Posts Tagged ‘animism’

How to Make a Spider Your Ally

Text reads: “A new short story by M. A. Phillips: How to Make a Spider Your Ally – Featured on the Adirondack Center for Writing.”

The Adirondack Center for Writing decided to inspire its members and supporters with weekly prompts to help us get through this alarming time in our history. When they posted this week’s prompt, “How to make a spider your ally,” it immediately spoke to me as an animist. I had so much fun with this project, and it helped me work through some sadness experienced from the social isolation. You can read it for free on The Adirondack Center for Writing! Don’t forget to check out the other amazing entries! I’m enjoying them between housework, and I hope you appreciate them as much as I do!

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Issue 2 of Stone, Root, and Bone came out today! I haven’t finished reading my contributor’s issue, but my friends, it is gorgeous! When I got to my story, “Through the Brambles,” the image of the deer above brought tears to my eyes. You see, one of my closest spirit allies is the white tailed deer. Seeing them like that, accompanying my second ever paid publication, was a nod that I’m on the right path. There are deer in my story, but the publisher could have used other graphics. This was perfection to me. I’m so grateful to Hagstone Publishing for including me along with several other talented authors and artists.

To top it off, I started my day with this encouraging tweet:


Comments like that are mana potions for authors. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You can buy a copy here for $5! All authors are compensated with actual money or free advertising (provided it matches Hagstone Publishing standards). When you buy, read, and review Stone, Root, and Bone, you’re supporting independent publishing by polytheists for polytheists. If you’re interested, here’s their recent call for submissions for issue 3! I look forward to reading work from you!

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There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the Adirondack Mountains. I used to spend just about every weekend of my childhood summers swimming in lakes, fishing off docks, climbing small mountains, and hiking through forest trails. ¬†It was where I first learned to truly treasure the wild places that have, in many areas, vanished. It was where I grew into an animist. I always felt a sense of¬†something¬†there – spirits. ¬†Very old spirits. ¬†I felt how sacred and connected it all was, and I felt it flow in and through me. ¬†It is different from the forests around my childhood home and my new home. ¬†They are very special to me as well, but they are less wild. ¬†There is more sound and light pollution. Roads interrupt their power. ¬† Not that the Adirondacks lacks that, but there’s a greater effort to reduce it. (Although I could be romancing it as someone who does not live there…) When I’m away for long, I feel it calling. ¬†I feel the mountains and lakes calling. ¬†When driving on Rt 11 through Lewis County, I always look towards the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, rising beyond the rolling¬†hills. ¬†Last week, we returned to answer the call and renew our wild spirit. ¬†Here are some of our experiences.

Decay never looked so magical.  My husband and I mused on the nature of animism, life, and death while hiking near the Raquette River in Tupper Lake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

It’s a bit blurry, but I was proud to stumble upon some Indian Pipe flowers in the forest. ¬†Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I learned a little more about a new spirit ally at the Wild Center.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Some of the High Peaks as seen from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.  We all enjoyed our time there.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We also visited the Ausable River. ¬†There’s a place to pull off on the road and a very short trail into the trees. ¬†It’s a catch and release area, but we just wanted to see the river. ¬†I had to sit quietly for a bit to take her in, then sang a song of offering. ¬†Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

On a whim, we decided to explore a trail across the street from the Ausable River. ¬†It lead to the Copperas Pond. ¬†I wouldn’t call it an easy hike, as it went up some slight inclines and involved some scrambling over very rocky terrain. ¬†It was challenging with a three-year-old, but she was so determined to do most of it by herself. ¬†The end result was worth it – an isolated pond free from motor boats. ¬†It was so quiet… we couldn’t even hear the traffic on the other side of the wooded hill we climbed over. ¬†It’s apparently a popular hike, as there were other people in and out, but the traffic wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to enjoy lots of peaceful moments. ¬†I definitely had to take off my hiking shoes and put my feet in to fully immerse myself in the Three Realms.¬†Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We didn’t run into too many wild animals on our hike – mostly squirrels¬†
and chipmunks. ¬†I also spotted this immature frog sunning himself on a rock in the pond. ¬†If you look closely, you’ll see his tail. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I already look forward to returning, possibly in the Autumn.  We hope to climb a small mountain now that Bee has officially caught the hiking spirit.  With any luck, she feels the pull of the mountain too, and the family tradition of exploring and honoring the Adirondacks will continue.

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I recently shared a list of some favorite Pagan-related movies, and “My Neighbor Totoro” was on there. ¬†Creating that list reminded me that the movie was part of my collection. ¬†My daughter watched it several months ago, before her attention span was ready for a feature-length film. ¬†I took it out again and she’s obsessed with it. ¬†Of course, she calls the titular forest spirit¬†“Totyoh,” witch¬†is adorable. We’ve probably watched it every day. ¬†Once more, I think it’s a fabulous film for children. ¬†It shows the childlike joy of exploring nature right outside your door, a deep respect for local spirits, and relishes in the everyday magic of growing plants.

I decided to put my talents to the test and make a little Totoro plush for my daughter.  I mixed crochet with sewing, and I think he came out really well!  Bee absolutely adores him.


My first ever Totoro plush.  Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

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A friend asked me what my favorite Pagan movies are. ¬†I asked whether he meant documentaries about Paganism, or fictional movies about content that would inspire Pagans. ¬†He said both, so I decided to make a list and share it on my blog! ¬†There are some movies that didn’t quite make my list because they either didn’t feel Pagan/animistic/Earth-Centered enough, because they cast such characters or religions as evil, or because the elements were not developed enough to be meaningful. ¬†There are probably many more films I could have included, but I simply haven’t seem them yet! ¬†I’m sure I’ll need to do a part 2 down the road. ¬†I’m already plotting a list of favorite Pagan and Pagan-inspired television shows!


American Mystic – Focusing on a variety of minority spiritual practices in the US, “American Mystic” examines¬†how individuals in the modern US explore, maintain, and strengthen bonds with the spirit realm. ¬†Included is¬†Morpheus Ravenna, a well-known practitioner of witchcraft and founder of the¬†Coru Cathubodua Priesthood, which is dedicated to An Morrigan and her sisters. ¬†Currently, you can stream this movie via Amazon Prime.

Glenafooka – If you’re interested in the living spiritual tradition of Ireland and authentic Irish¬†folk belief in fairies, definitely watch this film! ¬†Included are interviews with people of various ages as they discuss their experiences and traditions. ¬†Click the name of the film, and the link will allow you to stream on your computer.

I Am – This documentary follows one person’s search for the purpose of life despite all the suffering and hardships. ¬†I chose this because, in light of the various environmental problems we face, this film advocates taking responsibility and embracing optimism in doing so. It felt very spiritual without being religious, and could be part of a bridge building, inter-religious workshop or discussion group. “I Am” is available to stream on Netflix.

Modern Druids – Since I’m listing documentaries, I might as well include this 20-minute introduction to ADF Druidism. ¬†Made by Buccaneer Pictures, it explains some of the history and practice of my Druidic tradition. ¬†It’s really a must for anyone interested in exploring ADF and modern Druidism. ¬†If you click the title, it will take you right to youtube!

When the Iron Bird Flies – I’ve talked about this documentary before, and I highly recommend it if you are interested in Buddhism as well as Paganism. ¬†While the focus is entirely on Tibetan Buddhism in the West, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between my spirituality and theirs, particularly the emphasis on respecting nature and study. ¬†It gave me much to contemplate.


Agora – Based on real events, this film depicts the famous female astronomer Hypatia in Roman-ruled Egypt. ¬†In particular, it shows the conflict between Christianity and the older beliefs. ¬†It can be hard to watch at times, but history isn’t always pretty. ¬†Best save this for when the kids visit the grandparents! If you’re like me and will cry at what was lost, keep the tissues handy. ¬†Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

A Letter to MomoI reviewed this film before, so check that out for a more detailed description. ¬†This is an anime and the focus is on Shintoism and how the spirit world interacts with the human realm. ¬†In particular, it explores how we can commune with the beloved dead. ¬†Although there are cultural differences, I’ve noticed many similarities between my modern Druidic practices and Shinto beliefs. ¬†Films like this inspire me. ¬†Set in modern Japan, I can’t help but imagine what Western countries would be like if Paganism hadn’t been so interrupted by Christianity. ¬†You can stream this through Amazon Prime. ¬†A great film for the whole family!

Avatar -Yes, I’m talking about James Cameron’s science fiction movie with blue cat people. ¬†Although many chuckle about it now, when I first saw it, portions of the movie had me in tears because it just¬†captured the deep adoration¬†many of us have for nature, right down to communing¬†with a sacred tree.

Brave – Although this Pixar animation doesn’t delve deeply into Scottish lore, it is a child-appropriate introduction to magical ethics as well as transformation stories which appear in many cultural myths. ¬†Also – will-of-the-wisps!

Labyrinth -Classic Jim Henson, a deliciously whimsical David Bowie, and goblins inspired by Froud – this movie was an influential part of my childhood. ¬†It was probably my first exposure to traditional fairy tale elements such as helpful¬†and trickster spirits, a journey through the underworld/fairy realm that symbolizes growth, overcoming the goblin/fairy ruler, confronting our shadow selves, etc. ¬†If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and fix that! ¬†Although it can be a little scary, it’s a muppet picture most can enjoy!

Pan’s Labyrinth – Directed by the talented Guillermo del Toro, this modern fairy tail embraces the darkness so often abandoned by other contemporary works inspired by older tales. ¬†A girl must confront a shadowy realm¬†to save her mother and herself. ¬†Pan is a difficult teacher, and the lessons are hard, but such is life! ¬†Malevolent and helpful spirits, screaming mandrakes, and spectacular visuals will surely inspire¬†but¬†have you looking over your shoulder the next time you pray at night. ¬†Unlike the previously discussed “Labyrinth,” this is definitely not¬†a family film¬†due to some gore and violence.

The Lion King King – Another childhood favorite, it would take me several years to realize how deeply this movie influenced my belief system in regards to revering our ancestors. ¬†It’s an excellent introduction for little ones.

My Neighbor Totoro – A must-see for little ones in a Pagan family as well as anime nerds!¬† Studio Ghibli’s “Totoro” is a heartfelt exploration of how the magic of nature can help people weather life’s difficulties.¬† More Shinto and Japanese mythology will delight you and warm your heart as soot spirits float through the air and Totoros make trees grow in our hearts and minds.

Practical Magic – Sure, this isn’t an entirely accurate portrayal of witchcraft, but I feel like Hollywood got really close here. ¬†A lot of¬†the philosophy behind what the aunts teach their nieces will be recognizable to most Pagans. ¬†Unlike many films that show witches and folk magic in a more negative light (like “Wicker Man” which, despite the amazing music, I really don’t like very much), it depicts¬†a town accepting their hometown witches.

Princess Mononoke – Another anime and another classic¬†Studio Ghibli film – this is among one of my favorite movies¬†ever. ¬†Once more, it is greatly influenced by Shinto beliefs and the intersection between the human and spirit realms. ¬†Of interest to many who follow an Earth-centered path, “Princess Mononoke” explores what happens when humans throw off the balance of the natural world. ¬†Tree spirits, talking wolves, a heroic wild woman, and a honored guardian of the forest -what’s not to love?

Song of the Sea – Made by an Irish animation studio, this beautiful, moving family film incorporates many themes and spirits that adult Pagans who follow Irish-inspired traditions will recognize. ¬†It’s a story about siblings, love, and selkies. ¬†It’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Do you have any suggestions?  What should I watch and consider for a future list?

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Film poster. (Fair Use)


Many of my favorite anime titles involve spiritual elements. ¬†The Hayao Miyazaki films, such as¬†My Neighbor Tototor and Princess Mononoke, were greatly inspired by animistic beliefs native to Japan. ¬†The interaction between the human and spirit world are important elements to the stories, and I find a lot to compare to Druidism – old and new. ¬†¬†Someone online suggested to my husband that we check out A Letter to Momo. ¬†While watching the preview, we couldn’t help but compare it to Miyazaki’s style. ¬†It wasn’t just the whimsical art or the coming of age story – it was the thin line between this world and the next. ¬†We had to watch it.

In the film, a young girl named Momo is dealing with the unresolved argument she had with her father right before his untimely death.  The dramatic change in her life, and her need to adjust, are made concrete when she and her mother move to the small island of Shio, where her grandparents live.  Along for the ride are three spirits on a mysterious mission.  Unlike just about everyone else around her, Momo can see them.  While this chance encounter with the Otherworld creates (often comical) challenges, it ultimately helps both Momo and her mother heal.

One element that intrigues me with¬†A Letter to Momo, and indeed the same element that helps to endear Miyazaki films to me, is the proximity between this world and the spirit world.¬†Set on a rural island, there are scenes at shrines, examples of ancestor veneration, and discussions of Japanese mythology. ¬†The spirits, comparable to Irish lore, are neither totally benevolent nor malicious – they simply are. ¬†They have their own histories, motivations, biases, and faults. ¬†What separates them from the humans they interact with are their powers and Otherworldly jobs. ¬†The three take a shining to Momo in part because of how she comes to interact with them – which includes some offerings of food. ¬† Less obvious but still there, mixed in with all the modern farming equipment, phones, and Japanese snack foods, are little spirit homes people built once upon a time. ¬†One of the major scenes of¬†Momo features an old community tradition in which the families send straw boats with lanterns that they made as offerings into the sea. ¬†I’m assuming it is part of the Japanese Obon celebration, a festival for the dead. ¬†It’s never really explained – it’s just there, part of the culture. ¬†The movie’s purpose is not to explain Japanese customs and beliefs to curious Americans, after all. ¬†They just exist, as they have existed in some way for generations, embedded in the story.

In watching these films, so full of Japanese customs¬†and folklore, I can’t help but find things to compare to the living fairy faith in Ireland, or think about how things could have been if the Pagan tradition there had not been so altered by Christianity. ¬†What can we, as modern Druids, learn from cultures who have living animistic traditions? ¬†It’s something to contemplate after watching the film.

I highly recommend¬†A Letter to Momo. ¬†It’s heartfelt, humorous, and appropriate for the whole family. ¬†It would be especially appropriate to watch near Samhain because of the ancestral veneration.


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Offerings in the Snow

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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