Ritual at the Hunter’s Moon

This past full moon, often called the Hunter’s Moon, marked my eighth year in working with the Wylde Hunt. This year has already made me keenly aware of how quickly time can fly by. An eight-year milestone in something that still feels so new to my path is mind boggling to me, and yet… here I am nonetheless.

I typically mark the Hunter’s Moon each year. It’s become something of a tradition to honor my relationship with my hunter god and his cohort then. Autumn has well and truly fallen upon us now. Samhain isn’t far behind. The winds are fierce and chill. It is their season, after all. That this Hunter’s Moon fell upon the anniversary date of that fateful evening in my parents’ backyard felt especially potent.

The past five months or so have also revolved around beginning a new chapter in my life. I touched on this in my post for Lughnasadh, but much has changed in my life. A couple big moves. A new career choice, new relationship. The freedom of having my own vehicle. My time since last year’s Hunter’s Moon has been spent in a sort of transient path of self discovery- I’m not actually certain that it’s ended yet. This season, I believe, has been a lesson in realizing there needn’t always be a direction or a plan.

At any rate, I wanted to mark the occasion with something special, and also to reaffirm my path which had been left to the wayside for months while I was in Georgia and in the process of moving and settling in again. The ritual I constructed drew on a few different things that had been potent to me in the past. One of them was Damh the Bard’s post about the Ritual of the Wild. Another was a rite originally dedicated to the Washer at the Ford aspect of the Morrigan found in Stephanie Woodfield’s book Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan. There were also some affirmations made along the way through my Bardic Studies that found their way into this ritual. What it resulted in was a potent ritual of rebirth and reaffirmation of my path.

It was cold, but clear that night, and the moon rose quickly to cast its silver glow on the whole of our yard. I gathered a vessel of water, an offering of whiskey, and some herbs I had blended and stepped out into the night. It was too windy for fire, and so I brought a small flashlight with which to read my notes by.

The night wasn’t as quiet as I’d hoped. Somewhere in the distance, a boat horn could be heard loudly and intermittently blasting from over the bay and the river to the south east (My girlfriend later pointed out: was it a boat horn? or the hunter’s horn? I’m sure I know the truth, but the more imaginative answer makes me feel less frustrated by it in hindsight). It had been ages since I’d cast a circle. Doing so just felt natural though; how many times had I walked that same circular path around our firepit? I couldn’t say, but the energy of that memory bolstered me.

I called for peace at the quarters, and stood, facing the northwest and the forest I couldn’t see in the darkness. I called to the Hunters then. Sometimes, the reassurance of something larger than ourselves is subtle- a gentle rise in the winds and in the whispering of the cottonwoods overhead, a certain rising of goosebumps on the skin. 

I returned to the center, where I’d placed my tools on the cold stones of the firepit. A little billow of ash danced in the wind and off into the darkness. I emptied the herbs I’d prepared into the water, and I called to the Hunters for rebirth. I meditated a moment on the things I wished to leave behind, on the person I wished to become. And then, as the oils and herbs had steeped the water, I washed my hands with it, symbolically scrubbing away the old and worn out things that were holding me back.

Then I knelt and placed my head to the ground, and using some of the dialogue from Damh’s Ritual of the Wild and affirmations I’d used along my bardic studies, I spoke my desires into being. I struggled a little with remembering the words- but then felt a gentle reassurance: “Just speak from your heart.” I spoke aloud affirmations about feeling renewed on my path, about finding my place as a teacher and using my skills to guide others. I affirmed a release of relationships and toxic behaviors that hold me back. I spoke of living more fully and completely in the world- whatever joys or struggles that might entail.

As I stood, the wind gently rose again, bitterly cold from the northwest. And I raised my offering to the Hunters. Another turning has come, and I walk with renewed purpose. I buried in the soft ground around the firepit some wooden staves marked with the things I intended to leave behind and those I wished to manifest, and the necessity of change and transformation to achieve that end. I thanked the Hunters for their guidance, and I opened my circle.

My mind’s eye is always a little more colorful and dramatic as I’m preparing rituals. It’s why I’ve quit truly planning them altogether. The thing I’ve learned about initiations and dedications however, is that the shift in question has already begun long before the ritual take place. The ritual simply calls it into your conscious mind; the changes have been being made, little by little, for some time. And so, it needn’t be a flashy dramatic ritual with intense supernatural experiences. Sometimes, subtlety is even more potent.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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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

Lughnasadh: Reflections on Summer

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My “wicker” man perched atop my altar.

It feels like ages since I’ve posted, and yet like the summer has absolutely flown by in the blinking of an eye. A great deal has happened and it feels like a great unraveling and re-weaving of a tapestry. It’s all seemed a blur, but I’m able to sit now and reflect and give thanks for the process though I know the work is not yet over… but after all, that is what Lughnasadh is about, isn’t it? Giving thanks for the first fruits of our labor though we know there is still much left to do.

In the past months since posting, I’ve moved back to Michigan from Georgia and, on mutual terms, ended the long-term relationship I’d been in. I left a living and job situation that was not promoting growth and stability like I had hoped that it would. The stars (or energies, or whatever) aligned so that I was able to get my job back in my home town, and I have my own little bit of space in my parents’ house. Right now, I’m looking at returning to school to become an English teacher. I have the freedom to drive where I please. There’s a great deal I’ve been thinking and feeling, that for sake of privacy I won’t divulge here, but for the first time in I can’t quite remember when… I feel happy and fulfilled and hopeful for the future.

This year, as I was crafting my “wicker” man (he’s truthfully made out of sticks, wild grapevine, leaves, tigerlilly stems, and all manner of other foliage from my back yard), I began with a poppet. I’d wanted him to be a little bit more stable, but I also decided to fill him with written prayers of thanks, affirmations of the personal transformations I’ve been undergoing, herbs and scraps from spells over the past winter, and all my hope for the coming fall and winter.

Lughnasadh has always been for me one of those important touchstone holidays. I may skip nearly every other sabbat in the Wheel of the Year, but I’ll find time to bake and to get crafty and gather friends together to mark the start of Summer’s end. I make the first pumpkin bread of the year. The Halloween costume shops start to crop up around town. There’s a cool breeze now and again in the air that smells like the coming rains of autumn. The leaves and grasses are more yellowed with the languid late-July/early-August heat, and the spring and summer flowers are fading away. Crows have moved into my family’s yard and chatter away each morning. The countdown to the renaissance festival has begun.

As I write this, my bread has just finished baking and my wickerman is perched upon the altar awaiting a small rite tomorrow. I am deeply thankful for the lessons and the strength the beginning of 2019 has given me. I look forward to whatever the coming months have in store.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

The Wyldewood Grove Discord Server

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Picture above originally by forgotten-tale on deviantart. Edits made by me.

It occurs to me that I have shared links to this on Tumblr, but not yet on WordPress or my other social media platforms, but I’ve recently created a server on Discord geared towards building community and sharing information with fellow witches, pagans, druids, etc.  It’s called the Wyldewood Grove, and is intended for folks 18 years or older who are interested in chatting with like minded people, sharing anything from art to spell ideas or even recipes, and more.

I’m learning the in’s and out’s of operating and maintaining the server as we go, as I’m relatively new to Discord myself, but the community we have started is welcoming and supportive, and I’m very proud with how it’s been growing over the past couple of months.

The server itself is divided into a couple of sections: The Seedlings section is where new members will land when first entering the server. This contains the very basic rules of the server, a place for introductions, and a chat that’s open to folks who’ve not been given access to the rest of the server. The rest of the channels on the server are private for members only and are made up of:

The Campfire: a place for general chat and community building. This category also contains channels for witchy swaps, sharing on-going art projects, music, interesting articles and resources.

The Grove: the bulk of the server is The Grove: these are the specialized channels geared towards particular pagan paths and specific interests. Topics include Druidry, Hellenic paganism, divination, kitchen/hearth magic, garden magic, working with fae, and much much more.

The Stone Circle: gets its name from the idea that ancient stone circles were used as a sort of means of tracking the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. This category contains topics for lunar/star magic and astrology discussion.

We also currently have a running Dungeons & Dragons campaign going with a few members of the server!

So, if you’re looking for a fun and supportive community of fellow witches/pagans/druids/etc. to connect with online, consider giving our server a look: https://discord.gg/WhZV8SZ .

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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

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.

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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

Hunters’ Engyln

Over several months, I’ve been playing around with different poetry styles and formats, and so as Winter rears its head, a snow and Wylde Hunt inspired group of englynion for you all to enjoy!

Shrine to the Horned One

Heavy laden with snow, the pines leaning
With ice gleaming—bend in time
To hoofbeats: the seven-tined

Lord of Hunters, he cloaked in feathers comes.
Beating hearts drum—break tethers—
Vanish in mists and heather.

Riders on the icy night winds beckon:
“Heed not reckoning nor sin.
Wildness comes and stirs within!”

Thinking About: My Neo-Paganism

The Wild Unknown Tarot and Candle

Today, I was forwarded an article by Sarah Anne Lawless, titled “For Sale: Neopganism ‘As Is'”. It’s a powerful read, and I do recommend you head over and give it a look if you haven’t seen it floating about the good ol’ neopagan / witchy online community already. I won’t expound too much upon the details within the article. This is meant to be a response to it, not a review or criticism of it. In this poignant work of prose, Sarah Anne Lawless calls attention to the misinformation, lack of consistency, and abuse facing the community at-large.

Some of the information presented: about the origins of the religious and spiritual movements I have been / currently am a part of, about some of the abuse within the community, about the incorrect ‘historical’ information that is often given in widely published books on the topic, was not foreign to me. I spent a great deal of time in my under-grad applying my newly-acquired skills of research to that which was near and dear to my heart: my spirituality.  Some of the information was new, and I admit I was a little heart-broken to hear so many stories of abuse and manipulation associated with something that has brought me so much joy, learning, and purpose in life.

With the negativity floating about in the rest of the world and with as entrenched into the neo-pagan community as these issues seem, it feels very easy to become dejected and hopeless. I don’t want to let that get me down; I want to use it as a motivation for change.

My response to this article is not to review it and dissect it, but to acknowledge that there are real problems that I as a young adult within the community, as a blogger, as a person capable of speaking out about these things want to work to change- and must change if I want the neo-pagan community to be a safe place in the future for myself, for my friends, and for the future generations.

I wanted this post to be a promise to myself, to those who follow this blog, and those affected by my actions within the community:

This is a promise that I will be one-hundred percent honest in the historical context of my spiritual traditions. That I will not willing spread mis-information, and work to correct it should I accidentally do so. That my study will be not of just mass-produced books touting appropriation and misinformation as “ancient tradition” but tempered with actual research, and acknowledgement of what I was inspired by and what is of my own creation. I will not stand for blatantly appropriative behavior in the community. We can share and be inspired by one-another without claiming something as our own.

This is a promise that my neo-paganism is centered in nature-centric and animistic beliefs, and that it honors the past without attempting to claim it. It is a promise that sex and sexuality, while natural, are honored and treated appropriately. I will not stand for sexual abuse in our community. I will not stand for manipulation and abuse of any sort within our community.

This is a promise that my blog and the spaces that I hold on the internet are, and will continue to be safe spaces for people regardless of age, sex, gender, race, etc.

This post stands as an acknowledgement that I am not, and never have been perfect. Humans make mistakes. Well-meaning people spread things without realizing the effect. But this is a promise that I will continue to try and do better in the future.

Let’s make our community better. Let’s get back to the things that matter: personal spiritual growth and caring for one another and our world.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Tools of the Trade: My Must-Haves

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I want to preface this post by saying that tools and all of the props and decor are not at all necessary for a fulfilling and powerful magical and spiritual practice. What follows are simply my personal beliefs and the tools that have become essential in my own practice. Below are my “must-haves”: the things that I have come to feel are an integral part of how I follow my spiritual path. I won’t include things like candles, herbs, crystals, etc. because they seem a little obvious and

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Drums: I’d been on a hunt for a proper hand drum for ages before finally finding mine in the autumn of 2016. Yes, trance work can be done with chanting, mantras, rattles, etc. I admit that there were things I could have done in the meantime, but found that old baggage about how my voice sounds and personal preferences were holding me back (things I’ve since released). The drum is primal, ancient, earthy. The ability to disappear into the trees and lose myself in a rhythm has been the most cathartic gift to self ever.

img_3048.jpgAthame/Dagger: I began my path with Wicca, in which the Athame, or ritual dagger, holds a great deal of symbolism. My first was actually nothing more than a letter opener, as the Athame is usually not supposed to be sharp. It was something I maintained in my magical arsenal for a long time simply because a) I liked the aesthetic of it, and b) I was the only one in my group of witchy friends who owned one. It was sort of a group-use tool that got brought out for big rituals, but sat on my altar collecting dust otherwise.

A camping trip in 2013, shortly after my journey with the Wylde Hunt had begun really changed the use of the dagger for me. By then, I’d turned 18 and purchased a blade with a bit of an edge to it. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten to pack any form of scissors or utility blade for cutting rope, opening the packages of the food we’d brought, etc. Faced with this dilemma, I came to the conclusion: If a member of the Wylde Hunt was placed in a similar situation, they’d undoubtedly use the blade they had- ritualistic or not.

Ever since the blade has served both purposes for me. It is both there for the ritual symbolism, and a practical tool. Its edge cuts cords and other spell components, primarily. I don’t really do much actual hunting and, thankfully, have never needed to use it for any manner of defensive measures.

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Vessel: Speaking of tools meant mostly for utility purposes: I always keep some manner of bowl/vessel/etc. on my altar. It acts as a containment for water for ritual purposes, acts as a place to put offerings when performing rites indoors, and a safe place for sage bundles and the like when cleansing.

Divination Tools: My spiritual practice began with an interest in divination and it has remained an invaluable tool in my life. Tarot, runes, and a scrying mirror make up the main of my divination practice, though I focus most on tarot. Divination, for me, is both a means for communicating with the divine / universal energies, and recognizing patterns in mundane matters of my life.

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The Lantern: This is the newest tool on the list in terms of its integration into my spiritual practice. After several months of being bombarded in meditations with images of a moon goddess carrying such a lantern, I finally purchased one to place upon the altar. I light this lantern at the beginning of each working and during my study sessions. For me, it is the light of this mysterious goddess guiding me through the dark and murky parts of life. It is a light of guidance, inspiration, hope- an urge to keep going.  It is lit in devotion of the goddess in hopes that her light might show me the way.

And that pretty much concludes my list of “essentials” for my own practice! What sort of tools do you find most important in your practice? What sort of uses do they have? Leave comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel