Three Things Thursday: Stickers!

Each Thursday, I share three things that have informed or inspired. This week, I’m highlighting three artists and their glorious stickers!

I hear you. “Stickers? Really? What does this have to do with Druidry, Pagansim, etc?”

Look, most of us agree that supporting actual artists over corporations is a good thing, right? But if you’re like me, you can’t afford to buy a gallery of originals, and you only have so much wall space for prints.

Enter stickers from talented Pagan and Witch artists! Perhaps I’m a bit late to the “grown up” sticker thing, but I really enjoy personalizing my laptop and reusable bottles. Here are three artists offering stickers that are fun with a potential for whimsy, devotion, and social justice.

Fiber Witch by Ashley Bryner

You may already be a fan of Ashley Bryner’s magical photography as seen on some of Morgain Daimler’s books, but she has other artistic abilities, too! In addition to fantastic anime fan art that makes my heart fuzzy, Ashley creates some chic illustrations for Pagans. Check out her website, Firesighted for her portfolio. She recently released this beautiful witch hat with the fiber artist in mind. I just ordered the sticker and cannot wait to jazz up my sewing machine. It will cheer me up as I make more masks.

Goddesses by Anette Pirso

Anette Pirso is a prolific artist on Instagram. The way she depicts Goddesses and spirits is simplistic but powerful. She made my day when she listed a Goddess sticker pack. Sure, none of us need our deities depicted, but it certainly helps, especially in these trying times when our focus may be scattered. I ordered two copies of Brigid. I intend to put one on my tea canteen to help me focus on healing when I have to return to work. The other will go on my laptop since I do so much writing there. For my third sticker, I selected the “petrify the patriarchy” design. Because yes. Best part?

From now on 5% of each purchase will be donated to a local charity called The Estonian Women`s Shelters Union – an association of non-profit organisations acting in public interests which joins organisations dedicated to providing shelters` services for victims of violence against women.

Anette Pirso on Etsy

Stickers for Charity by Cat Coven

When a fellow Pagan posted photos of his recent acquisitions from Cat Coven, I knew I had to follow that artist on Instagram. I so appreciate the line work, medieval inspiration, and darker aesthetic. My mood shifts, right? When you buy from Cat Coven, you’re supporting a queer-owned business in Brooklyn, NY. She strives to work with eco-friendly materials as much as possible, something that I really appreciate. Recent additions to the shop include two stickers for charity. 100% of the fairy-esque moth cat purchases will go toward the Emergency Release Fund in NYC, and the “Not Welcome” design helps support Make the Road New York (while also telling racists to shove it). I encourage you to click the stickers and read more about each. That cat moth is going to look stunning in my classroom!

Magic Lessons

Our “sleepy dream time” potion infusing. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

The house grows still after another busy day. Upstairs, my husband’s voice rumbles like a purring cat as he reads to our daughter in bed. A moment ago, she sipped a “sleepy dream time” potion we made together.

Lately, Bee has been playing witch. I did the same thing when I was her age. I dug out a plastic cauldron and hat from the Halloween decor, then turned my dresser into a potion table complete with plastic spiders and fancy perfume bottles. My daughter is drawn to the magical aesthetic just as I was, but she has the advantage over the younger me: she has an adult polytheist to guide her for as long as she desires.

And she desires. Last night into this morning, she begged me to teach her spells. I reminded her, as always , that I’ve been doing that. I repeat the same refrain each time the topic comes up: real magic isn’t how Hollywood or most fantasy authors portray. Not usually, anyway. Real magic is about action rather than looks.

I model the best I can by making offerings, singing my gratitude to the plants, and reciting our protection prayer each night. Parenting continues to reveal my greatest strengths as well as my weaknesses. Until I became a mother, I didn’t realize how dreadfully impatient I can be. I suppose it’s because I must be so patient with my students, and a part of my always expects more from my daughter. So I grit my teeth and wait for her to change into her witch outfit then join me in the herb bed. We collect ingredients for the sleepy dream time tea I promised to teach her about. I reach deep inside, and often fail, to steady my breath and be as focused and disciplined as I tell her one must be when working magic. I wait for her to get her bear so that she, too, can join us in making a potion. We name the herbs and the effect we desire. I teach her the incantation I wrote and we say it three times, our hands hovering over the warm infusion.

We drink our tisane and I realize that we are teaching each other. As I impart my lessons, I recall the importance of play. Perhaps there is a place for the aesthetic part of magic after all, whatever the tradition. How many of us were drawn to Druidry, witchcraft, Wicca, etc because of a book cover or movie portrayal? And how often do we feel a shiver of inspiration when we see a beautiful piece of devotional art or a fellow celebrant dressed up as an avatar of the divine? I stayed and dug deeper because I sensed something more, something necessary to my well-being. My teachers helped, and gods know they were patient with me.

I sometimes worry that my daughter will grow bored of what I offer with the reality that I can’t make things float or turn on lights with the flick of a wand. But maybe, just maybe, in taking breaks from my own work and giving her my time, teaching her the slow ways with plants and poetry, she’ll discover the spirit of magic, of Druidry, of the spirits. While she may not embrace it all as an adult, at least, I hope, a cup of tea will conjure memories of me. Perhaps, in the end, that will be the greatest magic of all.

Three Things Thursday: Sturgeon Lecture, African American Nature Poetry, and Animism in Avatar

Each week, I share three things that have informed or inspired me in the hopes that they will help someone else exploring nature-based spirituality.

Sturgeon Lecture – Tonight!

Later today, I’m going to attend an online lecture from local environmentalist organization the Indian River Lakes Conservancy. I’m super pumped to learn about one of my favorite fish, the lake sturgeon! These amazing creatures are protected in New York State after generations of over fishing. Tonight, I’m going to learn how fisheries have helped to restock and repopulate the fresh water sturgeon. If you’re interested, you can sign up here. It’s free, and a wonderful way to connect with the local fauna.

Black Nature

I hold up a copy of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry in front of my squash plants.

I usually don’t share books until I’ve finished reading, but I think I can make an exception for poetry anthologies, especially when they inspire me but will take time to work through. I recently started Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T Dungy. I found it on a list of resources for intersectional environmentalism, and I knew I needed it. As an English graduate, teacher, writer, and Druid, I know I can do better. Exposure to other perspectives provides us with an opportunity to grow in knowledge and empathy. Celtic-influenced polytheists aren’t the only ones working with nature, after all.

Animism in Avatar: The Last Air Bender

Like many families in America, my husband and I introduced our child to the amazing world of Avatar: The Last Air Bender thanks to Netflix. As a highly rated animated show, it’s worth watching for the lovable characters, world building, and fantastic story alone, but it’s also a great vehicle to discuss animism with the younger set. Now that we’ve moved on to the sequel, The Legend of Korra, many of the previous lessons about the spirit world are being reiterated or explored deeper. For those new to the story, the Avatar is a person who acts as the bridge between the human and spirit worlds. There’s more to it than that, but there are a lot of great lessons about respecting spirits, controlling one’s emotions, and interconnection. So if you’re a polytheist parent looking for some wholesome television that celebrates rather than demonizes the spirit world (with a healthy amount of caution), I highly encourage you to check it out.

Where Do I Put Offerings?

If there’s one positive to come out of some of the more bizarre news in the online Pagan and witchcraft communities this weekend, it’s that it brought many of us together in conversation. Yesterday a relatively new Pagan posted in a local FB group about the whole “hexing the moon and the Fae” nonsense, but it turned into a really great conversation about my relationship to spirits. When she asked what I do with my offerings the next day, it made me realize I never wrote about it before, but it’s such a basic thing! We polytheists wax poetic about offerings, but seldom share how to handle the aftermath, especially in our homes.

As an ADF Druid strongly influenced and inspired by Irish culture, I make daily offerings to the Three Kindreds – the Land Spirits, Ancestors, and Shining Ones. Basically, I do this to maintain a bond but also to show gratitude. So often, new Pagans conflate giving as something you do to get something else in return. While that certainly occurs, and while I also pray that the Kindred bless and protect us, I put more emphasis on thanking them for what I’ve already received. But what happens to those sacred gifts afterward? I believe how we clean our altars is yet another way we demonstrate respect for the land and spirits. Whether you’re planning what to offer outdoors or how to dispose of items from indoor spaces, you need to consider various factors.

  • What are you offering? Is it potentially dangerous to wildlife (chocolate)? Are the seeds you’re offering able to germinate? Are they potentially invasive? Is the material biodegradable? If so, will it break down quickly or slowly and end up as long-term litter? Plastic items should not be offered. Just don’t. Opt for natural materials and truly demonstrate respect for the Earth!
  • Where are you placing your offering? Do you have an outdoor space where natural items can go back to the Earth? Do you have a fire pit? If not, you may want to find peace with putting offerings down the sink, in the garbage or, even better, community compost. After a day or so, I believe the Kindred have already taken the spiritual essence of the gifts. Just as I would clean up after feeding family, we need to do the same for our divine allies. Develop a prayer for such chores and clearly state that the items are going back to the Earth. If you have access to an outdoor space, consider whether or not it’s shared. What was a divine gift in your eyes is litter or a potential pest magnet to others. After all, hospitality is a virtue we should cultivate, and daily offerings of apples under a tree can become a stinky situation fast. Finally, I understand the desire to express gratitude and pray for safe travels when hiking, but just because you’re out communing with nature doesn’t exempt you from the 7 Principals. Familiarize yourself with the “Leave no Trace” philosophy so you don’t end up being part of the problem.
  • Is your offering culturally disrespectful? Some types of offerings, even traditional ones, can damage organisms or landscapes. For example, the rag tree tradition in Ireland is very old and has more to do with sympathetic magic, but visitors have begun leaving fabric that can’t easily go back into the land, and it’s damaging the trees! This is incredibly disrespectful to both the flora and fauna, but also the Irish culture! In addition, many polytheists have ceased pouring alcohol on the Earth out of respect to indigenous cultures who find it disrespectful. When in doubt, research. The later may not apply to where you live, but it’s good to know.

If you find yourself running into obstacles, don’t despair! We’re all in a process of learning, and different circumstances will dictate our lives. Some of us can’t have sacrificial fires, or we lack access to green spaces. Sing a song or recite poetry instead. Still feel that giving something tangible is more appropriate? One of my go-to offerings is tea. Once cold, you can pour it into a potted plant (maybe even the very herbs you’re cultivating to make infusions), and it’s safe to put down the drain if needed. Finally, don’t forget service as sacrifice, and definitely follow through. For example, instead of leaving something during your nature walk, give your time and effort picking litter off the trail. The genius loci will likely appreciate that more than a penny or a chunk of your Cliff Bar anyway.

Three Things Thursday: Courses and Workshops to Help You Become a Better Person and Pagan

Each Thursday, I share three tidbits with my readers. These could be books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, etc that have informed and inspired me. This week, I’m sharing three educational opportunities I benefited from. Maybe they’ll interest you?

So You Want to Talk About Race – Google Talk

Last month, I recommended the book “So Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo in one of my Three Things Thursday posts. I recently had one of those uncomfortable conversations with a friend and member of the Pagan community. We have to address these things head on, even when they put us at odds with people we’d otherwise not want to argue with. I owe it to my Black friends, neighbors, and students to do this work within my own circles. I suggested he read the book to help him work through some misunderstandings he’s having about the Black Lives Matter movement (particularly where our positive intentions and tone deafness can get in the way of making the positive changes we actually desire). He said he’d check out the book when he got paid. This reminded me: I’ve seen posts and headlines about books on race by Black authors on back order! So even if he ordered it right now, it may not reach him for months. There’s always the library, but there’s likely a wait list, too. Kindle books aren’t as expensive, but I get it. It still costs money people may not have. So in the meantime, if you’re in that situation, here’s a free video of the author giving a talk at Google. It’s just shy of an hour, but very worthwhile. As a white Pagan, I say this with love and concern to other white Pagans – we need to better educate ourselves so that we can create truly inclusive places and not say something that will be hurtful, whether we mean to or not. This is more general than Pagan, but human rights impact all of us.

Feral Witchcraft

Throughout spring, I had the privilege of taking a 12 week course on reclaiming our liminal power as magical practitioners from Althaea Sebastiani. In fact, my ability to join in was given as an anonymous gift – something that continues to touch and humble me. If my mysterious benefactor is reading this, you have my gratitude. Feral Witchcraft: Reclaim Your Right to Practice a Witchcraft Sharp of Tooth and Claw came just as Covid-19 became a pandemic. While some of the content was more of a review for me as a long-time practitioner, I’ve found that cycling back is just as useful as progressing forward. Reflection is a powerful tool, and Althaea returned to that again and again with thoughtful journal prompts. Revisiting some basic energy work during the weekly exercises initially was like sitting down with an old friend. I actually found it comforting during this uncertain period of our history. Speaking of friends, the course came with weekly discussions via Discord. These were fun, engaging, and insightful. As the weeks progressed, I learned new methods of experiencing energy flow that truly blew me away. The author inspired me with new perspectives and methods on such topics as thresholds, containing your energy, and warding, and I’ve returned to them since. While the course is currently unavailable, Althaea offers many self-paced opportunities that may interest you. They’re thoughtful, well-organized, and deeply needed in our community.

Rosc Poetry

On Sunday, I attended an online class all about the Irish tradition of rosc poetry through Irish Pagan School. The instructor, Geraldine Moorkens Byrne, is both an Irish poet (File) and a practitioner of traditional Irish magic, or Draiocht Ceoil. I learned so much from this course as both a polytheist, student of Druidry, and writer. Byrne very generously shared culture and language relating to one of the most potent forms of indigenous Irish magic – the rosc poetic tradition. If you’ve read much Irish mythology or history, you’re aware of the power and prestige possessed by the File. Particularly feared was their ability to satire and maim an unjust person’s reputation. Byrne explored the history and characteristics of rosc poems as magical tools, and discussed how modern practitioners can respectfully utilize them in matters of social justice and advocacy. This was such a powerful course that will deepen and guide me on my path. I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat myself – if your spirituality is inspired by Irish culture, you absolutely must get over to Irish Pagan School and check it out.

Liminal Times at Liminal Spaces

During the intense heat of last week, I followed the wisdom of so many other creatures and hid in the shade. If I wasn’t under my porch writing, I was inside… writing, reading, or lounging around like a wet noodle. I found that I woke up, mentally, physically, and spiritually, at dusk.

When the sun began dipping toward the horizon, the temperatures lowered slightly. It is a liminal time – not quite day or night. I ventured into the open areas to admire wildflowers and harvest mullein. I made offerings to the land and sang songs.

Not the best photo, but you can just see a fox dashing by! Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

In what has become a near daily activity, I mounted the hill to peer through the wrought-iron fence into the cemetery. It started because I needed to water the hawthorn sapling I planted and improve her chances of surviving the drought. In working to nurture a plant and establish a relationship, I found myself surrounded by dragonflies and, later, fireflies. As the sky grew purple, the foxes appeared. They, too, come out at dusk. If I was quiet, I could admire them from one to two feet away as they walked along the fence to sniff chipmunk burrows. Sometimes they noticed me. They cocked their heads and continued on when they realized I posed no threat. It’s been absolutely wild and wonderful to see them most evenings, and I feel privileged to observe my often unseen neighbors in this way. I whispered gratitude to the land, gratitude to live near a liminal space – the boundary between my home and cemetery.

It is where death and life mingle.

It is both wild and tame.

I meet them there.

Three Things Thursday: Newsletters, Poetry, and Deities

Each Thursday, I share three things that are on my mind, inspiring me, or informing me as a Druid and a writer. Hope you enjoy!

My Newsletter

I’m starting off with a bit of shameless self-promotion. My first newsletter will go out into the wide world this weekend! It will feature information about my debut novel, River Magic, including some background and inspiration for the main character, a contemporary, American Druid named Lacey. If you sign up, you’ll get a first look at the character art I commissioned! If you’re interested in my writing, I hope you’ll subscribe to stay up with the latest since sometimes that pesky algorithm likes to hide things.

An Introduction to Rosc Poetry

Irish Pagan School is offering a fantastic sounding workshop this weekend! Irish File, Geraldine Moorkens Byrne, is going to teach us about an old, traditional form of Irish poetry used for magic. This is exactly the sort of class I’ve been thirsting for to deepen my relationship with my path, my Irish ancestors, and my writing. If this sounds interesting to you, I highly encourage you to check it out and sign up!

Developing Divine Relationships

Whenever I encounter new Pagans, online or in person, one of the topics they’re most curious about is how to start working with deities. Althea’s got a fresh email course coming out that sounds perfect for newcomers to polytheism. Developing Divine Relationships is meant to be a practical approach to get you on your way. Her email lessons are well-written and direct, complete with opportunities to reflect and dig your hands in with real-world experience. She also offers chats through her Discord server. I highly recommend it for the learning community! Finally, if cost has been a barrier before, inquire about her new payment plan.

I’m sorry Three Things Thursday came out a little later than intended, but it’s been super hot in Northern NY. I’ve been struggling to focus, so I hope you’ll forgive me. Stay cool and be safe!

What the Garden Teaches me

There’s so much to do during the summer. There are words to contemplate and tweak, but also plenty to keep me busy in the garden. When sitting becomes too much, I’m so grateful for the mini oasis I’ve been working with. The garden is an excellent teacher if you pay attention.

A basket full of lavender, roses, sage, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and mint. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

Today I harvested more herbs. I don’t have a huge garden, so I only took a little here and there. I must leave plenty for the pollinators and the plant itself. Most of these will become herbal tisanes or culinary seasoning that will comfort me through the winter.

Sage air drying in a net. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

I find a lot of parallels and lessons between gardening, writing, and my spirituality. They all interconnect in my being like a tapestry. My first gardens were tiny. My father helped to build them and did much of the maintenance. The same can be said of my books. When I was a mini writer of five, my mother recorded each word while I drew the pictures. As I grew, teachers and other mentors would support me in both cases. Each year, I discover more about these passions of mine. I grow in independence, and yet also interconnection to others who offer inspiration and expertise. That includes spirit allies. It’s a never-ending process, and I’ve found it’s more collaborative than solitary.

Some years, the garden is not as productive. Or perhaps one plant is not as fruitful as desired. Some may disagree with my choices in plants or placement. I can say the same of writing. Some stories never take root or blossom. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to bear fruit. Your work will not impress everyone, yet you mustn’t get so discouraged that you give up. You reflect, you learn, and you dig a new garden bed (or revise one). You go back to the seedling drabbles and nurture them. You rebuild shrines. You rewrite prayers and whole novels.

My spiritual path has been the same. There will always be periods more fecund than others. The plant world teaches us that it is perfectly acceptable, even healthy, to go through dormant intervals. If that is you right now, it’s okay. Gather what herbs you can for later.

And just like the plantain that grow through the tiniest cracks, never give up.

Three Things Thursday: Intersectional Environmentalism, The Tigers of Scotland, and Camp Nano!

Each week, I share three things with you, usually media from others that informs and inspires my spirituality and writing. I hope it helps you grow and learn with me!

Intersectional Environmentalism

If you’ve done any reading about race and feminism, you should already be at least familiar with the term intersectionality. I recently learned about Black activist and environmentalist, Leah Thomas. She’s founded the group Intersectional Environmentalism.

This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + the planet.

– Leah Thomas

If you’re like me, you came to Druidry or Paganism in general out of a genuine love and concern for the Earth. Just as we consider how we’re including and elevating BIPOC in our Pagan communities, we need to consider it in our work to protect the environment, too. Since there is overlap between Pagans and environmentalists, I highly encourage you to read her recent Vogue article and check out the important work that Thomas is doing. This could help inform and prepare your circle for community service, planning Pagan Pride events, and wider activism.

The Tigers of Scotland

Longtime readers probably noticed that I enjoy watching documentaries. Lately, I’ve been watching things on Netflix while I do dishes or prepare dinner. I recently enjoyed The Tigers of Scotland, a documentary about the natural history and push to conserve Scottish wildcats.

I first learned about these amazing creatures as a teenager reading the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. As I grew into a Pagan who found meaning in the lore and ecology of Europe, I continued to appreciate the wildcat. The documentary actually discusses one theory connecting this creature with the cat sidhe of legend. If you’re looking to learn more about the lore and ecology from Scotland, I think you would enjoy this film.

A badge that says, “Camp NANOWRIMO 2020 Writer.”

It’s Camp NANOWRIMO time again! Unlike the bigger event that happens each November, Camp isn’t limited to writing a novel of a specific word count. Many writers come up with personalized goals. I participated in the April Camp to give myself a strong start writing the sequel to River Magic. I met my goal of 20,000 words and continued over the next few months. I finished the first draft at the very end of June! Perfect timing, because now I really need to focus on the first round of River Magic edits from my publisher! Once I’m done with that, it’s back to revising the sequel.

I really appreciate the community and focus NANOWRIMO provides me. I actually started River Magic during a past NANOWRIMO. I did it unofficially, but enjoyed feeding off the momentum. If you have a story in you that’s ready to come out, I suggest you look into Camp NANO. It may be just what you need!

Ready for some River Magic?

I was going to post this several weeks ago, but the time wasn’t right. It’s since been released on Twitter, but I waited until June 28th to share more on my social media because today is my main character’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Lacey Moran! (I actually bought her a gift… more on that below.)

My publishers created this beautiful ad for my book to go in the most recent issue of Stone, Root, and Bone ezine! This isn’t the cover, but I believe certain elements will be included! I’m very excited about it. I love the scaly background, the bubbles, and the beautiful seaweed font!

The text says:

River Magic

a Magical Realism Novel by M. A. Phillips

The river calls to Lacey through dream and song, but it takes an encounter with a mermaid to make sense of her abilities, open her heart to love, and embrace her path as a Druid. Available in Kindle and paperback October 31, 2020

Shadow Spark Publishing

I’m currently working on my first round of edits from Shadow Spark. I’m excited to share my book baby with you all, but it’s also becoming more “real,” and impostor syndrome is definitely setting in. I don’t have time to wallow in that, though, because my publisher also contracted me for books two and three in a series we’re calling The Rituals of Rock Bay! Book two will release on Imbolc 2021, and book three comes out for Bealtaine 2021! Needless to say, I’m writing and editing like a crazy person, putting everything I learned during the years it took me to construct River Magic to work in a matter of months. Thankfully, I already had some outlines, concepts, and snippets. By the time I signed the contract, I’d written half of the sequel during Camp Nano. My goal is to finish the first draft today!

As I approach publication, I’m working on some fun things to share about my writing process, inspiration, and the characters. I’ll post soon about a newsletter that will feature many of these tidbits. Oh, remember that gift I bought my main character? I officially commissioned an artist for an illustration of Lacey! Once I get my newsletter started, subscribers will get a first peek! Stay tuned!