Personal Update and Solstice Reflections

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This past week or so, with the Solstice and my twenty-third birthday mark the conclusion of my twelfth year as a practicing witch, and one year since this blogging journey was begun. I’ve not been as active as I’ve wanted to be on this, my YouTube channel, the rest of my social media presences, or in my own practice. This past year has been incredibly trying, but I’d like to believe that I’ve finally come through the worst of it.

 

I’ve been home now and done with my undergraduate studies for about two months. It’s still feeling a little lack-luster. Where’s that promise of a job in something relevant to my degree? Why do I feel so apathetic about grad school? What the hell does one do with a B.A. in history? There are a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of things that feel stagnant and frustrating about being in my parents’ house in my hometown and working at something completely unrelated to all of the things I’ve spent years and years of energy into with my studies.

 

We’ve also had a hell of a lot of rain. Both Beltane and Midsummer were sort of de-railed by the heavy rain and flooding that came with them. I’d planned gatherings with friends for each that had to be called off because of the weather and scheduling conflicts. In retrospect, I think I needed those moments to myself.

Beltane was a rainy evening, spent in the pavilion at the local state park. This was where I performed a rite of dedication to the Wylde Hunt and to Herne the Hunter. It was a simple ritual, but a powerful one. After months locked away in my dorm for a good portion of my time, it was something I needed: the power of fire, the sound of rain, the cool night air, and the stirrings of summer life returning to the world.

 

The next month or so between then and Midsummer was spent sort of in hiatus. Spirituality, as much as I didn’t want it to, was sort of placed on the back burner as I got my footing in my new job and used to being back in my parents’ place. But I did a lot of things I am grateful for: spending time in my hammock as the trees started to unfurl their leaves, planting an herb garden, taking up archery again, and doing some reading (a longer review on By Land Sky & Sea by Gede Parma might be coming soon).

 

The June Full Moon really signaled an awakening for me again, though. I was making money, starting to succeed at some of this ‘adulting’ stuff, and doing things, but I was still feeling stuck, unfulfilled, lost on that path. Following a reading from my local witchy-store owner, I did some spell work for direction, self-sovereignty, and inspiration. I wasn’t disappointed by the results.  For the couple of weeks between the Full Moon, and the arrival of Midsummer, I was sort of haunted by this moon goddess figure that appeared holding a lantern of silvery blue light, or a moon-shaped scythe, and seemed to be guiding me through the mists of my dreams and meditations, and kept seeing crows, hawks, and vultures all over the place. I asked for guidance and ‘direction’ in my life, and here was this guide trying to show me the way. It took me a good deal of time to connect what I was seeing to the goddess Morrigan, but it was all there: crows, the triplicity of the moon, the mists of the otherworld, the waters that she as washer at the ford resides by. The goddess of death and transformation had taken a more subtle and gentle approach that I was quite unaccustomed to seeing, but yet, here she was in my life once more.

And yet, Midsummer is only the beginning of this new journey that I’m starting on. I can feel that now as I type these words. This next stretch of my path is important, and life-altering. I’m not yet certain where it is leading me, but it seems to be a much more healing and empowering bit of discovery and work than this past year has been.

In the last few days, I’ve turned to working on tarot and returned to Druidry once more. I was very blessed to be given a close friend of mine’s introductory packet from the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. He had purchased the intro pack and decided it wasn’t for him some time ago. For me it felt like being handed a Hogwarts letter. Everything about it resonated on such a deep level. It was what I’d been hoping for in a spiritual study course all this time and unable to achieve. Now, I’m just waiting on the first of the monthly packages to come from the order; the wait for snail-mail from the UK is killing me, but I’m confident it will be well worth the wait when it finally arrives.

Between this, and finally getting my desk space situated at my parents’ house, I’ve felt more awake and inspired to work on art, spirituality, writing, and this blog as well. I’m hoping this upswing carries on for quite some time. It feels much better than where I was at for a good portion of the last several months.

So now, I’m working on getting more content out for the blog and the YouTube channel. Mark and I are attempting to build a coven in our hometown, and are working together on revitalizing our practices and our lifestyles together. Here’s to the next trip through the Wheel of the Year being a deeply spiritual and important one.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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Thinking About: Rites of Passage / A Pagan Life’s Rituals

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This post is sort of serving as a jumping-off point for a video I have planned for prompts 17-22 of the YouTube Pagan Challenge, all of which sort of center around rites of passage, major life events, and rituals of living a pagan life:

17. How would you introduce spirituality to children, would you pass this book on to your children?
18. Funeral rite and how would you prefer your remains to be treated?
19. Rites for the birth of a child, adoption, naming and blessing ceremonies.
20. Coming of age rites and customs for the stages of life.
21. Marriage or partnership ceremony.
22. Is there such a thing as a twin flame, soul mate, destined partner?

I had mentioned before that I was sort of raised without a formal religious background. To my knowledge, I wasn’t baptized in any way; there wasn’t any sort of formal naming/blessing ceremony. Significant birthdays for me were age 13, 18, and when I left my teens behind at age 20 (By the time I’d hit 21, I’d already consumed alcohol and had been able to do it legally in the U.K. two years prior. The magic had sort of worn off). But they weren’t, at least in a way that was obvious to me then, spiritual in any way.

I also haven’t been married, or undergone any of the other rites mentioned above myself. The funerals I’ve attended have all been rather Christian in their design as well, so in a Pagan sense I’ve not much experience there either. But I do have ideas, which I’ll discuss further down below.

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I think, given the opportunity and provided I end up having children, that I would definitely share my spirituality with them. I would want to call upon my gods (and my partner’s) to bless and protect that child. When they were older, I would share with them the stories of the gods, celebrate the sabbats, explain to them the different parts of spellcraft, ritual, and my altar spaces. If, when they grew older, they found that that faith was not what they believed, they would absolutely be free to practice whatever religion (or lack thereof!) they wished. I think the important thing is approaching religion with children not as something obligatory or something that will bring upon the punishment of you or your gods should they elect not to participate in. It should be something exploratory. It should be something they are welcome to ask questions about, form their own ideas / opinions about. I really would have enjoyed something like that as a kid- not that coming to my own conclusions and learning on my own wasn’t valuable and rewarding in its own right.

As far as coming of age rites go, I think some of the birthdays mentioned above might be important to them. Perhaps, should they decide they want to, I might help them with their own witchy dedications and the like, but I really feel that so much of that is deeply personal to the individual. The important thing, when I get to that point, will be open communication with my child.

I don’t know that I would pass my books of shadows on to my children at all. They’re too personal to me. I think I’d much rather have a compiled grimoire of things that I had found useful or created myself to pass down instead of my full journals themselves. I think I’d want those buried with me (but more on that down below).

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Two of Cups- After Tarot

Moving past childhood and adolescence, we come to the questions about marriage and partnership. I’m not sure that I believe in twin flames or soul mates and all that. I believe that my current boyfriend is someone whom I would like to spend the rest of my life with, and we have indeed talked about marriage, children, all that good stuff. Maybe it’s soul-destined, maybe not? I don’t know, really. Maybe some people are soul mates, but I think that society has created this sort of toxic idea about soul mates, and all of this stress on finding “The One”. In reality, all things in life are transient. People change, circumstances change, etc. I think that focusing too much on finding “the one” and that being the end-all-be-all of our intimacy and relations with people can be more detrimental than helpful.

But enough of that negative nancy-ing about soul mates, and on to the more fun stuff, yeah? I would very much love to have a handfasting ceremony. This is something I’ve been discussing with my boyfriend as we’ve making plans to live together, etc. Basically, the “Big White Wedding” really isn’t my style. Give me an intimate gathering of close friends and family, a simple handfasting ceremony where everything is done outdoors and such, and big bonfire and good food to celebrate afterwards. That to me is infinitely more special than a fancy white dress I’ll only wear once, and a big elaborate party. As I’ve said though, this is still nothing more than a Pinterest board fantasy lingering in the periphery of my life right now.  There’s much to do still before that becomes something I need to worry about.

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10 of Swords- Robin Wood Tarot

And now, onto the stuff I’m actually, strangely, the most passionate about: death and funeral rites. I’ve been increasingly more interested in the death-positivity and green burial movements: those that put after-death care more into the hands of the family of the deceased. I think that handling the corpse, arranging the funeral, etc. should be less taboo. There was a time when all of this was done by the family, and I’d really love to work towards making that more common-place once again, and making burials less harmful of an impact on the natural environment.

That said, I’ll return to a statement I made earlier about my books of shadows, and the topic of how I would like my remains treated. I think, truthfully, that I would like my books of shadows burned with my corpse and the cremains used in one of those Bios urns to plant a tree. That, I feel, would be a lot better than a concrete tomb with a giant stone over it.

Obviously all of these things are entirely dependent upon what happens in the future. How starting my own family goes in the future, who my partner is (though I’ve a pretty good idea of who that’ll be 😉 ), and all manner of other circumstances play a part in how these different rites of passage will come into being. Regardless of what happens, my faith in the gods, will likely play a large part in how they’re carried out.

What rites of passage have you marked? What ones do you plan to? Leave them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Full Moon Readings: May 2017

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My undergraduate education is finally over, I have graduated and I am pleased to announce I can finally open up my monthly tarot readings again. And, because I have a little bit more free time on my hands, I am opening up five slots instead of my usual three.

As always, these free readings will include a picture of your reading, and a detailed interpretation of the spread. These will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There are two methods by which you may contact me for this service: via the contact page on this blog, or via the “ASK” button on my Tumblr account. Please, in the greeting for your request include the month/year you are requesting a reading for (example: ‘Hi, I’m _______. I’d like to request a slot for the full moon of January 2017!’) so that I can keep them all separate in my inboxes. Then, feel free to leave me a question you’d like answered or a brief explanation of a situation you’d like a reading on. If you message me on Tumblr, please include an e-mail address to which I can send your reading once it is finished.

Some helpful tips are included on my tarot readings page on this blog.

I look forward to hearing from you! And I’m super excited to be able to do this again.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Nearing the End: Update Apr. 14th, 2017

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In two weeks, I’ll be walking across the graduation stage and completing my journey through my college education here at GVSU. It is thrilling and completely horrifying all at the same time. There is so much to do in that short span of time. There’s so much waiting just on the other end of that final rite. At the same time, I know that it’s time to be done here and move on. Better things await.

As the weather warms, I find myself reaching for spirituality again, despite how little time I have now to devote to it. My thoughts are constantly of the forest and of cool summer nights spent stargazing and philosophizing. I can’t wait to have time to do that again.

Rest assured, there are plenty of exciting things in the works for both my YouTube channel and this blog. I’ve a draft hanging about on my thoughts on rites of passage that is aching to be finished just as soon as I’ve completed all of my final exams and essays, and there’s a chat concerning tarot that is due to be recorded and uploaded in the coming weeks as well. Summer, I’m hoping, will be full of creative content to share with you all.

Forest Blessings and a happy weekend to you all,
Rachel

Thinking About: St. Patrick’s Day and The Spring Equinox

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image found via wallpapercave.com

Today marks a holiday that has, for a very long time, held a great deal of significance in my life: St. Patrick’s Day. Now, I am not, nor was I ever raised Catholic, but I was made familiar with the story about how St. Patrick “drove the snakes from Ireland” as a kid- and was later introduced to the notion that the “snakes” in question were in fact the remnants of Celtic paganism in Ireland.

Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was among the most elaborately celebrated holidays in my family / friend group (Halloween and Christmas/Yule were the only things of more significance). It was something that had many fond memories, wearing green, listening to Celtic music, attending the parade downtown, and enjoying the Irish inspired feast that was prepared by family friends. I had, for a long time, been very interested in my Celtic heritage, and St. Patrick’s Day was, in essence, a day in which I could celebrate that apologetically. But realizing, as I was growing into my Pagan path, that this day was considered to be a day celebrating a man who is credited with ridding Ireland of pagans, left me at a sort of moral quandary.

When I was a bit younger than I am now, I liked to support the sort of anti-Catholic reclaiming of the day: all of those “Proud to be a snake” type sentiments that seem to go around. But, as I’ve made clear, I’ve been studying medieval history (in which the Catholic Church plays a rather prominent role), as well as my own ancestry and continuing my interest in Celtic spirituality. The truth of the matter is that much of what we know about the ancient Celts and their stories come from the transcribing of them by Catholic monks. I’ve learned more, also, about the ways in which the Celtic Church adopted certain aspects of Celtic spirituality from the pagan roots that had remained. Books on Celtic spirituality today, whether they’re focused on a more Pagan or Christian view point seem to focus on many of the same virtues: hospitality, heritage, music and poetry as sacred things, connection with the land…

So why get lost in the battle over which religious tradition is more “correct”? Why spend a day being angry about something that happened well over a thousand years ago?  I’ve chosen, instead, to observe this day as one on which to connect with my ancestors: both of blood, and of the Celtic spirit that still survives in both Pagan and Christian aspects of spirituality, and to really focus on those aspects of Celtic spirituality that I wish to continue on into my own practice. So, whichever way you observe St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you enjoy it!

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image found via: crystalinks.com

The Spring Equinox is also just about upon us. This year, I believe it falls on March 20th. For me, Ostara, or the Spring Equinox, has been a holiday I’ve never really know what to do with. As I believe I’ve mentioned, the seasonal weather patterns don’t always quite line up in Michigan, to the Wheel of the Year which is more oriented towards European climates. The days and nights may well be equal in length on the equinox, but the hold of winter is usually still very present here well into April / nearly May. The balance has never quite been something I’ve really felt this time of year. Speaking in the terms of deities, the goddesses often associated with the name of the festival: Eostere, Ishtar, etc. have never been goddesses that I have felt called to work with either.

This year, I’ve been finding myself called to an archetype I believe does sort of coincide with the idea of balance between dark and light: that of the maiden goddess of death. Persephone as flower maiden / Queen of the Underworld, Hella the half beautiful/half corpse like ruler of Helheim, Blodeweudd as beautiful flower maiden / but also the one responsible for Lleu Llaw Gyffes’ death… The juxtaposition of the beautiful young woman and the archetype of death one might more readily associate with a crone goddess instead. It feels extremely relevant to me, a young woman, who is seeking to go into funeral service work in the future. Perhaps, this Spring Equinox would be an ideal time to start working with one or more of these goddesses and see where the journey takes me.

How will you be celebrating the Spring Equinox?

Wishing you a blessed St. Patrick’s Day / Ostara / Spring Equinox and wonderful weekend,
Rachel

Update: March 1st, 2017

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My Imbolc Altar

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a personal update post, or written at all really. This first part of the winter semester has been rough, and I’ve been unable to create as much content for the blog as I would have liked to. My classes are interesting, and I’m very fond of all of the professors that I have this time around, but I think that the academic burnout and senioritis has really started to sink in, as well as a string of sort of rotten luck (more on that in a moment). It’s felt like an uphill struggle; now, with only a few more weeks left, it’s feeling a bit like careening down the other side of that hill in a rollercoaster cart. For the next month and a half or so, I’ll be much less active online, as I’ve a fifteen and a twenty page paper to do for my major history courses along with coursework for the other two classes I’m taking. The monthly tarot readings are also going to be left for the time being and will resume in May once I’ve graduated.

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The Feb. Full Moon, Seen From Campus

The biggest struggle this semester, aside from academics though, has been my own battle with depression and anxiety. Due to a number of conflicts, circumstances that couldn’t be prevented, etc. my friend group has gotten dramatically smaller here. On top of that, money has been a real struggle, and the limited budget means weird diet shifts every couple of weeks- all really typical college student stuff, but sort of exacerbated by the aforementioned academic stress and dramatic decrease in social circle. I finally went “This is a problem, and I need some help,” after having a bit of a mental breakdown over a splinter of all frigging things a few weeks back. I’ve been going to the campus counseling center, using some essential oils, and spending more time with the few friends I DO have left around. I think, for the most part, I’ve really pulled myself out of that pit for the time being, and am starting to come back round the bend to a better place.

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Little things have really been the cause of several shifts, good and bad, over the past few weeks. I’ve been able, with the exception of this past week or so, to post a YouTube video to my channel for the YouTube Pagan Challenge each week. I was visited by my soul-brother and best friend, Mark, and we got to talk several times on spirituality, plans for the summer, goals, etc. and make a video with one of our close friends, Shelby, on the experience of being a pagan and a millennial. You can find that on YouTube here. I also, during his visit, acquired a new tarot deck: After Tarot. I’m hoping to do an actual review of the deck later on, but in the past few weeks of having it, I can honestly say that I love it to pieces. The creators of the deck seemed to be aiming, from what I read in the book that accompanied the deck, to be looking for more of a predictive tarot style: really reaching into the future past what the cards traditionally depict and represent, but I’ve gotten a different feel from it (more on that later, I promise!).

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The 4 of Wands, 10 of Swords and 5 of Swords from After Tarot

The other major change / update in my life is that I am no longer moving to Florida in May. Due to a number of circumstances, most of them financial, it will not be possible for my boyfriend and I to afford our own place for a while. At first, I was really upset about this. I’d spent months planning this, and was so close to its fruition now when I found out that it wasn’t going to work. As I’ve stewed over the situation though, I’ve realized it might honestly be for the better anyway. For one, it makes a lot of financial sense to move back in with my parents and just dump all of my money from a job into paying back student loans, and do things like learn to drive, take up my parents’ offer to help me get a car, etc. But, beyond that, it also perfectly plays out in favor of some of the goals I’d already set for myself spiritually speaking. I’d been planning on taking a year between graduation and going into school for funeral services to pay loans and devote a good deal of time to spiritual study. Needing to live with my parents also keeps me from being close enough to a program to even contemplate more school; essentially all I can do is work, pay loans, and work on really developing and revitalizing my spiritual path. I also had a plan for a small tattoo in devotion to the Wylde Hunt that I will now more feasibly be able to afford without having to pay a bunch of money to move all the way from Florida to Michigan. It really sucks that my seeing my boyfriend again is postponed, and that I’m stuck moving back home, but I’m starting to think that it might not be so bad- and even for the best, really.

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The Hierophant from After Tarot

I’ve a number of plans for spiritual / witchy stuff in the works for the coming months. I’m currently participating in the #tarotnerdschallenge on Instagram throughout the month of March, and the YouTube Pagan Challenge videos, and hopefully some posts correlating to those videos, will be continuing throughout the remaining weeks of this semester. My parents have graciously given me permission to through a Beltane bash just after my graduation with my witchy friends from school and my home town, and I’m very much looking forward to that. Beltane will also mark the beginning of a year devoted to spiritual study, as I’ve mentioned. I’m really looking to pick up my old project of trying to create a fleshed out path centered around the Wylde Hunt again, and am hoping to compile it and maybe even publish it as a book; this time I’m looking at it more holistically- trying to include a healthier diet / exercise portion in it, myth/history, interpreting the Hunt as psychopomp and ferrier of the soul from one place of being to another, etc. etc. etc. More of this will probably come in blog posts as I work on the research and practice required for it to be ‘completed’.

That reminds me. Those who followed my old blog, The Raven & The Oak, will find that it has now been taken down. I went through the process of saving all of the posts on it to a Microsoft Word file for my own record and memory. It felt as though it was time. Many of the posts were from my high school and early college days; my path has changed, my ways of writing and thinking about different topics have changed. I noticed that my younger self was particularly problematic about sourcing information and images used in posts, too. It was time to let it go, and to move forward with current projects instead. Hopefully, The Patchwork Crow will be a bit more sophisticated than my previous blog had been.

Many blessings to you all,
Rachel

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A Humble Tribute to David Bowie

Very few moments are as burned into my memory as the night I learned, one year ago today, of David Bowie’s death. I was ill-prepared this evening when, as is my sort of ritual, I clicked over on the “Memories” feed on Facebook. The heartbreak is just as great now as it was then.
But there isn’t just sadness: there’s a remembrance. He touched the life of countless artists, musicians, actors, etc. both famous and not. There are other people, just like me, who still feel the heaviness of losing him as if it were just yesterday… And, most touchingly, my identifying with Bowie and his work had a lasting impact on those around me. I got to re-read the messages, posts, etc. of people saying “I heard the news, and immediately thought of you.” Me. I would never have dreamed that that connection would be so strong for some people- some of whom I’ve only talked to in courses I’ve taken and the like. It fills me with a great amount of love, and pride, and awe still.
The next few days, I’m sure will be solemn as more of those memories show up on social media. I’ve already spent the past few days revisiting Labyrinth and a good deal of his music- including the EP “No Plan” that was released this year on his birthday. 2016 was a year full of losses, and David Bowie was only one of the first in an absolutely devastating list of pop culture icons lost in this past year. It left me, at times, wondering how we would ever recover from that loss… But it is also important to remember that death clears the way for new growth. The endless song of creation cannot continue if nothing dies off. All that’s left to do is pick up the torches they had to set down, and carry on with their memories in our hearts and inspiration, and continue their work: of creating, of holding space for all of the other weirdos and creators out there.

-Much love to you all,
Rachel