From little acorns mighty oaks will grow

DSCF1501I have two baby oaks growing in my garden – what a sweet blessing! Have no idea how they got there but I have my suspicions. About three years ago I cast a handful of acorns around my garden as part of a ritual I was doing. Well I did forget I’d done this until now. Or maybe they are the children of the oaks that stand behind the boundary fence at the very back of the garden. Who knows but for the fact they are here. One is much small than the other and I’m not sure if they will both survive but I’m going to try to keep them safe. I’ve already cut away the tall grasses and thistle plants surrounding them so they both get access to sunlight.

So what is the meaning for me? Well the oak tree has been a symbol of strength, power and sacredness in a great many cultures and indigenous tribes across Europe. The Celts especially, and the Teutonic tribes, venerated oaks and considered them chieftain amongst trees. Oaks were associated with a great number of deities – Zeus, Jupiter, The Dagda and Thor amongst others. The Green Man is always most often seen surrounded by a partial mask of oak leaves. Because they live a long time (it takes an oak a very long time to grow so I won’t see these at their full glory during my present incarnation) they embody endurance too. And of course wisdom from the Gods.

The oak also stands for great protection, justice, honesty and bravery. Apparently its associated stone is Aventurine so I will lay one of these at each stone as a blessing for it – a gift! It’s position on the Wheel of the Year is at the Summer Solstice, when once again the Oak King will battle with his brother the Holly King. But this time it’s the Holly King that will win the bout and the waning year begins once more.

The medicinal park of the Oak is its bark, because of the strong astringent properties. Internally as a tea it helps fight diarrhoea and dysentery. Externally it can be used to treat haemorrhoids, inflamed gums, wounds, and eczema. The tannin found in oak can help reduce minor blistering by boiling a piece of the bark in a small amount of water until a strong solution is reached, and applying to the affected area.

It is tradition for the Litha fire to be oak wood representing the God, since this is the time of year when oak reaches its Zenith power.

The Oak trees essence helps boost energy levels and the ability to manifest our goals. The tree’s roots mirror its branches and stretch as far below ground as the branches do above  – this reminds me of the saying ‘As Above So Below’, which usually refers to the astral plane and the physical but I think it can also refer to the physical and the underground realms, the land of the dead.

Oak twigs bound together with red thread into a solar cross or a pentagram will make a greatly protective talisman for the home, car, or in your desk or at work.

LESSON OF THE Oak from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford

The oak represents courage and endurance and the protective power of faith. The tree’s noble presence and nurturing habit reassured ancient people that, with the good will of their gods, their leader, and their warriors, they could prevail against all odds. As the Tree of the Dagda, the oak offers protection and hospitality without question, although its true rewards are only apparent to the honest and brave. The ancient Celts deplored lies and cowardice. To be judged mean-spirited could result in exclusion from the clan, which was one of the most shameful and most feared of all possible punishments. Like the oak, we would do well to receive without prejudice all those who seek our help, sharing what we have without resentment or reservation. The oak reminds us all that the strength to prevail, come what may, lies in an open mind and a generous spirit. Inflexibility, however, is the oak’s one weakness and the tree is prone to lose limbs in storms. The oak therefore carries the warning that stubborn strength that resists will not endure and may break under strain.

I honour the energy of oak, the doorway to the mysteries. I will call upon the strength of the Horned One when I feel in need of protection. So mote it be

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The Three Kindreds

5446_576954122314584_224581038_nI’m not sure if I’ve written about this topic before, my memory isn’t serving me too well at present and, well, I’m too lazy right now to be trawling through all my previous posts, but I thought I’d write something about The Three Kindreds. In my spiritual path I honour these three kindreds; the Ancestors, the Green Clan and the Shining Ones. Who are they?

The Ancestors really speak for themselves don’t they; all who have gone before. My blood relatives certainly but in fact ALL who have gone before and passed over from this earthly material realm, whether they be human or animal. In fact to distinguish between humans and animals is rather a moot point for me because we humans ARE in fact animals aren’t we. If we share 98% of our genes with orangutans and chimpanzees then yes we are animals. I can’t really distinguish between related and non-related human ancestors because all are my ancestors as we are always linked in the web of life, all share a common ancestor and all share the same emotions, feelings etc. My ancestors are your ancestors and I honour them for their wisdom, their knowledge, their struggles, their hopes and dreams. The Ancestors guide me, teach me and protect me. In turn I honour them by giving them the gift of remembrance and a continuity with the living.

The Green Clan are all the spirits of nature in all their wonderful diversity; the Fae, plant spirits, tree dryads etc. Why do I honour these? Because they impart to me spiritual wisdom that is superlative in its nature – a different kind of wisdom from that given by the Ancestors. Tied to the earthly realm but not of it if you like. They help to break down the human ego, assist in right living whilst I am still on the material plane. In return I do my part in trying to live with consciousness and mindfulness.

The Shining Ones are those who have reached enlightenment, whether they be deities or bodhisattvas. Their wisdom, knowledge and protection is beyond human perspectives as they are not of the material. Their true gift is helping humans to live as spirits in human form, and not merely as humans who have a spirit. In my understanding and experience they teach enlightenment but do not give it; we have to do our part. However we can call upon them with all our hopes, dreams, needs and sufferings and they provide everything at the right time – which is not the same as ours, as they work on a completely different spiritual wavelength to us. However, of course we can interact with them and they wish us to do so. How do I honour them? Each has his/her own likes and dislikes, just as we do. It is only by close communication with them that I learn of these and this shapes my gifts to them – spiritual discernment is the key.

Janus face in 2012

Janus-dimon21

No, this post is not about Janus per se but rather it is more about looking back and looking forward, as we near the end of this year, 2012. I thought, however, that the Roman god of  beginnings and transitions to be a rather apt metaphor to use. And it echoes a little Yule poem I wrote recently, which I used on a Yule card to my Coven:

This card is sent to you all with love
Coming swiftly on the wings of a dove
As we embrace the newborn Sun
Let’s not forget to have some fun
As the Wheel slowly turns anew
To our spirits let us remain true
Kiss the Holly King as he now sleeps
Half the year his brother now keeps
Embrace the Oak King as he now wakes
His upturned face touched by snowy flakes
Yule is a time for looking back and looking forward
Your efforts will reap blessed reward
So merrily sing
To the newborn King

So I’m doing some looking back and looking forward on this year to discover what I’ve reaped and what my goals are for the coming year – kind of like News Year’s resolutions except not. My actual new year began at Samhain following Celtic tradition but there’s something special about Yule that encourages us to look back and look forward I think.

So what did I achieve this year? I completed my Clinical Herbalism Diploma, the Sacred Mists Herbalist Course (well, everything but the Final, which I am going to be turning in in the next few weeks), I also completed 4½ years of therapy (with 1 year of intensive therapy), I shared my greatest ‘skeleton in the closet’ with my therapeutic group just before ending and it was a HUGE relief, I was Student of the Month in my Coven in September, I started The Herborium newsletter (at Samhain), my relationship with my daughter continues to improve, I’ve carried on with Oracle Studies with very good results and I have really improved in taking personal responsibility for myself. Last but definitely not least I’ve learnt to practise mindfulness and remain in the present moment to a greater degree than ever before.

That’s not to say things have been easy for me – there have been a lot of ups and downs and quite scary patches for me to deal with. A couple of times I’ve faltered and resorted to self-harm. However, even at these times I mustered the courage to do the things I had to do in order to sort the situation out and didn’t rely on someone else doing it for me. That’s not to say I haven’t asked for a bit of moral support, and I think it’s important one does ask for support when going through difficulties. I’ve had experiences and learned valuable lessons in 2012 and I thank my patron deities and the Universe for these, and also thank my guides for steering me in the right directions. I also thank my friends, spiritual, human and animal for their support and help in ‘keeping it real’.

In thinking about the biggest stumbling block to achieving what I would like to do in my life, and my growth, I think that it is still my nemesis FEAR. Yes fear has stalked me and is the root of everything that holds me back. So, this time at my Coven’s Yule Ritual I made it my purpose to cast fear into the depths of the Cauldron of Life:

I release fear into the depths, where its power can be transmuted and changed into that which is positive and healthful. So Mote it Be!

Next, I made my spiritual goal for the coming year 2013.

I draw into me the power of the Universe in order to help me achieve my goals in 2013, with courage and fortitude. So Mote it Be!

Making these simple affirmations really helped me to focus on being able to achieve what I want out of life, what I would like to achieve and what would make me happy…maybe not straight away but working towards these steadily and with courage and purpose instead of being consumed with fear and doing nothing. I truly believe the power of affirmations is immense but in order for them to work you need to keep saying them, make the saying of them into a simple ritual perhaps – light a candle, write your affirmation on a slip of paper, repeat it three times and then burn it in the candle flame. This way your intent rises upwards in the smoke into the Universe, where it can be directed in a positive way for your benefit. Keep repeating the affirmation throughout the day too. If you’ve never used affirmations before all this might sound silly but believe me, the more you do it, the more you can actually manifest in your life and the happier and more grounded you’ll be.

Many fruitful blessings to you for the coming year, 2013!

The Nine Sacred Woods of the Bonfire

Nov12 CarpentersWood by K SellMost witches and pagans hold bonfires at some point. I guess we wouldn’t be pagan if we didn’t have ritual fire as fire is something that reaches far back in time. Eons ago our first ancestors gathered around a fire to keep warm, to cook meat and for protective and purification purposes. Eventually, as well as practical reasons for bonfires (or as we tend to call them Bael Fires), they took on ritual meaning too.

In Wiccan literature and in the Wiccan Rede there are mentioned nine kinds of wood that are used to make bonfires – and there is a reason! Generally these are the first nine trees of the so-called Celtic Tree Calender*

Birch – When a forested area burns, Birch is the first tree to grow back, and thus is associated with rebirth and regeneration. Workings using Birch add momentum to new endeavors. The Birch is also associated with magic done for creativity and fertility, as well as healing and protection. It is the first tree in the Celtic tree calendar, following the Winter Solstice, and is related to the Ogham symbol Beith. Use Birch branches to craft your own besom for magical workings, and in spells and rituals related to enchantments, renewal, purification, fresh starts and new beginnings.

Rowan – Known by the Celts as the Ogham symbol Luis (pronounced *loosh*), the Rowan is associated with astral travel, personal power, and success. A charm carved into a bit of a Rowan twig will protect the wearer from harm. The Norsemen were known to have used Rowan branches as rune staves of protection. In some countries, Rowan is planted in graveyards to prevent the dead from lingering around too long. Rowan is also associated with the Celtic hearth goddess Brighid.

Ash – In Norse lore, Odin hung from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days and nights so that he might be granted wisdom. Yggdrasil was an ash tree, and since the time of Odin’s ordeal, the ash has often been associated with divination and knowledge. In some Celtic legends, it is also seen as a tree sacred to the god Lugh, who is celebrated at Lughnassadh. Because of its close association not only with the Divine but with knowledge, Ash can be worked with for any number of spells, rituals, and other workings. Associated with ocean rituals, magical potency, prophetic dreams and spiritual journeys, the Ash can be used for making magical (and mundane) tools – these are said to be more productive than tools made from other wood. Use an Ash branch to make a magical staff, broom or wand. The Ash also appears in the Ogham as Nion.

Alder – The Alder is associated with making spiritual decisions, magic relating to prophecy and divination, and getting in touch with your own intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are known as charms to be used in Faerie magic. Whistles were once made out of Alder shoots to call upon Air spirits, so it’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute if you’re musically inclined. The Alder represents the evolving spirit, and is represented by the Ogham symbol Fearn.

Willow – A Willow planted near your home will help ward away danger, particularly the type that stems from natural disaster such as flooding or storms. They offer protection, and are often found planted near cemeteries. In addition to its use as a healing herb, Willow was also harvested for wicker work. Baskets, small curricles, and even bee hives were constructed with this bendable, flexible wood. This wood is related to The Goddess, healing, growth of knowledge, nurturing and women’s mysteries, and is represented by the Celtic Ogham symbol Saille.

Hawthorn – The Hawthorn is associated with magic related to masculine power, business decisions, making professional connections. The Hawthorn is also associated with the realm of Faerie, and when the Hawthorn grows in tandem with an Ash and Oak, it is said to attract the Fae and herald a portal into the Otherworld.  This prickly-thorned tree is associated with cleansing, protection and defense. Tie a thorn with a red ribbon and use it as a protective amulet in your home, or place a bundle of thorns under a baby’s crib to keep bad energy away. It is represented by the Celtic Ogham symbol Huath.

Oak – The mighty Oak is strong, powerful, and typically towering over all of its neighbours. The Oak King rules over the summer months, and this tree was very sacred to the Druids. The Celts called this tree Duir, which some scholars believe to mean “door”, the root word of “Druid”. The Oak is connected with spells for protection and strength, fertility, money and success, and good fortune. In many pre-Christian societies, the Oak was often associated with the leaders of the gods – The Dagda, Taranis, Zeus, Thor, Jupiter, and so forth. The strength and masculinity of the Oak was honoured through the worship of these gods.

Holly – The ancients used the wood of the Holly in the construction of weapons, but also in protective magic. Hang a sprig of Holly in your house to ensure good luck and safety to your family. Wear as a charm, or make Holly Water by soaking leaves overnight in spring water under a full moon. In the pre-Christian British Isles, the Holly was often associated with protection – planting a hedge around your home would keep malevolent spirits out, thanks in no small part to the sharp spikes on the leaves. In Celtic myth, the concept of the Holly King and the Oak King symbolizes the changing of the seasons, and the transition of the earth from the growing time to the dying season. Holly is represented by the Ogham symbol Tinne.

Hazel – Hazel is often associated in Celtic lore with sacred wells and magical springs containing the salmon of knowledge. This is a good wood to use for workings related to wisdom and knowledge, dowsing and divination, and dream journeys. Hazel was a handy tree to have around. It was used by many English pilgrims to make staffs for use upon the road – not only was it a sturdy walking stick, it also provided  self-defense for weary travelers. Certainly, it could have been used as well for ritual. Hazel was used in weaving of baskets by medieval folk, and the leaves were fed to cattle because it was believed this would increase the cow’s supply of milk. It is represented by the Celtic Ogham symbol Coll.

The one tree Wiccans are admonished NOT to burn in a sacred fire (or any fire for that matter) is the Elder. As the Wiccan Rede says:

Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them quick a’ burn them slow. Elder be ye Lady’s tree; burn it not or cursed ye’ll be.

This is because Elder is the Goddess’s tree, strongly connected to Goddess spirituality and also because within the tree lives the Elder Mother or Hylde-moder. The elder is the Old Crone aspect of the triple Goddess, a wise old energy at the end of the year’s cycle. One should NEVER cut down any part of an Elder tree without the explicit consent of Elder Mother, lest you bring downfall upon yourself.

Nov12 CarpentersWood2 by K Sell

 

Nov12 CarpentersWood3 by K Sell

 

*Bear in mind that the Celtic Tree Calender is a poetic interpretation of Robert Graves (The White Goddess) and this calendar as such has no basis in true Celtic Myth. However, there is no doubt that trees were sacred to the Celtic and they used them for many purposes, both practically and ritually.

Photo Credits

Carpenter’s Wood, Berkshire by K. Sell

 

Holding the Yew tree in mind

Today I began to use Mickie Mueller’s Voice of the Trees oracle deck properly for the first time. I’ve had it a while as it is the next deck we will be studying in my Oracle Class. It’s so pertinent that I pulled Idho (pronounced EE-yoh) or Yew at this time because I feel, very much, that I’m on the cusp of entering a new phase of my life in a few ways. firstly, let me explain how I’ve been feeling lately…to sum it all up in three words…confused, angry, scared! I’ve been fighting rather than going with the flow, which I think has added to my feelings of confusion, anger and fear. Silly me! Things are happening around that bring up these feelings that I’ve either been ignoring or trying to deny completely. I should know better shouldn’t I? Well yes but I’m a pitiful human being with an ego and I sometimes get distracted with my monkey mind. Then synchronicity happens and my patron deities or my guides bring me back to ‘reality’ with a big thump. When I say reality, it means MY spiritual reality, the one that sings to my soul, and it’s very different from other people’s sense of reality (but each one of us has a multitude of realities that are different from other people’s but that’s another story). Anyway, so I pulled Idho/Yew and was immediately confronted with the Crone…or as I see her Cerridwen, Goddess of Transformation. I’ve been neglecting her and I’m amazed she hasn’t upped and left. But instead here she is calling:

The oldest of the woods has come into view

The Crone at your service, she summons to you

Now you know a rite of passage does await

Leave something behind as you step through the gate.

Yes, it does feel rather like I’m approaching a rite of passage, maybe even a couple. In 4 weeks my group therapy ends and to be honest I’m very pleased yet also fearful as I’ve been in this therapy group for about 3 years. We’ve laughed and cried together for so long and I guess I’ve been able to build up some trust within the group. In some ways I feel understood but in others I still feel misunderstood. Anyway, after this the therapy ends…what then? I think Cerridwen is calling me to step up to the plate and stop being fearful. I feel like a snivelling child in her presence and she admonishes me with a wagging finger but says very kindly ‘come on lady…you KNOW what to do’. Yes, I DO know what to do! Completing therapy feels a bit like growing up and reaching adulthood, I can pretend I don’t know but really I do; the answers lie within…always!

The second rite of passage has to do with my age and my dear daughter getting hand-fasted next year. Yes, I know I’m not ‘in’ the menopause yet but I’m approaching it and of course my hormones are a bit out of whack sometimes. My body can no longer do what it used to do and I am reaping what I’ve sown in the past with pretty much a decrepid body now. I’m not blaming anyone or anything…it is what it is! But I am at the top of the hill now looking down on the valley below – a bit fearful of what I will encounter on this side. I’m always going to be a mother but my ‘little’ girl is no longer little and is beginning a life of her own with a wonderful man, and possibly moving away in the next few years. Sometimes I ask myself where does that leave me? Cronehood beckons and I’m a little apprehensive.

Then Cerridwen appears and throws herbs and plants into her large cauldron of inspiration and gives it a good stirring. She looks at me with a sharp eye but gently says ‘it all goes into the cauldron of life and comes out transformed and renewed, don’t fear it, embrace it!’ It’s all well and good for her not to fear it but I’m a mere human being and sometimes, despite my wisdom (such as it is) I still shit bricks! Ok, maybe not quite as bad as that but I still worry and fear stuff to a degree. But this is where Idho/Yew comes in I think.

My earliest memories are of the three Yew trees that grew in my grandmother’s front garden; no wonder it was so gloomy and dark there. As a child I had a fascination for its bark, which kind of grows in thin dark browny-purple ‘plates’. As one plate falls it exposes rosy-reddish new plates underneath. Of course, being a child I would pick at these plates and pull them off the trees, only to be reprimanded by my mother, who told me NOT to touch the trees because they were poisonous. I also knew that Yews grew in graveyards and for the longest time I just thought Yews only grew in two places – graveyards and my grandmother’s front garden, which instilled in me the fear that my grandmother’s house was haunted and I never wanted to sleep the night there. When I look back how little I knew (not surprising, I was very young) but how little my mother knew and all this claptrap about how Yews were ‘bad’. I do actually think my grandmother’s house had spirits within it but they never hurt me, although I still never liked sleeping there.

Anyway, it is true that Yews are found predominantly in church yards. Why is this? Well, the ancient druids held the Yew in high regard and it is, in fact, one of their sacred trees. The Yew grew prolifically in Britain’s (and Europe’s) primordial forests. As time went on Druids kept these ancient trees (there is one in England that is said to be over 4000 years old) as part of their groves and symbolic entrances to the Underworld because the Yew has always been associated with death, transitions, endings but also rebirth and renewal. It made sense for druids to establish their sacred groves and places of worship amongst trees that were sacred to them. Then Christianity came along and one way the priests converted the people was to build their churches on already established sacred places. Hence the reason why many very old Yew trees still survive in many old church yards to this day – it really is sacred ground but existed long before Christianity. So Yew trees do have a connection with death. but in the Celtic tradition, that of my ancestors, death is not a finish, and end…well it might be the end of one thing but it is also the beginning of something else. You see the Celts did not work with linear time at all but with cyclic time, a never-ending spiral of birth, death and renewal. how does this relate to Yews? Well this is a tree that actually renews itself and very rarely dies (except if it is cut down, and even then it can renew itself). The Yew stands for so long that eventually it becomes hollow and this original part may well die BUT the wonderful thing is that during its life-time it sends out shoots around it and new growth appears – these are all part of the original tree, and so in a way, the original tree never dies but merely goes on renewing itself, growing larger and larger until it is even difficult for dendrochronologists to even ascertain its real age.

So the meaning of Yew is one of transition, how appropriate for me! Things pass and end but other things are born and grow. Of course this isn’t easy to accept – the fact that some part of my life (that I have attached to emotionally) is coming to an end and it can be a difficult process as the wood suggests. Yew wood was once used to make the long bows of warriors, as well as a wood used to test the edge of axes; this is because Yew produces a very hard wood. So spiritually we can take from this that the transition may be quite hard going and difficult. However, Yew has strong protective qualities (as used by the ancient druids as a cleansing and purification incense, along with Juniper). Additionally, despite its poisonous nature, it is actually a great healer. The ONLY part of the yew that is not poisonous is the flesh around the red berries (ask any blackbird!). However, under the use of an experienced and highly qualified herbalist, all the parts can actually be used for healing many ailments, even cancer.

So, I’ve gleaned some things already about the Yew – it is the means to help me transition, it is a protector and a healer, and although I’m not about to use the Yew in my herbal practise, I can use it symbolically and spiritually. Cerridwen stands at the entrance to the Underworld, she stands within the trunk of an ancient Yew, beckoning me to drink her brew. Cerridwen, the Goddess of change and transition, Yew, the tree of death and rebirth, of endings and beginnings. Both give a hard lesson – they know the going might get tough, that the transition will probably be painful, yet I have protection and I have healing.

So I must be strong, like the Yew’s wood, and relinquish the attachments I’ve made, or rather the ‘need’ for the attachments. But without clearing away the old and the death there is no room for the new is there…new possibilities, new challenges, new phases of life.

References:

A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine by Ellen Evert Hopman

Voice of the Trees by Mickie Mueller

Ogham: The Celtic Oracle of the Trees by Paul Rhys Mountfort

R is for…Recovery, of the Pagan kind

I decided to write this post about my experiences of recovery and how my life path of paganism (especially shamanism) has helped me. Just a bit of back ground first though, you see I suffer from mental health problems and have done so probably all my life although I wasn’t diagnosed until a few years ago. I had an extremely traumatic childhood involving emotional, physical and sexual abuse right up until I actually began my spiritual path, although by the time I’d got into adulthood I was abusing myself rather than others doing it. Suffice to say I was a complete and utter wreck!

It is true to say that in the past I’ve spent quite a bit of time under the care of psychiatrists, even spending time hospitalised, and even now I am still in therapy and take certain medications, which actually really help me to be able to live a life that isn’t psychotic. However, I truly believe that what has helped me even more is finding a spiritual path that felt right to my soul, that ‘fitted’ me like a glove. One that nurtured my creative and unique spirit and helped me to be authentic. That path is paganism, specifically Shamanic Witchcraft.

I was brought up as a Christian, my mother being a lapsed Catholic but still holding the tenet of Christianity although my father was an agnostic. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I embraced Christianity for myself, joining an organisation which held the Bible (in its entirety) as the sole guide for humans, in fact more than just a guide – it was the rule book! Now, I’m NOT bashing Christianity here because for some this path works, and we each have our own individual path, but for me it didn’t. So, after having turned my back on Christianity I was searching for ‘something’ that would work. I always needed to believe in something bigger than myself, something that would feed my soul. Then, one day, in the middle of the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, I came across what I can only describe as the spirit of Cernunnos (although I didn’t know the name at the time) and my life changed. It was a life defining moment and an experience that still makes my eyes well up with gratitude and the hairs prickle on the back of my neck. I had finally found what I was looking for, a spiritual path that could give me what I needed and wanted.

Of course my path has majorly evolved since then, from beginning as a real newbie interested in Wicca through to what it is now and along the way I went off along different paths such as Druidism but always came back to witchcraft. Then I was mentored by a shaman and encountered the spirits of plants and animals for the first time and that had a major impact on my recovery. So my path is what I have made it while being guided by the spirits and my patron deities – you could call it a bit of this a bit of that, an eclectic or whatever but it is meaningful to me. And that’s what counts!

So how has my path helped in my recovery? Well I think the main thing is that it’s taught me that I am responsible for my life, no one is going to ‘fix’ things for me and actually there are no ‘fixes’. Life is what it is in any given moment. Everything is energy, pure energy, and life is fluid, not static. I have choices and depending on the choices I make my life can be positive or negative but even if the choice is negative I can still learn something from it. I don’t have to be perfect because there is no perfection – perfection is just a human construct. Even nature isn’t perfect – it just is what it is! The reason why all things in nature work is because there’s harmony. We often call nature cruel but in fact this is another human construct. There is no goodness or cruelty in nature, she is what she is but there is always harmony and balance (as long as humankind doesn’t stick its big clumsy feet in and unbalance things). It often makes me smile when people see an Orca (so-called Killer Whales) throwing around a seal they’ve just caught. I’ve heard people say ‘oh how cruel’ but it’s normal, it’s nature, it’s what Orcas do on occasion. Actually they do this to skin the seal so it’s more easily eaten. To us it’s cruel but in actuality it’s just nature doing her thing. Anyway, I digress.

So, there is no ‘rule book’ to tell me what to do or how to behave – I’m on my own baby! But as a Wiccan priestess (yes I’m also one of those), I do have the Wiccan Rede, which at the end says ‘An it harm none – do as thou wilt’, and as I’ve talked about before in an earlier post this puts the emphasis on me to take responsibility for my thoughts, speech and actions. I can’t blame anyone else, there is no one to blame. If I fuck up it’s because of me and not my best friend, the woman down the road, the person who crashed into me with their shopping trolley, what happened in the past, those who hurt me…and on infinitum! I guess you could say the buck stops with me! That’s a sobering thought isn’t it.

Another aspect of paganism that has truly helped in my recovery is how my sense of time has changed from linear to cyclical. The Wheel of the Year, seasonal change, birth, death and rebirth. There is no end, no finish, just continual cycles and for me that’s really comforting. If nature goes through cycles then so do we. I know that if a difficult time hits me, if depression sets in or whatever, it will pass…change is inevitable. So when I have a particularly emotionally difficult day (as I did yesterday) I know that it will pass eventually and meanwhile I can still learn much about myself and how to change myself from the bad times as much as the good times. In fact, I no longer think of the difficulties as something to shy away from (even though sometimes I do just want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all). The difficulties I still experience are learning curves and we as humans never stop learning, not ever!

A great aspect of how paganism has helped in my recovery is…lack of sin! Yes, getting away from the idea that we are sinful creatures in need of a saviour has really helped me in living a better, more wholesome and authentic life. It takes away the guilt and shame of living somehow (although I still feel guilt over other things), what I mean is it takes away the guilt of being human. We, as humans, are imperfect…we are meant to be because it is how our souls experience and learn too. If everything were perfect there’d be no need to learn anything at all, no challenges, no satisfaction…and dare I say it…little joy! I guess that last one might be just me because I do feel joy when I overcome some hurdle. In paganism I am my own saviour and that’s not really narcissistic because it means I have sole responsibility for myself. Through freedom from sin I have found I also do not fear death. Ok, I perhaps fear a little the way I might pass on but death itself is just a portal, a doorway….transformation, and if we take life seriously (meaning responsibly) we are transforming all the time anyway. Death of the physical body is not an end, it’s really merely the beginning if you like. Paganism has helped me release my attachment needs, although I still have them but when I stay in the present moment they dissipate and the attachment dissolves.

Most importantly maybe paganism has put me in touch with deities and spirit guides (animal but for the most part plants) who through their support and great wisdom have helped me realise that there are always opportunities, no failure and through honouring them I gain a sense of coming home. It is often at odds with what I am taught by secular aspects of my life and I do find it hard to live in different realities at once because I still feel I ‘should’ do this and that because other people say so but when I go to my guides and patron deities they show me the middle way…and yes, I have become a ‘walker between the worlds’, which isn’t always easy but it feels right to me.

So, am I recovered? In many ways yes but in some ways no. My journey of healing continues and exploration continues but this is life…and it is what it is! There are no quick fixes, there is no magic wand that will make everything all right and ok. I believe that suffering serves an important purpose and that a person has to suffer in order to be able to relinquish it in the end. I believe in evolution of the spirit as well as the body, and that evolution continues in a cyclic fashion bringing with it more lessons to learn, more exploration and with it more satisfaction. That is how paganism has helped me recover!

Moon…Moon…my love!

The moon is the closest heavenly body to earth, and what a wonderful sight she is. I don’t think there are many people who can say they’re not entranced by this beautiful orb. Even if you don’t hold any particular spiritual belief the moon holds sway over all of us in many more ways than you can imagine. The moon is our night-time light, just as the sun is our day-time light, and both have been lighting humanities way for thousands of years. The moon you see at night is the very same moon our ancestors gazed upon in wonder – that’s an amazing thought isn’t it? There are all kinds of fascinating legends and myths associated with the moon and its cycles.

For instance did you know that the word lunatic comes from the Latin luna, because it was believed that people were more likely to exhibit ‘odd’ behaviour during a Full Moon. Although no conclusive studies have shown this it is true that there seem to be more visits to emergency rooms and accidents during a Full Moon phase. Not only does the Full Moon seem to affect people it also affects animals too – studies have shown that hamsters spin on their wheels more aggressively during this phase of the moon, and in the wild, deer and other herbivores tend to ovulate at this time. Actually I can attest to this last one because the Full Moon is the time when I ovulate and my hormones become all upsy-downsy at this time. An interesting little experiment for us women would be to keep a moon diary for a year and mark on it the times when we menstruate and when we ovulate and see just how near to the Full Moon (or New Moon) these times occur. And of course we all know just how much influence the moon has on the tides due to its gravitational pull.

There is a British legend that if Christmas fell on the day of a dark Moon, the following year’s harvest would be a bountiful one. Some parts of the British Isles believed that a waxing moon on Christmas meant a good crop the next fall, but a waning moon indicated a bad one would come. In some countries, a halo around the moon means bad weather is coming.

Many cultures and pagan traditions associate certain deities to the Moon. In the legends of the Inuit peoples, Alignak is the god of both the moon and weather. He controls the tides, and presides over both earthquakes and eclipses. In some stories, he is also responsible for returning the souls of the dead to earth so that they may be reborn. Alignak may appear in harbours to protect fishermen from Sedna, the wrathful sea goddess. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. Because her twin brother, Apollo, was associated with the Sun, Artemis gradually became connected to the moon in the post-Classical world. During the ancient Greek period, although Artemis was represented as a lunar goddess, she was never portrayed as the moon itself. Typically, in post-Classical artwork, she is depicted beside a crescent moon. She is often associated with the Roman Diana as well. Cerridwen is, in Celtic mythology, the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge. She is the giver of wisdom and inspiration, and as such is often associated with the moon and the intuitive process. As a goddess of the Underworld, Cerridwen is often symbolized by a white sow, which represents both her fecundity and fertility and her strength as a mother. She is both Mother and Crone; many modern Pagans honour Cerridwen for her close association to the full moon. In Chinese mythology, Chang’e was married to the king Hou Yi. Although he was once known as a great archer, later Hou Yi became a tyrannical king, who spread death and destruction wherever he went. The people starved and were brutally treated. Hou Yi greatly feared death, so a healer gave him a special elixir that would allow him to live forever. Chang’e knew that for Hou Yi to live forever would be a terrible thing, so one night while he slept, Chang’e stole the potion. When he saw her and demanded she return the potion, she immediately drank the elixir and flew up into the sky as the moon, where she remains to this day. In some Chinese stories, this is the perfect example of someone making a sacrifice to save others. In Aztec stories, Coyolxauhqui was the sister of the god Huitzilopochtli. She died when her brother leapt from their mother’s womb and killed all of his siblings. Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head and threw it up into the sky, where it remains today as the moon. She is typically depicted as a young and beautiful woman, adorned with bells and decorated with lunar symbols. Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. In Charles Leland’s Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, he pays homage to Diana Lucifera (Diana of the light) in her aspect as a light-bearing goddess of the moon. Hecate was venerated as a mother goddess, and during the Ptolemaic period in Alexandria was elevated to her position as goddess of ghosts and the spirit world. Many contemporary Pagans and Wiccans honour Hecate in her guise as a Dark Goddess, although it would be incorrect to refer to her as an aspect of the Crone, because of her connection to childbirth and maidenhood. It’s more likely that her role as “dark goddess” comes from her connection to the spirit world, ghosts, the dark moon, and magic. Selene was the sister of Helios, the Greek sun god. Tribute was paid to her on the days of the full moon. Like many Greek goddesses, she had a number of different aspects. At one point she was worshipped as Phoebe, the huntress, and later was identified with Artemis. Her lover was a young shepherd prince named Endymion, who was granted immortality by Zeus – however, he was also granted eternal slumber, so all that immortality and eternal youth was wasted on Endymion. The shepherd was doomed to sleeping in a cave forever, so Selene descended from the sky every night to sleep beside him. Unlike most other lunar goddesses of Greece, Selene is the only one who is actually portrayed as the moon incarnate by the early classical poets. These are just a few deities who are attributed to the moon, although there are many more.

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the cycles of the moon are important to magical workings. It’s believed in some traditions that the waxing moon, the full moon, the waning moon and the new moon all have their own special magical properties, and so workings should be planned accordingly. If your tradition follows these guidelines — or if you think you’d like to time your magic based upon the phase of the moon — here are some tips on what sort of magic to perform during the various lunar stages:

The Waxing Moon – is the phase during which the moon grows from dark to full, and it takes about 14 days for this to happen. This is a good time for ‘positive’ magic, increase, drawing things to you. For example, bringing love into your life, fertility or prosperity, getting a new job or home.

The Full Moon – is when we can see the whole moon in the sky (actually only an entire side of the moon as we never see the other side). For magical purposes this phase includes one day before and one day after, so a total of 3 days. It’s a good time to focus your spells or rituals on personal growth and spiritual development. For example, working with your intuition, healing, rituals that connect you closely with deity, developing magical skills, thanksgiving etc.

The Waning Moon – the phase during which the moon goes from full to dark once again, and like the waxing phase lasts for about 14 days. In many traditions of Wicca and Paganism it is the time to do ‘baneful’ magic – that which sends away, gets rid of something (or someone), that which you no longer wish to be burdened with (banishing). For example, magic to banish negative or toxic habits or people from your life, any magic to reduce things, like debt, illness etc.

The Dark Moon – this is the phase where you cannot see the moon at all in the sky, her face is dark and it comes just before the New Moon. This is a time for communing with Dark Gods and Goddesses, divination, doing shadow work etc.

The New Moon – come just after the Dark Moon and the moon will only appear as a faint sliver of light low on the horizon. It is sometimes amalgamated in with the Dark Moon because these two phases are so very near each other. It is considered a fallow period, a time of rest before the moon starts really waxing again. It is a time for rest and rejuvenation, cleansing and purifying body and mind, rituals that cleanse and purify sacred space or divination.

A wonderful way of celebrating the moon is to create a moon garden. There are lots of plants which bloom at night, or give off a wonderful fragrance during the dark hours, and cultivating a moon garden is a great way to get in touch with nature, and provides a beautiful backdrop to your moonlit rituals during the summer months.

Many night blooming plants have white or silver flowers and have a luminous appearance, just like our beautiful moon. you can also mix them with silver foliaged plants for awesome effect. Of course probably the most well known of the night bloomers is the Moon Flower, which really does bloom at night (during the day its petals are tightly closed up) and it also has a lovely lemon scent when it blooms at night. Its cousin is the Morning Glory (another beautiful plant) and both are climbers and can reach about 8 feet in height with large flowers that span from 5 to 6 inches across. Another wonderful flower for a moon garden is Evening Primrose (yes, you know it – they make a wonderful oil) but this does spread rapidly. Nevertheless, when the flowers open at dusk they release a lovely sweet aroma. Night Phlox is such a pretty little plant, with tiny star shaped flowers that open at dusk and have a gorgeous scent rather like honey or vanilla.

Night Flox

Evening Primrose

Moonflower

You can add day blooming white flowers and silver foliaged plants to your moon garden. Pick plants like Dusty Millars, Silver Thyme, Lamb’s Ears, Mugwort (Artemesia), Silver Sage, Calla Lilies and so forth. Other herbs and flowers with strong lunar connections are camphor, eucalyptus, gardenia, jasmine, moonwort, sandalwood, willow, water lily and sleepwort. With a bit of research I’m sure you can find many more.

So what can you do with a moon garden – well the possibilities are endless! With flowers that bloom under the powerful energy of a Full Moon you can harvest and dry them for talismans or charms, use them to dress candles with, use them as part of a flower bath, include them in incense to help enhance intuition and wisdom…or just sit out under a Full moon and enjoy their gorgeous scent…a gift from the Moon!