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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Is There a Witch Culture?

Do contemporary witches have a culture of our own?

I would contend that we do.

Culture: the totality of transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or population.

I would contend that as witches, we're a people, or at least a people-in-the-making. (Look at the past: these things happen all the time.) As such, we have our own culture, whether or not we're fully aware of it yet.

True, our historic culture has not come down to us intact. That's why it's so important to be willing to learn from other people's wisdom. That's why it's so important, when we're borrowing, not simply to take from someone and somewhere else and plunk it down whole and all in our midst. That's why, when we borrow a story, a trope, or a way of doing from someone else, we need first to translate it into Witch.

That's why it's not enough to say (for instance): Yemayá.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I remember well that frisson, Anthony. Mine came while reading L. M. Boston's Enemy at Green Knowe, from her series of teen novels
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember when I first read "The Horned Crown" by Andre Norton. The author used stuff I was reading in the witchcraft books from

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sage

In the Paganisphere, there is perhaps no more widely used incense than sage.  When I vend at Pagan events, sage bundles are usually the first thing that sells out.  But there is a lot more to “sage” than might meet the eye.

First, we should define “sage”.  Most of us use common names to refer to plants, although this can be confusing.  “Sage” is definitely one of those instances.  In the Pagan world, people generally mean “white sage” (salvia apiana) when they say sage.  Other forms of sage are also used in incense making.  “Culinary” or “garden” sage (salvia officinalis) comes in many different varieties and is a wonderful ingredient in incense.  Pineapple sage is my personal favorite. In fact, the whole issue of common names comes up again when we talk about “desert sage” because there are several different plants called by that name.  and Salvia eremostachya is known as “desert sage”, as is artemisia tridentate.  Although not a true sage it still imparts a very similar scent.  This is one of the reasons that plant aficionados like to use Latin names for plants to ensure everyone is on the same page.  The fact that there are four totally different plants that we often refer to as “sage” is a good illustration of why.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_praybeads1_sm.jpgWhat makes you feel safe? What makes you feel tense and anxious? Does anything make you fear for you life? Most of us can answer that question, but how much sense does the answer make?

My mother was emotionally wounded by her relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic and cheated on her. When the feminist movement rose, she was primed for it.  I was raised to distrust  - and fear – men, which did nothing positive for my future relationships. My father’s abuse of me primed for fear of rape, and the ensuing divorce primed me to fear abandonment. I spent years in a chronic state of anxiety. Going out into the world always required an act of will. Some days I just couldn’t. My animals – horse, cats, dog – were my saving grace. My horse was why I left the house. He needed to be provided for, and the barn was a haven.

I was afraid of being catcalled, raped, having things come at me that I didn’t expect, loosing work (I had a housecleaning business) being audited, not being able to pay the bills, my boyfriend of the moment leaving me. Some of those things were under my control: ie the likelihood of my loosing work was reduced if I did a good job, the likelihood of being raped went down if I didn’t expose myself to certain situations (the reality of one never deserving to be raped is completely different from the statistical data about when and where it occurs), and I could spend less than I made. (generally I spent more. I had a HORSE.) Some things were not under my control: being catcalled, begin audited, and having unexpected things come at me (by definition).

But why fear some things but not others? I didn’t fear driving, and my likelihood of  being injured in a car accident was far higher than the likelihood that I would be audited, or raped (Are there statistics on catcalling in the 90s?) or even killed by fists or bunt object. I was not afraid of being shot - depsite the crime rate being higher back then than it is now. But then, we didn’t have the internet back then, and I didn’t own a TV.

Current brain science confirms that we are biased toward information that is negative. It is so basic to our biology that we don’t think about it. there are perfectly practical reasons for this. Nature is dangerous. It’s better for a clawless, furless primate to think that that rustle in the bushes is a leopard than to relax and ignore it, and  this trait work just as well when we are our own predators. But this trait is rotten for evaluating current actual threats. From the standpoint of human existence, we are barely off the savannah, but modern humans still have most of those instincts. This is generally a good thing. After all, when we get that feeling that something is wrong, we are well served to listen.

But it’s a bad thing when we use our fear to dictate what others should or should not do. Do as thou wilt, but harm none means that my rights end at your nose, and vice versa. There is no such thing as a right that forces others to do things for me, or that prevents others from doing as they please as long as they stay off my property and away from my person. Being afraid that my neighbor will do X (leaving aside for a moment the whole “attracting what you fear” thing) does not mean that I am morally justified in advocating for a law against X. First and foremost, I may be fearing a leopard, when its really a porcupine in the bushes, who would much rather be left alone.

Some things make us more afraid than we need to be based on how often the feared thing actually happens. I spent a lot of time ruminating on the things I feared. My brain made trenches with those thoughts that got deeper and deeper. Climbing out was hard. It became easier when I had a reason to climb out (my animals) and the comfort and reassurance of connection to deity. It also became easier when I learned to defend myself (ie a concrete action). External things can feed those fears. Media is an obvious example, but there are also likely to be people around us that wallow in such fears. My BIL is into prepping.* he talks often about society collapsing. As it happens, that was another thing I feared when I was in my teens (I read On The Beach and grew up during the cold war) and I had to get past that in order to function in the here and now. I can’t spend too much time chatting with him or he will draw me back into that fear.

Our biology biases us toward fear, but giving in to it is not a way to have a good life. I believe that the gods want better for us.

What do you fear? And how do you ease those fears? 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Save the Monarch for Sigyn

Earth Day is coming soon. Earth Day used to be Arbor Day, when people planted trees. Some modern Asatruars call it Yggdrasil Day, meaning day of the World-Tree. Although every day should be Earth Day for pagans and heathens, for those who are looking for a way to commemorate it, I have a suggestion: save the Monarch Butterfly. 

Butterflies symbolize many things across many cultures. Modern heathens and pagans have come to associate the butterfly with the goddess Sigyn. The process started with personal gnosis, became group gnosis, and eventually found some foundation in the lore, as I explore in my upcoming paper "Sigyn: Butterfly Goddess," scheduled to be published soon in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches' History Month

If one were to pick a Witches' History Month, which month would it be?

To pose the question is to know the answer.

Obviously, Witches' History Month has to be October, right?

So, there it is. October = National Witches' History Month.

As we will, so mote it be.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    The cartoon reminds me that Gardner operated a Witchcraft Museum. Maybe someday it will return somewhere.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Magical and Healing Aloe Vera

With over three hundred species of aloe, the one simply called Aloe vera, meaning “true aloe,” is the most common. Aloe is a perennial plant with succulent leaves that can grow up to two feet long from a center base. If you are lucky, it will produce a spike of yellow or orange flowers. As a houseplant, it is commonly kept in the kitchen for first aid treatment of burns; just break off the end of a leaf and apply a little of the translucent gel. A yellow sap known as bitter aloe is exuded at the base of the leaves. Bitter aloe should never be used on the skin or ingested.

Well known for healing burns, aloe gel is also good for cuts, insect stings, acne, and other skin ailments. When used on burns and scalds, it helps prevent blisters and scarring. Also called medicine plant and healing plant, aloe has a long history of use that dates back thousands of years. It is believed to be the plant mentioned on a Sumerian tablet.

Certain documentation comes from 16th century BCE in the Ebers papyrus, the oldest written record on the use of medicinal plants in Egypt. In addition to healing, it was included in preparations to beautify the skin and protect it from the harsh, damaging desert climate. Aloe’s use in the embalming process earned it the name plant of immortality. Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90 CE) and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) both extolled its merits in their writings.

Of course, like most medicinal plants, aloe was also used for magical purposes. In Mesopotamia and throughout the Middle East, it was believed to provide protection. Leaves were hung over doorways for this purpose and to ward off evil spirits. Aloe was also used for protection from accidents and a charm to bring good luck.

Position an aloe plant on a windowsill at the front of your house to dispel negative energy and attract good luck. If you live in a place where aloe can grow outside, plant it near your front door or set a potted plant outside for the summer. For protection, break off the end of a leaf and dab a little of the gel over each exterior doorway. For healing spells, place a little of the gel at the base of a green candle. For your esbat ritual, use the gel on a white candle or put the plant on your altar to draw on the power and wisdom of Luna.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dark Light

There's a phenomenon of pagan ritual that I've noticed again and again down through the years.

I'll call it the “dark light.”

The pagan calendar (day begins at sundown) and pagan schedules (most of us work day jobs) being what they are, we do a lot of our ritual at night. This means that we do much of our ritual by firelight.

Bonfires, candlelight, torchlight. Which is it to say that, by the usual electric-lit 21st century standards, there isn't very much light.

And yet consistently, again and again, as I think back to any given ritual, I find myself remembering more light than could possibly have been there.

But it's not just a matter of memory. In ritual, colors are brighter. Bodies, faces, things seem to glow as if from within, transfigured.

I think of the Grand Sabbat. Cross-legged up there on his altar, the Horned glows, I swear it. I swear it. He's lambent: the light comes from Him.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Call me old fashioned. The taper candles are to hold for reading text or ritual script. I don't care if the newer members prefer

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