Friday, March 30, 2012

National Donate a Pagan Book Day!

April 5 is Donate a Pagan Book Day. It is a national call to donate pagan books to libraries and other places where people can find them. Want to know more? Join me- I'll be donating Witchy kids books to the Columbus library!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

PPPPOC Speak Out, Part Four

Last year, I encountered some troubling racism within the pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities that wasn't overt, but troubling nonetheless. It got me to thinking that minorities within any community have it hard- even when the community is itself a minority or subculture.
I decided to give my blog over to Pagan/Polytheist/Pantheist People of Color (and later this year to pagan/polytheist/pantheist queers and trans folk) to give them an audience for their experiences. All too often, we traffic only in our familiar circles and that lessens the chance for dialogue. This is a chance to hear from the affected folks themselves.
I sent out a series of questions to folks that I know and it went viral. expect several columns like this one as the answers to my questions come back to me.

This interview is with
.  My questions are first followed by hir answers in italics.

Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?
I am a priestess of the Dark Mother Auset ordained with the Fellowship of Isis and the Temple of Isis. I am a Mami Wata devotee. I practice Hoodoo. I am a Feri/Faery initiate. My spiritual work and practices are ecstatic/shamanic. My spiritual path is one of creativity and sacred arts.

Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?

I identify as a Black American, when I'm being "professional" I say African American but I prefer Black American. As a Black American I am technically biologically  multi-racial, so I am many things but  how I identify connects to my cultural heritage more than biology so really I'm Black.

Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?

I'm not a big fan of labels but I do understand why in communicating with each other we sometimes need them, so to answer your question -- yes, if by "Pagan" you mean  "one who follows a spiritual tradition other than Christianity, Judaism or Islam", sure- why not. But if by "Pagan" you mean "one who follows one of the pre-Christian spiritual traditions of Europe," nope.

Have you ever encountered what you consider racism (however you define it) while at a pagan gathering, circle, or workshop (public or private)? Can you tell us what happened?I've experienced ignorance here and there (which I speak about while answering the next question) but in general I really only go to pagan gatherings where I know the other people and can be "in the space" having the spiritual experience rather than worrying about racism. Also, I almost always try to attend public pagan gatherings with another person of color. I do not like to be Black by myself. If I'm going to be completely honest I gotta tell you, for the most part I've stopped participating in public pagan circles. I do one large public ritual a year and it's one that I along with four other Black priestesses facilitate.

There's a part of me that prefers working alone anyway, but a lot of my decision to not attend public circles has to do with the lack of diversity in the pagan community. I know leaving the circle doesn't help with making things more diverse but it's where I'm at right now.

Do you believe that there is a bias against any traditions/Gods/types of religious practices in the greater pagan community? 

Yes. You wouldn't believe how often I've heard White folks in the Pagan community say they don't work with deities from Africa (except for the Egyptian ones cause folks still like to pretend those deities aren't African) because they are dangerous, scary and too demanding. Or people say really ignorant things like "Witchcraft is not evil or dark, we don't do Vodou."  Someone actually said to me once "My sister was nervous about coming to ritual, I told her she didn't have to worry, it's not like we're going to be sacrificing chickens or anything!" and was smiling all in my face the whole time she was saying this!

 Do you believe that these biases are informed by racism?

Sometimes it's straight up racism, other times it's just plain old ignorance about the traditions of Africa and the Diaspora.

What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?For the most part I can say White pagans have made me feel pretty welcome in spaces, they have done this by saying hello, making sure I knew what to do, where to sit etc. and by not ignoring or focusing on my "otherness". I'm not sure that there is anything they can do to make me feel "safe", I either feel safe or I don't.  As I mentioned before I do things to make myself feel safe, like attend circles where I know and am close to the white pagans there or I attend public circles with another person of color.

Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?

Yes I have,  it has gone well and I know I was heard. But these are white pagans that I know, trust and have had a long relationship with.  I'm kind of in a place in my life where I'm tired of teaching white people things about race and racism in general. So I'm not likely to have a conversation about race with a white person unless I know, trust, love and care about them. They have to be worth my time and energy.

Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?

If I get started on Hoodoo I will write a whole essay. I will just say this- Hoodoo is African American folk magic. I've noticed White Pagans in the community like to emphasize that "Hoodoo is a mixture of things, it has African, Native American and European influences."

This is true, but anything that's African American is going to be a mixture of things- we are multi-racial people of African descent, I have African, Native American and European ancestry, I'm Black y'all.  Black American culture- our foods, spirituality, music, dancing etc. was created here in America and is a combination of what our ancestors brought from Africa and what they experienced/found here in America.  African American culture is a hybrid culture. Hip Hop, Jazz,  the Blues, a mixture of things, yes, but created and developed by African Americans. African American Hoodoo was developed during and shaped by slavery. I'd like people to really think about this.

Anything else you would like to speak to?I'd like to thank you for your blog and these interviews, they are important.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Letters to Littles, March 2012

Letters to Littles
This is my first post for the blog carnival "Letters to Littles". This is a blog carnival that encourages bloggers to write letters to their young chldren about their shared lives in the moment. A snapshot in time is thereby captured, a memory or two, and something of value is created for posterity. Well, lets hope my contribution can be that profound, anyway!

I am excited to make this a semi-regular feature on Witch Mom. What a great idea! When I created the semi-regular feature "Watching My Son Grow" I was thinking it could also do the same thing, but I like this format better, I think.

Dear Rowan,
When Nanny and Pap Pap came to visit with Oscar and
Felix, you played in their crates all day!
I have no idea how old you will be when you get to read this, but I hope that you can come back to this blog again and again and read all about you, me, and our family. Our family is a little (ahem) unique and I want to document this grand experiment we are calling The Kunning Family.

At this writing, you are two years and almost two months old. You just really "got" the concept of what birthdays are this last time and now you want to open every box and package that comes (hoping it is a present). Your second birthday was spent in Appalachia, surrounded by family and friends from the UU church there. 

We now are getting a new start in Columbus and you are already crushed out on the neighbor girl, Madda. You ask for her almost every day and follow her around like a puppy when you are together. It is pretty cute. A bit ago, we got library cards and now we go to the library once a week to get new books. Our local branch also has a playground behind it, so our Monday outings are super fun for you.

We started attending a new UU church too- and there a few kids in the nursery for you to get to know. So Sundays are fun for you, too- and you ask to go to church on other days of the week.

At the park behind the library
The weather has been unpredictable and kinda crappy (it IS March), but as soon as it warms up, we are going to be taking regular walks to get to know our neighborhood. We will also be volunteering in the community garden, joining the Y, making regular trips to the zoo, and going outside to play more. I can't wait to start exploring our new city and life with you!

While you are "too young" for school, I have been working with you anyway. You are amazing- your vocabulary is extensive, you can count to 12, and you know most of your letters already. You tell stories (to us, to your toys, to the birds) and listen attentively when we read to you. I am blown away at how smart you are and how your personality is already your own.

You have this amazing smile that we call your "Cholla smile" you started smiling that way, with all your teeth exposed like a predator, the corners of your eyes crinkled in delight after visiting Auntie Cholla and seeing her smile and laugh. You like to make people laugh and perform constantly. I would not be surprised if you became a thespian. When you act out and need to get a time out, you go-to defense is "funny? laughin'?" hoping that if you make us laugh you will avoid discipline.

Snuggling after a long day.
You are in your in your own room with your own big boy bed now, and the transition has not been as hard as I thought it would be (for you, anyway). Sometimes, when you wake upset in the middle of the night, I am more than OK getting into bed with you to snuggle, even though we are sharing a twin bed. When you put your nose against mine and say "I love you, mommy" in the dark, it more than makes up for my loss of sleep. (But can I say that I feel so much more energetic and happy to play with you today, because I got a full night's sleep? Hint hint.)

You talk non-stop. I remember when you were very little, your father and I would talk about how we could not wait until you were old enough to talk and tell us what you are thinking and feeling. Now sometimes, we would love to have 10 minutes of silence! whether or not we will ever get it again, you are a free spirit that loves life and I am so proud to be your mom.

Your hair is almost down to the small of your back now. We have never cut it, and when we ask you if you want it cut (because you HATE when we brush it) you tell us no. So we have not cut it and will not until you want us to.

In closing, I just want to remind you that I love you, you are my favorite person in the whole world, and I can't wait to see what comes next. Together!

Love, Mama

Saturday, March 24, 2012

PPPPOC Speak Out, Part Three

Last year, I encountered some troubling racism within the pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities that wasn't overt, but troubling nonetheless. It got me to thinking that minorities within any community have it hard- even when the community is itself a minority or subculture.
I decided to give my blog over to Pagan/Polytheist/Pantheist People of Color (and later this year to pagan/polytheist/pantheist queers and trans folk) to give them an audience for their experiences. All too often, we traffic only in our familiar circles and that lessens the chance for dialogue. This is a chance to hear from the affected folks themselves.
I sent out a series of questions to folks that I know and it went viral. expect several columns like this one as the answers to my questions come back to me.

This interview is with TJ Kahn. My questions are first followed by hir answers in italics.

Mass produced racist valentines. An example of
institutionalized racism that people accept...
until they don't.
Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?
I qualify myself as a Religious Humanist / Neo-Pagan.  I have a mixture of Native American, Zen Buddhist, Judeo-Christian and scientific beliefs umbrellaed under an animistic/pantheistic philosophy.

Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?
I identify as a Latino/Native American (First Nations) person.  (Of Mexican-American and Mission Indian descent.)

Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?
I identify with "Neo-Pagan" because it is the only term that encompasses all of me, but I rarely identify with the larger Earth-centered Pagan community, though I hold them in great respect.

Have you ever encountered what you consider racism (however you define it) while at a pagan gathering, circle, or workshop (public or private)? Can you tell us what happened?
Holy cats, this one is bad.
I myself have not, but I have experienced a large variety of Earth Mother traditions and very little Great Spirit (Native/indigenous) traditions in pagan gatherings I've attended.

Do you believe that there is a bias against any traditions/Gods/types of religious practices in the greater pagan community? Do you believe that these biases are informed by racism?
As above, there have been very little references to my particular ancestry, and larger pagan gatherings tend to ignore my particular patrons (Athena, Bast, Thoth) in favor of larger Gaea-deities.  (Blue Man, Earth Mother, Pan, etc.)

What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?
Host more Native American animistic teachers.

Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?
Not about race.  I've usually felt heard pretty well in the pagan community.

The term "Indian Giver" is particularly infuriating.
Look up the history if you do not know.
Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?
I tend to see a plethora of Native American practices used in pagan ceremonies like smudging and dreamcatchers, but almost none of the other less-popular traditions like medicine dances and sand paintings.  I would say more 'commercialized' rather than 'appropriated'.

Anything else you would like to speak to?
I would like to see more respect given to the ground and ancestors of the particular area where pagan practices are being held.  Not from an Earth-Mother perspective, but respect for whose land that used to be.

For more information on dismantling white privilege, race in the news, and anti-racist activism, check out:
and more links to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ask Me Anything: Pagan "Baptism"

In this semi-regular feature on Witch Mom, I answer select questions from readers. There is always a box to the right of my blog posts if you would also like to ask a question, or click here. It could be about The Craft, parenting, pop culture, multi-religious education, homeschooling, or whatever! I cannot promise to answer each one, but I will read them!

A reader asks: "You have such interesting posts and a lot about parenting, do you know a pagan equivalent of a baptism that can be performed for a baby by a solitary practitioner? (My family is far from open minded about my faith, so having others join could be kinda hard.)"

From The Cauldron, link to article on right.
Not knowing what Path you follow, I am going to give you a generic idea that can be adapted in many ways. Hope you get some great ideas from it. Blessings to you and your new child! There are other Wiccan ideas for such a rite- many people call them "Wiccanings" or "sainings"*).  I myself am not Wiccan, so here is a basic form for you to follow, regardless of your path.

Baptism, as it is practiced by the Catholic Church, has pretty misogynistic and scary roots. Catholic doctrine says that a child is "unclean" and "impure" because it is a product of "original sin" and came from a woman's vagina (which is pretty much always unclean by their standards).
"During a Catholic baptismal ceremony, the priest still addresses the baby, 'I exorcize thee thou unclean spirit... Hear thy doom, O Devil accursed, Satan accursed!" The exorcism is euphemistically described as a 'means to remove impediments to grace resulting from the effects of original sin and the power of Satan over fallen nature.' -The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker
This liturgy comes from a belief that humans are evil and belong to the devil (which is not my fanciful "pagan" idea of Catholicism- it comes directly from St. Augustine and Tertullian). They believe every baby is born evil and babies that die in the womb go to hell. Thus, a baptism is necessary to ensure the baby's salvation. But in Church history, babies were considered so impure and dangerous to priests, that they refused to touch the infant for forty days after the birth. Wow. Just wow. That is some serious misogynistic baggage.

From a Wiccaning in MN.
(Photo from PNC Minnesota bureau)
These days, the Church talks only about declarations of name, of presenting the child to the community, and of dedication to God (the previous dogma no longer plays well in Peoria, I suppose), but these traditions have deep roots that have spiritual repercussionsand meanings today. I would no sooner baptize my son in a Catholic church than I would tell him flat out that he is inherently evil. And I have a hunch, as a pagan, that you feel the same way. So how do we, as pagans, bless and welcome a new babe? Can't baptism be reworked or reclaimed? Sure!

After all, what is baptism (looking at it through pagan eyes) if not a blessing by water? We can remove the stigma that a man (priest) can somehow bless water and (only then) make it holy. We can say it is not necessary to use "holy water" and that salvation is a silly idea. We can proudly proclaim that all water is holy and a miracle. We can use it, as well as other elements to bless our newborn.

Water is an important element (but only one of five). I would say a blessing rite that I would do for a pagan child would include a blessing by all the elements.

Here is a simple proposal that you could embellish as you please:

1. Gather tokens of each of the five elements- earth, air, fire, and water. Be creative about what you gather- perhaps for earth you could get a leaf from the tree under which you planed your child's placenta. Or a bit of sand or soil from a particularly sacred spot for you or your family. Graveyard dirt form a beloved ancestor, perhaps.

The Chalice Well
For water, there are so many sacred springs and wells- I myself have a bottle of water from the Chalice Well at Glastonbury Tor that I use sparingly for such occasions. Or perhaps taking waters from a meaningful river, lake or creek, or an ocean that means something to your family.

For fire, you could obviously use an oil lamp or a candle. Or light a cauldron ablaze and do the rite in the out of doors. When my son was born, I created a birth altar that had, among other things, a very large green pillar candle on it. I burn it now at each of his birthday celebration as well. It should last until he has moved out!

For air, a feather or wing of a bird or insect to act as a fan would be lovely. Pick something that is again, meaningful. I have ties to owls, crows, parrots, and butterflies.

For the fifth element (aether or spirit), is known to imbue everything, especially through vibration- so a lovely song that speaks to the aim of your ritual would do nicely. Another option is a vibrant work of art, displayed. If you have a talent for art or music, or someone in your family does, perhaps an original work would be especially meaningful. The art could be displayed in a nursery or could be sung to your child long after the rite as a lullaby.

2. Create liturgy. You may wish to create language around how each element is blessing the child. Air can bestow clarity, earth can provide grounding, water can provide insights through dreams, fire can provide a creative spark, for example. Whatever gifts you wish the elements to provide is all you need to say, or be as fancy as you like! Are there gods that will be invoked and present? What do you want to say to them? How will you present your child to them?

Personally, I would name the child at the rite for all present to hear (sometimes that is just you and your gods) and then present them to crowd and the gods of your choosing. Proceed to then bless the child with all five elements. Perhaps if a song is chosen to represent aether, it could play throughout the rite, as the rite will not take long.

One suggestion I have is to adapt the Witchcraft tradition called the "fivefold kiss" which blesses a body at rituals, including ones like handfastings.

The words that accompany each kiss are as follows (there are other versions in Gardnerianism and Alexandrianism):

Blessed be thy feet that have walked this Path
Blessed be thy knees that kneel at the sacred altar
Blessed be thy sex which gives and receives pleasure
Blessed be thy breasts formed in strength and beauty
Blessed be thy lips that shall utter the Sacred Names.
At each line, the place on the body is kissed/annointed/blessed. Riffing off of the five fold kiss idea, you could anoint these areas with the four elemental symbols as well as (or instead of) kiss. Or come up with your own novel way of blessing the child with the elements.

3. Once you have assembled your materials, decide who will be in attendance and/or participating. If you could have one other person there, it would be helpful- as they could hold the child as you administer the blessings. If it is you and only you with the child, having them in a bassinette or car seat would do nicely as well. This step includes any deities that you may want to invoke and be present at the ritual. While you do not need fancy statuary, a candle lit at the time their name is said will help bring their attention to the rite.

4. Create your script and practice. When does the music start? Do you have liturgy, or are you being impromptu? Is more than one person participating in the rite? Who does what? Is there a spot for a god to "speak"? I always suggest at least one "run through" before the actual rite, to make sure everyone is on the same page and it makes the transitions smoother.

5. Do the rite when the child is present and awake.

Blessings to you and your family. I hope this helps you.

*I personally do not like the term saining as applied to this ritual, as it implies the child is impure as well. Saining is a term that refers to the ritual cleansing of a space or person, usually pre-ritual. Since I do not buy into the doctrine of sin or original sin, I find cleansing a newborn to be unnecessary at best and offensive at worst.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Oestara!

Last year, I wrote about Easter's pagan roots for those of you that are unaware that most of the cultural trapping of Easter, as it is practiced here in the US is pagan in origin.

This year, I get to start some of the exciting family traditions with Rowan, because he is old enough to participate and understand more. So what are we doing?

Yes, this mama bought peeps.
Today, I picked up the symbols of Oestre, goddess of spring and renewal, namely, rabbits, baby animals, and eggs. I got Rowan a bright spring green bucket decorated with bunnies in lieu of a basket (we can use it at the beach later this year and is so much more durable than those flimsy dyed baskets)!

I got some reusable plastic eggs to stuff full of sweets, coins, and stickers of baby animals. I got a gy-normous chocolate rabbit, mainly for the satisfying squeal factor. Yes, mama loves it and panders!

Norway's "Easter Witch"
I picked up some chalk eggs for us to draw flowers on the sidewalk after our egg hunt. I plan on decorating the house when he naps tomorrow, and taking him out of the house immediately afterwards. After we pick up his daddy from work, we'll come home and "discover" that there are eggs hidden everywhere! I think he'll get a big kick out of it.

Tonight, we have guests coming for dinner and it is a potluck. But if we were doing this sabbat to the nines (as I hope to do next year) we would have a suckling pig.

For those of you looking for ideas, I have an Oestara Pinterest board, as well as boards for Beltaine and other sabbats (and non Witch holidays, too!). What are you doing with your Witchlets this sabbat?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

PPPPOC Speak Out, Part Two

Last year, I encountered some troubling racism within the pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities that wasn't overt, but troubling nonetheless. It got me to thinking that minorities within any community have it hard- even when the community is itself a minority or subculture.
I decided to give my blog over to Pagan/Polytheist/Pantheist People of Color (and later this year to pagan/polytheist/pantheist queers and trans folk) to give them an audience for their experiences. All too often, we traffic only in our familiar circles and that lessens the chance for dialogue. This is a chance to hear from the affected folks themselves.
I sent out a series of questions to folks that I know and it went viral. expect several columns like this one as the answers to my questions come back to me.

Both the books shown here are
available through Crystal's website.
This interview is with Crystal Blanton. My questions are first followed by hir answers in italics.

Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?

I identify as a Wiccan/Pagan.

Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?

I am a Black (African American) woman.  That is how I identify if I were to strip it down to one over arching label but I am also mixed with other things, as most of us are.

Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?

I do identify with the term Pagan because it is a label that encompasses the elements of my spiritual practice.  As a person that works with the old deities, elements, forces of nature and works within the concepts of earth based spirituality, I find that Pagan is a good umbrella term that identifies my spiritual beliefs and practices.

Have you ever encountered what you consider racism (however you define it) while at a pagan gathering, circle, or workshop (public or private)? Can you tell us what happened?

I recently encountered a man in a Pagan meet and greet that made some racist comments to me about Black people in Oakland.  He referred to his children as "sagging" their pants and made a comment that he immediately told them they were not black.  He then went on to ramble about black kids who are shot every week because they are on the corners selling marijuana and then are chased by the cops.  He states they were shot because when running they had to pull up their sagging pants and therefore were shot by the cops because it looks like they are reaching for a weapon.  I wrote about this experience in the Daughters of Eve blog... 

Do you believe that there is a bias against any traditions/Gods/types of religious practices in the greater pagan community? Do you believe that these biases are informed by racism?

I do believe there are a lot of fears about deities and other beliefs that are not common within the Euro-centric  concepts of Gods and Goddess.  Venturing out to understand the African Gods appear to be quite frightening for many who are practicing Pagans and are within the common box of working with only Celtic or Greek Deities.  

What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?

I think there are many things that could be said to those who are not balancing the line of being the minority race within the Pagan circle.  I would mention here the concept of privilege and developing a great understanding that not everyone has the same outlook and experiences in life.  Due to these differences, it is important to acknowledge that diversity gives us perspective that we may not otherwise have.  Evaluating ones privileged opens up the opportunities to see how others views are valuable and also seeing ones on limited understanding of the many ways of the Gods.   Honoring each person as an individual and a child of the Gods goes a long way, regardless of the color of a person's skin.

Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?

I have had many conversations about race with non-minority Pagans.  While some went very well, not all conversations have gone without a hiccup but all conversations are progress.  I do feel heard many times and being able to work with the Daughters of Eve blog on Patheos or with the Shades of Faith; Minority voices in Paganism anthology has given me even more outlets to be heard through.  It is an exciting time within our spiritual community.   

Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?

For more information on dismantling white privilege, race in the news, and anti-racist activism, check out:
Daughters of Eve
Beyond Whiteness
Understanding and Dismantling Privilege
Race Traitor
Trans Griot
What Tami Said
and more links to come.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Big Dreams

So as followers here or on Facebook may know, I have launched an Etsy store, and I have dreams of having it become so much more- a sustainable way of life, a brick and mortar store and community center, and a way to teach my son the Craft. Boline is the culmination of many years of cultivating myriad interconnected interests and crafting it into a way of life.

What interests? Magick, the land and its plants, rocks, and animals, and healing modalities. I have always been interested in nature, and became a self-identified Witch waaaay back in 1989 (I am dating myself here!). I studied with so many different groups- Gnostics, Masons, the OTO and ceremonialists of many stripes, and Witches, always Witches- all kinds of Witches (we are actually quite a diverse group, you know).

I have been talking to animals, plants, and nature spirits since early childhood (much to my parents' chagrin- I would release animals from suffering, such as live traps in our neighbors garden. I would take all our carrots and celery and place them in front of where I knew the rabbits lived. I would beat the crap out of neighbor boys who stomped on ant piles and smeared lightening bugs on their jeans to make them glow. And if you deigned to abuse a larger animal like a dog or cat and I saw you- woe unto you.). I knew earth spirits and talked to animals and they would tell me their secrets. I am just getting familiar with Columbus and its spirits, but they are already talking to me.

I have been interested in spell work, conjure, whatever you want to call it for decades as well. I have been making spells and building altars long before I knew that they were called that- and when I learned that there were others doing this "odd behavior" and that they had knowledge than me to make them more effective, you could bet that I went to learn from them! I have had so many teachers since I learned Witchcraft had a name.

And healing- I have been interested in all kinds of healing for quite some time- and in particular natural forms of healing such as herbalism and energy work. I became a Reiki master a few years back, and my patron has bestowed on me a form of energy healing that works differently than Reiki and is quite powerful. I used to work on Cora Anderson and another of my elder teachers often- they would allow me to experiment with this new gift and benefit from it. Lilth wants me to heal in her name in myroad ways, that is quite clear from her communications to me.

She urged me towards herb school and I learned a lot there. I would like to return to a school nearby, as there is always an elder who can impart wisdom! And now that I am in a different part of the world from where I learned (I trained in California)- there are be local plants that I need to meet.

As the world become more and more crazy and contentious, I yearn for sustainability and connection- connection to a tribe, connection to the land. That is happening as I build my homestead. My neighbor and I share a yard (we are in one of the ubiquitous duplexes in Clintonville) and we have plan together to remove decorative plants to make way for food and medicine, build raised beds, and raise bees (well, OK that's just me- she's allergic to bees- but she is fine with them being placed in the back yard for me to work with).

I have a large front porch, a huge box in the front (shrubs are being removed for other plants), a small patch of a front yard (where I will build a widdershins herb spiral for flying ointment herbs), a place upstairs for more window boxes, and places on the side yard and back for raised beds. I am planting an elder tree. I started a worm composter. I have medicinal mushrooms in the basement (where I have a workbench and storage ready for my medicine making!).

Last night, I dreamt of medicine making all night long. I made herb infused oils, tinctures, and balms. I boiled syrups and dried teas. I am yearning to start this new life. Of course building such a dream takes time. Plants need time to grow, and I need to time to connect to this land. But I also need money.

The move across the country and setting up a new home was expensive and we used student loans and tax returns to make that happen. We are not wealthy (at least not in money) and are asking our community to help us get started. We need beekeeping equipment, plants, containers, soil testing and possible amelioration, and supplies. We left so much behind in Califormia that could have been useful, but we could not afford to move it all. And so now I turn to you, my friends whom I know and whom I do not know personally to help me make our dream come true.

Below you see a "Chip In" widget. I have set a modest sum of $2000 that will get us the basics of what we need for now. If we are able to get a start on this growing season with what we need, it should sustain us through the winter and allow me to make medicines, toiletries, and remedies for Columbus (we plan to sell at the farmer's market) and worldwide (through Etsy).

If you have a few dollars (or more) to spare, my family and I would be most grateful. Once things are grown and made, I plan on sending tokens of appreciation to those that give as well. Thanks fpr reading my story from the bottom of my heart, whether you give or not!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Growing Medicinal Mushrooms

One of the new projects that I am taking on this year is growing mushrooms- mostly medicinal for Boline, my online botanica and apothecary. Unlike western herbalism, with which I am familiar and know the plants and how to grow them, mushrooms are their own strange little adventure!

I have several types of mushrooms growing in my home: reishi, shiitake, maitake, turkey tail, and oyster. The oyster is for me for food. All but the oyster varieties are growing on sterilized, organic, hardwood sawdust (the oyster is growing on my used organic coffee grounds (reuse! reduce! recycle!)).

Mushroom life cycle.
I have been tending them multiple times a day (they need watering two-three times daily) as well as in bursts (when it is time to innoculate the sawdust or harvest) and I am just starting to see the fruits (literally!) of my labor.

The shiitakes are fruiting like crazy and the oyster has started to pin as well. The maitake is in the pre-fruiting stage, also known as the pinhead and priordium stages. My turkey tails and reishi are slowly spreading their mycelium throughout the substrate and have created hyphal knots (the stage before becoming priordium).

Take a look at my mushrooms!

Shiitake mushrooms fruiting.

A close up of the Shiitakes.

Aren't they adorable?

Harvested Shiitakes. I will now dry them.

This is oyster and shiitake spores in liquid. Once they form mycelium strands,
they will be used to innoculate sterilized organic hardwood sawdust or rye grain.

The shiitakes under their humidity tent.

Look at all that mycelium! (This is a bag of oyster innoculated sawdust for a friend.)

The Maitake under its tent. See the big bumps? Those are GOOD.

Harvested shiitakes in my dryer.

Here, they will dry out and then be used in medicine making: either dried tea or a tincture.

These are my oysters in coffee grounds. Look closely- do you see the pinhead?

There it is!

About Shiitakes
Why grow Shiitake mushrooms in particular? Most people in the US only know them as a tasty mushroom found in Japanese food and do not understand its myriad medicinal properties. "Modern research has indicated shiitake mushroom may stimulate the immune system, possess antibacterial properties, reduce platelet aggregation, and possess antiviral properties, possibly through antiviral agents known as proteinase inhibitors. ... It also possesses lentinan, which is a compound isolated from shiitake, is used as an intravenous anticancer agent in some countries. Studies have demonstrated lentinan possesses antitumor properties, and clinical studies have associated lentinan with a higher survival rate, higher quality of life, and lower recurrence of cancer."*

As an herbalist, I believe that the whole plant is better for you and contains more healing properties than isolates. So I would rather use the whole dried mushroom in a tea or create a tincture form the whole fruit for remedies. I will be selling this through Boline.

Stay tuned for more interesting information on the other mushrooms that I am raising as well as their properties.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Sharing Monday: My First Ramadan and Night of the Mooon

While I have done book reviews in the past and will continue to do so, I am excited that a group of attachment parents are all doing the same thing, on Mondays. This new blog carnival, Book Sharing Mondays, is something I look forward to participating in every so often! While I will keep the same format as my previous book reviews, I hope that my reviews will gain a wider audience by participating.

This time, I have two books on the same subject to review: Night of the Moon (by Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis) and My First Ramadan (by Karen Katz).

My First Ramadan
I was delighted to find these two books at my local Columbus Library, in both the kids section AND the parenting section. As a parent who is raising my son in a specific (minority) religion, I still think it is important for him to learn about all the peoples of the world and what they believe as well. This, I believe, will help him become a decent world citizen. So these books I believe are important for all children.

I am ashamed to admit that I knew precious little about Islam and the holy month of Ramadan (much less Eid al-Fitr) when I read these picture books, aimed at children. I knew that daytime fasting took place for a whole month, and that was about it. These books taught me a whole lot and I would heartily recommend them to both Muslim parents hoping to find picture books that illustrate their culture as well and non-Muslim parents like me, who want their children well-versed on the peoples of the world.

In Night of the Moon, the main character, Yasmeen, tells her story of following the moon's first crescent in the month of Ramadan, and how her family and community celebrate it. She talks about the parties, feasts, and celebrations that happen with friends and family, at the mosque, and her community center.

She learns from her parents and grandparents the meaning of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr (which is the holiday immediately following Ramadan). This book is gorgeously illustrated and comes with a small summary of the holidays and a glossary of terms for those first encountering Ramadan and its meanings (like me!).

The book portrays all kinds of Muslims all over the world- different nationalities and ethnicities and people practicing different cultural expressions of Islam- for example, some women wear headscarves in their everyday lives while others do not.

In My First Ramadan, the target audience is more narrow- I think the book works best for ages 2-7, whereas the previous book would work for a broader age group. In My First Ramadan, I also learned several new things about Islam and Ramadan and the pronunciations are in the book for the unfamiliar words- so helpful!

The family in My First Ramadan is a bit more Orthodox than in the first book. The women wear headscarves and worship at the mosque in separate rooms. The family is pretty heteronormative in the gender roles- mother always cooks, father always leads the prayers. I bring this up because it was not gendered like this in the first book, and the culture kind of squicked me, personally. I still think the book is a good resource, and if I continue to use it, I would point these things out to my son and ask open-ended questions about them, rather than letting the gendered assumptions sit there without comment.

Formal Ratings:

Title: Night of the Moon
Author: Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Price: $16.99 USD
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6062-8

Topics Covered: Islam, Muslims, Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr

Target Audience: children ages 2-10

Witch Mom Rating: Three Hats

This book is an amazing resource for all kids, regardless of religion. I learned a whole heck of a lot from reading it, and it will do a great job of teaching your kids about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, as well as Islam in general.

Title: My First Ramadan
Author: Karen Katz
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Price: $14.95 USD
ISBN: 978-0-8050-7894-7

Topics Covered: Islam, Muslims, Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr

Target Audience: children ages 2-7

Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats

This book is also a great book on these two major Muslim holy days and would serve children well, regardless of religion. I learned a few more items by reading this book after the first one (above), but feel that it is less informative after reading Night of the Moon. This book also contains more heteronormative gender roles than the first book, as I explained above.


Friday, March 9, 2012

More on the Gender Agenda

Boy in a dress, or girl with a penis?
Only time will tell.
I have often talked about how we are raising Rowan as free as possible from a gender agenda. This means that we are not limiting his expression or interests based on his (perceived) gender. He wears "boy clothes" and "girl clothes" pretty equally. He has long hair and it is often in a ponytail or in ribboned barrettes. He has a kitchen set, a play vaccuum, and a purple dog named Violet as well as cars, footballs, and dinosaurs. He likes pink and things that sparkle, so he gets them.

Boy or girl? We don't know yet.

And as he gets older and understands more of the culture going on around him, we will be having all kinds of discussions that will help him to decipher and deconstruct sexist messages and help him become a feminist man. Because we plan on unschooling/homeschooling, we hope that he will avoid much of the bullying that accompanies fluid gender expression.

A wonderful film- have you seen it?
He (we will use male pronouns unless he corrects us, and we have gender identity discussions with him already to open up the conversation) is free to express his gender and sexuality in any way he chooses. We select books like this one and this one and songs to sing to him carefully- trying to ensure that they open doors to possibility, rather than restrict his expression and make him feel bad about himself or others for choices.

I just got an email that there is a new study happening for parents of gender non-conforming kids. If this applies to your child, please check it out. We are not participating, because Rowan hasn't expressed any preference, he likes everything. So we do not wish to skew the research.

If you are interested in reading more about kids who are gender non-conforming, check out Sarah Hoffman's recommended reading list. Here is a great page with links to resources for parents of gender non-conforming kids. For Jews, here is an awesome resource as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tangible Witchcraft: Resurrection Plant

This past Friday at 9 AM, I put a resurrection plant in a bowl of water and left it near my door.

There are lots of traditions and rituals associated with The Rose of Jericho (or Resurrection Plant) that span several belief systems including Catholicism, Voudou, Hoodoo and Santeria. Fascinating stuff, and since so many attribute this plant with magickal workings, I say- where's there's smoke there's fire.

Known by many names (Mary's flower, Stone flower, Spike moss, Rosa Mariae, Rose of the Virgin, Dinosaur Plant, Holy Night Rose and Palestinian Tumbleweed are but a few), there are actually two plants that are called a Resurrection Plant (which is an attribute that they both share: actual resurrection). Anastatica hierochuntica is the true Rose of Jericho (growing in the Middle East and Africa) while the Selaginella Lepidophylla is known as the false Rose of Jericho (growing in North America). It is the more commonly available false Rose of Jericho is the one that is widely known and used in magickal workings and spells here in the United States.

Either Rose of Jericho (be the "true" or "false" one) has some amazing powers, whether you look at it from a scientific or a magickal point of view. I tend to look at both, since I am very animistic in my beliefs of how magick works (everything has a distinct energy field that hold certain properties that can be used to affect the worlds and create magickal effect.) The doctrine of signatures also, when extrapolated into a broad magickal world view, tells us that plants, minerals, animals, and beings not only have specific properties but that they can be identified if you are paying attention. This plant deserves some attention.

This is my plant before placing in water.
What properties does this plant have? It performs miracles! It can live in dormancy for up to 50 years, looking like a dried up, dead, old tumbleweed. As soon as it finds stable water, it comes back to life, greening up and even blooming! Is it any wonder so many belief systems have attributed it with power?

According to legends, it is said that the Virgin Mary blessed the eternal plant during her and Joseph's flight to Egypt. In Spain, it is traditionally connected to the Holy Trinity. And hey, it does and is reborn, just like Jesus- who wouldn't like that?

The true Rose of Jericho is sought for in the Holy Land by pilgrims as a holy relic. Some are actually kept in the family and is traditionally passed on, from generation to generation, as an important part of one's inheritance and it is brought out at Christmas or Easter time along with other decorations.

Catholic families sometimes keep a dried Rose of Jericho in a paper bag among their Christmas decorations, at Christmas they will place the rose in a shallow dish of water on the Christmas table allowing it to bloom. When used at Christmas, it is believed to symbolise the opening and closing of Marys womb. Other catholic families follow a similar tradition at Easter, the symbolism of death and resurrection being an obvious parallel with Jesus Christ.

I said a prayer over the plant before placing
in water. Depending on your religion,
you could invoke several powers here.
I called upon the ever-dying and reborn god
of my tradition to bless the plant and imbue
it with blessings, abundance, and prosperity.
In hoodoo, conjure, and obeah the plant is often used as a prosperity charm. It promotes good business (if placed in a place of work) and happiness and abundance in the home (when placed by the front entrance with a few coins added to the water). After you put the Resurrection plant in water, you simply place it near your door to draw in abundance. When you need a little prosperity, you asperge your house and/or yourself with the water in the bowl, or use the water as a floor or door wash. Since you need to replenish the water weekly for the plant (or it will moldy and get slimy), this means you can perform weekly prosperity spells with ease.

You can also "wash" a grave with this water in order to receive messages from them through divination or dream.

It is also thought if you wear the dried plant as an amulet it will promote a long and healthy life. I suspect a charm to help a very ill person that includes this plant could aid in a miraculous" recovery.

The Resurrection Plant is considered a rare magical commodity and is sought after for use in Voodoo and Cuban Santeria love and money spells. In Voodoo spells, it can also be used to conjuring spirits- sometimes causing possessions and then curing one of a possession.

In Santeria and other Yoruba-based traditions the plant is sometimes believed to be sacred to the Orisha Shango (the spirit of lightening), probably because of the story of Shango committing suicide and then coming back to life. The Ressurection Plant is sometimes placed on his altar by his devotees or used as an ingredient in powders, incenses, oils and baths that are made under the patronage of Shango.

Tips on growing:

What it looks like in the first few hours,
Do not swamp the plant with too much water, they can easily grow moldy, the rose should rest on top of a small amount of water, there should be no water on the top side of the plant.

For prosperity, add a few coins, but DO NOT add lodestones to the water, unless you desire a rusty dead mess. Hardly an auspicious spell for prosperity!

Some people recommend adding holy water (I've also seen people add water from sacred pagan sites, like the Chalice Well) to the plant. That is fine if you are sure the water is healthy for living things. Some waters are not.

Change the water at least once a week, don't allow the water to become stagnant.

Don't place them in direct sunlight but do place them somewhere warm.

Allow your plant to dry out occasionally if its just being kept in water. And benefit magickally from another resurrection!

False Rose of Jericho can be planted in soil. If you desire to do this, allow it to bloom in a dish of water for a few weeks until you see small roots appearing, then transplant to a large pot. Don't overwater!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tangible Witchcraft: Pendulum Use

Me, holding one of my pendulums.
Recently, I posted a link on my Witchcraft DIY Pinterest board that was 75% good and 25% New Age twaddle about using a pendulum. I remarked as such in the comments, but fretted that there was no real Witchcraft resources for using a pendulum free of bad (purchased) theology and bad advice. I'll be replacing that link with this one.

Well, at the risk of repeating much of what that link said, I felt compelled to create a post about this technique of divination that I felt was theologically sound. I quote the article linked above several times in this post to show what I disagree with, just FYI. So here we go!

What is a pendulum?
A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. Pendulums created for divination are suspended on short cords or chains and usually have an "anchor" that acts as a charm, but not always. Many people make their own and wear them as necklaces if they use them often.

How it works.
The article I linked to above had it right on this count: "The pendulum is basically an amplifier." They said, "It is a tool that helps you to access the collective unconscious and your Higher Self. ... You can get answers to anything you can come up with. The results you get will reflect your stage of spiritual/mental development."

I would also say that the pendulum is indeed an amplifier; and I would use less New Age-y language. Theologically and scientifically speaking, we (living beings) are all connected and not separate as the of this life illusion appears. Additionally, there is no linear time. Therefore, we should be able to tap into a larger collective unconscious that supercedes (for lack of a better word) our narrow view of events and time. Pendulums do that. It's pretty interesting to use, and I never fail to be amused when I use one, because once you master achieving the state required for using a pendulum, all of them should work the same for you.

How do you use it?

The article referenced above said, "You should not use the pendulum for egoistic reasons. Use it only for the well being of others or yourself." Bah humbug. I hear that "white lighter" crap all the time from people who read a few books on what they deem Wicca (but does not closely resemble the Brit Trads that it came from) or New Age, self-help-y books. Those resources also encourages people to make everyday decisions that they should be able to male themselves. I have watched people use pendulums to pick which dog food to buy, I kid you not. They are not meant to be a New Age crutch, saving people from making mundane decisions like that.

A pendulum gives an individual who knows how to use it access to yes, no, or "I don't know/Can't answer now" answers and not a lot else. (I think those pendulum "answer cards" are a load of crap. Ive never seen anyone, whose talents I know, use them. They are just a waste of money. 

Of course you would use it for personal benefit (for yourself or others). What is the point of Witchcraft if you are not going to access answers beyond a muggle's reach or manipulate the worlds to make change through spellcraft? That is what a Witch does.

The article also said, "Remember: Swinging the pendulum requires that you be undivided and totally present in the moment." Yes, this is absolutely true. This is also the hardest part and something the article does not talk about. Most people cannot clear their minds and achieve a state like this easily. That is why effective Witches have a mindfulness practice. When I started my training in the tradition that I am initiated into, I was required to have a sitting practice of a minimum of 20 minutes a day for 2.5 years. I will tell you, in the beginning it was agonizing to sit still and "do nothing" for that long. These days, I know when I fall off the wagon and need to start sitting again. It affects the state I seek to permanently cultivate in myself and makes me less discerning and mindful when I do not take part in my practice.

True story: I worked at a holistic pet store once, selling herbs, supplements, homeopathy, and raw diets to dog and cat owners. Once of my co-workers was a Richard Dawkins-style (read: evangelical) atheist (this man also didn't believe in homeopathy, but that is another story!) and he knew that I was a Witch and in seminary. He thought of me as foolish and naive, I am sure. He always smirked when I talked about spiritual matters with my co-workers or offered Reiki to a dog dying of cancer.

One day, I pulled my pendulum out of my purse. I tried to explain how it worked to him in terms he would appreciate (read: quantum physics), but he still smirked. I showed him what it looked like to use it. "Show me "yes" I asked. Dutifully, my pendulum swing in a counter-clockwise circle, as it always does for yes for me. "Show me 'no'", I asked. As usual, the pendulum swung back and forth from my fingertips to my wrist. This is MY yes and no, regardless of what pendulum I use. 

I asked him to watch carefully and take note if I was swinging it subtly in any way or moving it, like a Ouija Board slumber party game. He admitted that he could see no influence. I asked him to try it. IT DID NOT BUDGE. While a pendulum swings dramatically after a few seconds for me, in his hands it remained limp, flaccid and unmoving. I believe this is because: A. He has not ade the connections in his brain, body and soul that I have- that allows me to connect to the all-there-is. B. He is so skeptical of anything he cannot see (he doesn't like physics for this reason, either and prefers "hard sciences" like chemistry because it can be measured "objectively"**) that these things literally CANNOT exist for him. 

This is why the pendulum, while it seems like the easiest of the obviously Witchy divination tools, is actually not that easy. It requires a lot of "prerequisite work" before you can work a pendulum. It is not like the tarot or runes, where you can memorize symbols and correspondences or use a book to translate to give rudimentary readings at first.*

So, what are the mechanics of use?
1. Ready yourself for divination. I always make sure that I align the three parts of my soul, so that I can connect my Godsoul to the All-There-Is as easily as possible. Then I "ground" myself (I say ground as a more accessible term to most pagans, but I actually mean "grow", as I usually do something most others do not, which is rooting myself into the earth yes- but also I branch up into the cosmos so that I am the world tree- rooted into the earth and connected to the stars.) If you do not do this as part of your practice, no worries- do what you need to do to stabilize yourself and tap into the divine.

2. Hold the pendulum in the hand you use the most. I am right handed, and I hold it in that hand. Grasp the cord or chain between the forefinger and thumb gently and let the ,rest of the cord/chain dangle over the remaining fingers of your hand (like the first picture indicates). The cord/chain should hang down at least three inches away from where your unused fingers are. This gives the pendulum a range of chain to work and move.

3. Use the other hand as a "platform" under the pendulum. Not touching it, but flat underneath it. I believe this creates a circuit for the energy that is moving your pendulum to complete and work. Many people will have their pendulums suspended above a cloth or a card, but honestly- I find this to be the most consistent, efficient, and expedient way to get the pendulum to work.

4. Ask to see what a yes, a no, and a "cannot answer" looks like. Whom are you asking, you ask? You are asking All-There-Is, which is You. As above, so below. Wait for a clearly articulated answer and maybe ask each one a couple times to be sure you know what these answers look like.

Two of my pendulums.
My pendulums and how I use them.
I have three pendulums. I keep one in my purse, one in my bedroom, and one as a backup. What can I say, I like pendulums! While pendulums can be made of anything- stones, glass, metal, wood, even plastic- I am drawn to hematite and jet for some reason. The hematite is heavier than the jet- so the jet one whips around super fast once it gets going! The hematite also is quite dramatic, but takes a bit longer to get going. The anchor on mine reflect who I am as a Witch. One is a moon with a black bit, which I interpret as the black moon, or Lilith, my patron. The other is a crow, an animal that I am very attached to spiritually. These are nice additions but unnecessary. 

I tend to use my pendulums in two related ways. When I feel fuzzy and unclear on something and I need clarification, I will pull it out. I get an answer from a force bigger than my own ego, which is always helpful- as the ego can cloud human judgment and impair a Witch. In a related way, I use it as a tangible reminder to foster and draw upon the practices that I outlined above that get you ready to divine. A Witch should have a regular mindfulness practice and "ground" and align themselves to the Divine regularly.

*Just to be clear, I am not slamming people who divine using tarot, runes or ogham. I also use these tools. I am making a point that tarot, ogham, and runes have books published about them and the symbolism is mostly agreed upon- so it can be referenced by a novice and a rudimentary reading can be done using a book as an aid. This is not true of pendulum work. Good readers of tarot, ogham and runes also access their Contacts (that give them all kinds of proprietary information to a situation that their divination tools indicates) during a reading. This is the difference between a dabbler and a Witch- a Witch uses the tool as a conduit to access Contacts (gods, the dead, spirits) who help clarify what the cards indicate and give personal counsel and advice. 

After all, that is what "divination" means- accessing the divine- either the divine self (which is connected to All-There-Is) or other divine beings who have access to information we do not have because of where/when they live/exist. That is hard work and requires talent and skill.

**I guess my ex-co-worker also rejects the physics notion of wave-particle duality, which states that elementary physical entities, such as electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules, which exist on the one hand in states which evolve like waves when they are not observed, and evolve like particles when observed.  The key is the observation.