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Insane in the Membrane

By | Flying Ointments, Folk Medicine, Herbalism, Recipes | 24 Comments

It has been over a year since I wrote a blog post and I only wrote three blog posts total last year. It’s pretty unprecedented for me! I have been blogging for 15 years and never have I written so little. Granted I did write a few posts for my wilderness education website and I have been working on my book, but it’s still very little writing for this writer! I have never been the apologetic blogger, my policy has always been to write when I can and not worry about it when I can’t, but it’s gotten to the point people are emailing me to ask if I’m okay! What happened? Go read The Dark Year for perspective (in 2016 I was very ill and lost three people very dear to me all in a row).

In the past four years I had two children, my little boys who are now ages one and four. My heart bursts with love for them and little ones are so freaking cute, but man does having children turn your life upside down! It is hard to run a business, write, and travel to teach when you have babies. You are a caregiver now and it’s not about you. There are a lot of sacrifices and waiting but those times are also filled with lots of time with your beloved partner and tiny cute faces and voices of your little sporelings adorably trying to become human like you. My older son turned out to have multiple health issues that make life more difficult, but my partner and I do our best to keep things silly and keep the kids happy. I am unfortunately in the percentage of mothers with the luck of getting postpartum depression (PPD). It revealed an anxiety disorder that had always been there but was never diagnosed until this past winter.  Depression and anxiety were compounded with severe sleep deprivation. The new baby would not sleep through the night for an entire year. He would wake up every two to three hours like clockwork. I was completely broken. I would cry all day and my nerves were so shot I would have anxiety attacks resulting in vomiting and migraines.

My partner took me to the hospital and had me admitted for a psych evaluation. They prescribed me a week of trazodone for bedtime and to let my partner worry about the baby. We began a brutal couple months of sleep training and emerged broken but victorious. Both children sleeping through the night. With sleep for us adults, the worst of the madness went away. This was in March-April of this year. My health practitioner prescribed me sertraline for the depression but it made things worse and I had all the adverse side effects, so they switched me to desvenlafaxine and after a couple months I feel almost human again. Yes I am a herbalist and I like my medicine natural, but I shut up and I took the damn pills. I was in no place to help myself. My partner Alex has suffered from depression for his entire adult life and has been incredibly supportive through this difficult time. We’d both rather not be on the meds, but understand that the situations in our life making our mental health worse aren’t going to go away for a while and that we need help in the meantime. He has one of the healthiest views on mental health of most people I’ve met in my life and he shines with compassion when things are especially hard.

And they have been hard. On top of all our troubles we also had to deal with my narcissistic ex who is the father of my older son. After moving to Ontario, I had to ask him to leave because he was being abusive on top of not taking care of his health and mental health issues. He did not like this and kept trying to trick his way back into the house. Once Alex and I fell in love, he tried to make life as difficult for us as possible. Living within sight of my house despite the lack of job opportunities in town, threatening my partner to the point the police were called twice, breaking into my garage and stealing, spreading rumours and lies in our small town, and using our son to manipulate and intimidate me; like using visit pick-ups and drop offs with the kid to verbally abuse me and Alex. Typical narcissistic bullshit, but when it’s done to two fragile people with depression and anxiety, the results are not good. We were terrified of him. He had a violent past and he liked to brag about it. You think you know and love someone and then you experience them turning into an unrecognizable monster when they don’t get their way. I was very pregnant at the time and scared. I reached out to a local non-profit women’s shelter and support resource. They gave me a free counselor who really helped keep me sane and helped us write and implement a safety plan as well as encouraged me call the police and take things to family court.

Almost two years ago, I had enough and I started court proceedings over custody and access. I received sole custody with full decision-making powers and he was ordered not to contact me, come to my property, or come near me. Due to his past abusiveness, my ex was ordered by the court to sign up for the local supervised visitation centre for access if he wanted to see his son and if he did so, he could see him a minimum of once a week. If he did that, and there were long-term notes with good feedback from the visitation centre social workers, then my ex could broach the subject of unsupervised visits. It didn’t go so smoothly, of course. Family court is brutal and the case is still not settled. It keeps getting adjourned because he didn’t file his paper work, he waited an entire year to sign up for the court mandated visitation centre, he failed to follow the court orders, and, of his own doing, he only had visits for a few months out of a period of two years so our son has no idea who he is now. It mostly just makes me sad my son’s biological father cares more about hurting me and winning some imaginary battle than actually being a dad to his son.  So, I just keep going to the court dates as, in my opinion, it’s already settled.

Did I mention my ex is a satanic Thelemic witch? So not only do I have to deal with his mundane bullshit (thankfully only through the bullet-proof shield of the Ontario court system now), I have to waste my time smacking down his stupid curses and evil eye every once in a while. Even though he’s a dark, creative curser, I’m lucky that he’s a very lazy, complacent old magician who hasn’t done any real work since the early 1990s. I know what you’re thinking, hot foot powder, right? I was seriously thinking of slipping some in the next court papers I have to legally serve him with… but then a couple months ago he fell from the top of a warehouse at work and broke his hip, an arm, and some ribs I think. I didn’t work any magic, but I have some friends I’m suspicious of. The ex was in the hospital for two months and it was really nice to be able to reclaim space in our little town for that time. But now he’s back, and still within sight of my house. He’s across the creek now though, and it’s pretty hard to throw curses over moving water. I’m not so afraid now, to see that once big, frightening man be sickly, skinny, and limping. In my life I have done very little cursing as I find the people who deserve it the most curse themselves best. They tend to end up alone, broke, ill, and in pain like Aleister Crowley. Even dark familiar spirits will abandon you if you don’t feed them offerings. Having patience while moving on and living your life as best you can is sometimes the most destructive curse you can cast on someone who is bitter.

So the old narcissistic tiger is toothless and limping and this witch is medicated, therapized, and starting to feel more human. My oldest boy will start kindergarten this fall and my one year old will be old enough for daycare in November which will help with our current childcare deficit. Things are starting to look up! The trouble is, sleep deprivation is literally torture. It’s probably number one in the international “how to torture” manual. Me and my current partner’s brains are swiss cheese — they are full of holes. Some of the damage will heal over time, but honestly some of it will not. We are both having severe issues with short-term memory loss. I am a lot slower than I used to be at everything, I can’t multi-task any longer, I can’t remember even the important things. We are both having a lot of trouble juggling a business, caring for young children not yet in school, and keeping on top of normal household chores (dishes, laundry, garbage, recycling, etc). We just move too slow right now and there are never enough child-free hours in a week to get things done. We have two kid-free days a week and that is the only time we have to do all the work we need to for the business. It is insane!

Our broken brains can barely keep up with our current life. This is one of the main reasons we closed our Fern & Fungi online store to focus on teaching foraging and why have pared things down to just making and selling medicinal nightshade ointments (aka my flying ointments – different name, same thing, same dosage). You can find the new home of my ointments here: Medicinal Nightshades. We were really hoping to be able to hire a Canadian manufacturer to make the ointments and a professional shipping fulfillment service to handle our shipping for us… but it’s not meant to be at this time. Because of red tape, no one will make our touch my nightshade ointments until we register them with Health Canada (our FDA) and receive approval and natural health product numbers for each different recipe (NPN). I’ve tried, but I can’t even start the application process until I first add the nightshade herbs to the natural health products ingredients database, but I can’t even start that application because they won’t give me the form and the only link in the internet universe to the form is broken and I have failed to hear back after contacting them about it. So, I’ll have to get back to you on that process later. In the meantime, it is still just me and my partner Alex. I make the ointments and he does the shipping.

So this is my life right now. Keeping the kids alive and happy, remembering to take my meds, remembering to turn the dishwasher on, remembering to water the plants, and trying our best to get orders for the business shipped out within 1-2 weeks of purchase. It’s hard when supply shipments are always late, supplies and herbs are always out of stock, your oven catches fire and dies (it did, two days ago), you forgot to order more beeswax, the kids keep passing on cold viruses to you, it’s monsoon season and the power keeps going out, your printer won’t work, the post office’s online shipping tool is always crashing, you go through three computers which all die… (see what I mean about having to slap down dumb curses all the time?).

How do I deal with all this stress? Going to bed early because I can’t afford losing my mental health from staying up late to work or watch tv. Asking for help from my partner, my family, and any social programs available to me. Lowering my expectations, like really lowering them and being okay with dirty floors and laundry piling up. And honestly, weed. My health practitioner point blank told me to, especially for help falling asleep and preventing panic attacks. Welcome to Canada where cannabis is poised to be sold in liquor stores any time now… any time now. It is a common part of medicine and culture in my area. Bootleg forest weed and whiskey have long histories in my county despite it being a Bible Belt. The weed came with the commune hippies and draft dodgers hiding in the woods here in the 1960s. Farmers do not get paid well for their hard job, so even if they’re not fond of hippies, many local farmers have hidden cash crops to supplement their income from corn and soy. So it’s still here, crossing social and economic boundaries. I had no idea moving from the cannabis capitol of Vancouver that there could be such a prevalent cannabis culture in the middle of nowhere in Ontario. If you ever wondered why Canadians are so chill and polite, now you know. It’s because from coast to coast, we’re all smoking the pot.

Recipes For Calming the Fuck Down

In case you are feeling insane in the membrane too, here are some recipes to help you chill out. You don’t have to be part of cannabis culture to enjoy and benefit from the plant and its effects. If you live in a state or country where it is legal, why not see if cannabis can help you? There’s not much to lose as the effects wear off in 1-3 hours. Don’t try it if your employer has a zero tolerance policy and drug testing, however!

A note on making herbal preparations with cannabis:

You will need a small scale to weigh the herb. If you’d like to make these recipes medicinal for pain management, select a high CBD strain. If you want your oil or liqueur to be psychoactive, then choose a high THC strain, such as a hybrid or an indica, and make sure to decarboxylate it before adding it to any edible or topical herbal recipes. To do this, spread the flowers out on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 225°F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and then the flowers are ready to grind and use.

Cannabis Flying Ointment

7-15 grams cannabis flower, decarboxylated
500 ml vegetable oil (coconut, almond, sunflower, grapeseed, olive)
60 grams beeswax, chopped or pastilles

Place oil and herb in a double boiler on low heat for 5-8 hours, stirring every 30-60 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out the herb. Add the strained oil back to the double boiler in a clean bowl and add the beeswax. When the beeswax melts, pour the ointment into jars and allow to fully cool for a few hours before putting on the lids. Do a patch test with a pea-sized amount of the ointment and wait four hours for all the effects to be revealed. Then try using larger amounts. After you’ve made it once and know how it effects you, try making it again and adding your favourite essential oil blend or other herbs.

Cannabis Smoking Blend

3 parts cannabis flower
1 part dried motherwort leaf
1 part dried rose petals
1 part dried spearmint leaf
liquid honey to blend herbs

Pick through the dried herbs and remove any stems and hard bits that won’t break down. Then rub the herbs with your hands until they break down but are not a powder. Drizzle a few spoons of liquid wildflower honey over the herbs and then mix them with your hands, rubbing the mixture between your hands, until the honey is completely blended in. The honey moistens the smoking blend and prevents it from having a dry, harsh smoke. When it is blended, store in an air tight container until use. It can be rolled with papers into herbal cigarettes or smoked in a pipe or with some vape pens.

Cannabis Elixir

15-30 grams cannabis flower, leaf, and/or stems, decarboxylated
15 grams dried damiana
one handful of ground, raw cacao beans (optional)
1/4 of a vanilla bean pod or 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
3 thick slices of fresh ginger
1/2 cinnamon stick, crushed
500 ml of dark rum, bourbon, or brandy (don’t cheap out!)
1 cup unpasteurized honey

Smash up the herbal and spice ingredients, but don’t grind them to a powder. Place it all in a canning jar, seal the lid and leave it for 7-10 days to infuse, do not leave it for longer or it will be bitter and undrinkable. Shake it every day, as many times as you can remember to. When it’s ready, taste it. If it tastes a bit too strong, strain it quick! If it tastes weak, wait another couple days and taste it again. Strain out the herbs and put them in a canning jar and add 500 ml of water and seal it. Shake it every day for three days. Strain out the water and mix it with the alcohol extraction. Add more honey at this point if needed. Allow to further infuse, rest, and clarify for 2-4 weeks. It’s important you do not shake it anymore during this period. After the time has passed, pour your finished liqueur off of any herbal sediment on the bottom of the jar and into a new, clean jar or fancy bottles. It’s ready to drink or gift but will improve with 4-8 months to age. The resulting elixir will be around 20% alcohol. Dosage is 1-2 shotglasses (with a shotglass being 1 fluid ounce or 30 ml).

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Everything You Need to Know About Animism

By | Animism, Ecological Consciousness, Folk Magic, Spirit Work | 23 Comments

“There is no environment ‘out there’ separate from us. The environment is embedded in us. We are as much a part of our surroundings as as the trees and birds and fish, the sky, water and rocks.” ~ David Suzuki

What is Animism?

The Latin animus means “the rational soul, intelligence, consciousness, and mental powers” and the feminine anima means “soul, living being, mind, and breath”. If you collect all the words for soul from all the languages around the world, almost all of their roots simply mean “breath”, insinuating that the soul and spirits in general are invisible and intangible. In the 1670s, the term anima mundi, meaning “soul of the world”, was used to describe the teachings of ancient Greek philosophers Pythagoras and Plato who believed the world and the universe itself was infused with an animate soul. In 1866, English anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Taylor popularized the already existing term animism from the Latin anima combined with the suffix -ism (attached to words associated with practices, beliefs, doctrines, worship, etc).  He defined animism as the “theory of the universal animation of nature.” Animism became the go-to term for anthropologists to describe and define the beliefs of non-Christian and prehistoric indigenous peoples.

Animism is the belief that everything has a spirit and a consciousness, a soul, from the tiniest microorganism on earth to the great planets in the heavens to the whole of the universe itself. Animistic faiths usually contain a belief in rebirth & reincarnation either as another human, or an animal, tree, or star. Anything or one can be an ancestor and in a way this is true as even scientists will tell you every single thing in the universe is created from the same space dust — all matter gets recycled and reused. Spirits of place (genus loci) are thought to be either the actual soul of the land or a soul who has come to reside in a hill, stream, or grove as its guardian and benefactor.  Animism is usually viewed as more primitive with polytheism being seen as more advanced (think Stone Age vs. the Roman Empire), but as many modern religious scholars have discovered there is more natural harmony and more earthly wisdom within animism than almost any world religion.

You can try to have one without the other, however, in most cultures the two go hand in hand. The Norse had their pantheon of deities as well as strong beliefs in nature spirits, ancestors, elves, giants, and trolls. The ancient Greeks had a strong underlying current of animism from personifying everything in existence as a spirit or deity and worshipping spirits of springs, rivers, hills, and forests at the same level of devotion if not moreso than their pantheon of deities with sacrifices, offerings and festivals. Anthropologists call these divisions the “low cult” (animism) and the “high cult” (polytheism), but in truth they were not divided at all. You’d be hard pressed to find a pre-Christian religion without a fully integrated combination of deities, fairy-like beings, and an ancestor cult. You’d also find it hard to find a major world religion today without traces of animism still clinging to it. Animism was never wiped out or replaced, it has been here the whole time within the persisting belief in fairies and the otherworld, the Catholic worship of saints, the reverence and superstition surrounding trees, and our cultural folk songs and folk tales. The initial instinct of early folklorists and modern Pagans was to label it all as Paganism, but it was the survival of animism all along.

The synonym for animism we’ve been looking for within the Pagan worldview is the fairy-faith and the explanation for the fairy-faith the academic world has been seeking can be found in the animistic cults of ancestor worship and nature spirit worship throughout the world and human history.

If a religion has an ancestor cult within it or a belief in fairy-like beings, it’s a strong sign it evolved from an earlier animistic version of itself. Gods are often apotheosized celestial bodies, land spirits, animal spirits, forces of nature, and ancestors (kings, heroes, healers, and miracle workers). Deities are not separate from animism, they are born from it. The documented remnants of the fairy-faith in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Europe reveal the presence of ancient-rooted animism which was still practiced after the conversion to Christianity as is evidenced by all the many laws forbidding any practices or rites involving fairies, land spirits, and the worship of sacred stones, water, and trees. Animism is still very prevalent in African, South American, and Asiatic belief systems and folk religions today. For example, Buddhists worship the Buddha and the many bodhisattvas alongside a strong familial ancestor cult. Though the population of those practicing the recognized animistic Ainu religion is very small today, the Japanese still heavily practice Shintoism and have a seemingly irremovable belief in the yokai, or supernatural spirits, demons, and ghosts. Find an indigenous tribe in South America or Africa not yet converted to Christianity and they may not have heard of the term animism, but you can be sure their spiritual practices are intrinsically animistic with an ancestor cult.

“No religion lies in utter isolation from the rest, and the thoughts and principles of modern Christianity are attached to intellectual clues which run back through far pre-Christian ages to the very origin of human civilization, perhaps even human existence.”

E.B. Taylor, Primitive Culture

Animism is not a separate faith standing on its own, it is not a capitalized “Tradition” as defined within the Pagan and witchcraft communities, and it is not a clearly defined spiritual path. Instead, animism is the seed of all religion and infiltrates all religions even in present day. Animism doesn’t exist outside of individual practice and the collective beliefs and practices of an indigenous community. Trying to define it and grasp it in a physical form (like the big name religions or smaller pagan traditions), is like trying to catch moonlight with your bare hands. I will try the best I can to attempt it, but it will only ever be my own definition, experience, and research. Animism will always shape-shift person to person, tribe to tribe, region to region.

Animism is a philosophy backed up by practice, it is a way of life and a way of thought. Animism is your personal relationship with nature and with the inhuman spirits who inhabit and compose nature. It is a relationship of respect and value for all things and all beings, visible and invisible. All life is sacred and sentient, even those outside of your current definition of life and even those regarded as malevolent. Within a balanced ecosystem, all life serves a purpose– even those who may seem like the villain at first glance. Animism is the hands-on spirit work of building an awareness of and relationship with the spirits of plants, trees, fungi, animals, insects, waters, forests, mountains, plains, deserts, elemental forces, and the spirits of the dead buried under your feet. When you live within nature you realize you are a part of it, not separate from it. It becomes important to know as much about your surroundings as possible because your survival depends on your knowledge of and respectful treatment of the land, plants, and animals around you.

The Beliefs of Animism

Within the philosophy of animism there is no distinction between magic and mundane– all is magical and all is mundane simultaneously. Consider this for a minute: every act is an act of magic. Animism lacks pretentiousness and superfluousness – if an action or item serves no real purpose then it is disregarded. In my opinion, based in research and experience, this is why the same set of rituals are found in animistic practice throughout the world. Animism is made up of shared beliefs, but moreso it is a series of practices and rituals based on these beliefs.

Common beliefs found within animism include fetishism, totemism, the belief in the soul (or multi-faceted soul) and life force, the belief in the existence of noncorporeal or supernatural spirits who can affect human lives, the belief in a spirit realm or multiple other worlds, the reverence and worship of the dead, the existence and practice of ‘witchcraft’ or ‘sorcery’ (magic used by the layperson to gain influence over or protection from spirits), and the existence of some form of shaman (witch doctor, medicine man, fairy doctor, etc) with supernatural powers and the ability to travel between realms who acts as healer and mediator between humans and spirits.

Fetishism in the anthropological sense means the belief that something seemingly inanimate can be the embodiment of a powerful supernatural spirit (anything from a statue to a tree or a mountain), or that an object can be intentionally inhabited by a spirit (a fetish like a small stone, a pocket carving, a ritual tool, a skull). Some fetishes can be very personal and never shown to another person, where only the owner or family members can look upon it and seek help or powers from the spirit within it (such as root alrauns). Other fetishes belong to the community with standing stones, Slavic god-poles, and ancient Greek crossroad herms being fitting examples.

Totemism is an ancient belief and evidence for it is most easily found in cultural folk tales of creation. Totemism is the belief in an animal, tree, river, supernatural spirit, or other animate being as the original ancestor, creator god, or teacher/benefactor of a clan or tribe and used as its symbol. This belief may be most familiar within North American Native tribes who identify as various clans or houses of the raven, eagle, wolf, etc. The indigenous Ainu in Japan and Siberia were largely a bear cult. For the animistic Hmong people of China, it is an ancient warrior ancestor named Chiyou who is revered as the founder of their tribe, but their creator god Nplooj Lwg is a frog. Each tribe has its own history, stories, songs, symbolism, and physical representations of their totem (i.e. idols, masks, and ceremonial costumes). The belief in totemism is spread further than we may realize. For example, one of my familial Scottish clans once believed they were children of the Yew tree and it has been used as their totem and symbol for longer than there is written record of. You won’t find it on the coat of arms (a modern invention), but the curious belief persisted into modern day.

Shamanism is not animism. Shamanism is a practice found within cultures with animistic belief systems. Shamans are the leaders, healers, and spirit intermediaries of their animist tribe. They have supernatural abilities that allow them to work with spirits, work against spirits, heal relationships with spirits, heal physical damage or illness caused by spirits, and the ability to travel between our physical world and the dream world, the spirit world, the world of the dead and safely back again.

Ancestor worship is another universal commonality between animistic peoples and involves the belief in the existence of the soul after death which leads to an entire cult of ancestor reverence and worship within each culture. Where ancestor veneration is found, there is also a heavy importance and reverence placed on family, tribe, and elders. Ancestor worship is tenacious and survives conversion to other religions. Catholics still have an active ancestor cult through the worship of saints and the celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Buddhism and Shintoism both have a heavy focus on ancestor reverence and Japanese and Chinese Christians still actively practice ancestor veneration and maintain family ancestor shrines. It fascinates me that animism seems to always be bedfellows with ancestor worship. It makes sense to honour the spirits of the dead when following a practice so deeply rooted in working with spirits. It isn’t even debated in indigenous cultures, the ancestor cult is simply there alongside the people’s animism. The perfect example from Europe being the fairy-faith prevalent throughout many localities which is the combined belief in inhuman nature spirits and the spirits of the dead. Where you find the fairy-faith you find animism, and where you find animism you find ancestor worship.

The Rituals of Animism

The belief in a world full of spirits within animism leads to very specific sets of rituals with similar formulas followed across cultures. There will always be cultural differences in details and etiquette, but the ritual formulas usually contain similar steps. Before anything is done within an animist community, a ceremony is performed to ask permission of a specific set of spirits and to see if the results of the action will be favourable.

Whether you want to go hunting and foraging in the forest, fishing in a river, cut down a tree, build a new house, or ask approval of the ancestors to marry, you would first perform these steps:

  • Go to where the spirit(s) live (they can’t hear you if you’re not nearby).
  • Declare your intent aloud and request permission from the ruling spirit(s) of said place.
  • Submit a suitable and respectful offering to said spirit(s) and hope it is accepted.
  • Flatter the hell out of the spirit(s) with sweet words and songs (this can be the offering).
  • Ask for a specific and realistic sign of approval (the calls of animals, rain, or perform divination).
  • If you don’t receive the sign or something goes wrong, don’t do the thing.
  • If you receive the sign and everything seems sunshine and roses, go do the thing.
  • When you return from doing the thing successfully, thank the spirit(s) and leave a bigger offering.

Another step sometimes included is to threaten the spirit(s) which is mostly unheard of in modern Pagan and magical traditions, but very common in folk religions and animistic indigenous cultures. It has to be a good threat though and you have to know which spirits you can get away with threatening and which ones it would be incredibly disrespectful to threaten. Common threats include the withholding of offerings until a petition is granted or that you will tattle on the spirit to a fearsome boogeyman or the equivalent of the spirit’s mom or boss.

Purification & Blessing

Other common ceremonies are of purification and blessing and they will often go hand in hand with the formula above. Purification of the body and soul being performed before approaching spirits so one goes to them physically and spiritually clean as a sign of respect and also to remove any negative influences that may interfere with the petitioner’s intent. A ceremony of blessing is performed before any action is taken to help influence the best possible outcome whether the action is a journey, a marriage, a new baby, building a new house, or as simple as weaving cloth, going fishing, or cooking a meal. The Carmina Gadelica, a collection of oral incantations from Scotland from the late 1800s, is full of such rites of blessing covering everything from churning butter and blessing new livestock to waking up in the morning and going to bed at night. Despite some Catholic imagery and wording, most of the incantations are sung or recited in the hope that fairies will stay away and not mess up people’s work or daily life.

Alignment

There is no real technical term for this belief and its rites. Alignment is the practice of attempting to more closely align yourself with a spirit whether it is an animal, plant, or ancestor. This can be achieved by ingesting or smoking a plant (or rubbing on a flying ointment) during ceremony to better connect to that plant or to a greater forest spirit, crafting a fetish from an animal claw or tooth to wear to imbue oneself with the powers of said animal, or even the ancient practice of cannibalizing the dead to re-absorb their soul and power into the community. Traditional indigenous ceremonies involving costumes and masks depicting sacred animals and supernatural spirits which involve dancing and mimicking the animals and spirits are also a form of alignment which a modern Wiccan would recognize as being similar in intent to drawing down the Moon.

The philosophy is simply: the closer you are to the intended spirit and the more you work with it, the more you take on attributes and powers associated with it. The more you work with the dead and are around death, the easier it will be to commune with the dead. The more you actively work with an animal spirit, the more you will take on its positive attributes and be able to call it to your aid. Alignment also shows respect as you are consciously seeking out a relationship with spirit through actions and offerings which will likely result in reciprocation from the spirit until it becomes a familiar, ally, or helper.

The Evil Eye

Rituals that involve deflecting or counteracting the evil eye also stem from animism and its belief in the existence of intentional and unintentional sorcery by both common people or supernatural means. The belief in the evil eye is found world wide and across cultures and it can be inflicted by humans, the dead, spirits, and deities. It can be an envious neighbour sending you hateful vibes over how awesome your milking cow is or a case of elfshot caused by an angry svartálfr. The belief in the evil eye can be so prevalent and strong that an entire community will base its ethics and etiquette around avoiding the evil eye by practicing humility and the deflection of praise. It was once very common in Ireland and Scotland to shout a warning and an apology simultaneously whenever emptying the dirty washing bucket or chamber pot outside so any nearby spirits had a chance to get out of the way rather than getting splashed with filth and cursing you for being disrespectful.

Protection

It is not a common belief of animistic peoples that spirits are generally benevolent and mean us well, it is in fact the opposite. Spirits are to be appeased to prevent harm, spirits are to be kept at a safe distance, and spirits are to be protected against by any means necessary. Spirits are considered benevolent, malevolent, chaotic, or neutral with the benevolent being the rarest and usually birthed from beneficial long-term relationships between humans and spirits. The pervasiveness and endless variety of protective charms and talismans found throughout time and different cultures demonstrates how much emphasis humankind has put on the need to be protected from harm, illness, spirits, demons, ghosts, and fairies.

Protection can be in the form of a ceremony or in the form of a consecrated talisman one is meant to wear or hang in one’s home. It is painting your face white before travelling to the underworld, wrapping yourself in an animal hide before visiting the spirit world, wearing a mask or making loud, offensive noises to scare away evil spirits, the burning of bonfires on dark liminal nights, the creation of spirit traps, the burning of special herbs, or the wearing of multi-coloured clothing or mirrored clothing to deflect spirits. Animistic rites of protection can be anything from a holy person blessing someone with powers of protection in a ceremony, a talisman being crafted and consecrated to protect a person, a family or a home, to an entire community dressing up as demons and processing through the town to scare away spirits and monsters for the coming year (yes, the seasonal Krampus parades in Europe!).

A big part of protection is prevention. Animistic cultures tend to try to keep spirits away from human homes, human settlements, agricultural areas, livestock, holy places, and roads and paths. Protections are put up to keep spirits out, spirits are verbally told they are not welcome, and more respectfully, places are designated for unwanted spirits to have for themselves and have offerings left to appease them (much like how outdwellers are treated in modern Druidry). I think we can all learn about having firm boundaries from animistic practices. You don’t invite the dark fairy to Sleeping Beauty’s baby blessing, but you better make sure to send her a nice gift basket for your rudeness! Only the spirits that you trust and are known to mean you well are invited into one’s home and to a community’s ceremonies. These welcome spirits are usually restricted to the family or tribe’s totems and ancestors and even then they have very specific names they are called by to make sure the right spirits show up an no harm is caused and specific etiquette is followed so these spirits feel respected and willing to be present and bestow blessings to the people.

Comparing Animism Within Paganism & Mainstream Cultures

“Animism is a monist metaphysical stance, based upon the idea that mind and matter are not distinct and separate substances but an integrated reality, rooted in nature.”

Emma Restall Orr

Is animism Paganism? Considering that members of the Pagan community can barely agree on a definition of Pagan/ism for themselves this is not a simple question to tackle. So, instead of looking at the Pagan definition of Pagan, let’s look at the world’s definition of Pagan, which, across most dictionaries and encyclopedias, is “a follower or community practicing a polytheistic religion”. Under this definition, no, animism is not synonymous with Paganism because animism is not polytheism. It does, however, include the belief in many worlds and many spirits, but not necessarily the prescribed worship of them. Sometimes the spirits may be organized into categories (such as water, earth, sky, as well as mundane and supernatural spirits), but there are no set pantheons as a Pagan would recognize. Every cult of animism is different as one tribe would most highly revere the bear as it’s main “deity” and another may most intensely focus their beliefs and rituals around one type of tree. In all honesty, a lot of traditional animistic practices involve avoiding and appeasing spirits rather than seeking them out or worshipping them. Animism is more about respect for spirits and the appeasement of spirits to prevent harm or their involvement in human affairs.

The better questions to ask are: “does Paganism stem from animism?” and “does Paganism contain elements of animism?”. The answer is yes to both. The issue we come across in attempting to cross-compare religions with animism is that most cultures in history who practiced animism had no name for it and no definition for it. It is simply the original and enduring spirituality of humankind. It’s something you do, not something you write down. Despite how ancient its beliefs and practices are, animism is a modern term derived from Latin and coming from academia. People within the Pagan and witchcraft communities have only recently started to adopt it and discuss it. Sometimes it takes us a while to find the right word to describe what we believe and do. The traditional witches and new agers all swarmed to shamanism before many figured out that it’s a hard and not so common thing to be a shaman and what they were actually doing was animism. Many contemporary or ‘core’ shamans use the term shamanism as well when many of them really mean animism. Animism is an ideal word. It is an inoffensive term, it isn’t appropriated from another culture, it doesn’t have specific dogma behind it, and anyone can use it whether they are Buddhist, Christian, Heathen, Shintoist, Wiccan, or even atheist.

Animism is not a religion. Animism is the primal foundation of all religion.

Why is there no set definition of animism in the Pagan community and why does animism feel like a newcomer when, in fact, it contains the most ancient spiritual beliefs of humankind? Because animism is not a religion and does not sit at the same table as the big theisms of monotheism, polytheism, panentheism and their kin. There are no holy books, no churches, no doctrines or dogma, and only a handful of books and articles directed to would-be practitioners coming only from a subculture niche-market within the Pagan community. The entire bulk of information on animistic belief comes from the academic study of indigenous cultures (anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, and ethnobotany), academic studies of plants and animals (botany and zoology), and mainstream culture. A good chunk of these studies pre-2000 comes from the outdated boy’s club of anthropology who did not paint indigenous cultures in a flattering light, often drawing the conclusion that animism is for the primitive, savage, less intelligent, and less knowledgeable people. They were so very wrong and animism is currently undergoing a massive mainstream resurgence with the potential to render eco-centered NeoPaganism obsolete. Modern science it leading us as a whole back to animism. The irony is perfectly glorious.

It is the tendency of the Pagan community to denigrate the mainstream and separate themselves from it. We should stop doing that. We are a part of the whole too. Whether you like it or not, you are part of the mainstream (the dictionary definition, not the negative Urban Dictionary definition). Animism is currently taking a much bigger foothold in the mind of the ordinary person than it ever has to Pagans. Somewhere along the line, Pagans became sidetracked and self-absorbed with the aesthetic trappings of our community and its practices and forgot about why we ended up in Paganism in the first place. Wasn’t it to find an alternative spiritual belief? One that honours the earth, nature, and our connection to spirit? When did the eco-centredness of the Paganism of the 60s and 70s dissipate? Probably at the same time the mainstream became tired with hearing the same messages about saving the earth over and over again in media and film. Why does every day Joe and every non-Pagan herbalist I’ve ever met have a better grasp of animism than the Pagan community (many of whom are unconsciously animists)? Well, when did we stop looking up from our own fantasy world to see what was going on around us? Animistic belief and philosophy is currently being fed through mainstream media to every Dick and Jane. It’s time for us to pay attention too. Animism is here, spilling over and soaking into everything and everyone like the massive spring floods inundating my county right now.

It is a good thing. This could be so important to our survival and the preservation of the earth! It’s time to stop looking solely within our tiny niche subculture and step out to look at the big picture. Never forget history is being made as we live and breathe. The changes in spiritual movements and philosophical beliefs happening right now will affect our long-term future. This is potentially a very big deal.

Animism in the Media

If you don’t believe that animism is becoming household philosophy and infiltrating mass media with absolutely no direct relation to the Pagan movement, let’s take a brief look at the news shall we? This is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg when it comes to animism in the news. Seriously, I can’t even count how many articles I found on the sentience and intelligence of plants, trees, fungi, insects, and animals, the belief in spirits, as well as the practice of ancestor worship.

BBC News: Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees?

“We are convinced that plants are cognitive and intelligent, so we use techniques and methods normally used to study cognitive animals.”

Business Insider: Researchers Have Found Plants Know They Are Being Eaten

“A new study from the University of Missouri shows plants can sense when they are being eaten and send out defense mechanisms to try to stop it from happening.”

Orion Magazine: The Axis and the Sycamore

“This is what we do, we humans. We came down from the trees and now we destroy them. The older I get, the harder it is to take this; the harder it is even to look at it. It is long overdue that we start the restitution.”

Psychology Today: Are Plants Entering the Realm of the Sentient?

“When plants seem to be behaving like animals, we must reconsider whether intelligence truly is an exclusively animal trait.”

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: Are Trees Sentient Beings?

“Peter Wohlleben argues that to save the world’s forests we must first recognize that trees are ‘wonderful beings’ with innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees.”

New York Magazine: Our Behavior Toward Animals Hasn’t Caught Up to the Science

“Not only must we seriously address sources of human-induced suffering, but we must also work to create a world in which animals are free to live their own lives and make their own choices. After all, humans aren’t the only intelligent beings on Earth.”

Quartz: People who talk to pets, plants, and cars are actually totally normal according to science

“For centuries, our willingness to recognize minds in nonhumans has been seen as a kind of stupidity, a childlike tendency toward anthropomorphism and superstition that educated and clear-thinking adults have outgrown. I think this view is both mistaken and unfortunate. Recognizing the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognizing a mind in other animals, a god, or even a gadget. It is a reflection of our brain’s greatest ability rather than a sign of our stupidity.”

Quartz: Insects may be able to feel fear, anger, and empathy after all

“To be strictly honest, we still can’t say to what degree insects experience emotions yet, although these early experiments are certainly setting the foundations for a future where we recognize that all animals have emotions of some sort.”

The Independent: Fish are sentient animals who form friendships and experience positive emotions

“What this study shows is certainly they change the way they perceive their environment when others are present, which suggests they might be cognitively more complex than we originally thought. Maybe because of that people will become more aware of their needs and welfare issues. I think if it helps, it’s great.”

Huffington Post: Law of Mother Earth: A Vision from Bolivia

“Mother Earth has the following rights: to life, to the diversity of life, to water, to clean air, to equilibrium, to restoration, and to pollution-free living. And it further outlines the obligations of the State and the people to these principles and rights as a binding societal duty.”

Mother Nature Network: Can human rights save Mother Nature?

“Our current legal system is anthropocentric, extremely human-centered, believing that all of nature exists purely to serve human needs. Contrast this with a holistic framework of law that puts our existence on this planet within its ecological context. Ecosystems and other species would have legal personality, like corporations, with the right to exist, to thrive, to regenerate, and to play their role in the web of life.”

The Guardian: Now rivers have the same legal status as humans, we must uphold their rights

“What does it mean for a river to have the rights of a person? If the most fundamental human right is the right to life, does it mean the river should be able to flow free, unfettered by obstructions such as dams? Does the right extend to all creatures in the river system?”

Time Magazine: Tribes appease spirits after tourists strip naked on Malaysia’s sacred mountain

“Did a group of foreigners who took their clothes off at the summit of Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu cause an earthquake? It’s up to the spirits to decide, according to the Lotud tribe of Sabah state.”

Resonate: Why Thailand Shrines Offer Strawberry Fanta to Ghosts

“The dark spirits won’t go so far as to kill you but if Thai people have accidents, people say it’s because they didn’t give offerings to the spirits. You don’t take care of them? They won’t take care of you. You’ll start arguing with your family. Stuff will go missing. You’ll fall ill…”

Sixth Tone: Why Bans on Paper Money Will Anger China’s Ghosts

“Several provinces have proposed eliminating the practice of burning paper money during ancestor worship. Some local governments have even banned its burning and manufacture outright, while also taking steps to discourage feudal superstitions such as burning paper idols made to resemble people, horses, or cattle. This is a foolish move, in my opinion, as it strikes a heavy blow to the roots of deep-seated traditional belief systems.”

Morocco World News: Timeless Belief in Saints and Spirits in Morocco

“Despite Morocco’s increasing modernization and industrialization, saints are still celebrated, and spirits continue to be an influence in everyday cultural practices. The Moroccan people continue to celebrate saints and spirits by preserving holy places, holding festivals, and observing practices to avoid the wrath of spirits.”

BBC Magazine: Living with the Dead

“To outsiders, the idea of keeping a dead man’s body on show at home feels quite alien. Yet for more than a million people from this part of the world – the Toraja region of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia – it’s a tradition dating back centuries. Here, animist beliefs blur the line between this world and the next, making the dead very much present in the world of the living.”

Animism in Mainstream Publishing

Now let’s take a look at some mainstream and best-selling books with heavy themes of animism and its role in anthropology and ecology. The titles may not always include the term animism, but the contents are specifically animistic. I left out non-Pagan books on ancestor worship as that would require a whole post on its own just to list them! I also left out academic anthropology books as again that would require it’s own reading list.

Academic

Animals

Okay, there were a lot more than this, but let’s keep it to these three well-recommended ones.

Plants, Trees & Fungi

Animism, Rewilding & Ecology

Animism in Pagan Publishing

Lastly, let’s take a look at books published by the Pagan community intended to focus on animism:

Glennie Kindred (who I love) almost gets us there, almost. There are also the works of Lupa Greenwolf, a main proponent and organizer of the Otherkin movement which she’s since distanced herself from (think Pagan furries but with dragons and fairies too). She mainly focuses on writing about totemism and animal familiars.

I’ve obviously left out the truly terrible books on communing with angels, fairies, and nature spirits (I just couldn’t give them free advertising). Notice only one of these books actually has “animism” in the title… well, subtitle. If you want more than that, then you have to get into fairy territory which can get very woo woo and away from the reality of animism very fast if you aren’t careful. Or, you need to look at books written by the druidic and contemporary shamanic communities — which again do not directly mention or describe animism, but do talk about working with nature and spirits in a very animistic way. I didn’t have much luck finding serious Pagan books on the actual practice of ancestor veneration, but instead have found a lot of goth-esque books on necromancy, sigh. You guys are stuck with The Pagan Book of Living & Dying for now.

Pretty sad when you compare the list of mainstream books to Pagan ones, hey?  It’s like the Pagan community dances around animism because many of us have never heard the term and none of us are exactly sure what it even is or if we’re doing it… If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to define animism to a member of the Pagan, witchcraft, and shamanic communities, I would be significantly richer. It’s just another “ism” under the umbrella of Paganism, isn’t it? It’s just another word for shamanism, isn’t it? Alas, no. It is the “ism” all religions were birthed from. We Pagans have a tendency to label anything with magical potency that is outside of the Judeo-Christian realm as “pagan” whether it is or not. It’s just not the right term though, especially coming from academic or mainstream standpoints.

It’s time to open ourselves up to the fact that a lot of spiritual practitioners we really want to define as pagan aren’t actually pagan, don’t want to be ‘capital P’ Pagans, don’t want or need to be considered under the umbrella term of Paganism, and don’t want to be a part of the modern Pagan community (this includes many cultural traditions such as rootwork and Vodou along with non-Pagan polytheistic religions like Hinduism). More and more people want their spirituality without the velvet robes, festival garb, mystical accessories, foreign lexicons, magical names, and woo-woo-ness in general. Animism is the simple path away from this to a place of common ground. It requires nothing but yourself and what already exists in a traditional culture, in nature, and in the ethereal realms.

Animism doesn’t require proselytization, it appeals to a mass audience without lifting a finger or even being directly named.

Once upon a time I introduced a group of my friends from the Pagan/Wiccan community to local shamanic community who were very animistic in nature and, lo and behold, many of them converted within a year with more following in consecutive years. Why? They had never known those alternate beliefs and practices were even an option. No one had told them, they didn’t come across other options from their teachers and elders, and none of the Pagan literature really talked about alternatives. The living practice of animism filled a void they didn’t even know existed in their Pagan practice. Some members of the local Pagan community were not happy. In trying to build a bridge between the two communities I had lessened their numbers. We can too often be crabs in the bucket desperately trying to pull each other back in, but instead we should let people be free to open their minds to new ways of thought and different ways of defining their spirituality and how it relates to the everyday world. Stop trying to collect every spiritual belief under the umbrella of Paganism to increase our numbers and fall into the trap of validating that ours is the one true way. Allow a massive diversity to flourish. Beauty is found in diversity. Maybe it’s time to apply some principles of permaculture to our views of spiritual beliefs and see faiths as ecosystems with each one playing an important role to a community and the whole of humanity.

Let’s have another example. Remember that time I was forcibly removed as keynote speaker for a polytheism conference because I said I was an animist in a podcast interview… even though beforehand I had told the conference board members (who requested me to be the speaker in the first place) that I was not a polytheist but an animist just like my website said and “were they sure they wanted me to be the keynote?” There was no opportunity for me to speak for myself, I was simply informed I was removed and didn’t get a chance to explain that one could believe in the existence of deities without feeling the need to worship them and, alternately, one could be an animist and work with deity simultaneously. It was a fun PR disaster and a learning opportunity.

Animism and polytheism are seldom found separated in history. Our lack of understanding and ability to define animism and its relation to polytheism is going to continually get us into trouble. We are already at the point where the ‘layperson’ gets it and we don’t. It is time to educate ourselves and each other to prevent future misunderstandings and to prevent us from getting left behind in animism’s wake across the world.

On that note, here is my personal Pagan-friendly recommended reading list in alphabetical order by title. As always, I also encourage you to seek out books on the animism and fairy and folk tales of your own cultural heritage too. Go forth, read, and share!

The Animism Reader

Related Articles by Sarah Anne Lawless

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Managing Magic with Small Children

By | Witchcraft & Magic | 18 Comments

In which friends Sarah and Cin talk about what it’s like to be a witch mom, give tips on how to juggle magic alongside tiny mischief makers, and talk about how to keep in touch with your magical practice when all you want is sleep and quiet.

Sarah Lawless is an animistic witch, writer, and herbalist living in rural Ontario, Canada with her partner Alex, her three year old son, and a baby boy on the way. When she’s not chasing after the kiddo, Sarah works as a forager and herbalist crafting wild edibles and medicinals for her business Fern & Fungi. You could say she’s obsessed with herbalism, ethnobotany, native plants, and permaculture and you’d be correct. Sarah has been an author, teacher, and ritualist within the witchcraft community for the past 12 years and she can often be found teaching classes at herbal conferences and horticultural events as well as hosting rituals at the local Witches’ Sabbat and Kaleidoscope Gathering. Sarah’s idea of downtime usually involves baking sweets, cooking complex recipes, napping, and snuggling up with her man and binge watching Game of Thrones.

Once upon a time when I was childless (which seems very long ago, but has really only been three and a half years), I was a very active witch. I really do mean very active. I had my own personal magical practice working with my familiar spirits and the land, I worked with small groups of friends, I circled with a few large ritual groups, I was on the board of the local pagan festival, I taught workshops, I hosted rituals, I hosted events, and I wrote frequently about the practice of magic. Those who have known me for years will have noticed most of that has either completely stopped for the past few years, or has significantly slowed down.

I had my first son in 2014 and now I am about to have my second son this April. I love being a mom and I love my tiny adorable man who is so clever, funny, helpful, and such a goody-two-shoes, but I never could have imagined how incredibly tired I would be. I’m fairly certain small children have so much energy because they are secretly borrowing it from you! You know going in that babies and kids are going to be hard, but no one can really tell you just how hard until you experience it for yourself. It is a life-changing switch of going from an independent person who mainly has to worry about their own self-care to a parent who has to worry about tiny humans every second of every day… even when said tiny humans are sleeping. Free time is a distant dream as is uninterrupted sleep. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents who babysit or have a good daycare program, then your “free time” becomes “do all the things you couldn’t do with the kiddo around time“. This means: laundry, dishes, house cleaning, emails, banking, groceries, cooking, and other fun tasks of adulting.

It is especially hard if you are a single parent, the other parents is absent or unhelpful, or you don’t have any family to rely on for help… but even if there are two awesome co-parents involved, the idea of fitting your magical practice in alongside parenting can seem daunting and impossible. It can be even harder when you get the fun reality check of discovering your coven, ritual group, and witchy friends are not kid-friendly. You may find yourself consistently sitting at home while the magic happens without you. Your childless friends may think reliable babysitters who are free when you need them fall from the sky, but if you aren’t near family it’s often not an option for many parents. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of friends drop out of their covens or the pagan community after they had children. Sometimes they come back, many times they do not.

I didn’t have the best experience when my first son was a baby. I didn’t have a reliable partner, I was thousands of miles from family, none of my ritual groups turned out to be baby or kid friendly, and some of my witchy friends even blatantly asked me not to visit them with my baby (this unexpectedly included friends who had their own kids). Isolation is not good when you have little ones and supportive friends, family, and community make all the difference in the world between a happy parent and a depressed parent.

I answered to these issues by leaving behind my pagan community for one that is kid-friendly, moving closer to family (as in 15 minutes away), and then leaving my previous partner who was abusive and not interested in parenting (despite claiming the opposite). I took care of my needs and what is best for my kid. I really miss my magical friends from the West Coast, but we try to keep in touch as best we can. Change can be hard and often painful, but if you find yourself in a similar situation as me, I can tell you now it was worth it.

Where on earth are magical parents supposed to fit in magic? If you don’t have a family-friendly coven and/or an awesome partner or family to help you out so you can attend rituals, coven meetings, and festivals, you are going to need to focus on building and maintaining a personal magical practice at home. In the borrowed words of my father: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

The Magic of Birth and Babies

If you are pregnant, remember that birthing IS magic. You are becoming a doorway between the spirit and physical realms. You’re about to turn a spirit into a corporeal being — that is some heavy shit! Look into traditional rituals that prepare mamma and baby for the birth and the big changes that are about to happen. The blessing way ceremony popular in new age circles may verge on appropriation (what doesn’t these days?), but make it your own using your beliefs and practices from your own magical or cultural tradition. For both of my pregnancies, friends put together simple, personalized ceremonies that were really beautiful.

If you’ve recently had a baby there are many ceremonies you can perform which mainly consist of blessing and protecting the baby and new mother. You’ve just ripped a hole open between the worlds, you’d better ward it! You can look to cultural traditions or pull a rite from your magical tradition. A baby blessing usually involves holy water and also often the official naming of the baby. Baptism is pretty pagan if you look into its ancient history. You don’t need a coven, you can do this yourself or with your partner and a small group of friends.

Craft yourself a protection talisman and a birthing talisman. Willow placed under the birthing bed is supposed to help with the pain, but there is a lot of folklore and superstitions you could mine for information. Talismans to protect babies and small children are very common across cultures as they are believed to be more susceptible to illness, evil spirits, pesky pixies, and the evil eye. Research can also help you keep up your magical work so I’m not going to do it for you here!

Daily Devotions

So you have a baby or a toddler and not much free time, but you can still try to do one small thing daily for yourself and your deities or spirits. You can work on maintaining an altar or shrine with offerings of incense, libations, flowers, or food. I try to light good incense one to two times a day for my spirits. My current partner helps with this, which is awesome, and the toddler loves to help by blowing out the flame when I light the incense sticks. I also refresh the cut flowers on my ancestral altar every 1-2 weeks. My ancestral shrine currently gets more love than my main witchy altar, but I’m working on evening things out.

You can attempt to meditate once a day (or at least sit for a moment and do absolutely nothing at all) even if it’s only for 5-15 minutes. The best time for meditation is when the kiddo is asleep at naptime or bedtime. If you try to meditate when they’re awake, it’s often going to be as bad as trying to take a phone call while your toddler acts out to get your attention (when just a minute before they were completely ignoring you). That being said my partner is Buddhist and has started meditating in front of the kiddo and instead of just pestering him, the toddler has decided to join him in just “sitting” and demands his own cushion. It’s pretty cute.

Maybe you have a favourite piece of devotional liturgy or a litany you like to recite that makes you feel holy or more connected to your magic. Something easy to memorize that you can repeat once a day at a certain time. I also often found myself forgetting the words to lullabies and more frequently sing my son to sleep with soothing magical chants to the point that he requests them now that he can form full sentences. Eventually you can sing them together. Little ones love songs and singing and most don’t care whether you can carry a tune or not – they certainly can’t!

Digging Deeper for Monthly Magic

Even practicing something once monthly can be hard, but it’s worth it. What is one thing that is important, that you promised you would do, that you really shouldn’t let lapse now that you are a parent? That one day or one hour of re-connection to spirit is incredibly nourishing to your soul. You need it, so make it happen! It could be your monthly coven meeting and ritual, it could be your local open sabbat ritual, or it could be something personal. I perform my solitary full moon rite every full moon and try to keep it simple and the same to make it manageable but still meaningful. It’s the one thing I promised I would do. If I lapse, man do my spirits get pissed! They don’t care how much I need to sleep and the bright full moon shining in my face at night, waking me up, certainly doesn’t either. If you have commitments to spirits you work with, it’s in your best interest to keep up with them. Apologize sincerely and leave good offerings when you fail.

I also tried to attend a local new moon women’s ritual, but couldn’t keep up. It’s something I know I can try to go back to. If I add something else to my monthly practice, it’s usually divination. I’m not a daily card puller, so once a month works well for me to bring out a favourite tarot deck. When the kiddos are older I will attempt to add my dark moon rite back into my regular practice, but right now juggling full and dark moon rituals would be too overwhelming. Know your limit, stay within it!

Magic on the Fly

If it’s just been too long since you’ve felt magical and witchy or your small, daily devotions aren’t nourishing you enough, then it’s time to step it up. Try to get a night off with a babysitter or invite your magical friends over to your place after the kiddo’s bedtime and have a good magical session and social catch-up with your friends. Do a simple ritual, read tarot or tea leaves, perform a needed spell, or go outside and soak up actual moonlight and starlight. Put aside the time and do it. Re-embrace your pre-kid witchy self.

Not everyone has witchy friends to call on or at least not ones that are nearby enough to come visit. Skype or face-time those far away magical best friends and talk about your magical practice and all things woo-woo. Sometimes even just talking about magic with others who practice and get it is immensely helpful and invigorating. Also, it’s nice to talk to adults, adults who talk about adult things using adult words –especially adults that don’t mention toilet training, diapers, or the hell of toddler bedtime at all. Forget you’re a mom or dad for a while and hang out with your fellow magical people.

If you’re really alone or are just a very private person, then it’s time to get your witch on. Get those hands dirty and do some spell work. It doesn’t matter if it’s something serious that needs doing or just refreshing your household protection charms — get down and dirty and do it. Make talismans for protection, luck, money, gardening, or sleep. Perform candle spells. Do a house cleansing and blessing. Take a ritual / spiritual cleansing bath complete with candles and herbs and oils. Craft herbal concoctions like salves, incense, magical oils, or a dream pillow. Break out those occult books you’ve been hoarding since your teens and mine them for crafty hands-on ideas. Steal some that super precious “free-time” and do one small thing.

A Note On Precautions

So you’re a parent now and are responsible for the safety of tiny people. Be smart and responsible. You can’t shit where you eat anymore. This means you don’t curse in your house, you don’t summon dangerous entities in your house, you don’t open portals to unsafe places in your house. You don’t do gorey or kinky rituals in your house the kids could walk in on that might scar them for life. Now you have to do it at a friend’s house or take it outside – preferably completely off your property. Go find a crossroad or a spot in a park or the woods for your witchery. Save some things until you are kid-free at your local pagan festival. Seriously, don’t even let some spirits or deities know you have kids. Children’s innocent souls are tender and delicious.

You’re pregnant? Yeah, the hedgecrossing wherever/whenever you want, the shape-shifting, and any possessory work is going to take a big hit. Reel it in until your bun in the oven turns into a toddler. I still do some dream work, but it’s much tamer and safer than my pre-mom, pre-pregnant self practiced (even unconsciously). Then there’s that awkward moment when your witchy friend’s kids and husband, who are tired of being haunted, ask you to “talk” to mom about her loose boundaries with spirits and come over and shut all the doors to the otherworld in the house whether she likes it or not and give her a talking to. Oh the magical parents I’ve known who have done dumb things…. Letting ghosts in the house on purpose or getting possessed and speaking in tongues is not going to impress your kids.  No, just no. You’re a parent now. Ward all the things and check those wards at least monthly.

Be cautious, but no need to go overboard. A simple spell candle, a divination, a blessing, the crafting of talismans, consecrations of tools, etc are not going to be a big deal to do in your home when you have children. Just save those Hekate devotions for the crossroad and the necromancy for the graveyard or the forest. Keep those baneful herbs and any fetiches or tools that can’t be handled by anyone but you locked up and out of reach. As my partner would say: “common sense, yo.”


 

Cin of Stone Spiral Creations is an experienced practitioner of the Craft with over 22 years of study in both group and solitary rituals. Growing up she played with astrology, tarot cards, and crystals in her Grandma’s kitchen. In her teen years she began to practice Wicca.  She has been involved in a long-standing coven and a Sabbat group, both based on Wiccan Traditions, and has been both a leader and participant in public rituals, classes, and events. Since moving from Canada to Wisconsin, USA, Cin has been working on building a coven and getting to know the local community.

By day Cin lives the cube life of an office worker. Evenings and weekends she can be found cuddling or chasing after her baby son. Cin loves to take photographs and will often be distracted by some tiny detail that she needs to capture. Cin is also a geek who loves to collect My Little Ponies, dolls, or anything sparkly or cute that catches her eye. She loves to do crafts; she sews, does embroidery, scrapbooks and adds large amounts of glitter to things (some of these things end up in her Etsy shop). Cin relaxes with a good book and a large bowl of popcorn.

Tarot cardBecoming a mom has been an amazing journey. I never thought I would be here, but I have learned that the universe throws you curveballs on occasion. I’ve always stated that if I had kids I would let them be free to explore religion and find the path that works best for them. Now, here I am, a new mom, trying to figure out how to have time for my spiritual needs in a way that works for my family and in the small amount of time I do get to have. I want to figure out how to let my son see this side of me, but I want to do it in a way that lets him know my path is mine, his dad has a different path, and he can find whichever way works for him.

I have many worries and fears. People often say that a child raised without spiritual purpose is lost. I never felt that way, but that is me. I want to offer some sort of guide post to help him find his way, but I also have to be careful. His sister is being raised Christian and I have promised to never mention my faith to her. It means I have to figure out how to juggle all these things and keep it under wraps every second weekend in my own home. I also don’t want him to get to school age and feel left out when all his friends talk about Church or to look weird if he talks about the things we do at home. A delicate balancing act is about to begin.

While I was pregnant I just didn’t have the energy to do much so my serious spiritual practices stopped. The first few months after he was born was a time of adjusting and learning to take care of his needs. I have slowly started to bring back my deeper work, but it can be hard when I am used to giving everyone else what they need before seeing to the things I need myself.

Here are some things that have helped to motivate me, inspire me or some general tips and tricks.

Social Media

Be inspired by Instagram, blogs, FB, twitter but never compare your practices! I also find if I want to snap a photo of something on my altar I then feel I should actually do something. I’ve made it a rule, no empty photos. If I post my tarot cards, I do a reading, if I post a pretty altar shot I take time to pray.

Schedule Time

I try to look at the month and plan out what nights I will have more time. Schedule chore nights so that you can have time for yourself. After the kids are asleep is a great time to meditate or do some divination or journaling.

Tracker

I am very motivated by accomplishments. I use a bullet journal and within it I have a daily tracker. Each day has several items on it that I want to be better about doing, things drinking enough water, eating more vegetables, and being Spiritual. As I get to the end of the day I start to figure out what I can do to check that box off.  Figure out what motivates you and use it.

Be Flexible and Simple

Understand that you might have to pause that invocation to feed a hungry baby. Let anyone you work with know what potential interruptions might happen so everyone is on the same page.

If you feel like you don’t have time for a full ritual – pull a tarot card daily to meditate on. Make a note of it in your day planner or snap a pic with your phone so you can reference if you need to at various times of the day. Take a few mins on your lunch break or in the bathroom or wherever you have a few moments to yourself.

Before bed light a candle and pray. Connect to the divine however you feel most comfortable.

Chant while you push the stroller to raise some energy. Or while you rock the baby, or do the dishes, or the laundry etc. Use the time your hands might be busy as a time to raise energy with your voice. Focus it and then send it to aid you in your workings.

Set an alarm on your phone and when it goes off, pause and practice gratitude or work on a visualization etc.

Traditions

Build family traditions that work around whichever holidays you celebrate. Keep them simple enough for your family and friends to take part in, but witchy enough that you can tap into the symbolism and feel like you celebrated.

In our family we plan to make “Sun cookies” on the solstices. We created a Wassailing tradition to bless the yard and our gardens. We celebrate Lent for my husband and during that time I work on sacrifice and shadow work.

Take Turns

When my husband needs some time to relax I watch the baby. When I need time he takes him. Work together to make sure everyone gets a healthy amount of time to do the things they enjoy.

There will be moments where it is a struggle. There will be months that go by with no serious work. Get creative and see what you can do in the short moments you do have.

Last night I had my candles lit, the incense burning and I was ready to get to work. I heard my son wake up and my husband go to get him. I waited, but after a few minutes I could hear the cry of “mamma”. I blew out the candles and headed up to rock and soothe my little boy. We sat in the dark and snuggled. I could smell my incense on my skin and as he slowly fell back to sleep I paused and breathed deeply. I sent out a pray of gratitude and connected. This wasn’t the meditation I had planned, but it was magic of its own.

bosch

Awake from the Dream to the Nightmare of Reality

By | Ecological Consciousness | 23 Comments

“We are pitted against an industrial industry which fabricates our dreams for us and insinuates them through our culture and our language.

These dreams dreamt for us are destroying the very fabric of the planet. They are the projection of a civilization in utter crisis. In a terrifying circle we are being forced into deeper dream to cope with this. As witches we must dare to confront this rather than seek comfort.

We must look at our world as it is, and it is a desperate and painful ordeal to undergo. Yet the pain of the world is what we are masking by accepting the false dreams of our fallen empire whose jaws still devour even in its death throes.”

~ Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft p.42

I have grown tired of sitting silently watching the world burn.  I was quiet through the abuse of two narcissistic ex common law partners who were accepted members of my spiritual community. I didn’t want to hurt their lives, burn bridges, or come off as a bitter harpy my community would write off as crazy so I bit my tongue when I should have screamed to others how they were hurting me and would continue hurting others.  How I had left one abuser and, after a couple years of healing, ended up with another who was even worse. I felt weak and stupid, like it was my fault. But they lie so well, it could happen to anyone. I have only spoken out recently to my friends about what I went through, the years of verbal and emotional abuse, the genuine fear that next time he wouldn’t punch the wall or a stranger, but me. How both men told me I was the crazy one, it was all in my head… they weren’t doing anything wrong. I am a strong woman and it crushed my soul to be fooled twice. It is not fair to have to be so strong, to have to stand up to your abuser, to stand up for your own sanity on a daily basis. I still live in fear that it will happen to me again.

And now I sit here in the middle of nowhere in the apocalyptic, snow-covered landscape of rural Canada and watch it happen to entire nations of people. I weep as I realize humanity is the sociopathic narcissist spouse and the Earth is our abused victim. I weep as I realize our governments and the big corporations who fund them are the sociopathic narcissistic spouse to we, the common people. Nature screams for help, for an end to its repeated torture, and the oppressed people cry out for their plight to be heard. But the screams fall on deaf ears devoid of empathy for even we, the people of the Earth, have become so disconnected from Nature and from each another that we have become accomplices to monsters.

The Nightmares of Nature

I’ve seen the photos of the horrifying tar sands of Alberta. I watched our former Canadian prime minister remove environmental protections on national parks and conservation areas so they can be mined for resources and have pipelines built through them. I’ve watched oil pipelines continuously be signed off on by federal governments without the approval of local governments or the First Nations whose lands the lines will be built through. I’ve watched entire towns and Native reserves be paid off so they would be forced to agree to pipelines because they are too poor to say no to the bribe. It wasn’t a distant reality for me, it happened to my beloved sacred Burnaby Mountain where I lived. Despite its status as a conservation area, trees were cut, helicopter landing pads were built, samples were taken, and a pipeline will be built right through the heart of the mountain out to the sea inlet on the other side so tankers can ship oil to China.

Protesters came in droves, local residents fought back, First Nations set up a camp, and even the city mayor and other local officials protested and took legal action against it despite the risk of their going to prison. The police showed up in riot gear and the protester camp was dismantled. People did go to prison. None of it mattered, the pipeline was just approved by our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This pipeline will go right through densely populated residential areas, elementary and high schools, a major university, and an environmental conservation area with a natural aquifer that feeds salmon habitats. We have all heard of the movement protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and while it is the biggest protest against pipeline construction, it is by far not the only one. This is happening throughout North America, as are spills and explosions from existing pipelines, some of which have been covered up so they would not affect other pipeline projects undergoing the approval process. What is the local consensus? “Tell those hippies to stop whining and let the pipeline construction start.” Because apparently only “hippies” care about clean water, clean soil, keeping our protected green spaces green and protected, and not having schools full of children burn to the ground.

We focus on the pipelines, but our environment is under attack from more than big oil and the horrors of fracking. Mountains are being leveled for coal, the earth is being mined to depletion, pollution is not being addressed or reduced – not nearly enough to save us. More animal and plant species are becoming extinct every day than we could ever save, than we have ever had record of happening in history. Entire habitats and ecosystems are being destroyed. Dead animals fall from the sky and dead animals wash up on shorelines en masse. Animals starve to death and people starve to death. The earth, sea, and sky are all contaminated with the refuse of our greed and industrialization. The EPA has been gagged and scientists have been gagged – not just in the USA, but also in China and elsewhere. Our addictions to capitalism, progress, growth, and technology will destroy our world and inevitably ourselves.

The Nightmares of Civilization

I watched the UK vote in favour of Brexit based on an anti-immigration platform with a forthcoming repeal of the Human Rights Act. I’ve watched the “migrant crisis” in Europe lead to extreme xenophobia, racial tensions, and violence against immigrants. It foreshadowed the escalation of racist and anti-immigrant views in the USA which were a big factor in Donald Trump winning the presidency.  I’ve watched the Black Lives Matter movement with hope in my heart despite the ensuing violence and bigoted responses. I watched the women march worldwide for their rights in numbers that no protest has ever amassed in history and felt great hope despite even women telling them to stop whining and go home… and then I watched Trump take away American women’s reproductive rights and every American’s right to affordable healthcare only days later.

I am sick of hearing what new horrors against civil rights and human rights Trump’s regime has committed on a daily basis. I’m sick of seeing what rights the state governments decide to take away from their people while Trump is in power. The recent Muslim ban in the US may have been very poorly executed and enforced, but it still happened despite people’s disbelief. I am appalled that the prejudice and violence is bleeding into my own beloved Canada, one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Who will be the next target? All immigrants? First Nations? All non-whites? The LGBTQ community? Journalists? More scientists and academics? The disabled and developmentally challenged? Anyone of a non-Christian religion? No one has the luxury of feeling safe.

It is all so terrible and yet we’ve all been focusing so heavily on what is going on in the USA, Europe, and the UK that we aren’t looking closely enough at Russia’s aggressive actions in the Ukraine and elsewhere, the devastating economic crisis in Venezuela, and the frightening chaos the Middle East which has led to the waves of refugees and anti-immigrant stances and violence in the West. Not to mention we’ve already forgotten the recent revolutions in Libya and Egypt, recent horrific natural disasters that have devastated entire countries, and the ongoing major financial crises worldwide.

Awake and Rise Up

Things are not okay people. We are not going to be okay. The apocalypse isn’t a myth or a possible future, we are living it in the here and now. We have gone too far, we are too many, and we have caused too much harm. This time it won’t just be the fall of an empire mimicking the fall of Rome. It will be the fall of humanity and the destruction of the Earth. All of civilization and all of nature is at risk.

It makes me physically sick to see people who watch it all happening and stay silent and think it’s not their problem. It makes me ill to see people agree with the oppressors and their vile beliefs and actions promoting racism, xenophobia, social injustice, and harm to the environment. It breaks my heart to see people protest injustice in great numbers only to go back to their normal lives of satellite tv, starbucks coffee, yoga, and mindless phone scrolling the day after as if one protest would solve the problem and their work was done; someone else will do the rest. Have we become so numb, so insensitive that we can ignore the pain of other people and the cruelty we enact on Nature? Have we become so dumb or so numb that we cannot see through obvious lies and propaganda?

Don’t you dare sit on your hands and pretend it was enough. Don’t you see this is only the beginning and there is much worse to come? If you don’t remove the comfort of illusion for yourself, it will be violently stripped from you in the short-term future when it is too late for you to act. You are human and you should care what happens to everyone on this planet, not just what happens within your proximity or what you think will affect you. We can’t afford to be selfish and self-centered anymore. We can’t afford to naysay those who stand up to fight oppression and tell them “it’s not what Paganism is about” or “stop it, you’re making us look bad”.  In doing so you are feeding and encouraging the cycle of abuse. You are abusing your privilege and essentially telling queers, women, first nations, people of colour, and immigrants that their cause doesn’t matter, that their rights don’t matter, that their lives don’t matter. You are telling environmentalists and stewards that all life on earth doesn’t matter. You are telling the spirits of nature that you care not if they all perish.

Don’t look away, don’t cover your ears. Force yourself to see the hate and evil swirling through the world like a deadly north wind. Look at the pain, feel the pain.  Be thankful you have empathy. Be vigilant and when evil words become evil actions, speak out, act out. Do not remain silent, do not cast your eyes down. Humanity is all one, we are all brothers and sisters, we all share the same ancestors – all of us. You protect and fight for your family. Don’t you dare be apathetic or you are doing as much harm as the evil doers. Shout and scream, point your witch’s finger at the evil doers and name them for all to see. Don’t you ever stop fighting, don’t you ever lay down, don’t you ever let anyone tell you that you are crazy to fight injustice, that it’s all in your head and you should shut up and go home.

Something is very wrong with our world today, with humanity today. Your heart knows for it is breaking, your body knows for your stomach churns with vomit, your spirit knows for it is screaming, and your mind knows even if you try to ignore it. Do not let the words of others sway you from the truth. To be open, to care… it will hurt so much, you will just want it to be over, you will want to give up, you will want to die. If you give in, if too many of us give in, then the evil doers win. Fight your fear and fight the pain. Fear is the mindkiller, fear is the little death. Let it pass over and through you… Become the thing evil fears instead.

Feed the Mind to Fire the Soul

This is not about politics this is about LIFE. This is about human rights, this is about Nature’s rights. Educate yourself. Find the voices who are speaking up, speaking out, and demanding action. Read Apocalyptic Witchcraft, read Rewilding Witchcraft, read Aradia, read The Dark Mountain Manifesto, read the works of Gods & Radicals (like this one: “Beyond Resistance“), follow the #WeAreAradia hashtag on facebook and twitter, follow T. Thorn Coyle, and fuck, read some Starhawk. Let yourself become incensed, your blood boiling with rage at injustice.  When you are armed with knowledge, act. Do not fear, they should fear you, fear us, and what we might do. The evil doers depend on our goodness and kindness to result in inaction, in peace. When the enemy has no empathy, nothing can stir their hearts to guilt or compassion. You do not fight battles with kind words and hugs. You cut the head off the snake and put it on a pike on public display so the other snakes slither away back into their dark holes. There must be consequences for evil or evil will prevail, spreading across the earth like a plague.

“And thou shalt be the first of witches known;
And thou shalt be the first of all in the world;
And thou shalt teach the art of poisoning,
Of poisoning those who are great lords of all;
Yea, thou shalt make them die in their palaces;
And thou shalt bind the oppressor’s soul with power;
And when ye find a peasant who is rich,
Then ye shall teach the witch, your pupil, how
To ruin all his crops with tempests dire,
With lightning and with terrible thunder,
And the hail and wind…”

~ Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches of Italy

Remind yourself. Read science fiction, watch science fiction — those that focus on the worst outcomes and the best. Read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, read The Hunger Games, read 1984, fuck, read Harry Potter again. Watch V for Vendetta, District 9, Avatar, and The Matrix and then watch Star Trek to cheer yourself up and give you hope for humanity.

Band together, stop infighting, stop the pettiness. No one really cares what tradition you’re from, what you’re lineage or pedigree is, who your teachers were, or if you think you’re better than others because of it.  It doesn’t matter when we all wear a target. In this world of horrors it only matters what you can do with what you’ve learned. Your actions speak worlds louder than empty arguments about who is more legitimate or powerful, who has a better origin story.

We need poets, we need artists, we need musicians, we need writers, we need activists, we need warriors, and we most definitely need witches. Use your talents to resist, to fight in any way you can.

What world do you want for your children, for the descendants of humanity? Do we say “sorry descendents, we could’ve fought back but we were afraid or in denial and now you have to live with this nightmare we allowed –another Hitler, another atrocity to human rights, and another environmental disaster for the history books.” Or, do we rise up and fight back, scream at the top of our lungs at injustice, protect Mother Earth with every fibre of our being, and create a better world? A world where greed, power, money, and fear have no place. A free world where we treat each other fairly and compassionately. A world where the rich don’t rule over the poor. A world where our borders are as open as our hearts. A world where Nature has rights just as we humans have rights.

We are many, we are strong. Globalization and the internet have connected us all, we should use it to our advantage before it too is restricted or taken from us. We need a worldwide revolution. If we band together all races, all religions, and stand up against tyranny, we will win by numbers alone. We outnumber the rich, we outnumber the powerful. The only weapon they have against us is our fear of them and our belief in their evil propaganda. Rise up.

Magical Actions

Read the first two chapters of Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches and perform the sabbat ritual from the second chapter every full moon to the best of your or your group’s ability. It was designed to call upon the great goddess to free the poor and oppressed and do away with their oppressors. As the ritual proscribes not to reward the goddess with offerings and celebration aside from the lunar cakes of meal, salt, honey, wine, and water outlined in the rite until the goal is reached, hold off on the last instructions for celebration, but perform the rite every full moon.  Then have the sabbat party of a lifetime when your group’s goal is reached. It’s a bit like calling your local representative once every month with the same demand until they give in.

Perform The Witches’ Reel and summon the oncoming storm… just remember exacting specificity of your target is very important.

Curse. Whatever your tradition, whatever your comfort level. Again, specificity is key.

Take Sable Aradia’s advice from the end of her article: “The Magical Battle of Britain“.

Perform rituals of protection: protection for those in danger of harm, protection for your group/coven, protection for your family and friends, and personal protection for you. Consecrate protective talismans for your home, vehicle, and to carry on your body.

Purify all the things with incense, smudge, florida water, and other herbs or tools in your witch’s arsenal. Make your home your sanctuary — a place of peace and safety. Cleanse yourself after negative altercations with people who support prejudice, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and harm to the environment. A bath or shower followed with a prayer is definitely good enough.

Practical Actions

Pace yourself, don’t burn out. Try not to spend too much time each day reading all the terrible news articles, quotes, and memes. It’s okay to unplug from the internet, turn off your phone, and watch a stupid comedy or stay in bed all day with books, snacks, and tea. Remember to practice self-care. You can’t help others if you yourself are not functional and spiralling downward into anxiety and depression from sensory overload. Britton from Archaic Honey has some great ideas for looking after yourself in her “A Witches Resistance & Action List“.

Create art, poetry, words, and music that fight back and reveal wrongdoings or alternately spread a message of love, compassion, and understanding to unite us in our differences.

Plant trees. Plant them properly. Research first. Don’t plant aggressive trees over water or sewer lines. Don’t plant shallow rooted trees in public spaces near walkways or streets. Space them properly away from each other and away from buildings – trees get huge and their root systems are much larger than what you can see of the tree above the earth. For the tree to survive the planting and become established it must be watered and cared for at least 3-5 years after it is planted.

Learn how to cook, learn herbalism, learn how to grow and preserve your own food, and learn about edible and medicinal native plants. Learn basic survival skills from books, websites, and your local wilderness schools. Pack a bug-out bag and have an escape plan ready in case disaster strikes. Learn how to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Beware the false hope of online petitions. To petition one’s government, hundred of thousands of signatures are needed before they’ll even put it on the pile of petitions to be debated and even if you have millions of signatures, it is still destined to fail. You need to consider who it is that approves the petitions. If the local government is against your cause, it’s likely going to be outright denied and tossed in the trash. Even if your petition does attain enough signatures to be debated by your government, the statistics still show it will likely be denied no matter how many signatures there are and no matter how important the cause is. If you insist on signing petitions, consider anyone can start a petition and there will be many duplicates with the same intent spread around the internet. Find the one that has the most shares, the most signatures, and the most potential to actually be successful before you put your name on it.

Support women’s rights, First Nations rights, religious rights, immigrant rights, racial equality, LGBTQ rights, environmental stewardship, etc. Donate, volunteer, protest, or harass your local government officials through legal means.

Take away your support. Follow the money and stop supporting the businesses and corporations that support hurting people’s civil and human rights or actions which harm the environment (Monsanto and Dupont anyone?). Americans have boycotted banks for funding the Dakota Access Pipeline and started the #GrabYourWallet hashtag for listing companies that line Trump’s pockets. Take your money away from where it counts most. When there are as many of us as there are, voting with your dollar can often count more and hurt more than with a ballot.

Speak out and act out when you see injustice happening in front of you – in your covens, your meetup groups, your online forums and facebook groups, and outside of your spiritual community too. Help those being harassed in public, by peers, in your school, in your workplace. Same thing when you see someone causing harm to the environment. Say something, report it, tell human resources, tell the police, tell a journalist… Educate the ignorant by calling them out on their harmful behaviour and showing them there are consequences.

Go to protests if you feel the call, but don’t go uneducated. Don’t be incited to violence or destruction of property. Have a back up plan, bring a cellphone, and tell friends and family where you are going. Consider the fact you may be arrested, arrange bail, and know your legal rights and how to deal with the police before you even leave the house.

Don’t give up.

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It’s All Indie Cards III: Black & White Decks

By | Reviews & Interviews, Seership, Witchcraft & Magic | 8 Comments

Here I am again, just in time for the holidays to tempt you to spend your hard won earnings on gorgeous tarot decks by independent artists (or to plaster the links all over your facebook until your loved ones get the hint for what you want for Yule this year). Indie tarot means there’s no big name publisher involved. The decks I share are either crowd funded or the artists came up with the funds themselves to get their deck printed –which is quite the undertaking! The downside to indie decks is that the first printing often sells out and the artist can’t afford to reprint their deck. For example, there were two amazing decks I really wanted to include in this list, but they’ve now sold out and are no longer available: The Nomad Tarot by Jennifer Drantrel and the Black Hand Lenormand by Shelley Barnes. If there is enough demand, however, this changes the artist’s stars. Maybe we can help.

For this year’s round up I’ve chosen all black and white decks with a few black and gold exceptions. I’m a sucker for simple, black and white artwork and have a feeling I’m not alone in this. It was unintentional, but the featured decks all happen to be created by women. Enjoy and be tempted!

animalis-os-fortuna

Animalis Os Fortuna Tarot Deck

by Megan Weber

Website: zaheroux.etsy.com

Animal Bone Fortune Deck is an animal oracle based on the traditional tarot system featuring illustrations of a great variety of creatures and their skulls and bones. If you’ve been looking for a less cutesy animal oriented deck to connect to animal spirits in your magic, this one has your number.

Notes: this is a large deck with big cards and will showcase the art awesomely, but be hard to shuffle.


dark-exact

Dark Exact Tarot Deck

by Coleman Stevenson

Website: thedarkexact.etsy.com

This is the tarot deck you’ve been looking for to put in your instagram photos and to read with your witchy friends who are too dark and cool for the all the big name colourful decks out there. It is full of symbolism, simplicity, and quality. Each card looks as if it were professionally designed by a graphic designer, and considering that their cool shop has a team of designers and consultants, this could be true. A very professional looking deck overall. The Dark Exact deck follows the traditional meanings of the Rider Waite deck despite the different imagery and so won’t require a complete relearning to work with as a new deck. In my opinion, The Dark Exact Tarot has the potential to be the new “it” deck and reach the same cult status of The Wild Unknown.

Notes: The other witchy products in their shop are seriously amazing.


flowers-from-the-dead

Flowers from the Dead Divination Deck

by Misha Huntting

Website: flowersfromthedead.com

Etsy: americanobscura.etsy.com

I love this deck. It screams witchy spirit work as a deck of all skulls on a black background of swirling smoke. This is an animal oracle, not a tarot deck, and has a small handful of skull-faced human exceptions. This deck would be a great way to communicate with the dead and with animal spirits in your practice and doesn’t require or come with a companion book. The cards are slightly larger than a pack of regular playing cards and are easy to work with.

Notes: Out of all the beautiful decks I researched for this post, this one followed me home.


heart-and-hands

Heart and Hands Tarot Deck

by Liz Blackbird

Website: thirteenwaystolook.etsy.com

Crowdfunding Site: indiegogo.com

In this deck’s artwork, graphic design meets tattoo flash meets art deco (with hints of Aubrey Beardsley). These are big cards and the art is full of swirls and lots of detail –almost reminiscent of stained glass but without the colour. If you’re looking for a beautiful deck with endless hours of hand illustration put into it by the artist, this is the one.

Notes: This deck is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Congrats Liz!


small-spells

Small Spells Tarot Deck

by Rachel Howe

Website: smallspells.com

A full tarot deck of simple black ink illustrations on white backgrounds. The style is a combination of cartoon, tattoo flash, and low-fi graphic design. If you don’t like fancy decks and are looking for something simple and hand drawn, modern but still mystical, Small Spells is definitely for you.

Notes: This deck comes with the guide book, you don’t have to pay extra for it!


spirit-speak

Spirit Speak Tarot Deck

by Mary Evans

Website: spiritspeaktarot.etsy.com

This funky tarot deck has a very chaotic, discordian, graphic novel feel. The artist’s goal was to create a simple deck that anyone can understand and perform readings with. I like it for its lack of pretentiousness and the clever design of the branding and packaging.

Notes: The artist has two more full colour decks available in their shop — Iris and Vessel.


vibrant-spirit

Vibrant Spirit Tarot

by Beata Kruszynski

Website: beatakruszynski.etsy.com

I don’t know what it is about this deck, but I love it. Simple, hand drawn, abstract, and very feminist. I see it helping a lot of women in both their mundane and magical lives. The first printing sold out, but the second printing is now available for pre-order.

Notes: The artist also has a 2017 Tarot Calendar available if you are impatient to wait for the deck to be printed.


wanderers-tarot

Wanderer’s Tarot Deck

by Casey Zabala

Website: wandererstarot.com

Etsy: wandererstarot.etsy.com

A feminist exploration of the traditional tarot with altered suits of moons, stones, knives, and feathers. The Wanderer’s Tarot is a very striking deck with its simple hand drawn imagery against the stark black backgrounds. Because of it’s diversion from the traditional tarot system and imagery this deck will take longer to learn to work with, but if it speaks to you it will most definitely be worth it.

Notes: A cool black casting cloth is also available and she’s taking pre-orders for the guide book.


BLACK AND GOLD DECKS

urban-divination

Professor Pam’s Urban Divination Deck

by Pam Wishbow

Shop: pamwishbow.etsy.com

Pam Wishbow is my current witchy artist crush. Everything she touches and creates is pretty much gold to me and her graphic design aesthetic is perfection. This humorous deck of square cards is perfect for the city-dweller who is honest about their disconnect from nature and contains cards like “The Sewer Raccoon” and “The Suspicious Puddle”.

Notes: There is also a bone casting cloth and a spirit board in her etsy shop!

Pam is also in the process of creating a different yet-to-be-named black and white oracle deck.


golden-thread

The Golden Thread Tarot

by Tina Gong

Website: goldenthreadtarot.com

Etsy: milkmusket.etsy.com

Just when you’re like “no, stop Sarah, my bank account can’t handle looking at any more amazing decks!” I’m like: “but just look at this last epic one with metallic gold illustrations that will blow your socks off.” The Golden Thread Tarot is what happens when a talented graphic designer who also happens to be a huge technology nerd designs a deck. The artwork is reminiscent of animé and it is “cute” without taking it too far. The gold on black makes it elegant and it creates a very unique balance with the art.

Notes: Who needs a guide book when you can download a custom app for your smart phone with beautiful custom graphics? A huge gold and black zodiac casting cloth is available in her etsy shop. Oh, and she also has an online tarot school. This woman is rocking at design and marketing.


Do you have a favourite indie tarot deck you found this year? Share it in the comments!

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