Holiday Celebration, Kemetic, Paganism, Prayer

Wep Ronpet 2020 Recap

I am backdating this so that it’s easier to find, since I’m writing this about a month late, sorry. Those who followed along on tumblr already saw all this, but I had meant to share it here, too.

August 4: First Epagomenal Day, Birth of Wesir (Osiris)

First born of Nut and Geb, we celebrate your birth today.  
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Eldest-Born, we salute you!
Brilliant One, we rejoice in you!
Lord of Eternity, we honor you!
You Whose Places are Mysterious, we extol you!
Wesir, Bless us.

my original prayer

His omen for us this year was The Ace of Pentacles: Revel in the glory of the Sun. Success is near. If you have been wanting to get your material life in order, now is a good time to start.

August 5: Second Epagomenal Day, Birth of Heru-Wer (Horus the Elder)

Second born of Nut and Geb, we celebrate your birth today.
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Great One of Speckled Plumage, we salute you!
Wings of Protection, we rejoice in you!
Lord of Terror, we honor you!
Mighty Falcon, we extol you!
Heru-Wer, Bless us.

my original prayer

His omen for us this year was the Seven of Pentacles: The Royal Diadem. This is a reminder that we will reap the rewards of our hard work.

August 6th: Third Epagomenal Day, Birth of Set

Third born of Nut and Geb, we celebrate your birth today.
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Overthrower of Apep, we salute you!
Red Haired One, we rejoice in you!
Lord of the Storm, we honor you!
You Who Are in the Heart of the Northern Sky, we extol you!
Set, Bless us.

my original prayer

His omen for us this year was Temperance: He counsels moderation, patience, adaptability. If you pay attention, you will know when to take the initiative. Be canny and you will withstand the deluge.

August 7th: Fourth Epagomenal Day, Birth of Aset (Isis)

Fourth born of Nut and Geb, we celebrate your birth today.
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Giver of Life, we salute you!
Great Lady of Magic, we rejoice in you!
Mistress of the Stars, we honor you!
Fiercely Bright One, we extol you!
Aset, Bless us.

my original prayer

Her omen for us this year was The Lovers: She echoes her brother-husband’s message, and also adds, if you have been debating between following your passions and being more cautious, remember that the stagnation of indecision will be more of a setback than making the wrong choice.

August 8th: Fifth Epagomenal Day, Birth of Nebthet (Nephthys)

Fifth born of Nut and Geb, we celebrate your birth today.
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Lady of Dawn and Dusk, we salute you!
Mistress of Renewal, we rejoice in you!
Averter of Evil, we honor you!
Friend of the Dead, we extol you!
Nebthet, Bless us.

my original prayer

Her omen for us this year was the Six of Swords: we’re all in a transitional period right now, but the fact that the entire world is traveling it does not mean you should ignore the effects of it on your own life. Take the time to do needed introspection, and grieve your losses.

August 9th: Wep Ronpet, the New Year, and the Arrival of Sopdet (the star Sirius)

Today you rise before the sun, ushering in the new year!
We give you offerings of bread, beer, cool water, sweet scented oils, and praise!
Harbinger of the Nile Flood, we salute you!
Bringer of the New Year, we rejoice in you!

my original prayer

This year’s Omen from all the Netjeru:

The Ace of Swords, and The Page of Wands: As this new Kemetic year dawns, we are entering a period of intellectual or philosophical struggle, and should sharpen our wit and prepare to engage in battle. It is a battle of words and ideas, of how messages are delivered and news is presented. You may find inspiration to write or speak your own words – seek to advance clarity, truth, and ma’at in your communication.

Happy Wep Ronpet Everyone!!!

ancestor work, Paganism, Ritual

A Mini-Rite for Justice

This digital flyer is being passed around on various social media websites, and I plan to take part. When I checked in with my guides and allies, however, they had a specific suggested topic for ritual work, and asked me to share it with my audience.

My guides suggested I write a short working to my Ancestors.
Specifically, the white ones.
I’m a mixed-heritage light-skinned Indigenous person, but yeah, I have a lot of white ancestors. Quite a few of whom were probably problematic AF.

I remembered then, a discussion I’d attended that was led by a woman named Sangoma, who is both Black and Indigenous. During that, a white woman asked a question, and I recorded the exchange in my blog, but I’ll reproduce it here:

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.

Sangoma: Crossing Lines, Healing our Racial Divide. Mystic South, 2019.

That’s still great advice, but it got me to wondering about ancestral debts, and how that’s a legacy that those with white ancestry have to deal with. How maybe the Dead could be enjoined to pay their debts, as well. If Ancestors can be called on to offer us aid, surely we can ask them to right their wrongs as well? To help the living descendants of those they wronged, to help us clean up their bloody legacy.

So, I wrote the following prayer/charge. I suggest you set up an altar ahead of time with a candle, matches or lighter, food and/or drink, a bell or chime, and a divination tool. Then read through the whole thing at least once, and think about what it means, before doing the ritual. Remember to follow up with mundane ways of supporting the work! Incorporate them into the ritual if you like. For example: at the end, present a confirmation of a donation to an aid fund, or give an oral account of actions you have taken. When you perform the rite, speak the words written below, and perform the actions indicated in brackets in italics.

Mini-Rite to the Ancestors

[Prepare your space in your usual way before you begin.]

I light this candle to call upon my Ancestors, whose debts are yet unpaid.
[light candle]

Those who caused harm to Black People, Indigenous People, People of Color.
Those who caused harm either by their words or their silence, by their actions or their inaction.
Those who owned slaves, those who profited from slavery, those who used products or services from business who profited from slavery, those who continued to oppress former slaves and their descendants, those who refused to acknowledge or remedy the injustice.
Those who stole land to colonize, those who kept lands by force, those who continued to oppress the original peoples of the stolen land on which they lived, those who refused to acknowledge or remedy the injustice.
Those who engaged in genocide, and those who allowed it to happen.

I will do my part to break the cycle.
To that end, I call on my Ancestors to pay their debts.

I call on you! Hear my Petitions!
[if you have a bell or chime, sound it now, four times.]

Protect the descendants of those you wronged.
Tear down the unjust systems you upheld.
Pave the way for better, more just systems to be built.
Reinforce the work of those who build better systems from the ashes of the old.

I have done this work, I am doing this work, and I will do this work,
With my hands, my voice, my talents, with this body that comes from your lineage.
Join me; work by my side.
Help me do this work to pay the debts you have burdened me with as your legacy and my inheritance, or be banished from the offerings on my altar, from my veneration, from my remembrance. 
[blow out or douse candle]

Help me do this work and our legacy will become achievements of justice and integrity, worthy of remembrance by our descendants.
[re-light candle, and give offerings]

[Spend some time with your Ancestors, perhaps doing a little divination, and when you are through, thank them for their time, blow out or douse the candle, and dispose of the offerings.]

1. Yes, I’m aware that the “those who…” section basically amounts to EVERYONE, but I think it’s worth spelling out.
2. Yes, I’m also aware that repeating this comes awfully close to oathing that you’ll do the work, but tbh that should really not bother anyone because we all need to be doing the work. It doesn’t say 24/7/365, you won’t be in violation if you slip up occasionally, but it may result in your Ancestors exerting some pressure if you try to shrug it off.
3. You may share wherever you want, but give credit. You may also adapt it slightly for your own, non-commerical, usages.

Additional Suggestions for Polytheists:

If you’re a practicing polytheist, I also suggest saying some prayers and/or doing a mini-rite to your favorite deities of Law, Justice, Truth, Right Rulership, etc, for this full moon working. If you don’t have a favorite, here is a (very brief and not at all exhaustive) list of suggestions:

  • Hellenic: Athena (esp Athena Columbia), Nike, Dike, Eleutheria, Themis, Aletheia, Apollo, Nomos
  • Irish/Gaelic: Nuada, Lugh, Brigid Ambue, Morrigan, Macha
  • Kemetic: any of the Eyes of Ra (Bast, Sekhmet, Wadjet, Tefnut, Mut, Hathor, etc), Ma’at
  • Norse/Germanic: Tyr, Freyr, Loki, Forseti
Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer

A Prayer for the Spring Equinox

With the coronavirus and the bad flu season, and our personal mundane nonsense (we’re moving across town), I don’t think we’re going to have much time to really celebrate this equinox with any of our pagan community, and I was thinking on that, and feeling the need to strengthen community ties from a distance, when this prayer sort of wrote itself as I fell asleep. So I jotted it down, and made a few minor edits, and now I’m sharing it with all of you! If you feel moved to do so, please light a candle and read this prayer aloud on the equinox or at your personal celebration. I’ll be lighting a green candle (if they’re not all packed away!), though you could use yellow, or even just white – whatever feels most appropriate to you.

Prayer for the Spring Equinox

There’s a stirring in the breeze
Spring is arriving on wing and leaf
It is time to plant our seeds
They are Hearty and Hale in their sowing
As we are Whole and Well in our growing
We emerge from our winter cocoons
And reaffirm the connections between us
Hail to the Folk around us
Hail to the Folk farther away
Hail to gods, spirits, ancestors
Hail to the Spring, today!

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!

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
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

fae, Holiday Celebration

Our Midsummer, and Working Intuitively

Midsummer, for us, is a celebration of Manannan and Fand. Last year we got down to the waterfront, but this year we stayed closer to home. We made a simple offering of an apple, some cheese (we were having grilled cheese for dinner), a fruity summer alcohol, and their candle, placed on our table and lit.

After dinner, we went to our plot in the community garden a few blocks away, where I *finally* got the weeding done (we’d had an explosion of something I didn’t manage to identify earlier), and did a bit of gathering. I brought home this mugwort and lavender to dry, along with a few other herbs, all harvested with a ceramic knife.

This is also an important time for the Fair Folk, and it does seem that whatever carnival shenanigans were going on earlier this summer are now over, and I’m a bit relieved.

I’m not exactly sure why I needed to harvest these herbs on Midsummer’s Day as the day waned, or what exactly I’m meant to do with them, but the ingredients seem to be a dreamwork blend of some sort, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I got a nudge, and I followed it. Story of my life, really. I do most of my witchcraft by intuition, trusting that I’ll figure it out as I learn by doing. Sometimes it all becomes clear later, when someone pops into my life, desperately needing something I made months earlier and then stashed in a cabinet!

Event, Paganism, Retreat/Festival/Convention

Beltaine at Fertile Ground Gathering!

So, this past weekend, Scott and I went to Triangle, VA for 2 days of Fertile Ground Gathering. The event runs Thursday through Sunday, but for personal/family logistic reasons, we only attended Friday and Saturday, the days with the bulk of the rituals and workshops. The Acorn Sprout did not come with us – after discussing it, we though it would be better to leave a toddler still in diapers with his grandparents and cousins for the weekend than to bring him along camping in the (likely) rain. There were kids activities, but we expected they would be geared towards slightly older children. So, we dropped off the Acorn Sprout on Thursday afternoon, packed up, and left at 7am on Friday. We arrived around 8:30am, in time to register and have a little breakfast before the first workshops. As with other events, I’m going to be focusing mostly on workshops I attended, rather than what Scott attended, because I took notes with plans to blog about my experiences!

Early Religion in Scandinavia – Jane Sibley, PhD

This was an extremely informative workshop, and Sibley seems to really know her shit – which I would expect from someone who *is* Scandinavian and speaks a Scandinavian language and got a PhD in folklore! Much of the presentation was drawn from a book she wrote called The Divine Thunderbolt, which includes both comparative mythology and the archaeological record, though the book has a much wider scope than the presentation, which focused on the Scandinavian Thor and his cognates in Sámi and Germanic mythology. She also emphasized how much of what modern Heathens and Norse Polytheists consider lore was likely made up by, or at least heavily edited and rewritten by either Snorri or the Brothers Grimm. She believes we need to pay more attention to the archaeology and the Icelandic sources.

There were a few takeaways that I think will be relevant to my own practice. Firstly, Sibley said that the Norse originally had a tripartite elemental system, similar to the Celts, with Earth, Water, and Sky/Air, fire being considered just a hot air. Secondly, she said that Thor should probably be considered Vanir, as he predates Odin and the Aesir, but things get kind of blurry, because the bloodlines are all mixed up anyhow. (Just think about how many of the Aesir are said to have Jotun parents!) Thirdly, Sibley discussed the importance of linen or flax and leeks used together for protection magics. Lots to think about!

Making My Introductions

Before lunch, Scott and I popped down to a place we’d found last year at Hallowed Homecoming, which takes place in the same camping area, and greeted some of the local spirits we’d met in October.

Wakening Ritual

This was a sort of opening ritual, following the Warding Ritual Thursday night. It was short, but to the point, and allowed people to find their trance in stillness, slow motion, or ecstatic motion as they preferred. As it was quite warm out and I was struggling slightly with my chronic illness, I opted for stillness, but that is frequently my preference in any case.

Fiber Magic – Katie LaFond

This was an extremely small workshop – just the presenter, myself, and one other attendee! It was an interesting twist of fate, though – three women of three different ages, discussing fibercraft and witchcraft. LaFond had brought extra supplies and several things to demonstrate, so she set me up with some yarn and a crochet hook while she talked about different ways she uses fibercraft to do witchcraft, from knitting intentions into baby blankets, to creating a family cable pattern for sweaters, to how she sewed planetary robes for her husband to use in his astrology work during the associated planetary days and hours. She demonstrated two different kinds of wool spinning, showed me how to spin flax and let me try that, and set up the other woman with a collapsible lap loom. We also talked about witchcraft more generally, and homesteading and gardening, discussing our lives, our paths, and our crafts as we worked away at our little projects. I made a small crocheted floppy witch hat, for one of the Acorn Sprout’s dolls.

Friday Evening

After dinner, there were a few musical performances and then a bonfire. We stayed to listen to most of Melanie Bresnan’s set, but we went to bed before Maharal began. I have seen them perform before, however, and I do recommend seeing them if you get a chance!

Weaving your Destiny – Chris LaFond

This workshop sort of built upon LaFond’s earlier workshop on the natal chart but I have a vague understanding of my natal chart so I figured I would be able to follow along. As it turned out, we had an entirely new group of people anyhow, so he spent the first fifteen or twenty minutes giving us an overview before moving into his main topic, which was about how to use planetary timing to predict possible events coming up in your life, and how to have a better handle on working with planetary timing, instead of against it. He explained that his approach to astrology is more pre-1700s, before the Enlightenment came and added in a bunch of early psychology, and that puts him in contrast to most pagan and mainstream astrologists, who use newer astrology methodologies. Because of his focus, he doesn’t really use the outer planets much. He also uses Whole Sign Houses, where the Houses of one’s natal chart start at the beginning of the sign and encompass the whole sign, instead of starting at a specific degree of the sign.

LaFond explained the Chaldean order, and how our lives cycle through it, spending a number of years under the influence of each planet, starting with either the moon or the sun, depending on whether one was born at night or during the day (defined as whether the sun was above the horizon or not). Since I was born at night, I spent the first 9 years under the influence of the moon, then 11 years under Saturn, and I’m currently within the 12 years under Jupiter. Within those periods, each is broken down into 7 again (because no outer planets, remember), and so I am currently in the time of the Moon, within the period of Saturn.

LaFond also explained how an astrologer can cycle the natal chart forward every year and use that as a means of predicting the year to come (on the birthday, not the calendar year). For my chart, that means I’m in a 5th House Year, now, and my fifth House is in Taurus. Another means of predicting the year to come that he discussed was to cast a new chart for the solar return of your birth, which is usually within three days of your calendar birthday.

Next, LaFond discussed planetary days and hours, and emphasized that the “hours” are just daylight or nighttime divided into 12, so only near the equator near the equinox do they actually last an hour! Also, the planetary days all begin at dawn, and the first planetary hour is the same as the day. They cycle through the week completely (again, with only the 7 planets of older astrology). This made me think of the old nursery rhyme/divinatory poem that starts “Monday’s Child is full of grace…” I’d always considered myself a “Monday’s Child” because I was born on a calendar Monday. But by this system, as I was born before dawn, I was born on the Day of the Sun, instead!

Accidental Wanderings

After Chris LaFond’s workshop, I wandered down to the water there, which I have come to learn is called Happyland Camp 5 Lake. I saw a number of turtles and frogs and it was really quite lovely, especially since the rain overnight had taken the heat away. On my way back to the feast hall I started wondering about one of the local spirits, and I took a wrong turn – I found myself at a footbridge over a creek, near the fire pit, but I also found my answer. Not exactly my intention, but once I acknowledged that and understood the message, I found my way to the feast hall for lunch with no further ado, so: no harm, no foul. Perhaps a good reminder to keep slightly better track of my surroundings, however!

Warrior Blessing Ritual

Irene Glasse led a Warrior Blessing Ritual after lunch, for blessing and healing of the Warriors among the Dead, the Living, and the Future Generations. It was a really heartfelt and emotional experience, especially as I took the time to connect with two of my great-grandfathers who were in service during WWII, and I reflected upon the military service of other family members and friends, both living and deceased.

Power, Freedom. Boundaries, and Consent – Rath

Some of this presentation was apparently based on a Foundations class Rath had previously taught. There were only a handful of us in attendance so we sat on the porch instead of inside the craft cabin, where we were divebombed by carpenter bees on occasion, but it was nice to be outside in the warm-but-not-too-hot weather.

Rath began with Power, and had us all give words we associated with it, and asked us if we wanted power. I said “it depends”, which is a normal tendency of mine that is perhaps related to my dealings in Faery – I generally want to know all the details before I agree to something, and there are plenty of circumstances in which I would not want specific kinds of power! Rath then discussed “power over” vs “power with”, and different models for wielding or sharing power. When he discussed Freedom, Rath also used two kinds: “freedom to” vs “freedom from”, though he spent more time focusing on “freedom to”.

That brought us to Boundaries, both in the personal (between individual people) and in pagan traditions and systems of magic, where some things are a part of the system or tradition, and other things don’t fit the paradigm. Rath emphasized that even the most eclectic and welcoming groups have a boundary somewhere, using Mormons as an example of a spiritual tradition most pagan groups would consider outside their boundaries. Following on boundaries, we talked about consent, and how in an ideal world consent would always be explicit and informed, but that some experiences are so difficult to fully explain that nearly everything is only partially informed, and in many cases consent is implicit instead, though it can still be revoked.

The final segment of the workshop was focused on exploring a number of different common pagan group models, and pointing out the flaws in each, because at the end of the day, no group is perfect, and all are open to different sorts of abuse. The best thing we can do is to try and mitigate the flaws as much as possible as group leaders, and as group members we should try to find groups that best fit out own personal boundaries.

Wandering Ritual

This ritual began in the ritual field we’d used for the Wakening Ritual, and instead of a Maypole, this year we wove ribbon as a community, in keeping with the theme “Weaving a Tapestry”. The Fae were invited to weave with us and then to join us in as we processed back to the feast hall and walked through hanging veils into the evening’s revelry and feast.* The ritual was not to be closed until Sunday morning, but as Scotty and I needed to be home Sunday and a thunderstorm was rolling in, we left instead of staying for the feast, and therefore missed the Kindred Crow set which was somewhat disappointing. Still, we got home in time to get decent sleep, which I needed. One of these days, though, I am going to actually manage to see them live!


Overall, we had a pretty enjoyable experience. It was really nice to be out in all that GREEN! I’m not sure if we’ll be back next year, though, because Beltaine is usually a pretty busy time of year for us, both for our hearth cult and because it’s near the Acorn Sprout’s birthday!

* Note: I had serious misgivings about the structure of this ritual, not least because we were all supposed to be in the Otherworlds with the Fae all night, despite the fact that there were quite a few young children attending the event. As a practitioner of the Fairy Faith, I really can’t emphasize enough how mercurial and potentially dangerous the Fae are, especially around Beltaine. I was told that offerings were made and precautions were taken, but as I wasn’t there for the Warding Ritual and I wasn’t given details, I can’t speak to their efficacy. I made my own supplications and performed my own protective magics. I’ll leave you with Morgan Daimler’s words on the subject.