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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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

Imbolc: The Light in the Darkness

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As the new solar year gets under way, it is nearing the time of Imbolc. In Druidry, and indeed for many neo-Pagans, this is a festival that marks the returning of spring. The light has started to return to us following the Winter Solstice, or Yule, and the first signs of new life can begin to be seen. It is associated with a return to youth, light in the last dark months of winter, a time for stirring from our post-holiday stupor, as it were.

I do quite honestly believe that this year is the first year in which I feel these things in any sort of real sense. For several years, my practice often completely overlooked the festival altogether. How could I celebrate the coming of spring when I’m up to my rear in snow? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel when we’d hit only about a quarter of the way through the Winter Semester of the academic year? After the solar New Year’s glimmer and excitement had faded, it was altogether much more difficult for me to find that same light still burning by the time we had reached Imbolc. A bit of a seasonal rut and bout of depression seemed to hit every February without fail as I juggled work, school, and social life, as well as trying to even find the motivation for the simplest of continuances of my pagan practice. Celebration and ritual generally wasn’t in the schedule for me.

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This year feels different, and I’m a little disappointed that it a) took me this long to find a connection with that idea of hope and of light returning for this sabbat, and b)is occurring right before I move to a drastically different climate where I’ll have to learn again the patterns of the Wheel of the Year as they unfold in the tropics rather than in my rather temperate home state. Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having; I was able to take a walk in the ravines this afternoon without gloves or anything of the sort because it was nearing forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’m almost more willing to believe that spring is nearing this year. It might also be that I’ve something new to look forward to in the coming months: graduation and the start of a new life.

Early January was sort of riddled with a deep depression that I had sunken into, but now that things have started to move forward, I’m gradually feeling a bit better. There’s something stirring, and I’m hoping it’s something better than last year had to offer about this time.

Here’s hoping you all have a blessed sabbat however you do- or don’t!- celebrate it. May the quiet and steadfast light of hope and life reborn be with you as The Wheel continues to turn.

Forest 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.

Camping! And Some Spiritual Updates

This past Saturday, I returned from another week-long camping trip, and I’ve been wanting to write and share some of the experiences I had during it. My very good friend, Mark, and I went up to Young State Park in Boyne, Michigan. We’d been planning for it to be our really big spiritual retreat, as our previous camping adventure had been focused on setting intentions for the summer and the future of our spiritual practices. However, we found it really difficult to find a focus or a direction we wanted to take our trip in. We were also met with some very mundane and (mostly) minor interruptions like watching the family’s dogs.

That’s not to say that it didn’t feel really good getting back out in nature and whatever few precious moments we could find to do witchy things as well as indulging in some traditions for visiting the area each year.

We spent some time one of the first nights there doing tarot readings for each other near the water in Boyne City itself. I’ve cleansed my¬†Raven’s Prophecy Tarot deck, and plan to make it a deck that only my own energy goes into- something I’ve seen Mark doing with his Raider-Waite decks lately. I’ve never had a deck give me a reaction quite as intense as I experienced shuffling the cards for Mark’s reading; the entire middle portion fell out and I picked the cards from that. It just simply felt right at the time.

We also cleansed a number of crystals at the stream in the woods, and then took them to the beach. For the first time in well over a year, I cast a circle, drawing its boundaries in the sand with a blue goldstone wand I’d just cleansed. I empowered the deep brown agate mirror I’ve had for some time, and called on the goddess Morrigan. Each night, following, I had a number of intense dreams. One in particular stuck out to me:

What started as a dream of a rather normal camping trip, soon turned into one of myself wandering a stormy moor at night, wearing long dark skirts and a shawl. I knew that I was looking for someone, and found- among a tangled shrub on the moor- a black feather and a scrap of blue and green tartan cloth. I seemed to know what to do then, and called to a dog which came running towards me from the darkness and mist. It was black and resembled a Belgian shepherd, and answered to the name ‘Yew’. It led me through the moor and into an area that more closely resembled a suburban area, where I found a little girl (whom I was presumably looking for) hiding in bushes from some of Mark’s cousins and nephews. They were telling her they would tell Mark’s family she ran off. I managed to coax the little girl, who resembled a younger version of myself, out of the bush and into my arms, where I comforted her before returning to camp. When I returned there, a close friend of mine was there, and looked rather displeased with me.

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I’ve still been pondering the meaning of the dream.¬†Mark suggested the little girl might be representative of my inner child. Much of the symbolism of the dream is that of tenacity, death and rebirth, and otherworldly messages. The energy of the dog has been hanging around me ever since- though it’s significantly less noticeable while at home with my entire family around. He has appeared in multiple meditations throughout the last few days as well. I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t, perhaps, a familiar spirit of sorts.

We occupied ourselves in all manner of ways: climbing the steps up the mountain, visiting the park in Boyne City, stargazing- we even took a quick adventure up over the Mackinaw Bridge with Mark’s friend, Dustin. One of my favorite things I saw during our wanderings was a now not-working telescope that had been built for the sole purpose of viewing the constellation, Draconis. It’s now become a home to a family of ravens, and my connection both to the birds and the constellation made it a really cool and special thing for me.

The sunsets there are beyond a doubt the most beautiful I’ve seen. There’s no better place to meditate, read tarot, or journal than on the shores of any of the lakes in Michigan. We didn’t, unfortunately, get to go up into the Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw, but the dock at the campgrounds was a perfectly acceptable place to view hundreds of stars.

On one of our last full days up there, Mark and I ventured to the Lavender Hill Farm. The spell of the flowers just hit you as soon as you stepped out of your car. The fields were beautiful, and it was an absolutely gorgeous sunny afternoon. We explored the large barn where they dried the plants and I even tried a lavender lemonade soda from the gift shop. On one of the upper hills, there was a lavender labyrinth. At its center, a group of stones that read ‘wisdom,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘love’ were perched on a pedestal. I walked it, focusing on the intention of prosperity for the coming months.

And of course, we visited Charlevoix. It’s a beautiful city on the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix, and filled with gorgeous shops. It was the first time I’d been back in the city since my grandmother’s death early in the year. The last time I’d been there, it was cold and nearly empty; this time it seemed overflowing with life. It was good to be back, ¬†to lose myself in meditation on the sunset and sailboats for a few moments despite having the puppies with us, to remember the smells and the sights, and the fun times I could remember having there. Because my grandparents there are passed on and I’m planning on moving out of the state soon, I took a few moments to really connect with the place. After all, I don’t know when I’ll see it again.

My Fiverr, as of now, is closed down. I’ve had problems with getting my direct deposit information to clear with them and Payoneer, the other company they were using for the money transfers. If I find the time and funds for something like Etsy, I might try online readings there. For now, however, paid readings are unavailable. My free monthly readings for the Full Moon ARE still available. I’ll continue posting reminders of those as time goes on.

I’ve got much now to study and look into- and tons of things to prepare for the coming school year. I’m looking forward to getting my schooling done and over with. I know that bigger, better things are just over the horizon.

Blessings,
~Rachel