There is no doubt that we are in a time of change. The West, as a whole, is thrashing about like a teenager in the midst of hormonal angst. It’s not pretty, but it’s also not the end of the world. I continue to hold out hope that our seemingly never-ending drama is a sign of coming maturity. And I believe that Paganism is part of that maturing process.

People who point out that we cannot go on as we have are completely right in their diagnosis. At the same time, they are as fallible as anyone else when it comes to finding solutions. We should know, from our studies of history, that claims of the end-of-the-world usually end embarrassingly.

Víðarr Swings His Sword by W.G. Collingwood. From WikiMedia.

The Story Thus Far

It is a conceit of our times that we imagine a unified world of great stability and plenty, moving forward toward a time of greater stability and abundance. This is a narrative and a fantasy in the best tradition of the nineteenth-century Western notion of progress. We believe the world is getting better, and get really nervous whenever we see cracks in this rosy picture.

But cracks occur with startling frequency. Shuddering, convulsive change has overwhelmed society with its ever-expanding, always-maddening clip.

The last couple of centuries of change, with their advances and simultaneous feelings of dislocation, give us no real reason to believe the happy story we tell ourselves. We merely hold onto an old self-image because it’s comforting.

In point of fact, the modern movements of social change, whether focused on race, sex, or gender, are (at their base) movements that call out hard and painful truths about who we are. They have called out the lie of “all men are created equal” and asked us (not to put too fine a point on it) to put up or shut up. Paganism is one of these movements.

“The Pleiades” (1885) by Elihu Vedder. From WikiMedia.

The Meaning of Paganism

Paganism is a social revitalization movement. It is a return to some semblance of older values, but updated for modern times. The movement is democratic both in its good and bad aspects.

In its broadest sense, the most recent iteration of the Western movement of Paganism is one of these social reform movements. Feminism seeks to redefine the relationship between the sexes; the LGBT community redefines gender; and the racial equality movement, from the NAACP to Black Lives Matter, seeks to challenge the relationships between the races.

Paganism, writ broadly, seeks to redefine the relationship between humans and the spirit world. In that sense, we are the Western descendants of both the Protestant Christians and the Theosophists. Paganism envisions a “new” kind of human relationship with the spiritual – often drawn on pre-Judeo-Christian or extra-Judeo-Christian sources to inform alternatives.

This is the reason why we often fall on our faces when we ask such questions as, “what do Pagans believe?” “what do Pagans do?” and “what binds the Pagan community together?”

What do Pagans do? We work to fix the broken Western relationship with the world of the spirit.

“The Crystal Ball” by John William Waterhouse. From WikiMedia.

The Future of Paganism

With all that heavy stuff in mind, it is time to ask the Richard Scarry question: What do Pagans do all day? Understanding that Paganism is a social movement about religion, rather than a religious movement per se, we begin to understand the variation we see.

That is why there is no core of Western paganism, no defining belief or basic set of rules. Paganism is as broad as the seemingly infinite border between Western culture and the world of the spirit. It isn’t just a key to your own spirit and soul, but permission to take full-throated ownership of it and go where and do what you will.

As always, freedom isn’t free. Just because you have permission to walk a greater world, that doesn’t guarantee safety or remove the sting of repercussions from your actions. And to that end, it is often useful to seek out a guide when taking your first steps into the wilderness.

The traditions of Paganism, then, are metaphorical maps of places that have been explored along that boundary. Sometimes we must make promises to those entrusted with the maps before they will share their knowledge with us. Oath-bound knowledge? You betcha. In this context, it makes perfect sense.

“Pallas Athene Visits Invidia” by Karel Dujardin. From WikiMedia.

A Word of Warning

The territories of Western Paganism are the limits of the human spirit and the human soul. It is a place for questioning everything we have been told. But at the same time, it is also a guide to a spiritual world with the traditional guardrails removed.

As Pagans, we can’t rest on the safe path. We’d best be savvy enough to understand that the world of the spirit is at least as dangerous as the everyday world in which we live. We have to learn to take suitable precautions and live with the dangers that surely exist out there.

Paganism isn’t for everyone. We all know it’s true. But it would be more concise to say, “Paganism isn’t designed for everyone.” Traditional religions are all about systems that (theoretically) work for everyone, keeping people safe from the dangers of the spiritual world.

But if everyday religion is there to teach us that we must never cross the dangerous street (metaphorically speaking), Paganism at its finest will (eventually) teach you how to cross the street at night, dressed in black, with your eyes closed, in a rainstorm. Like I said, Paganism’s not for everyone.

Taking the Long View
Perhaps because the modern Pagan movement is only between three and five generations old, it is difficult for us to think about things in the long view. A lineage might be a dozen people deep over that time, but we have hardly scratched the surface of everything Paganism might be.

As a Pagan, I believe that the work we do – growing the possibilities of the human spirit in ways long lost by the West, or not yet even imagined in the world – is necessary and valuable. I believe that our path forward is paved with virtue. This is not the namby-pamby virtue of the modern world, but the virtue brought by self-cultivation at its finest.

I have devoted much of my adult life to the pursuit of self-cultivation, and what I have learned tells me that the convulsions of society are best viewed with some equanimity.

Equanimity can bring a powerful stillness, but it is not paralytic fear. It is the opposite. With hard work and discipline, we can access a deeper world through a deeper part of ourselves; we can learn not to jump at every rumor of terror but instead deal with the real and meaningful.

In the long run, discipline, equanimity, and depth are necessary to study the world of the spirit. Without them, our work risks devolving into a whole lot of wishful thinking and outraged disappointment. With them, we can bring the power of the sacred back to a world that sorely needs it.

I’m on the other side of Imbolc now, and I’m feeling . . . unsettled. Why am I surprised?

THE BACKSTORY

My schedule in the weeks before Imbolc was packed; I figured it would be best to use the time I had available in early January to write out the activities and script for the Celebration I would lead for our Kindred. I’d “set it and forget it”, knowing I would be able to pick up the binder and lead the evening with confidence.

Brigid Butter, photo by Jenny Hobbs, used with permission.

As I prepared for our Celebration I decided I would offer the making of “Brigid Butter” as a gathering activity. I found some simple instructions (Kindergarten-level; I figured if five-year-olds could do it our group ought to be able to manage it as well), and collected the necessary materials. Boom. Check off that box.

After some time spent weaving new written material into the Ritual boilerplate–Alchemy! I was particularly pleased to have discovered an article on the OBOD website, written by Susa Morgan Black. This wonderfully written and thoroughly researched piece includes a Prayer of Protection, collected by Alexander Carmichael and published in 1900:

Thou Brigid of the kine
Thou Brigid of the mantles
Shield me from the ban
Of the faeries of the knolls
The faeries of the knolls.

All the elements of the evening were fitting together. I had my Opening Craft, which supported my overall theme (transformation), my Guided Meditation further amplified the theme, and in a flash of inspiration I decided I would have the participants use their freshly “churned” butter on the pieces of bread that would be offered as part of Cakes and Ale. There was a pleasing internal consistency and overall symmetry to what I had prepared for our Celebration. I printed my script, three-hole punched it, snapped it into my binder, and moved on to the myriad other things that required my attention and participation.

Waterfall Altar.

THREE WEEKS LATER

I laid out the butter-making materials and before long we were all shaking little baby food jars halfway filled with heavy cream. One of our Kindred played spritely jigs on her wooden flute to keep our energies up (an unexpected and delightful surprise!). Soon enough—but longer than many of us expected—we were rinsing the whey from our little lumps of butter and choosing from an array of salts which particular one (Sea salt? Fleur de sal? Smoked salt?) we each would add to our Brigid Butter.

It was time for the Ritual. I won’t share the complete Ritual, only the part of the Guided Meditation that is pertinent to today’s post:

“How we each long for transformation. Would that the process of transformation, of becoming, of evolving into our highest selves were as simple as flipping a switch, with no time or effort on our parts. But it’s not.

“Change is hard. It takes work and patience, and then more work and patience. And we are so easily distracted from the long, hard work of self-transformation. Those distractions—those ‘faeries of the knolls’—can pull us far from the Path we have decided to walk, be it a path toward self-improvement or a path leading us toward a new way of being in the world. Those faeries (negative habits, dead-end relationships, old fears) can be so beautiful, so alluring that we forget that more often than not they’re not very good for us. It’s for a good reason we’re warned to Beware the Faery Folk.

“Think of the transformation of the rich, heavy cream into butter during our Gathering earlier. It didn’t just change at the flip of a switch; there was work involved. Agitation. The cream was ‘all shook up’ and kept getting all shook up; you had to commit to the process. Every once in a while you had to check and see how much progress you had made. You probably thought to yourself, ‘By the old Gods and the new! This stuff is NEVER going to turn into butter!’

“But it did. Eventually. With enough perseverance and attention, you turned cream into butter. You did that with your energy. And you will be able to create the same transformation for yourself. Eventually. With enough perseverance and attention. With your energy.

“Even now, inside you, seeds of change are beginning to unfurl and push their way upward until you notice them, just as the seeds of snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to push their shoots up through the resistance of the earth around them. And soon, sooner than seems possible now, soon you will be transformed.”

As is often the case when I lead Ritual, I glowed with the deep satisfaction of having stewarded a meaningful experience for our Kindred. We tidied away, I packed my altar objects, leftovers, and craft materials back into my cart for the “sacred schlep” back home, and drove away filled with warm fuzzies . . . and also filled with seeds of which I was, as yet, unaware.

The Green Man & the Fire

AND NOW . . .

For almost 25 years I had gone back and forth trying to categorize my belief system. Wiccan? Witch? 50-50? Neither? I was raised Episcopalian (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the latter of which, while certainly not male-oriented, was neither implicitly female [or at least certainly wasn’t in Texas]), and as a young adult I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church, which in those days was much more Unitarian than Universalist.

I came of pagan age reading Scott Cunningham, whose accessibility and practicality I love still. Brooke Medicine Eagle’s Buffalo Woman Comes Singing and Z. Budapest’s Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries expanded my understanding of myself and my experience of the Holy. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon fascinated me while simultaneously leaving me a little shook up. At some point I decided to resist the very human desire to sort and shelve things—including myself—into tidy boxes and to simply live into whatever it is I am.

And yet, for the past several months there’s been a still, small voice whispering across my heart, whispering so quietly that I can’t quite catch what it’s saying. The further I moved away from my beloved “book-learning”, the more persistent this voice became. I found myself irresistibly drawn to the Spruce Plot at the local Arboretum and began to spend time creating altars and praying there. In fact, I started creating altars on almost every walk I took through the area Forest Preserves. I began reading about the Green Man and Cernunnos. I hesitantly outed myself as “kind of a bruja” to my sister-in-law, who later gifted me with a Green Man wall hanging that now is the focal point of my back porch altar. The Horned God began appearing in my dreams, which was a little disconcerting as He is rather a randy fellow. I decided to ask permission to honor Him, and have been baby-stepping my way onto a new Path of worship.

And now, on the other side of Imbolc, these seeds of change that have been slowly started in me are beginning to push their shoots up through the resistance of my consciousness. I, who have never been apprenticed to another; I, who have been my own teacher; I, who have been fiercely Solitary . . . I have joined the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids and will soon embark on a course of study, complete with a personal mentor. It’s significantly out of character for me, or for the me I’ve been for the past three decades or so. I’m cautious, but determined to follow the voice that has been whispering across my heart.

Many years ago, I asked a priest-friend, “How do you know which way is the right way to go?” “You step off the cliff,” he replied, “and trust that Something will be there to hold you up.”

And so, I’m stepping off the cliff of my old way of being in trust.

Wish me luck.

Yes, Senioring was indeed the right choice of words for the very first Senioring Rite of Passage at Pagan Spirit Gathering 2017. By mid April, Selena, with input from me, came up with the description that was going into the program book for PSG: Rite of Passage into the Senior years of life for Brianne Raven Wolf, Circle Sanctuary Community member, Pagan veteran & Transwoman. All in the PSG Community are invited to attend, support & celebrate this life passage. On May 25th, Selena had the first draft of the Rite of Passage completed.

Bree loving the Spring flowers.

I had mentioned in the previous article, that I had started closing and was getting ready to liquidate my company after 39 years in business. The same day that Selena had finished the first draft was when I physically locked the door to the business, walked away without looking back, and turned in the keys to my landlord. By then I knew that Hekate was the one who had helped me close the business and had kept my stress levels to a minimum. I knew that day, and going forward, that I would have no regrets. Live in the past, die in the past!

Very early two mornings later, a Pagan friend of mine I headed to the Great Smoky Mountains on a hiking trip. That trip really helped with the healing after all I had been through, more than I would have believed at the start of 2017. It got me out of Madison for a week, staying at a remote cabin in the mountains outside of Gatlinburg, TN. Hiking with a good friend in the clean mountain air, away from the hustle and bustle of any city, was what I really had needed.

When we returned from the trip, preparations were in full swing for Pagan Spirit Gathering. Selena had thought that there should be three major articles incorporated into the Rite, and I readily agreed. A Sword…representing the first part of my life and my eight years of military service. A Broom…representing my life as a Witch and Trans-Woman. And an Elder Staff…representing my life as a Senior in our community.

On June 14th I left for the 2017 Pagan Spirit Gathering in Tall Tree Lake, IL. This was my very first PSG, and was another event that was to make a major difference in my Spiritual life. I had been invited to be on the Layout Crew by Sharon Stewart. She had told me the Saturday before at Welcome Summer at Circle Sanctuary that I would watch a village grow. And was she ever right about that. It sure was a lot different than the events I had helped with at Circle. On Thursday, the layout crew met and started taping off the ground where the vendors and presenters would be.

Laying out tape for the vendors.

The next day the setup crew started getting up the tents and everything else that would be needed for this “Super Bowl” of Pagan Events. I would turn around, and more tents would pop up. On Sunday morning at 9 am, people started lining up at the gate to come in to set up tents in their areas. A lot of us crew members were there to welcome them home! What an experience! By that night we had a village, full of Tribe members from across the country and some from overseas. As I returned to my tent that night, I thanked Hekate for “bringing me home”!

My week started out by going to the Opening Ritual, led by Selena Fox. It was very impressive, as we had to enter the Sacred area, and gather in a very large circle. Hundreds of Pagans were present. I could feel all the tremendous energy there on that little island. Every day I went to as many workshops as I could manage. The vendors were great, and I got to meet a lot of presenters and entertainers. Pagans who I had heard about, but had never met. Plus a lot I hadn’t even heard about. Everybody was so very welcoming, it was all I could do not to get teary eyed every day.

Saturday morning at 8 am, I went over to the Sacred Circle to get ready for my Rite of Passage. I watched as Selena setup the altar, and briefed all those who would participate. Around 8:30 or so, the Circle was formed, and Selena called me into the Sacred Circle, asking me if I was ready to enter Seniorhood. Yes, to the chant: Welcome to the Circle: the Circle of Life, the Circle of Love, the Circle of Community. She celebrated my life journey, including: Childhood & Youth – Eagle Scout, Young Adulthood – 8 years of Air Force Service, Career – Photography, Spirituality – Methodist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, but always Pagan; and Gender Identification Transformation & Fluidity. Being the first Transwoman to have this Rite was something I hadn’t dreamed about prior to 2017.

Rainbow Camp at PSG.

I just knew Hekate was right beside me as I went through the Purification, going to the Ritual fire and ridding myself of past pains, troubles and issues, by casting those into the fire. Then came the Consecration with the Blessings of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. Then came what Selena called Reflections on Aging. Hmmm…but I didn’t and don’t feel old, most days that is. I can’t deny my age, but I really don’t think about it much. After that, I crossed the Seniorhood Brooms Threshold. Again, Hekate joined me going across the Threshold. Selena had set up two brooms on the ground, for both sides of me, part female, part male.

The Seniors in the PSG (age 65 and older), gathered on one side and chanted, come join us. Which I did. I then sat in a chair, as selected members of the community came to offer their Blessings. It was awesome, as Selena and Dennis, some Circle Sanctuary ministers and staff, and Pagans representing our very diverse community, Queer, Lesbian women, Gay men, Crones, Sages, Millennials, Rainbow Center and Trans came with their Blessings. I gave thanks, as Hekate stood right beside me. Afterwards, a woman who I had met at PSG, Oriana, told me she saw 4 swans in the waters right behind the island in the lagoon. She told me that was a good sign, and as it turned out, it was.

Selena Fox, Brianne Ravenwolf, and Dennis Carpenter.

I knew right then what my mission in my Pagan life was to be. I now had the opportunity, and the responsibility, to help out my Pagan community by learning more that what I thought I knew, help others learn from my experiences, and to mentor younger gender non-conforming Pagans as much as I could on their individual Spiritual Journeys. And I know that Hekate will be right there with me on this next part of my Pagan life.

Blessed Be!!!

In the shadows of the great giants of Hellenism like Homer, Plato, Herodotus, and Pythagoras there is an unlikely teacher for us to consider when looking to understand the Theoi. This man in the shadows is none other than Aesop, the former slave turned storyteller of the 7th and 6th century.

In my opinion, these fables which were aimed at children, were societies way to teach kids about the gods and proper interactions with them, ect. For example, In the fable The Dog, The Sow and Aphrodite – we learn that Aphrodite forbids anyone who has eaten pig from entering her temple. Her lover Adonis was killed by a boar, and Aesop giving instructing his reader how not to disrespect the goddess.

“Venus and Adonis” by Paolo Veronese, 1580. From WikiMedia.

In “The Gods and their Trees” Aesop tell us which trees are sacred to several gods. Zeus the oak tree, Aphrodite the myrtle, Apollo the laurel, Cybele the pine, Hercules the poplar and Athena the Olive tree.

The fable titled “Zeus and Apollo” is very insightful at demonstrating the depths of what the fables contain in them:

“As he made a distant shot with his bow and arrow, Apollo said to the gods, ‘No one can shoot farther than I, not even Zeus.’ Zeus played along and agreed to a contest. Hermes shook the lots in the helmet of Ares. The lot fell to Apollo, who went first, flexing the golden bowstring and swiftly letting loose an arrow which landed inside the Garden of the Hesperides. Zeus then covered the same distance in a single stride and stood there asking, ‘Where should I shoot my arrow, son? There’s nowhere for me to stand.’ So it was that Zeus won the archery contest without even taking a shot.”

In short, Aesop is saying that Zeus cannot be bested by his children. In theological understanding, gods generated/lower in level from Zeus cannot surpass him in power. We also see that Hermes governs divination through his handling of lots in the helmet of Ares (divination helps to solve conflicts).

Another fable which has an even more explicit teaching can be found in “The Man and the Oracle” which teaches us that the gods cannot be tricked by man”

“A wicked man had gone to visit Apollo in Delphi, wanting to test the god. He took a sparrow in one hand, concealing it with his cloak, and then stood by the oracle and inquired of the god, ‘Apollo, the thing that I am carrying in my hand: is it living, or is it dead?’ The man planned to show the sparrow alive if the god said ‘dead,’ and if the god said ‘living,’ he would strangle the sparrow immediately and present the dead bird. But the god recognized the man’s evil purpose, and said, ‘Listen, do whatever you want: it is entirely up to you whether you will show me something living or dead!'”

These few examples confirm for us that Aesop is indeed a teacher – Hierophant, that we can look to for insight and wisdom. I encourage you to read Aesop’s fables yourself to see what you can learn.

Stories taken from: Aesop’s Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs.

This morning I had a vision of Snow Leopard. This doesn’t happen every day. I journey for myself and sometimes for clients, but I do not call myself shaman. You don’t need to call yourself anything for the animals to visit you. They are always here for us.

I had never met Snow Leopard before so I had to go a-Googling and these keywords were easy to find: silence, solitary, stalking, intuition. Stalking a dream or a goal, for example, not the lover who spurned you (although I suppose Snow Leopard could help you with that as well). Silence as in being alone and going within. Intuition as in: working with it, trusting it, being it, which is 1000 blog posts in and of itself. Basically Snow Leopard describes me (and maybe you too?) although I believe he (yes, he) arrived as a guide, not simply as a mirror.

“Snow Leopard.” Photo from MaxPixel. CC0.

WHY NOW?

Here’s a thought. We are in that revelatory time period known as “between the eclipses.” We had a Lunar Eclipse in Leo on January 31st. We have our next eclipse in the sign of Aquarius on February 15th. Eclipses come in pairs usually. We pair. We breed. The baby comes. The baby is our life, what next in our life. New cycle.

We are between the eclipses and the astrological aspects and energies that are available to us now are potent medicine and signs pointing the way. Snow Leopard, too, must know this.

SHOWSTOPPER NO. 1 VENUS AND SUN AND MERCURY SEXTILE URANUS

Sextiles are good. I’m going to leave it at that in terms of your technical astrology lesson for the day. Just know that during these weeks, between the two eclipses, Venus and the Sun and Mercury, all in intellectual technical Aquarius, will sextile Uranus in Aries.

What is the practical advice here? You have ideas. Loads of them. Too many? Inventions, innovations, thoughts, brilliant ones, and they are working near perfectly with Uranus (liberation) in Aries (the getaway car speeding away from the house on fire and towards the promised land). Many ideas to choose from. Maybe all of them will fly. You’ll see.

Above all, this is a break from the past. Your past.

Image courtesy of NASA, public domain.

SHOWSTOPPER NO. 2 VENUS AND SUN AND MERCURY SQUARE JUPITER

Squares tend to be more tense than sextiles, far as astrological aspects go. We are happy to see sextiles when we look at the list of our upcoming personal transits and wince upon seeing that nasty Saturn or Uranus square heading our way. Ouch!

Jupiter squares, however, have no such deadly reputation. Jupiter squares can be too much including too much of a good thing, but have you ever heard anyone complain that they had too much money or love or luck? I remember when Jupiter in Libra squared my Sun, Mercury, and Mars in my Eleventh House (which is a very social house) and I had too much to do. It was all good stuff going on, but I felt wired and tired. I probably missed a spot or two. Jupiter makes things big and sometimes you just need to rest, shrink, contract.

Remember those brilliant ideas I mentioned in Showstopper No. 1? Well, Venus and Sun and Mercury in Aquarius square Jupiter in Scorpio will add fuel to your brilliant fire. Mind on intensity overdrive. If you’ve had writers’ block, this is good. If you’ve felt stuck in your thinking, this is good! If you’ve wondered WHAT DO I DO NOW, this is good. Your mind is a blooming fire engine red rose.

These fast moving planets in Aquarius aspecting Uranus and Jupiter could bring that breakthrough idea, the one you’ve been waiting for. Practical advice: write it all down because the ideas may vanish as soon as they come. You want to keep a record. Pen and paper on hand at all times!

SHOWSTOPPER NO. 3 VENUS ENTERS PISCES

Between these eclipses, Venus will change signs. Significant? Yup! Venus’ move from your Aquarius House to your Pisces House is a beacon. Venus rules love and money and your social life, among other things.

Venus entering your First House could be a new job this year, a new income stream. Venus into your Seventh House, a new partner, romantic or business. Venus into your Sixth House and you may prioritize food and exercise, all the daily life routines. You declutter with dancing joy. Venus moves into your Twelfth, and you’ve got Snow Leopard, Kwan Yin, Archangel Raphael, Santa Muerte, and various other power animals, angels, saints, and Ascended Masters at your table. Set a place for them!

Pisces has no boundaries. Venus in Pisces loves without reason. Remember that. Make good choices. Just because you want it or it feels good doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

YES this time between the eclipses is that powerful. Pay attention to where these planets are hanging out in your chart!

“Venus and Earth” from NASA, via WikiMedia.

WHY SNOW LEOPARD?

This isn’t a case of “why not” Snow Leopard. ANY animal, any totem animal could have shown up for me. I could have received a vision of bee or buffalo but no – Snow Leopard appeared in my head and before my eyes with his message of solitude and psychic power and it’s exactly what we need. We can’t figure this out if we are bombarded by Internet memes and memos and phone calls and passionate information screaming for our attention. We need a moment alone, a moment of silence, and Snow Leopard has come to remind us.

Interested in a Reading from Aliza? You can contact her here. Her first book, The Little Book of Saturn, an astrology book for beginners, is available for pre-order.

I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences here about how I found a deeper appreciation for the Irish goddess Brighid at a recent online conference.

On January 27th I did something I’d never done before: I participated in an online conference. I come from that weird in-between generation that isn’t quite Gen X and isn’t quite a Millennial either, so while I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of basic tech I’m also often baffled and impressed by turns at what technology can do.  When I was first approached by Vyviane Armstrong of Land Sea Sky Travel about participating in a series of online conferences they were putting together I found the idea of a polytheist conference conducted online both intriguing and a bit intimidating.

When Vyviane asked me if I would headline the first conference*, which was focused on Brighid, I agreed but with some trepidation; I wasn’t sure how a conference set entirely online would work in practical terms and I worried that my lack of tech-savvy might be an issue. It turned out to be a great experience and a great conference, and I learned a lot about the way we can share our Gods across diverse perspectives.

The conference featured five speakers, including myself, as well as a panel discussion, several different giveaways of items that had been donated, and a series of breaks between speakers. It ran from 10:30 am EST (eastern standard time) to 8:15 pm EST, but all the times were also given in UTC (universal standard) and PST (pacific standard) to help people in different parts of the world coordinate viewing. As far as I’m aware we had participants from not just the United States but also Ireland, the UK, Israel, and Canada – quite possibly there were others that I wasn’t aware of.

The set up was an online meeting room that allowed people to see and talk to each other, although it was clear early that everyone having an open mike was confusing. With more than 70 people logged on at one point, that I was aware of, you can imagine what it would have been like if everyone was talking at once. Participants could choose to turn their cameras on and off; during the presentations generally only the presenters had theirs on. During breaks everyone had the option to see each other if they wanted to turn their cameras on and also to chat in a forum style chat box to the side of the video screen. There was an ongoing chat room option to the side of the main screen during the workshops, allowing participants to ask questions and engage with each other.

Photo © Morgan Daimler.

The day began with a one hour workshop by Irish author and guide Lora O’Brien, discussing Lora’s connection to Brighid and understanding of who Brighid was, followed by a guided meditation to meet the Goddess. The meditation was long and detailed and was offered with Lora’s usual skill and eloquence. After Lora’s presentation and a short break for a giveaway the next presenter was Gemma McGowan a priestess who helped coordinate and officiate at the Tlachtga Fire Festival for years. Gemma’s connection to Brighid is deep and experiential and she shared that with us in both personal stories and song.

At this point we broke for lunch, and then it was my turn. As the keynote speaker I had two hours for my workshop and I joked as I started that I felt like the nerdy kid following the cool kids, because my workshop was definitely more dry and lecture oriented than the previous two. I discussed the evidence of Brighid in Irish mythology, specifically the Lebor Gabala Erenn and Cath Maige Tuired, what the Sanas Cormaic had to say about her and touched on some of her possible different appearances in the Ulster cycle as well. Following my workshop there was a panel with all five speakers, where we each answered questions focused on Brighid and on our various connections to Her.

After that was Mael Brigde, founder of the Brigidine Order Daughters of the Flame,  and blogger at Brigit’s Sparkling Flame. Mael discussed the practice of flame tending as well as the history and crossover between Brighid the goddess and saint Brigid. The final presenter was Julia Waters, a witch and priestess of Brighid. Julia discussed Brighid as a healing deity and different methods of folk magic healing that people could utilize.

I went into this worrying about what I would be able to offer to people, but I was really surprised by what I got out of it. It was fascinating meeting the participants and seeing their questions and thoughts as the day went on. I also really enjoyed the other presenter’s material  – although I wasn’t able to stay online for the final one – and I gained a lot of insight into how different people not only connect to and honor Brighid but also how they understand her. She is such a diverse and multifaceted deity and I think I understand that much better now having seen firsthand how diverse and different Her followers can be, yet how powerful the shared connection through Brighid is.

Photo © Morgan Daimler.

At one point in my workshop while discussing Brig Ambue we ended up spontaneously starting a fundraiser for Repeal the 8th in Ireland and later the final workshop featured a focused healing group effort for a young child with cancer. We were all different people in different countries – even different continents – and in some cases from almost antithetical spiritual traditions, yet there was a feeling of unity through our joint focus on Brighid. Even if we all had our own ideas of who and what She was, we were learning from each other rather than arguing over which view was correct. And that was really nice to experience.

This was the first conference in a year long series, with one event at each holiday. The next will be in March and is focused on the Welsh goddess Blodeuwedd. I will also be participating in the third conference in April focusing on the Morrigan and the Dagda.  I am very excited to see what other people have to say at that one and how my understanding and appreciation of those deities can grow. In June the conference will be about the god Manannán.

*I wrote a book on Brighid in 2016, called Pagan Portals Brigid

SURVIVING THE STATE OF THE UNION

I woke up this morning with a bang even though I hadn’t slept well. I blame the Full Moon for this. Crazy dreams.

What did I get up to do so early with a head full of sleep? I HAD to look at the natal chart of Joe Kennedy who gave a Democratic response last night after President Trump’s State of the Union address.

joekennedy

TAROT TO THE RESCUE

First I drew some Tarot cards thinking I would post my findings on YouTube (which I did from my iphone). This is what I saw:

Seven of Cups, Ten of Pentacles, King of Wands.

Now the Seven of Cups was a surprise to me because upon hearing him speak last night I thought:

this is a man who knows what he wants and is heading in a straight line towards it, no matter what the leadership role desired might be — but the Seven of Cups is confusion, sometimes inner chaos. Or dreams. What do you REALLY want, Represenative Kennedy?

There are many roads, many pathways, many options that can lead him to his ultimate destiny. Seven of Cups is clouds. It’s not all clear yet. Give him time though and he’ll pick a road, he’ll pick a path! That I guarantee.

THEN THE CHART REVEALED EVEN MORE

Once I saw his natal chart however — he is a Gemini Rising and Libra Sun — I wasn’t surprised at all to see that Seven of Cups many roads, many options thing. Gemini Rising always has more than one of everything and LIbra is famous for their indecision.

Also his chart showed, and clearly, not only the drive for power (Sun and Pluto close together in the chart) and hard work (Sun and Saturn together) but that despite his famous family and money, this man is serious stuff. Sun Saturn Pluto makes a man serious. He’s not a lightweight, not lazy. We can’t stereotype him as some yacht rock heir.

The chart also showed he’s a family man, loves kids. There’s a bevy of planetary energy in his Fourth and Fifth houses which both have to with family, family matters, children.. When we see planets marking up the Fourth and Fifth like this we KNOW there are family ties, for better or worse.

Seeing the Ten of Pentacles was no surprise! Famous extended family, legacy, wealth, but that King of Wands though. Who was that? I didn’t feel it was Trump or any Republican frenemy, but ghosts. His famous forebears, but then I also sensed this King of Wands as a current mentor or guide giving him help to clear away his Seven of Cups confusion.

WILL JOE KENNEDY RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

I had a feeling last night as I heard him speak. Would he try to someday claim the most powerful job in the land? At the tender age of 37, just 10 years after his Saturn Return, he’s still finding himself. Much will change once he’s over 40 and the kids are a little older.

Until he makes up his mind, I think he will keep working hard for Massachussetts and the nation. The man’s got Jupiter in Virgo (Virgo is a do-gooder) and a Mars Uranus conjunction in the 6th House (which is also associated with Virgo).

He is a public servant. Our public servant. Yes, he has a legacy to answer to. Yes, he has a strong introvert side despite being a Libra/Gemini social butterfly mix. I don’t think politics for him was a given, believe it or not. Based on his chart, I think if he hadn’t of been born into this famous family he could have been a house husband, a writer, a social worker.

I will tell you one thing for sure. This is a man who, if he continues to stay in politics, will be a voice for peace, particularly peace and diplomacy here at home. More than anything Libra wants everyone to get along even when that Libra has Saturn and Pluto also in Libra. Saturn and Pluto are both about authority and power. The thing about young Kennedy though is that he’s okay with sharing it.

Libra wouldn’t be Libra if it didn’t have partners in life, no matter the pursuit. Sounds contradictory I know, but it’s just the way we humans are built.

I’ll go out on a limb here. I asked my cards: will he? Will he throw his hat in the ring eventually?

Cards say we’ll know soon enough. Eight of Wands to me is more yes than no, but also up in the air. He’s definitely thinking about it and like a true Libra, weighing all sides before he reaches his final answer!

Interested in a reading from Aliza? You can contact her here.

Until early March of 2017, I had only one Goddess, Luna. I was pleased with my one Goddess, and I felt that she was pleased with me, most of the time that is. I really didn’t think about having more than one Goddess. Well, surprise, surprise!

In January, I had started to shut down my company after 39 years, and was in the process of selling assets, paying bills, stopping production and related stuff. So I was really busy and stressed out a bit too as I was still going into the shop every workday and answering lots of questions like “why are you closing”? My answer was simple, it’s time, especially after my graphic artist had passed away very suddenly.

"The Night of Enitharmon's Joy," William Blake's iconic painting of Hekate.  From WikiMedia.
“The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy,” William Blake’s iconic painting of Hekate. From WikiMedia.

Very early in the first full week in March, I remember in that period between sleeping and waking up, and hearing “Hekate”, really loud. I thought there was somebody in the room, which would have been very strange since I live by myself, and had for over 10 years. But, being absorbed in what I was doing with shutting down the business, I ignored her. Turned out to be NOT such a good idea. To be honest, I really didn’t know much about Hekate, and hadn’t take the time to find out.

The following week, around the middle of March, I was to be taking Selena Fox to a workshop she was doing at the UW-Oshkosh student Pagan group. A day prior to us leaving, the same thing happened, way more loudly it felt like. Again, one word, “HEKATE”, and I nearly jumped out of my bed! Wow, what an experience. But, I thought, well, I’ll ask Selena on the way up or back, and again, didn’t do my homework as I was really busy with the business stuff. So on March 16th, off I went to pickup Selena and go to Oshkosh. On the trip, Selena started asking me questions about being a Transwoman, like when had I first known, etc. Then, afterwards, I told her what had happened in those 2 instances.

She asked me, “what do you know about Hekate?” I said all I had heard was that she was the Mother of all Witches. Well, she said, she’s a Triple Goddess, including the Goddess of the Crossroads, which you are at now in your life. I hadn’t really given it that much thought, being so caught up with liquidating the business, but when Selena explained it, it was like a light going off in my head! My first reaction was, but I have a Goddess, Luna. I then learned that we may have more than one Deity in our lives, especially when we are at a time in our lives when we need help. Oh yes, I really did need Hekate’s help as it turned out. So we had a chat about my journey, where it had been, and where it was going, and what I needed on my Spiritual path.

So enter Polytheism on my Spiritual path. Sometimes we have to wander to come full circle. That was the way it was with me up to this period in my life. I’ll admit I wasn’t really focused on much, except what I wanted, not what was good for me. That trip with Selena changed my focus more than I could have ever believed. Things would just come to me suddenly, like it had when I had arrived at Circle Sanctuary to make Spirit bags prior to Pagan Spirit Gathering 2016. But, back then, with all of the problems I was having in business, I had not really recognized that the Deities were trying to tell me something.

"Diana-Goddess of the Hunt" by Pietro Antonio Rotari.  From WikiMedia.
“Diana-Goddess of the Hunt” by Pietro Antonio Rotari. From WikiMedia.

I’m of the opinion now that Hekate knew I had to stumble a bit before I walked. I had never thought that I was at a crossroads, both in my business life, which was steadily going on a rather steep, downward spiral, and my personal life. Yes, I was going to most of the Full Moon Rituals, some of Selena’s workshops and events at Circle Sanctuary, but was I really associating what I needed versus what I thought I needed. I did learn a lot, and it was really great being with other like minded Pagans, but I was still missing something.

At that time there was some administrative changes going on with the staff at Circle. Selena asked if I would be willing to help her out with Full Moon Rituals and workshops for the remainder of 2017. Well, I did have the time, and it felt right for me to do so. Again, when I let things go, and let Hekate guide me, all of a sudden my stress levels went way down. I became an active volunteer and found it fulfilled something in me that was definitely missing. It wasn’t just about me, it was about what I finally had the time to help out in ways that I had never expected.

A bit before our trip to Oshkosh, Selena has asked me if I had ever done a Rite of Passage on my Pagan path. As I had always been a solitary practitioner, and not as involved in that as I should have been, I said no, I hadn’t. I also had never been to PSG before. The two years prior, there had always been business issues, some of them employee issues, that had precluded me from going. But not having business stuff to get in the way of going anymore, I signed up for PSG 2017.

"Hecate" by Stéphane Mallarmé.  From WIkiMedia.
“Hecate” by Stéphane Mallarmé. From WIkiMedia.

Selena had explained to me, being a transgender Pagan, legally female, but had not fully transitioned from male to female, that I had some options. One of them was that I could do a Rite of Passage for a Sage for my male side, or one for a Crone because of my mostly female side. But when we talked, I really didn’t have a sense of doing either. I was also far enough along in my transition, that neither felt right for me. So we started talking, because of my age, doing something a little different.

I know now, in retrospect, that Hekate was having a definite presence in my life, working in ways that I hadn’t thought of. Selena asked me, since neither Sage or Crone was relevant, how about a different Rite of Passage. We discussed options again. At Welcome Spring, a couple of Circle members had mentioned an Elder Rite of Passage. Well, being a “two spirit”, in a few previous lives, that would not be appropriate for me in this life. Selena agreed, and we came up with Senioring instead. It felt right to both of us, and as it turned out, again with Hekate guiding me, along with Selena, it was the correct choice.

Coming soon, The Journey with Hekate continues, the Senioring Rite of Passage . . . . . . .

Last night I went to bed discomfited by an obtuse political speech, and this morning I woke up to an awesome lunar eclipse. Today’s not quite Groundhog Day yet, but it might as well be. Spring is coming. The world is slowly awakening once more into powerful life.

I’m not usually big into writing about politics; I like to keep my church and state nicely separated. With that being said, there’s an important lesson to be learned in politics these days because the mistakes we’re making (on both sides of the American political aisle) are the same ones that we’re making in our groves, our circles, our pews, and wherever else people gather to raise up the sacred.

A groundhog.  Public Domain Image, CC0.
A groundhog. Public Domain Pictures, CC0.

No One Is Coming to Save Us

Years ago, late one night while I was mopping the floor at a coffee shop after a show (and being thoroughly ignored), I heard three Christian guys “witnessing” to each other. Now, Christianity is not my schtick, but growing up in America I can hardly be blind to its draw, meaning, and power.

So, these three men were talking about their experiences with their Lord, and each of the stories had pretty much the same narrative. Each of them talked about the moment that He came into their life and changed them forever.

I wanted to drop my mop, leap across the coffee shop, and shake them. “No!” I wanted to shout, “That was not the moment your Lord came to you. What you saw was always there, and that was the moment you opened your eyes!”

Since “crazy janitor” has never been on my career path, I kept my trap shut. But the lesson stands: no one is coming to save us. If they come, it is for their own good. If we want change, we are going to have to change.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow: the work is ours. Whether it’s a pursuit of the sacred or the pursuit of justice, there’s no one coming to save us. We have to open our own eyes, make our own choices as best we can, and live with the consequences.

The Way Forward

From the knight in shining armor, to the wise teacher, to the savior sacrificing for us all, we all occasionally want to abdicate responsibility. There’s a lurking desire to let go and let someone else take up the slack.

And at the same time, there are always a thousand voices luring us with the promise of a better life, if only we will listen to them, trust them, and pay them.

I’m not saying “it’s every man for himself” or it’s all “nature red in tooth and claw” out there. Those are the words used to divide us, not unite us.

The lesson is simpler than that. If you’re waiting for a leader, it’s you.

Eclipses are big deals to us astrologers. We write about them. We whine about them. We scare our clients and readers unintentionally. And although eclipses are major events and worth the attention we give them, a cosmic crossroad is not the same as a cosmic crisis. Your particular mileage, as they say, will vary, and January 31st is the day to watch, the first of the 2018 eclipses.

Image courtesy of NASA, public domain.
Image courtesy of NASA, public domain.

The five reminders below will help you ride the eclipse wave in style.

1) This eclipse is a Full Moon and Full Moons often mean it’s time to say goodbye. Do you have a long delayed project that requires your attention? Or maybe a friendship has outlived its purpose. The moment doesn’t have to be sad, but ask yourself: what am I holding onto that I need to let go — sooner rather than later? Set an intention to say adieu.

2. This eclipse is in the sign of warm generous Leo and Leo is associated with self-expression and pride in who you are. Are you a secret painter? Maybe music is your thing. Find the artist within. Reconnect with your inner child! Leos love the arts and Leos love to play. Any Leo lunation is prime time to bring out the creative animal in you.

3. Full moons intensify our emotions and you may feel like a lunatic on the days leading up to the eclipse as feelings inflate like a balloon about to pop. I recommend you let those feelings flow. Bottling them up only increases your chances of an untimely explosion. You’ll thank me later that you didn’t cry full moon tears all over your boss or barista.

4. Eclipses come along to change our lives. We can’t remain the same. You may get married. Or divorced. You may get hired. Or fired. Course correction. Life path change. It sounds daunting, I know, but the universe is on your side. The universe has your number, and your back. Surrendering to this truth will only make it easier once the eclipse winds of change begin to howl.

Here now is the most important advice of all: since this eclipse is in Leo and Leo loves to look good, channel your favorite Leo celeb. Madonna is a Leo and so is Kylie Jenner. Barack Obama too!

No matter how you feel, no matter what you’ve got going on, focus on that gorgeous mane of yours, select a stylish frock, and even if your life IS falling apart, at least you’ll look ravishing, my darling!

But seriously, it’s time to ditch all the ways we hold ourselves back or get in our own way. Goodbye self-sabotage! Leo energy is vivacious, fiery, alive! It doesn’t hide its light and neither should you. Your time has come.

Interested in a reading from Aliza? You can contact her here.

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