How To: Cast a Circle

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In an effort to include more original content and like actually useful things, I wanted to make this addition to my blog!

Most people will recommend a circle when doing any kind of trance, ritual, spell, or spiritual work. The reasons range from needing to contain energy raised during a working, creating special liminal space between yourself and the realms of the gods, and nasty energy/entities out to sabotage you. I am personally of the opinion that nasty energy that will ruin whatever your doing and malevolent beings looking for a human host are incredibly unlikely, and that honestly wards should be set wherever you’re working against that sort of very rare circumstance anyway. I am also of the opinion that energy can be raised, held onto, and then released in a ritual through your own energetic field.

However, casting a circle does mentally, energetically, and ritually delineate what is mundane and everyday stuff from the magical/spiritual and so I still think it super useful. When I cast a circle, it clicks in my brain that “this is ritual space, and I can let go of all the other crap buzzing around in my brain and just connect.” It also helps me focus more actively on the energy that I am raising and working with, and gets my mind in the proper gear so to speak for doing whatever working I’m about to be doing.

So, let’s get down to my method for casting a circle, shall we?

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Originally posted by midnight4ever

  • First thing’s first, having a physical marker for your circle is super helpful. Chalk, candles, flower petals, crystals, whatever. Go wild! Just don’t pour salt on grass or plants because it will kill them. Make your physical boundary first. Trust me, it’s easier that way.
  • I like to begin by grounding and centering first. Much like casting a circle gets me in the proper head space for ritual, grounding and centering gets me in proper head space for setting up the circle. My method for that can be found here.
  • Next, I like to stand at the center of my circle, or as close to it as I’m able to get if I’ve got something like an altar or a bonfire in the dead center. Seeing that I’ve grounded and centered already, and am comfortable and know where the center of my energy is, I’ll turn my focus back to that. For me, it’s between my Solar Plexus and my diaphragm.
    • I then visualize my energy radiating from that center moving out slowly to fill the circular area of your ritual/work space. It might be a similar color to your aura. Maybe it’s a bright light. Maybe you visualize it as glitter and bubbles. Any visual that works for you will do. I also like to stretch my arms straight out from my body as I do this, sort of like I’m pushing the energy to fill the space.
  • Once I’ve gotten my energy to fill up the bubble of the area that I’ll be working in, I’ll move to the western edge of my circle.
    • I choose the West because: it’s the direction used in a lot of the Druid works I’ve come across, and it’s been sort of tradition because of that now; The Wylde Hunt is said to ride from the western winds, and since they’re my familiar spirits/patron deity, it just seems right; and the West is said to be the realm of water, emotions, intuition, and receptivity, and so I bring those things into myself as I begin my circle.
  • Now that I’m at the western edge of my circle, I’ll use my dominant/power/projective (insert occult/new age label for it here) hand to draw, with energy, my circle’s boundaries. Again, visualization depends upon the person. A lot of people I’ve worked with have envisioned white, silver, or blue light; I’m a bit dramatic and like to imagine a ring of stones rising out of the earth around me. Your circle can be as simple or as complex in your mind’s eye as you want it.
  • Whatever you’ve visualized, you’ll want to move clockwise around the circle.
  • It might help to use a chant or rhyme as you trace the circle. I personally like to hum the tune for S.J. Tucker’s “For Love of All Who Gather” as I draw my circle.
  • For quick/simpler workings, I’ll make just the one circle around. Sometimes if it feels right, I’ll make three trips around it. Do what feels best. As long as you feel like your energy is anchored and you’re secure, that’s all that matters.
  • Once I’ve made my final loop around the circle and find myself back at the western edge where I’ve begun, I like to give a little tap with my foot, or with my hand/wand on the ground. It gives me a visual and a motion to sort of lock the circle in place.

And that’s it! If you’ve followed those steps you’ve successfully cast a circle!
In order to open a circle after a ritual, you’ll want to start back at the west and this time move counter-clockwise, again tracing the circle. I personally re-collect the personal energy I used in building the circle back to myself and let whatever energy I’d raised during the rite drift off to do its work in the Universe.

Hope this is helpful!
/|\ Rachel

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Connecting with the Wylde Hunt

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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

Why Magic Flops

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My boyfriend and I were talking earlier this morning, and the discussion inspired me to write this post. Currently, we’re in the waiting process of seeing which vehicle my parents are going to give me to move out of state with: my mom’s current SUV, or a minivan he just purchased from a friend of his. Having learned how to drive in my mom’s SUV, and being in my 20′s, I think which my preference is probably very obvious.That being said, I also will be grateful for whichever I end up with, and will make it work.

I said that I was going to do a little manifesting to get the outcome I desired, and he said to me: “We shall see, for now prep for the van.” And my boyfriend, bless him, is a realist. He’s the real logical type: doesn’t believe shit until he sees it, makes sure all the ducks are in a row before he acts, typical Virgo? (I joke, but you get the idea.) But I realized that that very way of thinking is behind a lot of the circle of chaos that went on in my life, and is the reason why spells sometimes just don’t fucking work.

Let me explain.

Magic operates on the principle of mind over matter. One sends their will and intention out into the Universe, and that ripples and creates changes in the real physical manifest reality. That’s why intent and focus are so important when working spell work. The idea is that you want to put as much energy and conviction behind that “X will happen” as you can muster. The stronger your force, the more likely it’ll be to happen.

But it’s not just during the spell that you have to maintain your intentions. For months and months and months I did work on gaining personal freedom and getting out of my parents’ house. In my rituals and visualizations, I was very sure and firm in my intent. But step outside the circle, and I was running myself ragged worrying about “what if this doesn’t work?” “what if my parents change their minds again?” “what happens if I don’t pass my driving test?” “what if I’m stuck here for another several months?” And those thoughts, the frantic planning for the worst case scenario or anything other than what I was trying to manifest was interfering with any of the work that I did in ritual.

However, the second I stepped back, breathed, and said “What happens, happens. I’m going to do what I can in the present and release all of my fears and worries for the future”… Well, that’s when the magic happened. I got my license. I was able to have civil conversation with my dad about a car. He got the extra car. Things are falling into place, and now I have a date for moving down to Georgia.

The trick is not in “planning for the worst and making sure your ass is covered”. Certainly, that’s a way to go about things, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be prepared in the event that something goes completely awry. But, if you plan as though the best will happen, and do the work of making sure you’re doing everything on a non-magical level to get that outcome, and not panicking over the future or possible outcomes, success is much more likely.

This takes time. I still find myself worrying about “What if I can’t find a job down there once I move?” and “How will I pay my student loan payments if I can’t find a job right away?” Worrying about these things is normal- and I think very ingrained in our social upbringing these days.

One visualization I’ve been using is picturing myself standing on a cliff, looking out over a vast sea. In my hand is something that represents that worry: a bird, a paper airplane, a pile of pebbles, etc. And I take a deep breath, I reaffirm my intentions for a positive outcome, and for releasing the fear and worry that holds me back, and I release the bird, the rocks, whatever out over the cliff and into the sea. I know that it has been carried away from me and will no longer hinder my work of building a better future.

In conclusion: intent during the spell or ritual is important, but it’s also important to maintain that intent outside of the ritual space too. Otherwise, worry and fear act against you and sabotage all of your magical work.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

What Makes a Witch?

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Over on Tumblr (despite all the mess it now is) some folks have started up a #2019GrimoireChallenge which I am participating in. Since I’ve been having some fun with the prompts, I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts from the project here as well.

Tuesday’s prompt for Week 2 was “Witch, what does it mean to you? What type of witch are you?… Are there certain things you plan to learn as a witch? Certain goals you have?”

A witch, to me, is someone who practices witchcraft in some way: this can be spells and rituals, crystal healing, divination, artwork, devotional poetry, yoga, astrology, essentially the crafts of “The Craft”. A witch doesn’t follow a specific religious or spiritual path- they can be atheists, Christian, Wiccan, polytheists of any sort, whatever. Witches and witchcraft, for my definition of the term aren’t bound necessarily by any specific religious or spiritual paradigm, but rather in the practice of those arts.

I personally identify first as a Druid and Bard. My reasons for this are:

1. “Witch” is often conflated with “Wiccan” and as my religious beliefs and practices are NOT Wiccan, I find it easier to start at Druidry. Druidry is a nature-based spiritual philosophy which may be applied to a number of different sects of Celtic (and Indo-European if you’re a member of the ADF) polytheism as well as other more mainstream religious movements. Druidry is focused upon connection, care and respect for the natural world, and expression of creativity- usually with an emphasis on song and poetry I’ve found. It’s usually very much entwined with Celtic cultural values of hospitality, the sacred landscape, good humor and wit, etc. and as a spiritual philosophy is not as necessarily concerned with the “craft” part of my witchcraft definition.

2. My personal practice is, usually a lot less “witchcraft-y” and more spiritual. I spend a great deal more time wandering the woods, contemplating the universe and meditating than I do crafting spells and reading cards. Therefore to call myself solely a witch feels a bit.. fake.

If I were to define the type of witch I was, I would probably call myself a Druid-Witch, or a Witch of the Wild Hunt. Longtime followers of my blog will have noticed (scattered through here and probably difficult to find because when the hell do I ever actually post personal / original content?) that I work specifically with a version of the Wild Hunt and their horned god leader. For me, this path is first and foremost concerned with nature (particularly storms and the forest), connecting with it, knowing my local environment and its cycles and patterns, etc. On another level, I feel very much called to be a bard for said hunter deity. A lot of my path is made up of composing devotional poetry and artwork, recording the tales I uncover as well as my own adventures and growth. This path includes studying patterns of the stars- not just astrology but the actual dance of the constellations across my own sky. It includes keeping my home, and my altar, as hearth for my familiar spirits to rest and to speak with me. It includes journeying through trancework and meditation with those spirits and gods. But it very very rarely includes ritual, spell work, etc. I do those things, but they aren’t the bulk of what makes up my practice.

Right now, my “witchy” goals include finishing up the OBOD Bardic Grade course, learning palmistry, and taking up Welsh and harp playing as devotional work for my gods. There’s a long way to go, but I’m eager to get started.

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

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

YT Pagan Challenge: Sacred Spaces, Holy Sites, and Circle Casting

I had been hoping to film part of my eighth YT Pagan Challenge video outdoors in one of my on-campus sacred spaces, but it seems the weather is just not willing to agree with me. So, so I can give you all a bit of a visual, this post will be jam-packed full of pictures of the places I was talking about in the video.

First thing’s first: my on-campus sacred spaces. I am blessed to be going to a university that is filled with small garden spaces and has a sprawling expanse of wooded ravines hugging along the side of campus. In my five years here, I’ve been able to find a number of places to relax, be one with nature, and perform a few rituals and magical workings in. Three of the major places where I tend to hang out and do my workings are the arboretum, the garden behind the religious center on campus, and a grove back in the ravines behind the art building.

In each of these spaces, I’ve found little places to leave offerings, quiet spots to sit and meditate, and have even done a few rituals there.

The arboretum is full of places to explore, and I admittedly spend a lot more time there than anywhere else. There’s a stump I’ve found a short distance off of the path that I use frequently for spell work, and have left offerings at over the past few years. It happens also to overlook a ravine in a pretty straight shot to the grove I’d found in the woods as well.

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In the little garden behind the religious building on campus, there’s a statue of St. Francis that seems to have a presence and an energy all its own. I’ve made a habit of leaving little offerings in the hands of the statue whenever I go there to write, drum, meditate, etc.

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And then, of course, there is the grove in the ravines. It’s just off the path, and was shown to me by a good friend who graduated a couple of years ago. It’s often where I go if I’m looking to communicate with the Wylde Hunt while on campus, and has been the site for a couple of rituals. There’s a large three-trunked oak that sits in its center, and there are a few places to sit in little nooks between its roots. I like this place because it is a little further away from the main part of campus, and therefore quieter. You can’t hear the bells from the clock tower and are a lot less likely to see people wandering by. There’s also a fantastic view of the stars on clear nights.

Aside from these natural spaces, I do tend to do much of my ritual / meditation / etc. within the safety (and warmth!!!) of my dormitory bedroom, as well. My room is almost always decorated with pictures that are sacred, beautiful, inspiring, etc. to me and I try to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for myself to live/study/rest/etc. in and for my friends to visit.

My altar space is situated by the window, which overlooks a little courtyard and the woods beyond.While I’m at school, this is the most sacred space to me, and I work really hard to keep it that way while I’m here.

Of course, when I’m home for winter / spring / summer break, I have places where I go to practice as well. Due to the nature of the space situation in my parents’ home, most of those places are outdoors.

In my own backyard, I am again blessed to have a great expanse of land full of trees and a big ol’ forest beyond. In particular, there’s a small grove hidden among a bunch of pine and cedar trees where I do some more private rituals, and then there’s Treebeard, a cottonwood tree where I leave offerings, prayer ribbons, etc. and spend time enjoying the space on the shady hill just beneath him.

I’m also blessed to have other little places of beauty within my hometown such as the local state park, my local witchy shop, and my aunt’s gorgeous and wild garden. These are places that really make me feel attuned to the energies of the universe and the natural world, and where I like to perform tarot readings, have debates about different witchy/spiritual topics, etc. with my friends.

And of course, there are a number of places in Michigan that have spiritual significance to me. The biggest one is the Boyne/East Jordan/Charlevoix area up in the northern part of our lower peninsula. Over the years, it has been a place full of childhood memory as well as shared memories and explorations with one of my best friends, Mark.

Being a pagan who follows a primarily Celtic path and lives within the United States makes it a little difficult to visit holy sites associated with my practice. There are, no surprise, remarkably few here in the states. There are Native American sacred sites, but because that runs along the slippery slope of what is culturally appropriative and what is respect for the culture and traditions associated with those sites, you’ll note that none of the places I’ve shared above are tied to those places. I was fortunate enough, four years ago, to visit the United Kingdom and places like Stonehenge, Avebury, and Glastonbury. These are memories that I hold really dear to my heart, and feel very privileged to have experienced in my lifetime.

Two of my very favorite memories from my trip to the UK came from my experiences on the weekend we went visiting various sacred sites. While in Chalice Well Gardens, I’d sat down by the well head to meditate and get away from the rest of the crowd of students I was with for a while, and man and his young daughter sat down alongside of me. The little girl had to have been about 4 or 5 years old at most, and as most 4-5 year-olds are, she was a little rambunctious and was bouncing around a bit. Rather than be upset with her, or harsh, I heard her father very calmly explain this was a special place, and saw (much to my amazement and admiration really) her nod in understanding, and sit down to meditate with him.

The second vivid memory I hold dear from that trip (as far as sacred space and that goes) occurred while we were in Avebury. It was rather late, the sun was setting, and we really didn’t have much time to spend there, but I remember it being a much more tangible feeling of presence there. Perhaps it was because we could actually approach the stones; maybe it was just the liminal time of day we were there or the place itself. I couldn’t quite say.

As we wandered about the stones, we saw an older gentleman with rather wild grey curls sitting at the base of one of the smaller stones. He had candles, incense, etc. and was using dowsing rods. The rest of our group gave him sort of a wide berth, and I (as the sort of unofficial pagan authority of the crew) stood a respectable and out-of-earshot ways off, explaining to my roommate that he was probably using the dowsing rods to look for ley lines in the area. He then turned to look at us and asked: “Have you two got good imaginations on you?” We were a little surprised, but answered that yes, we supposed we did. “Do you know where the word imagination comes from?” We honestly weren’t sure. “I. Magi. Nation. A nation of magicians. Merlin is one of my guides, you know.” He then proceeded to tell us this tale about Merlin performing his first magic trick in the stone circle in which we stood: he’d turned a friend invisible and was unable to turn him back again. He also told us about how the Druids had used that place as a place for their initiations. I wasn’t at all sure on the historical accuracy of those things, but in the moment, you sort of wanted to suspend your disbelief. Awen was flowing, and you could almost see what he was describing in your mind’s eye. He then looked at us again and said: “I get Druid from both of you.” I was a little shocked because, of course, I was. I told him so, and he simply turned, and went back to his business of dowsing as though it had never happened. And for the life of me, I swear no one else seems to have seen or heard him say these things but my roommate and I. That is no doubt a mystery and a feeling I will remember for quite some time.

And finally, the last part for this prompt: circle casting. I’ll be honest, I don’t perform circle casting in my own work. For one, I’ve been studying off-and-on with a Druid organization for some time that doesn’t utilize them in their ritual formats. But, more importantly I find them to be distracting and a waste of energy and time. Circles, to my understanding, function for a few general purposes:

  1. To contain and thereby magnify energy raised during a working until it comes time to release it at the end of the ritual.
  2. To protect the individuals within and the magical working from the influence of any nasty / negative energy.
  3. To create a sort of liminal and marked out place in which a ritual can occur and entities (spirits, gods, whatever) may be more easily contacted.

However, as I’ve mentioned above, I don’t generally feel a need to do this. For starters, I always cleanse a place before I use it, and if appropriate might make small offerings to any outside spirits that might be poking about to say “Hey, please let me use this space for a bit.” I don’t perform rituals in places where negative energy is hanging about, and I certainly am confident enough in my own ability to raise and manipulate my own energy to not feel a need for the circle of protection, or the circle that focuses energy in an external space. I also work with many liminal deities. I think it’s very safe to assume I don’t need liminal space for them to get messages across. When I do a particular magical working, my own personal energy field acts in the way a circle might: raising, containing, and releasing energy for my working. It eliminates the need for a physical circle- which means less time/resources marking it out, and I don’t need to cut a door in it should I forget something (which I often do!). It also helps hone in my focus on the working at hand. I often find that by the time I draw and cast a circle, call the quarters, etc. I’m quite distracted from what I was originally intending to accomplish.

Please note, I’m not bashing on anyone who uses circles. They can be quite useful to one’s practice especially when you’re just beginning! I just don’t feel a need to use them.

And, thus concludes a very long blog post. Thank you for hanging in there and reading if you’ve made it this far.

Love and blessings to you all
-Rachel

Winter Break: Looking Forward

The semester is at its end, and that means that Yule is fast approaching. The Fall 2016 semester has been, without a single doubt, the hardest and most taxing semester for me emotionally, spiritually, etc. since my first semester at college (and maybe even fall of last year and all associated drama). My academic courses were challenging, and I experienced a total upheaval of some things within my own interpersonal relationships; that is the reason for my relative silence on the blog over the last several months. I’ve lost a couple of people along they way- and fallen short on a lot of projects that I’d hope to have going throughout the course of this semester. At times lately, it feels as though I’ve sort of pushed myself back to zero- but I know better. I’ve learned a great deal about myself in regards to my own limits, thoughts, means of self-expression, etc. And I’ve learned a great deal in the terms of time management, dealing with other people, and more.

I’ve seen a few posts floating around that explained how, numerologically, 2016 was a ‘9 Year’: a time for dramatic changes, the shaking up of foundations, etc. I know that nationally (as an American), and globally, I’ve seen that to be true; although I won’t comment on politics and the like here (I don’t feel as though I’m well-informed enough, and quite frankly, that wasn’t my hopes for this post). And, as I’ve indicated above, I’ve seen a great deal of this theme of loss, chaos, change, etc. in my personal life as well. 2017, however, is meant to be a ’10 Year’: one for new beginnings and fresh starts. I’m really hoping that holds true as I look at what a mess is still sort of left over from this year.

As ready for a rest from 2016 as I am- as much as I want to just close my eyes and find some form of peace as we creep into the holiday season- I know that I must be more mindful than that. This past Full Moon (12/14/16) in Gemini reminded me that rest is important- but so is mindful release of all that negative crap that might still be lingering. As this final month of 2016 starts to wind towards its end, I find myself needing to look both at my past (to synthesize what has happened, to finalize those lessons learned, and to determine which things need to continue into the future), and to the future. So many changes are coming for me within the first few months of 2017. I’ll be starting my final semester of college (this time with a significantly larger amount of time to myself which I’ll have to learn how to handle), I’ll be graduating and taking those first steps into the ‘real adult world’, and moving over one thousand miles away to live in Florida with my boyfriend of four years. There is a great deal of planning to be done if these things are to be done successfully.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be journaling about all of these things, and coming up with new plans for my personal practice, this blog, and my YouTube channel for the coming year. I was not as active here as I had hoped to be, and I’m hoping some better planning and reevaluating of where I’m at will help to change that in 2017.

Until next time,
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.

A Tarot Spread: The Wylde Hunt

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Shown here: The Wildwood Tarot

Hello, all. I promised myself I would do some more posting this week, and school and the like got a bit crazy. However, I do have this to share with you guys: a tarot spread I designed based on the Wylde Hunt.

The Hart: Describes the goal you are/ perhaps should be pursuing

The Hounds: These cards represent what things/people might help you in the pursuit of your goal. They help you to ‘sniff out’ and track your progress, and assist in bringing you to your goal.

The Forest/Environment: This position describes external forces that might be affecting your pursuit of this goal: possible obstacles OR favourable conditions.

The Hunter: You in this situation, and how you are handling the hounds and your environment in pursuit of this goal.

The Arrow: The action you should take to really cement your success and ensure your goal is met.

What goals and dreams are you pursuing? What is it your soul is searching for? And what things will help you along your way?

Forest Blessings,
Rachel