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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

What’s a magical name? How do I get one? And why are so many Wiccans named Raven?

A magical name—or craft name, as they are sometimes called—is a name you take on when you become a Wiccan, and it’s the name other Wiccans in the community will know you by and that you will use in Wiccan rituals. Some people take on a name when they first become interested in Wicca. Others wait until they dedicate themselves to the path through a self-dedication ceremony or when they are initiated into a particular Wiccan group. Some Wiccan traditions (traditions are kind of like denominations in Christianity) have special rules for when someone takes a name and what kind of name it can be, and others don’t. And in some cases your name might be bestowed on you by a teacher, but this practice is not very common anymore.

Most Wiccans who have magical names only use them in the Wiccan community, and use their legal names elsewhere. Having a second name can help protect your privacy in case there are people you don’t want to know about your Wiccan practice. However some Wiccans use their magical names all the time, even outside of the Wiccan community, and some only use theirs when they are in ritual space.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Labor Day Reverie, plus apples

Labor

We’ve just wrapped up our celebration of Labor Day weekend which is apparently another excuse for a sale in Retail-Land and a well-deserved day-off for American workers. At least the ones who get a day of for federal holidays, which isn’t everyone, of course.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks for reading it, Ivo.
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Thank you Byron!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Finding Her within at my first Witchcamp
Every year over a hundred Witches gather at California Witchcamp, a weeklong Reclaiming event in the redwoods. When I first heard about it, I thought of it as something like Lothlorien, a fantastical place completely separate from my own reality. But a few years I found myself crammed into a tiny car with three red-headed Witches and way too much luggage, en route to Witchcamp.
 
I arrived in high spirits and found a wonderful site for my tent, right by the river, the stars were out, and the trees were beautiful, and so many people came and hugged me, dinner was delicious, and all the paths sounded amazing, and then I got depressed. 
 
I don't mean that I came down from my excitement and felt a little bummed out; I became depressed. I have been struggling with depression for years and have been working with doctors and blood tests to determine the cause. Recently I started seeing improvement, but the day I arrived at Camp, I descended into the darkness. 
 
The all-camp ritual on the first night was everything I had hoped it would be. Beautiful people circled around a big fire, drumming, chanting, hugging, laughing. There were powerful invocations and the circle was cast. I stood in wonder of its beauty and resolved to participate and be fully involved, depression be damned. 
 
I don't remember much of the ritual, just the general feeling of exhaustion and fighting depression. I was so miserable, I almost opted out of the spiral dance. I forced myself through the motion and figured I would be feeling back to normal tomorrow. 
 
Sitting in the beauty of the forest before breakfast promised improvement and I felt excited about the Witchcamp path I had chosen. My group met in a beautiful spot by the river, surrounded by giant trees and ferns. But instead of the bubbling of the brook and birdsong, we were surrounded by the sounds of chainsaws, heavy equipment, shouting loggers, and falling trees. The forest on the other side of the ridge was being logged. The sounds were awful but I tried to remind myself that logging wasn't always destructive, some sustainable tree cutting was necessary, and for all we knew this could be an environmentally conscious project. 
 
But in our path emotions were raw. Some shook angry fists toward the ridge. Some uttered swear words at the loggers. Some had tears running down their cheeks. Some spoke of the pain of the trees, how they heard their cries, felt them shake, felt them die. Overwhelmed by waves of sadness and anger in sunk back into depression. 
 
Later we met with our affinity groups which are meant to support us in our experiences at Camp. My group discussed crossing the ridge to confront the loggers or maybe even dumping sugar into their gas tanks. I was lost in depression and despair, feeling isolated, powerless to ask for the support I needed. My last hope was the big ritual, I planned on dancing until I pulled out of this darkness. 
 
The ritual was very beautiful - I think. I threw myself into the circle, stood close to the fire, focused all my attention, invoked along with everyone, sang at the top of my lungs. I opened my heart as widely as I could to let it all in and be filled with magick and love. I sank deeply into trance and listened to the words being spoken. 
 
It was a guided meditation on the distorted mirror of our culture. Oppression. Poverty. Patriarchy. Destruction. Logging. Rape. Cruelty. I sobbed and I wasn't the only one. Maybe this was necessary to transform our pain and could be my path out of depression. But the trance went on and on. More pain. More despair. More sadness. More darkness. More depression. There came a point where we were all going to transform the deception and pain by rising up. Rising up to be healers and changers, but I couldn't rise. I was lost and trapped at the bottom of depression and watched everyone else proceed into dancing and chanting, and raising energy or something - it all felt a million miles away. 
 
There was some sort of cone of power, I guess, and then there was more dancing and more singing as I sat on the cold hard earth in pain. The ritual ended and there were cookies and the sugar helped a little, temporarily, and then there was so much celebration around me that I couldn't take it anymore and went to my tent. 
 
And there I sat alone in agony. I used to be an activist and world changer but I was burnt out and had ruined my health. I felt pressured to go back to the front lines, guilty for not doing enough, not being all I should be. And then I felt angry, furious, and started cursing to myself, screw this Camp, screw the rituals, screw all of this, I am not accepting the guilt, I am not going back to the front lines, I am not going to be a world changer, I am not going to invite more pain into my life! 
 
The next morning I showed up at path ready to give up and leave before we even got started. We had a round of check-ins where everyone talked about their experiences so far, and to my surprise I found my pain and anger echoed by many. I decided to stick it out for a bit longer and actually enjoyed my path work, despite the logging. 
 
In the afternoon I surprised myself by changing affinity groups. I had heard about a writer's group and joined them. I spent the afternoon by the river and skipped my path homework. The next day I skipped homework again as well as my new affinity group. At night I showed up to the Blue God ritual wearing red clothes. I had fully planned to wear blue and didn't understand how I somehow forget to change and was now the odd one out. Most everyone else was wearing blue. I gave myself permission to leave the ritual and climbed up on a hill to watch, even taking some pictures, not knowing if there were rules against photography.  
 
I left groups, broke rules, skipped homework, and stopped taking my supplements. And I felt better. It turned out that my supplements were actually worsening my depression, which my doctor called to tell me as soon as I came back from Camp. I told everyone at Camp that I wasn't doing my homework frustrated that no one understood how big of a deal it was. My nickname in College was Hermione, I made color coded schedules for all my close friends, and I never, in four years of College, handed in a homework assignment late. I walked around Camp in a state of disconnect and confusion. What was happening to me?
 
I've always been the committed, loyal type. I was so committed to my wedding vows that I fought to save my marriage even after my husband threw me against a wall, threatened to beat me, and told me that his own vows had become invalid, that he didn't love me anymore and had earned the right to be with other women. I always stick things out, regardless of the cost. I am the person who gets annoyed at the inevitable trouble makers who think they need to make a point about being different. If we decide wear blue for the ritual, why do they have to wear red? Is it really too much too ask? Wouldn't it be so much nicer if we just all stuck to the rules? If we all showed up prepared, having done our homework? Rebel against the overculture, but for goodness sake, don't make things difficult for our community by being different for the sake of being different!
 
So here I was, wearing my red dress on Blue God night, without my homework, having skipped my groups, feeling utterly disconnected and left out and wanting so badly to fit in and belong. 
 
I consoled myself with attending an initiation salon that afternoon since initiation had been on my mind for a few months. I went to the salon and sat for a couple of minutes when I felt the overwhelming urge to leave and be by myself. I plunged into the river, hoping to shake this odd feeling of disconnect. I tried a grounding exercise. I hugged a tree. I sat in meditation. 
 
When it was time for dinner I asked my friend about the initiation salon. They really liked it but informed me that it was "so not going to happen" the way I had imagined it, that's not how it worked in the Reclaiming tradition. I argued that it would. They said that no, it wouldn't, it couldn't be done that way. I argued that I was my own spiritual authority and I would find teachers who would do it the way I felt was right for me. Another person in line chimed in and told me that I was wrong, it wasn't going to happen. 
 
My brain hurt. Everything felt wrong and I wondered what I was even doing here. Maybe I should just leave and find a different Pagan group. I didn't bother getting dressed, grabbed my dinner and sat down naked at a table. My friend came and sat with me and asked me if I was OK. I shook my head and that's when I fell apart. 
 
I sobbed. I mumbled about not belonging, and wanting to belong, and not being a part of it all, and it being all wrong, and being my own spiritual authority, and who the hell was I anyways? I cried and cried and then someone called my name and I ignored them, they called again, and then suddenly a whole bunch of people were calling my name, and then someone came and stuck a book on my bare lap, apparently I had won it in the raffle. I kept weeping and heard my name again and soon another book appeared in front of me. I returned to my misery when another book appeared.
 
I looked up and cried "why does this stupid raffle have to be happening right now? I need a moment to fall apart here!" and my name was called again, this time for an item I hadn't bought any tickets for. Naked and sobbing I stumbled into the middle of the crowd and was handed a candle opera. Dozens of Witches staring at me, I turned to flee, when they called my name again, this time I had won a hair piece, and from what I could see through the curtain of tears it was beautiful. Someone had purchased tickets in my name, seeing how perfectly it matched my hair. I stumbled back to my seat and heard my name again and finally started laughing. 

Here I was sobbing about how I didn't belong and didn't know who I was, standing naked in the midst of a community that had gifted me with raffle tickets, winning one ritual item after another. I was surrounded by people who loved me, who held me, who listened to me. And the fates were smiling on me and bestowed me with more raffle prizes than I knew what to do with.
 
After my meltdown I felt empty and calm, in an exhausted but pleasant way. I sat among the "chair tribe" at the end of the ritual circle, ready to participate or not, free to choose. I was starting to believe that I was accepted while being fully myself. Delightfully different in all of my idiosyncratic ways. A part of the whole, without being at the front lines. Loved, without having to conform. Welcome in red clothes at a Blue God ritual, free to leave and still belong.
 
We called in the Green God and I chose to aspect him. I put on the veil and felt a quietness and peace descent upon me. I sat in complete stillness, then walked to the edge of the circle and laid face down in the grass. Images of forests, ferns, moss, and grasses entered my mind. All was green, all was quiet. The phrase "stillness is" impressed itself on me. I thought about getting up, but my body didn't move. "You don't have to" I heard. "I don't have to what?" I thought. "You don't have to", I heard again. "Stillness is". I lay in the grass for an hour and a half and enjoyed the stillness. I felt like a tree for the rest of the night. You don't have to. Stillness is. 
 
On my last day I felt whole and happy and participated fully in the final ritual. We were honoring the Red God and I sensed heat circulating through me even when I was away from the fire. My blood was pumping with passion and life and I skipped through the forest in trance, dodging obstacles with perfect nightvision, listening to the sounds of Witches drumming and howling. When it came time to speak our commitments in the fire circle, there was only one thing I could say:
 
"I commit to this path and to this community"
 
The sense of empowerment I felt in that moment came as a surprise. I had made a choice from a place of my center, I had chosen a path and community dedicated to exploring my own spiritual authority. A commitment to this path, to this community, was different than other commitment I had ever made, for it was a commitment to myself, first and foremost. I came away from Witchcamp with many new experiences and thoughts, but the words dancing in my mind on the drive home, were the words of the Star Goddess:
 
"And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without."
 
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The Morrigan by Dan Goodfellow 2014 www.dangoodfellow,co.ukThere's no doubt about it- we live in modern, changing times, when the old religious power structures and dogmas of the past are being rapidly over turned and quite rightfully, often treated with disdain. That's good. Free thinking, and free expression are wonderful things and we should be grateful that we can on the whole, in the West at least, practice our spirituality freely, according to our own ideas and inner promptings. There shouldn't be a problem with that- should there?

Well, sadly, there is sometimes. With the power to be our own clergy, comes responsibility, or the consequences for the lack of it.

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  • Danielle Blackwood
    Danielle Blackwood says #
    Thanks for posting this Danu. Very timely in the age of internet memes spouting misinformation about everything, including the go
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Danu, for the reminder and for the warning. These things need to be said more often. "she's not interested in comfort

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Secret Heart of Samhain

I was picking apples one afternoon. I'd worked my way down the row into the oldest part of the orchard when suddenly, for just a moment, I began to wonder if somehow, like some character in a story, I had stumbled out of this world and into Another.

I don't know how much you know about apple trees. They say that originally they came to this world from the Other World. Whatever the truth of that may be, what I can tell you about the apple trees of this world is that they always bear flowers first; then come leaves, and later fruit. There's never a time when they bear all three at once. In this, they are said to be unlike the orchards of the Land of Youth, which in fact do just that. The undying trees of that Land, so they say, bear flower and leaf and fruit at once, all at a time, together.

And that's just what I saw in the orchard that day.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_140528-MUSHROOM-FAIRY.jpg        I awake to the bright sunshine of an early September morn and as I yawn and stretch ready to start the day, a chill in the air makes me shudder. Ah yes, the sun is still shining, but here is a definite reminder that the seasons are about to change. I pull back the curtains to chastise the crows who so noisily woke me and am greeted by an opaque film of condensation upon the window. Autumn is here. 

        I trundle toward the wooden gate at the bottom of my garden swinging my basket in eager anticipation of the bounty I am about fill it with. Big red juicy hawthorn berries beckon me enticingly and I think of the tincture I will make with them, good for the heart and the soul and my stock for the coming year. Huge plump orangey rose hips lay in wait by their side and my mouth waters at the thought of the sweet, sticky syrup they will become. I add huge purple  berries from the elder tree and my arsenal of herbal remedies, ready to beat the Winter blues is nearly complete.

       Lavender pink wands of loosestrife wave me on by as I continue my medicinal harvest and I notice how the branches are drooping from the drought of a long hot Summer.

       Geese fly in formation overhead and I marvel at the sight, like a spear piercing the blue sky, intent on its target, home they fly. I trip and stumble and giggle to myself as I look down to find the empty shells of acorns strewn all around me, evidence indeed that I am not the only one on a mission to fill my larder. Little holes in the ground where squirrels have been busily hiding their nuts and others have been digging them up.
And there, just there, I spot a most perfect ring of tiny mushrooms, hundreds of them just crowning above the blades of grass.
 b2ap3_thumbnail_140604-appletree.jpg
           I return to my garden to pick the Bramley apples that have fallen to the ground and on my way a handful of blackberries fall into my basket. A crumble is in the making. As I bend to gather the apples I notice how the lawn is covered with tiny hammocks of cobwebs all glistening in the early sun, rocking gently on the breeze. I hail to the fairy folk who have slept there.

         Cobwebs everywhere hanging from branches and twigs, the handle of the spade I left in the flower bed, from flower to flower, everywhere, cobwebs.  They trap the early morning light in a canvas of magical crystal like artwork and I am drawn closer, enchanted by their magic. So pure. So fragile.

      I prepare the apples for the crumble and marvel at how they can turn from firm slices to powdery fluffy puree in an instant, just as you turn your back for a moment and something moves just out of vision on the wall above the aga. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_140530-spider-1.jpg


         

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lady May
    Lady May says #
    Hi Carol Yikes too! You just can't help some creatures...I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this blog. I'm Sara
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Yikes I just saw that spider in my bathroom and when I tried to shake in out from the glass and the envelope, it stuck to the enve

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Worshipping Water Without Waste

We've all heard the advice about how to conserve water, especially during the summer months when drought and brush fires hit even the Pacific Northwest.  Water conservation is incredibly important and intrinsic to all of life on this planet.  For those of us who work with Water as a spiritual aspect of our paths, practicing water worship can sometimes leave one feeling guilty.

So, how do we honor Water without wasting it?

We start by honoring methods of conservation to preserve what is sacred.  We also must be mindful as we perform rituals to use only as much as we need, and show our gratitude at every step.

These are a mix of familiar, practical ways of working with water, as well as spiritual ones.

1. Showering.  If you're like me, stepping into a shower is invigorating, and if I'm not paying attention to my actions, or I'm not in a rush, I feel a strong urge to stay in the water and be embraced by its fluid arms.  Thankfully, I spent a few of my formative years in California, where water conservation is drilled into the heads of middle schoolers several times a year.  Unless you're especially dirty or have an illness that demands staying in the water longer, showers can be kept three minutes (my daily target) or up to five minutes in length.

When starting up the shower, it's recommended you collect the cool water in a bucket or bin while waiting for the water to get hot, and while it's great on a garden or to water your plants, it's also excellent for any divination work, blessings, or other water work you're planning on doing that day.

2. Baths. Whether you clean or just soak in a bath, make it count.  Plug up the drain as soon as you start, turning on the hot water only until it gets hot, then begin to adjust the cold water.  If it's too hot, turn down the hot water rather than turn up the cold.  Fill the tub only to the amount you need.  Use this time in a tub to meditate, cast spells based on water, or give thanks to the water beings, gods, or goddesses with whom you manifest intention.  A bath oil at the end of the bath will help seal in the water you've enjoyed, and continue its blessings.

I use my bath soaks primarily for self-healing work.  I add epsom salts, herbs, or oils depending on what I need.  Mugwort, steeped as a tea for two hours ahead of time, is an excellent addition for women needing to balance their hormones and regulate menstrual cycles.  It's very cleansing, and if you have tea left over, it's good for a once-a-month lucid dreaming session when drunk at night.  For women needing an after birth soak, or if you're a person who suffers from cysts or tears in your pelvic floor, a postpartum sitz herbal bath* is incredibly beneficial.  When healing in the tub, I ground, open chakras, and then perform Reiki on the affected areas that need the most healing.

3. Kitchen Rituals.  The water you drink each day is a blessing in itself.  Before taking the first sip of each glass, take a moment to thank the water and to put into it the intentions for healing, continued health, or ritual.  I recommend avoiding bottled water, as its production and consumption wastes water, harms global and local ecologies, and often harms the people living near bottled water plants by destroying local aquifers.  If you find your tap water unpalatable, add a filter to your faucet, keep a water filtration pitcher (add mineral rocks for an extra boost), or add fresh fruit and herbs** to your water pitcher for a hint of flavor.

Any kitchen witchery that uses water from boiling to washing should employ basic conservation methods: save water after straining, left over teas, etc. for watering plants.  If your ritual or meal left a bath of broth, freeze it for soup or reduce into a magical sauce. (Don't forget to sing while you cook!)  The glass of water in the image was used to water my indoor plants after its intended use; remember to give back to the earth or a nearby stream as often as you're able.

When cleaning your ritual tools, set aside a bin or half sink for soaking, to minimize water waste.

4. Gardening.  From shower and kitchen come rich water that can be used to tend your garden.  Pay attention to what might have mixed into the water in question and use where most beneficial: you don't want to use a broth that came from peppers in the same soil where you're growing them!  Also, save your cooking water for outdoors, or you might have odors you didn't expect.  Your shower water is better for indoor plants.

If you have an outdoor garden and can afford either the cost or the energy to install a gray water system, such as a reed pond, you can create a luscious place for meditation and ritual while making the most of your water and attracting beneficial wildlife (here, froggy, froggy!).

Another wonderful feature to include in any witch's garden is a rain barrel both for irrigating medicinal herbs and casting late night spells.  A splash of captured rain water on your feet as blessing or into the soil where you've planted a fertility talisman is perfectly safe.  Just be certain you use potable water for any portions of your ritual that require drinking.

5. Community Involvement. Whether you're a solo practitioner or part of a group or coven, show Water you're dedicated by taking part in community conservation efforts.  Reach out to stewardship groups, societies for the conservation of a given body of water, or watershed protection groups.^  Many of these groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to help clean or maintain local bodies of water. If your local watershed is being threatened by a company, talk to your representative about stopping or constraining harmful practices.

Take time to both offer prayers and blessings to your favorite ocean, pond, lake, or river, while also picking up garbage along the water's edge.  Get others involved in your efforts, and you can begin and end each volunteer session with a call to Spirit, a prayer, or a sung blessing (you might even dive right in, if the day's warm enough).

Water provides us with life, take care of it, bless it, and it will bless you right back.  Don't forget to go for a swim!


*Use a premixed blend of sitz bath herbs, or make your own using 1/4 cup each of comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, red raspberry leaf, yarrow flower, calendula flower, sheperd's purse, uva ursi (a.k.a. bearberry) leaf, and epsom salts.  Steep for thirty minutes in boiled water, and add to a shallow bath.

**Making my own fruit waters has made summer more enjoyable.  Some of my family's favorite blends are: blackberry with sage, raspberry with mint, blueberry with peach, cucumber with lemon slices, strawberry with nasturtiums, and orange with lime slices.

^There are a host of non-profits working both on local and national levels to conserve waterways.  Those I love most in Washington include Stewardship Partners, People of Puget Sound, and Water Tenders.

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