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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mother Cairn

Hey, let's build a cairn.

It will be a shrine, a place for the Mother. Everybody honors her. Well, they do if they have any sense.

To seed it, we'll bury her little image beneath where the cairn will rise. It will have to be a beautiful image, precious, enough to hurt. That's what makes it a worthy offering, a foundation.

Then we'll heap on the stones: small stones, each the size of a fist. We'll start with a small cairn, maybe a couple of feet high, but big enough to seed what comes after. And through the years it will grow.

A cairn is the ultimate in democratic architecture. Anyone can bring a stone and leave it. You'll place your stone, and then there will be something of you there forever, part of this thing that we're doing together down the years.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Heinlein once wrote that the secret to creating a proper English lawn is, "roll it and seed it for 600 years." Reading this stor
Minoans and history and untidy pigeonholes

When we learn history in school, we're given pictures of maps with clear lines drawn to separate the different empires, cultures, and nations. We're taught that one set of people lived within this little box on the map and another set of people lived within the next box over. But history isn't that neat and tidy.

Take the Minoans, for instance. Their culture centered on the island of Crete, just south of Greece, during the Bronze Age. They were a pre-Indo-European people (they weren't Greek) who became quite wealthy by importing raw materials and exporting fancy finished goods like bronze blades and dyed woolen cloth. But in order to do all that trading, they had to move around.

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Scorpio, Death, Resurrection, The Phoenix and The Sun

In this episode of the Naked Tarot Podcast, I discuss the mystical, symbolic aspects of the death and resurrection of Christ as represented by the scorpion/Scorpio and the Phoenix--as well as the Death and The Sun cards of Tarot. Listen in, or download, at the link below.

Scorpio, Death, Resurrection, The Phoenix and The Sun Podcast

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Is There a Witch Culture?

Do contemporary witches have a culture of our own?

I would contend that we do.

Culture: the totality of transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or population.

I would contend that as witches, we're a people, or at least a people-in-the-making. (Look at the past: these things happen all the time.) As such, we have our own culture, whether or not we're fully aware of it yet.

True, our historic culture has not come down to us intact. That's why it's so important to be willing to learn from other people's wisdom. That's why it's so important, when we're borrowing, not simply to take from someone and somewhere else and plunk it down whole and all in our midst. That's why, when we borrow a story, a trope, or a way of doing from someone else, we need first to translate it into Witch.

That's why it's not enough to say (for instance): Yemayá.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I remember well that frisson, Anthony. Mine came while reading L. M. Boston's Enemy at Green Knowe, from her series of teen novels
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember when I first read "The Horned Crown" by Andre Norton. The author used stuff I was reading in the witchcraft books from

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sage

In the Paganisphere, there is perhaps no more widely used incense than sage.  When I vend at Pagan events, sage bundles are usually the first thing that sells out.  But there is a lot more to “sage” than might meet the eye.

First, we should define “sage”.  Most of us use common names to refer to plants, although this can be confusing.  “Sage” is definitely one of those instances.  In the Pagan world, people generally mean “white sage” (salvia apiana) when they say sage.  Other forms of sage are also used in incense making.  “Culinary” or “garden” sage (salvia officinalis) comes in many different varieties and is a wonderful ingredient in incense.  Pineapple sage is my personal favorite. In fact, the whole issue of common names comes up again when we talk about “desert sage” because there are several different plants called by that name.  and Salvia eremostachya is known as “desert sage”, as is artemisia tridentate.  Although not a true sage it still imparts a very similar scent.  This is one of the reasons that plant aficionados like to use Latin names for plants to ensure everyone is on the same page.  The fact that there are four totally different plants that we often refer to as “sage” is a good illustration of why.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_praybeads1_sm.jpgWhat makes you feel safe? What makes you feel tense and anxious? Does anything make you fear for you life? Most of us can answer that question, but how much sense does the answer make?

My mother was emotionally wounded by her relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic and cheated on her. When the feminist movement rose, she was primed for it.  I was raised to distrust  - and fear – men, which did nothing positive for my future relationships. My father’s abuse of me primed for fear of rape, and the ensuing divorce primed me to fear abandonment. I spent years in a chronic state of anxiety. Going out into the world always required an act of will. Some days I just couldn’t. My animals – horse, cats, dog – were my saving grace. My horse was why I left the house. He needed to be provided for, and the barn was a haven.

I was afraid of being catcalled, raped, having things come at me that I didn’t expect, loosing work (I had a housecleaning business) being audited, not being able to pay the bills, my boyfriend of the moment leaving me. Some of those things were under my control: ie the likelihood of my loosing work was reduced if I did a good job, the likelihood of being raped went down if I didn’t expose myself to certain situations (the reality of one never deserving to be raped is completely different from the statistical data about when and where it occurs), and I could spend less than I made. (generally I spent more. I had a HORSE.) Some things were not under my control: being catcalled, begin audited, and having unexpected things come at me (by definition).

But why fear some things but not others? I didn’t fear driving, and my likelihood of  being injured in a car accident was far higher than the likelihood that I would be audited, or raped (Are there statistics on catcalling in the 90s?) or even killed by fists or bunt object. I was not afraid of being shot - depsite the crime rate being higher back then than it is now. But then, we didn’t have the internet back then, and I didn’t own a TV.

Current brain science confirms that we are biased toward information that is negative. It is so basic to our biology that we don’t think about it. there are perfectly practical reasons for this. Nature is dangerous. It’s better for a clawless, furless primate to think that that rustle in the bushes is a leopard than to relax and ignore it, and  this trait work just as well when we are our own predators. But this trait is rotten for evaluating current actual threats. From the standpoint of human existence, we are barely off the savannah, but modern humans still have most of those instincts. This is generally a good thing. After all, when we get that feeling that something is wrong, we are well served to listen.

But it’s a bad thing when we use our fear to dictate what others should or should not do. Do as thou wilt, but harm none means that my rights end at your nose, and vice versa. There is no such thing as a right that forces others to do things for me, or that prevents others from doing as they please as long as they stay off my property and away from my person. Being afraid that my neighbor will do X (leaving aside for a moment the whole “attracting what you fear” thing) does not mean that I am morally justified in advocating for a law against X. First and foremost, I may be fearing a leopard, when its really a porcupine in the bushes, who would much rather be left alone.

Some things make us more afraid than we need to be based on how often the feared thing actually happens. I spent a lot of time ruminating on the things I feared. My brain made trenches with those thoughts that got deeper and deeper. Climbing out was hard. It became easier when I had a reason to climb out (my animals) and the comfort and reassurance of connection to deity. It also became easier when I learned to defend myself (ie a concrete action). External things can feed those fears. Media is an obvious example, but there are also likely to be people around us that wallow in such fears. My BIL is into prepping.* he talks often about society collapsing. As it happens, that was another thing I feared when I was in my teens (I read On The Beach and grew up during the cold war) and I had to get past that in order to function in the here and now. I can’t spend too much time chatting with him or he will draw me back into that fear.

Our biology biases us toward fear, but giving in to it is not a way to have a good life. I believe that the gods want better for us.

What do you fear? And how do you ease those fears? 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Save the Monarch for Sigyn

Earth Day is coming soon. Earth Day used to be Arbor Day, when people planted trees. Some modern Asatruars call it Yggdrasil Day, meaning day of the World-Tree. Although every day should be Earth Day for pagans and heathens, for those who are looking for a way to commemorate it, I have a suggestion: save the Monarch Butterfly. 

Butterflies symbolize many things across many cultures. Modern heathens and pagans have come to associate the butterfly with the goddess Sigyn. The process started with personal gnosis, became group gnosis, and eventually found some foundation in the lore, as I explore in my upcoming paper "Sigyn: Butterfly Goddess," scheduled to be published soon in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

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