Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Solstice

I hope everyone had a happy winter solstice. The weather here has been pretty mild since the solstice, quite warm, even at night. It's been nice for spending a bit of time outside, especially at night to do a bit of stargazing. With everything that's been going on lately I haven't been spending much time outside the last few months, and it's definitely time to turn that around.

One thing I really enjoy about the colder months is the silence that comes with them. At night there are no sounds of bugs, and rarely are there any animal noises. It's a bit eerie at times, but peaceful... Sometimes you can hear the slight movement of branches in the breeze, something stirring out in the woods, but tonight it's just dead silent. Looking up at the moon and stars with nothing else going on, it's quite rejuvenating.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflecting on 2014

With Yule just a week away, I suppose now is a good time to begin looking back on the year.

I actually started by looking back at 2013 a bit. 2013 was a great year for me in a lot of ways, but my spirituality tended to take a back seat at times. A lot of my energy went to other things, and I have no regrets with that, but for 2014 I did want to bring a bit more balance to my life. I do feel like I've accomplished that.

In 2013, and to some extent 2012, I felt a bit like I was trying to walk in too many directions at once. 2014 has brought some clarity there, and my path has become much less eclectic, and more focused. At this point, it's certainly been working much better for me.

2014 has been the year of coming full circle in many ways. Most notably I have dedicated my time fully to the Greek deities, those deities I originally sought out when I first became pagan, and Aphrodite in particular, being called to work a specific goal with her, making up for my botched and somewhat selfish attempts of so many years ago. It's a real reminder not just of the progress made this year, but of just how far I've come since starting out on this path. It's a nice reminder to have, because I think many of us can get caught up in the idea we should be doing more, or moving faster, and that can cause us to lose sight of the progress we really have made. 

I'm not quite sure what spiritual goals I'll set for 2015 yet, it's something I have to think about a bit more over the next week or so. I suspect community will come into play, somehow, since that's been on my mind for a while now. I know there are also some herbalism projects I'd like to tackle. Still working out the details there.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Pagan Experience Blogging Project

I was looking forward to perhaps being in a better place health-wise this coming year so I could commit to doing the Pagan Blog Project. Unfortunately, it seems like 2014 was the last official year, and so I won't have that chance. I thought about perhaps just doing it as a personal writing challenge of sorts, and may still at some point, but it seems there's a new project this year called The Pagan Experience.

Overall it seems a bit more loose, there will be prompts or a theme each week, but I guess you don't have to follow them very strictly? (Or at all? Bit confused on that part.) I think I'll give the project a go, especially since my old go-to for weekly prompts, Pagan Blog Prompts, completely died out very shortly after being taken over by someone new. (Quite frustrating - it could have at least been handed off to someone else, since I know for a fact the two people who did take it over were not the only ones who expressed interest in running the blog.)

Anyway, it'll be nice to have a new set of prompts with a bit of a schedule. Still hard to believe we're so close to 2015 though, where'd the year go?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Community and Health - Again

As a follow up to a post from a few months ago, I've been to a few specialists in order to figure out what's going on with my health. Right now there's a good bit of evidence pointing to an auto-immune issue. I'm waiting on another test result, and then in two weeks I'm due to see a rheumatologist.

I'm hopeful that I'm finally coming up on the end of a lot of wondering, and that I'll finally be able to begin some sort of treatment that will allow me to feel better. Being sick has, unsurprisingly, affected a lot of areas of my life - and that includes spiritually, which has been hard.

I still make the time to keep up with my minimum commitments, tending to Aphrodite's shrine one a week, and the other shrines once a lunar month (at least). It is very important to me that I keep up with the work I am doing with Aphrodite, and it's important to me to maintain some connection to my other deities, as well. However, there are other projects and goals which have fallen to the side for now.

The other issue has been with finding spiritual community. I mentioned before there is a pagan group here as part of a UU church, but since I would have to walk to the church I'm going to wait for my health to get a little better (or at least for warmer weather) before looking into that.

So for the moment I'm left with online fellowship. There are still a lot of days I miss my old forum hangout. It hit me the other day that it's been almost two years since the issues with ownership/activity on that forum began. It's been hard to lose that place, because even though we often believed in different things, and practiced in different ways, it felt like we were often all on the same page. Oh well, guess there's no use dwelling, huh?

Beyond all that, I also want to mention that I have not forgotten the 30 days of deity devotion, it's just been hard to get the thoughts together in my mind with all that's going on. I do plan on getting back to it this month, hopefully on Sunday or early next week, although I do think I'm going to have to say some of the days out of order, and save some of the longer topics for now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: HedgeWitch by Silver RavenWolf

I've spent quite a while debating whether I should bother writing this review or not, and after seeing three different people asking about the quality of this book in the last week, I figure now's probably the time.

In the interest of honesty, Silver RavenWolf is an author that I would absolutely not recommend in most circumstances. I know she's a popular author to bash, but I actually own and have read several of her books, and there have always been issues with them. That said, I really did try to go into this book with an open mind - and after reading it, I have no problem saying this is the worst book of hers I have read to date.

Let me address the core issue first - this is not, in any way, hedgecraft. At all.

Now, many hedgewitches will recognize this as a common issue. Quite a few of the more generally popular authors who've written on the subject have really missed the mark, such as Rae Beth's earlier works which paint hedgecraft as a sort of watered down solitary Wicca, which hedgecraft is not. That said, sometimes these books might not be good resources on hedgecraft, but occasionally they work for those interested in green witchcraft or kitchen witchcraft. I do not feel that HedgeWitch is one of those books.

If you've ever heard of "The Secret" that is essentially what HedgeWitch is about. HedgeWitch teaches that you can pretty much get anything you want, so long as you're positive about it. In RavenWolf's own, often repeated, words, "it always works!" If you're not getting what you want, then gosh, you're just not being positive enough! The universe will literally give you anything you want as long as you think happy.

This is, in my opinion, a rather naive view of magic and the universe. A view that can actually be rather harmful when taken further. Aside from the fact that, frankly, it's a bit delusional, it also causes issues when looking at other people's circumstances. As an example of what I mean, the author of "The Secret" apparently once said that natural disasters can only strike people who are "on the same frequency as the event." In other words, people who've been affected by natural disasters brought it on themselves. This is just as disgusting as the fundie Christians who say that such disasters are meant to punish sinners.

RavenWolf herself doesn't make such a harsh claim (although she does blame some more minor events on negative thinking), but that does seem to the logical end of this particular way of thinking. I would write much more on the issues I have with taking positive thinking to such an extreme of "it always works!" but, frankly, a lot of people have already done this, and there are plenty of other issues in this book to get to.

Now, at the beginning of this book RavenWolf says that "the universe" doesn't understand "big words, flowery prose, or disclaimers." Using words like don't, won't, etc, in "spells" is a big no-no. Personally, I disagree with this idea quite a bit, because I do not think this is how magic 'works,' so to speak, and this idea is not present in many traditional forms of magic. Different people have different views, of course, but my real issue with this is I don't know if this is something that RavenWolf has, essentially, just made up, or if this is something with a bit more foundation to it. This issue of presenting everything as solid, indisputable, universal fact, even when it's just her own view, is a common one. There's nothing wrong with an author wanting to share their personal beliefs and experiences, it's part of what can make a book great, but just stating everything as total fact is not the way to go about it.

Perhaps a better example of this is her statement that "HedgeWitch prayer beads use twenty-eight beads on a string, with twenty-eight corresponding to one moon cycle." Where the heck is this coming from? I've never heard of it before, never seen it in any other source on the subject (good or bad). I mean, at this point in the book (about halfway through), it's clear RavenWolf doesn't actually have any idea what a hedgewitch is (or, perhaps, she just doesn't care). There is no universal structure for prayer beads within hedgecraft. This is in no way the absolute fact that she presents it as.

Another issue with this is while she presents these "facts" quite readily, she rarely addresses the actual "why" behind any of it. She'll say do this, use this, say that, and often doesn't explain the reasons behind any of it.

A fair portion of the book is dedicated to thirteen rituals, to be done over thirteen days, which end in... a dedication ritual. Yes, apparently thirteen days is all that's required before you should dedicate yourself. (To be fair, she also says they can be done over thirteen weeks, which is still rather questionable.) Fourteen days until you have all the power you desire, until you can have anything you want. This book reads like a snake oil scam - it'll cure anything!

After the dedication ritual, the rest of the book covers some craft ideas, a touch of herbalism, gardening, and some of the same old 101 stuff you can find anywhere. There are other books I would recommend for any of these subjects, as they go into more detail, and have a more solid base in them to work from. That said, it's not like the recipes and ideas in this section are necessarily bad, although I do find them to be a bit bland personally, but... there's that same issue again and again, the word hedgewitch keeps being used, but there is no hedgecraft in this book. None. Tossing the word hedgewitch everywhere, and casting a hedgewitch circle, writing in a hedgewitch book, and making a hedgewitch herb mix... none of it has any meaning. Hedgecraft is a personal and flexible tradition, but that doesn't mean you can just make up anything you want and declare it to be hedgecraft, without ever addressing any of the core elements that set hedgecraft apart from other practices. It's frustrating to see my tradition so misrepresented, and it's a waste of time, money, and effort for anyone who would actually like to learn about hedgecraft.

If you want to learn about hedgecraft, this is not the book for you. If you want to learn about green or kitchen witchcraft, there are much better sources. Unless you're really looking for "The Secret" with a bit of crafts and a little bit of shallow witchcraft, this is not the book you're looking for.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Storm

A storm started rolling in on Wednesday, very thick, heavy snow. Tore down tons of branches, bent small trees and flower bushes right over. A lot of people were without power. I was at my grandparent's house, and we lost power that night, right before I was about to sit down to make some apple pies.

The old maple tree out back has lost two huge branches. I'm hoping the tree won't be too bad off, and I'm definitely planning to take a bunch of wood from the fallen branches since that tree's a bit special to me. I've only had time to go out and take a quick look, but there also looks like there might be a nice branch for a stang there.

I'm not sure I want to make another stang, since it's the sort of tool where, for me, I would think one would be enough... but man, that branch is just so perfect for it. I might also take enough to make a new set of ogham staves, and perhaps some for charms?

Winter storms bring a lot of damage, and this one left a lot of people without power for days, and having to throw away tons of food that spoiled, but I can always count on them to supply some fallen wood for various projects, might at well get some good from the damage.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Approaching Aphrodite

Aphrodite's altar is coming along. I want to post a picture in the next few days. I preformed my first ritual at it yesterday morning. I was actually planning to do it sooner, but there were a few days where my health wasn't letting me, and then another morning where I took a ritual shower, got dressed, and things just didn't feel right. I didn't preform the ritual, and I spent some time thinking about what was off... eventually it hit me, it was the clothes. I shouldn't be wearing them. I shouldn't be wearing anything

That was a new one for me. Fifteen-ish years of paganism and I have not once ever felt the need to do a ritual in the nude. It's not so much that I'm uncomfortable with the idea, but it just wouldn't be practical for the types of rituals I tend to do. I've never been big on ritual garb one way or the other, really, my everyday clothes have just worked fine for most things up to this point.

So since I had no real objections I went ahead with it. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've seen a few other pagans say that the first time they practiced nude they found it totally freeing, and amazing, and wonderful, and they'll never go back... and nope, didn't get any of that myself. It wasn't super amazing, and it wasn't uncomfortable or awkward, it just felt normal and like the right thing for the ritual. I will continue to do it when honoring Aphrodite in this same setting, but I don't see it becoming a regular occurrence in other ritual settings.

As for the ritual itself I probably should have written more of it out, rather than just be beginning and part of the middle, because I found myself rambling a bit at times. Shortly after the ritual I found myself thinking of another deity, and realized that perhaps this deity should actually be included on the altar as well (and that I perhaps should be directing my specific request to this deity?). I'm still thinking on that...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Western Astrology

In the last week or so I've seen three different people saying things like "I really like this person but I'm a Leo and they're an Aquarius and so we shouldn't date, right?"


Look, let's assume for a minute that astrology is always correct, right? Even if that happened to be the case there's a lot more to astrology than just whatever your sun sign is. A full birth chart is much more detailed than the single sign that was determined by the month-ish long range of dates you happened to be born in. I mean, I'm an Aquarius, and so is my mother, and so is one of my best friends, and so is an old high school friend... and we are all very different people from each other. So the idea of basing things like relationships off of only a sun sign is perhaps not the best idea.

But let's look a bit deeper. The fact is that western astrology is not the only system of astrology that's out there.  There is also the Chinese system, and all it's variants, there's the Hindu system which shares some qualities with western astrology, but also has a lot of differences, and other systems. The truth is these systems can often conflict with each other. You're an Aries and she's a Virgo and that's a perfect match? Great, but oh wait, you're a tiger and she's a monkey and those are totally incompatible? What do you do then? (I'm making up those examples completely, but you get the idea, right?)

Interestingly, according to western astrology and Chinese astrology, my SO and I are pretty darn incompatible... which explains our twelve year long happy relationship. Although with the small Japanese variant we're compatible. So I guess the Japanese got it right, right? Or maybe that's just an example of why relying on astrology to make major life decisions isn't always the best idea. 

I also tend to think there's a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy with those who rely heavily on astrology. They're convinced they'll never get along with a Leo, and so... they never get along with a Leo. Sometimes I'll see someone saying, wow, good thing Mercury retrograde is over! Is it...? I didn't even know that was a thing that was happening, but apparently it was supposed to be hugely disruptive to my life in some way? Hm...

It's a bit like the old myth that the ER is much more busy during a full moon, ER workers all claim that to be true... but statistically, it's not accurate, that myth has been completely debunked. Still, the myth persists because of similar situations.

This is not at all to say astrology has no ritual or spiritual applications, it certainly can, and if using it in such ways works well for you, well, keep at it. I just think that maybe, you know, maybe making huge life decisions and judging someone entirely from their astrological birth chart is not really the best choice to make.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Homemade Skincare

Often in pagan communities the topic of various homemade products comes up. Usually the conversation is more about homemade cleaning products, but sometimes the topic of skincare comes up as well, and whenever it does a lot of not so great suggestions for things to put on your face always seem to pop up.

One thing I find worrying is the idea that "if it burns, it's working!" You do not need to burn your face for something to be effective. The skin on your face is generally quite delicate, and treating it harshly is not a good idea. Of course, everyone is different, and some people can be a lot more harsh with their skin than others... so, before trying out any homemade remedy, or even any store-bought product, it's always best to do a patch test. To do that just use a small bit on a small area of your face, and see if there's any odd reaction in the next day or so. Some people repeat the test for a few days in a row, especially if they're prone to acne, as it can take a few days to really see if something is causing you to break out. Sometimes it's better to do the patch test on your wrist, especially if you're testing for any sort of allergic reaction.

Another thing to look out for is anything that makes your face feel very tight. A lot of people like that feeling and have come to associate it with being clean, or whatever else, but the truth is it just means your skin is too dry. Try something with a bit more moisture!

Now, what sort of things should you avoid putting on your face? I'd say avoid anything that has baking soda, lemon, and cinnamon. Baking soda is very basic, and is quite harsh on the skin, especially when used as a scrub. Using it as a scrub or mask is an especially poor choice for people with dry or acne prone skin. Sometimes a small amount of baking soda can be used when it's added to other things, but just using it straight, or using large amounts of it, isn't a great idea. Lemon is the opposite of baking soda in that it is too acidic. Additionally lemon and lime (and perhaps other citrus?) can make you much more sensitive to sun damage. That can either be a severe burn, a rash, or blistering. Cinnamon is a common ingredient in those "it burns so it's working!" remedies, but again, burning doesn't mean it's working - and many people are sensitive to cinnamon and can get actual burns from it.

If you're specifically making a scrub, avoid anything that is very coarse - nutmeg and ground nuts are commonly suggested, and not really that great for the skin on your face. A good scrub for your face would be something like a mix of brown sugar and a bit of olive oil. Be gentle with any scrub, and only use them a few times a week. People who have very sensitive skin or issues with acne should usually avoid scrubs.

What else is good? Honey. Honey is anti-bacterial and is slightly more acidic than the skin on your face, making it a good treatment for acne. It's also a humectant, which means it'll keep your skin nice and moisturized. It can be used as a mask, although it can be pretty messy to apply and keep on. Plain Greek yogurt can also be used as a mask. Apple cider vinegar can be used like a toner, but avoid white vinegar which has a lower pH and isn't as gentle to the skin.

Those are just a few examples of things that are okay, or not okay, for your face... and remember, everyone's different. There are apparently people out there who scrub their faces vigorously every day with baking soda and say it's amazing, but do your skin a favor and patch test, and maybe consider options that might be less harsh.

It's also good to remember that just because something is natural, that doesn't automatically make it good for you!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Advice for Those Seeking Advice

If you're ever looking for advice or help with something, please be specific.

Be as clear as you can with what the issue is. Give details. If you've already tried something, say that. If you're already familiar with particular resources, list them. You don't have to weigh down a question with the story of your life, but think about any relevant information that will help.

Honestly, while I enjoy answering questions and helping people out when I can, it's quite frustrating to type out a reply and be met with a simple "I did/know that already." If you're already aware of/have tried the common solutions, take the minute to mention that so you don't end up wasting someone's time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating Aphrodite's Altar

Often I tend to favor somewhat simpler, clean altar designs. As an example, for a long time Artemis' altar was simply a statue of her with two candles on either side, although it has grown a little bit in the last few months. However, I feel like that sort of altar doesn't really fit with Aphrodite. I feel her altar should be one that easily engages all the senses when at it.

So I started thinking about the visual aspect first. I have a white statue of Aphrodite that will be in the center of the altar, but I am thinking of painting some of the details of the statue with gold paint so it stands out a bit more. Unlike my other altars, which tend to be kind of flat and symmetrical, also I want to play around with different heights, colors, and styles. 

I also knew scent would have to have a focus. I will likely burn incense at the altar at times, but I think having one of those reed oil diffusers on the altar would be a nice way to have a constant scent that's also not overpowering - perhaps something in apple blossom?

Those are probably the easier ones, though. I started thinking about things like sound... I do not think my rattle or a drum would would here. I thought about getting a little desktop fountain, or wind chime, or something like that, but couldn't quite find what I had in mind. However, I ended up finding a little silver hair stick with bells on the end of it, which seemed quite fitting. I will probably actually use this as the primary way of cleansing the altar space. (I still need to write that post about cleansing with sound at some point...)

And touch? Well, having a variety of things on the altar to interact with should cover that... candles to light, incense to place, the bells to ring, and perhaps putting on a silk wrap before beginning any ritual? I think the details of that will come together a bit better with time.

Taste is the last sense to cover. This was an interesting one to think about, as I was not originally intending to have food offerings be a major part of the day-to-day rituals done at this altar. (Also, I do not usually consume the small food offerings I make. Shared meals tend to be for more special occasions.) However, I think there are perhaps a few ways I could go about including something like that, but again, I'll probably have to wait for everything else to come together to see what would work best.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Het-heret / Hathor's Shrine

As I mentioned in my last post, I am planning a shrine for Aphrodite. Part of that planning was figuring out the best location for it. It could go in a small corner of the front room, or it could go in the office room where I spend most of my day, and usually have a bit more privacy... but that's where Hathor's shrine is currently located.

I knew the second location would be much better, but of course it means moving or dismantling Hathor's shrine. After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided that for now it would be best to dismantle it. It is important to me that I still honor all the Egyptian gods who were a large part of my life for so long, but at this point it makes more sense to me to do that as an actual yearly festival of sorts, instead of keeping a more specific shrine that no longer sees a lot of use.

So that's on today's list of things to be done. It's a bit of a sad moment, it's the first time in many, many years that there will not be a shrine to one of the Egyptian deities in my home, but I know at this point it's the best course of action. An inactive shrine doesn't do anyone any good, after all...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coming Full Circle

While I'm not ready to get into the reason why just yet, I've recently found myself planning a shrine for Aphrodite. While thinking through the details of the shrine last night it hit me that in a sense I've somewhat come full circle on my path, as Aphrodite was the first deity I remember ever setting up an altar for and trying to establish a relationship with.

Now nothing really came from that attempt, which makes sense when I look back on it. My reasons were quite selfish and misguided at the time - but hey, I was only in the 6th grade, pretty much brand new to paganism, I still had a lot to learn in a lot of ways!

Still, I find it interesting that some fifteen years later I'm turning back to the first deity I ever felt anything for. I'm back at this starting point, but this time I've learned and experienced so much, and I think if I hadn't gone out there and really explored so much for all those years, I wouldn't have what was necessary to really be able to be successful with my current path.

I had to get out there and see that there were other traditions besides Wicca, I had to explore the religions I did, honor the gods I did, build those relationships, fall into reconstruction and see what was good about it, and the benefits of learning the history, but also at the same time to have some of the more negative experiences I had, to know what I did not like, what did not work for me, to have those experiences with other people, with tradition leaders, to meet good and not-so-good people. Even on a more day-to-day basis, to build relationships with family, to know myself and my own body more, heck, even to fall in love, live across the country, travel...

So coming back to this starting point, it's like another turn of the wheel, and I'm very excited to see what the coming years will bring.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I hope everyone had a happy Samhain! (Or Beltaine!)

I didn't do much in the way of ritual for Samhain. I am planning to do some delayed offerings to Hekate, the ancestors, and Hestia this week. Unfortunately my health has been on the poorer side these past few days, and I just didn't have the energy for ritual on top of other celebrations and activities. Of course, just because something isn't ritualized, doesn't mean it's not important - I spent the weekend cooking for, and spending time with family and friends, and that's always important, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Astronomical Cross Quarter Dates 2015 to 2019

There are two sets of dates which can be used to determine when the cross quarter days fall. The first is simply a set of fixed dates, although those dates can vary slightly from person to person, tradition to tradition. Fixed days are perhaps more commonly used. With fixed dates Imbolc is always from sundown on the 1st to 2nd of February, or Samhain is sundown on October 31st to sundown on November 1st - or whatever dates one chooses to use, the same dates will be used every year.

However, there is also the method where the dates are calculated by the position of the solstices and equinoxes of the year. For example, Imbolc would be the exact midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and Beltaine would be the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice, and so on. Since the solstices and equinoxes can shift slightly from year to year, so can the cross quarter dates when using this method.

The following is a chart of cross quarter dates based on the solstices and equinoxes for 2015 to 2019, all based on Eastern Standard Time.

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 4
Beltaine - May 4
Lammas - August 6
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Monday, October 27, 2014

Comparing Spells to Prayers

It's a comparison I see often, especially when one is trying to explain what a spell is to someone who is unfamiliar with witchcraft. It's a quick and easy comparison to make, but it's not always an accurate one. This comparison makes it sound like a spell is simply petitioning a deity for aid in achieving a particular goal, but there are many who do not include deity at all when working a spell. The aid of a deity, or even belief in deities, is not needed to preform spellwork. Which is not to say one can't include deities in their workings, certainly you can, just that it's not necessary, and that there are many who do not do this.

I think it also reinforces the stereotype that all prayer is about asking a deity for something, when to many prayer is much more about communing with a deity, building a relationship, giving thanks, honoring, and not always about needing or wanting something. My reasons for praying and my reasons for spellwork often come from two totally different places - even if I do include a deity in my working, it is not the same as communing with that deity during prayer.

Again, I fully recognize that some choose to invoke a deity or deities for all spells, and there's nothing wrong with that in itself, I just wish it wouldn't be presented as the only way it's done, or as if it's a necessity to spellwork in itself.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Certain segments of the pagan community are really into 'psychic' powers and abilities - and by that I mean things like telekinesis, levitation, controlling fire with their mind, and whatever else - and it's very odd that so many of these people are just totally unquestioning about the claims others might make. Someone says they can levitate objects, and everyone else is just unquestioningly like, wow, cool. It's just accepted, and that's just completely bizarre to me.

I think sometimes the justification for this becomes "I believe in weird things, so I can't judge someone else for believing something weird," but I really don't think that flies with a claim like "I can control fire!" That's not a belief, it's not a spiritual practice, it's something that would actually be able to be demonstrated if the person could actually do it.

Once a person making such a claim did send me a link to a video of them showing their power. It was a video that was a few minutes long where they were sitting in front of a lit candle, and they had their hands on either side of the candle, and the candle was... flickering. I said to them that I didn't see anything unusual, and they said the candle was flickering even though there was no draft in the room, and they were causing that flickering with their mind.

Which is, of course, not how candles work. Even if one was absolutely sure that there was not even the slightest movement of air in a room (which can be quite hard to achieve, actually), candles still flicker as they burn because as the wax melts down, sometimes it hits small bubbles in the wax, or slight impurities, the melting of the wax itself, or there might be a slight curve in the wick, and of course the candle itself can create air currents because it's creating heat in the air which rises, and is replaced by the cooler air of the room.

How do I know that's why candles flicker? Because I spent about three minutes on Google. I find it very, very problematic that this person skipped that step and went right to "I have psychic powers," and wanting to know how she could strengthen them. Granted, they were a bit younger, but it's troubling that this section of the community seems to encourage these ideas of what power is, that you can read about these powers online and in books, and it's just not questioned like it should be.

And I know, going back to the an earlier point, that certainly there is someone out there who says, well, how can you judge these people when you believe in weird things like Greek Gods and nature spirits?! I can't prove these entities exist, I know that, but at the same time I'm not saying someone else should believe what I do, or that there shouldn't be skepticism around such beliefs... but the thing is, a lot of these claims of powers could be easily proven, and again, people just seem to skip that. It's almost like they think being skeptical would be rude or unsupportive, but in all honesty there is nothing wrong with a bit of skepticism. Unquestioningly accepting everything is going to come back to burn you at some point. Questioning outlandish claims is perfectly okay, and more than that it's a perfectly healthy thing to do.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I've done a good bit of traveling in the last decade. At nineteen I moved totally across the US from New Hampshire to western Washington, and lived there for five years. During that time each summer I went on a coast to coast road trip to visit family and friends. While living there I traveled around the Olympic Peninsula at least twice. I even flew up to Alaska once for a few days. Since moving back to New Hampshire I still go on a road trip once a year to visit family. I've traveled through a majority of the states in the continental US.

I know I'm lucky to have been able to have these experiences. There are a lot of people who rarely ever get to leave their little area of the world, but would love the opportunity. (Heck, for all my traveling the only other country I've been to is Canada, so there's still a lot of the world I want to see, too!) Still, there's one experience I've come away with, that I wasn't really expecting when all this began... an appreciation for home.

Home, in this case, means to things to me. First, an appreciation for the actual physical home that I live in. My home isn't perfect, but staying in someone else's house for weeks at a time can really get you appreciating your own space a bit more. There's just a feeling that walking into your home after over a month away brings.

Staying in other's homes also teaches me what I am grateful for about my home, and what I want in my own home. As an example, while staying with my fiance's parents, he somewhat jokingly said to me we should each start a new game on his Steam account every week, so we'd eventually play them all. (For those not familiar with Steam, basically it's a service where you can buy and download video games, all digital, and they're known for having amazing sales, so you very easily end up with a large library without spending huge amounts of money.) His father said that we should each just buy a book of poetry every week.

Now look, I'm not going to get into the whole benefits and worth of poetry versus video games thing, but I am going to say that's 104 books by the end of the year. Now this is a man who has bookshelves completely filled (if not overflowing) with books in every room in in home. I know a home that is a library is the picture of heaven for quite a few people... but not me. It's not that I have anything against books, but being in crowded house after crowded house, it just takes too much out of me, I can't live that way. Through traveling I have also learned to live with less from day to day. Fewer clothes, fewer things. I'm not by any means a total minimalist, but I do find the idea that less is more works for me - and every year I find myself connecting to that idea more. I find caring for clutter to be emotionally and physically draining, and that's energy better spent elsewhere.

Still, it's more than all that, more than just the building I live in, it's also the land itself. When I'm gone I do miss New England - specifically the upper area of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The seasons, the weather, the feel and look of the land, all of it. Especially around this time of year. I passed through many states on the way home, and none of them really felt like autumn to me. None of them feel like home feels.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

30 days on pause...

I've decided to put Hestia's 30 days on hold until a little later in the month (or maybe even until the beginning of next month). I wrote a bit before on how I'm away from home for a while, or I think I did anyway, and at this point I'm going to be on the road again in a few days, visiting with family, and then back on the road. Not a lot of time for writing, and there are some interesting prompts coming up that I want to be able to give my full attention to.

When I actually get home, I've also got to spend some time getting things ready for the coming cold weather, make sure the heaters are clean and working, get the coats and gloves out, get the blankets out, and all that good stuff. It'll be good to finally be home again, though.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Autumn Equinox

The autumn equinox slipped by me this year. This is probably, in part, due to the fact that I'm traveling away from home at the moment. I've been busy, not feeling well, and it just doesn't feel like late-September here. I don't get back to New Hampshire until mid-October, it's going to be a bit of a shock going right from places with averages in the mid to high 70s (it was in the 90s yesterday!), down to the mid-60s.

I'm also a bit sad that I'm missing fair season back home. When I do get back I think I'm going to have to make myself some candy apples and fried dough to get into the autumn spirit. (As if getting all the cold weather preparations done won't be enough for that!)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Groups are made up of individuals!

This morning I was reading an anthology of works from pagan authors, and one author was ranting on about how feminists say this one thing, but then feminists also say this totally contradictory thing!

Wow. It's almost as if feminism is made up of tons of individuals who may not always agree on everything. (Assuming these are actual feminists, because all too often I see "feminist" used to mean "someone I don't like," which is a shame.)

Look, I'm going to be harsh here. I honestly do not understand how anyone can make it out of high school without learning the very simple lesson that a group of people is not necessarily a hive mind. That individuals in a group might disagree at times, and hold different opinions. That all groups have their bad apples. I feel like this is something very obvious that is very apparently early on in life, and yet so many people don't seem to have a grasp on this. They're very happy to dismiss an entire group of people because they might see two different individuals of a group expressing two different opinions on a topic. It can be pretty frustrating at times. Do they not ever see disagreement within their own groups? Do they just ignore it? Do they think it's different because they see the details, know the people as individuals? Do they take on all opinions of their group, no matter how contradictory? I just don't understand.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hestia, Days Sixteen and Seventeen

16. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?

Hospitality was quite important to the ancient Greeks, both being a good host, and a good guest. While there are perhaps some other deities who deal more directly with this (Zeus Xenios, perhaps?), I feel that Hestia plays a role here, too, in providing the guest with food and drink, as well as a safe place.

Hestia likely also demonstrates the importance of family and of a peaceful home, and perhaps the value of the extended community.

17. How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?

Hestia was frequently worshiped alongside quite a few other Greek deities, including Apollon, Poseidon, Zeus, Hermes, Hekate, and others, but unlike some ancient deities it seems she wasn't really worshiped outside her pantheon, or not that I have seen, in any case.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hestia, Day Fifteen

15. Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?

Hestia deals with quite a few of the more mundane aspects of life. She is associated with baking bread, and with the preparation of family meals, as well as with preparation of larger banquets. Similarly, Hestia also deals with hospitality - being a good host, but also being a good guest. 

As the hearth was the primary source of heat for the home, Hestia is also associated with keeping the home warm during cool weather. Since Hestia is credited with the invention of the home itself, and teaching that skill to humans, the actual building of a home, or an addition to the home, could be seen as being under her influence.

Really, most aspects of running a household also fall under Hestia's domain, anything from cleaning, making sure the home doesn't fall into disrepair, and even things like making sure your bills are paid and your books are balanced could be seen as under Hestia's influence - anything that ensures that the home runs smoothly. As Hestia was also the hearth at the center of a town or city, one might associate her with the smooth running of day-to-day civic matters, as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prayer Beads for Hestia

I'm considering making a set of prayer beads, and writing prayers for them, for part of the 30 Days of Deity Devotion project. I have a few ideas kicking around, but it's a bit difficult because Hestia doesn't have very many traditional associations or symbols to work from. Some deities have metals, gems, woods, numbers, and more associated with them, but Hestia has none of those. I'll have to go almost entirely from my own gut on this.

I've been running through a few options for the beads, but I keep coming back to peach moonstone. To be honest, I don't always consider the spiritual properties of stones when making prayer beads or jewelry, it's really more about color, pattern, texture, shape, overall feel, but I thought I'd dig around a bit and see what lore I could find out there on the internet specifically about peach moonstone. There wasn't a lot, and much of it seems to have been copied and pasted from the same source.

Still, what I did find seemed to always come back to the same few things; peace, soothing anxiety or worries, removing fear or anger, gentle love, and divine love, or being aware of the divine all around you. This all seems quite appropriate to Hestia, so I'm pretty sure that's the main material I'll be working with.

The rest is really still up in the air, though, I'll have to spend some more time considering the options. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hestia, Day Fourteen

14. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?

While obviously the old Greek religion does not exist as it did in the past, and so a lot of those supports and more state related activities are no longer practiced, I think that the heart of Hestia's worship has not really changed. Hestia was primarily a deity of the hearth and home, and this is still how many worship her in modern times.

The formal worship may be gone, but many modern worshipers carry on with old traditions, like offering a bit of dinner, or a bit of raw ingredients or spices while cooking. Many homes no longer have hearths, or even fireplaces, but shrines to Hestia can still be found in kitchens, near ovens, or in other central places of the home.

Of course, some new traditions have been created, as well. Hestia is not just worshiped by Greek reconstructions, but by kitchen witches, hedge witches, Wiccans, eclectics, and others. She is being worshiped in new ways, during new festivals, and offerings of spices, foods, drinks, and more, are being made that never would have been seen in ancient Greece. Even so, Hestia is the hearth fire, she's the home, and that doesn't change, even if some of the details do - the core of who she is, the core ideas of her worship remain the same for many modern worshipers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hestia, Day Thirteen

13. What modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?

As Hestia is the center of the home, and the one who brings blessings to the home and family, she of course has concern over the matters of the home. This certainly includes the day-to-day issues of running a home, but I also feel this extends to the deeper cultural issues that a home might face, such as domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect, and similar situations that make a home fearful and unsafe. Similarly, homelessness is a big issue in many areas, and I feel that would also fall under Hestia's concern. 

Hunger is also a pretty big issue in many places, there are lots of people who struggle to have enough to eat, who have to make choices between food and other basic necessities. Since Hestia has ties to bread making (which was one of the staple foods in ancient Greece), as well as to cooking in general, I find this to be an issue that falls under her domain as well.

I mentioned in the offerings post that offerings can be more than food, incense, and other physical goods, an offering can also be one of time, and I think donating resources or volunteering time to one of these causes would be a wonderful way to honor Hestia and what she stands for - especially considering that Hestia is not just the center of the home, but the center of the larger community as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Community, take two, and health.

As somewhat of a continuation of my last pagan community post, I'm starting to wonder if part of the issue isn't just plain old burn out on my part. I've spent a good amount of time over the last several years on various forums and the like, writing articles, answering questions, and all that sort of thing... and don't get me wrong, it's not all self-sacrifice or anything, I have certainly benefited from the community and I generally enjoy helping people, but it's all something that takes up quite a bit of time and energy.

So maybe it's time to take a break, stick around the more casual spots, and start having some more 'alone' time for a while. Re-charge a bit.

Of course, while part is likely burn-out in this specific area, a lot of it is probably just fatigue in general. I don't usually like to write about health issues and other things like that here, but maybe it's worth making a note of. I've had serious fatigue issues on and off for a few years now, but lately it's become severe enough that I've needed to start seeing a doctor. I'm actually scheduled for a sleep study next month. I'm very hopeful that they'll be able to figure out what's going on, and start fixing the problem. It's definitely been an impact on my life, and of course that includes my spiritual life.

But back to community, I was also considering looking into the local pagan community after a bit of me-time, which is something I haven't done since moving back to New Hampshire. I don't have much interest in practicing in a group, but there are some more community based groups, I guess you could call them? They don't seem to focus so much on group practice, but more on community and that sort of thing, which does appeal to me. It's been a long time since I actually had pagans that I could interact with offline, so it might be fun to explore that a bit. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sixth Night Festival

I've mentioned in the past that I hold a somewhat informal ritual on the 6th night of the lunar cycle in honor of Artemis. However, like Hekate's Deipnon, for a few reasons it's been a few months since I last celebrated it.

A few weeks back I suddenly felt compelled to make an offering to Artemis and spend some time mediating in a small meadow which I associate with her. During that time I promised that I would make a special offering to her at least once a lunar cycle until the end of the year (after that is to be determined), as that really is the very minimum I can do, and I should do more than that when I can of course, but if health issues prevent it, then at least that much I can do.

Last night was the sixth night of this lunar cycle, so I tried out a new recipe for little honey sesame cakes. They weren't bad, but I think I'd make them slightly different next time. I made an offering of the cakes and some sweet wine at the edge of the woods.

This morning I woke up to find that a bear had been in the backyard during the night. Now this isn't too odd, bears do live in the area, and I imagine they probably like honey cakes, but the bear is also one of Artemis' sacred animals. I try not to read too much into these things, as again it's not uncommon for bears to be in the area, but perhaps it's a sign that I'm getting back onto the right track with my practice.

Pagan Communities

I'm a solitary by choice, as I vastly prefer to practice on my own, but I do enjoy discussion and debate with other pagans online. Online discussion communities have been a real support for me since almost the beginning of my practice, well over ten years ago now.

I've seen a lot of communities come and go. Some I drifted away from before they fell apart, but others fell apart right before my eyes. I've seen this a few times because of admins on power trips, but most recently because an admin didn't have enough time for their forum duties (which includes approving new members), but also refused to work out something where others could help out. A few of us still hang around and chat a bit, but most of the community has left. It's unfortunate, as it was a really good group of people, and a nice mix of different beliefs and views. It's hard to lose a community you really cared for.

The last few months I've been exploring other communities. I haven't found any which I seem to fit in very well... One I'm a long time member of, but the conversation tends to focus more on 'mundane' things, which isn't bad in itself, but not usually what I'm looking for. Another is very love and light and nothing else ever allowed,which doesn't really work for me... the idea that using animal parts*, a drop of your own blood, working with spirits, or whatever else makes you the "wrong sort?" I dunno, I guess that's sort of why I've tended to avoid a lot of the more "neo-Wiccan" sorts of communities. On the other hand, some communities take it the other way, where only the strictest forms of reconstructionism are seen as "right." Heaven forbid you're a soft polytheist, because that's Wiccan nonsense... despite the fact that this view of deity has existed for thousands of years now.

(*This might become a separate post at some point, but this seems like such a hypocritical attitude unless the person is a strict vegan. Why's it alright for you to eat meat and wear leather, but I'm "too dark" and misguided for using a rabbit fur from a familiar source in ritual?)

It's not that I mind being in a community with people who have very different views than I have, but it's a bit tiring to always see your beliefs painted as wrong, bad, misguided, or whatever else.

I don't know. I'll probably stick around some of the communities I've joined, but I'm still on the search for some better fits.

On a similar note, I've noticed that almost all of the pagan blogs I follow are no longer being updated, some for a few years now. I guess it's also time to start looking for some new blogs to follow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hestia, Day Twelve

12. Places associated with this deity and their worship.

The hearth itself was of course the primary place of Hestia's worship, as she was the hearth personified. The hearth would have been the center of her household worship, her offerings would have been made here, and if offerings to other gods were made at a household hearth she received a part of it. She also would have had an altar at the central hearth of a town-hall. In both the private and public hearths, it was seen as very important that the hearth fire remained burning at all times, except for particular times where it would be ceremonially extinguished and relit.

Hestia didn't have very many temples dedicated to her. There was said to be a temple of Hestia at Hermione, although it didn't contain a cult statue, only an altar. She also had altars in temples with/of other gods, such as the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Beyond that, Hestia was not just seen as the personification of the household or city hearth, but she was also seen in the holy fire that burned on any altar.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hestia, Day Eleven

11. Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity.

It seems as if Hestia did not have any special yearly festival that was particular to her, although as has been previously noted, she probably received the first offering from a sacrifice done during any festival.

Hestia did receive some special attention during the Noumenia, a festival celebrated on the first day of the visible new moon, which was the first day of the month in ancient Greece. Hestia was honored on this day along with Apollon Noumenious, Selene, and the other gods of the household (which could vary from house to house, or from city to city, although in Athens this often included Zeus, Hermes, and Hekate). 

The Noumenia celebrated the beginning of a new month, and offerings were made in hopes that the household would be blessed for the month. Traditional offerings included honey cakes, barley cakes, fruit, wine, and garlands of fresh flowers.

In Athens no other festivals were allowed to take place on the Noumenia, because it was considered such a sacred day. It was meant to be a time to celebrate, feast with family, relax, and enjoy a fresh beginning.

Now I'm not a Hellenic reconstructionist, but in my personal practice I do honor Hestia on the new moon in a way that is inspired by the Noumenia - but that's a topic deserving of it's own post, at some point. 

Additionally, I've come to associate Hestia with both Imbolc and Lammas. Imbolc is celebrated during the dead of winter here. Most years there's still tons of snow on the ground, snow and ice storms are common, the wind is breaking branches off trees, and although you can see the days begin to get longer, spring won't truly be felt for at least another two months. It also tends to be a quiet and reflective time of year. All of that makes it a perfect time to honor the warmth and blessings of Hestia.

For many Lammas is a time of grain harvest, bread baking, and first fruits, all of which are associated with Hestia in some way, particularly bread baking. It's an interesting time to explore that aspect of her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hestia, Day Ten

10. Offerings – historical and UPG.

Historical sacrifices to Hestia include cows that were a year old, as well as fruit (such as apples, figs, pears, and plums), particularly the first fruits, olive oil, sweet wine, and fresh water. It is possible that pigs were also sacrificed to Hestia. Hestia is said to have received a small first portion of any sacrifice made to any deity, often a bit of fat.

Hestia was honored at the household hearth, and this was said to be done by offering a bit of the family meal each day. Some say this was done for every meal, while other sources seem to imply that this offering would likely be part of the main meal of the day, supper. For many Greeks supper would have consisted of things like bread, vegetables, legumes, fruit, and fish. Meats like beef and pork were often special treats during festivals when a sacrifice had been made, but some were able to afford meat more frequently, or lived in an area where meat would be a bit more common.

The Orphic hymns suggest burning aromatic herbs as an incense for Hestia, which may have included things like bay leaves, lavender, chamomile, mint, coriander, and thyme. Frankincense was also likely a common incense offering.

My daily offering to Hestia tends to stick with the idea of giving a bit of dinner. The food itself is rarely traditional (the ancient Greeks probably didn't eat a lot of tacos, but I sure do), but the idea is the same, to offer a small portion of the meal (usually about a spoonful) before sitting down to eat.

For a larger celebration, I tend to stick to the more "traditional" things, like bread, fruit, cheese, olives, honey, salt, sweet cakes, fresh flowers, and so on. However, I have also found that offerings of rice, Japanese plum wine, myrrh, and sandalwood are also all appreciated - although I suppose none of those are really strange, they're all quite similar to the more traditional offerings of grains, sweet wine, and aromatics.

I have also found there's not much demand for non-perishable goods. Where I might put keys on Hekate's shrine, or waterfowl feathers on Artemis's shrine, the hearth shrine tends to remain simple and uncluttered.

Offerings don't always have to be of physical goods, of course. Mindfully keeping your kitchen tidy/home in order, or volunteering at (or donating to) a food bank are two ways one might offer their time to Hestia.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hestia, Day Nine

9. Common mistakes about this deity.

There's a myth I see commonly attributed to Hestia - that she gave up her throne on Olympus to Dionysos, that she did this to remove herself from the "drama" of the gods, or so she could focus on tending the hearth. It's a nice enough story, perhaps something Hestia might do, but as far as I can tell, this myth has no historical basis. I've dug through myths, hymns, and so on, and I have seen no reference to this in any classical work. (If someone knows of an actual historical source for this myth, please let me know about it).

However, in my digging I found a blog post about this very subject. It turns out that Robert Graves is likely the source of this myth, and I'm fairly sure I've written about him before, and the bad history that's come about due to some of his works. I've known for a while now that many of his stories are often passed around as historical fact, but I was still surprised to see that this myth was one of them.

Which is not to say that one shouldn't find meaning in the myth, or even include it in their personal path if they want to, but it's always good to know the origin of things.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Barking Dogs

Tonight is the first night in a very long while that I've celebrated Hekate's Deipnon. It is the first time since creating a permanent shrine for her in my home. It wasn't perfect. I forgot to offer any of the eggs I bought. I stumbled a bit during prayer. I couldn't leave the offerings where I wanted to, because the apartment complex was strangely busy for 11:30 at night. Couldn't burn the incense with the offerings.

But I left the offerings in a patch of mugwort by a small swampy area. I walked away and circled back around from the area, and suddenly there was a dog barking from the area where I'd left the offerings, despite the fact that there had certainly been no dog there just a minute ago. A baking dog (or dogs) is a traditional sign of Hekate's presence. As soon as I heard the baking a very strange feeling washed over me - some mix of reverence, joy, and a bit of fear.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, it's certainly possible, but perhaps it was also a sign that imperfect worship is still better than no worship.

Hestia, Days Seven and Eight

7. Names and epithets.
8. Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.).

(Once again, I'm going to take two days at once to avoid making two very short posts...)

Hestia doesn't have many surviving epithets, the few I've been able to find are:
Boulaia - of the Council
Presveira - the Oldest
Pryeaneia - of the Prytaneis
and perhaps "first and last," which I have not personally seen appear truly as an epithet, but it is used to describe her in a hymn, and could be used as such.

Hestia does not have any particular aspects or regional forms that I'm aware of. I suppose Vesta might be considered by some to be a regional form, but I personally tend to consider them two different goddesses... Either way you wish to look at the relationship between the two, Vesta was part of day six, so you can read about her connection with Hestia there.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hestia, Day Six

6. Other related deities and entities associated with this deity.

Hestia has minor ties to two other Greek deities. First in some areas she had links to Athene, due to both goddesses being virgin goddesses, and sometimes sharing a few similar (although not often actually overlapping) domains. Hestia also has ties to Demeter, as both are goddesses of baking bread. 

Herodotus, a Greek historian, equated the Scythian goddess Tabiti with Hestia, perhaps because of Tabiti's link to fire. Tabiti was apparently the chief deity of the Scythian pantheon, was a goddess of fire and the sun, and perhaps had links to the dawn, as well as being a goddess of animals.

Hestia is also equated with the Roman Vesta. Both were goddesses of the hearth and hearth fire, and both played roles in household religion because of this. However, while Hestia did have ties to the hearth of the city, and perpetual fires were kept in her honor, the Romans took this further with their dedicated priesthood of Vestal Virgins, who watched over Vesta's eternal flame in her temple, and tended to her formal rites. The Vestal Virgins had many duties in the state religion, as well.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hestia, Days Four and Five

4. A favorite myth or myths of this deity.
5. Members of the family – genealogical connections

There aren't many surviving myths about Hestia. I have briefly mentioned two of them on previous days, so the only myth really left to explore is that of her birth. Since that also gets into her family connections, I'm including that as well.

Before the birth of the Olympian Gods, the generation of which Hestia is a part of, there were the Titans. There were twelve Titans in the first generation, and Kronos ruled them. Kronos was told that he would eventually be overthrown by one of his own children (in most versions of this myth, Kronos overthrew his own father, Uranus, to gain his power). To make sure his rule wouldn't come to an end, he swallowed each of his children as his wife, Rhea, gave birth to them.

Hestia was the first born, and so the first to be swallowed by Kronos. Rhea also gave birth to Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, and they met the same fate as Hestia. However, when Rhea gave birth to Zeus she hid him away, and tricked Kronos into eating a stone instead. Zeus grew up, and forced Kronos to throw up his siblings, who came out in reverse order they were swallowed. This is why Hestia is both the oldest and youngest, and why she is sometimes called "first and last," and why she was frequently given the first and last offerings at banquets and some other events.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Hestia was a virgin Goddess who never married, and did not have children of her own, although her siblings had quite a few children, and so she is related to quite a few other gods in that way.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hestia, Day Three

3. Symbols and icons of this deity.

Unlike many deities, Hestia is not associated with many animals, plants, or other symbols. The primary symbol of Hestia is the hearth, as Hestia is a personification of the hearth and hearth fire. The actual hearth fire is probably her strongest symbol, as she was thought to actually reside within it.

In art Hestia is often shown holding a flowering branch of an unknown plant. Some suggest it's the branch of a chaste tree, but there seems to be no real evidence one way or another. Hestia is also sometimes shown with a kettle (cauldron), which was of course used in cooking over the hearth.

Some sources state that the pig is Hestia's sacred animal. There is also a myth where Hestia is sleeping at a party, and another deities attempts to sneak up on her in an to attempt to rape her, but as he got close to Hestia a donkey started braying which woke her up. Due to this myth, some also see the donkey as an important animal to Hestia.

Hestia is shown in classical art as wearing long, flowing robes, and often wearing a head covering. The head covering has become an important symbol to some of her modern devotees, and some have felt called to wear a head covering during some, or all, or her worship, while cooking, cleaning, or doing other domestic chores, and there are some who have even taken to wearing it during most of their day. This is of course a personal decision, and not everyone who worships Hestia chooses to do this, or finds the same meaning in it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hestia, Day Two

2. How did you become first aware of this deity?

I suspect I picked up a bit of knowledge about who Hestia was from when we studied Greek mythology sometime in middle school. Hestia also frequently makes those deity lists you see in a lot of 101 books or on 101 websites, "Hestia: Greek goddess of the hearth and family."

I suppose I started to learn more about her when I moved into my first apartment and had the freedom of my own kitchen to begin exploring kitchen witchcraft more fully - particularly once I left Kemetic reconstructinism in 2007, and no longer had that tradition as the focus of most of my time. Hestia is mentioned in many kitchen witch resources, although rarely in great detail. I did not actively worship her at this point in time, however.

It wasn't until earlier this year that I actually began to become aware of her in more than an academic sense. I can't pinpoint exactly when it was. It is very hard to explain, but it's like when I knew Westya (a proto-Indo-European reconstructed hearth goddess) it was like knowing a part of Hestia, as well. Then when I was struggling to figure out which direction I should go, there was Hestia to make it clear. That is when I very clearly became aware of her.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion - Hestia, Day One

1. A basic introduction of the deity.

Hestia is a Greek goddess of the hearth and home. (Her name means hearth.) The hearth or hearth fire was not just a symbol of Hestia, it was thought she was actually present in the flame. Due to her associations with the hearth, she was a goddess who ruled over the cooking and baking done for family meals, as well as for larger banquets. As the hearth was considered the center of the home, Hestia was thought to be the center of every home, the heart of the home, and so also ruled over domestic life, and brought peace, happiness, and blessings to families. She was also believed to be the one who taught humanity how to build homes.

Hestia was also seen as the goddess of the sacred altar fire, and so part of every sacrifice was first offered to her. This is also true of household offerings, where the hearth would often also serve as altar for sacrifices to household spirits and other gods.

Hestia also oversaw the right order of the state. Each town or city usually had it's own central hearth with a sacred fire that was always kept lit. The city or town was seen as an extended family of sorts, and the central hearth ensured blessings to the community as a whole, so that the town would be unified and prosperous.

Hestia is considered to be one of the virgin goddesses. Both Poseidon and Apollon wished to marry her, but she swore to remain unmarried for eternity.

Taking on the 30 Days of Deity Devotion challenge, again.

So, over a year ago now (wow) I came across this project called 30 Days of Deity Devotion, which is basically a list of 30 blog prompts to answer on the deity of your choice. I started the list with Artemis, but never got around to finishing it for a number of reasons. I originally planned to pick up the project again with Artemis when I started blogging again, but I think with what's going on in my life right now it might make more sense to re-start the project and begin with Hestia. I do plan to get back to Artemis at some point in the net couple of months, I'm just working on a few things now relating to Artemis that I want to finish up before that.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Demeter and Corn

So there's a bit of confusion I see pop up now and again, and that's when corn doesn't mean corn. What is mean is, say you read that the Greek goddess Demeter is a corn goddess. If you live in America or Canada (or a few other places), you're probably thinking of this stuff here:
Image from the Wikipedia article on corn, "Cornheap" by en:User:Pratheepps
The problem is, corn (which for clarity's sake I'm going to refer to as maize), is native to the Americas, the ancient Greeks did not known it. So why is Demeter so frequently called a goddess of corn?

This is where we get into the second definition of corn, that is as a word for any cereal grain, or more specifically, it's sometimes used as a word to describe whatever the local cereal is. So corn can mean barley, oats, wheat, rice, rye, and yep, corn can mean maize as well in that context, since maize is a cereal.

So speaking broadly, yes, Demeter can be associated with maize, because she is a corn goddess, but in the context of ancient Greece corn refers to the local cereal grains, which would have primarily consisted of barley, but also included wheat.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I should probably write a bit about my Lammas celebration, before it's all gone out of my head.

I wanted to make bread for Lammas, so I dug out an old recipe that I'd used successfully before. Unfortunately, it didn't really turn out this time, and I'm not a hundred percent sure why. I'm guessing either because the yeast was old, or because I didn't get the water temperature in the right range.

I ended up making some barley biscuits instead, and they came out better - although I'm still tweaking that recipe a bit.

After making the biscuits, I went out to try to make a fire. Everything was wet from all the rain we'd been having, so even though I had some dry logs from under the porch, there wasn't a lot of tinder left under there, and anything else was soaked. The fire pit bricks were also soaked. I managed to get a small fire going for a little while, and I offered two of the biscuits into the fire for Demeter and Hestia (both of whom have ties to bread making, and of course Demeter is also a goddess of grain and the harvest). During the ritual I promised both that they would receive a proper loaf of bread (that I would bake) before the next Lammas.

A year might seem like a long time to make a simple loaf of bread, but I don't want to just rush something out, or do it just because the deadline is coming up, you know? It's something I want to take my time with, and do when I actually have the time and can get into the right frame of mind to actually do it properly. Right now I'm thinking sometime in November I can set aside a day for this... The rest of August has it's own obligations, I'll be out of town for September and part of October, and then the end of October brings Samhain which has it's own activities.

Anyway, after the ritual I made a nice dinner with lots of fresh, seasonal foods... breaded fried fish, baby potatoes roasted in olive oil and herbs, roasted zucchini and summer squash, and beet greens cooked with a bit of salt pork.

Later that night after everyone had gone to sleep, I took some blessed water and sprinkled it around the house to purify it. This is not a normal part of my Lammas workings, but it felt like it was necessary to include this time around.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Animal Sacrifice

The topic of animal sacrifice is one that a lot of modern pagans tend to avoid, to the extent that at least one of the pagan message boards I've been a member of over the years has actually banned the topic. Even a hypothetical or historical discussion is against the rules.

I think part of this is a misunderstanding of what animal sacrifice entails. Common objections are that it's cruel to the animal, or a waste of food. Now to be fair, there have been many different cultures which practiced animal sacrifice, and they didn't all do it in the same way. Many cultures, however, brought the animal to the altar where it would be quickly killed, and then a part of the animal would be offered to a deity, or deities, and the rest would be shared among those present in a communal meal. In some cases, the part offered to the deities wouldn't even be a great part of the meat - in ancient Greece the more inedible parts of the animal were commonly the offering.

When I was younger one of my uncles raised pigs, and the whole family looked forward to the pig roast. He raised these animals with care, he knew what they ate, how they lived, and when the time came they were killed quickly. Family came from all around for this giant meal. I didn't even eat meat at the time, this was during my vegetarian years, but I still enjoyed getting to see all of my cousins, my extended family, getting to run around the fields, and of course who doesn't like side dishes? Now, no part of the pig was given as any sort of offering, but to me, that's really part of the spirit of an animal sacrifice. It's a family meal, where the Gods are honored as part of the family, as honored guests that we appreciate. The animals were killed anyway for the meat, does it really change much of part of the animal is given to the Gods?

Of course, most of us don't raise our own animals, myself included. (Although perhaps we fish, or even hunt? But that is a topic for another time.) While we can still certainly make offerings and have family meals, we no longer have that context where it would make sense to preform animal sacrifice. Still, when we do look at it in context, is it really that strange? Unless we're a vegetarian or vegan, we eat meat, and to eat that meat someone raised and killed that animal - and if someone chooses to raise their own meat, and they want to offer some of it... well, I just don't see why that's such a big deal. This shouldn't be the forbidden topic that it's often made out to be.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Greek Myths

A question I'm occasionally asked is "how can you worship a deity that did (insert questionable or downright awful thing here) in mythology?" I think it's a fair question. When I first started looking at Greek deities and their myths, more than once I went, woah, wait, they did what? However, when I started digging deeper a few things became clear...

First, we have to remember that these myths are not holy text. They're not the word of God, or anything like that. They're not often meant to depict literal events. They're stories, and while some of them did have religious significance, many myths were told more for entertainment purposes. Likewise, we have to consider who wrote the myths. I don't just mean that they were written down by humans, but that surviving written sources were often written by educated men in particular. Often the view of a deity we gain if we only look at the myths surrounding them is not complete, we also need to attempt to look at the religious cults and folk religion that surrounded them.

We also have to consider the cultural filter with which we view these myths. Our culture is quite different from that of ancient Greece in many ways. One example that I see come up a lot is the meaning of virginity in Greek myth - Athena, Artemis, and Hestia were all considered virgin goddesses. Virginity is something that carries a lot of baggage for many in our modern culture. The whole link to purity, to how sex is sinful and dirty, and so on. Some say that virginity in ancient Greece just meant that the woman was not dependent on any man, and had nothing to do with sex. The truth is somewhere in between. One school of Greek thought was that men were projective, and women receptive, so when a woman and a man had sex, the woman was no longer wholly herself, a part of the man would always be in her. So yes, independence played a part in Greek virginity, but so did sex... just not for the same reasons sex plays in virginity today. (This is actually a huge topic in itself, all three of the Goddesses I mentioned remained virgins for different reasons... I'll have to revisit this topic in the future.)

These cultures had different morals and concepts from us today, and these are often reflected in the myths they created. Again, we have to remember that myths are created by humans, and sometimes elements of myths are perhaps more reflective of a culture's ideas truly something reflective of the deity involved. Yes, these people created these myths and included particular deities for a reason, but again, these are not divine revelations, they are human created stories.

Another thing to consider is that myths often have several versions, and of course could change through the years. Sometimes myths are in fragments, and we're trying to put a puzzle together when we don't have all the pieces. As an example, there's a myth where the hunter Actaeon sees Artemis as she's bathing, because of this she turns him into a stag and he is then killed by his own hunting dogs. I mean, that's kind of harsh, right?

Well, maybe. It depends on how much of the myth we look at. Some versions of the myth Actaeon enters into her sacred grove (or cave) where the spring is, knowing full well that this was her sacred ground, that it was off limits to him. Some say he stumbled upon her on accident, but kept staring at her when he knew that he should look away. Other myths say he had been boasting about being a better hunter than she was, and was entering into her sacred ground to hunt when he came across her in the lake. Some myths imply that he was planning to brag about how he had seen her naked. Some even speculate that in the earliest versions of this myth Actaeon was one of her hunting companions, and when he saw her he attempted to rape her.

Often myths have a deeper symbolic meaning, as well, if not several layers of deeper meaning. Let's hop over to ancient Egypt for a moment. Osiris was a god who is said to have ruled Egypt for a time, he was a kind and gentle king, he was fair, good, and the people loved him. He was eventually killed by his brother, Set. On the surface, that's pretty inexcusable.

However, let's look at these gods and what they rule, among other things Osiris is a god of the green vegetation, as well as the cultivated crops, and Set is a god of the desert. It's the same idea we see in many myths, where the gods reflect the seasons of nature, where the grain god dies, the harvest sustains the people.

Now I'm not saying myths are useless, that we should ignore them, or anything like that. Myths are an important tool to understanding a deity, and the role they played in their culture. However, you do need to try to look at these myths through the lens of the culture they came from, you need to consider how the myth was handed down, and perhaps changed over time, the role of story in the culture, what role the myth played in religious cults (if any). It's also important to understand that myths are only play a part in understanding a deity - there are many other aspects to consider besides the myths that may surround them.

Summer Sunday

A young white-tailed deer resting next to a field of growing corn.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Northern Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

The northern starflower is a small, perennial plant, which grow only a few inches tall. They are commonly found in woodland areas, and do well in shady areas with moist soil. Northern starflowers have small blooms from mid-spring through mid-summer, which then turn to seeds. They are generally found in clusters, since they can also spread through underground rhizomes.

Northern starflowers are so called because their white flowers look like little stars. While the flowers can have anywhere from five to nine petals, it is common for them to have seven petals (which is uncommon for flowers). Additionally, they generally have seven sepals and seven stamens, and sometimes seven leaves.

There doesn't seem to be any folklore about the northern starflower, at least not that I've been able to find. Nor does it seem to have any medicinal uses, and it's not really edible.

Still, the flower has some potential ritual uses. For example, seven pointed stars are often considered protective symbols, so one might place some of the blooms on an altar for a protective working, or in a protective charm bag. Some associate the seven pointed star with the fae, and so it might be used in their workings. I also saw a few northern starflowes with eight pointed blooms, and the eight pointed star is a sacred symbol of Ishtar, and sometimes of Venus and Aphrodite, as well. An eight pointed star could also be symbolic of the four quarter and four cross quarter days. Northern starflower might also make a nice decoration or offering to deities associated with stars, such as the Egyptian goddess Nut.
Starflower is listed as endangered in Georgia and Kentucky, and threatened in Illinois and Tennessee. So if you come across them in one of these areas, please just enjoy them where they are.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rearranging the Shrines

I've spent the past few weeks (yeah, weeks, it's been a slow process) trying to bring a bit of new life to my shrines. Either they'd grown a bit stagnant, were no longer relevant, or were just in bad locations which meant they weren't getting the proper attention. I've found that often shrines and altars grow and change on their own with use, but sometimes they just need a total overhaul.

This was all originally prompted by the changes I wrote about in my last post, About halfway through that whole process my hearth shrine just started to feel off. I decided to move it to a different place in the kitchen, and I tried a lot of different arrangements, worked with different materials and styles, and nothing was clicking for me. Eventually I realized what needed to be done, and it's coming along... okay. I'm having a hard time deciding exactly in which spot it would work best.

I've decided to move Artemis' shrine into the kitchen where most of the others are. Right now I'm looking at other statues of Artemis, and considering maybe using a framed picture instead, since the statue I have right now doesn't fit the space well. I'm also debating which of two spaces would make for a better hearth shrine and which a better shrine for Artemis. Unfortunately I only have one "large" spot, so I need to decide which requires more room.

I also felt it was time to establish a proper shrine to Hekate, rather than just setting up a temporary one when needed. That's coming along rather well, as it was really just a matter of clearing off a spot that wasn't really being used for anything, and putting the 'temporary' items up. Again the issue is that I only have one large spot, and I'm not sure the small shelf where I've decided to put Hekate's shrine into will be big enough for what I generally use it for... I may have to continue using part of the hearth altar for some of Hekate's festivals. For day to day use, though, the small area works well.

Last, but not least, I took away the pillar candles from my Hathor shine and added in some new tea light holders. Oh, and I bought a beautiful new offering dish! Still in the mail, but I'm excited to add it in. Hathor's shrine is by far always the easiest shrine to maintain, perhaps in part due to location, perhaps because out of the deities I currently honor regularly, Hathor has been around the longest. I've had many years to experiment and discover what is appreciated.

Friday, July 18, 2014


I've struggled with writing this post for a while now. I'd write long, detailed paragraphs, delete them, write something simple, be unhappy with it, and never really got anywhere. Much of what I considered writing about is really too personal for me to put out there right now. I'm also still processing a lot of it. I thought writing it out would help that process, and in some respects it did, but I think most of it is best left to a private journal.

I will say that the last eight months have been a long journey. I think I vastly misunderstood a message from Westya at the beginning of all of this. There were a lot of disconnects, many twists and turns, struggles to sort through information, symbols, and so on, and it was rough. Then in the end, there was Hestia. That answered many questions, but of course created more. I am still working through most of those.

The two are of course fairly similar in many ways, one being a reconstructed predecessor of the other, but they also have their differences as well. The big picture of my hearth practice is still the same, but the details have changed.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Lately in my mind I've been thinking of the summer solstice as Midsummer instead of Litha. Not sure what brought about that particular change, but figure it's worth making a note of.

I spent yesterday cleaning out the fire pit in my grandparents' backyard. Some of the bricks had fallen over, and the whole pit and area around it had become a bit overgrown. Before any fires I'd made were small and off in a little sandy area to the side of the house, but the backyard is nicer so I've been working on cleaning that space up.

So since today is Midsummer I thought it would be a good time to have a fire and bless the fire pit. I know the area is going to need some more work. A bench would be nice, or maybe I'll just have to bring a folding chair out. I'm also considering making a small shrine on top of, or nearby the fire pit, or making one of the sides a bit wider for a bit of altar space. Not sure yet.

Today I also began making a large stang. I've written about this a few times in the past, this as been an ongoing search for... two years now? Something like that. I've just been waiting to find the right branch to start with. I had passed by the branch I ended up choosing many, many times. First, it wasn't the type of tree I was hoping to make a stang from, and two it was actually a whole small tree rather than a branch from a tree.

I was trying to avoid cutting a whole tree down, but this particular tree was in an area that was due to have some clearing anyway. Actually, this is how I lost the original branch I was looking at the year before last. It was a nice branch from a young white oak, but the week before I was going to cut it the whole area was cleared out and the wood hauled off somewhere.

Anyway like I said, this has been a long process, and I've been coming back to this particular tree for at least a year now. It just seemed like the right one to work with. So I left an offering at the base of the tree, and carefully cut it down. The trunk forked off into two branches, which I've trimmed off and kept for later use. I blessed the stang over the Midsummer fire, which had dried mugwort burning in it. Now it's going to be set aside for a while to dry out a bit before being worked further.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9, 2014

Wow, it's hard to believe that we're nearly halfway through 2014. I'm not even sure where most of that time went, which is always a little concerning. I mean, I don't believe that every day needs to be jammed packed with ~meaning~ or activity, but it feels like the last six months have just been a bit of a blur.

I've hardly made time to write here at all this year (although I do see several half-finished drafts sitting in my post list). Writing here has always provided me with motivation to finish little side projects, to research this or that topic, to write about certain experiences so they're not forgotten, and so on. I don't necessarily do these things only for the blog, but the blog gives me a place to keep all the information in a nice order. Scattered notes (or even no notes) and fragmented thoughts become something more.

I planned on participating in the Pagan Blog Project this year, to pick up where I left off last year, but right now I'm putting that on hold. I might join in at some point, but I'm not going to make it a priority at the moment.

What I do want to focus on is getting back into the 30 Days of Deity project I left off months ago, and combine it with a similar project I've been working through offline. I also want to continue on with the various plant and animal posts I've done in the past. That's really an area where doing write-ups for the blog really helps me get my notes together, organize research, and just bring everything together into a more finished form.There are definitely a few plant posts coming up in the near future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Yesterday my grandfather gave me a little book on herbs he picked up on sale. I was just flipping through it and landed on a page which had a flower on it that I've had no success identifying for, what, two years now? Looking more closely, there seem to be three or four more that I might also have seen growing around. This should certainly be helpful this summer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Conversion Tactics

So I've just had to delete a spam comment from a Christian blogger, which was the general "here's how to pray to Jesus and become a Christian" sort of copy paste I'm sure most non-Christians have seen many times over. There was no conversation, no personal element to it, simply the spam and a blog link (which I did not follow, and of course have no interest in promoting here).

I've always considered this a very strange tactic, and often wonder if the people who use it even stop to consider what it would be like from the other side. If I were to go to this person's blog, leave a comment on an unrelated post of theirs, no introduction, no indication that I actually understand that there is an individual behind the screen, just a spammy attempt to convert them... would they jump up and convert? It's very unlikely - and yet, that's all they seem to think other people need. As if we're not actual people with our own beliefs, experiences, and so on.

Beyond that, each Christan that I've seen use this particular tactic doesn't seem to understand one little thing... we've seen it before. There are very few non-Christians in my country who do not have a basic understanding of Christianity. Many of us come from Christian backgrounds, have Christan family members, have studied Christianity, and so on. It is very hard to miss Christianity in our particular society. Heck, there have been times where I've known more about Christianity than the Christian attempting to convert me! They are sometimes shocked to discover that, yes, I have in fact even read the Bible. I have taken the time to learn about their religion, but they have no interest in learning a single thing about mine, or how I have come to be where I am spiritually. Often I am made to feel like they don't even view me as a person - yet, even so, they think their spam will have some sort of success?

Look. I accept that most Christians feel they belong to the only true religion, and that sometimes they attempt to convert people because they believe they're saving them from something horrible. I understand that, I really do... but if you're going to try to convert people? Take the time to actually get to know someone, take the time to actually have a conversation with them - talk with them, not at them. Don't spam. No one likes spam.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Imbolc and the Coming of Spring

There are some who celebrate Imbolc as the beginning of spring, but where I am, we are firmly still in the middle of winter. Like many places in the US, we got hit with a ton of snow yesterday, and it's snowing again today - which is not unusual for this time of year. Everything is covered in snow and ice, nothing's growing.

There's really only one sign that warmer weather is coming - in NH, we now have an hour and a half more sunlight each day. It may not seem like much with the snow and freezing temperatures, but for me it's a welcome reminder that spring is coming.

Until then, while I still try to get outside on the warmer days, there are a lot of cold and icy days where I'm forced to stay inside (especially after hurting my back recently - slipping on ice and re-hurting it is a chance I can't afford to take). I've been keeping busy organizing shelves, decluttering my supply cabinets, and doing all the little things I probably won't want to do when the weather is warmer. It's not always the most exciting work, it can be slow and frustrating at times, but it needs to be done - and the quite time around Imbolc is often the perfect time to do it.