I’m in the process of removing an enormous shrub in my backyard and planting a fairy garden in its place. Quite a bit of thought has gone into deciding which plants to include and how they should be arranged. Shamrock was one of the plants I settled on.
All clover varieties are sacred to fairies. The shamrock especially so for leprechauns, those lusty, capricious little fellows whose magic might delight you one day and kill you the next. And you needn’t search for a four-leafed clover in order to be blessed. The distinctive tri-leaved pattern of common clovers is sacred to the Celtic triple goddess Brigid. (That’s Saint Brigid for the Catholic folks among us.) Continue reading →
Len Pennie, a 21-year-old Fife student is making waves in Scotland with her poem, In Memorium. The poem honors Scots women who were persecuted for witchcraft between 1563 and 1736.
The poem was commissioned by the Witches of Scotland campaign who have lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament seeking to secure a pardon, apology, and national memorial for the nearly 4,000 Scots accused, convicted, and executed for practicing witchcraft. Their petition states: “As with elsewhere in Europe, the vast majority of those accused, some 85 percent were women.”
Pennie describes the treatment of accused witches as “state-sanctioned murder” and pledges to “demand justice” for those who were tortured and tried under the Witchcraft Act, branding it “a punishment lacking a crime.” Continue reading →
This book came to me at an exceptionally low point in my life. I was juggling three jobs, one of which required me to deal with a gas-lighting supervisor, was experiencing chest pains and hypertension, and sleeping maybe four hours a night. To say I was burnt out was an understatement. With the help of this book, I set healthy boundaries, quit what was an undeniably bad job, lost 52 pounds, and saw my blood pressure drop 30 points.
In The Witch’s Book of Self-Care, the author quickly addresses the common misconception that self-care involves sitting on your laurels, eating bonbons, having spa days, and engaging in retail therapy. Self-care takes work in order to have a lasting impact on your life. This is not a book to be read in an afternoon. It needs to be savored, taking as much time as necessary to master each task before moving on to the next topic. Continue reading →
‘Tis the season to celebrate cats. Halloween cards and decorations feature black cats sporting witches’ hats, slinking through graveyards, and riding on brooms. Halloween is synonymous with fun—and frights, but for cats, Halloween tricks can seem all too real. Strangers slink through the neighborhood. Unusual smells and horrifying noises fill the air. Costumes turn ordinary people into monsters. Make no mistake, Halloween is a spooky time for cats. Those frights come with an even more frightening history. Continue reading →
The time of the vernal equinox was auspicious in ancient cultures. In the Anglo-Saxon calendar, Eostremonath was named after Eostre (Ostara in Old High German), the maiden goddess of dawn and the spring. At the time of the equinox a feast is celebrated in her honor, replete with offerings of rabbit shaped cakes and colored eggs. This is because Eostre adopted both the hare and egg as her symbols.
According to legend, a magical white hare wanted to please Eostre by bringing her a gift. After careful contemplation of which gifts to bring, he settled on eggs, however, not the usual white or brown ones. Using his magical powers, he charmed the eggs, so the shells were a variety of pretty colors. In lieu of a basket, he presented his gift in the very same nest from which he stole the eggs. The goddess was very pleased with the gift and bestowed upon the hare the nickname ‘Egg Bringer.’ For this reason rabbits and hares, especially white ones, are sacred to her. Continue reading →
I picked up an autographed copy of this book at an author signing event at BookPeople of Moscow. It can be a little frightening to try a new author, but Christine Cohen did not disappoint. Being a person who also dislikes having other people’s winter holidays thrust upon me, I found the main character’s resistance to winter festivities not only relatable, but a delightfully refreshing character trait.
Being an impoverished fifteen-year-old kitchen maid is tough. Survival is even more difficult when the entire village believes your family has been cursed. Yet, this is Cora Nikolson’s lot in life. And she knows exactly where the blame lays, with the Winter King. The God cursed her family, took her father’s life, and brought them to the brink of starvation. Cora has no love for God, King, or country. She despises religion and the Aldormany who carry out the Winter King’s cruel edicts.
After her mother loses her position as head cook, Cora takes on additional work as a housemaid, hoping the extra wages will keep her family from starving. While dusting shelves in the library, she overhears a conversation between the Master House Steward and the High Aldorman. They are discussing a book containing secrets regarding the Winter King. Despite repeated attempts, they have been unable to destroy the book and it is imperative that no one in the village learns about its existence. Continue reading →
Of all my favorite holidays, Christmas isn’t. All the other December holidays come and go peacefully. Unfortunately, there is something about Christmas that just brings out the worst in Christians. The simple action of wishing someone “Happy holidays” has them frothing at the mouth, insisting everyone has declared war on Christmas.
This simply isn’t true. No one has declared war on Christmas. Christmas has declared war everyone else.
Halloween is the only time of year witches are in vogue. Suddenly everyone is interested in black magic, spell craft, hexing their neighbor, and a host of other things that bear little resemblance to actual Paganism. Despite the annual autumnal uptick in interest in all things occult, Halloween isn’t a Pagan holiday. That doesn’t mean we Pagans won’t dress up in costumes and join our Christian brethren in unholy revelry, general debauchery, and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but we do have our own holiday to celebrate, Samhain.
Samhain translates as sam, “summer,” and fuin “end.” With fluttering leaves in shades of copper, amber, and crimson, there can be no doubt that summer is truly at an end. To Celtic peoples the Feast of Samhain is a fire festival that marks the first day of winter and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Continue reading →
The timing of the Harvest Festival is a tricky one for Pagans, as harvest occurs at different times in different regions. There is no specific date across Celtic culture that corresponds to a harvest festival, despite the fact that such festivals very much did exist. Herodotus first mentioned the Celts in 5 BCE and noted that they principally lived along the upper Danube River. At the time, their principal festivals, Imbolg, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhain, marked the changing of the seasons.
The connection between harvest and the autumnal equinox traces its origins back, not to Celtic, but to Germanic traditions. Roman historian, Tacitus, first described Germanic people in 98 CE, placing them in upper Germany and Denmark, in an area which bears the name Angeln. Like the Celts, the Anglo-Saxon Pagan year also contained four holy days to mark the changing of the seasons: Yule, Lencten Efniht (lengthening equal-night), Litha, and Haerfest Efniht (harvest equal-night). Eostre was not recorded in the place of the Lengthening equal-night until the 8th century. Continue reading →