Three Things Thursday: Herbal Reparations, Ogham Pronunciation, and Never Date a Siren

I feel like I blinked and it’s Thursday again! Here’s my weekly roundup of interesting items that have informed and inspired me this week. I hope you find something to help you on your way!

Herbal Reparations

Herbal practitioner Regina Kankinza of In Her it Blooms added a way for people to make donations to help her provide service to those in need. A donation of $10 or more will help.

Support black folks, indigenous folks, queer and trans folks of color to have access to wellness services by purchasing part of or a whole consultation. This supports folks get the wellness support they need who might otherwise not be able to access wellness services due to finances and/or due to the embedded racism that exists in our medical industrial complex.

https://www.inheritblooms.com/herbal-reparations/herbal-reparations-wellness-consultations

If you’re on Instagram, I highly suggest you follow In Her it Blooms for more updates. She’s going to post more ways people can support the cause each New Moon, and she continually posts great information and content that forces me to reflect and grow as a fledgling herbal student.

Ogham Pronunciation

I can’t recommend Lora O’Brien’s work enough, especially for those of us who are drawn to the Irish polytheist tradition. I’ve been working through the Ogham with a friend to deepen our understanding of this complex and beautiful system of language and divination. It’s helping us grow in our spirituality, but also our understanding of Gaeilge (the Irish language). We’ve been rereading Erynn Rowan Laurie’s book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom (another excellent resource). Someone else shared this video by Lora, and it was so helpful! Despite my best efforts with pronunciation guides in books, I was mangling many of the Ogham names. Hearing an Irish speaker say them is precisely what I needed.

Never Date a Siren

The cover of “Never Date a Siren” by Byrd Nash.

I recently finished the first book in Byrd Nash’s College Fae series. This was such a fun and magical read! Nash clearly respects and studies the old lore that informs and inspires this modern fairy fantasy. The characters are interesting and lovable. I especially enjoyed Brigit’s feisty “lawful good” personality, and found her interactions with nature and objects derived from plants to be delightful and unique. I always enjoy seeing deities from my tradition interpreted (respectfully) in a modern setting. I won’t spoil anything, but I was both amused and very intrigued with a particular goddess’ cameo! I will definitely read more of this series in the future! If this intrigues you, you can this this title for free for a limited time!

Socially Distant Summer Solstice

An image of the St. Lawrence River. Sun glistens on the blue-green water and trees growing from an island. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

This time last year, my grove celebrated the Summer Solstice together. We gave gratitude to the Kindred, to the sun, and to the network of rivers that connect us all in the North Country. We gave an offering of yellow flowers to Manannán mac Lir. This year, I missed my people, my grovemates. We will still celebrate virtually, but it isn’t the same.

Still, I count my blessings that I’m not entirely alone. I have a family to celebrate with me – my supportive agnostic husband who finds something peaceful and wondrous about nature, and my self-described little Druid, my daughter. We went to the St. Lawrence River. It is a juncture of the Three Realms. Land, Water, and Sky all meet in this magnificent conduit that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. We found a quiet, out of the way place at a state park and were able to put our feet in and commune with the elements. My daughter and I left our offering of flowers there. Marigold from our gardens and wildflowers we picked from the yard. A tiny bit that will go back to the Earth. We took nothing but photos and memories while there.

Yellow flowers on my altar for Summer Solstice. Photo by M. A. Phillips

Between Father’s Day and life’s other demands, we put off a fire until tonight. We burned the ribbons from the old May Bush. Tomorrow, if I can beat the cooling rain we so desperately need, I will spread some of the ashes throughout the garden to distribute nourishing potash. Either way, Bealtaine’s blessings will continue to aid in the fertility of the land as Summer unfolds.

Ribbons in a bonfire. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

I have been doing other quiet workings. Keeping Brigid’s flame, making offerings to my Beloved Ancestors, and reflecting on what needs to be done to right past wrongs. There are things to wash and burn away. Perhaps we all needed a more solitary Summer Solstice away from the more celebratory feasts and frolicking. This year, the High Days demand more introspection.

Three Things Thursday: Discussing Race in Pagan Spaces, Myths and Monsters, and Stonehenge

Each Thursday, I share three things that I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise enjoying. Perhaps they will inspire or help you grow in your own path!


Youtuber Discusses Race in Pagan Spaces

I recently found Youtuber Benebell Wen. A couple people suggested I check out her content, and I’m so glad I did! Not only does she share informative videos about tarot and other metaphysical topics, but she’s put out some very thoughtful videos about race in the Pagan, spiritual, and tarot communities. Her most recent video discusses her take on why Black Lives Matter and other race-related topics are totally appropriate for Pagan authors and vloggers to discuss on their platforms because they’re human rights issues. I agree 100%! Go watch and give Wen a follow!

Hey Spirituality, Pagan, Tarot Community: We Need to Talk About This Shadow – Youtube video by Benebell Wen

“Myths and Monsters” on Netflix

I recently finished watching the documentary series “Myths and Monsters” on Netflix. This TV-PG program from 2017 explores common themes in European mythology. Each episode explores a topic: heroes and villains, the wild unknown, war, love and betrayal, change and revolutions, and the end of all things. While the usual Greco-Roman focus is there, the producers also highlight tales from the Vikings, Slavic culture, Germany, and even Ireland! The narrator relates the tales to the audience with the help of art and occasional explanations and interpretations from scholars – some of whom were women! Yay! I would love it if they expanded on this series to explore more diverse mythology with experts from each culture, but it’s definitely worth watching if you enjoy European lore.


Summer Solstice Livestream from Stonehange!

I’m sure most of you know this already, but in case you didn’t or aren’t sure where to go, English Heritage is set to livestream both sunset and sunrise at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. According to their website:

Please don’t travel to Stonehenge for Summer Solstice: we know how special this occasion is to so many of you, and we’ll be live streaming both sunset on 20 June and sunrise on 21 June across English Heritage’s social media channels for free. 

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/

Are any of you planning to watch?

Return to the River

The St. Lawrence River flowing past Keewaydin State Park in Upstate NY. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

Like many of you, I’ve been striving to keep my family safe. We stayed home and only my husband and I went out for essentials while always wearing a mask. We took my daughter to the greenhouse once in May, but she fussed so much with her mask that we worried about bringing her places and needing to go into a store for access to a restroom.

We’re lucky in that we have a yard, a garden, and a trail in front of our home. I can only imagine how difficult it’s been, especially in the colder months, to be inside tiny apartments… Even with my blessings of private green spaces, my soul missed the river.

With warmer months, and our deep yearning for family and beloved places, we decided to encourage our daughter to practice mask wearing with some day trips closer to home. The previous weekend, we returned to the St. Lawrence River by way of Keewaydin State Park. It was like a homecoming or a pilgrimage.

An oak tree over a still section of the Otter Creek Preserve. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

This weekend, we went to the Otter Creek Preserve. It’s a beautiful tract of land conserved through the Thousand Islands Land Trust. The creek joins with the St. Lawrence River. Walking the trails was a fun way to visit with and learn from the land and waterways while also socially distancing from others. No masks required until encountering other people or visiting the bathroom after!

My feet in the St. Lawrence River in Alexandria Bay, NY. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020.

Putting my feet in the water and greeting the river has become a yearly sacrament. This is the lifeblood of the land. It shapes the ecosystems, history, and culture. For me, personally, the St. Lawrence River is a major source of spiritual and creative inspiration. My recent short story, “Invasives,” takes place in Clayton, NY, and the seaway plays a major roll in my upcoming novel, River Magic which is coming out in October through Shadow Spark Publishing.

I will be posting more about my novel and all the places in the 1000 Islands that inspired the story soon. In the meantime, I hope you are able to safely visit the sacred places that are dear to your heart.

Three Things Thursday: Uncomfortable Conversations, Black Witch Resources, and a Call for Submissions

It’s Thursday, which means I have three things to share with you. Three Things Thursday is becoming my way of highlighting people and causes in Druidry, Polytheism, and the overall Pagan community. I have some new content about my own life, spiritual practice, and writing to share with you next week, but I’m going to work to keep TTT a place where I continue to elevate diversity as often as I can. Of course, I will continue to share info and books from many Pagans and artists, but I need to do a better job of looking outside my usual circle. Druidry and Irish Polytheism is my path, and I know many of my readers are here for that… but we don’t exist in an isolated grove. Just as forests are diverse, we must be aware of the many voices around us. We’re in this together, after all.


Uncomfortable Conversations

Like many of you, I’ve been studying books, articles, and other content by BIPOC on race, privilege, policing, and, because I’m a teacher, education. Due to the nature of my job, this isn’t the first or the last time I’ll engage with such materials. This impacts my students all year, every year! But I decided to dig into it with some Polytheist peers. I keep wondering about how to help create a more inclusive, SAFE environment in the greater polytheistic and Pagan community. This video, which is specific to the herbal community, really got me thinking. My grove is predominantly white. Whenever I go to Pagan Pride or similar events, it’s mostly white. The presenters and entertainers are mostly white. We have work to do. I hope you are having these uncomfortable conversations within your own circles. It’s an important part of the process. If talking is too much for now, I hope you’re reading, listening, and thinking about it.


Black Witch Resources

This article, Black Witch Resources: Getting Started, came across my Twitter feed a few days ago. Originally from Spiral Magazine back in 2017, author Donyae Coles outlines the basics of Black witchcraft and working within the traditions of the African diaspora. I know my usual readers may scratch their heads and wonder why I’m sharing this. Well, some of my readers may be Black and seeking information! It’s so easy to assume that anyone seeking info on Druidry is automatically White. I’m also sharing it because I think that even if we aren’t going to engage with those practices, we should know about them. Just as it’s useful as a ritualist and human being to know the similarities and differences between Greek polytheism and Irish, it’s just as informative and inspiring to learn about other world religions. The more we know, the more we can recognize our brothers and sisters in the greater Pagan and Polytheist communities. On that note, I must admit a great deal of ignorance about the traditions of the African diaspora. I’m very excited to get this new book: Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens: The Divine Feminine in the African Religious Traditions by Lilith Dorsey later this year. At the very least, I’ll be more prepared with facts when people make dismissive or racists comments about the traditions.


Call for Submissions

Hagstone Publishing is once more open to submissions! Issue 4 of Stone, Root, and Bone magazine will be out in August, and they’re looking for stories, poetry, and articles related to animism and polytheism. They are especially interested in content from BIPOC, queer and trans writers, and writers with disabilities because, as they recently tweeted, “Nature is for everyone!”

I will not be submitting anything this round because of my publishing schedule (more on that in a post for another day), but I’ve had such a positive experience with Hagstone. Working with them to publish three short stories truly felt like a collaboration. As fellow animists and polytheists, my writing was respected and understood.



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!