Friday, June 24, 2011

Nut



Just looking through some of my pictures, an old favorite I painted last year, the Egyptian Goddess Nut - a little traditional, a little not. (The flash made some of the colors look a little strange. Some of the blues are a bit darker...)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Litha!

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But--we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth-
Good news for cattle and corn--
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

(Part of A Tree Song, by Rudyard Kipling)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pineapple Habanero Glaze

Summer will be here in just a few days, and it's a perfect time to enjoy sweet tropical fruits with a hot spicy kick!

1 small Habanero pepper, finely diced with seeds discarded (unless you like super fire mouth.)
butter
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup finely diced mango
dash salt and black pepper


In a small saucepan saute the Habanero in just a bit of butter until it's softened. Add in all the liquids, as well as the honey. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half, and the glaze has thickened a bit. Add in the fruits, salt, and pepper. Heat through.

This will yield about a 1/2 cup of glaze. It's delicious on chicken, salmon, or pork. Add the glaze when the meat has about 5 minutes left to cook, so it doesn't burn. Or just use as a sauce on top of the meat after it's cooked.

Feel free to adjust the heat level as needed. A whole pepper may be too spicy for some, and not spicy enough for others.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Midsummer Divination

Traditionally Midsummer, or Litha, is a popular time for divination. The weather on the solstice is said to be an indicator of what the coming harvest will be like. A bright sunny day foretells a good grain harvest, while a rainy day says a good fruit harvest is on the way. A cold day means winter will set in early, and a very stormy day indicates a bad harvest all around.

Love divinations were also popular around this time. One bit of folklore says anyone who can gather seven different wildflowers (in complete silence) from around a church, or at a crossroads, should put them under their pillow to dream of their future spouse.

Scrying, especially using pools of water, is also traditional around this time.


Misdummer Divination Incense

3 parts myrrh
2 parts dried mugwort
2 parts dried rosemary
2 parts dried lavender
1 part dried white sage
1 part cedar
1 part cinnamon bark

Finely crush and mix all ingredients. Burn over incense charcoal in a heatproof censer. Although created with divination in mind, it also makes a good blend for Litha workings and rituals in general.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

June's just begun, but already rhubarb is coming up in the garden, and fresh strawberries are being sold in local markets. It's time to bring out an old favorite...

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1 9" unbaked pie crust
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, (peeled if you like) cut up into bite sized chunks
3 cups fresh strawberries, cut into slightly bigger pieces
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp almond extract

Crumble Topping
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter

Because both strawberries and rhubarb give off a lot of water, I toss them with two tablespoons of sugar and let them sit for about 15 minutes. Drain the liquid that comes out. This helps the pie from being too watery.

Mix the egg, sugar, corn starch, and almond extract. Toss the strawberry and rhubarb with this mixture. Spoon the strawberries and rhubarb into the pie shell, being careful not to include too much extra liquid.

Mix the flour, brown sugar, and oats in a small bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly, and sprinkle it over the pie. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, and the filling bubbling.

Now the hard part - allow the pie to cool completely before cutting. Great alone, or served with ice cream, whipped cream, or a little drizzle of warm maple syrup.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reccomended Reading

This list is by no means complete, and I plan to add to it over time. While I have read and found each book on this list useful, very few of them are perfect (as to be expected). Some have bits of bad history or other problems, so as always it is good to read with a critical eye.

Hedgecraft, Traditional Witchcraft, Core Shamanism
To Fly by Night, Veronica Cummer
The Roebuck in the Thicket, Evan Jones and Robert Cochrane
The Resurrection of the Meadow, Robin Artisson
Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests, Melusine Draco
Shamanism as a Spritual Practice for Daily Life, Tom Cowan
The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, Christopher Penczak
Neolithic Shamanism, Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide, Sandra Ingerman
The Hollow Bone: A Field Guide to Shamanism, Colleen Deatsman

Herbalism and Foraging in New England
The Herbal Alchemist's Handbook, Karen Karrison
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magial Herbs
Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Bradford Angier
Foraging New England, Tom Seymour
The New England Berry Book, Bob Krumm
The New Hampshire Gardener's Companion, Henry Homeyer

Deity Focused and Prayer Books
Artemis: Virgin, Goddess of the Sun & Moon, Sorita D'Este
Dancing in Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, Thista Minai
Unbound: A Devotional Anthology for Artemis, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hekate, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The Goddess Companion, Particia MonaghanDevoted to You, Judy Harrow
A Book of Pagan Prayer, Ceisiwr Serith
A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, Ceisiwr Serith

Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day, Faulkner translation
Ancient Egyptian Literature, three volumes by Miriam Lichtheim

The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko
Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, Erik Hornung

OtherDeep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, Ceisiwr Serith
The Wildwood Tarot, Mark Ryan and John Matthews
The Magical Household, Scott Cunningham and David Harrington
Cottage Witchery, Ellen Dugan
Wicca in the Kitchen, Scott Cunningham
The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente

Recommended Reading

This list is by no means complete, and it's something I plan to add to and change around over time. While these are all books I've read, enjoyed, and found useful, very few of them are perfect. Some contain bits of bad history, or other problems. I'd like to, someday, do detailed reviews for each book on this list, but until then? Remember it's always a good idea to read anything with a critical eye.

Hedgecraft, Traditional Witchcraft, Shamanic Witchcraft, and Core Shamanism
To Fly by Night, Veronica CummerThe Roebuck in the Thicket, Evan Jones and Robert Cochrane
The Resurrection of the Meadow, Robin Artisson
Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests, Melusine Draco

Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, Tom Cowan
The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, Christopher Penczak
Neolithic Shamanism, Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide, Sandra Ingerman
The Hollow Bone: A Field Guide to Shamanism, Colleen Deatsman


Herbalism and Foraging in New England
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
The Herbal Alchemist's Handbook, Karen Karrison

Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Bradford Angier
Foraging New England, Tom Seymour
The New England Berry Book, Bob Krumm

Deity Focused and Prayer Books

Hekate Liminal Rites, Sorita d'Este and David Rankine
The Goddess Companion, Particia Monaghan
Bearing Torches, a Devotional Anthology for Hekate, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Dancing in Moonlight, Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, Thista Minai
Devoted to You, Judy Harrow
Artemis: Virgin Goddess of the Sun & Moon, Sorita D'Este
Unbound: A Devotional anthology for Artemis, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, Ceisiwr Serith


Ancient EgyptThe Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of going Forth by Day, Faulkner Translation
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko
Ancient Egyptian Literature (Three Volumes), Miriam Lichtheim

Friday, June 3, 2011

What is a Hedgewitch?

Hedgewitches are not Wiccans. The majority of us do not follow the Wiccan Rede, nor the threefold law, we usually do not follow Wiccan ritual structure, and we do not share all the tools and beliefs of Wicca. Now, it may seem strange that I'd start off an article on what a hedgewitch is by saying what we are not, but there are a few pagan authors out there who paint hedgecraft as nothing more than solitary Wicca (or just another "whatever you want it to be" belief), and I want to clear up that misconception right away -- Hedgecraft is a specific tradition that stands on its own.

So then, what exactly do hedgewitches practice and believe in? Hedgewitches practice a form of traditional witchcraft that has a heavy emphasis on soul-flight and spirit work. It is a path based on that of the wise women/cunning folk of old Europe. Now of course Europe is a fairly big place, made up of lots of history and different cultures. Some Hedgewitches may have an Italian focus, and other a more Scandinavian outlook. Hedgewitches may also pull bits and pieces from non-European cultures, depending on where they live, their ancestry, or for other personal reasons.

Hedgewitches walk a path of balance, preferring to walk the border between the right and left hand paths rather than follow a practice that is strictly one or the other. They have no problems with preforming a healing for someone on one day, and placing a hex on another the next day, if that is what they feel the situation calls for. They generally practice folk magic, sometimes called low magic (as opposed to high or ceremonial magic), and have an interest in folklore and the like. Hedgewitches also pull from more recent sources and ideas, allowing them to bridge the gap between ancient and modern.

Hedgewitches are most often solitary, preferring to work alone, although occasionally hedgewitches may come together in small groups for celebrations or particular workings. It is rare, although not unheard of, for hedgewitches to form more permanent or consistent covens.

There's a lot of room for flexibility and individuality in hedgecraft, but it does have core beliefs and practices that stand out as necessary to our tradition. Those core beliefs include:

Otherworld journeying and spirit work.
Arguably the most essential core belief. Hedgewitches use shamanic techniques to cross the boundary between worlds, to seek help and knowledge from the spirits there, among other reasons. This act is often called crossing the hedge, walking the hedge, or riding the hedge. The hedge, as a border between civilization and the wild, is seen as a symbol for the boundary between the worlds. (Similar to the concept of The Veil in Wicca.)
Drums, rattles, meditation and dance are some of the techniques used to induce trance. Some (but not all) hedgewitches also choose to use the traditional method of using various trance inducing herbs and plants, usually with the aid of a trusted friend to keep watch over their body as the spirit journeys. These flying potions/ointments are never used lightly. Great care is taken with them, and it can take years of careful experimenting before the hedgewitch finds their perfect blend. It is not a shortcut, nor an easy way to experience the mysteries or otherworld travel. (It is an easy way to make yourself sick, or possibly kill yourself, if you don't truly know what you are doing.) If you haven't become familiar with the necessary skills and traveling with focus, you won't get much benefit from such techniques.

A deep reverence for nature, and honoring nature spirits.
Hedgewitches celebrate and strive to live in communion with the cycles of nature. They study the lore and mysteries of plants and animals. Hedgewitches usually honor and work with the various spirits of nature. Herb and plant work usually plays a large part in hedgecraft. While a hedgewitch may have a garden, they are also likely to know where and when to forage wild plants and herbs - as well as knowing the habits of local wildlife. Hedgewitches are often drawn to, and spend a lot of time in wild and rural places, although urban hedgewitches are not unheard of.

A local focus.
A hedgewitch works hard to study the local plants and animals, and to know, work with, and be in tune with the natural rhythms around them. They can deeply personalize their path with this local focus, as the local wildlife and seasonal patterns can be vastly different depending on where one lives. In addition, they often serve and care for their local community in one way or another. A common way to do this is by practicing some form of healing - be it herbal healing, midwifery, animal husbandry, or another form of healing - but this is not the only way a hedgewitch can serve her or his community. Divination, journeying for knowledge, blessings, creation of charms and the like, all of these skills can be used to serve the community.

Ancestor veneration.
Most hedgewitches honor and work with their ancestors. They may petition them for help with crossing the hedge, to clarify information, or to ask for help with healing or for general guidance. For most, honoring the ancestors is not the same as worshiping them. It is more about paying our respects to those who have come before us (after all, without them we wouldn't be here), and learning what we can from their experiences.


Those are the core practices of hedgecraft. While how they are incorporated into individual practice can vary, each of the above will usually show up in one form or another. In addition to those core practices the following may be included with greater variance:

Ritual structure.
There is no common ritual structure, however, many hedgewitches do not preform ceremonial or elaborate rituals, and instead prefer simple, informal, and sometimes unstructured and spontaneous rites, celebrations, and workings. Some hedgewitches do use more formal methods on occasions. Some use more traditional methods to mark sacred space (you may see a hedgewitch talk about laying a compass rose, or preforming a Hammer Rite, among other terms), some enjoy casting a Wiccan circle, while again others have more informal methods. The specifics of such things are personal and vary from hedgewitch to hedgewitch.

Shrines, altars, and tools.
Shrines and altars, if used, follow no common layout - they are as individual as the hedgewitches who create them. Any tools a hedgewitch might use tend to be practical and simple (and are often handmade - but that is not a requirement). A walking stick, drums and rattles, a knife to cut herbs or carve with, or a pouch to carry odds and ends, a chalice or drinking horn.

Stangs are popular among hedgewitches - a stang is a staff (occasionally a smaller wand) with a fork at the top. They serve as walking sticks, and can be driven into the ground to become an altar of sorts, a representation of the world tree, to mark the working space (usually the center), or used as an aid in crossing the hedge. (For more information on the stang, please see this post.)

Gods and spirituality.
Another topic that is totally up to the individual. Some hedgewitches work with the pantheon(s) of their ancestors, others do not. Some are drawn to Gods and Goddesses of wild places or animals, others to Deities who rule over the magical arts, and some are more drawn to psychopomps. Some may simply honor Deity in general, others may not focus on Deity at all. Some have only one patron, others work with a Goddess/God pair, or any other number of Deities. Some are hard polytheists, some soft, some pantheists, some panentheists, deists or agnostic. How one worships, if they choose to, is just as individual.

Holidays.
Although there can be variance in holidays as well, a number of Hedgewitches follow the same Wheel of the Year that most Wiccans are familiar with - that is the solstices and equinoxes, as well as the cross-quarter days. How exactly they are celebrated may differ, but a lot of the themes remain the same. For example, Samhain is still seen as a time when the boundary between the worlds is thin, as well as a time to honor the dead and make offerings to the ancestors. However, for most hedgewitches the Goddess/God mythos of Wicca does not play a part (although it may for some). In addition, the cycles of the moon are usually noted and may be celebrated as well.

Ethical codes.
There is no common code of ethics, no redes or creeds - this is entirely personal. However, many who practice hedgecraft consider the call to "know thyself" to be important to their craft, as hedgewitches mold their spiritual path to fit their needs. What exactly a hedgewitch chooses to study or focus on is up to them. They must know their own strengths and weaknesses, and the boundary of their ability - and how/when to push that boundary.


So, while there are several core practices that hedgewitches have in common (again, many would argue that the otherworld journeying and spirit-work aspects are the most essential - you can not have hedgecraft without them), it is also a highly personalized path. The big picture may share all the same main elements, but the details are painted in by each individual witch as they walk their path, each creating their own unique picture.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paganism, Wicca, and Witchcraft - What's What?

Paganism
Paganism is not a specific religion in itself (although some do choose to identify simply as 'pagan'), but rather an umbrella term that covers many different religions - religions which can be vastly different from each other. For example, an individual pagan could self-identify as a pantheist, panentheist, polytheist, animist, duotheist, or even agnostic or atheist in some cases. They may have very different moral values, ideas on the afterlife, ritual structure, holidays, and so on. Since paganism covers such a broad grouping of traditions and individuals, there really are no beliefs or practices that are common to all pagans. You might find things common to many pagans, but nothing is truly universal.

There's a little joke among pagans that should always be kept in mind - if you ask 5 different pagans a question, you'll get 6 different answers.


Wicca
One of the most well known pagan religions. It was founded by Gerald Gardner, and popularized by him in the 1950s. Although Gardner claimed it was a continuation of an ancient pre-Christian religion, there is no real evidence to support this. Instead, Wicca is now seen by most as a modern tradition that pulls from several ancient religions, as well as some forms of ceremonial magic. While it is a young religion, this is no reason to dismiss it outright - after all, all religions were young at one point. Wicca is the name of the tradition, a Wiccan is a practitioner of Wicca. (Think Christianity/ Christian - Wicca/ Wiccan)

Wiccans often (but not always) worship a God and Goddess, honor the cycles of nature, adhere to the threefold law, and follow the Wiccan rede to some degree. There are quite a few traditions of Wicca, including Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Seax, Georgian, Blue Star, eclectic... - the specific beliefs of each will vary from tradition to tradition. (Similar to the various sects of Christianity - Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Lutherans, etc. All slightly different, yet all still Christians.)

All Wiccans are pagans, but not all pagans are Wiccan.


Witchcraft
Most Wiccans also consider themselves witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. There are a growing number of non-Wiccan witches within paganism. There are a number of traditions of witchcraft - such as hedgecraft, green witchcraft, and kitchen witchcraft.

What follows is what I would hope is an obvious statement, but... Witchcraft is not how Hollywood/the media frequently portrays it. As much as I wish I could, I can not wiggle my nose or wave a wand around and turn someone into a newt. (Rest assured, if you are ever turned into a newt by a witch, you'll probably get better.)

At it's core, witchcraft is a practice (a craft), not a religion. You do not have to be a specific religion, or even any religion, to practice witchcraft. That said, to some practitioners, witchcraft is a spiritual practice that is inseparable from their religion/spirituality. Like many things, it depends on the individual witch and the tradition they might be following.

A Few Definitions

Here are a few brief definitions of terms that may pop up often in this blog. (For the very basics, give Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft - What's What? a read.



Eclecticism: An eclectic follows a mix of different traditions. They do not look to any single source, but instead pull from many to create a unique path for themselves. For more information, have a look at this post.



 

Hedgecraft: A form of traditional witchcraft that places a heavy emphasis on spirit-work. The hedge refers to the boundary between the worlds (called the veil by some pagans), and trance work is used to cross that boundary to work with spirits and the ancestors. A hedgewitch generally has a focus on nature (especially the wild parts of it), works with spirits, has knowledge of herbs and plants, and often are solitary - although not always. Again, you will find a few variations on this practice.
(Please see the longer post "What is a Hedgewitch?" for more information.)


Hellenic Polytheism: Hellenic polytheism is a term for the traditional religion of ancient Greece. It is also a term used to describe Greek reconstructionists.


Kemet / Kemetic: Kemet is what the ancient Egyptians called their land. The word translates to 'black land' in reference to the black fertile soil along the Nile river. (As opposed to the deshret, the red land that was the desert.) Kemetic can be translated to "Egyptian."


Kitchen / Hearth / Cottage Witchcraft: A form of witchcraft that has a focus on the home and family. Rituals tend to be fairly informal, and whatever materials are at hand will be used. Herbs and cooking usually play a role in this practice. Sometimes minor differences are noted between the three paths, and other times you may see these terms being used interchangeably.


Proto-Indo-European: The Proto-Indo-Eurpoeans (PIE) were a group of loosely related peoples, who spoke Proto-Indo-European, and who likely lived around 4000 BC. Much of what we know about them comes from reconstruction through their descendant groups. For more information, Wiki has a fairly good article. Additionally, this site has a bit more on the subject of PIE paganism/reconstruction.


Reconstructionism: This is the practice of reconstructing one of the ancient pagan religions (such as that of Greece or Egypt) for practice in the modern world. Some prefer the term 'revival' to reconstruction.


Solitary: A solitary is a pagan who practices alone rather than with a group, either by their own choice, or by force (due to lack of other pagans in the area, for example).


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome!

I should probably start this off with a little about myself, to give an idea of where I'm coming from, and what this blog will be about.

I was born and raised by my Grandparents in rural New Hampshire, and have recently moved back to the state after spending the last five years in Olympia, Washington. I live with my fiance (and our dog, a papillon) in a small apartment. I enjoy hiking, biking, geocaching, foraging, swimming, reading, writing, cooking and baking, music, painting, and various crafts such as making jewelry, candles, and incense. I'm very passionate about studying world history, cultures, and religions.

I am a pagan - more specifically a hedgewitch. I have belonged to one pagan tradition or another since December of 1998. I was quite young at the time, and very lucky to have a family that supported me in my spiritual journey.

Like many others, Wicca was the first pagan tradition I studied. It was during my study of Wicca that the Netjeru, the Gods of ancient Egypt, first called to me. I started to study the religion of ancient Egypt, as well as continuing to study other religions. I was an eclectic pagan to be sure, but always with heavy Kemetic (Egyptian) leanings. Those leanings eventually gave way to Kemetic reconstruction in late 2003. During this time I was still a practicing eclectic witch, but was keeping my craft separate from my religion.

In 2005 I joined the Kemetic Orthodox religion, where I remained until August of 2007. I ended up leaving due to quite a few issues I had with the organization, which I will not elaborate on here. I still have several friends in the faith, but it just was not at all where I belonged.

I did not return to reconstruction after leaving Kemetic Orthodoxy. I spiritually wandered for a few months, and in the summer of 2008 I turned to hedgecraft, or rather, was called to it.  

It was during this last year (2011) that I turned my devotion to Artemis, who had been subtly present since my departure from reconstructionism, with that subtle presence becoming less and less subtle over the months. 

This blog will be a place for me to write about my personal spiritual journey and experiences, as well as a place to provide information, recipes and craft ideas that I hope will be useful to pagans and non-pagans alike.