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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Mermaids

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Anchor Token

When a small object simply appears in my life as if by magic, I generally interpret it as a sign of favor or a gift from the gods or other beings. Especially so if it a meaningful symbol that is easy to interpret. So when a tiny plastic anchor manifested on my back porch, it was clear to me that it was a numinous event. Here is the story of that day.

It was the first really hot day in May here in the Mojave Desert just south of Las Vegas. It was not quite going to break 100 but it was definitely going to be hot enough to go swimming. I was really looking forward to swimming season because swimming is my most reliable and best pain relief. It's great for my whole body and particularly the old knee injury but it's my old neck and shoulder injury for which swimming is the best relief. Long time readers of my blog will recall that ironically I got those injuries when I fell in while cleaning the pool. All winter I try my best to keep my shoulder from locking-- that year when I was running for office and had no time to even go to the public hot tub in the winter, I spent months trying to do my hair with only my left hand because I couldn't get my right up high enough, and it's something I hope never to repeat-- and this winter there had been several days warm enough for me to heat up the hot tub, and of course there is always the shower or bath, but actual swimming is best. The first two winters of the pandemic the public pool had been closed, but this year it was open. But after two years of never going to an indoor public place without my mask, and being unable to get the second vax or boost, I was cautious of swimming at the indoor public pool, and every time the pain in my neck and shoulder got so bad I was considering going anyway the weather had turned and I had been able to get in the hot tub. I had never actually gone to the indoor public pool this winter, although I was glad to know it was available if I needed it. Maybe by next winter the pandemic will be over, I hope.  So I had made it through the winter with my arm still working and without dying of the plague-- I had gotten sick with something or other on New Years' weekend but couldn't access testing in my local area for love or money, so I don't actually know if I had Covid or not, but I didn't have the can't smell thing so maybe not-- and now it was about to be swimming season at last.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 The Full Moon Reflected On The Lake Surface Stock Photo - Download Image  Now - iStock


Who is the divine patron/matron of your city?


The Secular City


She left her temple in Uruk to descend into the Underworld.

She left her temple in Larsa to descend into the Underworld.

She left her temple in Nippur to descend into the Underworld.


So begins the story of the Sumerian goddess Inanna's descent into the Underworld.

(If the prospect of the Goddess leaving her people to descend into non-existence seems harrowing, it's true: we've been there, and seen what comes of it. Consider, though, that we've gone through non-existence along with her and, along with her, come out on the other side.)

Long ago, I noticed that there are certain aspects of the original that just don't translate.


She left her temple in Cleveland to descend into the Underworld.

She left her temple in Peoria to descend into the Underworld.

She left her temple in Fresno to descend into the Underworld.


Laughable, isn't it?

Once cities were sacred places. Now we live in what theologian Harvey Cox called “the secular city.”

That's the problem.


The View from the Broom


It once happened that I flew into the city of Minneapolis on the night of the full Moon. It was then that I made a surprising discovery.

(I was flying in an airplane, as it happens, but the view from the broom would be the same.)

You could easily tell when we'd reached Minnesota: they call it the Land of Lakes. (So we have been since the end of the last Ice Age.) The very name Minnesota means “Sky Water.” We're said to be the Land of 10,000 Lakes; actually, there are more.

What I discovered that night is that there's a full Moon in each of them.


The City of Minneapolis, Her Seal


Years back, several of us sat down to discuss—as a matter of course—what the Seal of Pagan Minneapolis, City of Lakes, should look like.

(Why, you might ask, do we get to decide? Not hard. We get to decide because we were the ones that asked the question.)

The question is not so quixotic as it might seem on the face of it. There are many pagans here, and have been for a long time. Then, as now, we were convinced that the future is pagan.


Mermaid rises from lake, wearing mural crown.

In one hand, she bears an ear of wheat, in the other, a fish.


Which came first, Athens or Athene? In the old days, cities were themselves accounted goddesses, iconographically identifiable by the mural—city-wall—crowns that they wear.

Minneapolis was first (paganly) settled by witches, Children of the Moon.

This, then, from the City of the Moon Goddess, Mother of Witches. If, for us, she wears a fish's tail, what's it to you?

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Midsummer Mermaid

For our Midsummer ritual, gythia Amanda, first of my lineage, surprised me by planning her first blot and bringing her mermaid tail, and so we did mermaid blessings in my swimming pool in the name of the Nine Mothers. We had been talking about doing a mermaid ritual for a couple of years but hadn't made specific plans to do one for Midsummer, so it was a delightful surprise for me. She and her husband also brought a Swedish Midsummer Cake and it was delicious.

The Nine Mothers of Heimdall are the waves of the sea, the daughters of Aegir. In my kindred we honor them as mermaids. My late companion Tom was a devotee of Heimdall. Amanda was already performing as a mermaid at Renfaire and Pirate Fest and so on before she joined our little kindred. So a mermaid blessing ritual was right in line with the powers our kindred honors.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Do You Say 'Yemaya' in Witch?

I'll just say it: Wiccans have pantheon-envy.

The gods of the Wicca are Twofold: the Lady and the Horns. Instead of viewing Them, however, as the gods most specific to witches within the framework of a larger (but lost) pantheon, most Wiccans (unfortunately) have chosen to prefer Dion Fortune's 'All gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess' bitheism, a choice which (frankly) has not only retarded Wicca's mythological and theological growth, but has opened the gate to the much-vexed problem of cultural appropriation. If all god/desses are one god/dess, then we are entitled to steal Anyone we want from someone else, and it's all grist for our mill.

It's easy to understand why, when encountering the vibrant pantheon and living culture of, for example, Santeria, witches feel envious. What Santeria is now, the Craft used to be. Alas, how much has been taken from us.

But our choices are not limited to either cultural sterility or cultural appropriation. There's another way to navigate these waters.

If, instead, we regard the Horns and the Moon as Two among a larger (if lost) pantheon, then (to take an example) let us ask: How do you say 'Yemayá' in Witch?

Allow me to rephrase the question: What does the witch Goddess of Waters look like?

Let us start with the Moon. The witches' Lady of the Living Waters is—essentially—the reflection of the Moon on Earth. What Moon is in the heavens, She of the Waters is on Earth.

Moon, of course, was born from Sea. (Where She came from originally is what we now call the Pacific Ocean. For witches, there's no gap between science and religion, just a difference in framing the language.) Who has not seen the image of the full Moon floating on the waters of a lake, or the sea, and thought: ah, yes.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    In Latvia, they used to say that "St. Martin has nine Perkunases under his cloak." Perkunas, of course, is the old name for the Th
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Way back in the 1980's there was a TV show called Night Court. I had a dream in which two characters from the show; Dan Fielding

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
The People of the Waters

In 1653, Swedish witch Karin Persdotter confessed to having learned her magic from a male water spirit, called variously the "man of the stream" (strömkarlen), "the river" (älven), and the "nix" (näcken) (Hall 32).


Readers of the Brothers Grimm will recognize this latter term: the nix (masculine) and nixie (feminine) (German nix and nixe) have haunted the rivers, lakes, and ponds of folk tales for (apparently) several millennia at least. They are, in effect, fresh water merfolk.


The Hwicce, the Anglo-Saxon tribe ancestral (some say) to today's witches knew a similar species. Their nicor survived in English folklore as the nicker or knucker. The youthful Beowulf was said to have wrestled with several while swimming.


In fact, all these names descend from the same ancestor: proto-Germanic *nikwiz, *nikwuz (Watkins 59). To judge by surviving folklore, all the Indo-European-speaking peoples knew of the People of the Waters. But of course, other peoples know them too; everyone knows them. Here in Minnesota, the Anishinabe (Ojibway) call them nebaunaubaequaewuk.


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Becoming a Mermaid (Again)

I want to be a mermaid again.

When I was young, my best friend had a pool, and we spent countless hours each summer turning into prunes and pretending we were mermaids. We practiced holding our feet together, flipping imaginary fins as we swam, or, more often, sat on the bottom of the shallow end, having a mermaid tea party.
Somewhere along the way, however, I grew too self-conscious of my body in a bathing suit, and I taught myself not to like the water. I’d never been a strong swimmer, so for years I was able to believe that I simply didn’t like being in the water, preferring to dip my toes in the ocean rather than submerge my whole self. Even when, a few years ago, I worked my way back down to a weight were I felt healthy and sexy, I still clung to the belief that I hated going into the water. As I slowly gained weight and lost confidence, it never even occurred to me to question my often-repeated mantra that “I just didn’t like to be in the water”.

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