Friends of Like Mind

Occasionally I hear someone criticize others who “only associate with people who agree with them”. Is that really such a bad thing? That’s how you make friends, after all, with things in common, similar beliefs and interests.

Hey, there’s an interesting word: Friend.

How do you define true friendship? Who are your true friends?

Is it true friendship if your Christian “friend” thinks you’re going to burn in Hell? I don’t think so. Is it true friendship if your conservative “friend” doesn’t think you should have the same rights they do? I don’t think so. This is not about “hating” people who believe differently. It’s about associating with people who are truly supportive of who you are and who really want you to be happy. Let’s face it, that’s not everyone.

I do have a few friends with different religious/spiritual beliefs who are quite supportive, non-judgmental, and are genuinely concerned about my happiness. We acknowledge that we have different beliefs, but we don’t hate or look down on each other because of it. Unfortunately in today’s society, this is the exception rather than the rule.

If someone has different views than you, it doesn’t mean you have to hate them. It also doesn’t mean you have to be their friend. I have aquaintances and people I interact with that have drastically different views and beliefs than I do. I don’t shun them, (well, maybe some I do), but most of them are not in my “circle of friends”. I see nothing wrong with that.

News Flash: You don’t have to be friends with everybody.

It has also been suggested that by sharing personal views, we are contributing to the hate in the world, since there are others who will disagree with us. Does that mean we should refrain from speaking what we think, feel or believe, lest we step on someone’s delicate toes? I don’t think so. We all have opinions. We all have minds of our own. Perhaps it is the way in which we share our thoughts and beliefs that needs to change. I tend to be straight-forward. I do believe in peaceful solutions, but at the same time I’m not passive in the least. I believe in speaking out and taking action. Peace isn’t always passive.

If someone is being outwardly hateful and malicious toward you because of who/what you are, then it has to be addressed, though some will say you’re creating more conflict by addressing it. Will ignoring it make it go away? In some cases, perhaps, but not always.

I have a hard time with the word Tolerance. When you tolerate someone, it means you really don’t like them but you’re putting up with them. Tolerance is not acceptance. For me, it’s not about liking them or not liking them. I simply accept that they are someone who has different views than I do. Unless they’re being outwardly hateful and malicious, I will do my best to treat them with the same dignity and respect that everyone deserves. It doesn’t mean I have to pretend we’re friends. And that’s OK.

As the saying goes, “Friends of a feather flock together”.

Choose your friends carefully…

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“Friends of a feather flock together”

Symbols of Celtic Magic

trinityThe Triquetra or what some call the “trinity knot” is an ancient symbol that most people might recognize from the Charmed TV series. The word ‘triquetra’ originally meant ‘triangle’ and was used to describe triangle-shaped objects. It has pre-Christian origins and some scholars say it was originally a symbol of the Goddess. Over time, it was co-opted by the Celtic Christian Church to represent the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Still, modern pagans, witches and druids use the symbol to represent the three aspects of the Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) or the triplicity of Nature (Land, Sea and Sky). Some associate this symbol with Body, Mind and Spirit. Many witches will wear a triquetra pendant if they are not comfortable wearing a Pentacle ( a 5-poined star in a circle). In our modern times, the Triquetra has become associated as a symbol of Celtic Witchcraft and magic, although some Christians still use it as well.
tumblr_static_triple-spiral-4turns_green_transparentatqauThe Triskele or Triskelion is another symbol with three points representing Land, Sea and Sky. This symbol consists of three interlocked spirals. At second glance it appears to be spinning, indicating motion and progress. This is one of the main symbols used by Druids, Celtic Pagans and those who practice a Celtic form of Wicca.

thThe AWEN symbol is the primary symbol of Druidry. ‘Awen’ is an old Welsh word that means “poetic inspiration”. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids describe the three lines as rays emanating from three points of light, with those points representing the triple aspect of deity and the points at which the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices – known as the Triad of the Sunrises. The emblem is surrounded by three circles representing the three circles of creation. There are many layers of meaning to this symbol. The three dots represent the three sacred drops of ‘poetic inspiration’ that flew out of Cerridwen’s cauldron onto Gwion Bach’s thumb. Those familiar with this ancient story know that when Gwion Bach put his thumb in his mouth, he ingested the three drops and was thus imbued with all of the magical wisdom of Cerridwen. Various Neo-druid groups and individuals have their own interpretation of the Awen. The three lines relate to earth, sea and air; body, mind and spirit; or love, wisdom and truth. It is also said that the Awen stands for not simply inspiration, but for inspiration of truth; without Awen one cannot proclaim truth. The three foundations of Awen are the understanding of truth, the love of truth, and the maintaining of truth. The rays also stand for the letters from which all others evolved: I, O, and U.

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The Celtic Knot Circle has interlacing lines that stand for “No beginning, No ending”, continuity and intertwining. It represents how we are all connected to each other. In the Circle we stand as equals.

$(KGrHqVHJB8F!lZIlZbYBQZd-+mHbw~~60_35The Celtic Tree of Life is another many-layered symbol. It represents balance and harmony in Nature, Wisdom, Strength and long life. It also represents rebirth. Just a tree sheds it’s leaves in the Fall, and hibernates in the Winter, it is ‘reborn’ with new leaves in the Spring. The Tree of Life unites the Upper and Lower worlds. It’s roots reach deep into the Lower World, while the branches reach high into the Upper world. The trunk of the tree connects the two worlds to the Middle world (the material plane). It is through this commection that Celtic Gods and Goddesses can communite with people, through the Tree of Life. It is bleieved that the Druids regarded the trees and living, magical beings. Trees were considered a doorway to the spirit world. There are many meditative practices that incorporate the visualization of a tree.

The Ogham is an early medieval alphabet used to write the early English language and later the old Irish language. There are roughly 400 inscriptions on stone monuments throughout Ireland and western Britain. The largest number outside Ireland are in Wales. The Oghma is also called by some the Celtic Tree Alphabet, as it is believed the names of various trees can be ascribed to individual letters. The symbols are read from bottom to top. Below are charts that show the Ogham symbols and their tree associations.

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To see what your name looks like in Ogham script, visit this link.

There are many more Celtic symbols, some that contain various animals and other Celtic knotwork, however, in this article I wanted to share some of the ones I use in my own practice. I also use the Pentacle, since I combine Druidry with Witchcraft.

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Pride is Political

bannerfans_17767308Being a witch is not just about casting spells and lighting candles. If you identify as witch/wiccan/pagan/druid/whatever, it is your duty to speak out against injustice and be an advocate for others, especially where equal rights and discrimination are concerned. If you do not support such things as equality and gay marriage, then you have no business calling yourself a witch. I rarely get political on this blog, but I think I should have been moreso in the past. The recent shooting at a gay club in Orlando, that killed 49 people and wounded 50 others, should never have happened. Some people complained that the incident was being “politicized” when it was partly because of American politics that this happened in the first place. Yes, we should be mourning the victims, but we should also be mobilized to push for change. Even though Gay Marriage is now legal in all 50 states, there are still several states in the USA where those in the LGBT community are not protected and can still be discriminated against. In some states, gay people can still get fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied housing and other services just for being gay. As someone said, “You can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday”. THIS HAS TO CHANGE. Tolerance is not Acceptance. You tolerate a headache. Some businesses are using “religious freedom” as an excuse to deny services to gay people. This so-called “religious freedom” is just a fancy word for bigotry and discrimination. Since I follow the path of Witchcraft as a religion, could I use the same “religious freedom” to deny service to Christians? After all, many of their beliefs are against my religion. I do have some Christian friends who, thankfully, are not extremist nut-cases. Even though the LGBT community is becoming more accepted, there is still a lot of hate toward us in this country. Muslim extremists want to kill anyone who isn’t Muslim. Christian extremists want to force everyone to become Christian. Much of the hate toward the LGBT community has been perpetuated by religious extremists, republicans and other right-wing maniacs. There are republicans who pray for our death in their assemblies and seek to take away what few equal rights we have. This climate of hate contributed to the attack in Orlando. Like it or not, PRIDE IS POLITICAL. Some news agencies are refusing to use the words “gay”, “gay club” or “hate crime”. They refuse to call it a hate crime. The Pulse nightclub was not randomly chosen as some are mistakenly saying. Omar Marteen drove 2 hours from his home to attack that specific club. It was absolutely 100% a hate crime and an act of terror. The month of June happens to be National LGBT Pride Month.

gradient21Homosexuality is not immoral. It is not a learned behavior. It is not a choice. It is not shameful. It is not a “sin”. It is not an abomination. It is not unnatural. Being gay is as natural to gay people as being heterosexual is to those who are heterosexual. To all of the Christians who call us immoral and say we’re going to “burn in Hell” for being gay, we say FUCK YOU. To all of the conservatives and republicans who want to deny us the same equal rights as everyone else just because we’re gay, we say FUCK YOU. To all of the gun-nuts who continue to defend their right to own military-grade assault weapons, even after all the bloodshed, we say FUCK YOU. You are partially to blame for what happened in Orlando. Do you have no conscience? It is appalling that America is a country where any racist, homophobe, religious extremist or mentally-deranged person can buy a military-grade assault weapon with no questions asked. THIS HAS TO CHANGE. America has the highest rate of gun violence than any country in the world. This is a known fact. To all the conservatives who refuse to acknowledge that what happened in Orlando was an attack on the LGBT community, we say FUCK YOU. Your blind denial is baffling. We have to show the bigots, homophobes and religious extremists that WE ARE NOT INTIMIDATED and we are NOT BACKING DOWN. We will continue to push for full equality across the nation.

Every one of them is GUILTY.

Every one of them is GUILTY.

People make some very stupid arguments when try to defend their right to own assault weapons. They say “Don’t you want to be protected?” Really? Is an AR-15 the only weapon you can use to defend yourself? They say “Banning these weapons will not stop the violence”. No, not completely, but it could decrease the death toll considerably. They say, “Criminals can still obtain them illegally”, So does that mean we should make them available to anyone and everyone, no questions asked? I DON’T THINK SO.

A5VB_1_20150601426415099Every person who identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender should be involved in equal rights activism in one way or another. You can’t afford to be passive, or you may wake up one day and find that what few equal rights you had have been taken away. Offer your support to groups like the Human Rights Campaign or the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Write to congress. Attend rallies. Sign petitions. Use social media to raise awareness about discrimination and injustices committed against the LGBT community. Boycott companies with anti-LGBT policies. Make people aware of which local politicians and members of congress vote for equality, and those who vote against it. Share links on Facebook and Twitter to Equal Rights groups so more people will know how and where they can get involved and offer their support. PRIDE IS POLITICAL.

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Tarot & Ego

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I once belonged to a group of tarot readers, an online forum where readers could share ideas and insights about the world of tarot. This group has thousands of members worldwide and it seems to be a great place for networking with fellow readers. However, the past few days I encountered something very disturbing, which caused me to voluntarily leave the group. Someone had posted a question out of concern for one of their friends. The friend had called a tarot-by-phone service, and was charged $200 for the reading. There was concern that this friend had been scammed. To my astonishment, I began to see posts from people stating how much they charged for readings, both in person and over the phone. Some of them charged $100, $200, even $300 or more for readings. When I suggested that those prices might be unethical, they became quite defensive. One by one, more people chimed in, and it became quickly apparent how widespread this has become. Some had the audacity to ask “How is this unethical”? They were actually defending their right to charge hundreds of dollars for their readings. Unbelievable. I realized this was not a group I wanted any part of. To not see this as unethical, they are either extremely greedy or arrogant beyond belief. After all, they must feel that their abilities are so amazing they can charge such ridiculous prices. Perhaps it would be better if I skipped paying rent this month, or go without food, just so I can pay for one of their incredible readings. I’m being sarcastic, of course, but this is the impression one gets.

These practitioners are preying on those who are vulnerable and easily-manipulated. Some view themselves as celebrities, and because of their perceived status and “years of experience” they feel justified charging high prices. They believe they can charge so much because of who they are, and the reading has become more about them and less about you. The unfortunate thing is, as long as people are gullible enough to pay these prices, readers will continue to charge them. I really think there should be some kind of government regulation that controls how much people charge for readings. Laws vary from state-to-state, but in some places, it is illegal to market yourself as a “fortune teller” and you are required to tell your clients that your readings are “for entertainment purposes only”. Not that anyone really believes that.

I don’t consider myself an expert tarot reader, but I would certainly never call myself one, no matter how much experience I had. I charge a small flat fee for all readings and I do not place a time limit on them. I think that’s only fair. I’m more concerned about helping the person who has come for the reading than I am about how much money they’re paying me. It’s not about the money. Tarot is a service that I offer to help people, I do not seek to make a living from it. I don’t do readings for free, but I purposely keep my prices low so the average person can afford them. I saw one tarot reader at a beach resort who was charging different prices for ½ deck readings and ¼ deck readings or readings just from the Major Arcana. Not even a whole deck. You can’t tell me that this is ethical in any way.

No tarot reader is worth 300 dollars. How “good” or accurate they are is completely irrelevant. Do not be taken advantage of. You can find other tarot readers who charge much less, and they can be just as good, maybe even better than the one who wants you to pay them 200-300 dollars. Whatever happened to “payment in kind”, “whatever you can afford” or “exchange of services”? I’m not entirely convinced that tarot reading should be someone’s sole source of income. Even the full-time witches that I know offer a wide variety of services, not just one specific skill, and they don’t charge triple-digits for them. Tarot readers should be accessible to everyone, not just those who have a few extra hundred dollars to throw around. The average person can’t afford 200+ dollars for a reading. For most people, that is just not a reality. I’m also a little leery of the dollar-per-minute readers, simply because I would have to keep one eye on the clock to  make sure I don’t go over what I’m able to pay. I rarely go to others for tarot readings anymore, as I can read for myself. I’ve used the same deck for years and I have a strong connection to it. When I do readings for others, some people would be shocked out of their minds to know I only charge $20 for readings. How dare I do such a thing.

10 Ways to Magically De-Stress the Workplace

Stress-Pie-Chart-259x300Numerous studies have shown that the major source of stress for most people is related to their jobs and the workplace. Domineering bosses, a heavy workload, deadlines and unusually high expectations contribute to stress in the workplace worldwide. This in turn cause many people to develop health problems that include high blood pressure, depression and anxiety disorders. I have seen this particularly in the customer service field, in which I have some experience.

I will share with you a horror story from a job I once had…

I have had more than one job where those in management would mistreat their staff. Some employees don’t complain for fear of losing their jobs, and sometimes when they do complain, it does no good. If you are asked to take your complaints through the “chain of command”, this does not always work when someone in the “chain of command” is part of the problem. All of this contributes to high stress levels. Many moons ago, I worked as a teller for the now-defunct Great Western Bank when I lived in San Jose, California. The money was good, but the working conditions were terrible. One of the supervisors was insulting and verbally abusing staff on a regular basis, often leaving people in tears. Whenever someone would complain, we were told this supervisor was “having personal problems” and that this somehow excused their abusive behavior. Add to this the fact that at this particular job, there were a hundred and one things that could get you fired. The branch manager was constantly reminding us how easily we could be terminated if we stepped out of line. And indeed, it seemed as though someone was getting fired every week. The atmosphere in the bank was always filled with tension, and we were all wondering who would be next! Eventually, it was my turn for the chopping block. I had returned from a 3-day vacation, after which I was called into the office and informed that $100 in Traveler’s Cheques had gone missing from the vault. And, since I was the only one responsible (other than a supervisor) for keeping track of the traveler’s cheques, then naturally they assumed I was the one who took them. They were asking me questions like “How are things at home?” “Are you struggling financially?” Anything they could find to determine why I would have stolen the traveler’s cheques. But the thing is, I did not take them. I wasn’t the only person who had access to them. The other person was a supervisor, and whenever we counted them at the end of the day, we had to sign both of our signatures. The supervisor was never questioned, and I was the one who got fired. All of this happened a very long time ago, and I can only assume it was the supervisor who took them and then placed the blame on me. How is that for job stress? When I left there that day, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. Even though the pay was good, even though I was temporarily out of a job, I would no longer have to deal with all the nonsense and drama. Fortunately at the time I had other options. Some employees continued working there because they had no other options.

Which brings me to another point: If one of your co-workers complains about their job, it’s not fair to say to them “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?” Many people stay at jobs they hate because they don’t have a choice. They still have rent and bills to pay. They might have kids at home that need food. It’s not as simple as “If you don’t like it, then leave”. Some people can’t “just leave”, as much as they may want to. Show some compassion.

Over time, I found ways to help me deal with stress on the job, no matter where I was working. Depending on your work environment, you may not be able to implement all of these suggestions, but some of them you may find easy to do.

1: ENERGY CLEARING ROOM SPRAY

tumblr_o2i5frx9hP1uxyfzmo1_500You can create an energy clearing room spray using Sage or Lemongrass essential oils and distilled water. There are a couple of ways to do this. The simple way is to mix 3 ounces of distilled or spring water, 1 teaspoon of vodka and 10-18 drops of Sage essential oil. (A great combination I like to use is 10 drops of Sage and 10 drops of Lavender). Also add a pinch of sea salt. A glass spray bottle is ideal, but plastic will work as well. Place a small crystal in the bottle, either Amethyst or Rose Quartz. Before anyone arrives, spray the solution all around your work area, room or anywhere you want to neutralize harmful energies. Sage is a powerful plant that disperses those yucky energies and clears the room for beneficial ones. A more potent spray can be made by simmering sage leaves and lavender flowers in a pot on the stove for about 30 minutes. Strain out the herbs and allow the water to cool, then add to the bottle with the other ingredients.

2: CREATIVE VISUALIZATION

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Before anyone arrives, sit down, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Visualize your work area completely filled with blue light and say three times, “This is a place of peace and tranquility” or “I will react in peace and do my work in peace” or “All who enter this area will be filled with peace”.

3: CRYSTALS

111-MM-NATURAL-gigante-quartzo-rosa-bola-Pink-Crystal-pedra-esfera-curaCarefully placed crystals can work in subtle ways to neutralize harmful energies and bring peace to the work environment. Place a large piece of Rose Quartz on your desk, on a table, or on the windowsill. If you can’t afford a large crystal, then fill a glass bowl with small Rose Quartz and Amethyst crystals. Those who are unaware of crystal magic will see them merely as a piece of office décor, but you will know they are working to clear the air of tension and bring peaceful energy into your work environment. Place your crystal where it will be seen by those who come into work area. I do not recommend Clear Quartz, as this stone is an amplifier. If someone has strong emotions such as anger, fear or stress, Clear Quartz will only increase those energies. Amethyst or Rose Quartz are recommeded as stress-reducing stones.

4: ESSENTIAL OILS

essentialoilI have a bottle of Lavender essential oil I keep in my workspace, and I put a few drops on my wrists and temples when I am feeling stressed at work. You can make your own relaxing essential oil blend by mixing a few of your favorite scents together in a special bottle to keep at work.

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5: SCENTED CANDLES

503bb59ff58f567cedb5653529ec7b46Place a scented candle with a relaxing, calming scent somewhere in your work area where will it be out of the way and undisturbed. Be sure to keep it away from curtains or anything flammable. Some candles are so strong they don’t even have to be lit, but if you can light it, all the better. Light and floral scents work great. You’ll know it is working when people walk into your work area and say “Oh, it smells good in here” or “I smell flowers”. If you can use them at work, scented candles are a great way to bring peaceful energies into your work environment.

6: TAROT

It’s always good to get an idea of what your work day will be like. Purchase a tarot deck that you keep specifically at the workplace. Every morning when you arrive at work, hold your tarot deck in your hands, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Ask the cards to show you what to expect for that day at work. Then draw three cards. Familiarize yourself with the cards meanings or keep a “cheat sheet” nearby so you can see what the cards have in store for your work day.

7: PROTECTION SHIELD

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This is a simple technique that activates your aura and energizes it to become a sheild that blocks out harmful energies. To activate the shield, do the following steps:

  • Close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state.

  • As clearly as you can, visualize your aura, the energetic shield that surrounds your body.

  • See your aura crystallizing, forming a sheild around you. Some see the shield polished like a crystal ball, others may see it multi-faceted like a diamond.

  • Make the shield as real as you can make it in your mind’s eye.

  • Say three times: “I charge this shield to protect me from all harmful energies”.

It is important to take your time and do not rush this process. Your shield will fade over time and will need to be re-inforced periodically. The more you use it, you will be able to sense when it is fading. Mine usually last about 2 ½ to 3 days. For more information about protective techniques, see Christopher Penczak’s book, The Witch’s Shield.

8: RELAXATION MUSIC

Music is another great way to neutralize harmful energies and allow peace to come into the workplace. Buy special instrumental music for relaxation or meditation, and turn it on at low volume. It should be just loud enough where you can hear it but not distracting to you or your co-workers. Avoid music with drums or vocals. The idea is promote a feeling of calm and relaxation. You’ll be amazed how much work you get done with calming music playing in the background.

9: PENTACLES OF PROTECTION

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This is something you can do when you arrive at work in the morning, and is best done when noone else is watching! Face each wall of the room or the East/South/West/North directions in your work area. Extend your right hand and draw pentacles in the air, projecting them in each direction. The pentacle is a powerful symbol of protection. As you “draw” each pentacle, visualize blue flame coming out of your fingers as you make the pentacle symbol. Draw the Earth-Banishing Pentagram first (as shown above), then enclose it in a circle with a clock-wise motion. Do this for each wall of your office or direction in your workspace.

10: NATURE IMAGERY

glencoe-valleyIf you can, place photos of nature scenes in your work area. These can be pictures of trees and forests, flowers, the ocean or any type of imagery that promotes a sense of peace. Calendars and day-planners with nature scenes work wonders, but if you can place framed photos on your walls or on your desk, that’s even better. Plants and flowers in the workspace are also great ways to help neutralize harmful energies and bring a sense of peace into an otherwise stressful workplace.

Here is an extra tip: Don’t take your work home. Leave work at work. Some companies want their employees to make the job the center of their lives, but if you want to keep your sanity, you really cannot do that. I don’t know about you, but I have other things to think about when I leave work at the end of the day. I have other responsibilities and other things that need my attention. I have a life of my own outside of work and I’m sure you do too.

The above suggestions are just a few magical ways to help bring a sense of calm and peacefulness into the workplace. I do many of these and I have found them tremendously helpful.

Witches and Christianity

Updated…

Rik Potter

This is not a post bashing Christianity or it’s followers. I have a few friends who are Christian, whom I sometimes get along better with than certain other witches. I don’t have a problem with Christians as long as they don’t try to convince me to become one too. I know not all Christians are hateful people, but it sure seems at times that quite alot of them are. Ever since I became public about being a Witch, I have met some Christians who condemned me to the “fires of Hell”, while others were merely curious about my beliefs and spirituality as it relates to Witchcraft. Most of them were educated and intelligent enough to know that witches do not worship Satan, we do not even believe in Satan, nor do we participate in human sacrifice or do any of the other horrible things that some people think we do…

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Winter Thoughts

I haven’t posted here since December 2015, and that is simply because I’ve been hibernating, in a sense. Winter is my least favorite season, and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with my nose in various books, dealing with horrid Winter weather, and immersing myself in studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I have one more module of the Bardic Grade to complete and then I will have finished the first year. It’s taking longer than usual because I am on a quarterly payment plan, and while the training with OBOD is totally worth it, it is not cheap and we’ve had other expenses to take care of. In the meantime, I am reviewing the materials I’ve received this far. There is quite a lot of it, so much that I had to buy a special notebook to keep everything in. It’s all so wonderful and resonates with me on so many levels. It keeps me busy on these dreadfully cold Winter days. Winter is a time for me to hibernate, and I mean that in every sense of the word. During the Winter months, I plan absolutely nothing and spend 90% of the time indoors. Quite frankly, cold weather makes my body hurt and snow is the last thing I want to see. Yes, I admit there is something mystical about falling snow and it can be pretty to look at, but I prefer to enjoy it from a distance, and not for very long at that. Close the curtains, please, I’ve seen enough. We had 33 inches of snow in 1 day and for the first time ever my car was completely buried. Luckily it was light and powdery, and it did not take as long as I anticipated to remove it.

I also recently put out a call for new students for training in Blackthorn, a magical tradition that I developed myself over a period of 5 years, with input from my personal deities and spirit guides. It was always Celtic-based, but since joining the Order it is even more so, as my training in Druidry has confirmed so many things that I had always sensed. Blackthorn is a formal tradition and a training coven for carefully-chosen students. It is not a casual, ‘t-shirt and jeans’ sort of training. Even though I have been a member of casual groups and covens, I’m not particularly fond of them. I happen to like formality and ceremony. For Blackthorn, this means a formal dress code, assignments completed on time, and a fierce dedication for study and magical growth. I have high expectations and strict requirements for those who want to become Witches of Blackthorn. I will caution that Blackthorn is not for everyone, and requires a certain mindset. I interview all potential students personally and ask specific questions to determine if they would be a good fit for the Blackthorn tradition. If this means it takes longer to find suitable students, that is how it must be. I’m not going to be as lenient with students as I have been in the past. My time is valuable, and I don’t want to waste it on students who are not serious about their training. As of now, I have a tentative date for Fall 2016 to begin training new students, but this is subject to change depending on how many serious inquiries I receive before then. During the Spring and Summer, I will meet with those who have already contacted me. I prefer to train everyone at the same time so they can all learn together, instead of staggering training for people at different levels. This will make it less confusing for everyone, including myself.

clannad_2013-300Lately I have been re-discovering the music of Clannad, an Irish band from Donegal who sings in both English and Gaelic. I have always loved them, but lately I’ve been listening to them nearly every day or in the evenings when I go to bed. Their gaelic songs are quite mystical and enchanting. If you haven’t heard them yet, I recommend Anam, Banba, Landmarks and Lore. Such wonderful music. Go have a listen.

I may be teaching another public class in March, simply because I was asked to do so and I had a strong impression that I needed to do this one. I don’t teach publicly often anymore, and this class will be on Spellcasting, so it should be lots of fun. I will post more details later as they become finalized.

Another musical group I have grown rather fond of is Anuna. Here is their Whispers of Paradise video. So magical and mesmerizing.

From the shadow of the cauldron,

Rik

Winter Solstice: Returning to our Roots

First of all, let me make it perfectly clear I’m not Anti-Christmas. I don’t mind if other people celebrate it. I don’t mind if people say “Merry Christmas”. I might even say it back. However, as a pagan, it is not a holiday that I celebrate. I know there are some pagans who celebrate a secularized version of this Christian holiday and almost begrudge other pagans who won’t join in with them. I prefer to remain true to my path and my beliefs. I do not have nostalgic, romanticized notions about Christmas that some other pagans have. I prefer to honor the real “reason for the season”…the Winter Solstice.

Unlike some other people, I don’t have warm and fuzzy, sentimental memories of Christmases from my youth. I grew up in an abusive environment that was also (ironically) very Christian. Christmas was always about the birth of Jesus Christ and a religion that was forced on me for several years. Even though it has been secularized to a degree, and many people celebrate what they call “Christmas”, by it’s very name, Christmas is inherently a religious holiday. Christmas is about Christ, after all. Even though most historians agree that Jesus Christ was not born in December, Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate his birth. To deny this is simply ignorant and foolish. Since I am not a Christian, why should I celebrate a holiday that I do not believe in?

Sometimes people who know me feel a bit awkward when this time of year comes around. They ask, “Can I tell you Merry Christmas?” or they will ask what is the appropriate thing to say. I appreciate their thoughtfulness in asking, and usually just tell them “you can say whatever you like” or “Happy Winter Solstice is fine”. I really don’t mind what sort of holiday greetings people use. I’m not offended if people say “Merry Christmas”. I know they are being kind and wishing me good will, and that is important for everyone.

Some pagans and witches have romanticized the holiday, calling to mind the feasting, gift-giving, gathering with family and friends, decorating a tree and singing carols. Perhaps they have forgotten that none of these practices originated with Christmas. These traditions are all of pagan origin that were simply grafted onto Christmas celebrations over time. This means that as a witch and a pagan, I can still do all of these things and I don’t have to call it “Christmas”. Also, just because you don’t celebrate Christmas does not mean you have to avoid family gatherings. You can gather with your family because they’re your family, and not necessarily “because it’s Christmas”. You can also have your own Winter Solstice gatherings and Yule dinners with pagan friends and do the same things people typically associate with Christmas. You’re not missing out on anything by not celebrating Christmas, because you haven’t really lost anything. All of the old seasonal traditions are yours to enjoy, because they are much, much older than Christmas.

People who know I am a Witch will often ask questions, like:

Do you sing Christmas carols?

Carols, yes. Christmas, no. The first carols had nothing to do with Christianity. They were pagan songs that were sung at Winter Solstice celebrations. The word “Carol” means ‘dance’ or ‘song of joy’ and used to be written and sung at all four seasons. Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. Sadly, the old songs have been lost or have been given a Christian gloss, such as we see with “The Holly and the Ivy”. Even today, I still enjoy such songs as “Winter Wonderland”, “Deck The Halls”, “Jingle Bells”, “Sleigh Ride” to name a few. There are plenty of seasonal songs that have nothing to do with Christianity.

Do you decorate a Christmas tree?

Yes, but we prefer to call it a Yule Tree. We go to a tree farm just like the muggles do, and cut down a real tree to bring into our home. The practice of decorating a tree did not originate with Christmas. Dating back centuries before Christ, it was the pagans and witches who brought evergreen trees, plants, and leaves into their homes upon the arrival of the Winter Solstice. Druid priests in Great Britain also used evergreen plants and mistletoe in pagan ceremonies, and the mistletoe plant was the symbol of the birth of a god.

Do you have dinner with loved ones and exchange gifts?

Absolutely. Gathering with friends and loved ones for feasting, music, games and gift-exchanging is all part of our Winter Solstice celebrations, just as in ancient times. These winter-time practices began with the ancient Yule and Saturnalia celebrations to welcome the “return of the Sun”. Winter is the perfect time to gather with loved ones for warmth and comfort. It is the dark time of the year and we can rely on each other for strength as we await the light.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word “Yule” is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank ale. The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents. The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

‘Tis the Season of Winter, and we can flow with the natural energies of the Winter Solstice in the knowledge that we are tapping into an ancient current that is centuries older than the Christian holiday. So, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I still partake in the seasonal celebrations. I just call them by a different, much older name.

Be Defiantly Happy

If you have been watching the news in recent weeks, no doubt you learned about the attacks in Paris, the downing of a Russian airliner leaving Egypt and the suicide bombings in Beirut, all carried out by radical extremist terrorist groups. Seeing and watching all these things happening, it would appear that the world is truly a dark and dangerous place to live. I have seen and read the news stories, along with commentaries from various people about how they deal with this troubling situation. Some are saying they will never travel to Europe again because they no longer feel safe, while others say we are living in the safest times in history and that these radical extremist groups make up a very small percentage of society. Still others are accusing the media of fear-mongering. While caution is definitely necessary in this day and age, and terrorism is a real threat, I honestly worry about people who focus on all the hurt and harm they see. Yes, there is a lot of evil in the world, but there is a lot of goodness in the world too. If you spend all of your time focusing on the evil and injustice, you will turn into an angry, bitter person with no hope. But there is always hope. There are reasons to be happy.

There-are-so-many-beautiful-reasons-to-be-happy.

I am not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that that horrible things aren’t happening. I am merely saying that we should not allow the evil in the world to make us fearful and afraid. Be defiantly happy, live your life brave, fearless and free. I for one am not going to hide in my home, avoid travel and stop going to public gatherings. I am fortunate to live in a country where I am not forced against my will to align with any philosophy that I do not agree with. I am free to choose my own beliefs and live my life any way I please. Rejoice in your freedom, and in the freedom to find joy and happiness in a world with so much darkness. There will always be people who disagree with your beliefs or disapprove of your lifestyle, but pay them no mind. If you are seeking peace and unity rather than harm, and you are not trying to forcibly convert people to your philosophy or way of thinking, then you are on a right path. You can bring light to the darkness. How can I do that, you might ask?

When you see atrocities being committed by these evil groups, light a candle and send your wishes for peace, protection and healing for the victims and families. If you can, donate to organizations that are providing relief and support. Cast your spells and do magic to bring those who commit these horrifying acts to justice. Send strength to the military who are defending their countries from terrorists. Place your hands on a globe and visualize light and peace surrounding the whole Earth. These may seem like small things, but if we are all doing it together, we can make a difference.

Happiness-can-found-even-darkest-times-one-onlyThe times we live in may seem to be filled with fear and hatred, but we can turn it around. Pull your loved ones closer to you than ever before, and assure that they feel loved and protected. Do whatever you can to bring goodness and light to the world. Perform “Magical Acts of Kindness” every day, simple things that bring a smile to someone’s face. There is magic in every act of kindness. Pay for someone’s meal at the restaurant. Hold the door open for others. Smile. Say “Hello” and “Have a wonderful day”. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for those who are hurting. Buy someone’s latte at the coffee shop. Bake a cake for the neighbors or buy some groceries for the old lady down the street. There are so many things you can do to bring happiness and light to a world that often seems so dark.

While we should be aware and cautious in today’s world, don’t always focus on the harm and evil. Acknowledge that there is also goodness in the world, you can be part of that goodness, and live defiantly happy.

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