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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

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Sweet Skeletons

For those who wish to extend their Halloween/Samhain party celebrations, here's another notion for you:

Mexican Day of the Dead Party
The artwork and decoration for Dia de los Muertos (traditionally Nov. 1st and 2nd) has always been naturally festive. This sacred practice has more to do with customs and community rather than a particular organized religion. It is the answer to the Celtic origins of Halloween, but more so: The Mexican festival is truly a public celebration, not just a private affair. The Catholics may have All  Saint's Day, but this Mexican custom, like many native cultures, is a blending of ancient pagan practice intermeshed with the adoption of Christian symbolism and saints. In many of the whimsical and often beautiful altars on display, there are images of the Virgin Mary or Jesus interspersed amongst the whimsical sugar skulls.

I have one word for you here: skeletons, skeletons, skeletons! You could even recycle some Cinco de Mayo wall hangings if you like, to mix in with the bones. Decorate little sugar skulls and add to your altar/treat table. Have each guest bring a memento from a recently departed loved one to add to the altar space. Light a candle for each, and offer a favorite treat to all of them.

Speaking of treats, whip up some Mexican Hot Chocolate, and have a salsa bar with several degrees of hot to sample with some spicy tacos, nachos, and tortilla chips. Let Mariachi music ring out over your speakers. If that gets too scary for some after a spell, switch over to the Gypsy Kings. Share some tarot readings and ask for advice from a departed loved one. Keep it in the tradition of this honored day. Remember that Halloween can be sweet in more than one way.
(from Rachel Ray)
4 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and 1 cup of water over a medium heat. Whisk constantly but do not boil- about 8 minutes. This makes 4 mugs, so double or quadruple recipe accordingly. To spice things up, add a shot of rum to each mug!

Sugar Skulls
For more Dia de los Muertos ideas and sugar skull instructions, visit:


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Α New Sexual Liberation Movement?

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2015 Samhain Resolution

Happy Halloween to you all, and a Blessed Samhain to my Witchy friends! Most site viewers already know Samhain is also known as the New Year to many Pagan folks, and I attribute the notion of New Year's resolutions to it. (You may recall my post from last year.) Basically, every year, I strive for self-improvement that will in turn make the world a little bit better of a place. It's not like the traditional resolutions like losing weight or quitting a bad habit. No, I  believe Samhain resolutions are much deeper than that.

Reflecting on my resolution for last year, I do believe I've done good on it. Last year, "I resolve[d] to be better at the whole green thing,", as well as continue to "be less judgy". Both I've done good, but both are ongoing. Coincidentally, this past August, the city of Chicago had banned plastic bags from big stores, though many have found enough loopholes that so far it seems to not have made a big difference. We're still miles away from even a decent recycling system, too. But that's on the city - not me. So, I just have worked a bit harder at figuring out my own loopholes, so to speak.

One big thing we do is simply bring our own lunches to work. Especially in summer, I all but live out of my car, so I have pretty much turned the back seat into a little pantry, as I don't always have time to actually make a lunch. (I used to have a drawer at work for the same thing.) Now that I have fewer showings, I do have time to make lunches, which mostly, Ron and I use bento boxes. (He calls them pendejo boxes haha.) We're not sushi people, so that's not what we put in the little containers at all. Mostly, it's variations of the Thanksgiving relish trays, a.k.a., nibbles, and different stuff all the time. Black olives, carrots, celery with cream cheese, crackers and cheese, thinly sliced radishes, peeled and sliced apples (dipped in a touch of lemon juice to prevent browning), green onions, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, mini sweet pickles (as well as sliced dills), lunch meats, ranch dip, hummus, and so on - all ready to munch on throughout the day. Sounds good, right? As long as we mix it up, we don't get bored.

The reason I started going back to making more lunches is multi-faceted: For one thing, even cheap drive-thru food isn't all that cheap anymore, unless you specifically order from the dollar menu. (And yes, we're Cheapie McCheapskates when it comes to food. We hate spending money on it.) For another, it gets b-o-r-i-n-g. Of course, even the healthier choices aren't as good as people think. And yes, there is always the issue of the trash that cheap drive-thru creates. Think about it: Styrofoam clam shells are the go-to container for most take-out joints anymore. I've noticed that even with pizzerias that sell by the slice. And the cups - if not the entire cup being Styrofoam, the lid and straw are probably plastic. (That poor turtle.) So it just made sense all around to go that route. We also do the bento boxes for another reason: Packing traditional lunches take more time, and sandwiches are boring. As a Dutch lady I met once commented about American food, "Everything is sandwich". If you think about it, she's kinda right: We do eat a lot of stuff wrapped around a type of bread (sandwiches, subs, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, wraps, burritos, and so on).

Another big thing I did was switch to vaping over smoking. Now for years, Ron and I have made our own cigarettes with the tube machine. They're better than what we can buy at the store, especially compared to price, and the tobacco isn't sprayed with a gazillion chemicals. When I was getting ready for PSG this year, I dreaded having to make myself a carton of cigarettes like I have been doing in the past. It's a chore for sure. That, and our son was coming with me, who has never smoked, so I knew I was going to get the nagging from him. So a week before, I got myself a vape pen and juice, and I got used to that instead of cigarettes. I will say, it's so much more convenient, I can smoke it with the windows rolled up (or yes, even in a tent) and I don't have to figure out what to do with the butts. Oh and the price? It's about the same as making our own cigarettes.

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5 Ways to Clear and Purify Your Energy This Samhain

Samhain naturally lends itself to magical workings related to healing, renewal, and release of old bonds. And, this Samhain is a Saturday when the moon is waning: two additional aspects that lend themselves to same. With this in mind, check out the five Samhain-attuned clearing and purification practices below.

1. Hecate Cauldron Purification Ritual
After casting a circle, and calling on Divine protection in a way that feels powerful for you, light a black candle to the goddess Hecate. In a notebook or journal, brainstorm all the qualities and conditions you'd like to purify and release from your life. This might include things like fears, unhealthy relationships, compulsive thought patterns, and addictions or unwanted habits. When this feels complete, tear out the pages, place them in a cauldron or pot, and safely use the candle to light them on fire. Thank Hecate. After opening the circle, throw the ashes in a moving body of water, or just flush them down the toilet. Let the candle continue to safely burn throughout the night, extinguishing before going to sleep or leaving the house. You can continue to burn the candle down at intervals until the next new moon.

2. Mugwort and Sweetgrass Smudge
In case you don't know, smudging is when you light a bundle of herbs so that it's smoking like incense, and then wafting the smoke around a room, area, or person in order to purify and fine tune energy. On Samhain, it's particularly appropriate to smudge with a mugwort bundle, as well as a sweet grass braid, or with both herbs bundled up together in one. The mugwort protects from negative spirits and energies while harmonizing the natural portal between the worlds that opens up most fully at Samhain. The sweet grass also harmonizes the portal of light, assuring that only the most positive and loving of spirits and energies are permitted to come through. This practice will also generally harmonize, purify, and fine tune the energy of your space.

3. Anise and Sea Salt Bath
In addition to being relaxing, a warm bath with a few drops of anise seed essential oil and a cup of sea salt is highly purifying to the energy field. Removing old patterns, stagnant energy, and repetitive thought forms, it also protects against negativity and unsavory spirits. Light enough candles to light the room pleasantly, then soak for at least 40 minutes. (Be sure to have plenty of drinking water on hand to replenish your fluids.)

4. Cord Cutting Ritual
Light a fire in your fire place or outdoor fire pit. Take a moment to assess all the things you'd like to cut the cords from in order to free up your vibrant, Goddess-given personal power. These might include old relationships, responsibilities, beliefs, or habits. For each one, tie a single piece of black embroidery thread around a red pillar candle with a knot. Then, with great certainty and focus, snip them all away with a sharp pair of scissors. Cast the old cords into the fire and watch them burn. Light the candle as a symbol and representation as your calm, vibrant, and unhampered personal power, and let it burn throughout the night. Extinguish before bed, and light again at intervals until the next full moon.

5. Road Opening Door Cleanse
Like the sunset is a threshold between day and night, Samhain is a time when the weather is rapidly shifting into the winter-like half of the year. It's also the end of an old harvest cycle and the beginning of a new one. This is what makes it a portal between the realms of seen and unseen, known and unknown. Draw upon this threshold energy by cleansing your physical door today as a symbol of clearing away anything that may be holding you back. Place a few drops of sage and rosemary essential oil in a bucket and fill it with warm water. Using a rag, wash your front door, first inside, and then out. As you do so, say or think, "I am clearing the way for my positivity to flow. I am making way for blessings of all varieties. I am reinforcing my boundary of light."

(And if you haven't already, check out this fun new Llewellyn book!)

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Indian Flying Fox: Fearless Exploring

One of the largest of Bats, Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus) has a wingspan of more than a child's height. During her flight, She extends her legs outward to expand the span of her wings. A strong swimmer, Indian Flying Fox crosses rivers using her wings as flippers.

Less feared than other types of Bats, Indian Flying Fox eats only fruit. Her favorite is very soft bananas which She swallows whole.  However, with mangoes, She extracts the juice and spits out the seeds. Indian Flying Fox is an important pollinator in the tropics, and a major dispenser of seeds. In certain parts of India, She is regarded as sacred.

Unfortunately for Her, her desire for fruit has led Indian Flying Fox in conflict with people. Because She causes extensive damage to fruit orchards, many farmers consider Indian Flying Fox to be a pest. Governments in South Asia have instituted kill programs to stop Her, since they consider Indian Flying Fox to be “vermin.”

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It's what cowans call “tradition”: heft.

It's an old word, a Northern word, from the Norse hefð. It's ultimately from the same root as have, heave, and haven, because heft—tradition—is what we have, what we hold and hold to.

It's a noun: both what (and where) we hold to, and those of us hefted—traditioned—thus. So we are our heft. The Driftless Area is our homeland, our heft.

It's a verb: used of a person or people, it means to hold to, to maintain. We heft the Old Ways here.

It's an adjective: hefted, describing those so held; the state of being traditioned, for as we hold heft, so heft holds us.

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A Musical Magickal Tarot Spell

I do a lot of tarot magick on my own. Mostly, it’s pretty casual. Recently, at TarotCon (Florida) 2015, I helped create group magick using tarot, music and dance.

We were looking for a fun activity to immediately follow dinner. My colleague, Jenna Matlin, had recently attended a trance dance, where they danced the nine planets. How much fun would it be to dance the tarot?

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