Friday, March 22, 2013

Fate, the Future, and Foresight

A common question surrounding the tarot, runes, and other methods of divination is are we able to change the futures that they show us? When we divine, is what we see written in stone? Guaranteed to pass for better or worse? Do our divination tools show us our fates? Frankly, I think Yoda said it best...

"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

I do not believe that we have a single fate that's set in stone, that we are powerless to change. I'm of the belief that we have a hand in writing our own futures - that we can shape our own fates. Every choice we make affects our future, as do outside influences. Everything that happens now causes the future to change, to adapt to the choices and changes made today. The tarot may show us a glimpse of what might come, should we continue on the same path we're currently walking... but that's it. Many times, there's nothing stopping us from changing directions.

This is not to say that we're always in complete control, because again, there will always be outside influences that affect us. We don't generally have control over what other people choose to do, and certainly we can't always control things like weather, natural disasters, illness, and so on. The choices others make can impact our futures - and likewise, the choices we make can impact the futures of those around us.

One of the better ways I've heard it described is likening it to a river. Going with the current is like going with our current fate. Going with the flow, and letting things play out as they've been set up. Going against the current is working against our current fate, changing the situation to avoid a particular outcome.

Sometimes the current is gentle, and we can go against it without issue. However, there will be other times where we're caught in a strong current. Events are set in motion, either by ourselves or by outside influences (or both, in many cases), that form a current that is hard to break away from. We might be able to swim against it, to beat it, but it will be a struggle - and there will be times where we get swept away no matter how hard we try.

Tarot cards and other forms of divination show us what is likely to happen should we continue to go with the flow. Sometimes events unfold that are truly beyond our control, but we're often given many opportunities to shape our own fates.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Welcome to spring, welcome to the light half of the year, and welcome to the foot of fresh snow that came in along with it.

A lot of people seem surprised at the snow we got, but it's pretty normal to get a storm right around this time each year. Last year was actually the odd year out, with Ostara temperatures hot enough for a trip to the beach and a bonfire! The year before? Snow, just like this year.

Still, the signs of spring are getting harder to ignore - even under all this snow. The days are becoming longer than the nights, and temperatures are rising... if slowly. Not much longer now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fluff Bunnies

Fluff bunnies, fluffies, whatever you want to call them, it's a topic I've seen going around a lot recently (and not just with today's PBP "F" topics). Some people really take issue with this term, while others don't have a problem with it. From what I've seen, One of the big problems is that there is no real single definition for what a fluff bunny is.

Some people use this term to describe those new to paganism, those who don't know much - but are trying to learn, or those who make common beginner mistakes. To me, it doesn't really make much sense to insult those types, to look down on them. We were all beginners once, after all. We all had to seek out the information, and if there's anyone out there who never made a silly beginner's mistake? Well, I would seriously doubt that claim...

Then there are those who use the term to describe anyone who practices a path that focuses more on the lighter stuff in life, the 'fluff.' Well, it's not my cup of tea, but if it's legitimately fulfilling to them, then I don't really think it's any of my business. As long as they're giving me that same respect, then to me there's no problem there. Sure, some of them don't respect anything but the 'all light all the time' paths - but, truthfully, there are plenty who look down on the whole 'love and light' thing too. It goes both ways. (And, of course, fluffy is sometimes also applied to the other end of the spectrum, the whole doom and gloom bunch. Same thing with them.)

I think though, in most cases it's used to describe those who lead a shallow spiritual life for show, for the attention. Or for those who want to remain willfully ignorant. These are not the people who are honestly looking for information, these are not the people who pick up incorrect information along the way, but are willing to adjust when presented with correct information. These are the people who ignore the facts that don't fit in with their views. The people who claim Wicca is an ancient religion from the stone age, unbroken in practice - or the people who claim that millions of people were killed during 'The Burning Times' - and absolutely refuse to acknowledge that their facts are easily proven wrong.

Now, a question often comes up with that last group - why does it matter if someone is willfully ignorant? After all, they're only hurting themselves, and no one else, right? Well, no, they actually are hurting people. Purposely spreading misinformation hurts the people looking for the actual facts. It muddies the waters for everyone. Especially when you have some 'popular' authors, authors with books which are easily accessible to many people, doing the same thing. It's the sort of thing we should not let slide by, because it hurts our newcomers (and at times even those who've been around for a while), and it reflects poorly on paganism as a whole.

Truthfully, it's because of all these variants that I don't really like the term fluff bunny, and it's why I don't use it myself. It's not that I have an issue actually addressing problematic behaviors and the like, but if I say fluffy and mean X, but someone else thinks I mean Y, and yet another thinks I mean Z...? Well, I guess I just find it more helpful to be specific with these kinds of issues.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winter Wednesday

The last winter photo of the season - next week spring is officially here. You can start to feel it a bit, too. The nights are still cold, but the days are warming up a bit. Good weather for tapping trees to make syrup. (Something I'd like to get back into, one of these years...) Melting snow mixed with yesterday's rain has the stream running higher than usual.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This year's garden...

So I think I finally have the garden all planned out for this year. Mama's only request was scallions, and there will be plenty of those since we accidentally doubled up on scallion seeds. We've all been talking about making our own pickles again, so I also picked up some pickling cucumbers. My grandfather usually buys tomato plants for the garden, rather than starting them from seeds, but I thought it might be interesting to grow some mini-tomatoes (yellow pear) from seeds. I'm sure there will also be regular tomato plants, as well as cherry tomato plants, so if mine don't grow well it won't be a big loss.

One of the main things I wanted to try growing this year was a bit of corn. Corn (mainly in the form of cornmeal) has become a fairly important element in many of my workings, so I am looking forward to growing some of my own.

Then there are the herbs and flowers. Sage, lavender, mugwort, blue flax, and sunflowers. I've actually seen mugwort growing locally, and have been able to gather some at times, but it's often in areas which are hard for me to get to. (Or right up along roadsides, which are not great places to forage from.)

Of course, right now the garden is still covered in snow, and there's still a lot of work to be done before planting - it's been a long time since I've really been able to work in the garden, I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, March 8, 2013


We see two equinoxes in a year, one in March, and the other in September. It is a time when the tilt of the Earth's axis is not inclined either away from or towards the sun. A time when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth's equator, which causes the night and day to be (nearly) equal in length. The exact length of the day and night on the equinox varies with where you live, but in many locations it will be close to an even split.That's essentially what equinox means - equal night - as in equal amounts of night and day.

In the southern hemisphere, the March equinox is the first day of autumn, and here in the north, we'll be celebrating the coming of spring. Both equinoxes are quite important in my personal path - they are where I split the year into the light and dark halves. From the spring equinox forward the days are longer than the nights, the light half, and when we get to the autumn equinox the nights become longer than the days, the dark half. They are the sunrise and sunset of the year.

At the spring equinox, we get ready for the planting and growing season (literally or metaphorically), and at the autumn equinox we're bringing in the harvest, giving thanks to the land that sustains us, reaping the rewards of our hard work, and getting ready for the colder winter months.

In New Hampshire, it's usually still cold and somewhat snowy at the time of the March equinox. It can be hard to really feel that spring has begun, even though some of the early signs are there. It's not yet time to get the garden ready for planting, it's still too cold for that. However, there's still some preparation that can be done - the seeds can be blessed, and some seeds do better when they've been given a head-start indoors. Getting those seeds started at the equinox will have them ready for transfer after the last threats of frost have passed.

It's become a bit of a tradition for me to get up a before sunrise on the morning of the spring equinox to go out and welcome the sun, the spring, the light half of the year. To make offerings to my Gods and the land spirits. It's very informal, just some offered incense and a shared meal, yet it's become one of the points of the year I look forward to the most. It's cold, it's quiet... but it just feels so rich with potential. I can sit out under the big maple tree and perfectly picture the coming summer. The growth everywhere, the leaves and the shade they provide from the hot sun, the flowers, the noisy insects that have been gone for so long. Part of it still feels so distant at the equinox, but even so you just know it won't be much longer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Natural Egg Dyes (Part One)

With Ostara and Easter right around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to start playing around with natural dyes again. This is something I tried a little bit in the past, but never had great success with. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong then, I distinctly remember having poor results with turmeric - but this time around it gave a rich and even color. I suppose, like many skills, it just takes a bit of experimenting and practice.

So, I decided to give four dyes a try - turmeric, beets, mugwort, and smoked paprika. (We did not have any plain paprika at the time, and I'm not sure if there would be any real difference anyway.)

First I had to boil some eggs. There are lots of ways to do this, but my favorite method is to put the eggs in a pot, only a single layer of them. Fill the pot with cool water to about an inch above the eggs. Put the pot on the stove, over medium high heat. When it comes to a boil turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for two minutes. After two minutes, remove it from the heat, put the cover on the pot, and let it sit for 12 minutes. At that point you may want to take one of the eggs, run it under cold water, and make sure it's done. In my experience though, this is a fairly fool proof method. Then run all the eggs under cold water, and let them cool. If you use fresh eggs, they'll be harder to peel. It's best to get your eggs four or five days before you'll need them.

Turmeric produced a very vibrant and even yellow dye. To make this dye, I mixed two tablespoons of turmeric into a cup of hot water. I let the dye cool to room temperature, and mixed in a tablespoon of white vinegar. First I put the egg in for just a minute or two - that produced a pale yellow-orange egg (left). I put the egg back in for another five minutes, which gave a really rich yellow (right.)

Smoked Paprika

The paprika dye was made in the same way as the turmeric dye. Two tablespoons smoked paprika into a cup of hot water. When it cooled, I mixed in a tablespoon of white vinegar. this dye didn't coat as evenly for me. I left it in for a minute or so, and it came out pale orange with some dark orange splotches (left). After another five minutes, it was a darker orange, but still a bit splotchy (right). Leaving it in the dye even longer didn't seem to change it much. Not an even dye, but it did make some interesting patterns.

For both the turmeric and paprika dyes, you will have to allow the eggs to dry a bit, then gently wipe off any spice sticking to it.(Or just strain the water before dipping eggs.)

The beet dye took the longest to make, because I used fresh beets. Using the liquid from a can of beets would probably be quicker - but I love eating beet greens, so I went for fresh. I diced up a cup of beets, and added that to two cups of water. I let that come to a boil on the stove, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about forty minutes. Strained the beets from the liquid, allowed the liquid to cool, and added a tablespoon of white vinegar. The beet dye made a lovely pastel pink after a minute or two (left), and five minutes added to that gave a deeper pink (right).

The final dye was made with mugwort. I let two tablespoons dried mugwort steep in a cup of hot water until the water came to room temperature. Strained the mugwort out, and added a tablespoon white vinegar to the liquid. I left it in for a minute and saw no change to the egg. After about ten minutes longer in the dye, the egg was a very pale green. I didn't think it worked well, so I didn't bother to take any pictures - but the color seemed a bit deeper this morning, so I included it in the group shot above. I think in the future I'll try something else to make a green dye.

Whatever dye you use, if you like the look of really glossy eggs, you just need to rub a little olive oil onto each egg. Putting rubber bands around the eggs while dying them can make interesting designs, and you can always use wax or crayon to make more detailed designs before dipping the eggs into the dye.

Later this week I plan to test out more dyes, as well as a few different dying methods. Should be fun! Later this month I also want to write about making talismans from hollow eggs, which can be a nice thing to include as part of an Ostara ritual.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Wiccan Rede

There are two common misconceptions surrounding the Wiccan Rede that I'd like to address today.

The first misconception is that it's something all witches/pagans follow, or even that it's something that all witches/pagans must follow, and if they don't? Well, then they're not a real witch/pagan. Frankly, I don't understand how this makes sense to anyone - especially when it comes from 'elders,' or the more influential people in the community who really should know better.

Wiccans are pagan, that's true, but we know not all pagans are Wiccan. Likewise, not all witches are Wiccan. So why should all witches/pagans follow the Wiccan Rede, even if they're not Wiccan? (Heck, when you really get down to it, the Wiccan Rede is not even something truly emphasisied in all Wiccan traditions!) Yes, some non-Wiccans choose to follow the Wiccan Rede, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, there are a number of traditions and individual paths which have their own morals, ethics, and so on. The Wiccan Rede is not a part of every tradition, and it doesn't need to be. It really is that simple.

Beyond that, let's look at the meaning of the word rede. Rede doesn't mean law, and it doesn't mean commandment - instead it means something more along the lines of advice or counsel. A word of advice is a lot different than a set in stone law, so even if someone didn't follow the rede in every situation, would it really make them any less of a Wiccan/witch/pagan?

The second misunderstanding is from those who whittle the Rede down to two words, "harm none." It is impossible to never cause harm, but luckily the Rede does not say that. The Rede says "an it harm none, do what ye will" or, alternatively, "an ye harm none, do what ye will." An means if, and ye of course means you. If you harm none, do what you will. In other words? If whatever it is you're planning to do doesn't cause harm to anyone, go for it. The Rede is permissive, not restrictive.

If it does cause harm? The Rede doesn't actually say what to do in that situation, but we can assume that the advice is implying that one should carefully weigh their options in such a situation - perhaps that unnecessary harm should be avoided. However, no where does it say that causing any harm must always be avoided. An additional line to the Rede has been floating around for a while now "an it cause harm, do as ye must." Although it's not an 'official' part of the Rede, perhaps it does help clarify the spirit of the Rede more than just saying "harm none" does.

Now, to be fair, no, I am not a Wiccan, and no, I do not personally incorporate the Rede into my path. So perhaps it isn't my place to be commenting on what the Rede does or does not mean, since I don't even follow it... but, well, I figure since it's pushed on me so often I might as well toss my two cents in on the matter now and again. There are several different ways one could interpret the Rede, but I think taking the "harm none" approach just doesn't do it justice.

Friday, March 1, 2013


What does eclectic mean? Looking at a dictionary, we see...
1. Selecting or choosing from various sources.
2. Made up of what is selected from different sources.
3. Not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.

Really, that's about all there is to it. Spiritually speaking, to be eclectic means to pull what works for you from various sources, to put those different elements together into a working path. Although I usually just call myself a hedgewitch, it would be accurate to say I'm an eclectic hedgewitch. There are hedgewitches who work only with the symbols, belief, deities, etc. of one culture - but many of us, myself included, usually find ourselves pulling from a few different cultures, for multiple reasons.

Some people take a bad view of eclectics - we can be seen as flippant, indecisive, lazy, disrespectful. Truthfully, there are certainly some eclectics who fit that description, but there are many more who don't.

If you're going to be eclectic, it does take work. Being an eclectic should not just be about doing "whatever you want," it needs to be about doing what actually works for you, and those are not always the same thing. Beyond, that is it also not always about doing what "feels good" or "feels right." To grow spiritually we must know our personal limits, and occasionally push past them. Spiritual growth is not always good feeling, it can be uncomfortable or downright painful, but that is necessary at times.

So how do you find what works? The first step is often study, and lots of it. Know the original context of the idea/practice, know the history behind it, know why it was done, how, the real meaning of it. Occasionally some of that knowledge may be lost to history, but we should learn what we can. If we're talking about a Deity, same thing, study their history, their mythology, how they were traditionally worshiped, and so on. You don't have to worship a deity exactly as was done historically, but it's good to know the information, and it can keep you from doing something that would be seen as inappropriate.

After studying, an idea can be put into practice. Try it out. Experiment a bit. If it works well for you, you can work on incorporating it into your personal practice. If it doesn't? You may want to give it a few more tries, but if it still isn't working after a good while, you can move on to find something that does. You don't have to force yourself into doing something that just isn't working, but some techniques may require persistence to really get right.

Being eclectic is not about just grabbing anything pleasing and shoving it all together, hoping that you get something somewhat functioning. We need to be respectful to the cultures we borrow from - and sometimes, that can even mean not borrowing a particular practice or belief at all.

Remember, these are often sacred symbols, beliefs, and so on - not just to the original culture, but if you're going to incorporate it into your practice then they are sacred to you too. Treat them that way.