Monday, July 4, 2022

Thoughts on Cursing



(a section of my altar to Macha)

The last time I visited Ireland we were in Cork during a women’s rights rally. There was an upcoming referendum on making abortion legal. We showed our support and spoke a bit with a protester who when we walked by was being bullied by a man who opposed the legislation. The man focused on us when we walked over and we make it pretty clear we weren’t on his side and were just rude Americans and he slunk away. We talked to the women protesters for a few minutes and donated what Irish coins we had left in our pockets to the organization. I remember saying words of encouragement, and that we had already fought this battle in the US. I think about that conversation a lot now. I still have the pin they gave me on my altar to Macha. It makes me angry that we are fighting that battle again. What that has to do with cursing I’ll get to in a minute.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in regard to Roe vs Wade, I have gone through a whole host of emotions. As a woman who has had an abortion, and firmly feel it was one of the best decisions of my life, I find myself reliving a lot of the feelings that I went through surrounding that decision. I was in a failing relationship, I did not want children (the fact that I never want children is kind of a first date topic for me, I feel that strongly about it), and I was in a bad financial position. I was on birth control, took it correctly, yet still here I was. I felt betrayed by my body, trapped, and going through a lot of hoops to get an abortion. My doctor could do it the next day if I wanted, only their practice's policy stipulated that they would only perform it in a hospital, and it would only cost $1800 that I did not have. My next option was Planned Parenthood, whose $500 price tag I could just barely scrape together, but the available appointment would put me very close to the time period where I would not legally be able to obtain one in CT.  I am grateful that Planned Parenthood was an option, and I support the organization, but I don’t know if I can explain how insulting it is to constantly be asked (it felt like a thousand times) if I really wanted to do this. I have had other medical procedures before, and yes signed consent is always a part of any procedure. But I had already signed the dotted line and given my consent.  It makes you feel like a five year old, who doesn’t know what they really want, or what could be best for their life and their body. It makes you feel like you aren’t a person. It makes you realize that you only have control over your body within very specifically mandated timelines, and if I passed that imaginary timeline I wouldn't own myself or my choices anymore. And this was when Roe vs. Wade was in effect. We have a long way to go in this world to honoring the sovereignty of woman over their own bodies. And we have had a long way to go for a long time.

Understandably, after the Supreme Court’s decision I have seen a lot of talk about cursing the Supreme Court. I talk about curing and baneful magic in a few of my books, most extensively in Priestess of the Morrigan. I firmly believe it is the last resort for the disenfranchised, when done correctly and with some forethought. One doesn’t just run into battle without a plan. Usually those kinds of strategies are unsuccessful disasters. Magic is no different. Baneful magic can be effective, and it does work, but the thing is if it is not done correctly, it is not going to have the outcome you think it will. It can at times even make things worse. This is in part why I have waited to take any magical actions. And trust me, there will be magical action. But I need to take the time to collect my thoughts, and build a plan of action, to find the correct words, the correct places to put pressure on to manifest my desired results. So, in this vein of thought, I felt it might be a good idea to talk about a few things to consider when crafting baneful magic. Maybe it will help guide your own plan of action.



This is beyond important. Words have power. They are the placeholders for ideas. They shape our perceptions of things. In anger you might wish to curse the entire Supreme Court. Let me explain why that’s a bad idea. Three of the justices did not vote to overturn Roe vs Wade. Do I want to curse those justices? I don’t think so. Also if I curse the court as an institution, I am setting it up to fail in continuing rulings. For example saying, ‘I want the court to utterly fail’, well what does that mean? Fail to do its job? Fail to be effective? I mean it already is, I don’t want to exasperate the problem. Fail is too broad a term. What you are probably trying to say is fail to overture rulings on x,y,z issues. But if you don’t say that, then it has the potential to do the opposite of what you intended, especially when calling on other beings to enact your will. They could interpret it to just mean cause chaos and make all rulings failures. Do you see what I mean? It is like the stories where a genie grants someone a wish, and they will for world peace, and the genie makes them the only person left on earth. They got their wish, but not in the way they expected.

Be clear about what you want. Perhaps focusing your work on the justices who did make the ruling would be far more helpful than those who were against it, and the court as a whole. Or the justices who clearly lied to congress when asked about overturning rulings. Lies and broken oaths being called into account can be powerful too, and target very specifically. 


What Does Winning Look Like?

You really have to think hard about this. What is the exact desired outcome. Sometimes when you really sit down and picture it, it may make you change the magical direction you were doing with your work. I like writing out a list to describe all aspects of the desired outcome. If you don’t have a clear idea in your head of what you want the outcome to be, then your magic will have no focus, and little chance of success.


Which Allies to Call Upon? And Can they Play Nicely Together?

Calling on beings you have no relationship with for something as volatile as baneful magic isn’t a great idea. If that being embodies a quality you need for the work, like a connection to battle, justice, overcoming odds, a protector of women etc. I recommend you take the time to connect with that being and build a relationship before seeking their help in such work. I don’t mean meditate on them for three days and bam you are best buds with Ereshkigal. Really build a relationship with them, and this will take time. If you have no relationship to speak of with them, what are the chances they will expend the maximin amount of energy and effort to your goal? Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. It’s like ringing the doorbell and asking to borrow the car of the neighbor you never talk to.

Another consideration is if you are calling on multiple allies, do they all play well together? Are they all from different Pantheons, are they forces that would normally be apposed to one another, do they get along in their own mythology? Having forced that aren’t friendly to one another come together for your work isn’t the best idea in any type of magic, yet I see it suggested often when cursing comes up.


Time Periods

Spirits don’t exactly tell time very well. Not at least in the way we perceive it. “Soon” and “as quickly as possible” could mean years or centuries to them. Be specific or make it conditional. A year, three months, or until the person in question rights the wrongs they have done this will be so, etc. Whether it is how long something will be held in effect or when you wish a desired result to manifest, specifics help you get better results.


Consider What Could Go Wrong

This is also a consideration when you are putting your desired outcome into focus. Think about what you want to manifest. Where could it go wrong? What things could manifest because of this working, that you DON’T want to happen. How might those things be avoided? These consideration might alter your approach.



In addition to all these points I would suggest that any real change will require a many layered plan of attack, mundane or magical. There is a place for cursing and baneful magic, but there is also a place for calling on the Gods and spirits who embody the righting of injustices, upholding sovereignty and victory in war. I say all these things not to discourage you. I just want us to win this war, and that means thinking about our actions, magically and otherwise, crafting them into something that brings victory.

I do not leave you will a ready-made curse, that is for you to figure out if you feel that is the magical route you wish to take. I do leave you with something I modified from Priestess of the Morrigan, which is based on a magical battle in the The Siege of Knocklong or Forbhais Droma Dámhgháire. It is more a binding than a curse and could be used to call upon Macha in doing work regarding the place we find ourselves in right now. Right now, it is Macha’s council I seek in funneling my rage into something useful. Could it become a cures? Sure, and if you've been paying attention to the above points you could easily turn it into one. 




Otherworldly one

Champion of Women

Who meets injustice with battle

Temper my rage with your own

Imbue my anger with purpose and power

That it may be a brand, a shining spear, to rout my foes

A sword of flame

An arrow piercing those who seek to enslave others

I beseech thee


Be you a flying shadow;

Be you a red water-snake, a monstrous eel

As the Morrigan bound Cuchulain,

so too bind those who move against the sovereignty of women

Be you a sea-eel of nine coils

Rending power from evil men and women

Woe to them around whom you coil,

Nine time you wrap around the enemies of sovereignty

Nine times you sap their strength

Nine time you gnash your teeth,

 tearing, destroying their evil,

Nine times you bind their limbs,

Nine times nine, a curse

 bound like the honey-suckle round the tree

That no deed or hand may be raised against the sovereignty of women

That their deeds against women shall be made to fail

That bad judgments may be overturned

May my fury be an eel of the Morrigan’s making,

Be you a flying shadow,

I beseech thee


You whose cursed the men of Ulster

You who chained the sons of Dithorba to your will

You who reap justice from injustice

You whose crop are the severed heads of war

I beseech thee    















Saturday, October 31, 2020

Prayers For The Morrigan




   I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because I’ve been spending most of my time writing. But Samhain is my favorite holiday. So, I thought it appropriate that I post something today. This year has been a roller coaster for me, as I know it has been for everyone. My grandmother passed early in the year, a close friend died a month later. I wrote two books, I reorganized The Morrigan’s Call to an online format this year, as well as another festival I organize. I’m getting married in a couple of days. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

   Yet if anything, this pandemic has taught me to focus on my personal connection to deity, to refine my daily practices. When my day job closed for a month, my daily spiritual practices were what kept me sane and focused. One aspect of my practice is creating prayers. Prayer is a word I think we need to reclaim in Paganism, it is something that is part of all religions. It’s one of many topics that I discuss in my forthcoming book Dedicant, Devotee, Priest: A Pagan Guide to Divine Relationships. You can also find many prayers to the Morrigan in Priestess of the Morrigan, coming out in Jan 2021.

   So, when October rolled around, I was suddenly done with most of my deadlines and wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. A friend posted a 31 Days of The Morrigan challenge and I thought it would be a good way to challenge myself to write more prayers for the Great Queen, themed around the prompts. Here are a few of my favorite ones created for the challenge.


A Prayer to the Battle Fury

Naked you dance from shield rim to spear point,

Battle fury shrieking, wild, frenzied,

above the fray.

You are both madness and the will to survive.

Blessing the weapons of those you favor,

imbuing them with strength,

with courage,

with victory.

Upon my spear point dance, oh Morrigan!

Oh, deadly battle fury!

See me through the darkness I face.

That I may leave the battlefield whole,

and with your blessings.


A Prayer to The Morrigan for Blessings

White, red eared heifer,


who hindered Cúchulainn at the Ford.

Driver of kine,

from Cruachan.

Raven full of guile,

Whispering secrets into the ears,

of the Brown Bull.

Hag offering milk from a cow.

You are the wealth of the fertile land.

You are thirst and need, sated.

Bless me with your cunning

With your soothing healing,

With your abundance,

This day and always.



A Prayer for Courage

Badb's wolves are all sharp teeth,

maws red with blood.

Macha's wolves hunt in shadows,

eyes seeing and finding all they seek.

Anu's wolves roll is soft moss,

fierce mother's guarding the den.

Let me be the noblest of ravens

and the finest of your wolves,

In your service, oh Morrigan!

Soft when needed, fierce when required.


A Prayer to the Morrigan as Goddess of Sovereignty

An Morrigan,

Singing spells of power, you shape the land.

From Odra's flesh and bone you shaped a sleepy stream.


The hills are your breasts,

Fertile, lush.


The barrows and cairns are your womb,

the river ford's your mournful haunt.


The fairy mounds are your domain,

Emain Macha, marked out by your hand.

May I feel your power in the ground beneath my feet.

May I hear your words in the rushing sounds of your rivers.

May I find rest in your barrows and shadowed realm when it is my time



A Prayer to Nemain


You are frenzy,

Battle madness,

Blood spilt upon the ground.

The blood of enemies,

your wine, your battle paint.

Your screaming voice,

Strikes fear into the hearts of men.

Poisonous sorceresses,

Blood stained battle fury,

Teach me to stand in the eye of the storm,

to know when to take action,

and when to be still.

Teach me to pursue my goals with wild abandon,

to not tame my wildness but instead use it,

to both destroy and create.


A Prayer to the Phantom Queen in Times of Grief

Great Queen,

You come for us all,

Sometimes in the frenzy and heat of battle,

Sometimes a quiet phantom in the silence.

Old or young it makes no difference.

You are the keeper of liminal spaces,

You gather your portion of the dead.

You greet us with a welcoming embrace,

a strong hand to take,

a guide, wearing a cloak of raven feathers.

To lead us to the shores of your river,

to wash away the sorrow,

the blood, the fear,

To restore all that is weary within us.

Keen with us Washer Woman,

when it is our time to grieve the ones who take your hand.

Remind us that you will be there to greet us when it is our time.

Teach us not to fear death,

but to trust you will be there,

guiding us home.

The Morrigan's Sword: A Prayer for Victory

An Morrigan,

Cath Badb, fury,

Lady of war and battle,

Your wisdom is like a blade,




But it is also a blade held ready to defend.

A sword to protect what is...

held dear,

what is loved,

what is just.

May I be a blade in your hand.

May I be tempered with your wisdom.

May I be victorious against,

the challenges I face.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Blessings on the Edge of a Blade

    I’ve spent a great deal of time contemplating the Morrigan’s nature lately. Both for a new project and for upcoming events where I am either talking about her or hosting rituals for her.  I still feel we have hang-ups about her as a goddess of war. War isn’t just the battle itself, there is the part that comes after where the warrior has to heal and put themselves back together. We visit the battlefield, we can’t live on it, not unless we want our lives to be destructive messes. Part of her lesson is understanding that action and force are necessary at times. They are a potent and destructive catalysts, and are vital to change. But as in all things the dose makes the medicine, or the poison. Digitalis can save you from heat failure, but too much will kill you.  Forgetting how to leave the battlefield, how to accept her victory, neglecting to heal ourselves, that’s a poison too.

   So we have to remind ourselves that the Great Queen rules over the whole cycle. Instigating the war, the battlefield itself and the blood and gore spilt on it (metaphorical and literal alike), and the announcing of the peace, the claiming of victory, and the healing that comes after. Every war has aftermath, it changes us. And every victory has a price.

   The price of victory is what I find myself considering today. Both in looking at my own experiences with The Morrigan, and the stories others have shared with me, I can see a clear and familiar pattern. A pattern of blessing that come on the razor edge of a blade. And as I had to tell a dear friend not that long ago, that’s just how The Morrigan works. She is the granter of victory. She keeps her promises. When you come to her for aid it’s often swift and brutal.  She has the habit of finding the things that will be the most painful yet also the most powerful catalyst of change, and focuses on them with a laser like intensity.  But in my own experiences The Morrigan pisses you off, or breaks you, to get you up and moving again. To light a fire under and within us. To help you refocus on your goals. To remind you it’s time to build something new. It’s kind of like a hot poker to the ass.  Since the Morrigan was said to own a magical cooking spit, I suppose we should not be surprised. She goads us onward, not just to battle, but to healing, to victory.

   I think we need to remind ourselves that victory is just as much a vital function of The Morrigan as war. What does victory look like to you? What do you want to attain when you leave the battlefield? Because if you don’t have a goal in mind when you first set out, you really don’t have any business setting foot on that battlefield in the first place.  Your goals might change along the way but you still need to have a grasp of what you are fighting for. If you don’t know what victory looks like, you’ll never achieve it. And if you don’t know how to sit, rest and heal between your battles you won’t be fit enough to take on another challenge. This is perhaps the hardest lesson, to seek healing. While The Morrigan has a habit of breaking us apart, its always with the goal to put the pieces back together again. We just have to place value on healing, instead of thinking we can function just fine with the jagged edges sticking out. Its kinds of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. His limbs are hacked off and he proclaims “Tis but a flesh wound!”.  He’s just going to keep going until he falls down, and achieve nothing.  When we falls down the enemy just walks past.  Children of The Morrigan are stubborn.  We will put others needs ahead of our own and we forget that part of being a warrior is healing. Sitting down and letting our wounds knit back together. Victory is sometimes a quiet thing, a time when we give ourselves the things we need the most.

   The Morrigan has given me many gifts. And I earned and fought for each one. It makes them no less precious, and I am no less grateful to her.  At this point I try to go where she leads, so she doesn’t have to shake my life up too much to get me to see the things right in front of me, or to goad me into taking action.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  But I don’t regret having to go through some difficult shit to seek her blessings. Her blessings come on the edge of a blade, and you will probably cut yourself and bleed on that blade, but the victory she will hand you is worth it. The Morrigan may not always be kind, but she is fair.  And she wants us to seek the victory she offers. Just don't trick yourself into thinking you wont have to earn it.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Divining the Chaos

    When I teach I often emphasize the importance of divination. It’s a tool we should be using all the time not just when we want to see what our love life is going to be or if we are going to get a job etc.  I use divination when I have specific question, but those cases are in the minority. Usually what I use divination for is planning a ritual or spellwork. Is this a favorable time for this ritual etc? Is this what the Gods want, or are they asking something else from me? Have the Gods accepted my offering? And so on.  Although I am not a member of ADF, I have always admired that they use divination at the end of their rituals to determine if the offering they have given the Gods were accepted, and any messages from the Gods. Why don’t we see more of this kind of divination?

   In addition to all that there is another sort of divination that I find I often use, something I call divining the chaos. In a way it could be seen as simply paying attention to omens, but I find it is more subtle than that.  Most of us are accustomed to doing divination with a set of card, runes, bones etc. There is a physical, tactical component to it.  We don’t get into that state of Seeing unless we have our tools in font of us.  I personally use bird divination a great deal, which requires nothing more than being observant of the world around us and being open for the answers it wishes to give you.  Perhaps that is one of many reasons I find divining chaos to be just another intuitive step. 

   So what is divining chaos anyway?  Well basically its paying attention to the chaos and events that unfold around you.  Here are a few examples.  During a big ritual at an event I run we had all but two of the main people hosting one of the rituals have something come up where they could not be a part of it.  We have three big rituals at this event, and the first two went on without a hitch. But the closer we got to the last ritual the weirder things got. The first thing, which should have been a glaring stop sign to me, was that the bag with items we were going to use during the ritual was the one bag that didn’t make it to the event. It was all packed and ready to go, sitting on the couch and in plain sight. How I didn’t see it when I did the final “we got all the things” check before we left I have no idea. Still I planned to just carry on and adapt.  Then one person who was involved in ritual has a family issue and let me know they would have to leave a little early on the last day of the event, the day of that particular ritual of course.  Then the next key person bowed out, they had been up too late doing some intense work with some folks the night before.  All good reasons, all part of the chaos of running an event.  It comes with the territory.

   So basically about a half hour before ritual I was left with myself and two other people and no way of doing the ritual we had originally written.  A few years ago I probably would have been in full panic mode.  Instead I sat next to the ritual fire and listened.  I was remarkably calm.  Then I planned out a completely new ritual in my head and that what we ended up doing. And you know what? It ended up being exactly what we needed.  The ritual I ended up writing in my head in five minutes had elements that had profound messages to some folks, all elements that would not have been in the ritual if I just chugged on and stayed the course I had originally plotted out.  One person told me afterwards that they had been given a very specific message that when they received a specific item in ritual it would be time for them to continue on their path, and because the other tokens I had originally envisioned were left at home, I ended up using the item they were told to look for.  Another person had been having an initiatory experience all weekend and was having misgivings about moving on from a dedication from one deity to another.  The deity they were moving on from was the one I ended up focusing on in the ritual. My original ritual had little to do with that deity and focused on other ones. Afterwards they said they had the closure they needed and felt love and acceptance from the deity they were moving further away from in their practice. 

   The point of course is that there are messages in the chaos. They are there, we just have to listen, to read their meaning so that we can change our course of action.  If I had just stopped and listened when I forgot my bag and just changed the ritual at that point, I doubt all the other chaotic coincidences would have happened. 

   Another more recent occurrence of divining the chaos happened where someone who was originally supposed to facilitate a ritual I was involved in ended up having some chaos happen at home.  In the end they ended up being a participant and receiving the messages they needed rather than being the one facilitating and giving the messages to others.  In the end it was exactly what the Gods wanted it and needed it to be.

   Divining the chaos instead of just trying to side step it can be invaluable.  It required that we stop, take a breath, and ask what are the Gods telling me?  Where are they pointing me?  We like to think we have everything mapped out, that everything will go as planned, but that’s not how life works.  That’s not how the Gods or the universe works. There is meaning in the chaos, and sometimes it leads us exactly where we were supposed to be in the first place.   

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Magic: Empowering the Disenfranchised or the Passive Aggressive?


   “No” is perhaps the most important word we learn as children.  The world will tell you “no” a lot.  You might lose a job, someone will break up with you, someone will disagree with you, a loved one may die, the crops might fail, you won’t always get what you want. We live in a world where “no” is common place. When our parents tell us “no” we learn how to manage disappointment, because you have to.  Sometimes a parent telling you “no” can be a kindness, because you are learning to manage disappointment in a circumstance where the stakes are low.  Not getting that toy or watching a movie, isn’t going to be the same as getting evicted because you cant adult.  Childhood is the training ground for adulthood, and learning how to manage the “no’s” life throws at you.  Not stopping them, but managing the circumstances of the “no” and your emotional reactions to them.  You have to learn how to deal with disappointment in life, its part of being an adult, its part of growing.

  So what happens when people fail to hear “no” enough, or develop the moral character to say “no” to themselves.  And what does it have to do with magic you might ask?  Well it has a lot to do with it.  Magic is a tool that takes the world’s “no’s” and turns them into “yes’s”.  And if you haven’t developed the discipline to say “no” to yourself that can become a problem. Because once people hear “yes” all the time they don’t want to hear “no” anymore, and they forget how to hear “no.”  That person who disagrees with your blog post, curse that bitch!  Cut ahead of me in the grocery store, curse their first born!  Not agree with some point minor point about the Gods and make me question my own beliefs, start a Witch War!

  I have heard it suggested that the consequence of learning magic outside of a mystery tradition calcifies us in a state of only wanting to hear “yes”.  Going through a mystery tradition, under the best of circumstances, forces us to deal with our own personal shit and grow.  Being someone who isn’t part of a traditional mystery system I would say working with my Gods as a devotional polytheist does very much the same thing - The Morrigan and gods like her won’t let you ignore your demons, not for long anyway. But it does raise an interesting thought:  Is magic more inclined to be misused when we become addicted to the idea of eternal “yes”?  

A mystery tradition is a structured set of “no’s” that gradually turn into “yes’s”.  Having an authentic dedication to one’s Gods is no different. And there is no coincidence that dedication is a word used in both cases.   A part of your dedication, your agreement with those deities is accepting the limitation that go with that dedication.  Those limitations could be a multitude of things.  For example a part of your dedication to a deity could involve accepting a geis, and not being able to cut your hair, not being able to visit a graveyard, or kneel, as just a few examples.  There is also the fact that Gods have their own agendas and sometimes they want us to learn or deal with something that we just want to sweep under the rug, and they have a habit of shaking our lives upside down until we listen.  These are all limitation, even if we don’t like admitting it.  They are all “no’s”.  And it forces us to accept the idea that “no’s” are necessary for growth.  

   Between working on a project about Taboo Magic and many of the classes I’ve done this year I’ve mentioned a time or two that I feel curse work has value and that it can be the last resource to the disenfranchised.   During one of those workshops we spent a lot of time going over the idea of stepping outside of yourself and your emotions to consider the work.  Are you in the right? Or are you just pissed?  If you step out of the emotions of the moment are your actions still justified?  Is this really just about me, and my “stuff”? Basically can you tell yourself “no” and distinguish whether the work is truly justified? Can you live with the consequences of what your work will manifest in the world?  

I really do believe curse work can be a moral thing. It can be restorative justice, and while I don’t believe in the Neo-Pagan version of karma I can respect the idea that sometimes we have to "be" karma instead of expecting the universe to fix a problem. 

The problem, of course, with that is most people are not familiar with curse work.  It usually plays out like this. 

Step 1. Person condemns cursing, says no one needs to do that, its wrong. How dare you suggest that is useful! 
Step 2 Someone get under their skin and pisses that person off. 
Step 3 They go from condemning such magical work to becoming Little Miss Curse Pants Supreme and they start doing magical things they have never done before and probably don’t understand the mechanics of.  

That can be a dangerous mix to all involved.  

   So in a discussion about such things during one class someone said something that got me thinking. In a kind of off handed joking way one person suggested when used for the wrong reasons curse work and magic in general becomes the art of the passive aggressive. Most of us laughed because, well, most of us know someone who has done just that; Or are aware of a situation where someone used magic as a petty way to manipulate a situation. Because magic works, plain and simple, and only you can choose if your Will is put to good uses or malicious ones.  

People seems to have the idea that universe or the Gods will cancel out “bad magic” that karma will strike down anyone who does anything harmful. Basically karma will handle the job of dealing with telling you “no” rather than us taking responsibility for our actions. And in my experience that just isn’t true. Magic is like a light switch, you flip the switch and the lights turn on. The electricity isn’t good or bad it just does what its suppose to do and goes where its wiring directs it.  You have to have a good foundation in your own personal ethics, instead of choosing to believe the universe will decide what is right and wrong for me.

   Another interesting point that came out of that conversation was that in the age of the internet where anything you want to find is at your finger tips that there are no more checks and balances.  Anyone and everyone has access to magical texts and can go off half cocked  and stir up trouble if they want to.  Back when one would have had to find people willing to teach them, there was the chance a group would turn you away. The knowledge you sought wouldn’t be accessible because, for whatever reason, the coven, trad etc didn’t feel it was safe to give you that knowledge. There are disadvantages to that model as well, but the point being, an unstable person would be less likely to have access to magical training. 

   So is having easy access to magical knowledge a bad thing? Does it inspire people who haven’t taken the time to perfect their craft or their ethics to just pick a spell off the internet and with the very best of intentions do magical harm? Does it make us addicted to the eternal “yes”?  Perhaps it does. I don’t have a good answer, but its something to chew on.  Because most of the time when people come to me with problems its another magician, Witch, or magical person is magically fucking with them.  And most of the time its not curse work, just good old best intentions and a lack of understanding that the person casting isn’t the center of the universe.  I think on some level it is healthy to understand that all magic is a kind of manipulation. Using our Will to shape reality is manipulating circumstances, and that isn’t always a bad thing.  It just requires us to take care, and think about what we are doing, think about what the ripple effect of our work can manifest.  Doing divination before any kind of work to get a sense of both if the work will be effective and what the larger effect will be is always a good starting point.  But the fact remains, for a lot of people out there, there biggest problem is not manifesting a new job or love, its dealing with other magic workers.   

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Baby Witches Then and Now

   Back when I was a baby Witch.....
   When I first started studying Witchcraft and Paganism we didn’t even have an internet connection in my house. Granted my parents were suspicious of the safety and moral uses of such things so they were pretty late in catching up to everyone else.  Barnes & Noble had a crappy new age section that was filled more with Christian spiritualism than anything of value to me.  So the only way to learn or get information was to got to local new age store.  That was the community stomping ground back in the day.  Its where you met other people with similar views, by which I mean a very broad spectrum of views and interests in the Occult. Back then you were just happy to find another person who practiced any kind of Paganism or Occultism.  If you were an Irish Pagan and found someone who worked with the Egyptian pantheon, in todays world you might not have much to talk about. But back then you were just happy to find someone, anyone, to talk to who didn’t think what you did was crazy.  The new age store I haunted was a little house converted into a store, down a winding dirt road, called Flying Unicorn Book Store.  The name and difficulty in finding it off the main road of course added to the appeal.  It took an epic quest down a mostly abandoned dirt road, to a Witch’s cottage no less, to seek forbidden knowledge….

   Or so it seemed at the time anyway.  Then Barnes & Nobles started carrying more books. Boarders opened nearby where I lived and they had not a shelf or a little shoehorned off area of a shelf, but shelves and shelves of new age books. If fact it stopped being new age anymore. There were actual sections, Witchcraft, Divination, Norse, etc.  If I had the patience to wait for the AOL running man to finish loading on the screen I could talk to people in chat rooms who identified as Pagan. Then there were webpage and so on and so on until you come to today where there is a plethora of information sharing, bickering, cliques, websites and books you can find in the online Pagan community.       
   You probably know all this already, or you might have experienced this shift yourself. There are a lot of positives to there being a plethora of information out there and being able to connect to people with the click of a button.  After all you are reading this blog post because of all those changes.  But my point is, that is not how I learned. I was primarily solitary when I started out, eventually working with a Celtic flavored group. We learned together, made stupid mistakes and learned from that too.  We all were mostly at the same level, feeling out our way as we went.  So I really don’t know what its like to learn what I do in todays world. Where finding people willing to teach you is easy, and so is finding information and people to connect to. 

   And what I hear the most from people just starting out is usually the same. They are afraid to
make mistakes. They see image after image online of Witches with their eyes closed in some ecstatic trance, sage billowing in the air around them, nails done, in their best Witchy outfit, and think they have to achieve that.  That if they don’t know enough about a subject they have somehow failed as a Pagan.  And to be honest there is a lot of what I’m going to call "Noob -Shaming" out there online.  Even big names in the community getting annoyed that someone new is asking them an annoying question, that they “should have already known”.  We don’t do a good job of supporting those just finding this path.  Being the entranced person in those pictures who knows all the secrets of the universe should not be the ideal people are striving for. Because no matter how long you have been doing this, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to fail. Or do something dumb. I have, plenty of times. And you brush yourself off and keep on trucking afterwards, you tweek and learn from it.    

  A couple of years ago I went to a public ritual a local group was hosting in New England, and as part of the ritual they sang the quarter calls. Everything went well as far as a I could tell. But after the ritual one of the women who had called the quarters was off away from everyone else at the drum circle crying her eyes out. When I went over to see what was wrong she explained she messed up on the words. She had practiced and practiced and she still messed it up and it ruined the ritual! Mind you I hadn’t even noticed anything went wrong at all. I didn’t know what words were or weren’t supposed to be said and I told her so, and that I had messed up far worse in front of far more people.
  At another event a woman came up to me after a workshop and asked me what she was doing wrong. She had only been a Pagan for a few years and there was some very difficult things going on in her life, including a custody battle that her ex was currently winning. She felt that it was all happening because she wasn’t a good enough Witch. If she was better at her craft then bad things wouldn’t happen to her. I assured her that wasn’t the case.  Being Pagan for twenty something years hasn’t stopped me from having to deal with bad things in life, its changed how I reacted to them and tackles such things though.
   At a Pagan Pride day I did a talk about speaking with the Gods and how that can be different for different people.  Afterwards a woman found me at the booth I was vending at and we talked for hours. She felt relieved hearing other people talk about their experiences during the workshop, that she had never heard her Gods speaking to her yet, but wanted to. And that she had never asked anyone for help, or how she might do this because she felt like she would be shamed for “not being able to do what all the other kids seemed to pick up on naturally”.

   The point of a spirituality, whatever version or flavor you adhere to, is to help your build a connection to the divine and help see you through dark times, and to help you appreciated the good times.  The goal is not to be a Witch who oozes spiritual power and nothing bad ever happens to because the powers of the cosmos have opened up to reveal themselves to you.  Yeah sure talking to Gods is part of it, and you might be given meaningful and powerful messages. But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have to take out the trash, or scrub your toilet, or deal with a messy divorce. At the end of the day, what we do spiritually and magically is a tool to help up through life.  Bad shit is still going to happen, but you will have something to lean on, something to help you navigate through those times.  The most powerful magick, the most earth shattering experience you have with a deity, may be when your makeup is running and you are wearing jeans and a ratty t-shirt.  And no matter how much you admire this or that teacher, they have made mistakes too.

   I think we owe to the those starting out to say its ok to be broken. Its ok to be a mess sometimes. We’ve been there too.  Your spirituality isn’t about being perfect.  Its about loving and tending to those broken jagged pieces of yourself, seeing they have value and putting them back together to make something else.  And then maybe when you think you have yourself figured out you’ll take the pieces apart and do it all over again. Being a Witch, being a Pagan, isn’t about looking like the most woke person in the room floating through an aura of burning sage.  Real Witchcraft, real devotion to the Gods, is quiet and sometimes messy. It doesn’t require ritual robes or much of anything except yourself. And yeah sometimes you are going to screw it all up, and sometimes you wont. Perfect isn’t the goal and never was.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Voices in the Landscape

 Beara Peninsula

   As we packed for our second pilgrimage to Ireland I jokingly said to my partner that it was like we were packing for a trip to the Otherworlds. And after a moment he nodded and said “Well, yeah. We are.”  On the one hand my grandmother on my father’s side was born in Ireland, and grew up on a little farm in Mayo.  It is a place that has family ties and calls to me on that level. And on the other hand, it does feel like the Otherworlds in my mind. It is the place where the myths happened. It is very difficult to describe the awe I find in walking through the landscape of old dusty stories I have read and cherished, stories that have shaped my views of the Gods and my devotion to them. To not just walk the land but touch the stones upon it, breathe the air where the myth happened. I suppose it might be like going to Jerusalem from some people.  If there is a Mecca, a holy place for me, it is Ireland.

 Poulnabrone Dolmen
   My first trip was strongly centered on the Morrigan, as we were traveling specifically to sites connected to her. It deepened my understanding and devotion to her in so many indescribable ways.  It could be called an initiation, or perhaps a deepening of a devotion.  Even now I think of things in terms of “Before the Cave of Cruachan”, and “After the Cave of Cruachan”. Because I crawled out of that cave altered, different than when I crawled in.

   So as I packed for our second pilgrimage, facilitated through the highly recommended Land Sea Sky travel, I really didn’t know what to think.  Would this trip be like the last? I tried very hard to go into it without expectations. And as it turned out this trip was more subtle, but no less moving.  Our focus was on several of the Gods of the Tuatha instead of one single one. I felt the Morrigan often. Saw many hooded crows along our journey.  But this time The Morrigan was a background presence, there and powerful, almost as if she was stepping back, guarding the boarders, so that I might talk and connect to other things.

Tech Duinn, Donn's island where the dead
gather before moving on
   On the last trip I knew I needed to go into the cave. I can’t even describe the pull I felt, the utter glee and drive I felt, to dive down into that dark muddy cave entrance not knowing or caring what was in that darkness. Because I needed to be there. And that was that.  This time was a little different. The sites I hadn’t expected to connect with were all the ones I had the most profound experiences with.  What I also didn’t expect was how strongly Brighid and The Cailleach’s presence would come through for me on this trip.  What I love about pilgrimage is that everyone on the journey with us is there for different reasons, sometimes picking up very different things from the places we visit. Our journeys where all markedly different, yet we could travel the same road together, each finding what we needed. For some it was about connecting to ancestors, other to the Good Neighbors, for others The Gods, and for others it was the journey itself. 

   A friend recently posted online about how her practices the longer she has been Pagan have become simpler.  It’s something that really resonates with me.  I still do large public rituals, and they can be very moving and powerful.  But in my own personal practice I find the majority of the things I do are simpler, and quieter than my Paganism ten plus years ago.  Sitting and connecting to a place, quietly communing with the Gods as I pour offerings and stand before an altar. 
These are the things that are at the center of what I do. We did a few simple rituals on our pilgrimage, one a ritual in motion as we hiked the landscape, which I enjoyed immensely.  But our focus was the land, the Gods and spirits, and connection. Ritual can give you connection. But sometimes just sitting quietly, being still and open, can be more profound than ritual. 

Tree with hundreds of coins jammed into the trunk

   Being of service to the lands and these sacred sites can also build that connection.  Everywhere we went we picked up garbage left behind. And we removed certain offerings that were damaging the sites. At many of the sites we visited people left pennies and other coins. I’m unaware of specifically why modern people have started doing this. Many of the places we found them it seemed like people left coins simply because they had seen that other people had done the same. Some were even wedged or jammed into the stones themselves or into the trunks of trees. So yes we removed these offering.  We went about it respectfully, and the removed coins were collected so they could be left in donation boxes at the sites meant to help with the upkeep of these sacred places. In a way these offering that were damaging these sites have become a new kind of offering, one that will sustain the land instead.  Once we removed the coins, the damage was very clear in many places.  The coins in particular causing corrosion and damaging the rocks. My favorite picture of the trip is one at the Cailleach’s stone with everyone’s hands around it as we picked up coins and garbage from the place. I didn’t get any profound messages from that site, although I know others did, but the message this place had for me was different.  For me it was less about me getting something, a message etc, than it was about caring for the place itself. The energy felt stagnant when we first arrived, like a damned up river, but when we left it felt like that river was flowing and peaceful again.  The feeling was so profoundly changed I held back tears. Later on that day at Derreen Gardens I found a hag stone as we walked one of the trails, and I took it as a positive sign from the Cailleach, acknowledging what we had done.

Working together to clean the Cailleach's stone

Stone circle at the top of Cashelkeelty
   Our last stop that day was visiting Cashelkeelty.  To get to the stone circles at the top, which also has a spectacular view that no picture can do justice to, we hiked through a forested area, past waterfalls, through rolling hills and through sheep fields. We stopped at different changes in the landscape and spoke of the different faces of Brigid.  And when we reached the top we found the highest point and made offerings to her and sang in praise of her. Afterwards as we explored the stone circles I touched one of the standing stones and experienced what could be called an aisling, a vision of sorts.  And I understood why the Morrigan had been there guarding in the background, because for this trip is was my time to deepen my devotion to Brigid, to acknowledge something that has been playing out for a long time.  Brigid has been a part of my life as long as the Morrigan has, may times the two operating in tandem.  It was a quiet moment, yet a deeply moving one for me. 

   Some years ago at a snowy Imbolc ritual in CT my friend has embodied the Cailleach in ritual, starting out stooped and veiled. In the ritual she drank from a well and pushed back her cloak transforming into Brigid. Acting as a vessel for Brigid she gave messages to those gathered. And what I experienced on Cashelkeelty echoed and reaffirmed the message from that ritual years before.  And I found a synchronicity in that both the Cailleach and Brigid were present in that long ago ritual, and that they both spoke strongly to me during my journey on this trip through the Beara Peninsula.     

   This pilgrimage was just as profound and moving as the first one. But I find it difficult to explain my experiences at times. To my co-workers I went on vacation and came back with lots of pictures “of rocks and sheep”.  Some of my Pagan friends have asked if we did lots of spectacular rituals. And my answer is no, but we did a few simple ones. Then what did you do for ten days? Well.....

   I sat and spoke to the land, I listened for the voices of the Gods in the winds, sought their presence in the places where land meets sea, looked for them on rolling and cresting waves, I sat and was quiet and listened, and all the world spoke to me in those quiet moments.

Whale Watch and a day connecting to Manannán