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

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