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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Thanking Tony Kelly

Last night I finally got to thank the man who gave me the gods.

This might not seem so strange except for the fact that he's been dead for 20 years, and that I never actually met him in person.

But actions taken in dreams signify. You know that they do. When you have an erotic dream about someone, it changes the relationship, whether or not you've ever actually slept together. An initiation received in a dream is a valid initiation, as (incredible, maybe, but true) the courts have determined.

How can I claim as my teacher someone that I never actually met? Well, through Tony Kelly—specifically through his writings—I first came to the gods. From him I learned to think like a pagan. From him I learned to do ritual.

If that doesn't make him my teacher, I don't know what would.

In the dream, Tony sat across a wooden table from me. (There was much between us when he was alive, including the Atlantic Ocean and the fact that he was a mature thinker while I was still a callow youth.) I thanked him for everything that he'd given me, and in particular for teaching me the names of the gods. To hear him pronounce the Sacred Name of Earth was a blessing indeed.

I've never met either of the Grand Old Men of the Craft in dreams—GBG or Bobby Cochrane—but I did once dream about meeting the Regency's George Winter and Ronald “Chalky” White (1921-1998) in an elevator: going down, I think. And now I've dream-met Tony Kelly of the Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland.

Interestingly, Tony was “off of” the Regency, as the Regency was “off of” Bobby Cochrane's Royal Windsor coven. So I guess (inter alia) that's my lineage, for what it's worth.

Back in the old days, resources were few and hooking up was hard. When in Fate magazine I saw a classified ad for the Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland, I immediately wrote and, eventually, became (along with Margot Adler and Tom deLong, later known as Gwydion) an overseas member. That's how I learned about Tony Kelly, one of the New Paganisms' deepest thinkers.

That's how my life changed forever.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Jai Ma Kali

We'd had a good month in Malta and the UK, and the night before our flight out of London's Heathrow airport I spent nearly an hour carefully wrapping and packing my carry-on bag of ceramics and other fragile objects.

Just before boarding—this was back before post-911 air paranoia—they pulled me aside for a baggage inspection.

“Ye gods,” I thought as a young South Asian woman began unwrapping the objects on top. “If I have to repack all of this, half of it will be broken by the time we get home.” I stood there, fuming but powerless.

The clerk gave a little start. “What's this?” she said.

She was holding a little statue of Kali that I'd bought a few days before.

Playing dumb American, I said, “Isn't that a wonderful little Kali?”

“You know Kali?” she said, looking up.

“Oh, sure," I said. This was no more than the truth. Every witch knows the Void, the Dark Mother.

"I got her in a little Hindu religious goods store in Forest Gate," I continued. "Isn't the detailing beautiful?”

The woman looked at me. She looked at Kali.

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What Do You Say When a Non-Pagan Wishes You 'Good Samhain'?

If you're out of the broom closet, and it hasn't happened to you yet, it will.

A non-pagan wishes you “Good Samhain”* (or Beltane, or Yule).

What do you say in response?

It's an act of hospitality to wish someone joy of their holiday. When that holiday is not one's own, the act becomes even more gracious, an act of grith-weaving. (Grith is an old name for “peace between communities,” as distinguished from frith, which means “peace within a community.”) It says: I know you. It says: I accept you for who you are. It says: I care enough to keep informed.

When someone wishes you Good Samhain (or Beltane, or Yule), the automatic instinct is to return the greeting, but of course when the well-wisher is not pagan, it's bootless to wish her joy of a holiday that she doesn't celebrate. It also denies the difference that she has just so graciously acknowledged.

So what do you say in response to a non-pagan "Good Samhain"?

Best, as always, is to answer graciousness with graciousness, hospitality with hospitality, while at the same time acknowledging difference.

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Harvesting Joy: A Hedgewitch's Herb Garden

Basil is beloved because it’s so delectable and versatile. It is easily grown in pots. Take care to remove the growing tip when the plants are 15cm high for bushier growth. Plant out in the garden when the weather gets warmer. Basil prefers full sun and a sheltered spot.

Chives come from the onion family and have slim, pointed leaves. You should sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring, late March or April. Chives grow best in a sunny spot with rich soil, so keep the plants watered. Chives produce pretty purple or pink and perfectly round flowers. Gorgeous in the garden and palatable on the plate Sage is a marvelous cooking herb and is truly easy to grow.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Magickal History of "Spirits"

The online dictionary defines “spirits” as being the non-physical part of a person, the soul, psyche, etc.  It is considered separate from our flesh-and-blood bodies. It is usually considered to be our true essence, or true selves. Another definition is in regard to the true essence of objects, ideals, beliefs, among others. Alcohol, then is the spirit, or essence of the ingredients used to make it.

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Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Magickal History of "Spirits"

The online dictionary defines “spirits” as being the non-physical part of a person, the soul, psyche, etc.  It is considered separate from our flesh-and-blood bodies. It is usually considered to be our true essence, or true selves. Another definition is in regard to the true essence of objects, ideals, beliefs, among others. Alcohol, then is the spirit, or essence of the ingredients used to make it.

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Tales of Paganistan: The Year We Held an Open Samhain at Prince's Favorite Nightclub

This is the City of Witches. Of course strange things happen here.

Although he never actually owned it, downtown Minneapolis nightclub and music venue First Avenue/Seventh Street Station—which featured prominently in the film Purple Rain—has, in the popular mind, become identified with local music icon Prince.

Let me tell you the tale of how we held a public Samhain observance there.

Samhain 1985. First Avenue's program director at the time, Jeffrey, who'd been interested in paganism for some time, decided to hold a public event in honor of the holiday. Through friends in the local music scene, he contacted a woman in our sister/daughter coven with the idea.

It was a terrific opportunity. We'd have use of the club's stage, dance floor, lighting, and sound system. Best of all, legendary local Keltic punk band Boiled in Lead would be providing live music.

Gleefully, we dove in.

Times being what they were, a group of us from the two covens sat in a circle on the living room floor to plan—by consensus, of course—the ritual.

What we wanted was to tell a story without use of words, a Samhain story that avoided the cliches but still managed to plumb the depths.

Here's what we came up with.

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