Playlist for the Wylde Hunt

Another fun #2019GrimoireChallenge prompt from several weeks ago: music! Now I have different playlists for different moods: one that’s strictly speaking pagan tunes like Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, S.J. Tucker, etc. for studying to; one that has music from Florence & The Machine, Stevie Nicks, Hozier, etc. that’s sort of my “witchy vibe” playlist; another of sea shanties that’s relaxing, but also sort of mournful and sad; one of musical scores from different films for writing to; the list goes on. What I wanted to share today though was my playlist specifically for The Wylde Hunt (the full Spotify Playlist is linked here and prolifically long because I like to be able to spend hours listening to music of a similar vibe). For purposes of this blog post, however, I’m going to pick 10 songs to share with you from it. So, in no particular order, just how they ended up in the list on Spotify:

  1. “Become the Beast” -Karliene Technically a fan-made song for Hannibal this is a wonderfully dark and spooky song that I had to include on my list. I actually have a lot of Karliene’s music on the playlist. She covers songs from films, writes music of her own, has her own renditions of some folk tunes, all around good stuff, and I recommend you check her out!
  2. I Don’t Speak Human” -OMNIA I also have a lot of OMNIA’s music on that playlist. This one speaks about humanity’s destruction of nature, and as the Wylde Hunt is sort of one with the forests, I saw it as particularly fitting.
  3. “Fehu” -Wardruna You might recognize this one from the show Vikings. It was used during one of the battle scenes in an earlier season of the show (Gods, I’m so behind on it; this makes me want to go back and binge-watch to catch up!). I can’t remember if I discovered the song before or after it was used on the show, but it’s got an awesome beat and makes me feel like going out and fighting all of my troubles. It’s a similar feeling to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack while you’re going about your day. You just feel as though you have more purpose and can accomplish anything.
  4. “If I Die In Battle” -VanCanto VanCanto was shown to me by my boyfriend a couple of years ago. They’re mostly an a capella group + a drummer. This song is freaking epic: the vocals are powerful, the video is fantastic, and really what isn’t there to love about an a capella metal band, yeah, you heard that right: a capella metal. Please. Go watch this. It’s worth it.
  5. “The Parting Glass” -Loreena McKennitt OR Damh the Bard I can’t pick a favorite rendition of this song but I deeply love both Loreena McKennitt and Damh the Bard’s versions of them, so here I have included them both. It’s a little less battle-song and more folksy. I like to imagine I’m sitting at a pub with the hunters, or maybe around their campfire as I hear this song. Also, not to be morbid or nihilistic: I really want this song played at my funeral. It’s sad, but like, in a parting-of-friends way. I dunno. I just really love this song.
  6. “Fith Fath Song” -Damh the Bard Because I love Damh and need to give him more attention in this playlist, I’ve added this song. Again, a bit more folksy than some of the others I’ve listed here. It reminds me of the chase scene between Cerridwen and Taliesin in their myth, and felt appropriate for something I could imagine one of the members of the Wylde Hunt singing. I have several of Damh’s other songs on the playlist. He’s long been one of my very favorite artists as far as pagan / folk musicians go. He also runs the Druidcast for the OBOD. I’ll link his website here.
  7. “Safe & Sound” -Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars Heading back into the dark and spooky vibe, we come to “Safe & Sound.” I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift, honestly, but I really like this song, and the Civil Wars, which brings me to…
  8. “Kingdom Come” -The Civil Wars this beautiful and haunting song that just gives me all of the autumn, Wylde Hunt lurking in the trees sort of vibes.
  9. “A Pict Song” -Emerald Rose This one is again folksy and kind of got that rearing for battle kind of a feel to it. One of my favorite areas of history to study is the Roman invasion of the Celtic lands because it’s where much of what little we know about the ancient Druids comes from. Imagine wild hunters from the lands of the Picts, still bitter about Roman invasion. I just really love this song.
  10. “If I Had A Heart” -Fever Ray This is another one from Vikings, and another sort of dark, primal, spooky song.

Do you make playlists for your spiritual workings? What sort of music do you associate with your deities / guides? Share them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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Response: The Pagan Grail Part 1- Y Tho?

Another blog post I wanted to respond to as I’ve had some free time to write was Damh the Bard’s post: “The Pagan Grail Part 1- Y Tho?” . I had explored the topic of the Grail Quest in conjunction with the Wylde Hunt and what it was I was actively seeking/hunting in the past (in searching for the post I wanted to reference, I am concluding it was on my old and now-archived blog). The gist of the post was that my quest was one for Awen, or divine creative inspiration, and for connectedness with the natural world, and that my “hunt” was less for something corporeal and more for that sense of wonder and liveliness. But it’s now been quite some time since I’ve written that post, and I wanted to answer the questions Damh posed in his post as a thinking and brainstorming exercise for myself.

What is the Grail for you personally? Damh mentions the Grail as being our connection to the land, the cure for the separation between ourselves and the natural world. This feels a much more articulate way of speaking aloud the things I’d been feeling when I wrote that post a few years ago. The Grail is, in one sense anyway, about the ways in which we bring harmony back into our relationship with the natural world. With the current threats to our environment, this seems even more important than ever.

But the Grail has also been for me about moments of co-creation with the divine, those moments where Awen is flowing. These are the frisson-inducing performances, the moving works of art, music, literature… The conversations that leave us thinking for days afterwards because of the depths of the truths discussed. Pursuing the Grail is about pursuing more of those moments in my life. Creating works of art, poetry, music, tending gardens, teaching children… These are things that express the ability within us to weave energy and life like the divine powers of the Universe.

And finally, in conjunction with the first interpretation, the Grail is about personal sovereignty and power. It’s about acknowledging the self as a living being, a part of the natural world, an expression of divine creativity… But with that knowledge, comes the responsibility to take care what energies we propagate, to take actions that are in harmony with the rest of creation, and to take ownership of our actions and the circumstances in our lives.

Have you ever considered your Path as your own Grail Quest? I have absolutely considered my path as my own Grail Quest. Spirituality is something woven into every aspect of my life no matter how mundane it may seem. Seeing my path as the Grail Quest gives a sense of clear direction: a goal to work towards. It may never be perfectly achievable, but that isn’t the point. The point is to be a better person and to make the effort.

Are you the mystic that expresses your Path by how you view the world, who you are Are you the magician who expresses your Path by what you do, by your actions in the world? Both? I think I’m a little bit of both. I find that my actions and my worldview are very much in line with one another, and I couldn’t for the life of me pick one which defines me and my Path more than the other. My sense of being, and the lens through which I view our world determine my actions. My actions in turn affirm and determine who I am. It’s cyclical, I think.

What is the essence that makes these acts or sense of beingness a part of your Path? The essence of these acts/ sense of beingness is that I am a part of our world, no different than any other being. As a part of this world, I have a sense of duty and responsibility to care for it and its inhabitants, to work towards harmony with my fellow inhabitants of our world, and to create beautiful things in celebration of those connections with other beings. A quote that drives much of my life and my actions is:

“When you die, only three things will remain of you, since you will abandon all material things on the threshold of the Otherworld: what you have taught to others, what you have created with your hands, and how much love you have spread. So learn more and more in order to teach wise, long-lasting values. Work more and more to leave the world things of great beauty. And love, love, love people around you for the light of love heals everything” – French Druid Triad, Francois Bourillon.

And by following this philosophy, I find myself a little bit closer to the Grail, and therefore harmony with the natural world, sovereignty over self, and co-creation with the divine.

So, I’ll pose the same questions to you, dear followers:

What is the Grail for you personally?

Have you ever considered your Path as your own Grail Quest?

Are you the mystic that expresses your Path by how you view the world, who you are?

Are you the magician who expresses your Path by what you do, by your actions in the world?

Both?

What is the essence that makes these acts or sense of beingness a part of your Path?

And do make sure to check out the entirety of Damh’s post (as well as the rest of his blog because he’s a magnificent writer).

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Thinking About: Discernment and Personal Responsibility

This morning, I had the pleasure of having one of those hour-or-so long phone conversations with a close friend of mine where we find ourselves discussing all manner of things from spirituality, to philosophy, plans for self improvement, and endless other topics. Today, a part of our discussion revolved around the possibility of forming a local group of witchy/pagan folk, and our concerns in doing so based upon things we’ve experienced both in other groups we’ve visited in person, and in the online community.

I’d also recently come across this post by @nightshadeandroses on Tumblr that discussed using discernment when practicing witchcraft. Though my personal opinions are a bit different, I thought she had a number of excellent points, and that some of the the issues she brought up pretty perfectly highlighted some of the concerns my friend and I had had in inviting others into our social circle and building community.

If you begin searching “witchcraft” or “paganism” on a number of sites, but particularly on Tumblr, you very quickly encounter dozens and dozens of blogs where the practitioners are detailing experiences that seem very intense: visions or messages from deities, relationships with spirits and deities that can take any myriad forms from devotional practice to spirit marriage and more, and more and more frequently at least in the media that I encounter: blaming the gods/fae/spirits for things going wrong or seeming out of control in one’s life.

Primrose’s post seems to specifically target those new to the craft who want to believe that everything they encounter is a sign or has some magical significance. Sometimes, a fly is just there because it’s summertime and there’s food about. So how do you differentiate between that instance and when it’s trying to tell you something? It can be difficult, it’s true, especially when you’re eager to embark upon a new spiritual path and start interacting with deities and spirits.

Her post recommends looking at patterns in phenomena, asking if the experience seems to good to be true or mimics a story you recently encountered from someone else, trying divination to confirm the situation, and trying to explain the situation with mundane explanations first.

All of these are excellent suggestions, and even after practicing for over thirteen years, I still routinely go through these steps if I’m not absolutely certain about things. As an example: I’ve seen a number of things associated with Loki lately, both Marvel universe type things and things a former roommate and friend of mine associated with him. I thought it was odd, but I noted when it started and which things seemed to come up more. I noted to myself “Hey, Endgame just came out, and that’s probably contributing some on the Marvel end of it.” and also that I’m not as familiar with the patterns of the wildlife and seasons in Georgia as I was up in Michigan. I made note that I kept seeing these things, but rather than jump to the conclusion that Loki wanted my attention (and as he’s not a deity I work with, it’d be surprising to me if he did), I decided to wait and see if the pattern continued, or died down a bit after the movie hype died down.

The other thing my friend and I were talking about is personal responsibility. It seems to be the same types who are constantly seeing signs from their deities and guides that do this, but I also notice an unnerving amount of “The fae stole x from me.” or “The gods/x deity/whatever has y plan for me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” as though everything that occurs in one’s life is directly at the hands of the deities one does/n’t worship and nothing one does seems to have any consequence other than potentially swaying those deities one way or another.

A person I knew constantly told me that their deities seemed to be pushing them towards personal sovereignty and leadership, but also blamed those same deities whenever things did not go according to plan. Now, personal sovereignty and leadership certainly are admirable goals to work towards, and it sounds to me like a path towards personal growth and development. So I find myself asking: Why aren’t you working towards them? Why are you resisting those plans they supposedly have for you? Could the mishaps that keep coming perhaps come from patterns that are toxic and restricting and holding you back? If you worship x/y deity, why aren’t you following the sort of virtues you believe they’re laying out before you?

I’m personally of the belief that the gods are not so intimately involved in every aspect of our lives, and that we have free will and the ability to co-create with the divine powers of the Universe. In my belief, we make choices, and the energies that be react in kind. So if I perpetuate toxic behaviors, toxic things will continue to happen to me. If I project that the Universe or the gods are constantly knocking down my tower and don’t do work to build a stronger foundation in my practical life, the pattern will repeat itself.

Image result for the tower tarot

The Tower from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

The Tower card, I’d joked, was “my buddy” when I was doing tarot readings for myself. For years, it had been a recurring theme: I’d carefully (or so I had thought) construct plans for them to fall through and crumble. I had a narrative I was telling myself about the Universe “knocking over my block tower” just when I’d had it built. I’d blame other people for bailing on plans or not communicating. But I hadn’t considered at all that I was relying on other people rather than standing on my own feet, or that I wasn’t building strong and stable foundations for these plans to rest upon. This winter, while working through some course work, I had the following interaction in a visualization exercise:

I was standing on a summit a small grey bird in my hands. I could feel its heart racing as I held it. Brannan, my guide from the Tower of Pheryllt, stood behind me, his hand on my shoulder.

“A bird…” I must have sounded confused because I’d closed my eyes to visualize a paper boat and my imagination seemed to have a better idea.

“Do you know what it is?” I didn’t turn to face him, but I could hear the smile in Brannan’s voice as he spoke.

I concentrated on the bird for a moment and gave a nod. “It’s the Block Tower Story.”

“And what is the Block Tower Story?” He pressed me further and I furrowed my brow.

“That narrative about the Universe always coming over and knocking “my block tower” over—the one I’m always trying to plan around and avoid—to keep from “being screwed over again”. That Block Tower Story,” I replied.

“Are you ready?”

I looked down at the quivering bird again, took a centering breath, and gave a nod. I let the bird go, urging it out over the sea and away from the cliff. The first time, it came back and perched on my shoulder, its feathers all puffed out as it was clearly agitated.

Brannan gently took the bird from my shoulder and handed it back to me. “Try again. You’ve got to really mean it.” He stepped back again to watch.

I nodded and took another breath, and released the bird again. It made a circle back over my head, but took off over the sea, up into the clouds, and out of sight…

And every time I’ve found myself repeating that story to myself, I imagine myself back on that summit, looking out over the sea with the bird in hand, and I let it go again. Because the Universe isn’t breaking my block tower. I’m not building it correctly, and by taking ownership of that, I’m able to make better decisions about my life- not just in a spiritual sense, but in all of its aspects.

I’ve mentioned in passing, too, my belief that my afterlife is going to be something akin to joining the Wylde Hunt, and that I feel they have plans for me. But rather than resisting those plans, I’ve pushed myself to make actions that reflect that. I spend time in the forests. I try to make decisions that make a more positive impact on the natural world. I get involved with park cleanups and make sure that I’m voting for political officials and policies that protect my fellow citizens and our natural environment. I work on advocating for myself, on finding ways to make myself stronger, healthier, and more confident in myself. I turned my quest to get my driver’s license into a spiritual one as well as a mundane one. I’ve taken actions to get myself to a place more in line with my own goals as well as the ones I believe my gods have given me as well.

It’s not a passive letting the gods take all credit for what happens, good or bad. I am in control of my life, and my gods demand that I be. When I feel they are demanding something of me, it is usually that I take more responsibility for myself and take the reins of my life.

This isn’t meant to sound as though I’m telling folks what to believe, or as though I’m discrediting anyone’s experiences- quite the opposite! I am however concerned with some of the things I see posted, and wanted to encourage others to exercise perhaps some more discernment and take personal responsibility in their craft.

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and as always:

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Knowing That You’re an Energy Vampire- an Honest Attempt at a Non-Toxic Look at Energy Vampirism

Energy Vampire Graphic

The Friday prompt for this week’s @2019grimoirecchallenge deals with replenishing energy and, I’ve been chewing over how to write this post all week… mostly because I can’t find a lot of good literature on the topic, just a lot of “How to Get Rid of Energy Vampries” articles and stuff tied to the actual vampire subculture, which I really don’t want to attempt to speak for. That said, I’m going to wing it.

So first off, what IS an energy vampire? Simply put, it’s someone who feeds off the energy (be it psychic, emotional, sexual, etc. etc.) of others. People who are energy vampires do this for a number of reasons, a lot of the things you’ll see are about people who unconsciously do so. There might be some manner of mental or physical health issue that causes them to sort of latch on to other people’s energy. They might just be low-energy naturally. It might be something that is a passing phase in someone’s life. Others might do it intentionally, whether that be for malicious intent, because they have a consensual relationship with whomever they’re sharing energy with, because they are part of the aforementioned vampire subculture… The reasoning can be sort of endless.

How do you know that you ARE an energy vampire? Well, let me put it this way. Do you feel lethargic and low energy when not around other people? Do you catch yourself coming back to yourself, your experiences, your problems, etc. while talking to people, or have others pointed out that you tend to do this? Do people around you seem irritated, tired, on edge, etc. after you’ve spent time with them but you feel fantastic? Do you often feel kinda ‘blah’ and empty for long periods of time, but spend a few hours somewhere crowded or in a natural place with a lot of energy, and you suddenly have new life? Do you get restless to go places, just to be around other people, whether you’re interacting with them or not? Do you get caught in these self-victimizing, “woe is me” thought patterns? Then, chances are you might have some psychic vampire tendencies.

This can also be something brought about by psychic burnout. Symptoms vary, but can result in: migraines, light sensitivity, body aches, disorientation, etc. And I’m not talking about just the few hours after a particularly large working, I’m speaking something that lasts days.

Okay, so maybe I’m an energy vampire, what do? First of all, don’t panic over it. I’ve seen, in scrolling the internet trying to write this piece, seen some meditations that try to “cure” energy vampirism, telling you that you’re “awful for being a drain on your friends and family, and that you should just…stop doing that damn it.” And it just feels… toxic (which feels ironic given some of the super “love and light” fluffy websites I found these on, but I digress). SO, I’m going to try to give some helpful advice…

Regarding “recharging” because you can’t solve the issue while you’re feeling low/crappy: So. I absolutely do not advocate just taking energy from people without asking. If you’re going to share energy with someone (via whatever method you choose: physical touch, visualization, intimacy, charging an object and using said object, whatever) always always always ask first. Things I’ve noticed that have helped me personally are: holding crystals that have been charging on my altar (or lighting a candle and spending time in front of my altar reaching out to my gods for that matter), going out and connecting with a tree or other part of nature, or getting out of the house or whatever scenery you’ve been in and getting something to eat somewhere.

In the first few instances, you’re recharging with pools of energy that have developed because of your constant use of the spaces and the energy/spirits that you contact there. Obviously, harms no one, yeah?
Going somewhere out in nature also doesn’t drain other people though you should still ask trees and plants before you just go taking energy from them too. But they’re a lot more… sturdy than other people, usually, and I think this is a pretty low-impact way to recharge. You might even draw upon energy from the sun or moon too.

Now, going and getting food and eating somewhere where other people around allows you, for one, to get some nutrients in your body, increase your blood sugar, and such; but also allows you to sort of tap into what is usually referred to as “ambient energy,” that is, the energy of lots of people bustling about and going about their business. This is not drawing upon the energy of the people around you, but rather the energy of the PLACE you are in that is generated by their presence. This is important, because just drawing on other people you don’t know is shady and immoral.

My method for dealing with ambient energy is usually to find somewhere comfy to sit- if it’s by a window so I can soak up some sunlight energy all the better. I take a deep breath, maybe a couple bites of whatever delicious thing I’ve gotten, and then ground and center as best as I’m able. Then I focus on the energy of the place: is it buzzy and like TV static? Like waves that seem to ebb and flow? Then, kind of like I visualize energy from the earth or the sun flowing into my own during grounding and centering, I visualize whatever energy is around me doing the same until I feel like I at least have enough spoons to carry on with my day.

SLEEP is also something that helps a lot with this. After doing something that will help raise your energy a bit, nap if you can, because the body and your energy does replenish after sleep.

BUT, I’m not gonna stop there and I’m gonna give ya advice for not being the stereotypical psychic vampire. So, the biggest thing I think is to get to a place where you’re not feeling bogged down and energetically low yourself first. It’s a lot easier to get going on the rest of this work when you’re not running on E.

After that, though, I really want to emphasize taking time to identify what triggers this behavior in yourself. For me, it seems to flare up in times of stress, and is usually hand in hand with my depression episodes. I am cognizant of this, and can work to minimize the things that trigger the stress and anxiety. In my life, this has meant more careful planning, making sure I’m communicating my plans and feelings to the people I’m around so that if/when things go wrong I either have a plan B, or I’m not blindsided by it -which makes me less anxious; ya see where I’m going here? A big thing for me was also learning to drive, which makes me anxious, but makes me less reliant on other people, and will give me more freedom and control over my life in the long-term.

Another thing you’ll want to do (and this takes time but as long as you make an effort, I think that counts for something) is try to be aware of how you speak to other people and really listen to them if they tell you you’re being negative / toxic. Sometimes, my humor comes across as flippant and harsh. Sometimes I chuckle about a brainfart and then am compelled to correct people which can be hurtful and grating. I, like many, hear someone’s story, and will often jump in with my own example from my life. But by trying to take time and JUST listen to people’s stories, and stopping myself from adding my anecdote, or apologizing when I realize that I’ve come off as mean and judgmental, I work towards being less of a psychic vampire to the people I’m in contact with. Exercises in mindfulness and positive thinking can really work wonders in this case.

And finally, take care of your health! Go to see a therapist if you’re able. Make sure you’re taking care of your hygiene. Eat things that are healthy and nutritious. Keep your living environment clean. You would be surprised how much those things help!

So! That’s my little spiel. I am hoping this can help people who realize they’re draining to others recharge and maybe work towards becoming… less draining/drained themselves. And I’m hoping it’s less… cringe inducing than some of the other things floating around.

/|\ Rachel

My Grounding & Centering Method

Grounding & Centering

Jumping back into the @2019grimoirecchallenge posts! This in answer to both Monday AND Tuesday’s prompt since I usually ground AND center my energy before and after ritual. This particular exercise isn’t particularly new: I think it’s been posted pretty much everywhere as like “The Tree Meditation” or “The World Tree Visualization” and such, but here goes my version of it!

  • First, you’re going to want to sit, or stand in a comfortable position. I typically plant my feet shoulder-width apart, and if I can help it, like to stand barefoot on the floor or grass.
  • The first step will be the grounding part of the exercise. How I usually do this, is I start first by relaxing myself by focusing on my breathing.
  • Once I’ve gotten in that headspace, I will visualize all the stress, anxiety, and generally disruptive energy flowing down through my body to my feet and down into the ground. Literally, sending that energy into the ground to be neutralized and released.
  • Next, while I’m still sort of focused on my feet and the earth beneath them, I’ll visualize that my feet have grown roots that push through the soil. I’ll then focus on pulling cool, calming, steadying energy up from the earth, just like a plant would draw up water or nutrients from the soil. I imagine this energy filling me, and making me feel steady, strong, and secure.
  • Next, I’ll bring my arms up to stretch over my head, and I’ll visualize them growing up further and further into leafy branches.
  • Like I visualized drawing in energy from the earth, I also visualize drawing in energy from the sun/moon/sky. First through the leaves, then down my branch-like arms and all through out my being. This energy is light, inspiration, clarity, purpose…
  • Where the two energies meet in the center of my being I focus a moment to allow them to merge and find balance. I feel myself sustained by both the earth below and the warm light of the sun above. I am calm, and focused, and inspired to begin work on my ritual.
  • I then take a deep breath, visualizing myself returning from tree back into my human shape, and open my eyes to continue my work.

I do this before ritual to put myself into the proper mindset to do the work before me. It helps to release the energy of my day to day that can be disruptive to my intentions.

I also do this after ritual, so that I can release the residual energy raised during the ritual, and re-center myself before returning to the more mundane parts of my life.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Parting

Parting (1).png

When I am gone, my last slow breath
Adrift in the room’s stillness there,
Do not weep, nor seek, nor deny…
Where Death has come, in darkest depth,
I’ve risen thence into night’s air,
And Hunters lift me up to fly…

So find me in whispers of winds
That shake the cottonwoods; in light
From endless stars on coldest eves.
Hear singing- my voice- there adrift
On tides crashing in with the night.
See green- my eyes- in summer leaves.

And knowing wildness, you’ll know best:
I’ve flown with Hunters ever west…

Connecting with the Wylde Hunt

connecting-with-the-wylde-hunt.png

Friday’s @2019grimoirecchallenge prompt deals with connecting with Otherworldly energies and working with them in spiritual practice. By now, I’ve made it sort of clear which spirits and the like I work closely with, so this post is dedicated to the Wylde Hunt and my experiences working with them.

So, briefly: The Wylde Hunt is a phenomena that occurs across northern and western Europe, and in some parts of North America. It’s characterized by spectral figures, horses, or hounds which ride through the night and generally create some chaos and terror. What it is they’re hunting or changing depends upon the myth you’re reading- in fact a lot of the elements of the hunt vary depends upon the version of the story you’re dealing with. It can include fae, fallen heroes, gods, spirits of the dead, etc. etc. I go a bit more into detail on this in this post here.

My particular Wylde Hunt seems mostly to be human spirits and fae. Goblins are sometimes included in that, and they’re all led by a horned deity that up until very recently I was referring to as Herne, but who has come to be known by a different name, which is mine alone to know.

My work with them started back in October of 2011. I was working on homework the one night and got this sudden and urgent nudging to go outside. I ignored it for probably a good twenty minutes, like “No. I need to finish my homework…” But it persisted, so I grab some tarot cards and a pendulum and head outside. And standing at the firepit in our yard is this beautiful white tail doe. And she stares at me, and we kinda stand there for a bit… and then I gently creep closer… and she bounds off away to stand over on this hill near the tree I usually leave offerings at. So we stare at each other again… and then I gently creep closer once more, until off she bounds into the northwest and disappears into the trees.

Now, this hill was where I was intending to go in the first place; I was really fixated on dragons and leylines and thought there was going to be a connection there or something, but now I was fixated on this deer and the forest- like I could feel her still watching me from the tree line. And the name Wild Hunt kinda… came to me. I’m sure I’d read it in passing a few times; I’d recently started my journey with Celtic paganism, so it was likely it’d come up. But I didn’t have any real prior knowledge or interest in it- until this point. So, I break out the cards and the pendulum, and that becomes the answer I get for the question: “Who’s trying to contact me? / Who has a message for me?”

So I start to do research, and most sources recommend not contacting the Hunt at all, because, well, they’re sort of notorious for being dangerous. But I decide that I’m going to reach out and figure out what they want: so I go back to the hill a couple days later and I say “If you wish for me to work with you, if this is a partnership you’re seeking, let me see crows or ravens within a week’s time.” Crows and ravens are my sort of sign that something is afoot magically speaking, and they’re relatively common in our area. So, when suddenly there’s no sign of them for 6 days… I’m getting worried.

Halfway through the 7th day: I’m waiting for my mom to pick me up from retaking the ACT, and there’s suddenly a whole murder of crows behind me making a whole bunch of noise. And I’m like “Woah. Okay. I hear you.” And I look back towards the parking lot, and beyond it, there’s a hawk or falcon or something that comes up from the forest there, does maybe three circles, and then dips back down into the trees.

It took some time for me to really figure out how they were going to become a part of my practice. Their leader was my patron deity, so that wasn’t so hard to figure, but The Hunt itself is another thing altogether. Like anyone with any real knowledge of fae, I’m reasonably skeptical when it comes to just swearing allegiance to things, making deals, etc. They seemed to enter my life at the most inconvenient times: right when things were tumultuous and changing dramatically. At some point I realized that was probably the point.

In the video post linked above, I discuss my beliefs as to what they are and what purpose they sort of serve in the grander scheme of things: essentially they are psychopomps and agents of necessary destruction and change. They shake things up and carry you from one state of being to the next. When I realized this, they quit being quite as scary.

It was October of 2014, I believe, that I really properly dedicated myself to The Hunt in a formal sense. I had made a poppet to represent myself and taken it under the Hunter’s Moon out into the grove where we did much of our spellwork and gathering. I left it there in the crook of an oak at the center of the grove, I made offerings of alcohol and incense to them, and I swore myself to their service, which included:

  • Maintaining my altar and sacred space as a place for them to rest and visit. Essentially, I entered into a mutual bond of hospitality: when I did journeying work, I often visited their camp. They also were welcome at my hearth.
  • Creating poetry and artwork which focused on their myths and legends as well as my own new experiences with them. I took up the mantle of their bard, and you’ll notice I still write quite a bit of poetry inspired by them.
  • Working with them through periods of change. When I need help to clear the way; when I find myself getting stuck in a rut. I call on them. It’s amazing how much more controlled change can be when you willingly yield to it rather than fighting it. I also became interested in taking a similar role myself: in helping others through periods of transitions. I intend to undertake celebrant training with the OBOD following the completion of the Bardic Grade to work rituals for funerals, weddings, etc. I want to be help in those periods of transition for other people.
  • Developing skills related to hunting, outdoorsmanship, etc. I’ve casually taken up archery as a skill I want to learn. I’ve tried to educate myself whenever possible about things in my local environments: trees, wildlife, stars and the cycles of the seasons. The more I understand, the closer I feel to them. This has also included trying to be more conscious about what things I leave as offerings, recycling, using less energy, etc. to help mitigate at least a little harm done to the environment, and to vote in favor of policies that will benefit and help the natural world. That last part feels more important than ever these days.
  • Riding with the Hunt. I’ve mentioned already that I do journeying and visualization work. Some of it includes riding with the Hunt. This bullet point also includes my beliefs about my afterlife- that I will join them following the end of my life, and ride with them forever more.

These are the terms of my working with them, and are by no means the terms everyone should or would want to seek out.

I contact them in a number of ways but some off the top of my head are:

  • Taking hikes in the forest.
  • Leaving offerings of whiskey, dried meats, or bread.
  • Drumming.
  • Reading my poetry aloud somewhere like my backyard or the forest.
  • Calling to them in ritual work.
  • Visiting their camp in my journeying work.
  • Lighting a candle for them on my altar.

My advice when approaching any entities be they gods, fae, angels, whatever is this: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know what exactly it is you’re working with, how people have historically interacted with these beings, what sort of tales exist about them, what offerings are common, etc. BE RESPECTFUL! Just like you’d probably be pretty polite and considerate when meeting a new friend or potential employer, you want to be polite and respectful of the powers that be. BE YOURSELF. Don’t go posturing or doing anything unnatural though. They have a sense of humor, and there’s a difference between being polite and serious about what you’re doing and taking yourself too seriously.

Best of luck, and forest blessings,
Rachel

Connecting With Star Energy

star energy

Another little something from the Tumblr #2019GrimoireChallenge.

A large part of my practice and spirituality revolve around my connection with stars. I have been fascinated with the night sky and space since I was a little kid, and I’ve always felt most “witchy” or “druid-y” while stargazing on a summer night, or realizing that a specific planet or constellation was overhead in the dead of winter.

It has always frustrated me to no end that there aren’t more books on the topic. Sure. We draw down the Moon or the Sun, but the stars are beautiful and powerful and good for something other than interpreting astrological information! Sandra Kynes wrote a really lovely book entitled Star Magic: The Wisdom of Constellations for Wiccans & Pagans which was sort of what really kicked my interest in incorporating stars into my regular practice. So here are some ways that I work with stars, and some ideas you may want to try.

Stargazing / Astronomical Knowledge: For me, the seasons are just as much about what stars I can see in the sky at a given time as they are about the weather and agricultural cycles. I follow NASA’s social media accounts, my local planetarium’s listings, and other stuff to keep track of things like meteor showers, which constellations or planets will be hanging out in the sky, eclipses, etc. I also take as many opportunities as possible to attend the planetarium’s programs. Last month I saw one about black holes. My boyfriend and I went to watch a documentary about Mars, and another about Saturn as date night ideas. It’s fun, you learn lots, and it deepens your understanding of the Universe, and your own local night sky.

Some stars have also been important for centuries and were named by ancient and medieval astronomers. Old alchemical texts suggest what these stars’ properties were and can provide another fun historical / scientific learning experience.

Drawing Down Star Energy: Just like one might draw down the Moon or Sun in ritual, you can totally draw down the stars, too! Some stars, as I mentioned above, were long associated with specific magical properties. You could find where they are in your night sky, and draw on them specifically for a particular spell. You could call, for example, on Polaris (The North Star) for guidance and clear direction. Maybe there’s a meteor shower situated in the constellation Orion; you could time your ritual so that you could draw on the warrior/hunter energies of that particular constellation to help you with a particular goal. Or, just let the silver, shimmery, peaceful light of the stars and the vastness of the Universe shine down on you and your energy.

Constellations / Star Symbols as Magical Sigils: I like to use the patterns of the constellations as sigils to charge my spells or to help myself through tough times. One I use a LOT is Orion; he represents for me a fighting spirit, perseverance, and is usually high in the sky when I’m at the peak of my seasonal depression episodes. It always felt like he’s been cheering me on, and so I will utilize that constellation pattern in work geared towards pushing through tough times. Some of the named stars also have symbols associated with them. I’ve used them in crafting sigils from time to time.

Making Tarot Spreads: I like to make tarot spreads to use based on the constellations as well. For this, I usually take into context the mythology behind the constellation as well as personal significance, and then come up with questions or information I’d want to receive from that particular energy. An example of one I made using the constellation Orion can be found here.

These are the specific ways I’ve been incorporating my love of the night sky into my practice. I’ve come across a book that reinterprets the constellations in context of The Mabinogion called Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky by Martin Griffiths. As a Druid, this book has been super exciting, because it makes for a sort of Celtic understanding of the constellations. It is a bit dense though as far as scientific language goes, so it’s been a slow read. It’s encouraged me to make up my own interpretations as well in relation to The Wylde Hunt- sort of a bit of creative fun! I’m also currently working on developing a sort of rune system using constellations, planets, and specific stars, but it’s not quite ready to be shared yet!

Do you work with stars? How do you bring them into your magical practice?

Happy Stargazing,
Rachel

The Elements as Frame of Reference- Or Why I Don’t Invoke the Quarters

elements graphic

This week’s #2019GrimoireChallenge prompts include a focus on the elements and other energies that we work with on our respective paths. Having finished up some of the work through the elements in both my OBOD coursework and in my re-reading of The Earth Path, I’ve been thinking much about the elements and how I work with them in my own path.

By the elements of course, I mean Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. They are used widely in the sphere of the neo-pagan community and have come to be sort of a staple for most people’s magical / spiritual education. Everything from astrology, to herbs, crystals, tarot suits, and more are typically associated with an element. There are countless charts of correspondences that you can find in almost any Wiccan / pagan book. For that reason, I’m not going to list any of them here.

For me, however, they are much less a staple of my practice and more of a means of understanding. Like the literal elements make up all of the matter in our world, the four (or five, if you include Spirit) elements make up the myriad of energies we experience. A sunset at the beach includes fire, yes, because of the sun, but you also have water present, the sandy earth, the cool breeze blowing from across the waves. A thunderstorm has water, the rain; air obviously as it takes place in the sky and the clouds, and sound is an important factor; and fire because of the heat that lightning brings. All of these elements are present in any one moment if you’re able to open your awareness to them. I prefer to deal with the energy as a whole- the energy and spirit of the beach at sunset, the energy of the storm as it rages through our little marshland neighborhood. It feels more like a complete picture, and a more dynamic one than focusing just on a singular element. They don’t often exist exclusively in the natural world, so why would I treat them as such in my practice?

I use the elements as a frame of reference for things like divination or astrology. Water signs are emotive and intuitive. Pentacles are associated with Earth and the qualities of stability and groundedness. In this way, they’re symbolic. They help to categorize energy and operate as a system of interpreting the cards, or the planetary alignments. I don’t however, use them often in spell work. I go for plants and crystals that fit my intention- and usually that’s an intuitive process of simply picking up items that seem to “feel right” for whatever I’m working on. Lavender doesn’t feel particularly related to the energies of air to me, but I’ll use it for cleansing or healing, or anything that needs a more gentle and soothing touch to it.

Because for me the elements are sort of a system of understanding, I also don’t partake of the very common practice of invoking them while setting up a circle for ritual space. In doing so, it’s usually assumed that you are calling upon those energies to enter the circle and balance it; so that they are all represented and working in harmony throughout your rite. Aren’t they already? If you’re in a natural space, you can see the fire as light from the sun, the earth beneath your feet, the moisture in the dewy grass, the air moving about you. Even indoors you can: fire- light and heat from your home, air blowing from said furnace or a fan, moisture in the air for water- perhaps literal water you brought into your circle, earth as the stone or wood or whatever floorboards beneath you. Heck, even your body has all of the elements. There’s a chant that goes “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, and fire my spirit…” So without even invoking those quarters, I see them as all already being present and already working in some relative harmony.

Because my circle is sacred protected space, and because I choose safe places to enact my rituals, I also don’t think I need to invoke the quarters as watchtowers or to guard my circle in anyway. I’m not worried about random people or random spiritual nonsense coming in and mucking up my rite; I’ve drawn a circle and picked a safe space for working.

I also don’t buy into the notion that invoking them helps to tune one in to the directional orientation of one’s location. If I’m setting up to do ritual in a place, I’ve gotten to know it before hand, and it’s likely a place I visit often. I do call for peace to the four directions, so I will have looked at a compass or something before starting to know where north, south, east, and west are too. Calling quarters for that reason seems, for me, a bit redundant and unnecessary.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t work for most people! By all means, if you really like calling the quarters and focusing on individual elements, go right ahead! But I do encourage you to try it once or twice: focusing on the big-picture energy of something in nature instead of a singular element, or creating a ritual where you don’t invoke the quarters. See what happens! One of the most important parts of a magical or spiritual practice is knowing what does/n’t work for you, and having an informed reason as to why.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

The Sacred Hearth: The Importance of Fire in my Path

The Sacred Hearth.png

I’ve been on a bit of a creative streak the past few days. In addition to a new YouTube video, and a number of Tumblr posts, I’ve been working on a personal digitization of my thirteen years’ worth of study. I’m unfortunately not able to share that particular project because of the number of things not properly sourced in it, but I can share some of the ideas that come from it, and the original writing that goes into it.

This particular post is going to deal with fire and more particularly the hearth fire. Some weeks back, I’d made a post detailing my “must-haves” as far as tools of my practice go. In it, I included the lantern which I hold a space for on my altar in honor of my moon goddess, but I realized that I had failed to include something of equal importance as I was working on my larger grimoire project: my small “hearth” which is represented by a miniature chiminea candle holder and a more literal hearth that I carved out of Sculpey to represent the hearth shrine I have within my sacred inner space.

For centuries the hearth or the need-fire was a central part of the household and community. Fire kept predators at bay. It provided warmth, comfort, and light. It provided the heat necessary to perform the alchemy of cooking or preparing medical remedies. It was a gathering place; a place where music, stories, and wisdom were shared among members of the community. And, to an extent, this is still true today. Who doesn’t feel warm and inexplicably at peace and connected while around a bonfire, sitting beside a fireplace, or while cooking in the kitchen? Our modern hearths are a little different, but their sense of sacred energy remains the same.

For me, a large part of my devotional path with the Wylde Hunt revolves around the hearth. I light a candle in the little chiminea at the beginning of ritual. I bring fire there when I’m sitting down to meditate or study. I offer a spot beside the fire in my sacred space for my gods and guides, to share that peace and warmth, to hear their wisdom, to share my music and poetry with them.

The candle holder in question reminds me also of an oven or a forge, and the power fire has to transform matter. Alchemy takes place in the flames, and food or metal is shaped and fired into something new. So I light my candles there also to bring about that power: of turning knowledge gained into wisdom and practice. To forge ideas and energy into manifested results.

How do you represent fire in your sacred space? Which energies of fire do you honor?

Forest Blessings,
Rachel