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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YT Pagan Challenge: My Witchy / Psychic Talents

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Hello all! I’ve learned, as of this post, that WordPress will no longer let you imbed YouTube videos on your posts with the free plan (or at the very least, I can’t figure out how to do it now!) At any rate, I’ve posted another video on my YouTube channel that discusses Witchy/Pagan talents. The fifth topic for the YT Pagan Challenge was: Do you have any magical talents, psychic techniques, which you consider your specialty? Like I did with my previous video, I want to keep making blog posts to accompany the new vids.

So! On to the topic of witchy talents. As I discussed in the video above (and more than likely in posts throughout this blog), I’m not someone who does a great deal of magic. Candle magic tends to be my go-to for spell-craft, and I guess I’d consider that my talent / technique as far as that goes. Beyond that, I tend to have a sort of knack for just… guessing or intuiting what something could be used for.

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Picture found via lunaticgarden.pl

An example of this was one summer, while I was roaming around my back yard and the forest behind it with Mark, we came across a white bush growing amongst all of the cedar and pine trees. We’d been gathering some wildflowers and the like for making a Midsummer incense, and came across it. I’d mentioned that it gave me the vibe of being good for magic involving love, light, the sort of spirit of summer, or something that would be useful for weddings. Sure enough, once we’d researched it, we found that it was a magnolia bush- and it was indeed useful for spells involving love, fidelity, friendship, happiness, etc.

Basically, I have a very difficult time remembering things in the encyclopedic sense, and a great deal of luck in just being able to intuitively know things.

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I also learned this summer that I’m good at scrying- though not in a traditional sense. I have (and you can see it in the video above) a dark brown agate mirror that I found at the local Pagan Pride Day festival. This summer, while I was on a camping trip, I cleansed and blessed the mirror in a stream and by the light of the moon at the beach we were near.  I placed the mirror under my pillow, for the entirety of the trip and a number of really vivid dreams. I can’t get mirrors to work in a normal “look into the mirror to see x” sense, but I’ve found that using it in that way works quite well.

Beyond that, my real talents in my practice are mostly in making my own tools and ritual jewelry, and tarot. I sculpt my statues for my altar space and have made a number of the pieces that I actively use in ritual.

I  had a lot of fun making this video and blog post, and look forward to following it up with more in the YouTube Pagan Challenge.

Blessings,
Rachel

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

YT Pagan Challenge: Books of Shadows and Witchy Journaling

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Today, I posted a YouTube video (well, I posted a couple of them, but this post is really only concerned with one) for the YouTube Pagan Challenge. The first four prompts from the challenge were centered around Books of Shadows and journal-keeping for one’s witchy practice:

1. Show and tell – your grimoires, notebooks, journals etc. What type of book do you prefer?
2. How do you protect and consecrate your book?
3. How to organise your book – a table of contents, book marks, etc.
4. How to start your book -getting over perfectionism – creative techniques.

For my own work, I keep two books that I work in at any given time. One is the big book, my Book of Shadows (or as my college witchy friends lovingly refer to it: the “Book o’ Shit”), and the other is a little hardcover sketchbook.

The smaller book is the one I carry with me wherever I’m wandering. I take it to classes, walks in the woods, just while I’m hanging out with people- literally everywhere. This book acts as sort of a scratch book. It’s a place where I’ll scribble out poetry, work on spell and ritual ideas, take tarot notes, draw or write things that inspire me, journal a bit if I’m not feeling it’s something that warrants an entire Book of Shadows entry. It is literally a day-by-day response to what things I’m experiencing and being inspired by.

I find this is a really easy way to take notes and be a little messy and free-form with things. Often work that I start in this book ends up more fully developed and expanded upon in the bigger one. The larger book tends to be a little more formal, whereas this one literally has anything and everything that needs to be jotted down and gotten out of my system.

My Book of Shadows, despite being less scratchy than the smaller notebook is still sort of just a loosely organized thing. Like the smaller book, it’s basically just organized chronologically. Rituals, journal entries, tarot readings, etc. are all sort of just put in as they happen. Because I use large sketchbooks as my books of shadows, it’s a little more difficult to plan out organized sections, so I’ve found that using them as art journals of my practice works best.

As far as blessing and consecrating my book(s) goes, I’ve sort of fallen to just using the intent I have when starting the book, and being selective with what from them I share with others. At the beginning of them, I usually have a little statement of purpose (it’s inside the little green card in the one picture above), that explains where I am on my path as I start the book, and where I’d like to be at its finish. None of this is really formally ritualized. It’s mostly just about how I treat the book as it’s being used.

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However, I do (like many others) really like being able to find spells, recipes, etc. more quickly. After five books of shadows, it can be sort of a pain to remember: a) which frigging book x thing is in, and b) where specifically in the book it might be. In the last couple of years, I’ve found that Microsoft OneNote has been a really valuable tool in helping me organize things.

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It works like a sort of digital binder: it allows me to make separate sections for different topic areas I’m studying, rituals, tarot spreads I find online, etc. For and personal rites I often type out documents to use as notes during the ritual; the OneNote program allows me to put printouts of the files into my pages so everything is easily accessed. It also copies links when you copy and paste things from the internet, so you can follow them through to the webpage you found them on as well; this has been really helpful in keeping track of where I found some of the things I spot on Tumblr.

Once I’ve finished a Book of Shadows, I always bookmark all the important spells, rituals, poems, etc. within it and make digital copies of them in the digital notebook. It works wonders, and can be accessed online through my Microsoft account.

My biggest advice to anyone hesitating to start a book is just do it! Not writing your experiences down can make things really difficult. I was horrible at record-keeping in the earlier years of my practice, and I find myself looking back over things and being confused as to context, wondering how certain things did/didn’t work out etc. There is always time to make prettier, cleaned-up versions of your notes and the like. While elaborately drawn, leather-bound books of shadows are aesthetically pleasing, the real reward will be in having personal references of your work to look back on in the future.

Blessings,
Rachel

Updates: Nov. 7th, 2016

Things have finally slowed down enough for me to sit down and write. I’ve spent several weeks away from my blog and YouTube despite a number of plans I’d had for various projects. The Universe, it seemed, had other intentions for me.

My Wylde Hunt Challenge fell short. I didn’t quite get off on the proper footing, and each attempt to keep it going sort of followed suit. Many of my personal creative projects fell to the wayside as well. I’m a little bummed. Autumn is usually such a productive time for me; this Autumn felt like a bit of a train wreck.

On the New Moon at the end of September, I decided to perform a ritual to cut away a lot of the negative aspects of self that were destructive and causing me suffering- old patterns that no longer served me and where I would like my practice to go.

The ritual consisted of me creating sacred space. Within it, I called upon the Hunt, on Herne as its leader and my patron, and upon Yew- the black dog and guide that has been in my dreams and meditations since this summer. I asked them to help me ‘hunt’ down those parts of self, to slay them, and to help me carry them away in the days to come so that I might move on from things which are no longer serving me. It was part shamanic journey, and part physical. The poppet I had made to represent that which I wanted to ‘hunt’ was destroyed, and lain atop my clan tartan scarf (to reflect ancestral ties), and a little bundle of dried cedar and lilies from my home. It remained there for a week, until I could finally burn them and bury them in the earth in the ravines.

The evening I set out to burn them, things got very strange. The Hunter seemed a bit angry, aggressive- quite truly terrifying to me at the time. Some items I meant to burn and bury wouldn’t, and I was really quite confused and frustrated for a while following what was supposed to be the conclusion of my ritual… Now that I’m looking back, I’m seeing that there was a period of darkness that was necessary before rebirth was possible: just like Samhain marks the witches’ New Year, but we do not see that change and that return of light until much later.

In the couple of weeks between that rite and Samhain, it felt as though everything just fell apart. I had a temporary falling out with a close friend, another longtime companion went to prison; my family cat was put down; I made decisions that tore me apart until I was finally able to admit them… I fell behind on school work, on personal chores, and especially in my practice. Some of it wasn’t resolved until a couple of evenings ago. Sometimes, you just need a friend to drag you into the woods with a sage bundle and mead until you end up coming to the conclusions you need.

Things aren’t perfectly fixed, but they’re getting better. I really feel like what I need to power through the rest of this school year has finally come. The Hunt no longer feels threatening, the shadows that needed addressing have been addressed- and those that needed to be have been laid to rest where they belong. School work has still been keeping me busy, and I’m therefore hesitant to make promises of any further projects or regular posting until the semester has reached its end.

I’m looking forward to the Winter months- and hoping they hold a much smoother time than Autumn did. Plans have just been begun for Yule with the witchy tribe, and I’m feeling a lot better about making it through this semester and onward towards graduation and beyond.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Samhain, and that the months to come are full of magic, love, and prosperity.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

P.S. For the month of November, I will not be offering my tarot service on the Full Moon. I’ve got too many things due between now and the Thanksgiving Break to do so. I’m very sorry I forgot about it for October and will not be able to do so for November. I should be returning with it come December, though.