intuitive reader, not an intellectual reader, and that’s too much conscious analysis. So this is sort of a fall-back deck, more of a collector’s piece than something I use often. Some of my clients like it, though, because it’s recognizable. Ultimately, it doesn’t jive well with me but I would recommend it to newbies or anyone who likes the depth of symbolism.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 8/15

I had some difficulties setting up the new oil lamp – the first attempted wick did not work as planned, but once I finally got it right and settled in, I felt their presence wash over me, their vessel. “Welcome back, child,” they greeted me, in reference to the renewal of my contract, completed as per my usual in a sacred bath.

Their message for us all on this, the first Bright Moon of the New Kemetic Year, is as follows:

You are free to abandon projects from last year that did not bear fruit. Try a new way, or try something completely new. But fore-planning will save you much grief.
We Lionesses walk beside you, and even the Snake of Isfet fears our teeth, but A/p/e/p must be destroyed every year, every month, every day. Be guided by ma’at. Return to it in times of confusion and let it guide your actions. Start first by bringing your private life into balance with ma’at. Wepwawet is opening the ways for greater actions to come.

Left: Swirly bath bomb suds. I think this was a Tadaima Okaeri, from Lush?
Right: My new oil lamp!!! With braided cotton wick. This was right as it started up, before I used fire scrying as my entryway to possessory trance.

Next Kemetic Bright Moon Ritual is: 9/ 14.

As a reminder, I take questions and requests for heka, blessings, and execrations. Those can be submitted through the tumblr e-shrine, or email them to:
If you appreciate the work I do and want to support it continuing, I have a Ko-fi for donations!

Event, Holiday Celebration, Kemetic, Paganism

Wep Ronpet 2019!

So, I decided to stick to the dates I’ve been using since they hadn’t changed the last few years, and instead I’ll just be adjusting by looking up Sirius’s rising time every leap year. It’s much easier that way, since I use other dates in the Kemetic calendar (really, amalgamation of plural calendars) for other celebrations now, and there’s evidence that some of those plural calendars used leap days just like we do, tacked on to the beginning of the Epagomenal Days. It’s a good way for me to keep the secular calendar and my Kemetic calendar aligned.

The Wep Ronpet date, therefore, was August 7th, and my Epagomenal Days started on August 2nd, with Wesir (Osiris). As in previous years, I set up digital votive offerings on my tumblr e-shrine, and I also offered a glass of cool water. I then pulled a tarot card for a message from each of the deities.

Wesir (Osiris)’s message on Aug 2 was: 8 of Wands. Figure out what your goals are, and then go get them! The Netjeru have your back. Decide what you want to bring into being, and use this new year energy to make it happen!

Heru-Wer (Horus the Elder)’s message on Aug 3 was: 6 of Swords. Take advantage of this time of transition. Use it as a rite of passage. Leave things in the past that no longer serve you – you don’t need to take all your baggage forward with you.

Set (Seth)’s message on Aug 4 was: 6 of Cups. Reflect on your happy memories of the past year, and give some thought to your mom harmonious relationships. See if you can turn over a new leaf at Wep Ronpet.

Aset (Isis)’s message on Aug 5 was: Queen of Swords. Do not shy away from sharpness, when it serves you. Communicate clear expectations and boundaries, and hold them. Separate the truth from illusion, and uphold ma’at (justice/right living).

Nebthet (Nephthys)’s message on Aug 6 was: 2 of Pentacles, reversed. Take this new year as a chance to restructure your life, to reorganize your priorities, and to take stock of places you may be overcommitted. Too many commitments will lead to burnout. Find balance.

On Wep Ronpet, I did a red paper execration, where I wrote things I wished to be rid of on a piece of red paper, folded it into an origami snake, declared it to be A/p/e/p/, and then ritual destroyed it with blades and fire. (Scissor blades, if you must know, haha.)

After that, I offered a shot of chocolate dark beer to the Netjeru (all the gods) and opened the package that was waiting for me!

My shrine upgrade this year is this ancient-style ceramic oil lamp with red glaze that I commissioned from a friend-of-a-friend. It’s going to take the place of the (tiny) candle I’d been using in my Bright Moon rituals, and I’m so excited to use it later this month!

I’ve also set up a separate Ko-Fi for donations to my Shrine to Bast and Sekhmet, so I can more easily earmark funds and keep them separate from my business income. If you appreciate my Bright Moon Omens, or just want to help, check it out here!

Celtic Polytheism, Event, Holiday Celebration, Prayer

Lughnasadh – A Belated Summary

Lughnasadh season is busy in our house because it also usually coincides with the start of the Kemetic Epagomenal Days, and this year it also coincided with my return to Priestessing for the Morrigan.

Altar for the Fox and Fungi Lughnasadh celebration

This year, our main ritual was celebrated with the Fox and Fungi group at our local UU Church, which I co-led with another group organizer. We did a druidic style ritual based on a liturgical outline I’ve devised for the group, which sort of splits the difference between Wiccan ritual structure, UU service structure, and the ADF Core Order of Ritual that I became accustomed to when I was previously a member of an ADF Druid Grove. (Yes, those work together better than you might think!) We called upon Lugh and Tailtiu as the deities of the occasion, and a friend and very good storyteller regaled us all with her version of Tailtiu’s story. Our main working was done with leaves placed in baskets. We each had two leaves. On one, we wrote something we were good at or something we’d accomplished that we were proud of. On the other, something we hoped to learn to do, or something we hoped to achieve. As we listened to musical accompaniment, we each came up to the altar to put our leaves each into the appropriate basket. Later, the leaves were taken outside to our ritual space.

It was nice to be with our community, but it did mean that our home observance went largely undone – I wrote a prayer and Scott poured Lugh and Tailtiu each out a shot of whisky, but we didn’t do a large family dinner. I’ve copied the prayer below, for those interested.

Lughnasadh has arrived,
And the days begin to grow shorter
Fruit is ripening on branch and vine
And grains are golden in the fields

Summer heat still hangs in the air
But we have begin the harvest
We are standing on the cusp of autumn
And soon the nights will be chill

On this day we honor Lugh and Tailtiu
His foster mother, who cleared the land
So that the people might plant grain
She gave her life for her people’s needs

Come to us now, and join in our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!
We ask in return for your blessings:
Help us to bring in the first fruits of our labors

Lugh and Tailtiu, Hail and Welcome!

lughnasadh Prayer, by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille
Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

A Re-Gathering of Crows

I’m back on deck this Lughnasadh-Eve. Finished with my Saturn Return (but not yet ready to turn that journey into a narrative), and once again Called. I Answered (how could I not?), and have been once again drafted into the service of Na Morrigna, the Three Sisters, to deliver the messages I receive on the Dark Moon.

Are you ready to join me again, Crow Folks? A new journey awaits. Do not wait too long in deciding. Put less important things aside. We need to harness our own creative powers and generate the foundations of our triumph.

We all have a role to play. We were called. We accepted. We rise together.

Event, Retreat/Festival/Convention

Mystic South 2019!

This was our first time at Mystic South, and I’m so glad I applied (last minute) to present, because it was a wonderful experience! I also want to share that they comped my registration fee, which was unexpected and a very nice change! I don’t think any of the large gatherings in the DC/MD/VA area do that. It made the conference really affordable, despite three nights in a hotel and a ten hour drive each way. I do think I’ll plan to present again next year – the only question is on what topic! The 90 minute blocks for 60 minute presentations was a good set up, because it gave us time to go over a little, and to run up to our rooms or peruse vendors between blocks. I was very happy with the diversity of presentations, both in topics (folk magic or chaos magic, astrology or Konmari), and in the presenters (several women of color, quite a few queer folks). We were happy to see some people we already new (Ivo Dominguez Jr, Michael G. Smith, Byron Ballard), to meet people we only know online (John Beckett, Ryan Denison), and to make new connections!

Read on for snippets from some of the workshops I attended!

Byron Ballard – Finding the Other Realms under Suburbia

I’m a fan of Byron’s workshops on the Fair Folk in general, and this one was not disappointing. She talked of talking to spirits – even types we might not expect – in urban places, and how urban witches can draw upon the energy of local flows for power: the flows of water pipes, of electricity, of traffic. DC has sacred geometry built into its layout, but other cities have equally powerful layouts of city center and liminal outskirts. Skyscrapers are human-made mountains from which we can gather power and cast workings over all we see. She also discussed using other liminal spaces and movement: riding public transport or crossing a large street on foot, setting an intention and then letting the spell take hold by the time you arrive at your destination, so that the journey is the casting. She reminded us that magic is not just aesthetic but also it’s not just for the highest of purposes: everyone needs to practice their skills to hone them, and those of us who live in cities ought to have a decent spell for finding parking.

Katelyn Willis: Navigating the Ethical Entanglements of Pagan Leadership

This was a presentation of an academic paper that was about half presentation and half open discussion. Willis (they/them) was using three values models: John Beckett’s Four Centers Model (also expanded upon in his 2017 book, The Path of Paganism), Emma Restall Orr’s Four Threads Model from her 2008 book Living with Honour: A Pagan Ethics, and the anthropological Kluckhohn-Strodtbeck Values Orientation Theory Model. Beckett’s Four Centers are: Self, Nature, Deity, and Community. Orr’s Four Threads are Fashion (or aesthetic), Magic, Scholarship, and Nature. Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck theorize that individuals (and groups) have value orientations in each of five areas: time, human nature, relationships with others, relationships with nature, and activity. We discussed each model and then Willis led a discussion through a framework for ethical decision making when pagan leaders are faced with conflicts in their communities. They recommended both Beckett and Orr’s books, and added a third favorite: Katherine McDowell’s Ethics and Professional Practice for Neopagan Clergy.

My Workshop: Seeking the Daughters of Flidais

I expected to have fewer than a dozen attendees, because I was presenting on some pretty obscure Irish goddesses, but I was pleasantly surprised to have closer to two dozen in my audience! Unfortunately I hadn’t prepared quite enough handouts for that many!

My presentation was structured to start with the available lore for each pair of daughters (Bé Chuille and Dinand, Fand and Lí Ban, and Bé Téite and Arden), along with epithets and possible etymologies. I then shared my experiences with each and some UPG. At the end I led a short guided meditation so the attendees could hopefully interact with these deities. We went slightly over time, but luckily there was a half hour break between class blocks!

If you’re interested in my handout (which mostly covers lore) and the meditation, they can be accessed here: Seeking the Daughters of Flidais.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr: The Signs – 12 Styles of Consciousness

This workshop was primarily focused on understanding our natal sun, moon, and rising signs and how to use those to bring ourselves into better alignment. For the sun sign, Ivo explained that this is our source, and if we’re feeling depleted, we need to invigorate our sun. Positive traits of each sign will lean us towards the next sign, and negative traits are when we fall back into the previous sign. (Aquarius is more positive as it leans towards Pisces, and more negative as it falls into Capricorn, for example.) To illustrate that, he provided a handout with a chart that is featured in his recently published astrology book, Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans. For our moon signs, Ivo suggested that if we’re having difficulty with our internal narrative, we should turn to the elemental siblings of our sign. (Gemini Moons should turn to Libra and Aquarius, for example.) For our rising sign, or Ascendant, Ivo suggested looking at our Descendant as well (the opposite sign) and try to balance the two (for example, Capricorn and Cancer). He described the Ascendant not as the “personality”, because both sun and rising create parts of our personality, but rather as the GUI, the graphical user interface, for this particular lifetime.

Ivo also gave us two insights that in retrospect are sort of well-duh moments. The first: the glyphs of the signs and the planets are sigils and you can and should use them as such: inscribe them on yourself, on candles, incorporate them into workings! The second: a lot of human belief and study and experience has been poured into the 12 signs of the western zodiac, and he believes it’s enough that they’ve become at least egregores and possibly deity-forms, which means we can invoke them directly! I may need to buy his book.

Sangoma: Crossing Lines, Healing our Racial Divide

This was sort of an open discussion of workings we could use to heal ourselves and our society, with frequent anecdotes from Sangoma about her own life as a black Cherokee woman, and founder of a spiritual healing community. It was engrossing and I did not take as many notes as I might otherwise have. I did write down her answer to a very powerful exchange between Sangoma and a white attendee. The attendee had recently learned that some of her ancestors had owned land near where we were in Georgia, and that in addition to that land they had also owned five slaves. She wanted to know what she could do with that knowledge, how she could make up for the trauma her ancestors perpetuated, how she could work with ancestors who had done something like that. Sangoma’s response was concise and actionable: Find out who they were, if you can. Find their descendants, if you can, and help them out. Find out where they were buried, if you can, and give them last rites so that they may go peacefully into the next world. And what about the black nannies who raised your family? Do you send them Christmas cards? Find them and their descendants, too. The only thing you can do is ask the dead for forgiveness, and help the living as best you can.
I did not know prior to attending that she was indigenous – having found out during the presentation, I asked Scott to run up to the room to get tobacco, and I gifted her with it after the workshop, to thank her for doing this work. We talked for a few moments about indigeneity, and she asked about my people and our culture and history. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to learn from this Elder.

Sid Simpson: Color Schemes – Providing a Spiritual and Cultural Concept Framework for Use of Color from the Historic Heathen Era

Sid brought a huge assortment of hands on stuff to toss around while we listened to her presentation, from strands of beads to linen swatches, to works-in-progress of embroidery and card weaving. Her background is in living history and archaeological study, and she’s a member of the SCA in addition to being a practicing Heathen. The main thesis of the presentation was that color didn’t used to symbolize wealth, it WAS wealth, and wealth was worn openly to denote social status. White, black, and red were the most expensive colors at the time, and anyone wearing highly decorated clothing in those colors was probably wealthy and important. Clothing and other items also tell scholars a lot about the tribe or village people were from as well, what kind of trade connections they had and how successful they were. She used King Raedwald from the Sutton Hoo ship burial as her main example throughout the presentation. It was really interesting, and Sid had a good takeaway message for Heathens doing ancestor work: don’t “symbolize” wealth to your ancestors, just show up wearing bright colors and gold jewelry! Show them that you’re being successful and honoring their memories when you ask for help.

John Beckett: Self-Care for Priests and Other Pagan Leaders

Beckett began with a short prayer, and then a three-part definition of “priest”: 1) serves their deities, 2) mediates for their deities, 3) serves their community. It’s a decent definition, and one that does seem to apply to my “priestess-ing” for the Morrigna last fall/winter. My oracular work for Bast and Sekhmet includes the first two but arguably doesn’t serve a community. That’s a very specific type of “priesthood”, though, and that’s why I’m specific when I describe it, calling myself an oracular-priestess-novitiate (novitiate because I’m still in training). On the “Other Pagan Leaders” side of things, I do serve my community but not the deities in my roles as Librarian of The Fellowship Beyond the Star, and as an organizer of Fox and Fungi at the UU Church in Reston. I attended this workshop in large part to be able to bring notes back to my fellow leaders in those two organizations.

Beckett emphasized that priesthood is not a position of authority; it’s a position of service. First to arrive, last to leave, etc. But it’s also important to not become a martyr or to get completely burnt out. When you’re teetering on that edge, Beckett recommends returning to your foundations. Why are you pagan? Why did you become clergy? Something called you – build on that. Know why you do what you do, because that will make it easier to keep going. Take the time to nurture your deity relationships. Beckett is a firm believer that having a daily practice is key.

Boundaries are also very important! People need boundaries and groups need bylaws. Priests need to understand the boundaries of their expertise: we need to know when to make a referral to a pagan-friendly therapist (and I would add: or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a life coach). Sometimes people need pastoral counseling and he’s happy to provide that either in person or through emails, but he only does a few exchanges or meetings before he has to set a boundary and either make a referral or quote his rates as a spiritual advisor. He has a day job and does not have the time or energy to be available to everyone who wants help.

Beckett also stressed accountability, and the need for clergy to have people they can go to for their own pastoral counseling. He turns to his “advanced peers”, like Ivo Dominguez Jr. It’s important within your own group, however, to have people who can tell you when you need to just go home and sleep. It’s also a good idea to keep up with continuing education (both in pastoral counseling and also in pagan theology and your personal paths), and to attend things like retreats and conferences. He also recommends moving in a multiple groups, so that you have diverse support networks in case one group is entirely run down, themselves. Within the groups, it’s a very good idea to train your replacements, and to make the division of duties as clear as possible, so that the group will continue to exist after you leave. I had a lot of thoughts about the groups I’m a part of and the groups I’m helping lead, and some good ideas for ways to improve them.

Also, I bought his book (Paganism in Depth) and had him sign it.

Stephanie Woodfield: Divination Magic with Skulls and Bones

So, I don’t really “do” bones. They aren’t really part of my witchcraft – either practice or aesthetic. But I’ve heard good things about Stephanie Woodfield, and I can’t resist learning a new kind of divination, ever, so I had to attend this. And WOW, was it packed! The front table was just absolutely covered with bones, which she said would be for the hands on portion at the end of class.

The first part of the workshop was mostly on the what and how of bone divination. Woodfield said that a lot of people think what you’re supposed to connect with is the animal the bones belonged to, but that’s not usually the case. (Whoops!) Instead, the animal soul itself is usually either already gone, or leaves once it agrees to be a tool, or becomes a vehicle for the species Oversoul, or that Oversoul becomes a vehicle for connection to the Ancestors. Animal bones are better than human in her experience, even human bones ethically and consensually obtained: humans just seem to have more ideas about how they want their remains to be used or honored than animals do. So when you first acquire bones, Woodfield recommends cleaning them, cleansing them, and then trying to connect with what’s left of the animal’s soul, to figure out if it wants anything and if it’s willing to work with you. Then you can negotiate what kind of work for what kind of offerings, and prepare it to become a vehicle.

Woodfield described four major branches of bone divination: 1) skull divination (often scrying inside the brain cavity), 2) throwing bones (this kind is usually a mix of bones and may include nuts, shells, and metal objects), 3) slaughter bones (one-time use divination from an animal that is eaten), and 4) single animal throwing kits (either from one individual or from one species). She gave lots of examples of each, and I started to get Vibes that I may need to take a closer look at some fox bones I have by accident. So, maybe that’s a thing, now.

At the end of the class she had us all select a bone and then attempt to connect with it. I didn’t get much – I had a sensation of large whiskers and I was pretty sure it was a small herbivore and that it lived near water. It turned out to be a bone from a calf that had lived on a farm near a river. Not as small as I was thinking, but I suppose it must feel small next to its mother! Apparently the poor thing had been caught by coyotes one night, and the bones had been given to Woodfield by her friend who owned the farm.

Amy Blackthorn: Justice Craft of the Wise

I’ve near-missed Amy Blackthorn a couple of times at other events, but she’s the headliner at Hallowed Homecoming this year (and I will hopefully be presenting there again this year) and I thought I should really attend one of her workshops while I was at Mystic South! I picked this one since social justice magic is one of my Things, and I came away with a lot of good info! One of the main things was another well-duh moment, like in Ivo’s class: pieces of legislation have names, and “birth” dates. We can target them directly with banework, rather than targeting authors. Blackthorn likes to use the first page of the bill (available online) as its “photo” for these workings. She also emphasized the importance of doing this kinds of workings in groups, and admittedly that’s a place my own practice is currently lacking, as my usual cohorts and I have a combination of distance problems and scheduling difficulties.

Blackthorn also talked about different types of herbs and oils that could be used for legal difficulties and court cases, and mentioned that a lot of what she was sharing was taken from her book, Blackthorn’s Botanical Magic. She included peppercorn, jasmine, frankincense, and sandalwood in several different oil blend recipes, and there was a brief discussion of the importance of finding ethical and sustainable suppliers, especially for frankincense and sandalwood. She also explained some uses for courthouse dirt, and how it can be used to bring justice to someone! (But probably don’t mail a box of it to Mitch McConnell because the post office may intercept the package.)

Llevin and Gwen Ithon: Arcane Borders

Can I just say that these two are my favorite new people I met at Mystic South? Seriously. You should check out their website. Scott went to all of their classes, and while I only managed to attend one, we had a great conversation on the last day of the conference and I hope to keep in touch, despite their limited presence on the internet.

Anyway, the workshop itself was a sort of introduction to the culture/spirituality/folklore of the Scottish Border regions, from Hadrian’s Wall to the current political border and then west into Galloway. They talked a bit about reiving culture and how Borderers are horse people and therefore not kilt-wearers, though they did weave striped and checked tartan cloth to identify families. They gave a brief overview of the history, from the viking era through to the “Pacification of the Borders” in the 1700s. Along with that, they discussed religion and how Borderers were mostly Christian by the 1700s, but still frequently ignored Church teachings and continued to practice their traditional spirituality and fairy faith, and how a lot of lore survived by being gathered into the teachings of secret societies. Llevin stressed that in the Border regions and much of Scotland, witchcraft and the fairy faith were the same thing – to be a witch was to work with the fairies and vice versa. They also gave an overview of a few deities as they are known in the Border region, and cognates where applicable to other Celtic deities.

Devotional Ritual to Badb

This was led by Stephanie Woodfield, and a group from somewhere in New England called Tuatha Dé Morrigan, I believe? Something like that, though the Mythic South website just lists individual names! The premise of the ritual was that we were calling on Badb as the Washer at the Ford, so that we might be cleansed of anger and grief, and to ask for her prophecy of Peace. I was running out of spoons, so I was escorted in to sit while others then processed and circumambulated the ritual space. Despite my low energy it was a fairly powerful experience, however, and I gained some insight into why I’d been called to work for Na Morrigna last fall/winter. And I was told to begin again Lughnasadh-Eve, so: Crow Folks, stay tuned.

Tuatha Dea Live Performance

Holy Shit, y’all. I’ve near-missed Tuatha Dea several times, but this time I was in the right place at the right time with the right ticket and just enough spoons left to sit near the dance floor, and it was AMAZING OH MY GODS! Highly recommended to anyone who gets a chance to see them live, even in a tiny setting with no special lighting. Also – Holy Fairy Vibes, Batman. And I may have bought a CD.

Jameson Hoscyns: Old Gods, New Words – Neologisms in Pagan Theological Discourse

This was another paper presentation, in the realm of socio-linguistics. Hoscyns said that religious vocabularies aren’t studied very much, and pagan religious vocabularies aren’t studied at all, but he’s trying to change that. I completely failed to write down which website he used as his corpus but I believe it may have been Patheos Paganism? I did write down that he analyzed 135 individual articles by 25 individual authors. He expected to find that neologisms followed the greater American English patterns, and would include a lot of compounds and blended words, but instead he found the most common type of neologism was a borrowing out of another language, such as when Hellenic polytheists use “Apollon” in place of the more common “Apollo”, or when the names for certain roles or tools are used from the original language in a reconstructionist context. He attributed this to the need to be clear about ritual usage, similar to the way Wiccans often say “chalice” instead of “cup”. I wasn’t surprised about the re-borrowing of more accurate transliterations, because I’m familiar with that in the realm of Kemetic polytheism!

Anomalous Thracian: Ophiolatry – Sacred Serpents in Religion, Devotion, and Worship

This was a very informal conversation about snakes in general and also their place in a variety of religious paths. Thracian told us anecdotes from his life taking care of different snakes and rescuing them from neglectful circumstances. He reminded us that snakes are very tied to specific locations, and that we should get to know our local species. As conversational as it was, I didn’t take very many notes, but I came away with the feeling that I really do need to get to know the snakes of this region better, as I aim to stay here long-term.

Honorable Mentions!

Workshops I wish I could’ve seen but did not manage to attend:
Michael G. Smith: Pagan Ethics
John Beckett: Connecting to the Land Where You Are
Michael Rollins: Improving Group Meditation
Byron Ballard: Song of the Churn
Panel: Folk Magic in the Round
Anomalous Thracian: Polytheistic Orientation of Identity
Panel: Stories of Devotion and Devotion to Stories – Discerning Religion from Mythology
rowan walker: trans // magic
Jason Mankey: The Magick of Initiations, Elevations, and Dedications
Deborah (DJ) Martin: Herbs of the Southern Appalachians in Medicine and Magic