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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This weekend my coven will be celebrating our first "outdoor" sabbat.  I know that a lot of groups exclusively meet outside but that's never really been an option for us.  While my wife and I are lucky enough to live in a house, there's another person living in our backyard.  He's not a living in a tent or anything like that, but he does occupy a studio-like living space attached to the garage.  I doubt he wants to listen to us chant in the backyard while he's trying to sleep.  


While I do share a backyard the garden spots are all mine and with the corn already over six feet it feels pretty magical. It may not be with the coven, but every time I water my garden (with grey water from the shower) I feel like I'm at least performing a private ritual. I talk to my sunflowers, implore my pumpkins to grow, and stop to bow at Aphrodite-Chicago of the Lemon Tree.  My garden is ia magical place, but it's a magical place for mostly "just me" (and sometimes my wife when she checks on things). 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
To Find My Ancestors

One Pagan's DNA Research

My ancestors are important to my shamanic path. My previous post discusses that and why taking an AncestryDNA test is part of that path for me. 

Today's post discusses my feelings as I waited for the test results, my reactions to the results, and the adventure it put me on as a Pagan. 

An AncestryDNA test predicts ethnicity. Waiting for test results, I wondered if I'd like them. I felt excitement and a bit of trepidation.

I was empowered thinking about the benefits my friends' experienced. One friend learned which regions in Africa her ancestors hailed from. Prior to that, she did not know where in Africa she was from. Another friend uncovered secrets her family had hidden. This freed her from decades of lies.  

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Joyce ORourke
    Joyce ORourke says #
    I loved reading about your experience with the DNA testing and your results. Did you ever just know something about yourself since
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Joyce, Thanks for checking out the blog. I am delighted you liked it. And yes, I really hear you about knowing stuff despite any
  • aought
    aought says #
    Yes, I look forward to having my DNA analyzed. Oh, the ancestry that is buried. Raised "English," (Grandma was an English immigran
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    aought, thanks so much for your perspective on this. I am glad that you agree with me that 1) discovering one's ethnicity both doe

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Experiencing the Sacred

Friend and fellow colleague, Kevin Emmons, once described the sacred as “A simple thought that isn’t so simple. What we see and experience as sacred is what allows us to glimpse the eternal through cracks in consciousness caught in the field of time.” I love it when people say things that really make you think. You can find links to other inspiring writers on my personal blog at Down the Forest Path.

As a Druid and animist, to me everything is sacred. Everything is sacred, and yet everything is also mundane.  As author and Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck once said “Nothing is special. And when nothing is special, everything is”.  She wrote an entire book, called Nothing Special. I highly recommend it.

Kevin’s words are beautiful, evoking an image of eternity in which we can only catch glimpses.  My Zen Buddhist tendencies lead me to question whether anything is eternal, as the main tenet of Buddhism is the impermanence of everything, and yet there is a certain paradox in that the energy of life is never-changing: it only changes in the forms that it takes.  Energy manifests itself as different forms of matter dependent on circumstances such as environment, genetics, etc. So yes, the energy is eternal, but the manifestation is not.

Catching glimpses of this energy, of the sacred through cracks in consciousness is an absolutely delicious concept.  It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, when she speaks of nature as in XCII:

To my quick ear the leaves conferred;    

  The bushes they were bells;      

I could not find a privacy             

  From Nature’s sentinels.            


In cave if I presumed to hide,             

  The walls began to tell;               

Creation seemed a mighty crack              

  To make me visible.


We cannot escape life. It is always there, always around us, and we are always a part of its flow. There is no separation, only integration.  We live with each other; we live because of each other in a beautiful dance throughout the ages.  These cracks in our consciousness allow us to break through our perceived reality, and move beyond perceptions, beyond subjectivity into the entirety of being.

Our senses are so beneficial to us, and yet they also are the cause of our subjectivity. We see the world through our own eyes, feel through our own fingers, listen with our own ears. Everyone is different, yet everyone has a shared experience. When the species is the same, there is a deeper shared experience, an understanding and knowing where the Other is not so “other”.  Transcendence is moving beyond the senses, moving beyond the boundaries and definitions into pure understanding, pure experience.  Then there is no “I” or “Me”, there is no “You” or “Them” – just life, glorious life.  

Our consciousness is a blessing, a gift. It is also the greatest hurdle to overcome, for it shouts aloud and above the songs of the earth, drowning out the consciousness of other beings in our own minds.  Cracking open our consciousness we allow those other songs to come through, to inspire us, to nourish us, to blend with our song in a wonderful symphony of energy manifesting, over and over again.

These cracks of consciousness are caught in the field of time (however you may view time, whether it be linear, circular, etc.).  Energy manifests, for a time, and then changes its form.  Time is what creates the impermanence that is so vital to life. Without time, there would be no conception, no materialisation, no death and no decay. Within the moveable boundaries of time we see a progression of the eternal processes of birth and decay.  Time is a gentle sanctuary, an indiscriminate boundary that allows these processes to occur.

And so, the sacred is that which allows us to glimpse the eternal. The sacred is anything and everything, if only we open up our senses and move beyond our perceptions.  Through the cracks of consciousness within the fields of time we perceive this sacredness, flowing and changing, manifesting and decaying, a boundless stream of energy moving through the cosmos.

May you see through the cracks to glimpse the sacred.


*For more writing on the sacred and other concepts witin Druidry, visit for a full bibliography of the author's work.*

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Pagan Events, Trash, and Environmentalism Part 2



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Reach for the light, rooted in the earth...

The swirls and eddies of the rising tide pull us ever closer into the dizzying dance that is summer. Here in the British Isles, summer is when everything happens: festivals appear from May to September, weekend events and week-long retreats.  It’s a busy time of year, when we ride the solar energies to the point of highest light. We feel our spirits rising with the sun, and let its rays illuminate our paths and nourish us body and soul. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy.  My schedule is packed until October, with pagan events, priestly duties and more.  By the end of May I can already begin to feel a little burned out, and summer hasn’t even really gotten into its stride yet.  What I have to do is look to nature for inspiration.

The growing tides of light can entice us to do more than we should, to overbook or overcommit ourselves.  What we don’t want to happen is to have the summer solstice upon us and be too tired to celebrate it.  We need to harness our energies, to pool our resources so that we can access those lush depths when the time is right. 

Our agricultural ancestors welcomed this time of year: it was warm, and if they were lucky the crops were planted and growing well.  Vigilance was still needed, yes, but at this point what will happen will happen.  The hardest work was yet to come, during harvest season.  So too do we need to see that at this time near the highest light we need to remember not to burn too brightly, or we will have nothing left when it is time to reap what we have sown.

Take some time out, time to regroup, time for stillness and reflection.  Enjoy the present moment.  Spend time alone with yourself to check in on how you are feeling, emotionally, physically, mentally.  Have you over-committed? Are you doing too much? Really feel how you are in this present moment, and use that knowledge to help you find that balance point between motion and stillness.  Ride the energies up to the solstice, yes, but ride them with care.  Riding headlong and reckless can lead to you being unseated, and you might never get where you wish to go in such a manner. 

The earth hums with the tides and times of life.  At this time of year she is reaching upward, and so too can we reach upward to find our heavenly bliss.  But we must keep our feet rooted in the ground, in order to feed our roots with that wonderful light and warmth streaming across the land.  We can’t run on an open circuit; we need to be grounded.  Deep relationship nourishes both parties.

Blessings of the summer to you all!

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Have Pagans Failed at Environmental Activism?

Many Pagans define themselves as "Earth-centered," and yet, so many of us fail to actually live in harmony with the earth. I've written before on the Pagan Activist blog about environmentalism. And I admit that--in my frustration--I've written a few harsh and perhaps even incendiary posts on the topic. I don't know that those have done anything to change anyone's mind.

However, environmentalism is a part of Pagan leadership and community building, which is why I'm writing about it here.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Leslie J Linder
    Leslie J Linder says #
    Thank you for your thoughtful blog! I am an Eclectic Vegan Pagan, and I signed the statement. I had given the authors some info fr
  • Rick
    Rick says #
    Shauna, yours is one of the better posts on the subject. In terms of what can be done and what should be done, the entire race, n
  • Rick
    Rick says #
    And that doesn't even address my pet peeve of over-population!
  • Richard Wachenheim
    Richard Wachenheim says #
    Hello, I consider myself as a reasonable environmentalist pagan. That said, I have been close to the earth for many years and wa
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I'm one of those people who ended up not signing the pledge, and the "small actions" post I did on Pagan Activist in early April i
Pagan Event Planning: Recipes for Disaster Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on event planning. First, I'm going to outline some really bad event planning processes, and then I'll go into some event planning strategies and methods that are a bit more helpful. When I'm teaching leadership workshops, a lot of Pagans ask me, "Why do our teams have such problems working together?" I can tell you that poor event planning processes accounts for a lot of group blow-ups.

I've planned a lot of grassroots events. Some Pagan, some in the scifi-fantasy fandom community, and now some as a fiction author. I've seen a lot of things go wrong. Heck, I've contributed to some of those things going wrong. A lot of how we humans learn seems to unfortunately be through making mistakes of our own. Recently, I've had a few people asking me for advice on event planning. And as it happens, I've been part of a few online event planning processes that have reminded me of some sure-fire recipes for disaster. 

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