A Journey With the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel from The Wildwood Tarot

The Wheel of the Year is, easily, one of the most unifying things in the neo-pagan community. The seasonal festivals might have slightly different names or customs between practitioners and groups, but most (that I’ve seen) seem to acknowledge in some way, shape, or form, the eight stations of the Wheel of the Year.

In recent years, I’ve seen (and participated in) a number of attempts at re-thinking the Wheel of the Year. After all, the eight sabbats were created based on ancient western European agrarian festivals. While incorporating ancient practices and interpretations brings us closer to our long-lost pagan ancestors and the rhythms of the land and its seasons, it’s a system that doesn’t necessarily fit everyone’s paganism.

Michigan is definitely not in perfect sync with the traditional Wheel of the Year. For example, Imbolc and Ostara, usually regarded as the beginnings of spring are usually cold and icy here- with snow storms likely to continue well into April. Lughnasadh doesn’t quite see the first of our grain (though there is some summer sweet corn), but there are tart blueberries to pick.

Much of the last few years had involved much of coming into my own particular path as a pagan as well as a young adult. I’ve gone over the high days almost each time they come to pass, rethinking traditions, adding new things to my celebrations, letting go of what is of little use to me, etc.

But something happened: I graduated from college, and suddenly all the markers I used to use for stopping to observe my place along the Wheel of the Year were gone. It wasn’t noticeable at first. Beltane just after I’d graduated from college was, after all, still the sweet beginning of summer and freedom from the academic part of the year. Midsummer was my usual return to my spiritual and artistic work… But Lughnasadh was no longer about preparing for the coming school year- in fact, there was very little to really prepare for, because I work in an industry with a busy season between May and October. If anything, it was a breath of release- but I didn’t know what to do with it.

I had spent the last thirteen years or so of my path defining my year by the patterns of that which had defined a great deal of my life: school. My view had been framed around cycles of classes and how my paganism and my artistic interests were able to be enjoyed in relation to those cycles. My rituals for the sabbats centered around preparations for what was to come: being away at school, finals perhaps, a free period in the summer to work on my own projects, etc. I had celebrated the turning Wheel of the Year with the same handful of people- people who have since gone about their separate ways, who are in different parts of the state or country, or vastly different paths in life.

By about Imbolc, I was feeling really very lost and lonely, and really beating myself up for not having “done anything” for most of a year.

A short while after Beltane, when all had come full circle once again, I felt the strength to sort of pick up where I’d been with my OBOD course work and personal study. What I realized was that it was completely OK that I hadn’t performed any rituals or felt connected to the few celebrations I had hosted. After all, a great deal of my previous frame of reference was sort of lost in a pretty sudden way.

What I’d accomplished in not worrying about the rituals or the fact things hadn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped, was that I was able to observe and learn a new cycle for the year. Now, it’s almost flipped from what it had been: where my period of “rest” and personal work had once been May-September, now it’s more like October-May when work is slower and there’s less yard projects to worry about around the house.

I’ve become more intimately aware of the seasons and patterns of nature as they manifest around my local area. The leaves turn gold in October. Orion is visible over the horizon in late September. Sometimes there’s a random thaw in January. This is where I can see the Moon through my bedroom window in the summer time. The crows return to the yard in late June and stay through most of the fall… These sorts of things are now a part of my view of the wheel, and I’ve begun again the process of reexamining the cycles and seasons of my life and my practice.

What is your relationship with the Wheel of the Year? Have you ever experienced a period of time where it seems almost entirely foreign to you? How did you overcome that? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Yours beneath the maple boughs,

Rachel

Orion the Hunter: A Tarot Spread for Troubled Times

I had gotten the itch to create tarot spreads once again. This time, my inspiration came from the constellation Orion, seen in many cultures as either a hunter or warrior in the heavens.

Orion Tarot Spread

This spread is designed to be used in times that feel like a particular struggle, or fight- those times in life when only embracing our inner warrior will see us through.

1: Betelgeuse- What is your fight? What is the essence of your troubles? What has spurred you to take action?
2: Rigel- What foundation do you stand on? What is your “rock” when things are bad?
3: The Weapon’s Point: your greatest advantage in this fight. How you might strike the greatest blow.
4/5: At the Hunter’s Belt, your resources readily at hand.
6: Bellatrix/ The Warrior’s Heart- What is the nature of your inner flame? What does your inner warrior offer in guidance?
7: A Fallback Plan- What should you do if things turn south? What actions should you consider taking in the event you fail?
8: Keep Your Wits- How do you keep your thoughts level and your eyes on the goal?
9: Keep Up Your Strength- How to look after your physical health and your willpower.
10-12: The Shield- How to keep your guard up and shield yourself from the onslaught of bullshit.
13: Tipping Point- How to turn the tide of this struggle in your favor.
14: Warrior’s Rest- How best to care for yourself when all is said and done.

Happy reading, and blessings of the starry summer nights to you,

Rachel

Full Moon Tarot Readings for March 2018

Virgo Full Moon.png

It’s that time again: For the March 1st 2018 Virgo Full Moon, I will be offering three free readings. The energy of the Virgo Full Moon, particularly at the beginning of the month, is perfect for getting one’s ducks in a row, doing some early spring cleaning, and making sure your foundation is stable before reaching forward towards a new goal. What better way to tap into that energy than with a tarot reading?

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

Hymn to the Winter Hunt

Winter is nearing its end here as Imbolc approaches, but the howling snows that have returned to Michigan this week make me feel as though we’ve still some time to go. This poem was originally written for the winter issue of Ink & Fairydust, an e-zine of fanfiction, poetry, spiritual writings, and other various creative works. Being that it’s been out for some months, I wanted to finally share it here…

Hymn to the Winter Hunt

When the cold winds from the northwest blow,
When the moonlight casts its silver glow,
When the dark skies threaten snow
T’is then I hear their call.

It echoes through dark forest and fen-
A droning horn- and silence then
That makes the wary traveler ken
The truth behind the squall.

In the icy blasts of wind that cut
Through clothes and doors kept tightly shut
There is a pounding. Do you seek what
Lies out there in the thrall?

The Horned Man on rugged beast
That hunts the boar to make his feast
Or maybe like some darkened priest
Beckons you to heed the call.

To ride on winds above the ice,
To give the greatest sacrifice,
And surrender to that which does entice…
Are you ready for the fall?

Or perhaps, in swirling dark
You’ll fly just like a meadowlark
And find some light, a warming spark
Of truth behind it all.

Take heed, take heed oh you who go
To travel in the ice and snow
For hunters harry you as you go-
Death comes to us all.

Awen: The Three Rays of Light

Another re-posted poem from 2012. I’m still quite fond of this one. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the style it is written in, only that I had a lot of fun with it in high school. Something to research, perhaps…

Awen: The Three Rays of Light

Awen, the Three Rays of Light
Divine radiance shines in all beings.
Hear it, see it, feel its presence.
The wisdom was carved on Rowan staves.

Divine radiance shines in all beings
Discovered by the giant, Einigen
The wisdom was carved on Rowan staves.
Menw discovered the staves in Einigen’s skull.

Discovered by the giant, Einigen
Menw taught the Druids the lore
Menw discovered the staves in Einigen’s skull.
The rays are spirit, inspiration, and illumination.

Awen, the Three Rays of Light
Menw taught the Druids the lore
The rays are spirit, inspiration, and illumination.
Hear it, see it, fell its presence.

The Battle of the Oak & Holly Kings

A repost of a poem I wrote many years ago and had published on my old blog, The Raven & The Oak.

The Battle of the Oak and Holly Kings

A rivalry
Many centuries old
Since ancient times,
The tales were told
Of two great kings,
One dark, and one light,
Who twice a year,
Would heroically fight.
The Holly King,
The darker one,
Ruled the Winter,
The dimming Sun.
While the King of Oak,
Was vibrant and bright.
He reigned over Summer,
The Sun’s growing light.
At Yule they would battle,
‘Twas  an inspiring scene,
And the victory would go
To the mighty Oak King.
But at Midsummer’s time,
With the Sun at its peak,
The Holly King would win,
The Oak King grew weak.
And so it went on,
Year after year,
And the story was told
To all who could hear.
So, honor the Oak King in Summer,
When the Sun’s light is warm,
And the Holly King in winter
And the swirling snow storms.

Thinking About: Initiations / Rites of Dedication

yule lantern

Yesterday, I was finally able to perform my initiatory rite into the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I’m not able to speak at great length about the ritual itself in this post, but I can speak about my feelings leading up to it, and my thoughts following its completion.

Despite having the materials for the course for the past six months or so, I had done very little of the actual course work. Life sort of caught up with me, and my job, home life, and mental health just did not lend me the time and proper head space I had needed to perform the rite. Thankfully, the quiet spell has seemed to have broken over the past couple of days, and I’m feeling called home once again to my practice, my art, and my studies with the little warm spell we appear to be having.

Strangely enough, it was the rite of initiation that had given me some of the most trouble in the materials I had received- not because of its content or its format or any objections I had with what it would entail. I couldn’t quite place the source of it for those first months- in fact, I don’t know that I realized some of the… oddness I’d been feeling until I was speaking to a friend about the topic this afternoon.

Every so often, I had found myself called to go over it once again. I’d start making the plans and preparing for it, and something would come up: the weather would get bad, I’d have something I had to do, etc. It would be set aside and left for the next time I’d felt the stirring somewhere within me to get back to work.

Yesterday was different. I had finally accomplished reformatting the rite a bit so that it would work with the amount of private space I had and a few other technicalities; it sat in my journal, just waiting to be performed. Yesterday was another of our random January thaws. The sun was bright and we were nearing forty or fifty degrees Fahrenheit rather than the bitter 10’s and 20’s that are typical of this time of year. I felt it on my way in to work that morning; something was stirring. By the time I was home for the afternoon, the desire to be outdoors and working on something was burning within me.

And something spoke to me then: the initiation ritual. And after months of trying to plan it out, to perhaps contact other local-ish OBOD members to assist me in performing it, to make sure everything was prepared… I decided simply that I was going to go through with it, and quickly gathered some incense and a candle and my journal, and headed out to the small grove of pine and cedars that has been my sacred space for over ten years…

The ritual was nice, pleasant, it brought me back to a sense of being at home- on my land, within my being, in my spirituality… But as I was walking inside after its completion, and as I was talking to my friend this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that initiation and dedication rites are never quite as profound as we expect them to be.

herne candle

I find I’m always, on a certain level, expecting the ritual itself to be the eye-opening, awen-inspired moment of “Ah-ha! I understand completely, and now everything will start to be different!” But as I reflected upon my journey to the rite itself, and upon the lessons included with the ritual in my course materials, I realized that the true initiation had begun long before I had stepped out the door that afternoon.

Initiation and dedication to a specific path happens not in the single moment of a ritual. They begin within us before a circle is drawn or a candle lit. The shift of paradigm has occurred before the rite; the rite is merely a formality, a means of affirming that which we have already long known to be true. The epiphany is not a new paradigm or state of being, but a realization that we have arrived at this new place some time ago, and can now acknowledge and celebrate it.

For me, that shift started back some seven or so years ago, when I first saw the Green Man staring up at me from the pages of a book, and I started upon my discovery of Druidry. It was there in my discovery of the OBOD’s countless open resources, the befriending of other members of the order, the books, podcasts, YouTube videos, music, etc. that I found resonated with me- which were created by members. A shift had occurred the day that I purchased the Bardic Grade course, and again on the day I received the first packet of gwersi in the mail. What happened in the grove yesterday was merely me finding the voice to affirm and speak aloud the truths that had been in my heart for years. And now, the journey deeper into my studies continues.

What are your experiences with initiation rites or dedication rituals (be them to a new path, deity, etc.)? Share, if you’d like, in the comment section below.

Blessings of the Winter Forest,
Rachel

Full Moon Readings for November 2017

November Full Moon

This upcoming full moon falls just a few days after Samhain. What better way to start of the new “witches’ year” than with a free tarot reading while the veil between worlds is thin and the intuitive juices are still flowing strong? For this month, since my schedule is fairly light, I am offering five free readings instead of the 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

Full Moon Tarot Readings for Sept. 2017

September Full Moon.png

I was disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to post for free tarot readings for the month of August, but I’m back and opening them again for September’s Pisces Full Moon.

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

Thinking About: Deities

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The Morrigan by Aly Fell

Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions I see in scrolling about the online pagan community is “how do [I] know which deity I’m meant to work with or worship?” and it’s the topic of the next YouTube Pagan Challenge video I plan to do. Coming to paganism which celebrates the existence of many different gods and goddesses can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to decide which of these many personalities you’re going to mesh well with and form long-lasting devotional relationships with. With all of these choices, it can sometimes seem daunting wondering where to begin.

I’m going to open with my biggest bit of advice. Know what your beliefs about the gods are first. There’s a difference between being a pagan who is a hard polytheist and being a pagan who views individual deities as personifactions and facets of a singular divine source, or as archetypes within the collective unconscious, or any other combination of these things. As we know, beliefs held by pagans vary almost as much from individual to individual as they do from tradition to tradition. Knowing exactly what the gods are and how they affect our world in your beliefs is key to knowing how to proceed in entering into relationships within deities and other entities. For example, one might feel wary about approaching multiple deities at random if they believed as a polytheist that all deities are real and independent entities with their own personalities, temperaments, etc. On the opposite side of the spectrum, those who view the deities as archetypal or as part of a greater whole might feel more free to explore different beings tied with a similar archetype (death deities, fertility gods, etc.).

My second bit of advice: There’s no real right or wrong answer. If you feel called to a deity, or interested in them, by all means make a respectful attempt at working with them. Make an offering, try invoking them into your circle for a ritual, meditate on them or their mythos, try praying to them. Do this over a period of time. Make note of the results. You’ll find very quickly which personalities vibe best with your own. This can be affected by your own heritage, interests, etc. For example, though Herne and Cernunnos are both gods of the forest and hunt, I find that working with Herne better suits my work as we have a better connection. Cernunnos feels too ancient and serious, whereas Herne feels more human-like and approachable. For others, working in the opposite way might feel more “correct”. There’s no scientific way of telling which god or goddess your meant to work with. You’ll just know. There will be a sense of comfort, or power, or just knowing that whatever working you’ve called upon them for will work.

Not everyone has a patron deity. It is not a required part of being a witch or being pagan. Sometimes close devotional relationships will evolve, change, or fade. I used to work quite closely with the goddess Brighid when I was younger. Over time, the energy just didn’t flow in quite the same way. This happened naturally and organically. This is totally okay. Herne used to be more apparent in my life in the guise of Green Man. Sometimes, too, there are deities who appear only periodically in your life. They come bearing a message and help you through a particular time in your life, and then they’re gone. For me, both The Morrigan and Mannannan Mac Lir have been such entities in my life. They are often very present in the summer months to help me work through what I need to before fall begins and then are gone. Again, this is completely okay.

The key thing is do your research. Don’t just call upon a deity because x spell told you to. Know what you believe about the gods. Know the mythology and cultural practices associated with the deity you’re communicating with. Be respectful, and remember they do usually have a sense of humor. Mistakes are okay, and sometimes things will work out in very unexpected ways.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel