Thinking About: Personal Deities

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This is a topic I’ve been wanting to take on for some time, but have been unable to find the proper words to do so- perhaps there never really are any. Something I’ve been working on over the past year or so is my relationship with deity. For several years, I’d defined myself and my path by them: “I’m a devotee of Herne the Hunter” or “I worship the Goddess Cerridwen” etc. I spent countless hours reading and re-reading myths, researching, learning, reaching out…

And over time had my own experiences that I then would try to rationalize against the mythologies. “I experienced x, is it y trying to contact me? How do I know?” I see these questions posted all over the online pagan communities- as though you were going to a doctor. List the symptoms, and someone will hopefully be able to tell you what it is you have. List your experiences and maybe someone who’s been practicing and studying longer than you will know the god or goddess who matches.

But when is a raven a messenger of Odin rather than a messenger of Bran or The Morrigan- or none of those at all? What if all signs point to Cerridwen, except this handful of experiences that don’t match anything in the established lore and practice of those already worshiping her? Does it matter? Does it make it less valid? How does one justify it?

What if, as it happened to me in the springtime of last year, you are faced with the divine who is such a myriad of things that she seems not to be able to fit in any one goddess’s body of myth?

Moon Goddess
The goddess in question appeared to me in several dreams and meditations cloaked in the deep blue of the starry night, half her face in shadow the other luminescent and beautiful like the moon. She carried in one hand a staff of birch that held a silvery sickle-moon crescent, and in the other a lantern that cast a cool blue light. She was a guardian of the cauldron, a washer of the ford, a wanderer in the mists, the cold kiss of death, the hands that wove the stars… And though I saw her face echoed in the stories of Morrigan, Cerridwen, Arianrhod, Hel, Artemis… I could not attribute a single one of these goddesses to her.

moon goddess sculpture

For a time, she worried and confused me. Who was she? I wanted to find an answer in a book or a blog post, or some obscure myth in fragment over the tides of history. The more I looked, the more pointless the search became, but still she called to me more than any deity ever had, and I knew I must answer her call.

I moved away from myth and tradition- though they have their place as things to honor, to draw inspiration from, to find guidance in- and started to simply interact with deity in the way it presented itself to me. What I have found is something more deep, profound, and personal than any relationship I’ve ever had. There is a goddess I worship whose name has, perhaps, only been whispered on my lips. She guides me in the darkness.

Horned God

A similar issue had arisen during college with my relationship with the Horned God. There was a darker side to the Hunter that I did not find present in existing myths, and I tried fruitlessly to pinpoint: Is it Herne, or some other being I work with? Now it does not matter. He appears to me dragon scaled or clad in a cloak of feathers, his eyes dark like the soil or the midnight sky, and like the Lady with the Lantern, he has names that only I call him, and my path is all the richer.

I guess what I am saying is that it is perfectly fine to connect with particular gods and goddesses, to reach for them or find inspiration and connection within the stories that exist about them. It’s more than okay to try and follow traditions and old ways and rationalize. But there’s something deep and rich and worth exploring, in not worrying about the who’s and why’s and letting the divine express themselves to you in the ways that they wish.

Blessings of the Forest, Frost, and Moon,
Rachel

 

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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

Breaking Free: A Summer for Shadow Work

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I couldn’t find an artist for this image, but found it via Pinterest here.

I have been, in the past five days since my first post’s publishing (and since I started working on this new blog), really beating myself up over what my first few posts should be about. Being at home- and without my campus job’s income- means that I have a lot of limited space to do things, and access to not only some of my tools but things that I tend to like to purchase such as candles, incense, and the like. Especially this summer, it’s been feeling a bit like I’m not doing much that seems worthy of a blog post.

I have, however, been doing a lot of thinking and planning.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of my focus this summer has been on improving my self in the sense of health, organization, etc. and really jump-starting my spiritual practice which had all but ground to a halt entirely over the course of the last year. I had some ideas about what this might mean when I left Grand Valley for the summer, but it’s turning out to have touched me on even deeper levels than I could have ever imagined. It seemed simple enough to come up with some daily things to do, go on some camping trips, get my inspiration flowing again. What has begun, instead, is a complete transformation of self.

Now, I’m sure if I looked good, long, and hard enough back at journals and the like, I could see the beginnings of this change hiding out in the months leading into summer break. The more noticeable thing, however, was a sudden resurgence of Morrigan imagery after many many many months of very little nudge from anything at all. Almost as soon as I acknowledged that perhaps this message was for me, and not a close friend of mine, things began to pick up rather rapidly right before my most recent camping trip. I kept getting more and more and more of that crow/raven and warrior goddess imagery, and quite literally the day before I left for the camping trip, a filling broke in one of my teeth. What I had been planning, really, was eating healthier, meditating more, doing witchy things… But Morrigan came knocking and insisted on something else: over the last several years, I’ve taken pretty dreadful care of my teeth. Depression kicks in, and my will to care sometimes just drifts away. This was a jarring wake up call- to not only face some deep fears (I hate dentists, and have developed this weird thing where I worry about how bad the news will be and therefore avoid hearing it), and to take better care of myself. It’s something I’ve added to my list of things to work on for the summer, and I’m already starting to feel a bit better (though I’m still in need of some dental work done).

During the trip, a dear friend of mine brought out some shadow working and self-analysis prompts that were posted on Kelly-Ann Maddox’s site, and I’ve really started to address things like how I truly feel about various aspects, how I handle fears and angers, etc. We’ve continued these prompts over the last couple of weeks.

The other really big change in my life came with what felt like a random whim to sort of revive my more classy-goth sense of style in the couple of days before my birthday on the 2nd of this month. I’d been at the library and picked up a copy of Walking the Twilight Path: A Gothic Book of the Dead, which I’ve admittedly not delved into quite yet (but seems to really delve into some personal vs/ slightly anthropological-ish issues involving death, dying, etc. and seems like a book I’ll order on Amazon because I may not have time to get to it this summer), as well as a couple of other more light-hearted books on the goth subculture.

On my birthday itself, I set out to sort of search for some new clothes to sort of reflect this darker aspect of self I was embracing, and ended up visiting my local metaphysical shop with my mom and aunt. I received both a tarot and astrology reading (from my aunt and the shop’s owner respectively), and had a good, long talk with them about what the future had in store for me as I turned twenty-two and was headed into my final year in university. In both readings, the themes of rebirth, redefining the self, working through a lot of shit, and looking towards a future seemed super prevalent. But what started the real turn-around of the conversation was them asking me what I wanted to do for a career once I’d graduated.

And it sort of hit me: I don’t want to work in a museum. I don’t want to go to grad school. I don’t want to continuously do historical research- not for a living, anyway. That’s not what I find fascinating about history. What I find really interesting is the ways in which history acts as a many-faceted story of us: humanity, and it’s really those stories- and the stories that often go unheard that interest me, not what can be researched and argued. I also bemoaned that being a witch, doing tarot readings, writing pagan books, blogging, etc. is not exactly an easy way to make money (though I damn well think it should be). I said, sort of off-handedly, that I’d debated going into mortuary work: more specifically funeral directing and the sort of pre-need counseling type stuff. Of course, the shop’s owner gets excited because that seems to match quite well with my chart.

But the more I thought about it that day and in the few days that followed, the more it sort of made sense. It’s something which allows me to use my spiritual, compassionate side- to assist others in dealing with what is arguably one of the greater transitions in life: its end. There’s a creative, compassionate element to it; it echoes the sense of purpose I get when I think about being a priestess and leading others through ritual. I have a post detailing my thoughts on ritual and its purpose on my older blog, found here, but essentially, my thought is that ritual is supposed to in some way be transformative and transitional. One should leave ritual slightly different than when they entered. It also sort of reflects my views on the Wylde Hunt, my feeling drawn to them, what I’ve always sort of felt my purpose in working with them is, and how they act in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Detailed here, it is essentially that the Wylde Hunt for me acts as a sort of psychopompic force; that they are the necessary end to life, but also the ferriers of souls into whatever next state of being they are destined for.

And with the Morrigan death/war/crone goddess symbolism and presence around, with the darker themes of shadow/self-work and even the stylistic choices, it all just suddenly seemed to make sense. I looked up the information I needed, and could get certified to be an apprentice and work in the funeral industry within a year after graduating if I enroll and complete a 21-credit online program from a university only about 45 minutes away from where my boyfriend is living in Florida. Suddenly, even moving down to Florida to be with the man I love dearly makes a lot of practical sense that I seemed to be lacking in the beginning.

I sort of joked that I’d gotten some new tops, a new bra, and my life-purpose for my birthday.

With all of this change, it’ll be interesting to see where else this flow takes me by the end of the summer.

Lots of love to you all,
Rachel