Thanks for swinging by my humble blog about 20-something wedding planning, homemaking, and relationships. And cats.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crafting a Shared Pagan Path Part 1

Part 1: Discussion and Communication

My fiancé is a recent devotee of the Path. He made the decision over a year ago to explore, and recently decided on the term he'd liked to be called. He has begun reading the myths and stories of the old gods, as well as modern literature on pagan practice. He is exploring the Northern Tradition, though he does not consider himself Asatru, and does not feel it is his path at this time. This means he worships Germanic deities exclusively, recognizing the existence of all gods and holds the same pagan-gnostic principle that I do: while each god is separate and distinct, at some level they are the reflections of the same force.

We have begun developing a shared path, and it has been difficult and worthwhile in many ways. This is our way of establishing a family system, a structure we can raise our children in while still allowing them the freedom of expression.

I don't know what you call me. I'm eclectic, that's for sure, and I've had a few conversations with various deities of different pantheons (Greco-Roman and Norse specifically) and I conduct my practice in much the same way I did when I was content with the "Wiccan" label. I'm not sure I care much either way what I'm called.

I'd like to spend some time with this blog talking about the development of our religious life, as separate from and a part of our more mundane relationship. To do this I will break up all the ideas in my head, focusing on one or two subjects at a time. This time I'd like to focus on the importance of communication.

You absolutely cannot have a relationship that is healthy of any kind without communication. Communication is the only way you can let each other know what is working and what is not working. This can be difficult when you're working with your partner, because you don't want to offend them or hurt them.

Ask questions. Ask your partner to share what spiritual experiences with you they will. Ask them about their thoughts on issues related to morality, ethics, theology, practice, etc. Learn where your ideas meet and where they differ. Talk about these.

Through asking questions you can come to a decision together about when you will worship together, how you will worship together, who you will worship, and work together to establish a ritual structure that is meaningful to both of you.

Communication helps establish boundaries as well. Will you share all your spiritual experiences? Will you share a Book of Shadows/magical journal (if applicable)? Will you each have separate ones and one joint one? Who will write rituals? Who will lead rituals? When will you worship together, and when will you worship individually?

It is important to have moments of private worship, reflection, meditation, whatever helps you to feel spiritual. You are a person separate from your partner, and just as you need mundane time apart on occasion you need spiritual time apart as well.

Through discussion, my partner and I have:

1. Established which holidays we will celebrate. This means the standard Wheel of Eight, for me, the full moons, and other holidays he explores that have meanign for him.

2. Established ritual work. We use the Wiccan structure in general. I act as teacher, at this moment, and it is what I am most comfortable with. We include that which is important to him, including sacrifice/gift-exchange, blot/sumbel, toasting, etc.

3. We write rituals together. He wants to learn how I do it, and I want him to feel comfortable eventually writing his own. We work together to determine readings and other important aspects of ritual.

4. He happily takes the role commonly assigned to the H.P.

5. Determined we enjoy the presence of friends and other interested parties.

6. Have decided together who we will be out-of-the-broom closet with, and how we will answer questions together.

7. Established that on occasion there will be individual experiences and worship times and we do not require or intrude on privacy. If we want to share, we will share, and there is no prying (though honestly there's very little we don't share).

8. Often teach each other things the other does not know.

So, in a nutshell, communication is very important before even getting into the details of all that goes into establishing a shared path. When one partner, like myself, finds themselves in the position of teacher, it is a fair bit easier to set structure. It is important to remember the other person will have their own experiences, and open-mindedness is key.

Talk to each other. Everything else will flow from there.

Next post should be a review of Michelle Belanger's book "The Ghost Hunter's Survival Guide"

Book review: Tarot for Writers

Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner

I picked up this book since I have been suffering from a severe creative block; I thought, "what can it hurt?" I paid $9.99 for the Kindle version. I have been writing for the two decades I've been able to hold a pencil, and I have taken creative writing courses in college. The books for these classes are invariably of the self-promoting kind, which have done nothing but bore me tears and contributed in large part to my creative blocks.


The book is a guide for writers about how to use tarot to create, flesh out, and write. The focus on the book is on novels or short stories, and many of the spreads are designed to help create character and establish plot. There is a section of the book which lists various archetypes and meanings. I must note that these are not entirely accurate according to either Jung or Campbell but were interesting nonetheless. The book is divided into three parts. The first is the basics of tarot reading, simple history, the usual stuff. This section takes up about half the book. Section two is dedicated to spreads and writing prompts dealing with the cards themselves. Section three is the part that actually contains the writer's interpretations of the cards (e.g. the little white book).


Provides information about the cards so that inexperienced readers or those who have no experience with tarot can get a basic gist. Includes interesting spreads to help you in character creation, plot, storylines, environment, that sort of thing. Interesting way to use the tarot; I had never thought about this until seeing the title of the book and reading the free trial of the book. Does not burden the reader with unnecessary, self-promoting discussion of writing techniques like so many other books have done.


Writing prompts are less than creative, but I've found most prompts contained in various how-to-write books are this way. Most of the information on the cards themselves is for the novice tarotist. I still found the material in the rest of the book to be helpful and interesting. I simply skimmed the sections that were irrelevant or that I already knew. Very simple in design, does not discuss writing techniques themselves, so if that is what you are looking for you won't find them here.


I actually ended up using a spread randomly to help me flesh out the plot. I used one of the spreads to draft a story idea. My imagination was able to run from there. I've dived into the book since then, and I have really enjoyed it.

I would recommend this book, despite what other users on Amazon and other places have said. It is simple, straight forward. Sometimes all we need is something simple, something we love and are familiar with to help us get passed the creative blocks. This book was that for me. I have not yet read it entirely from cover to cover, but the beauty of it is that you can bounce around from section to section, and read about whatever interests you at the moment.

I would give this book an overall 4/5, because while it was useful for me, I do recognize that individual responses and needs will vary. If nothing else, it is interesting and thought-provoking.

More questions? Shoot me an email or comment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mabon/Winter Finding/Autumn Equinox

We celebrated our first holiday with my fiancé- a mostly-out-of-the-broom-closet pagan. He's been exploring and learning about the Northern Tradition. It's very interesting, learning with him and how to make our two paths work and meet to form something we can both celebrate and enjoy.

I finally decided I no longer care whether I am called Wiccan or not. Labels don't mean anything to me, and I've happily accepted much if not most of my structure comes from Wicca. I'm a eclectic at heart, and I simply cannot limit myself to one tradition or another or I feel stifled and lost.

We worked together to create a ritual and celebration of Mabon for me, Autumn Equinox for our non-pagan/or pagan curious guests, and Winter Finding for him.

It was a lovely celebration. We had three dear friends join in. My fiancé, Mr. T, was super excited and got very into things, happily involving himself as priest of our little family circle, and even helped call the circle itself. I used it as a teaching experience, lecturing about the symbolism of the seasons, the colors, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

The feast consisted of homemade bread, my popular garlic butter rolls (recipe at the bottom of this post), homemade bread, and my first ever pork roast. Guests brought plenty of apples and other homemade dishes, and we all left stuffed and happy. We did a little apple divination (ask a yes or no question while twisting the apple stem). In creating the feast, I thought long and hard about whether I would be stepping on the rights of others to imbue the food with magic for health, strength, etc. I ended up simply cooking with warming herbs and other herbs related to the season, and figured the warmth and good cheer could go without saying. We would (and did) create it together.

Then we got hammered.

Homemade peach wine (divine), Jaegar, Vodka, and bitch beer do not a happy Mr. T stomach make. What happened was something neither of us understand, but he underwent a powerful psychic transformation encouraged by the booze. Mind altering substances have been used since the dawn of humanity to encourage spiritual experiences. When one's mind is free, things that need to be said are said, things needed to be felt are felt. What better time than Mabon? Perfect for an old self to die and a new one to be reborn.

This led into a new period of spirituality for the two of us. We've been consciously focusing on creating a spiritual structure for us. We've been discussing the things that make us feel as though we are in a ritual environment (as most things from incense to the Catholic priest's robes are designed to take you from that mundane world into the sacred; read Eliade for information on the sacred and profane), and that sort of thing.

We both invested in some basic ritual gear, things that made us feel "witchy". Sometimes that extra boost is all you need. He purchased a tunic of panne velvet (which I could have made but not for the price we got it) and a purple and black floor-length hooded robe for me (which again, could have made but not for the price). He also purchased his first athame.

Together, last evening, we led a private handfasting for two wonderful friends of ours. This was a potent experience for the both of us, and I hope it was for them as well. We dressed in our ritual garb, and he adorned his face with runes. I draped myself in pentacles and decided to let go and just let the experience move me.

It did.

I'm slowly overcoming the blocks I've placed for myself, and I am finding fulfillment in my path again.

As promised, my garlic-cheddar biscuits:

I recommend you serve these hot, as once they are cool they lack something. Still delicious, apparently, but I prefer them fresh from the oven.

Next post: Mrs. T's Guide to Crafting a Shared Pagan Path


2 cups of flower
1-2 tbls baking powder

2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt (can choose to leave out)

3/4 cup butter or margarine

1/2-1 cup milk

Garlic power, garlic salt, diced garlic.

Graded cheddar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together flower, sugar, salt, and garlic powder. If you want them more salt, use garlic salt. Play with the mixture as you practice making these to get an exact proportion you like. Add diced garlic, stir in milk and 1/2 butter. Stir until dough is well mixed and not sticky, adding flour and milk as needed. Add cheese, stir.

Place small-ish balls of dough on a cookie sheet (exact size is up to you, smaller cooks faster). Top with more cheddar and garlic if you wish, and bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.

While cooking, prepare garlic butter. Melt the extra butter for the recipe, and blend in diced garlic and garlic powder/salt. When biscuits are done, remove from oven and drizzle with the garlic butter.

This recipe should make around a dozen to two dozen (can't quite recall) biscuits, depending on the size you make. Enjoy!

Children who Dabble

I cannot count the number of times I have heard stories about teenagers and children dabbling in the occult that had "demonic experiences", later used as excuses for doing or not doing certain things. I've thought long and hard about this, and I have a theory. Let me begin with a story.

[edited for privacy; story involves demons summoning via ouija]

I have never, in all the 10+ years I have been involved in such activities, encountered a demon, had anything violent or negative summoned from a Ouija board or other talking board. Frankly, I've never bothered with trying to contact anything like that either. The worst that's ever happened is a spirit appeared, called itself a demon, and when confronted with the fact it was not a demon began to swear and say nasty things to the girls (myself including) using it. Hardly a scary Anubis-demon.

Let's proceed to my theory.

What is a Ouija board?

There is a great deal of information on talking boards if one wants to look. What follows is my experience. Ouija boards and other such tools act as gateways. The inexperienced user does not have the necessary skill to control what comes through. Any tool can be used like this, whether tarot, runes, or spirit board. With a weak mind and inexperience, you cannot control what happens.

This is of course presuming innocent curiosity. Should the noob attempt to use such a tool with the intent to summon something nasty, there are two things that can happen: either they will succeed (highly unlikely), or they will be so afraid they'll imagine it happening. Think of it like this: you have been raised an extremist Mormon. You have been taught these things will open doors. You will associate any experience with Satan. This will lead to demons. You saw a demon at the foot of your bed.

Why do children dabble?

Children dabble because of curiosity, because of rebellion, because of peer pressure. Whether it is magic, tarot, or Ouija boards, some children are just willing to explore. Children raised to believe that these things are inherently evil or open doorways to evil will interpret all experiences in this way. Imagination will take over, and suddenly everything from Satan himself to Jesus will appear.

Why do children seem to have worse experiences than adults?

In anthropology we have the concept of the "liminal" state. This is a state between states, where you are not quite apart of either world/ state of being and are in-between. During the period of say, a rite of passage, the initiate is no longer a child but is not yet an adult. Modern American society doesn't have rites of passage as a whole any longer. We are not taught the mysteries and secrets from one phase of life to the next. This leaves us with a hunger, and many children, stuck in the liminal state that is puberty, are looking for ways to sate it. Someone in this type of state is incredibly open to spiritual forces, both positive and negative and without proper framework and guidance can find themselves in all sorts of predicaments if they dabble. Think about poltergeists: often occur around prepubescent children and tend to disappear when they grow older. Puberty is a fascinating spiritual time.

I was taught tarot from childhood. I have always been taught how to discern what was good from what was bad, and the training (albeit unofficial training) kept me safe. Most children do not have this.

Adults are resistant to anything new, whether a new language or something spiritual. An adult using a Ouija for the first time with few, if any, preconceived notions will be less likely than a teenager to experience something at all with these kinds of tools. An adult racked with guilt at using something like this, will experience things and they will likely be bad.

Why do people see demons or gods from other religions?

In the case of my friend, he was likely taught (as most Christians and Mormons are) that the gods of other religions are demons; don't you think if you'd been reading or learning about other deities your subconscious training from your religious tradition would have them appear in the most frightening forms possible? Why this particular god? Perhaps if there was an entity that visited it sensed fear and decided to exploit that fear and appeared in the form it knew would frighten him. It is possible that the god *** himself showed up, perhaps as a warning in dabbling with the dead or for protection, and the boy interpreted his presence as evil and something to be feared. Perhaps as an adult he simply saw an image which made sense to him and projected that onto the past. When confronted with the obvious falseness had to create something else or his experience would mean nothing. Or perhaps he invented the entire thing, to explain his fear and guilt or just to get attention.

What about teens who experience good things?

Well these stories are fewer and far between among children not raised in households that do not fear or mistrust these types of tools. I imagine that the children who dabble and receive good experiences probably were not seeking something dark, and had good intentions. They may have subconsciously known what to do to protect themselves.


All tools are neutral. If your intent is to conjure up something evil, you will. If you are afraid, that fear will exploit you and you will imagine negative things happening, or things that happen will be interpreted in a negative context. Ignorance breeds fear: educate yourself before using any tool. If you are from a religious traditions that emphasizes fear, the power of evil (especially through such tools) do us all a favor and don't dabble okay? You're giving the rest of us a bad name.

Back to my friend…

If it is not false, this young man dabbled in something he shouldn't have, without proper education and without knowledge. His ignorance (while not entirely his fault of course) led to misinterpretation of the experience, and in his present context he sees it as the god of another religion.This does not mean I don't love him, and doesn't mean I don't believe he experienced something. I do believe he did. I just do not believe it happened the way he remembers it, and I do believe some misinterpretation happened. I am sorry he feels such fear, and I wish there was something I could do to ease it.

Most teenagers engaging in these types of behaviors or running around calling themselves Satanists are ignorant. They don't know what they're exploring, what they're talking about, or even what the basic tenets of the religion the claim to follow are. What can we call a dark fluffer? A Fluffy Bat?

It takes ceremonial magicians years and years of training and study to summon demons. What evidence is there that a child with no training at all could do so intentionally? I do not believe in demons, but I believe there are negative entities that will exploit fear and will do so in the most efficient form, which for dabbling Christian children is usually demonic.

Don't dabble in things in which you have education. If you're going to dabble, protect yourself and learn all you can about whatever it is you're exploring.

The urban legends and silly stories about demonic encounters with magic, tarot, and Ouija boards especially will probably never end. The least we can do is attempt to refute and educate.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pagan Wedding Planning: Making a Witchy Dress

So my dress is far from witchy, but it's quite fairy tale-esque.

So how can you bring witchy/pagan elements into a relatively "normal" wedding dress? Here are a few things I'm considering:

1. Blessing Spells: Since I won't be performing spells or obvious ritual work at the wedding itself, I plan on doing some similar spells and rituals on my dress. If you choose to do something like this just be sure to keep away anything that could stain or damage the dress in anyway far away from it.

2. Charms: I'm also considering sewing charms into the dress. This could be either literal jewelry charms or the spell kind, stitched into the dress in either obvious or not so obvious places, like the underskirt. If I do this, I will probably put runes to match our handfasting cords.

3. Jewelry: This is more easily done. A little pentacle necklace or carefully chosen stone can give the right elements. I would like to wear a circlet, I think, with Celtic knotwork.

I think anything chosen with intent can serve a magical or witchy purpose.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Talk to Your Plants

My grandmother taught me to talk to your plants. She said it makes them stronger and happier, and that a plant that hears too much fighting or sadness will not grow. I sing to my plants; I give them names and talk to them. They swell with growth quickly, and handle repotting better than plants I haven't chatted with. Plants have energies like people do; they can feel, they respond. Take time to get to know the energies of your houseplants, and learn how they affect your energy and the energy of your home.

There is little conclusive evidence for the affects of voices and music on plants. Some studies have found little to no difference, others have found great difference. In my biology class a few semesters ago, my fiancé and I subjected three plants to different forms of music. One plant was forced to listen to Christian music for hours at a time, one plant was forced to listen to Ozzy, one listened to nothing at all. The Ozzy plant bloomed soonest, and the Christian plant died after only three weeks from sprouting. The neutral plant was slightly smaller than the Ozzy plant. Whether there is anything more to this project, I don't know. I do find it hilarious that the Jesus music killed my plant.

My mother's chemical free pesticide:

Mix a few teaspoons of Dawn dish detergent into a spray bottle with water (you may also add vinegar). The mixture repels aphids and prevents gnats from eating at your plants.

My Grandmother's Garlic Trick:

Plant garlic cloves near your garden to keep root-eating pests and mosquitoes away. Garlic flowers are also very beautiful in their own right- beauty and function!

Oh, and I have an aloe plant named Cthulhu.

Things My Cats Teach Me

It is pretty much established that I am going to end up a crazy cat lady, and I'm only a few cats shy of that as it is. The neighborhood cats know there will always be a bowl of food for them on my porch, and even the practically feral strays feel safe enough to rest on my porch in the rain. My own kitties are decidedly odd.

My large black cat, a boy named Athena, can't decide if he is a dog or a human. He is overly friendly, curious, talkative, and loveable. He is the first cat I encountered that lets just about any visitor pet his tummy, and he gets quite irritated when they stop or when they don't greet him upon arrival. He's also the size of a small dog.

My Loki is a pound kitty I adopted as a kitten on a whim, which may have been an irresponsible thing to do. He is huge, fat, and is intermittently shy and afraid of everything and friendly and cuddly. He doesn't like to meow much and likes to stare at you with his large blue eyes. We often joke there isn't much going on in that head of his, but when he looks at you, you feel it, and you can't help but giggle a little.

Caesar is another adoptee, the kitten of Athena's littermate. He is a flame point Siamese with an attitude problem. He is far too smart for his own good, and can't decide if he likes being petted or not.

My strays are Frankie Four Paws (another flame point), Red (an orange and white tabby), and Miss (a tortie who is always pregnant).

All these animals have taught me very interesting lessons about life and the way I approach the world. Before I get into this, allow me to discuss the ethics of responsible pet ownership:

All pets should be spayed or neutered unless you are breeding the animal. This prevents more unwanted animals from being born and unable to find families. It also prevents unwanted animals sniffing around your property for your fertile female and your male from running off to find your neighbor's female.

Never adopt, no matter how good your intentions are, more animals than you can afford to properly care for, in regards to food and veterinary care. It also applies to your time too- if you cannot physically handle the care of the pets, do not have the pets or more than you can devote your time and energy too.

Never adopt an animal that you do not have the appropriate environment for. I would love to have a fennec fox as a pet, but my situation is not appropriate for such a pet. Also, consider other animals you own before adopting any others. If you are a renter, consider how a pet will impact your ability to find a new home in the future (something I wish we would have considered), and never adopt without your landlord's permission. I was raised to treat animals as family members- do not consider a pet to be something you can simply throw away when you decide it's time to move on. This is cruel to the animal and shows no respect for your pet.

Things my Cats Have Taught me….

1. Responsibility: As the above rant about pet ethics shows, my own cats have taught me how to be responsible and make responsible decisions. I have discovered how difficult housekeeping has become with three cats, and I know my responsibilities towards them. This extends to the rest of my life as well. I try not to take on more than I can handle, and I treat all my responsibilities with respect and care.

2. Awareness: My cats are intimately aware of their environment. They can sense changes; they respond to these changes. I trust my cats's reactions- certain people make them uncomfortable, and the same to me. Energy levels shift and change and my cats respond accordingly, raising my own awareness of the energy in my home. Nothing makes my cats happier than a nice clean house to rampage through- and you can feel the energy shift. This applies in a spiritual sense as well.

3. Adaptability: Cats aren't that great at adapting. I takes them awhile to get used to situations, but once they have made themselves comfortable, anywhere is fine for a catnap. I consider each situation carefully, and I make my environment my own. I adjust, but not too quickly, and once I have I'm comfortable and secure. I've also learned most surfaces that stay still for at least 10 minutes at a time are great places for napping.

4. Cleanliness: My cats are happiest with a clean litter box, fresh water, and a clean house to terrorize. The messier my house becomes, the more lethargic and depressed they become. My cats are fastidious cleaners (except for Loki, whose personal grooming leaves much to be desired), and they've taught me to be careful of my own appearance and the appearance of my home. A clean home and a clean spirit are welcoming.

5. Curiosity: Cats are curious to a fault, they've taught me to approach the world with wonder and joy. They've also taught me to be aware of my circumstances, and not let that curiosity get the better of me.

6. Magic: Cats are known as witch's familiars for a reason. Cats are intuitive and magical, aware of other worlds and magic. I recommend reading Ted Andrew's book "Animal Speak" for more insight into the magic of the house cat.

A cat may be a house pet, but it's predatory instincts are still there. No matter how cuddly the cat, an expert hunter lies beneath that nonchalant surface. Much is hidden in your cat; watch her, learn from her, try to understand her, and maybe you'll learn something about your own self in the process.