Three Things Thursday: Support Black Members of the Magical, Animist, and Polytheistic Communities

I’ve realized I don’t know a lot about the Black Pagan, Witch, Polytheist, and yes – New Age communities. That is a personal failing of mine that I’m trying to rectify. In an attempt to learn more myself and elevate Black creators and authors, here are three great links. Don’t stop learning and supporting Black and Brown community members after this period of time, and make sure you’re doing other work like taking a supportive or protective role in protests, signing petitions, contacting representatives, donating to help the cause, and speaking up when others say or do racist things. If you’re involved in organizing Pagan Pride events or other festivals, work to diversify workshop presenters, ritual leaders, and board members. Get background checks on anyone acting as security. As a white Pagan, make sure you listen to others in the BIPOC communities when they bring up concerns of racism and appropriation.


Self-Reflection

The cover of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

As we consider how to support Black members of the magical and Earth-centered community, we must also do the crucial self-examination necessary to be a better person in general. Regardless of religion, we must work to improve our understanding of racism, inherent bias, white privilege, etc. I picked up So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo again. I started it last year but put it down for no other reasons than I got distracted by a book study with my job and other reading. Not a great excuse, I know. Though I’m not done with it, I can tell you it’s excellent. It will make you uncomfortable but also make you think. That’s part of the process. I’ve picked it up again, and I encourage you to check it out, too. After this, I would very much like to read a more Pagan-focused anthology: Bringing Race to the Table.


Are You Afraid of the Dark?

One thing we should always do is reflect on how our language impacts others. Check out this amazing post by Rashunda Tramble of Stay Woke Tarot from a couple years ago. It’s called Are You Afraid of the Dark. Perhaps read it with your coven, grove, or circle and have a discussion.


Witches Against White Supremacy

Some of you may have seen the “Witches Against White Supremacy” graphic going around illustrated by Brooklynn. You can now buy it, from the artist, on a t-shirt!

Brooklynn posted:

ALL profits from any “Witches Against White Supremacy” products will be donated to @campaignzero and after each month I will post the “receipts” to provide 100% transparency. I’ve seen a couple of you take the initiative to print out and sketch my artwork to use for the #blacklivesmatter protests. So that is why I have decided to make T-Shirts, Stickers, and posters with that design. ✊🏽💜✊🏽 (Available at @bebevaudoushop )

Definitely check out her music, too. She weaves magic into her songs, and I’m so glad I found her work!


Be well and stay safe, readers. Speak out, but also learn to listen to Black people. Elevate others, not just white creators and Pagans. If you have any blogs or shops to recommend, feel free to send them my way! If you want to post anything about “all lives matter,” please see this now classic cartoon to simplify the matter. If you question your privilege as a white person, here’s a handy checklist to consider. If you have something racist or hateful to say, please just remove yourself from my readership.

My Newest Short Story: “Invasives”

The cover of Stone, Root, and Bone issue 3.

During her lunch break, Justine encounters a startling scene on the docks. She reflects on how she could have handled it, but dealing with invasive species is a tricky matter. Perhaps the river itself will offer guidance?

“Invasives” by M. A. Phillips

Yesterday, Issue 3 of Stone, Root, and Bone ezine released! That means my latest short story, “Invasives,” is out in the world! I already received some lovely feedback from readers and fellow writers. Thank you so much!

I want to share with you that the scene Justine witnessed is almost exactly like an experience I had in Clayton, NY a couple summer’s ago. Seeing creatures suffer, even an invasive species, made me feel helpless and hopeless. I struggled with my response (or lack of response) for some time. This story came out of that after stumbling upon a bone I once found on a sandy beach. The spirits of the water encouraged me to write and, maybe, help in that way. It’s a start.

It’s not too late to get a hold of Stone, Root, and Bone ezine! You can purchase a digital copy from Hagstone Publishing (as well as previous issues). In addition to my prose, this article has some moving pieces about how others connect with the land and the spirits who dwell there. It truly is a lovely issue, and I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do!

Three Things Thursday: Luis, These Witches Don’t Burn, and an Introverted Conference

Each week, I share three little things. This week, I’m contemplating luis, I’ve got a short book review for you, and I reflect on a writing conference I attended on Zoom.

The ogham fid luis is often represented by the rowan tree. Here is a photo of one of my rowan saplings. M. A. Phillips 2020.

I recently started an in-depth reflection of the ogham with a friend and fellow polytheist. Each week, we focus on one symbol, or fid, contemplating them through exercises developed by author Erynn Rowan Laurie. This week we’re focusing on luis, the fid which is often represented by the rowan tree. The ogham don’t all directly correspond to trees, but this is a very traditional relationship. I’m rather fond of rowan trees because of their connection to Brigid. Both protective and inspiring all at once, luis is a beloved symbol in my home.

These Witches Don’t Burn

I read These Witches don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling in the winter, but it took me awhile to talk about the novel on my blog! I think this is the perfect season to read it as the events of this YA urban fantasy take place during the end of the school year. While I don’t normally discuss fiction books on my blog that feature the “Hollywood” variety of Pagans, this book is interesting in that the over-powered fantasy variety live alongside Wiccans and other Earth-centered sorts. In fact, the main character, Hannah, works part time at a magical shop run by a Wiccan woman! There’s also an adorable romantic subplot between the protagonist and another young woman. In fact, there is a decent amount of LGBTQ+ representation in this title! I highly recommend it if you want a fun blend of fantasy and reality-bound witches.

Marketing for Introverts: A Reflection

My office last night. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

Yesterday I attended a virtual conference through the Adirondack Center for Writing called “Marketing for Introverts.” Middle-grade author Chris Tebbetts outlined several strategies writers can use when breaking into publishing, talking to people about your book, attending conventions, etc. I really appreciated his candor. He apologized for being a bit “woo” at one point, but I welcomed how he discussed the idea of going into it with an intention and, without using the word, he referred to reciprocity. That’s part of what I like to do with Three Things Thursdays – share something small from my life, but also recommend resources, or spread the word about what my fellow authors and Pagans are doing. Tebbetts encouraged writers to think about making relationships rather than sales, and that really resonated with me. It’s what ultimately made me look into smaller presses, and I’m so glad I did.

Finding Pagans Within the Fiction Writing Community

My besom pencil and an oak pendant featuring a locally sourced Herkimer diamond beside my keyboard. Clearly, my spirituality is infused in my writing. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020.

A year ago, I decided to become more heavily involved in Twitter. I had distanced myself a bit for various reasons, but an agent at a writing conference convinced me that it was an easy way to network with authors and industry insiders. My Twitter started to feel very divided – most of the people I followed were either Pagans or writers. I could count those who straddled that divide on one hand.

I needed to learn how to use Twitter to my benefit as a writer, and that meant finally making a pact with the hastag spirits. The more I connected with writers and utilized hashtags, the more I started doing the same with my Instagram. I participated in photo and writing challenges. Some of them, as with last year’s Plant Spirit Ally challenge through Hagstone Publishing, tapped into both streams. With the advent of the Stone, Root, and Bone ezine, I had a revelation. Just as I discovered I felt at home writing within the magical realism genre, I was also writing in the subgenre of what many are starting to refer to as witch lit*.

As I’ve learned to work with hashtags to improve my reach within the writing community, I started to similarly tag my posts about Druidry, general Paganism, polytheism, animism, and, you guessed it, witch lit. Others who follow me on social media started to reach out or connect me to others seeking input and guidance from Pagan writers. I noticed a repeating experience. Every so often, I connect with a fellow writer on Twitter or Instagram, and we realize that we’re both Pagan! There’s often elation! “I’m so happy to find others like me in the writing community!” we squeal through our keyboards. I largely credit these auspicious introductions to hashtags and old fashioned networking reworked in the form of friends tagging me.

Now, not all Pagan fiction writers are writing witch lit. Some are working within other genres, and some aren’t portraying Pagans or realistic folk magic at all. That particular hash tag will only get you so far, and you shouldn’t use it if it’s not accurate to your wants or needs. However, if you are seeking Pagans within the writing community, don’t forget to use such tags as #paganwriter or #paganauthor. It may be even more prudent to use the far more useful #writer or #writingcommunity tags, and then include #pagan, #druidry, #witch, etc. You’d be amazed at how my own circle of fellow Pagan writers has grown in just a year**!

Whether you’re physically part of a magical group or a solitary practitioner, most of us thrive with some form of online community. We enjoy chatting with others of similar mind about our full moon plans, gushing over plants, recommending books, or just venting about how Hollywood doesn’t get us. Pagan writers need the same supportive circle to compare notes, find beta readers who already speak the language of Paganism, and network with potential industry insiders who walk the same path. Not only are they fellow writers, but you’re all a community of potential readers who can support you with constructive criticism and reviews. As with the general writing community, make sure you return the favor! Reciprocity isn’t just for Pagan rituals! Give back to the community, and you’ll be part of a thriving garden of talent!

*I definitely need to write my own entry about witch lit one of these days…

** I was using #paganliterature for some time, and you may want to as well, but #witchlit is more recognized now. Most of my characters are contemporary Druids, but I think the genre and tag still fit, and it will reach a wider audience.

Three Things Thursday: Irish Folklore in America, Blodeuedd, and Herb Spirals

My weekly post in which I share three things I enjoyed or thought about this week.

Irish Folklore in America

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to listen to the latest episode from one of my favorite podcasts , New World Witchery. Episode 164, “Irish Folklore and Magic with Morgan Daimler,” is excellent. If you’re inspired by Irish culture and live in America, it’s required listening!

Blodeuedd

Blodeuedd is a flower-faced figure from the Welsh Mabinogi. My friend, musician Green Mistletoe, created a beautiful instrumental arrangement about this floral goddess. I don’t often write to music, but I’ve found that atmospheric pieces like this are preferable to anything with vocals. Give it a listen!

Herb Spirals

My new herb spiral. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

My latest garden project involved moving my old herb spiral (which I built in 2018) closer to the house. Now it will be easier to harvest and maintain. My poor herbs were not too happy to leave their previous home, but I’m hoping they’ll adapt and bounce back. Not only are spirals pleasing to the eye, but they are a culturally significant symbol as evident from carvings on and in Newgrange. The shape also serves a very functional purpose in creating microclimates to benefit the plants’ needs (dry vs wet, more sun vs less). It’s a great permaculture design that, in my opinion, marries science with animism. Lugging all the stones and soil is also great exercise!

Transplanting Chant

An image of a pea plant I just transplanted along with the text of my transplanting chat. The words are included in the post below. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

I normally start peas outside, but the chipmunks decided to look at my early spring gardening as rent. It was frustrating, yes, but their family has lived on this land long before mine. I want to reside in harmony with them, especially since I’m not gardening for my survival at this time (thankfully). I’m also lucky in that I have other ways t o begin seeds, such as starting them in my warm home under grow lights!

This set grew well and started to produce the tendrils that allow them to climb, flourish, and produce numerous yummy pods. This meant it was time to get the peas in the soil before they started to attach themselves to the growing shelf or other plants! Cold hardy snow peas can withstand any late frosts we may get, though the forecast looks promising from here on out.

Plants are alive and have their own spirits, and most people who garden are already aware of studies that show plants respond well to music. As an animist, I frequently talk and sing to my plant allies. I have songs for starting seeds, watering, harvesting, and even composting, but I realized I didn’t have a chant for transplanting! It’s a vulnerable time for the seedlings, so a song to explain what is happening seemed best. As usual, I’m fond of short ditties that are accessible to my daughter and other children. Notating music is not a skill I possess, but this came out as a type of lullaby to calm the seedlings.


Transplanting Chant


By M. A. Phillips

Transplanting time
Time for your new home
Transplanting time
Room for roots to roam

I hope you enjoy this chant. Think of it as a soothing offering to the plants that you are working with. Feel free to use it in your own gardening adventures!

Three Things Thursday: “Invasives,” a Giveaway, and Dandelion Cake

“Invasives”

The excerpt reads: “I push down the urge to utter a curse. My mind is too rattled to fuse words coherently without causing more harm than intended.” From my new short story, “Invasives.”

My latest short story, “Invasives,” is nearing publication in the third issue of Stone, Root, and Bone magazine from Hagstone Publishing.

During her lunch break, Justine encounters a startling scene on the docks. She reflects on how she could have handled it, but dealing with invasive species is a tricky matter. Perhaps the river itself will offer guidance?

Stone, Root, and Bone contains articles, reflections, short stories, poems, and art by and for polytheists and animists. You can read more about the upcoming issue here, and pre-order at Hagstone’s shop.

A Giveaway

Speaking of Stone, Root, and Bone
To celebrate 500 followers on Instagram, and to show my appreciation, I’m giving away one copy of the third issue of Stone, Root, and Bone e-zine from @hagstonepublishing ! You’ll get to read my new short story, “Invasives,” as well as many other amazing pieces by fellow animists. To enter:

1) Make sure you follow @ditzydruid and @hagstonepublishing on Instagram

2) Like this post

3) Comment on Instagram and name an invasive species that has impacted your local environment

I will pull a name from a hat on Friday, 5/15/20, at 9 PM EST. You must be willing to supply me with your email via DM. Best of luck!

Dandelion Cake

Dandelion cake. I should have sifted the powdered sugar more than I did… Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

While my husband bought me dinner for Mother’s Day, I still found myself baking. Don’t worry – I wanted to! The dandelions are always plentiful for the occasion. I usually make dandelion cookies, but this year I wanted to try a dandelion cake recipe from Wild Remedies by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han. I altered it slightly to make it dairy free, and used a sugar glaze instead of the cream cheese frosting. My daughter doesn’t like thick frostings, but I think it would have benefited from the added moisture. It still tasted lovely, and my husband and I both agree it’s reminiscent of coffee cake. I always welcome opportunities to work with the land and eat what I can forage! Eating dandelions in early May is now a family tradition. What are your favorite dandelion recipes?

Three Things Thursday: Three Affordable Courses to Explore During Quarantine

For this week’s Three Things Thursday, I want to pass on some courses you may be interested in. I’ve selected these for affordability, to show support for community members, and to pass on classes that my readers in the Pagan community may be interested in pursuing.

For Those Seeking Authentic Irish Lore and Spirituality:

Irish Pagan School continues to burn brightly as a welcome bonfire for anyone interested in learning more about Irish mythology, folk practice, and culture. Founded by contemporary Irish polytheists, it’s a welcome resource for seekers. As a descendant of Irish diaspora, I’m so appreciative of all their content! It’s informative, inspiring, academic, and very respectful of the living culture. Many of the courses do cost money, but if you’re looking to deepen your practice or explore Irish polytheism on a budget, Irish Pagan School offers many free courses. I recently signed up for their free class “The Dagda – Hearth Hero & Domestic Deity.” I can’t wait to dive in! Other free offerings include “Irish Pagan Practice,” “3 Truths About Ogham,” and a foundation class in meditation.

For Those Seeking Meditation and Calm During This Crisis

My friend Fox, who co-hosts the Fire Burn Cauldron Bubble podcast, has released a program called “Quarantine Routine: 21 Day Guide to Raise Your Vibration.” I have not done this, but want to pass it along in case you’re looking for something to help you find some calm but aren’t necessarily looking for a specific religious focus. I think this would appeal to eclectic Pagans or people who are open-minded and exploring. The creators say they understand that everyone has different financial situations right now. They’ve had to close their cafe, cancel gigs, and shows, so they’ve made this guide available for $0 or any amount you’d like to donate.

For Those Seeking to Improve Their Gardening:

A photo of my old patio container garden. Photo by M. A. Phillips

A friend and fellow gardener sent me a link to Fruition’s Seed Starting Online Academy. Normally $98, they’ve offered the video course for free to support new gardeners during this difficult time. Even if you have some experience under your belt, my friend and I both feel that we’ve learned new information from the course. You needn’t have a plot of land with a vegetable garden to glean useful skills and appreciation from the content! Even if you’re starting a patio garden with pots of herbs, I think you’ll gain something out of this.


Are you taking any affordable online classes that others might be interested in? Feel free to post a link!

Portraying Bealtaine in RIVER MAGIC

A photo of a bonfire by Pexels from Pixabay.

The excerpt reads: “Lacey shook her head. “No orgies, but there is an old custom of going into the woods to make love as a sort of sympathetic magic.” She leaned into the heel of her hand, savoring his burning face.

“And… is that happening at this celebration? The one you just invited me to?” he stammered.

She tittered. “No, silly. Bealtaine celebrates the fertility of the land now that spring is here. From what I understand, there’ll be a bonfire. Fiona says they let the flames die down, then they jump over them for luck and purification. It sounds fun!”

From RIVER MAGIC by M. A. Phillips

Ah, it’s that time of year again! The trees are budding, song birds fill the air with their joyous melody, and many Pagans are celebrating Bealtaine.

It’s one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it’s the anniversary of when I first joined with other Pagans to celebrate! Thankfully, that time never involved orgies or any sex (that I was aware of). Unfortunately, Bealtaine is an uncomfortable day for many because they’ve been coerced into sex for the sake of fertility symbolism and certain folk customs. In addition, many modern rituals occurring around the first of May have been terribly binary which leaves out many in the LGBTQ+ communities.

I was a young college student when I attended my first Bealtaine. My mother, protective soul that she is, went with me. Truthfully, I invited her because I was nervous what I’d encounter. It turned out to be a positive day filled with new friends and an inspiring spin around a Maypole! I spent my second Bealtaine with my boyfriend (now husband). We were consenting adults, and we enjoyed many flirtatious dances around a Maypole. We even went into the woods behind my home once – certainly not on display for anyone save the trees. Thus the holiday will always evoke those memories. I imagine this is so for many other people, but I strive not to emphasize that in the public rituals I lead with my grove. We’ve turned our focus to the land and purification. We’re an inclusive, family-friendly circle. Focusing on the rhythms of the land is just more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone.

Druid author John Beckett recently wrote a piece in which he explores the discomfort many Pagans feel due to the association of Bealtaine and sex. The last few years, many brave individuals have peeled back the rug to reveal the egoists, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and abuse swept beneath. I’ve said this before, but I count myself incredibly lucky not to have experienced that first hand, but it’s never far from my mind as I strive to facilitate and maintain a positive, family-friendly, inclusive environment for my fellow grovemates, community, and daughter.

An excerpt from my upcoming novel RIVER MAGIC. The text says, “Minutes before, she admired many forms of beauty gyrating around the fire. They were the incarnate images of deities she had seen behind glass in museums, at art history lectures, or on the pages of books — round, supple, slender, hard, and in between. She loved the way Cian watched her with adoration. Tonight, she was a goddess too.”

When I wrote my first draft of RIVER MAGIC, some characters have a wonderful Bealtaine, and there is a sexy scene between two consenting adults. It’s private and not part of the ritual. The fictional grove celebrates the growth of the land around them and they jump the fire for luck, just as my grove does. The romance scene happens in part because the characters’ relationship is blossoming along with the world around them, and it worked. As I edited my second and third drafts, I wanted to make sure that there was a balance. I didn’t want to portray these Pagans as a sex-crazed group. Some of the characters are not straight or cis. I even have some check on my main character, Lacey, after she vanishes from the bonfire. I wanted to show a balance and respect toward both the flirtatious energy of Bealtaine and authentic Irish customs passed down to the American diaspora. I also wanted to help readers understand, especially those who are new to these traditions, that it’s not just one thing. I wanted to show what a safe and functional group can look like. After ritual, some Druids of various genders and body types dance around the fire. Those who don’t care to dance drum or clap. They dance for the joy of it, with no ulterior motives. Lacey, relishes in the comfort and confidence it brings. She feels safe and accepted, and she carries the beauty to a private moment.

Bealtaine is more about protection and purification than sex. If you’re a fellow Pagan author, how are you working to portray Bealtaine? Are you trying to include authentic, historical traditions from Ireland? Do you include anything sexy, or are you focusing solely on purification or nature’s glorious reawakening? Are you seeking a balance between the two? Leave a comment below because I’m genuinely curious!

If you’re curious about the excerpts, RIVER MAGIC will be published by Shadow Spark Publishing on Samhain 2020!

Three Things Thursday: May Bushes, an Easy Bealtaine Garland, and More to Read,

May Bushes

A photo of the May bush my family made for Bealtaine this year. Text reads: “Make a May bush for Bealtaine with Northern Rivers Grove, ADF! Spread the magic! Share a photo here or use #NorthernRiversGrove on social media.”

I’m sad that my grove is unable to celebrate Bealtaine in person this year. That means no Maypole, a tradition many modern Pagans enjoy during this holiday season. While not originally an Irish tradition, Maypoles are an import from other European countries like Germany and England. Over the last couple years, I adopted another tradition for my family – making a May bush. This actually comes from Ireland, and many there are working to revive it. May bushes are made to protect against antagonistic forces. This year, we need all the help we can get! Having Irish ancestors myself, and as I enjoy incorporating authentic Irish traditions into my druid celebrations, I started to decorate the forsythia bush in our front yard. We don’t have a hawthorn tree (yet), so the early-blooming forsythia is a good substitute with it’s cheerful yellow blossoms. We used ribbons made of cotton fabric scraps leftover from masks. As you can see from the graphic, I’m encouraging my grovemates to join me by sharing photos of their own May bushes on social media!

An Easy Bealtain Garland

My Bealtaine garland made of fabric ribbons. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

I grew fond of the felt bunny garland that hung in my window in honor of spring, but with Bealtaine this weekend, it was time for the bunnies to take a break. Inspired by our May bush, and desirous of a way to use up the tiny ribbons I made with mask-making scraps, I decided to knot them along twine. Voila! A simple, colorful garland to celebrate the turn of the seasons. Ever since my first Bealtain celebrated with other Pagans, I’ve equated the holiday with bright ribbons. No matter how deeply I delve into Irish lore and history, and no matter how enthusiastically I embrace the occasion’s fiery purification, I will always desire the whimsy of ribbons. Perhaps this simple craft will make you smile, too. It’s certainly easy to make with little kids in the house.

More to Read

A photo of the book Paganism for Beginners: The Complete Guide to Nature-Based Spirituality for Every New Seeker by Althaea Sebastiani arranged beside a deer jawbone, stone, and smudge wand of mugwort. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

I’m very excited to have won a physical copy of Paganism for Beginners: The Complete Guide to Nature-Based Spirituality for Every New Seeker by Althaea Sebastiani. Newly released, this intro book is getting rave reviews from other Pagans. Though I’ve been on this path for seventeen years (yeah, I just did the math), I still have much to learn. I don’t consider myself a beginner, but I walk but one trail in a diverse forest of footpaths. It’s impossible for me to know everything, and I always appreciate Althaea’s perspectives. Given the praise her publication is receiving, I’m eager to read it for myself so that I can recommend it to a new generation of Pagans. Now… to catch up on all my other reading!