Archive for the ‘hedge witchery’ Category

If you’re not listening to the amazing podcast “Standing Stone and Garden Gate,” you really should give it a try.  The most recent show, episode 26, is especially good.  Brendan Cathbad Myers does a segment on wisdom circles, but the discussion Juniper has with hedge witch John Pwyll is spectacular!  Check it out here.  Really inspiring and thought-provoking.

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Clifton, Chas S.  Her Hidden Children The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America.  Lanham:

AltaMira Press, 2006.

Many of us come to Paganism with an interest in ancient history.  We wonder who and how our ancestors worshiped and we attempt to follow in their footsteps.  I can speak for myself when I say that when I began studying Wicca in high school I was not interested in Paganism’s modern history until I reached a point in my spiritual journey where I started to wonder why certain things were done.  Her Hidden Children the Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America by Chas S. Clifton attempts to explain the evolution of modern Paganism in ways that are both respectful and honest.

The important thing to remember when studying Paganism is that it is a spiritual path made up of many different religious outlooks.  Not everyone can agree on what Paganism is as a whole and so the movement must be looked at as an organism made up of many smaller cells.  Clifton successfully compares modern Paganism to an island teeming with diversity.  Just as everything is connected and dependent on one another in an ecological biosphere, so too are the modern Pagan movements connected.  Each Pagan path shares certain commonalities, whether it is a group of founders, cultural inspiration, similar ritual patterns, or the similarity of existing outside of the major five world religions.  Clifton’s goal is to examine Pagan literature as he believes that a study of the writing is the only way we have to map the evolution and growth of the movement. It is in this way that he is able to piece together the history of modern American Paganism.

Clifton’s main focus is Wicca.  It cannot be denied that Wicca has played a significant role in popularizing Paganism in general.  Like many forms of Paganism, its history starts outside of America – in Europe – with a man named Gerald Gardner who, by publishing Witchcraft Today, allowed for society to start thinking about Paganism (14).  Since then, numerous authors have written on “the craft” including Raymond Buckland, Doreen Valiente, and Cunningham.  Clifton argues that literature has been paramount to the spread of Wiccan thought and practice (13).  Since so many Wiccans are solitary practitioners, they rely on the written word to teach and learn more often than not. Clifton’s discussion on Wicca’s history is worth reading due to Wicca’s influence on Paganism as a whole.  The elders of the movement, dead and living, possess such interesting characters that one cannot help but admire them for their eccentricity.  Just as interesting is the transformation that Wicca has undertaken from a coven-centered religion to a diverse buffet of traditions with many eclectic solitaries.  The availability of literature has played a significant role in this growth and change, but the increasingly sexy portrayal of witches in the media, as discussed in the chapter “The Playboy and the Witch: Wicca and Popular Culture”, has helped as well.

One of the most interesting chapters in the book takes an in-depth look at Paganism’s relationship with nature.  I read this chapter shortly after taking part in a heated forum discussion on just that topic.  My experience on the Pagan forum was a revelation – not all Pagans identify with the title “nature religion.”  Many felt that their religion did not focus on nature but rather on magic or cultural heritage.  Others, like myself, argued that all of those things were part of nature.  Clifton explores this situation and suggests that there are three categories of “nature religion.”  He calls these “Cosmic Nature,” “Gaian Nature,” and “Erotic” or “Embodied Nature.”  Simply put, Cosmic Nature is concerned with magic and energy, Gaian Nature explores the philosophy of the Earth as a deity, and Erotic Nature involves sexual pleasure.  It is interesting to explore the different approaches to nature taken by other spiritual paths within Paganism, but the inherent message from Clifton is that concept of Paganism being a Nature Religion is  largely an American phenomenon with connections to the growing environmentalist movement (41).  However it must be understood that not all Pagan faiths are concerned with nature in the same way that some Wiccans and Druids are.

The book includes a chapter dedicated to other modern Pagan movements, but the discussion is very limited.  Clifton summarizes such movements as The Church of Aphrodite, Feraferia, The Church of All Worlds, The Council of Themis, and, finally, modern Druidism.  I was surprised that there was not a larger discussion on Reconstructionists (although they received brief mentions scattered throughout the book), Asatru, Modern Shamanism, or Chaos Magic.  Some of these movements, especially Asatru, have become incredibly influential in the Neo-Pagan world.  Clifton’s discussion on Druidism, while very interesting and helpful in understanding the development and inspiration for Ár nDraíocht Féin, seemed to fall short of other Druidic traditions.  The Henge of Keltria is only mentioned, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids seems nowhere to be found despite its having American members and an obvious influence on the modern Druidic movement.  If Clifton were to release a later edition, my suggestion to him would be to include a chapter on Druidism as well as a chapter on Astaru and Heathenism.  His chapter on other Pagan paths should be dedicated to the less understood, less discussed paths such as chaos magic and Christian Witches.

Despite the minor quips I’ve expressed, Her Hidden Children was an immensely enjoyable book with a lot of important information.  The writing style was very straightforward and easy to understand.  At times, the book was a page turner simply because of Clifton’s narrative style and the interesting facts he presented.

Her Hidden Children has been helpful in understanding the development of Wicca, Druidism, and Paganism as a whole within the United States.  It does not change my spirituality in any way, but it does make me a wiser, more informed, more tolerant person.  I think that, if Paganism is to remain a strong, growing religion, the diverse paths will have to celebrate their differences while embracing their similarities in order to unite for the common good.  This book serves as an excellent starting point for just that.


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I took an overdue walk in the forest today.  My bronchitis and some severe rain kept me inside for a week or so.  I couldn’t resist the pull any longer.  It was raining a bit today, but not enough to soak me to the bone and obscure my vision.  It was rather atmospheric actually.  In the forest, the rain hardly got through the leaves. It was like a percussive mist.

I gave an offering to the local spirits and spoke a bit to them.  I apologized for being away so long and declared how much I longed to visit.  From that moment it was one gift/lesson after another.  It started with the discovery of tiny bones near the shrine.  At first I thought they were from a bird because they looked so light.  Many of them were cracked, but some were still attached to their hinges.  I moved a tiny bone in its socket and thought of my own body.  I followed the trail, and eventually found the skull at left.  It was some sort of rodent but I’m not sure what kind.  Perhaps a chipmunk?  I thanked the spirit of the animal, for the discovery reminded me just how fragile life is.  I left the remaining bones for the mice and others to enjoy.

I found a few other things – some quartz fragments, a lovely white stone, orange jelly fungi, more jewelweed…  I even got to see a flash of deer leaping through the woods!

And then I found the specimen at right: the skull of a small carnivore, perhaps a fox.  I just happened upon it – a branch running through one of the eye sockets.  The rest of the body was nowhere to be found save the left canine tooth.  “What are you?” I asked aloud.  “How did you get here?  Where is the rest of you?  …How did you die?”  What a mystery life is.  These creatures had lives and then suddenly – death and decay.  The trees themselves know the secret to this creature’s death but they will never give up the story.

I delighted in finding these skulls and took great care in gathering them.  I feel I was very respectful.  I must seem like a strange vegetarian collecting animal skulls, but I gathered them out of reverence and a desire to learn from them.  I’m bleaching them at the moment.  They will undoubtedly end up on an altar dedicated to the nature spirits.  

As my entry from earlier indicates, I do feel the absence of a strong human teacher in my life, but I am very lucky to be forming a closer bond with the Nature Spirits.  For a Druid, witch, or shaman, nature is the best if not only real teacher.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I have another link to share with you, this one from one of my favorite blogs – The Witch of Forest Grove.  This particular entry is about the importance of the world tree in ritual, whether you are of Indo-European influence or a witch.

Check it out for a good read!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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When you make an oath, or even just a little promise, to the Kindreds, you’re obligated to keep it.  Maybe there won’t be any dire circumstances (I suppose it depends on the being you’re interacting with), but there will be less trust.  The more I spend time with nature, the more I get the sense that nature spirits hold promises very seriously with humans.  We’re constantly abusing them, even when we don’t mean to.  I’m no exception, what with my driving a car and continual (though decreased) use of plastics.  That said, I think when we make an effort to commune with the Nature Spirits – a genuine, honest-to-goodness effort that goes beyond an offering on high days – they really start to respond.  It might not be all at once, and it might not be so very obvious at first, but they are there witnessing your actions and your words.  They see when you make a promise and don’t keep it.  Again, this may not always have dire circumstances, but it weakens the trust they have in us.  If you are walking an earth-centered path especially, that trust is, in my opinion, essential.

Those are just the thoughts I had today after visiting the woods and keeping a promise I made the local spirits.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Hello dear readers! I went away for a few days to visit some of the tribe and travel to the Sterling Renaissance Festival. Hubby and I go every year and always enjoy it immensely. As usual, Weretoad and I dressed up.  It was pirate weekend, but we dressed as …  wealthy merchants?  Lesser nobles?  I dunno.  We wore nice outfits, how about that?  I wore the outfit my mum gave me.  It looked like this but in hunter green.  My husband wore his wedding outfit which looked somewhat like this but with hunter green accents rather than silver and Celtic knot embroidery.  I made us each pouches which I will display at a later date.

I purchased many lovely things.  I always save some money to indulge myself at the Renaissance Festival. I look forward to being more financially secure (if such a thing will be possible in the future) and buying a whole wardrobe or large pieces of home decor one day*.  Even when I cannot afford the luxuries, the numerous talented artisans annually inspire my imagination and encourage me to keep practicing.   

Anyway, I bought a miniature clay bowl for my traveling altar, two bottles of ink (one of green pigment and the other called “wine”), some echinacea root, witch hazel bark, coltsfoot, and rosemary incense.  My husband bought me a rose and an amazing sculpture to hang on our walls (Photo at left.  The sculpture was made by the talented Jason Bakutis).  It’s supposed to be Bast but I don’t get the Egyptian vibe from it.  When I saw it, I fell in love with it as a catsidhe or my personality incarnate**.  Art is all about interpretation, no?  Now I just need to figure out where to hang this beauty…  

We didn’t see as many shows this time, which leads me to believe that we need to go twice next year.  There is just too much to see and do in one day.  I did, however, have an amazing discussion with the Earthcraftyr herbalist and self-proclaimed “ditch witch.”  We talked about trance, flying ointments, different plants,  and connecting with nature.  I was so grateful that she took some time to share her wisdom with me.  I would love to take a class from her in the future.  

* “I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad…”

**  All the same, I used to be devoted to Bast in my eclectic Wiccan days.  She helped me through some rough times and started me on the road to being a strong woman.  I’ll always be grateful to her for that.  We grew apart eventually; I guess she had taught me all I needed and I was sent promptly to the Gods of Ireland.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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