Samhain: Remembering our Ancestors

We are fast approaching the third and final harvest sabbat, Samhain. November 1st marks the time to give rest to all of the autumns harvests and setting in for the long dark of winter.

In olden days, this would have marked the harvest of those animals that will not make it through the winter and the start of preserving their flesh with smoke or salt. Today, we no longer need to wait until the coming of winter to prepare our stores of food. We just walk down to our local supermarket and pick up what we want.

There are so few of us who could understand what it took for our ancestors to make it through a winter and how important it was that every member of a household do their part in making sure that everyone made it through. In my local community, we go to the cemetery and spend time with the forgotten dead. It’s impossible for us to know the lives of all those who have died in our community since its founding but we can spend time to acknowledge their lives and their contributions to our community.

On a more personal level, Samhain is a good time for you to spend time remembering those people in your life who are no longer with you. I am sure that you have lost someone close to you and whether or not it was recent or someone you never had a chance to know in your lifetime like a great grand parents, Samhain offers you that space to reach out to their memory and give thanks to them for their role in your life.

For me, there are two people who I never had a chance to meet in my life because they died long before I was even a thought. They are my mother’s parents, Bill and Peggy Mitchell. Everything that I know about them is second hand knowledge from my mother and her siblings. I know that Peggy was a swimmer training to go to the Berlin Olympics but wasn’t able to go. I know that Bill was a life guard on the beach where he and Peggy met. I wish that I knew more about them but that most of their lives are lost to the memories of those who cannot tell me their stories.

There are other stories lost to time. I don’t know why my ancestors left the shores of Europe. I don’t know what adventures they had. I don’t know their hopes or their dreams. All I do know is that I would not be here if it were not for these people.

How you honor your ancestors is really up to you. I tend to create an altar for them and I burn incense in their honor. This year, I will be doing some journey work to meet up with my first ancestors. I hope to find out more about my roots and where my pagan blood comes from.

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I will also be celebrating Halloween by decorating my home, carving a pumpkin, and handing out sweets to the neighbor kids who come by our door. I will put on my best witch get up and welcome the trick-or-treaters with a smile. For children, this is a special night where they get to be whoever they want to be and get candy. I loved Halloween as a child. I loved running around the houses and collecting candy.

I hope that you have a safe and happy Halloween and a peaceful Samhain this year!

Blessed Be,

Priestess Spiritsong

Shape Shifting

When I was a child, I used to like to play pretend. You remember this game, right? You would pick an animal, a character, or a roll and then pretend to be them. My favorites were creatures like squirrels, otters, wolves, dinosaurs, and mermaids.

As I grew up and stopped playing children’s games, I lost a bit of that wonder that you get from becoming a different creature. What I didn’t know as a child was that I was practicing an elementary form of shapeshifting. That is, allowing the spirit of the creature you are challenging to join with you and you take on aspects of that creature.

This is different from spending time with a spirit animal during a journey session. If you have any experience with shape shifting, than you know that when you choose to merge with an animal energy, you bring certain aspects of that animal into your physical and emotional being. For example, if you wish to bring better sight for seeing in the dark, you might call upon the energy of an owl. If you want to be more playful, you might call upon the otter to help you loosen up.

You don’t need to pick animals, you can choose things like dragons, unicorns, and griffins. Keep in mind that what you want to get out of these creatures will depend on what you perceive their energies to be. If you associate dragons with danger, then you will bring that energy into your being but if you perceive dragons to be beings of infinite wisdom, then that’s the energy you will bring into yourself.

You don’t have to be a master of shamanic arts in order to bring small aspects of shapeshifting into your everyday life. All you need to do is go back to your practice of sympathetic magic. Set your intention and then bring physical objects to help you pull out the energy you want to bring into yourself.

Here’s a few ways you can do this:

  • Find a piece of jewellery that represents the spirit you want to hone the energies of
  • Wear an outfit that reminds you of the spirit you want to embody
  • Keep a picture, statute, or some object that represents the spirit on your altar
  • Do a ritual where you can evoke the spirit or invoke the spirit into you

You can use any spiritual being you feel a connection with. This can be an animal, a god or goddess, a mythical creature, or an archetype. Sometimes, I like to take on energies from fictional characters that I like to embody. If you are wanting adventure, you might want to call upon Bilbo Baggins or Jack Sparrow or if you want to take on a strong, independent women, you might want to take on Scarlett O’Hara or Elizabeth Bennet.

I will get more into what invoking rituals in the future and the benefits to them. I have touched upon it in the past with my evoking vs. invoking article but this is a subject that needs a deeper level of discussion. You might say that shape shifting is an introduction to invoking.

Blessed Be,

~Priestess Spiritsong

In the Shadow of the Moon

In the deeper mysteries of womanhood, there are subjects that are rarely talked about. One of them is the effects of the moon on our bodies. It’s no secret that women are connected to the moon during our monthly cycle. While we may not sync up completely with the phases of the moon, we have our own phases.

During the “Mother” phase of our life, that time between childhood (Maiden) and menopause (Crone), we are subjected to a twenty eight day cycle for our reproductive system. Women around the world have understood this connection for generations but only now are we able to start talking about it free and openly. Granted, there are many women around the world who suffer because of this cycle. In India, there are still some places where women are forced to live in disgusting conditions during their cycle because they are seen to be “unclean”. What a load of horse shit, I can’t believe the subjection of women is still happening in places around the world in our so called “modern age.”

I am in the middle of my “Mother” phase of my life and it’s taken be a long time to accept that my cycle is a blessing and not a curse. I know that some women hate their cycle and anything that has to do with is. To me, the cycle is deeply connection with the greater cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Every single month, I get to experience that. There’s all sorts of chemicals and hormones in my body that signal the different changes that occur. I think that understanding the science of your cycle is important in accepting what’s happening to you. I am grateful for my grade school education on such things.

I have spoken before about the Red Moon Cycle, which is a not so subtle reference to a woman’s monthly cycle. The reason we call it the Red Moon Cycle is not because our cycle literally syncs up with the lunar cycle but because it’s a twenty eight day (on average) cycle and we have our own phases within it. The science helps us to understand what hormones are active and why we go through such an emotional roller coaster during our twenty eight days. All that aside, there’s a chance for a deeper understanding of yourself in those phases.

I am not a trained Red Priestess and I don’t specialize in women’s mysteries but I do have my own way of keeping track of my own Red Moon Cycle that I am happy to share.

The Science:

Understanding biologically what is happening is the first step I took in making a greater connection with my cycle. I firmly believe that knowledge is power and the key to greater acceptance. I could go into detail about how the system works but I would rather share with you a few Wikipedia articles to get your started.

This first one is the basics of what makes women biologically female:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female

This one is about how the female reproductive cycle works biologically:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_reproductive_system

This final one is focuses just on the menstrual cycle:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cycle

If you want a further understanding to your cycle, I recommend that you take a first year biology class that has a section of human anatomy. I would even go so far as to start researching the male reproductive cycle too. Understanding men and what’s going on inside them, only helps to deepen your connection with them. They have just as complicated hormone cycles as we do and theirs is a daily cycle as well as yearly.

Tracking:

Back in the day, I used to use a calendar to track my cycle but with the changes in technology, I use my mobile device instead of pen and paper. I use a period tracking app called “P Tracker” and I have the paid version which let’s me track different physical and emotional changes through the month. The best part of the app is the ability to leave notes about significant changes such as life events and lunar phases. The bonus to using this tracker is that I can see when my predicted ovulation will be taking place. It’s nice to had a bit of warning for that, more importantly because I use it to see if it’s a good time to be sexually active.

Journaling:

I have a journal that I created to help me deepen my connection to the Goddess where I store information like emotional events and dreams. I can look back in this journal to see if there is a pattern that syncs up with what’s going on in my period tracking app.

This past month, I had significantly more dreams about the people in my life. I think this was a way for me to death with the recently social changes in my life. I went from having regular social events that I would attend to not going to any at all. I will admit, this has left me depressed and feeling like no one wants to be around me. I can’t exactly blame them, I have not been a cheerful or positive person that last few months. This is not for a lack of me trying to shift my attitude but some days a worse than other. My dreams have not been very helpful regarding this as they tend to remind me of what I have lost and what I did wrong. It’s not self punishment but it feels like it sometimes when I wake up and know that everything is different for me now.

Dark Moon:

There is a time during my cycle which I call my “Dark Moon Days” and these are just a few past post finishing my period where I get depressed. I recognize it when it happens but there is little I can do to stop it from happening. I have learned that during this time I don’t want to cook for myself, I don’t want to see people, I don’t want to get out of my house if I can help it. This most recent dark moon days were particularly bad for me. I have recently decided to cut someone out of my life who was doing nothing but hurting me with their actions and words. I needed a few days to recover from that loss. It was heartbreaking for me to make that choice but I feel that it was the best thing for me to do. I will admit, that recovering from this choice will take longer that a few dark days and I may need to ignore my feelings of wishing to backslide on it for a while to come.

Self Care:

During the actual five days where my cycle is waning, I tend to be super introspective and attentive to my needs. I like having long baths with soothing music and candle light. I will retreat within myself and figure out what I need to do in order ready myself for the coming month.

During the days where I am waxing in my cycle, I tend to focus on the more practical day to day things like making my meals, shopping, and my work. During this time, I find that I am able to focus on all outside things like friends, family, politics, and other outside connections.

During my seven peak days, the ones around ovulation, I find that I have a surge of creative energy that does not occur the rest of the month. During this time, I will be inspired to work on creative things like writing, crafting, and playing music. I have done all sorts of things during this time and it’s hard to get that energy the other twenty one days of the month.

These are all the ways in which I keep connected to my mind, body, and spirit while I am going through my Red Moon Cycle. If you have ways in which you track or care for yourself during your monthly cycle, I would love to hear all about it.

Blessed Be!

Priestess Spiritsong

Pagan Americana

Sometimes it’s hard to express myself when it comes to issues that are affecting both Canada and the United States. I am proudly a citizen of both countries, I was born and raised in Canada but since my Mother remained an American citizen, I grew up with ideals of both nations. I find it hard to accept a monarch ruler and I have deep devotion to democratic system. The day I had to swear an allegiance to the Queen and her family in order to write parking tickets in my municipal community left a dirty taste in my mouth. To this day, I deeply regret having signed those papers. However, the day I went in to sign the paperwork for my US citizenship and had to swear an allegiance to America, I felt oddly proud to be a part of that.

Granted, I don’t always agree with what either of my governments are doing but I am proud to be part of both nations. Even in the light of the recent waves of racism and a political leader who doesn’t seem to understand how the world works, my heart aches for those living in the states. I love Canada for taking a stand against any form of hate speech. We value someone’s person protection over the right to free speech. Which is backwards to the states where they value the right to free speech over the protection of the individual. You would think that our parents and grandparents taught us that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Maybe we should all take that lesson to heart again.

This era we will in is totally unlike any era before us. Our access to information has never been more complete. Through the use of the internet, we can find out about anything happening in our world. We don’t need the mainstream media to tell us what’s happening, we can read and watch it on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit. Blogs offer us the ability to see the events from an individual’s point of view. I don’t envy our future historians who have to piece together the true using the millions of points of views that now exists on the subject. We are so overwhelmed with information that it is easy to get lost in what is true and what is fake.

Sometimes, I long for an age where we didn’t know what was going on. We had only our own individual needs to meet. I suppose, we can still do that but it’s hard when you see people suffering in other places. As humans, we like to seek ways to solves problems, so when we see a problem that we can’t solve by creating something, we don’t know what to do. There might come a time when the only thing we can do is give things up and make certain sacrifices. In regards to climate change and the use of fossil fuels, we might need to stop owning cars and start building trains again.

As a pagan living in this world of extremism, it’s hard for me to sympathize with the fundamentalist. Can you imagine if pagans united under a pantheon organized themselves to become extremists? Can you say return of the Vikings? Vikings were a proud people with rules, a written language, stories of the Gods, morals and values all their own. To die in battle was the highest honor. The rights of women and children defined by law but also the rules around slaves. They were not so unlike the Romans and Greeks in this regard. Can you say that our society is any more evolved than those? It’s only been 1700 years since the Romans became Christian. Did they really change? No, they kept doing the same thing only under a different God’s name.

When you get right down the bottom of it all, our society runs on the desire to own things. Whether it’s people, property, or possessions, we want things. For the most part, we let our media dictate what we want and keeps us distracted from our true purpose.

Can you say that you are truly satisfied with what you own?
Can you say that there isn’t something else that you want to make you more complete?
Are you filled with contentment?

If you said, “No,” to any of these questions, then you too are caught in the consumer trap. Sadly, we are all trapped in it. Our government needs us to be trapped in it so that they can continue to operate. There’s no easy way to stop it aside from stop buying “stuff”. That’s no easy task for sure. I actually started a group and page on Facebook called “Call of the Wild Pagan” dedicated to finding ways for pagans to start reclaiming some of those old practices of self sufficiency. The Facebook page shares articles about anything from hunting to making your own clothing and the group is setup for creating discussion and meet ups where people can try these things for themselves. One day, I would like to go so far as to help create traditions and ceremonies for these tasks like our ancestors did.

There are plenty of pagan sites out there like the ones I set up but I have found that many of them preach “White Pride” but not racism. Don’t kid yourself, white pride is racism. It’s the slogan used by many racist organizations such as the KKK and the neo-nazis. You don’t need white pride, you need cultural revitalization. You can be proud of your cultural heritage without falling into the trap of being associated with white supremacists. You can reclaim your heritage without needing to squash the beliefs of others and you can be better than other groups by opening your door to all who wish to learn about them. Just because you were excluded from a cultural event based on the color of your skin, does not mean that you need to do the same to others. You can be the better human, you can create a better world simply by not contributing to hate.

Blessed be,

Priestess Spiritsong

Out of the Broom Closet

There are still people out there that fear witches. I would say without any real good reason but it’s enough that some witches and pagans feel the need to hide their beliefs and practices from their friends, family, and coworkers. It’s what we in the community call, “Staying in the broom closet.”

I am most definitely out of the broom closet. I have have been since I was in college. At first, it was just with friends and immediate family but over time, I became more public about it. With the changes in technology and the adaption of social media, it is easier to be “out” as a witch then ever before. I have been writing pagan blogs for a few years now and been part of a few public pagan organizations in my community. I have no problems talking about my beliefs and practices with the public or being a public face for witches and pagans.

I can understand why some people would want to stay out of the public with their beliefs. I remember a friend who once told me that I was going to hell because of my witchcraft. I remember being really hurt by that because I don’t actually believe in a “hell” or the concept of “sin”, I believe in morality & ethics, not sin & damnation. However, that does not stop others from forcing their beliefs upon me. That being said, I know now that my friend was coming from a place of love, even if a little misdirected. One should never come to any religion or belief out of fear because fear only begets more fear. Since that time, I have come to just say, “Thank you for your thoughts of concern,” to those who attack me for my beliefs. I can tell you, it’s only happened once in the last ten year from a guy who came to Jesus out of his fear of damnation. I guess he figured just by being close to pagans, he would be damn to Hell (I always ask, is that one “L” or two?). Fun fact, the words “God” and “Hell” both come from old Norse and they refer to Odin, ruler of the Norse Gods, and Hel, the place where the dishonored go when they die.

I remain public with my pagan practice because I want to create a world where everyone can practice their spirituality without fear. I do not live in any kind of fear of what someone will try to do to me because I know that I have the laws of my country on my side. That and the confidence that most people don’t actually care what I believe and practice.

If you are still waiting to come out as a witch or pagan, take your time. There’s no rushing these things but when you do, know that there are others out there like you and will be there to support you.

Blessed be!

Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver

How I Came to Being a Pagan

I have always been a child of nature. I have the luxury of growing up close to the wild outdoors and spending a lot of time exploring. When I was kid, I used to pretend I was a witch like the ones in Hocus Pocus (just not evil like they are).

It was the spring of 1998 and I was 15 years old, my mom and I visited a new metaphysical store in Salmon Arm called, “Spirit Quest: Books & Gifts”. This was the first metaphysical store I could remember being in and on the shelf there was a whole section of Wicca & Witchcraft books. I had been watching a lot of Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and had learned about Wicca from doing some online searches. The internet was so new to me that I didn’t really know what to look for. So, my mom let me get a copy of Scott Cunningham’s “Wicca for a Solitary Practitioner”.

From there, I learned the basics of meditation, altar set up, the spirituality of the Horned God & Moon Goddess, the Wheel of the Year, and ritual magic work. I kept a book of shadows, I created my first wand from a branch in the woods, and used a pocket knife as my first athame. I spent many hours in meditation and contemplation of the Goddess and God. I created my first spells, mostly for love like many teenage girls do.

I was mostly private about my practices during my years in high school. I had a few friends who were interested but no one really wanted to start a coven. It wasn’t until I was in university when I started seeking out other witches and pagans. I met some of the local priesthood and various other practitioners through Witches Vox and yahoo groups but I still kept mostly to myself.

There was a brief time where I was exploring other paths like Christianity, Buddhism, and Shinto. I almost converted to Christianity but at the end of the day, I knew that I was pagan. I could not get on board with a religion that was so unforgiving to women and other beliefs.

I reached a point in 2013 where I wanted to deepen my experience with my practice, so I joined up with a teaching coven out of Vernon, BC. I learned more about the Wiccan ritual format for coven work, esbats, and sabbats. Eventually, I reached a point where I wanted something less formal in my practice and less hierarchical with my group work.

I ended up leaving that Wiccan tradition in the fall of 2015 and started a new tradition with two other pagan friends who also wanted to start coven work but under our own terms. Since that time, we have been working forming our own style of ritual work, learning shamanic practices, and playing with our own spell work. We are in our second year of work and we are just getting our style down.

Today, I have a strange mix of Wiccan, Druid, Norse, and Hindu beliefs. I am a certified yoga teacher and I have been bringing elements of that into my pagan practice. They go so well with European pagan traditions that it’s not hard to weave them together. I am what most would call an eclectic witch and pagan.

Merry Met!

Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver