Faerie goddesses of the Flower Moon: International Moon Circle 11

Until now, this series on moon goddesses has focused on a different culture every month. Yet I am not trying to proscribe to others which goddesses should be honored in which months or which cultures should be considered. It is more a template of how you can explore different energies and invite the blessings of goddesses into your life.

I have explored a wide variety of cultures because it is important in today's mixed and matched world where families and nations often represent more than one cultural root--to stretch our muscles of inclusivity and to understand that what binds us together and what differentiates us in goddess-centered circles. 

Public domain image

Public domain image

Still there are other ways, other templates for exploring goddesses beyond a cultural theme for each month, it is quite possible to focus on a topic, region or element. For May--the Flower Moon--I have chosen to focus on goddesses connected to elementals, the Fay and denizens of the Otherworld.

Many cultures call these "fairies" and they are--in the most basic sense. But in ancient times, they were not seen as frilly little pixies with pretty wings and dresses. Instead they were usually understood as powerful land and nature spirits, connected to the sovereignty of a country. 

This then is the focus for the Flower Moon and because I live in this land, I will stick to Europe for this month with goddesses that did not fit neatly into the cultural themes in previous months. (That's bound to happen. Culture has few hard and fast boundaries and many goddesses belong to more than one culture or only belong to part of a larger culture. They do not respect human borders drawn upon maps or even our narrow ideas of tribe and ethnicity.)

The Maiden for the Flower Moon is the Albanian fairy goddess Zana, the Mother is Danu the ancient goddess of rivers and hollow hills, and the Dark Goddess is Morgan Le Fey of legend, fate and the fairy realm. 

The Waxing Moon

Zana is the fairy maiden of the Albanian mountains. She leaps on sheer and wild mountain sides, singing in the eternal spring dawn, accompanied by three prancing goats. (Lurker 1987) She can be headstrong like a little mountain goat, but her spirit is that of freedom and nimbleness in mind and body.

She is close to the land where I live and folklore points to similar figures throughout Central Europe, though their names have been lost to time. Zana is a good name to use, because hers is still known. She is the youthful goddess of the growing things and the animals of the land I live on and thus a connection to the to the natural world.

Her symbols are mountains, goats and wildflowers. You can connect with her by visiting a place where plants and animals are able to live wild and untamed. Dance is also good.

Creative Commons image by Sandy Sarsfield 

Creative Commons image by Sandy Sarsfield 

The Full Moon

Archaeological evidence and linguistic roots trace the emergence of Celtic culture to the upper part of the Danube River in the heart of old Europe. The name Danube and the names of many other rivers in the region, such as the Dnieper, can be traced to an ancient Indo-european word for “flow” or “river,” which is very likely synonymous with the name of the goddess Danu, who has been carried into modern times by the Irish. (Koch 2006) 

It is impossible to know for certain that there was an ancient goddess called “Danu” or something similar in Central Europe as well as in Ireland, but it is likely. There are certainly plenty of unearthed goddess figures from that ancient culture and many cultures have associated rivers with goddesses. (McLeod 2014) 

There was a goddess in this ancient land and Danu is as good a name for her as we have. The hills in Central Europe are gentle and resemble illustrations of sleeping dragons, half sunk into the earth. The rivers flow between them, carrying the life blood of the land. Danu’s symbols are here in the old hills--metamorphic rock such as marble--and in the water, rivers and marshes.

One way to connect with Danu would be to engage in flowing, fluid dance. Another way would be to trace Celtic knot work or a triple spiral goddess symbol in a flowing unending pattern as a meditation.

The Waning Moon

Much fantasy has been written of Morgan Le Fey and it is difficult to find any certain truth, unless you are willing to trust to dreams and personal intuition. She is a well-known legendary figure but also an older or even crone goddess connected to healing, fate and transition to the Otherworld. (Slocum 1992) She may be another form of the Irish triple goddess of death, war and destruction, the Morrigan. Her symbols are lakes, a barge, a sword or a crown.

In Arthurian legend she is sometimes seen as a wise healer, sometimes as a malevolent destroyer and strangely also as both the enemy who causes hurt and the healer who nurses those she injured, according to some sources.  Whichever way you choose to take her, she has been a powerful figure for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. She is the mystery of fate which may not have a clear line from cause to effect or deeds to consequences.

You can connect with her by considering the role of fate and consciously choosing to face needed changes. Light a black, white or silver candle and let it reflect in a bowl of water. Consider that fate may not be set in stone and it may also not be a matter of getting what you deserve. Fate is just the part of what happens that is not within our control. As you accept that you cannot control all the important things in your life, you accept Morgan le Fay--her potential for healing and her potential for destruction.


  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Koch, J. T., Ed. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Slocum, S. K. Ed. (1992). Popular Arthurian Traditions. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.

The Hawaiian goddesses of the Egg Moon: International Moon Circle 10

The energy of spring is a welcome boost to activism and social justice movements. We need the joy of dance and flowers, the breaking free and the energy of fire. 

Creative Commons image by  Steve Corey

Creative Commons image by  Steve Corey

Though ancient Hawaiian culture was quite formal, it gave us some of the most inspiring goddesses for social justice. It is to these women of joy, freedom and fire that I devote the month of April, the Egg Moon. 

It takes a while for spring to make it all the way up through Central Europe to our Bohemian valley. February is long and frigid. March is usually gray, muddy and lashed with chilly rain. When spring does come it often brings sudden, wild color and light to our area. The shift usually happens in early April and I have chosen to focus on the colorful and sensuous goddesses of Hawaii for this moon. The Maiden is Laka, the Mother is Hina and the Dark Goddess is Pele--goddess of fire, destruction and anger.

The Waxing Moon

Laka is the Hawaiian Maiden Goddess of the wild wood, dance and gifts. Her energy is that of pure joy and the colors of the natural world. She embodies joyful wildness, the innocence of young things full of promise and delightful movement. (Andersen 2011) This is what happens in April when flowers burst forth and the first green is brilliant. Laka's symbols are flowers, dance and the color yellow.

Creative Commons image by Crishna Simmons

Creative Commons image by Crishna Simmons

The energy of Laka is a glorious gift. She reminds us to bring play into our lives, to dance, to make fun gifts for no particular reason. This type of connection to a childlike joy is also a way to honor her. This is a great time to make a dandelion or buttercup crown or bouquet and to dance with no one watching.

The Full Moon

Hina is the female generative force of Hawaii, the ancient creatrix. She leads other goddesses and breaks free of male domination. She takes on many different identities, including that of trickster. But she is always tied to moonlight. She represents the rainbow array of women’s experience and the mother beyond stereotypes.

The stories of Hina are full of action, adventure, dragons, flamboyant tricks and colorful mist. One important myth of Hina is about how she made the decision to leave her husband and find a new home. She has the power to create and the strength to call an end when needed. (Monagham 2014) Her symbols are dragons, rainbows, tricks (such as April Fools day pranks) and dance. Reading stories of her adventures would be a good way to honor her as well as making dragon and rainbow decorations.

The Waning or Dark Moon

Creative Commons image by Ron Cogswell

Creative Commons image by Ron Cogswell

While Pele is the goddess of volcanoes and anger, she is treated rather nicely by the popular media. There was even a club founded in 1922 for people who had looked into her volcano in a Hawaiian national park and made offerings to her. (Nimmo 2011)

Images of her often emphasize her joyful side, which does exist. But she also truly represents the intensity and quick temper that often make strong women intimidating and gain us the labels of “hysterical” or “raging.” Half the time this intensity doesn’t even come from Pele’s anger. Like many emotionally intense and expressive women, she just is that way. She may be expressing joy but it comes with fire and spitting lava.

A way to connect with Pele is to release your inner intensity, express emotions vehemently, even if only in private. Fire is her primary symbol, though dragons may also be appropriate.


  • Andersen, J. (2011). Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Nimmo, H. A. (2011). Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i: A History. Jefferson, NC. McFarland & Company, Inc.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Of Beltane and earth warriors

Pagans and earth-centered people, even if you consider only those who celebrate Beltane, are wildly diverse in worldview, beliefs and lifestyle. We don't all teach our children the same things. It has often been said that there can be no Pagan politics, because we never agree on anything.

Be that as it may, it is not difficult to see connections between earth-centered spirituality and the movement for social and environmental justice. If you have a strong spiritual path and you also feel strongly about protecting the earth, there is no doubt that these two parts of you will be intertwined. Likewise, spirituality and social/ethical values are interconnected for most people, whatever their spiritual path.

Creative Commons image by Francesca Ubliani 

Creative Commons image by Francesca Ubliani 

We follow an earth-centered path because we resonate with a way of being that is concerned with interconnection, natural cycles and a sense of the divine in many parts of life. We are concerned about the environment for the same reasons - interconnection, natural cycles and a sense of sacredness in the natural world.

Many also translate this into social justice. We are interconnected. Injustice anywhere is my business, because I'm part of the weaving. Natural cycles and the freedom to be close to nature is crucial. All beings have a part in the divine. Wildly diverse Pagans--just as people of other faiths--are going to translate these abstractions into concrete reality in all sorts of ways.

But in the end, the point is that we cannot actually separate spirituality from social and environmental concerns.

Beltane is a time when that connection is even more apparent. As the veil between the worlds thins, so does the separation between the spiritual and the social, the personal and the political.

Beltane is most often associated with sexual energy and passion. It represents the vibrant maturing of the youth phase in most cycles, that stage in which energy is moving upward and outward.

But it is difficult to ignore the other side of this coin of passion. There is love and sexual passion, yes. There is also the passion of the warrior. The Lovers card in the Tarot is followed immediately by The Chariot. And there's a reason for that.

Beltane is the celebration of passionate union. It is also the celebration of unity in struggle. It is no coincidence that movements for social solidarity adopted May 1 early on as May Day. Like everything sacred throughout history, that connection has, of course, been used and abused by those seeking control and power. But that doesn't negate the foundation--the energetic connection. Earth day is also close by on April 22.

When the body and spirit feel oppression within our human and non-human family or destruction of our home (the earth) happening all around us, warrior energy rises within us and demands a greater channel. 

This is a season when our warrior energy is demanding a release. In times of peace and tranquility that energy can be channeled into dance, love and other energetic, expressive pursuits. But when the body and spirit feel oppression within our human and non-human family or destruction of our home (the earth) happening all around us, warrior energy rises within us and demands a greater channel. In such dangerous times, the denial of warrior energy leads to predictable results: anger, fury, conflict and further destruction.

Anyone who has been in close contact with teenagers (the human stage closest to the energy of Beltane) knows that sexual energy is powerful. Suppression and silence only lead to unhealthy results. That is why we give it expression in healthy ways, learning how to channel it.

Creative Commons image by sammydavisdog of flickr.com

Creative Commons image by sammydavisdog of flickr.com

Warrior energy is the other side of that coin, the shadow in the spring sunshine. And its suppression is no more possible. 

The Warrior

Human society relied on literal warriors and hunters for the vast majority of our genetic history. In recent centuries, we have shifted our social organization from tribes to nations and tried to relegate warrior energy to defensive armies and law enforcement.

I'm for peace as much as anyone, and I have huge respect for professional police officers and soldiers. Their channeling of warrior energy for the protection of all is part of what is needed.

However, the warrior energy does not simply dry up in the rest of us--the civilians. Modern society attempts to suppress it for the sake of the status quo, but when we see and feel injustice, it erupts. If not given a legitimate outlet, that eruption is often self-destructive or harmful to others.

This should not actually be nearly as much of a problem as it has become in our modern world. We try to force warrior energy to conform to sports competitions or try to drug it into submission with video games. But neither of these truly satisfies the need at a deep level.

The most basic reason for this lack of release is that injustice and the destruction of our earth is all around us. And as long as there is such a threat, our warrior energy will not rest.

Yet there is something constructive and positive that can satisfy it. Instead of suppression, professional armies, sports or video games, we need to recognize that the incarnation of the warrior today is the activist.

Creative Commons image by Greenpeace Polska

Creative Commons image by Greenpeace Polska

As such, Beltane is the natural celebration of activism and resistance to tyranny. In this year when much of our environmental and social fabric is threatened, the celebration holds particular meaning.

The Activist

You may not like the word "activist" because it has been  used as a pejorative in recent years--to mean someone with a selfish agenda. But a person who is pursuing an agenda for profit is most often simply a business person. A person pursuing a profitable agenda for some other entity is just an employee. These are not activists, but rather people working at a job, whether you like their agenda or not.

Calling anyone with an agenda an "activist" Is a trick of those seeking power to suppress the warrior energy of those they want to control. 

Activists, on the other hand, are in the most clear definition of the word not paid and not working for any specific personal gain. Instead their motivation is that of the warrior--protection of home and family, protection of the tribe, defense of the interconnected reality that allows the self to live and thrive.

This is the other energy of Beltane, the shadow side.

The opposite pole in the dance with the lover is not the hater. It is the warrior. Union is the natural partner of protection.

In the past year, the brave people of Standing Rock helped other people all over the world realize the fundamental link between the ancient warrior and the modern activist. While there are activists of many types, fighting in defense of home, family and tribe in a myriad of ways, the activist most easily connected to the warrior tradition is the environmental activist.

From Standing Rock campers to alternative energy innovators, from animal advocates to investors in rain forest reserves, earth warriors share the energy of Beltane. That is why for me this is a celebration of environmental activism and interconnection around the world as much as anything else.

Children and warrior energy

Now that I have children, this topic has become critical for me. I see them pulled--by peers, media and society--toward frittering their life force away with video games or allowing it to be suppressed. I realize the need to awaken that warrior energy for appropriate modern activism. 

I have been an earth warrior from an early age. I spoke up in defense of Greenpeace activists when a teacher at my conservative middle school denounced them. I wrote letters to the local newspaper when I was fourteen to protest clear-cut logging practices. I marched in anti-nuclear protests when I was much younger than that and protested the 1990 war in Iraq, at a time when few others did.

The book Shanna and the Water Fairy is children's fiction but its writing was informed by these experiences. I know from my own childhood that children often feel the pull of warrior energy. And if given access to information about the issues, they are often passionate earth warriors. This book is first and foremost a gripping story that kids love to read or hear read a loud, but it also has the capacity to give hope to the spirits of young earth warriors, who may be beginning to feel that the struggles are too big for them.

Pagan Book Review: Pagan Dreaming

A review of a non-traditional dream manual

As a person interested in earth-centered spirituality, I've heard plenty of theories on dreams and dream interpretation. I've always been fascinated by the subject, but never committed to a paradigm. I've read both mystical and psychological texts on dreams, but didn't feel that the theories and interpretations made intuitive sense.

Now finally there is a book for people like me--the practical and scientific-minded mystic. Nimue Brown's Pagan Dreaming: The Magic of Altered Consciousness is a non-traditional dream manual that not only makes sense, it is also a comfort to read. The tone is like sitting down to a cup of tea in a homey kitchen with a woman who takes no nonsense and puts on no airs.

Brown's approach is dramatically different from the many dream dictionaries that claim that dreams speak to us in a universal symbolic language. Instead Brown argues that symbols are varied and--in our diverse world--likely to be individual in their language. This book is more about learning your own symbolic language of dreams than using someone else's. 

Pagan Dreaming presents both the physiological and brain chemistry side of dreaming as well as the processes by which giving dreams their rightful place in our lives can enrich a spiritual life. It's more of a manual of techniques and thinking than it is a dream interpretation book. And this sits well with me. 

The premise of the book is that most dreams, probably the vast majority of dreams, are ordinary processes of the body reflecting physical needs or sorting memory--essentially the "system check" mode of our bodies. And then there are a few dreams which may--and then really only subjectively--be considered to have emotional or spiritual meaning. This is the experience of most people.

Many books have claimed that the more one can act coherently in dreams and choose the type of dreaming, the more spiritually aware and integrated the person. Many books have claimed that a truly spiritual or enlightened person should have prophetic or significant dreams. These books are likely to make those whose dreams are more like a"system check" feel inferior and perhaps ready to accept the wisdom of a supposedly enlightened teacher. Brown is selling none of that. 

Instead she gives a guide to learning about one's own dreams, empowering the individual to be their own teacher. As such, I did not find in this book the answer to questions I have about some rare bit eerily predictive dreams I have experienced since childhood. I did not learn how to turn my mundane dreams into more of the predictive kind. But I did gain some ideas and a structure in which to start looking for a greater understanding.

Spring Equinox blessings from the crafty kitchen

Let the rain rain and the wind blow

An end comes to the the reign of snow.

Bright hues take from the drawer.

Life's new chance knocks at the door.

If your spirit sometimes feels a bit bruised these days, you're not alone. There are not a lot of good fixes that will harden our spirits without closing us down. But there is solace. 

For me, one solace is creating useful items that are also beautiful in connection with the natural world. It can be difficult to find the time, but well worth it when you do. 

Carve out a little time, brew some tea, light a candle and get out supplies. I have several crafts here to suit the materials on hand. Each one helps to ground and renew the spirit. 

These crafts are inspirations for Ostara/Spring Equinox/Easter crafts that are not actually made with an egg shell for a change. These are easy crafts individually and can be handled by a frazzled mom and kids, at least by this one, or by those without a ton of craft experience. And yet they are real crafts with tangible and useful results.

I include crafts in my blogs because I am often frustrated by the craft sites online that seem to give no thought to how hard it is to fit these things into everyday life, especially when you have little ones. I include here both realistic instructions and my own learning experiences in hopes that others may be saved the hassle.


Easy Equinox Spring-in-your-step Soap

This is from an easy melt-and-pour soap recipe but can be used even if you're making your own lye soap. I used a moisturizing, clear glycerin soap base. I was frustrated with the soap we buy at the store that dries our skin and doesn't smell all that great. Also my daughter is always begging to buy expensive colorful soap and this is healthy, quick, easy and cheap.

  1. Cut a block of soap base into small cubes or quarter-inch thick slices with a sharp knife
  2. Heat in a pot devoted to soap and candle making on a low heat.
  3. Prepare a box (plastic or paper lined with plastic) or soap molds if you have them. I used a paper handkerchief box lined with wax paper.
  4. When the soap has thoroughly melted in the pot, add a few drops of food coloring. Just a few! Mine came out a very rich color and that was probably only three drops. (We used purple for luck, independence and psychic connection and because my daughter wanted purple. Other great spring colors are green (for prosperity and success), yellow (for happiness and imagination) and light blue (for peace and tranquility).
  5. Add 20 to 40 drops of essential oils (depending on your sensitivity to fragrances). We used mint (for happiness and spring renewal), pine (for healing, protection and fertility), geranium (for spring love and joy, as well as not incidentally an excellent repellent for tick season) and a touch of lavender (to dispel any lingering winter doldrums). This is what I call the spring-in-your-step soap fragrance.
  6. Add a handful of ground or finely chopped and crushed herbs. I use lavender flowers, which are pretty so I don't entirely grind them up. They give the soap a nice scratchy, scrubby texture which helps clean off the dead skin that accumulates over the winter (defoliation). And it adds lovely natural beauty. Stir the herbs in well.
  7. Pour the melted soap into your prepared box or molds.
  8. Let it sit for at least three hours or overnight. Remove it from the molds. It slides right out. Then, if you have used a box like I did, cut the soap into bars. I recommend making smaller bars than you would normally buy in the store because glycerin soap, which is healthier than the stuff you usually buy in the store, softens faster in damp conditions in the bathroom. A smaller bar will end up wasting less soap and you'll replace it more often.
  9. Wrap the bars in plastic wrap to store. The one mistake I made in this process the first time around was not wrapping up my soap. It dried out and cracked a little over time. It was still quite usable but not as pretty. Plastic or wax paper will work better. Paper often sticks to the soap. 

Time for a luxurious spring bath!

Salt-dough egg decor

This is a craft for my kids who love painting. It makes beautiful home decor, something to put on the wall above the table or in place of a wreath on the front door for spring. And it's a very forgiving craft. Even a toddler can make a beautiful spring egg if given bright colors and an egg shape.

  1. Mix salt dough (A cup of flour, a cup of salt, 2./3 cup hot water, a table spoon of oil)  and roll out thin.
  2. Use a large shape cutter or a knife to cut an egg shape about as big as your outstretched hand.
  3. Use small cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the inside (butterfly and flower cookie cutters are great but small circles and diamonds are fine too).
  4. Save the cutouts to glue on in other places on the egg shape.
  5. Bake on low heat or air dry for several days. 
  6. Paint with bright and pastel colors.
  7. Use glue or a glue gun to place the cutout shapes on the egg.
  8. Hang as a spring decoration

Equinox candle magic

I'm crazy about candles in general and celebrating the Wheel of the Year I love to have candles specifically designed for various occasions. One way to do that is with color and scents. But I also wanted to find a way to make candles in various shapes. 

I am also a cookie-cutter enthusiast, so I figured I could make candles in cookie cutters one way or another. So I started experimenting. 

As you can imagine, the first experiments resulted in a lot of wax running all over the table. I suggest using paraffin wax, not beeswax for these candles. Beeswax will stick in small crevices of cookie cutters and be hard to remove without breaking the candle. Beeswax is also harder to remove from your table. With paraffin wax the old adage your mother probably told you really does apply:  Don't touch it until it's cool and it will come right off. 

After several more experiments I found that if you place a piece of wax paper over several layers of soft paper towels, you have a slick and wax-proof surface that is also slightly soft. When you go to pour your melted wax, you press down hard on the cookie cutter and it cuts into the soft surface, trapping the wax inside. Pour only a quarter-inch of wax and then wait and blow on the surface of the wax. You should be able to release it without the wax spilling after 30 to 60 seconds, depending on how much wax you have poured.

Let that candle sit and move on to your other cookie cutters or molds until the thin layer of wax in the bottom of the cookie cutter has more thoroughly cooled. Then position a wick in the middle of your candle and pour in a little more wax. Hold down the cookie cutter and wait a bit, holding the wick in place. The cooled wax at the bottom will remelt somewhat so if you bump the cookie cutter, you could have it all spill out. But it will only melt a little and mostly it should stay. 

Once you have your candle half full and slightly congealed, you've won. With that candle at least. Top off the candle as high as you can go and making sure the wick stays central and upright. 


Hints and tips:

Grease your cookie cutters with cooking oil before use. I haven't had much trouble getting candles out of the cookie cutters but a little oil helps it slide. 

Don't worry if your cookie cutter molds leak. Just don't lift them up. Let spilled wax cool and keep pouring. The leaked part will serve as a dike and eventually your candle will get full. Then peel the spilled wax off the wax paper and put it back in the pan to remelt. No harm done. Just keep hot wax off your clothes and skin. 

Step-by-step cookie-cutter candle-making instructions: 

  1. Set grated or cut paraffin wax in a pot on low heat to melt.
  2. Select theme-appropriate cookie cutters as molds and grease them with a little cooking oil. Deep cookie cutters are better but even a very short candle will burn and look pretty.
  3. Lay down three or four layers of paper towels and cover with a sheet of wax paper. Place cookie cutters on the wax paper.
  4. Ready short pieces of wick about an inch longer than the depth of your cookie cutters.
  5. When the wax is fully melted add essential oils for fragrance. For spring I enjoy lemongrass and rosewood. And add wax colors, if you have them. Do not use liquid food coloring. I actually tried it and it does not work at all. 
  6. Hold a cookie cutter down firmly. Pour a quarter inch of hot wax into the bottom. Continue to hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Then release and repeat with remaining cookie cutters. 
  7. Return to the first cookie cutter and place a short piece of wick upright in the center. With some luck it will simply stick into the congealing wax and stand up without being held in place. Repeat with remaining cookie cutters.
  8. Once the wax is visibly congealing, pour in more wax little by little to allow time for the wax to congeal.
  9. Hold wicks in place as you wait for the wax to cool.
  10. Top off the cookie cutters as much as possible. There is no need to leave room at the top. The wax slightly contracts. 
  11. As the wax cools, peel off spilled wax and return it to the pot for reheating. 

You can use this method to make themed candles for many holidays. My favorites are sun, star and moon shaped candles, leaves, eggs and flowers for the spring, fruit and animals for the summer, acorns and deer (reindeer from Christmas cookie-cutter sets work great) for the fall, and trees, stars and suns for winter.

I hope these craft ideas are helpful or at least inspiring. Please share this post with interested friends.

You may also enjoy the children's chapter book with illustrations by Julie Freel that I have for Ostara. It is a story for kids ages six to twelve that centers around the Spring Equinox and deals with the difficulties of new beginnings, friendship and learning about diverse cultures. It is primarily a fun book for kids and my kids won't put it down, but it also contains ideas for natural egg dyes and other spring celebration plans.

Blessings of spring renewal to all! 

The spirit of Ostara: the cycles of the earth as a guide to good living

Sometimes I am asked why I celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year with my family, even when there isn't a fun community event to attend.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Why do you need special words for season celebrations? Why do you need to complicate the dates of school holidays for your kids? There isn't definitive proof of the ancient origins of celebrating eight solar holidays, so isn't it partly made up?

As with most things connected to spirituality, there are several levels to my answer.. On the surface, the answer is simply that these celebrations ring true to me deep inside. And second, I want honesty in practice, I suppose.

Growing up in an earth-centered family that didn't use the Wheel of the Year, calling our celebration "Christmas," while  acknowledging that we were really celebrating the Winter Solstice, I always felt a disconnect. If we're "really" celebrating the winter solstice and we know historically that Jesus Christ probably wasn't born on December 25 and he isn't our main focus anyway, then why don't we just celebrate the Winter Solstice and cut out the middle man? 

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

I felt like kids in real Christian families had it better because they had a tradition, something meaningful in their celebration. And ours felt truncated, damaged... even, yes, stolen. This was not an intellectual thing. I was too young at the time to know the history but that was how I felt.

And I wanted a sense of authenticity for my kids.

That was essentially my motivation in the beginning for celebrating the Wheel of the Year. But lets's face it, it's a hard thing to keep up year after year--a holiday every six weeks or so, that begs for specific preparation, attention and connection. If it were only a matter of principle, I might not have lasted thirteen years and counting. Many people don't.

What keeps me strong and passionate about celebrating the Wheel of the Year is it's practical usefulness. 

Yes, practical, real benefits. Let me explain.

We all tend to get stuck at some point in our lives, either in depression or being a workaholic, being young and isolated form what isn't in our generation or being old and feeling like our life is over. There are many places to get stuck and those stuck places can last years.

And that is a large cause of misery. 

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

The Wheel of the Year essentially ensures that I don't get stuck. The celebrations in are in alignment with nature and thus objectively "true" or "real." Even deep depression eventually has to at least acknowledge the fact that spring came again. 

And better yet, the Wheel of the Year is a spiritual teaching in a nutshell. Within it there is pretty much all you need to meditate on spiritually. Each celebration calls up specific important values and themes and taken all together they are a code of spiritual being. 

People sometimes ask how I teach my children about Pagan beliefs and rituals. The primary answer is that I celebrate the Wheel of the Year with them. There are other things, like learning herbcraft, grounding meditation, prayers of gratitude for food and a little simple candle magic, but mostly it's about the Wheel of the Year for my kids. The earth is our textbook and the Wheel of the Year is our lesson plan.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

It isn't just as simple as learning the cycles of the seasons though. Okay, sure, everything dies in the fall and is reborn in the spring here, but in some climates that isn't entirely true. That isn't really the point anyway. Each celebration has particular themes that feel connected to the earth and sun at that time and therefore are easily understood at that point in our journey around the sun.

At Imbolc we go within and delve into dreams and intuition. It is the time in the belly, before the birth of new plans, activities and projects. At Litha (the summer solstice) we are full of life, bounty, energy, pride and expression. We are often hard at work and celebration comes amid many other activities. At Samhain, we are drawn back to the earth, there is a feeling of old sorrow, of things coming to necessary ends and a tendency toward memory. It is the natural time to be reminded to honor our ancestors. 

If you celebrate Imbolc, you will not go a whole year without remembering to focus on your inner world. If you celebrate Litha, you will not go a whole year without expressing yourself with energy and pride. If you celebrate Samhain, you will not go a whole year without honoring ancestors.

And each celebration has a similarly crucial point. I will be writing more posts about the spirit of each celebration, but the celebration at hand is Ostara, so I'll start with that.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story


Ostara is the European Pagan term for the spring equinox and it is celebrated much like Easter. The appropriate symbols are eggs, sprouting plants, rabbits, hares and babies of all kinds. The obvious themes are renewal, rebirth, the beginning of life and expression, new beginnings in general and children. 

As a mother, it is very important to me that my children have a lovely time at Ostara. It is a time to honor and delight in them. They are the future, our new beginning as a species. Their joy in the springtime is a blessed and righteous thing. So, more than any other time they get to eat a lot of candy. They fully enjoy scouring the yard and back woods for treats and eggs. We make pretty colorful crafts, many of them egg-related. 

But when I started to contemplate exactly how to convey the concept of rebirth and new beginnings to young children, I realized that the spirit of Ostara goes much deeper than that. If this is a celebration that also honors children, that necessarily implies the protection and valuing of that which is vulnerable. New life is inherently vulnerable and we can see that protection of vulnerability in all of the ancient symbols of this celebration--particularly the egg.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

We know that in our modern world the worst abuses of human rights are suffered by children. Children are more likely than adults to live in poverty or to be in need of basic necessities like food, water and shelter. Children are often the first to suffer when societal racism or other prejudices rear their ugly heads. There are obvious reasons why the protection of children is connected to human rights in general. 

The protection of new life extends, of course to the protection of the vulnerable among other species. The concept of both biological and cultural diversity is implied in the rainbow colors of Ostara. This is not only a celebration of one rebirth but of all the colors and miraculous diversity of life--human and otherwise. 

This realization has deepened my experience of Ostara. This celebration of renewal can be a great help in overcoming a stuck place in myself. If there is some lingering depression, hurt, resentment or stagnation, the return of light to our northern latitude does wonders for it. The necessity of getting outside and tending vigorously to the spring needs of our urban homestead is invaluable in getting past blocks. 

But more than that, the celebration of rebirth, color, diversity and the protection of the vulnerable is what the heart needs at such times. It is a shot of clear-eyed idealism., regardless of how bleak things may seem in the outside world.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

This year, many of us are exhausted from a long winter that did not seem to be as restful as it should have been. We have been struggling to retain the way of life we and our ancestors fought for--the rights and freedoms that often came at great cost. We are also contemplating that now when we should be working primarily for a sustainable future, environmental concerns have taken a back seat to the immediate needs of vulnerable people in our society.

Plenty of us are already experiencing outrage fatigue. And it is just early days yet.

And here is Ostara, the celebration of renewal, a time to warm your heart and think of fluffy and bright colored things. It may be hard to grasp when things are hard, but this is what we actually need right now. 

Stop a moment, ground yourself in the earth. Remember that the earth's rhythm does matter. Let the energy of renewal and new life flow into you. Focus your energies on protecting those most vulnerable, both human and non-human. Celebrate the rainbow of diversity in languages, cultures, colors and species.

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Illustration from Shanna and the Raven: An Ostara story

Break free.

 In my quest to teach my children these values of eternally resilient life and hope, I wrote the Ostara story Shanna and the Pentacle. This is a story for all earth-centered, goddess-oriented and vaguely Pagan families. It isn't a "teachy" book, but rather a story that grabs kids' attention, especially if they are growing up as a religious minority.

In this story about new beginnings, eleven-year-old Shanna and her eight-year-old brother Rye move to a new school. At first, that seems like challenge enough. New beginnings are exciting but not always easy. Amid budding flowers and preparations for their Ostara celebration, Shanna runs into a real problem. Her teacher and some of the kids at her new school object to a pentacle necklace that her best friend gave her.

When her family moved Shanna had to leave her best friend behind and that is part of the difficulty of this new beginning. When her teacher demands that Shanna stop wearing her pentacle to school and the principal confiscates it as a suspected "gang symbol," the young girl feels the sting of prejudice. 

Shanna is at the same time learning to accept others who are different from her. One of the new things about her new school is the greater cultural and racial diversity of this urban school over her previous one. Shanna soon discovers that friends come in many varieties and it is through a surprising friendship that Shanna gains the courage to stand up for her own identity as a Pagan girl. 

This story not only embodies the crucial messages of Ostara, but it is also filled with beautiful paintings by Julie Freel that evoke the season and the story. This is a story for Ostara, though one that will show that new beginnings aren't always easy. It emphasizes the importance of standing up for one's own identity, the great advantages of diversity and the need to protect the young and vulnerable. With this story, these values are not forced on children but delivered in a way that makes them as natural as the fact that the sun rises earlier every day in the spring. 

I hope you'll enjoy this story and share its fun and themes with children in your life. Many people have asked when there will be more stories in the Children's Wheel of the Year series and I am delighted to tell you that the Beltane book is very nearly ready to be printed and will be out well ahead of the holiday.

I hope you will support our endeavor--which is still non-profit due to the costs of the illustrations, materials and books--and share these stories with others. If you are eager for more stories about the natural themes and values of the Wheel of the Year, spreading the word about these stories is a significant help in our efforts to keep them coming. 

Happy reading and blessed Ostara to all!

Egg candles: an easy spring craft for big kids and adults

Many Ostara/spring equinox crafts for kids and adults come out looking suspiciously like Easter crafts. And well, obviously there are good and honorable reasons for that. But still... sometimes you get a hankering for something entirely earthy. 

I love early spring with its scents of seeds swelling and soil thawing. Even before the equinox I can feel the tension of it, like a bow string taught and ready to release an arrow. This calls for a craft with strong earth and birth symbolism.

I am definitely attracted to the idea of crafts that involve filling egg shells with earth and growing either grass, herbs or a small flower in them. But there is yet little sunlight at our northern latitude before the equinox and my egg pots usually come out looking pretty pitiful, rather than like a glorious celebration of spring. And that's if they sprout at all. A nice alternative for those without either the sunlight or the green thumb is to make egg candles for Ostara. 

This craft fits nicely in with the Imbolc period of candle-making before Ostara and if you use beeswax, the result is wonderfully grounded and primed to boost rituals for fertility, creativity, rebirth and growth of all kinds.

I was intimidated about candle-making for far too long, believing it was a craft only for those with a lot of experience and time on their hands. But at last, I was delighted to find a simple method that really doesn't take much time at all.

Egg candles 5.jpg

1. Cleaning the egg shells:  First, the next time you cook with eggs, crack your eggs by carefully tapping the smaller end of them, rather than the middle. And then use your fingernails to peel back bits of the shell until you can dump the contents into your cooking container. Carefully chip away the shell until you have an opening only at the top of the egg, leaving most of the egg shell intact. Wash the egg shells with warm water and leave them out to dry for a few days.

2. Gathering your supplies: Meanwhile get together everything you will need.

  • First, you'll need a pan for melting wax. I recommend using something you won't be cooking food in, but I do use my pans that for making medicinal salves that also use wax. Wax residue just isn't good in soup.
  • You will obviously need some wax. Beeswax is best but any kind of candle wax or even the stubs of old candles will do.
  • If you want to color your candles for Ostara-pink, green and yellow wax colors are perfect.
  • You will also need wicks. These can usually be bought at any craft store. The kind with small foil circles at the bottom are best for this.
  • Otherwise, you'll need a wooden spoon, paper towels, wax paper and some small sticks or chopsticks.

3. Melting the wax: Heat your wax over a low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally. If you use low heat you don't need to worry that it will burn. Just don't leave it long enough that it starts boiling rapidly. Skim off any debris that may have been in the wax.

4: Setting up your candle molds and wicks: While the wax is heating, set your eggs (now candle molds) upright, probably in an egg carton. Place a wick into each egg with the small disc at the bottom. 

5: Pouring the wax: When the wax is uniformly liquid, carefully pour it into your eggs. You can use a dipper but that too will become coated with wax. I also recommend putting wax paper under your eggs to catch drips of wax. Wax, particularly sticky beeswax, is rather difficult to clean off of surfaces and particularly hard to get out of fabric. It also burns the skin, so be sure to have small children stand clear of the immediate area while you're pouring.

6: Holding the wicks in place: Now here is the only slightly tricky part. As your egg candles cool, you want to keep the wicks in place with the bottom of the wick at the bottom of the egg shell (not floating up) and with the wick coming out of the wax in the middle the hole at the top of each egg, rather than along the side which will be its natural tendency.

Egg candles 1.jpg

Because it takes awhile for the hot wax to cool and solidify, it is usually not possible to hold them there by hand unless you only have one candle for each hand. (If you do have enough hands, just hold the wicks in place and sing some songs for spring minutes and you'll be done in far simpler fashion and have an extra dose of creative energy in your candles.) The method that works best for me to hold the wicks in place without a lot of helping hands is to use two sticks--such as a pair of chopsticks--and pinch the wicks between the sticks, while resting the sticks on the tops of the eggs. The trick is to get a bit of the hot wax onto the top portion of your wick and then use the still warm wax to glue the wicks to the sticks by holding them firmly pinched for a moment. In the end the wick-holding mechanism looks like the photo to the right. (I'm hoping Dr. Seuss will do a book on wicks and sticks, based on this blog post. :D )

7. Cleaning up: This is one craft where a specific note on cleanup is appropriate. Most commercial candle wax comes off of hard surfaces if you just let it cool and then peel it off. You can remove it from clothing by placing paper towels under and over the cloth and then ironing well.

But beeswax can be a bit stickier and doesn't always come off well. The thing to remember is that beeswax and other waxes will also come off with heat. This is why I recommend keeping paper towels on hand for this craft. As soon as you are done with your pot and spoon, wipe them well with paper towels while they are still hot. (That part of this step should be done before you even hold your wicks in place.) You can also use paper towels to wipe dripped wax off the outside of the eggs if you strike quickly while they're still hot. But if you drip wax on a cool surface (such as the table) leave it alone until it cools completely. If you do end up smearing wax on the table, use a rag soaked in hot water.

8. Decorating: You can paint the outsides of your candles or tie ribbons around them. To hold them upright, either drip a bit of wax onto a hard surface and place the candle firmly on top, pressing down gently until it cools and the candle stays upright, or you can fill a bowl with rough sea salt, sand or rice and place the egg candles upright in it. Dry (uncooked) rice with green food coloring gives a nice spring touch. 

If you would like more practical Ostara crafts and ideas for earth-centered families, take a look at the kid's adventure book Shanna and the Pentacle. It includes craft ideas for this holiday as well as the story of a sister and brother who move to a new school and learn about cultural diversity and standing up for their own beliefs. 

The Arctic Goddesses of the Sap Moon: International Moon Circle 9

In the far north, the year is just dawning. The long moonlit nights are finally giving way to dawn. And the full moon of night is giving up its place to the waxing moon of young life. It is a mercy that the moon is in the sky in the Arctic when it is full, during the winter when there is so little sunshine. In summer, the moon is rarely visible, only in the sky when it is dark or new..

Wait. Pause and think on that miracle for a moment.

Creative Commons image by Daniel Frei

Creative Commons image by Daniel Frei

The moon and the sun dance in this way, never leaving the Arctic in complete darkness. Such is the kindness of the guardians of sun, moon and earth. And the understandable reverence and gratitude toward these goddesses felt by the various peoples of the Arctic for millennia is a powerful meditation for people everywhere. 

If we can connect to this knowledge that, despite the chaos of the universe and the whirling physics of the planets, our sun and moon have conspired to always shed light of one kind or the other on the coldest and loneliest places, In that light, it is easier to believe that our planet will survive the current period of destruction and the forces of returning life will prevail, no matter how deep the darkness.

It is nearly spring and yet I choose now to focus on the Arctic goddesses. Their symbols often appear more apt in the winter to people in temperate climates, but in their essence they are all about the return of light. And for that reason, I feel this is their season.

I have gathered goddesses from various Arctic cultures, connecting this moon with a geographical region rather than a specific culture or pantheon. This is by no means meant as a sign of disrespect, but rather a means of including less known cultures in this circle of moon goddesses.

The Maiden for this moon is Kalteš, the Siberian goddess of the hare, the Mother is the Saami Goddess Akka, and the Dark Goddess is the Inuit goddess Sedna. 

Waxing Moon

Kalteš is a Siberian Ugric goddess of the moon and the hare. She is also called the dawn maiden and she is a symbol of life, hope and energy in a cold land. She is a maiden who helps with births and determines the destinies of humans. Her symbols are the hare, the goose and the birch tree. (Lurker 1987)

The Sap Moon is the time when the birch begins to leaf in our part of the world, leading to the name of the month in the Czech language as Birch Month. A good way to connect with Kalteš might be putting birch twigs into a vase and making hare figures. We often make hare-or rabbit-shaped cookies for Ostara during this moon. 

Full Moon

Akka means old or mother-age woman. She is a Saami goddess of many faces. As Madder-Akka, she is Lady of the Mother, the ultimate mother who gave birth to the others. All that is good comes from her.

As Sar-Akka she opens the womb and is sometimes considered the supreme deity. She was traditionally honored by chopping wood outside the birthing tent, and new mothers ate porridge with three sticks in it to divine the future of their child. Finding the black stick meant death, white meant good luck and the cleft stick meant success.

Juks-Akka is the Bow Woman, the protector of children and the spirit of the wilderness. Uks-Akka is the bringer of light and the guardian of thresholds, both of the womb and of the home. She gives blessings to those going out into the world. (Monagham 2014).

So, this is a good full moon to make porridge from hardy and whole grains--sweet and delicious. Sticks may or may not be added, but divination is also a good way to connect. Blessing all the entrances to the home is also appropriate. 

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Waning and Dark Moon

I rarely find the stories of dark goddesses too dark, but Sedna’s story was at first too much for me. I put her aside for a time, but she came up again and again in seemingly random studies about the goddesses of many cultures. And now that I look more closely I see the awesome power of her story. 

She seems at first to be simply a helpless victim, which was the reason I was initially uninspired. Sedna was a maiden who refused to marry. She ran away but was captured at last by a husband. Then her father came to take her back in his boat. It is possible that it wasn't just her who refused the marriage but also her family.

A storm rose up at sea to block the father-daughter escape. And fearing that his tiny boat would be swamped, the father pushed Sedna into the sea. She clung to the side of the boat but he cut off her fingers and arms. She drowned and her fingers turned into seals and her arms into whales as she sank. The end.

Or so I thought. But through further research I found that Sedna is the Inuit goddess of plenty, not of tragedy, victimhood and passivity. At first, I still wondered if she was a sign that the Inuit people feel they were short changed when it comes to "plenty," given that they inhabit a frozen land and have suffered so much at the hands of other humans. 

But again, this was just my narrow, modern thinking showing. As it turns out, Sedna is truly the goddess of plenty because to the Inuit the sea, the seals and the whales constitute a great and abundant plenty. The Inuit are well aware that we live from the lives of others, that our sustenance requires sacrifices from the earth and from the sea. (Monaghan 1999) This is why the story of the goddess of plenty is one of sacrifice and loss as well.

It is only gratitude that Sedna asks. Instead of the wrath of many dark goddesses, she let’s us suffer our own internal consequences for ignoring these facts of life and nature. Symbols of Sedna are the full figures of whales and other large sea animals as well as waves and boats. One way to connect with her is to honor those beings that provide us with food in whatever climate we may be in and regardless of whether or not they are plants or animals. Activism to protect the oceans and ocean creatures from pollution, over-fishing and other human activities are also appropriate in her name. 


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Dedication to Brigid

This Imbolc, after thirteen years of searching and a year and a day of study and devotion to Brigid, I have chosen my specific path and made my dedication. This has come at a time of great injustice in the world. Brigid is in her warrior guise and rides to protect outsiders, refugees and children. Healers are needed. Poets and writers are needed. Warriors for justice are needed. I do not know all the twists and turns of the path ahead but I have faith in her guidance. 

Simple method for making a beautiful Brigid doll

My eight-year-old daughter is not normally very excited about crafts and she tends to be impatient, so I was amazed and delighted by our success with this craft. 

We made Brigid dolls today--two of them because she decided to set up her own altar and wanted to make her own doll all by her self. The craft held her interest for several hours and came out really beautiful.

1. We took a square of white cloth and put a solid ball of cotton in the middle of it. You can use anything from crumpled paper to cloth scraps to a Styrofoam craft ball. You can also use a white paper handkerchief in place of a white cloth for a quick but less durable doll. 

2. We then gathered the corners of the cloth and tied a red or gold string under the ball to form a kind of neck. We cut slits every few inches in the cloth, almost up to but not quite reaching the neck. 

3. Then we rolled up another smaller rectangle of cloth and tied it at the ends to form arms. This we inserted under the neck through the slits, so that the arms protrude on both sides. (I also inserted a little extra cloth in min for breasts but my daughter didn't. You can see the difference in the photos below.

4. Then we inserted some dried lavender stalks from the bottom in place of legs. This makes the doll smell wonderful. You can substitute many different herbs or stalks of grain. Really anything symbolizing your last-year's harvest is symbolically appropriate. 

5. We tied a second string around the middle under the arms, This serves as a waist and holds the herb stalks in place. 

6. Now it was time to decorate the doll. First we put on hair. We loosely sewed embroidery floss into the head, letting each stitch dangle for several inches. This was by far the most difficult and time-consuming part of the craft and it could be avoided by coloring or gluing on wool, fabric or feathers in place of hair. But we loved the look of the embroidery floss.

7. We then tied and stitched a scarf or hair band on over the hair. This can also be done with hot glue. 

8. Next we put on faces. My daughter chose to color hers on with markers and I embroidered mine on, although I am no expert at embroidery. Both turned out fine.

9. I added a lace apron to match the scarf, because I had a bit of extra curtain lace hanging around. Both can be made with any white cloth or even a white paper handkerchief. 

10. Finally we used another red string to tie a few lavender sprigs into the hands so that they formed a welcoming circle in front of the doll.

All ties were made with either red or gold strings. A Brigid doll should generally be white with red, gold and possibly purple highlights. This is the doll we will use in our Imbolc ritual. We will place the dolls in baskets by the hearth to sleep through the night before Imbolc. Then the children will come and light candles and symbolically wake up Brigid to bring in the spring in the morning. It is their favorite part of the Imbolc holiday. 

I'm so happy to finally share the making of the doll with my daughter too.

By the way, this is the same craft used in the children's adventure story around Imbolc called Shanna and the Raven. Although in the book the craft is done with natural sticks or stalks of herbs for the arms as well. There is also a delicious recipe for white and red strawberry dumplings in the book. It's a story about how a couple of modern goddess-orriented kids celebrate the holiday and learn to use intuition for their own protection. 

I hope you will all have peace and inspiration this holiday. Blessings of creativity and warm hearths to all!

The Slavic Goddesses of the Snow Moon: International Moon Circle 8

The Slavic pantheon is one of the least known in the world today. Christianity came early to the Slavic peoples and much of what came before has been lost--even the very names of many of the gods and goddesses, let alone coherent myths. Still there are echoes to be found in folklore, cultural symbols and fairy tales. 

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

I live in the Czech Republic, which is while supposedly a Slavic country also the most Celtic nation outside the British Isles. Ancient Celtic culture thrived in the Bohemian river valleys before the Slavic tribes came. We know little about the specifics of the warfare that ensued but genetic tests show that although the Slavic culture gained authority, many Celts remained to pass on their genes. 

As a result, in this country many of the Slavic myths have odd Celtic twists and turns. Maypole celebrations still pop up in the villages in the spring, there are troublesome and powerful spirits now called "Devils" who figure prominently in folklore.

To the east, the myths and stories change form and take on a different atmosphere, possibly more originally Slavic. And though there are a lot of questions about ancient Slavic goddesses, I have special reason to seek them out and this season of winter when the cold comes down from the north and east seems like the time to do so.

The Maiden for this Snow Moon is Zorya (technically three goddesses or one goddess with three faces), the Mother is Mokosh, the Slavic goddess of wells and healing, and the Dark Goddess is Morana.

Waxing Moon

As with the triple goddesses of many cultures, Zorya is three who are one. But when she is three, her aspects are most often depicted as three young maidens, rather than a maiden, mother and crone.

There is Zorya of the Dawn, Zorya of the Evening Star and Zorya of Midnight. (Monagham 2014) She is connected to stars and although sometimes she is described as the wife of the Slavic sea god Peroun, riding with him into battle and shielding warriors, the three Zoryas are also sometimes described as virgin goddesses. Either way her energy is that of the fierce and youthful maiden.

Her symbol could be three stars intertwined. The Slavic goddesses always pull me outdoors. I would suggest a walk at dusk when the crescent moon and stars are visible as a way to connect with Zorya. She gives us courage and power in whatever part of life needs women's fire. 

Full Moon

Mokosh is the goddess of springs, rain, spinning and fertile soil in the Eastern Slavic lands. She is a family-oriented and motherly figure. (Auset 2009) Symbols used to invoke her energy could be wells, water and raw wool. 

Distressingly little has been saved to tell about Mokosh. Some scholars consider her to be a Slavic equivalent of Irish Brigid. She is more watery though and more outdoors, not a hearth goddess although connected to family. The best way to honor her would be a visit to an ancient well or natural spring. Her gift is clean water and fertile creation in all areas.

Waning Moon

Morana, goddess of death, is mentioned in Patriotism, a poem in the Slovanic Kralovedvorsky Manuscript. There is little more about her than that brief mention from ancient sources, but the context in the poem is at the beginning of a battle in which obviously Pagan warriors note that their women stand with them from youth until death as they fight the royal soldiers who destroyed the groves and holy places of the old gods and the king who forbade offerings and worship of the old gods. (Wratislaw 1851)

This again points to the ability of women to be defenders and protectors. Morana, whether she was such in ancient times or not, can now be considered a defender of Pagan and earth-based spiritual paths. She is the call of the ancient past and of ancestors. Hers is the dark unknown into which we must go for answers. And she reminds us that life is not forever, that we must stand up for our truth now while we have the chance.

Symbols used to invoke Morana include an ax or a picture of a battle-ax, ashes or a stone marker. She can be honored through the study of ancestral roots and the protection of ancient ways.


  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Burdette, A. (2014). Aine. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 90-92). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
  • Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Wratislaw, A. H. (1851). Patriotism: the Ancient Lyrico-Poetic Poem. London, UK: Whittaker and Co.

Imbolc or deep winter: A season in the belly

Ice outside, fire within, the strokes of brush and quill, bitter steam of medicinal plants steeping in a pot--these things defy time.

February 2, the day known to Christians as Candlemas and to modern pop culture as Ground Hog's Day was called Imbolc by the Celts of the British Isles. It is being called that again by earth-centered people all over the world.

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

I grew up with many earth-centered holidays. I knew about the solstices and equinoxes. I even had some idea of the real meanings of Beltane. A harvest party in August or honoring ancestors at Halloween were also not entirely foreign concepts.

But Imbolc was new to me twelve years ago when I adopted the modern Wheel of the Year consisting of eight earth-centered holidays.

Here is a holiday entirely devoted to dreams, introspection, inspiration, intuition and creativity. It is like no other holiday because it can be easily celebrated alone and might even be best that way. 

I have come to love Imbolc. I feel like I am given permission to curl up with the Runes, Tarot and i-Ching in front of a cozy fire and dream without a schedule. I feel like I have permission to take a few days to do those quiet things I love, reading about herbal medicine (healing is a key aspect of Imbolc), creating something beautiful (art and creativity is central to Imbolc), sleeping long hours (it is natural to the season) and lighting lots of candles (the primary symbol of Imbolc is a candle).

I live far from many like-minded others and I often struggle to give my kids an experience of spiritual community. They are mildly resistant to our alternative dates for holidays at Yule or Ostara. The Summer Solstice, Lammas and Mabon just aren't quite right without a gathering of friends or community. But our home is perfect for Imbolc.

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

This is truly the quiet time in our climate, surrounded by cold and frost. We light many candles and have time for more reflection and healing. The colors are stark and beautiful, white, gray and brown. With the sun returning a bit from the edge of the southern horizon, there is a realistic sense of a new year beginning.

I have become specifically devoted to the goddess Brigid in the past few years and Imbolc is the feast day of Brigid. That makes it particularly special and a time to celebrate my connection to the goddess. Brigid is concerned with healing, fire, justice, creativity, inspiration and intuition--all aspects of Imbolc and all things at the core of my life. 

I celebrate Imbolc by making Brigid's crosses for our doorways and hearth. I do divination of various types and a ritual honoring the goddess. I often place a large platter in the center of the table with sea salt, crystals and seven white candles on it. My children and I make a Brigid doll to sleep by the hearth and have a family ritual of waking up Brigid after the winter's sleep.  

Imbolc can mean different things in different climates. For many people this is the day of seeds because the ground is ready for planting. It is still too cold in our climate for planing anything but hardy starts on window sills. The concept of seeds goes along with the Wheel of the Year as a life cycle in which Imbolc is conception, Ostara is the moment of birth, Beltane is exuberant youth and so on. 

In other places though, this day is associated with pregnant ewes, and the word "Imbolc" may have originally meant "in the belly." This is because it is a fallow time in many parts of the world. Plans and activities are in the gestation phase, not yet ready to be revealed. Growth is slow and hidden. 

If you would like to learn more about Imbolc or include this holiday in a multicultural program, check out Shanna and the Raven, an Imbolc adventure story. Shanna and her brother Rye celebrate the holiday amid magic and candlelight, but there are shadows in the modern world. The kids must use intuition and signs from a mysterious raven to protect themselves from a grown-up menace.

In northern climates this was historically the time of candle making in households. There was little other work that could be done with the ground frozen and snow heavy on he earth. The year's candle supply was often made at this time and when northern Europe was Christianized, the holiday was transformed into Candlemas, in which the newly made candles are taken to the church to be blessed. 

There is certainly a connection to blessing candles and protection from fire. Brigid, both the Catholic saint of this day and the Pagan goddess of this time, is widely believed to protect homes from fire. In the Czech Republic Imbolc is still called by an old name "Hromnice" (Thundering). There is no thunder at this season, but the idea was that certain blessings or acts could be done at this time to gain protection from fire and lightening for the year. 

Whether you celebrate a specific holiday during the next few eeks or simply use the winter time for activities that get lost during the rest of the year, I wish you a good season of inspiration, healing and creativity.

Buddhist goddesses of the Wolf Moon - International Moon Circle 7

This waxing moon has been particularly difficult for me on many levels. My daughter's health problems and emotional struggles as well as my own have taken over our daily lives.

I have felt a lot of despair. I've joined in with others to help a friend with her troubles and then returned to my struggle alone, feeling blamed for my geographic isolation and judged for my fears. I have a small circle locally in which I am expected to be stoic and independent. At the same time, I feel uncomfortable asking for moral support in the online world.

This is part of why my post on the goddesses of the Wolf Moon is late this month. As I reviewed my notes, I found a flicker of inspiration. It is not a solution. Perhaps just a sign... I'm not even sure what it is a sign of, except perhaps that spirituality isn't just "all made up and a waste of time" as I've been told by some. 

The sign came in the notes on Guanyin, goddess of mercy and compassion. I have tried to connect with her this waxing moon but I have felt blocked in my own head. I know she is endlessly compassionate and open. But she does not force herself or her compassion on others. She won't come to me. I must come to her. And that has been hard.

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

But then I found that she has reached out to me after all. I had forgotten that one of Guanyin's main symbols is rose water. I had no rose water this year, until I went to the distant and chaotic home of family friends over New Years, when the moon was new. The harried and overworked woman of the house quietly gave me a bottle of rose water as a gift, when I gave her some of my herbal salve. We don't know each other well and wish we lived closer than a few hours distant, so that we could really come to know one another. 

Throughout these struggles I have absentmindedly dabbed the rose water on to my face, unaware of the embrace of Guanyin each time I did it. Now I am sure that Guanyin has been with me, even though I couldn't feel her. She has been here all along.

The Wolf Moon is the time to turn my attention to Buddhist goddesses. Their symbols and areas of expertise are potent and unmistakable, even to those who are not Buddhist. Guanyin, the maiden goddess for the waxing moon, is the lady of compassion and mercy. Marici, the mother goddess, is the unconquerable. And the Dark Goddess Izanami forces questions around popular beauty standards, age and disability, eventually coming full circle to acceptance and universal compassion.

The Waxing Moon

Guanyin brings with her an enduring quality of caring and comfort. She can be honored during the waxing moon with rose water and prayers of compassion for those we see in need of it, including those who may have harmed others. She is the goddess who tells us that each person is loved, even those who have done wrong, the outcast and those who have lost their way.

Guanyin is the unending source of compassion, meeting all with caring and particularly comforting those who who suffer under patriarchal oppression, whether they be men or women. She represents the nurturing female force and the earth which abides through all suppression. (Leeming & Page 1994) 

The myth of Guanyin tells of her mistreatment at the hands of her controlling father and her refusal to let hardship and pain take her heart away from compassion. One way to come to know the culture of Guanyin better is to use the i-Ching as a divination tool and read the philosophy behind it.

The Full Moon

The Mother Goddess Marici is an Indic and esoteric Buddhist goddess of sun and moon. In India and Tibet, she is called “the woman endowed with rays of light.” In China, she is known as “Big Dipper woman.” She is depicted in stillness, sitting demurely on a lotus flower but also as a fierce, warrior woman riding a wild boar or sometimes a chariot pulled by wild boars and wielding many weapons. (Shaw 2006) This gives us ready symbols for ritual—the big dipper, lotus flowers or images of them, wild boar and chariots, possibly the Chariot Tarot card. 

Another symbol of Marici is the Maricinama chant, which contains the words: “She is invisible, indestructible, unbindable, unstoppable, inescapable, unerring, unpunishable, unburnable, and unassailable by weapons.” Marici exudes the energy of the intensely creative woman. She gathers great potential as well as protecting her children from harm and injustice. She sometimes has three faces, one silver, one gold and one dark. There is no reference to this corresponding to the phases of the moon, yet the symbolism is similar, the silver or white face being youth, the golden face being her fullness as Queen of Heaven and her dark face as overseeing death and mystery. (Chaudhuri 2003)

A celebration of this full moon should include playing the Maricimama Dharani which can be found on YouTube and learning the words if possible. Images of a wild boar and a lotus flower can be juxtaposed on the altar—the gentleness and intensity that we balance in creativity. The Chariot and Strength Tarot cards are useful meditations at this time. The Chariot is a symbol of Marici and the Strength card in the Druid Craft Tarot includes the image of a gentle woman with a wild boar. A cup of green tea is a good offering.

The Waning Moon

Izanami is a goddess of life and death in Japanese Buddhism. Her legend says that after she gave birth to the god of fire, he burned her. She became a disfigured old woman “unfit” for the living world and had to go away and rule over the dead. (Auset 2009) She can be recognized at the time of the dark moon by extinguishing candles (the burning fire) and experiencing the deep darkness of winter and the dark phase of the moon. It is also a time to recognize beauty within and to look past outer appearances.

We can remythologize this story also as a symbol of the wrong-headed social rejection of disability, age, injury and those who don’t fulfill the popular beauty standards. Izanami may have been banished to rule the dead, but she brought with her the light and inner beauty that she bestows upon souls.


Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Moss, V. (2014). Cailleach. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.) Naming the Goddess (pp. 133-136). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Shaw, M (2006). Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.


Arie Farnam

Arie Farnam is a war correspondent turned peace organizer, a tree-hugging herbalist, a legally blind bike rider, the off-road mama of two awesome kids, an idealist with a practical streak and author of the Kyrennei Series. She grew up outside La Grande, Oregon and now lives in a small town near Prague in the Czech Republic.

Winter to comfort and heal

I know that by March I will be fed up with winter cold and gray. But for now winter is still young and fresh. New snow has fallen and our little town between the Bohemian hills is quiet under just a light haze of wood and coal smoke. 

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

"It's so good to have a hard frost," my husband says with an audible sigh of relief as he sips his coffee and looks out over the snow-dusted garden. "It will set the garden slugs and mold back It's been three years since we had a good cold shock.."

I know many climates don't have winter like this, not even cold, let alone with snow. But every climate has a fallow period, whether it is parching, cleansing heat or a deluge of rain to wash away the grime of the past year. Everywhere around the world there comes a time of the year for going within, for seeking out a cozy place with a comfortable temperature, for cleaning, refreshing and regenerating. 

Even though I loved sledding as a kid and I see my kids celebrating our little bit of snow with shouts and bright cheeks, I never realized until I was at least thirty that I look forward to this season of deep winter. This is one of the few times of the year when I am not constantly rushing and overloaded with work. End of the year deadlines have passed, tax deadlines are yet to come, outside work is either done or beyond help and life is settled into the winter routine. 

This is often the season when I do my best and most intensive writing. I wrote the first three books in my fantasy thriller series from January to March one year. It is a time for creativity and inspiration, as well as a time when there is enough space for those concepts.

Image by Arie Farnam

Image by Arie Farnam

In ancient times the Imbolc season in the middle of winter was also considered the time of healers. Partly this was because people tended to get colds and viral infections in the damp and chilly weather. The elderly and infants were in need of greater care and so healers were in demand. But for injuries, this is simply a time when healing is more possible because physical activity is reduced. 

One of the reasons I celebrate the nature-based seasons with the Wheel of the Year is that by paying attention to natural rhythms, I never forget to give each need in my body and soul its due. I tend to be a workaholic at times and it is good for me to be reminded to allow time for regeneration, healing and inspiration. 

Inspiration comes only when there is enough silence. Healing comes only when there is enough stillness.

This is nature's fallow time in the northern hemisphere, but whenever your fallow time comes, whether it is earth-based or personal, it is worth remembering that it is not a lost or wasted time. Rather it is a rare and precious opportunity for rest, healing, comfort and the quiet needed to awaken great things.

These are the values taught in the Children's Wheel of the Year books (otherwise known as the Shanna books). I wrote them in large part to illustrate for my children and others how each season has its value. The Imbolc story Shanna and the Raven is a suspenseful story about a brother and sister who use intuition and creativity to protect themselves from potential danger. The Imbolc season is highlighted as the time of healing and inner knowing within a gripping, kid-friendly story.

I don't make direct sales pitches in my emails often, but I would like to gently remind readers that now is the right time to order paperback copies of Shanna and the Raven in order to receive them by Imbolc. You can read more about the book and see photographs of the paperback illustrations here.

The twelve days of Yule with kids

There are always challenges to celebrating a holiday outside the mainstream culture, especially if you have kids. If you celebrate the Winter Solstice and your kids attend school, it is likely that you've had some of these headaches:

  • Your kids are not only still in school on December 21, it's also the day of the school Christmas party, which they can't bear to miss.
  • Your kids are embarrassed to hear you say Yule or Solstice unless you're home with the doors locked.
  • When you go out December 22 and 23, everyone is always asking your kids what they want for Christmas and you have already had your family gifts. 

"Arg!" as a modern-day Viking might say.

Creative Commons image by Mike Beltzner

Creative Commons image by Mike Beltzner

Okay, none of these problems isthe end of the world, but they are annoying. Fortunately, we have a few advantages as well. The twelve days of Yule give us a lot of options. Here are some ways in which Pagan and earth-centered families get around the logistical hassles. 

You can dispense with the giant pile of presents and the kid-mania all together and give your children one small present each day from December 21 to January 1. If you're extra organized you can coordinate the types of presents to match the themes of each of the twelve days of Yule. Or you can simply use the special events of the twelve days of Yule to take the pressure off your Solstice celebration to be perfect.

There are fun and enriching things you can work into your days with kids all through the season. Without even doing anything beyond what you would probably normally do, you can make each of the twelve days a holiday for your kids.

Here are the themes for each traditional day of Yule based on the twelve astrological houses and the values of the Wheel of the Year.

December 21 is for self reflection and rebirth. It is a good day for rituals and divination. We honor the deities and spirits of the Sun as well as the mother goddess of the starry universe. We start the day by greeting the rising sun with hot chocolate and lanterns on some high place outdoors. It is fun have a candlelight dinner with round dishes in the colors of the sun. Because many people celebrate the twelve days from sundown to sundown, this dinner is often actually held on the evening of December 20. We make a clay figure of a goddess for the table and in the morning place a gold-painted clay infant in her arms to symbolize the return of the sun. We also do an annual Solstice Tarot reading, in which each person receives an atmosphere card for the whole year and twelve cards, laid out clockwise for each month of the new year. 

December 22 is for abundance and property, often a day of giving gifts or house blessings, This is often the day my children take off of school. The morning is devoted opening stockings. Gifts may be presented as a sharing of the abundance we have been given. Or they may be seen as the gifts of Santa Claus, Befana, Odin, the sun child or the Holly King--as symbols of the sun's strength and light which in truth does ensure our life and wealth throughout the year. The gifts parents give their children were in absolute terms first gifted to us from the sun's energy. 

December 23 is for communication, art and music. This is an excellent time for crafts or caroling, We make small boxes or plates of cookies and take them to the neighbors homes with a song. 

December 24 is for the home and family. It is a good time to meet extended family or to stay home and focus on whoever you consider family, Some people hold annual home blessings on this day. Because it is Christmas eve for Christians, it is often a time we meet with family members who celebrate Christmas. whether religious or secular.

December 25 is for play, children or connecting with one's own childlike energy. This the first day when the sun finally appears to return from the darkness a little. We can see that the new sun child is truly alive and we can celebrate this life. It is a good day to indulge children a bit, play a bunch of games and put aside work,

December 26 is for work and professionals, a good day to take a gift to colleagues, support unions or go out for some adult fun. Kids could draw pictures of a profession they'd like to try or learn about their parents' jobs, Sometimes it is simply a day to reconnect with reality and get things together for more holiday to come. 

December 27 is for partners. This is a time to get a babysitter if you have children and go out with your partner, whether romantic or otherwise. Kids can make cards for people they love.

December 28 is for magic and life force. This is a good day for making magical or ritual objects, Adults or children can make items for a new altar. It is also a good time for sending out wishes for the new year or for divination on a particular troubling question. It is also a day for healing and for honoring the herbs that provide us with medicine.

December 29 is for education, thinking and learning. It is a good day for educational games or thinking on what education kids want to pursue, This is a wonderful time for reading or listening to stories, a quiet time of contemplation and inner pursuits. 

December 30 is for careers, life path and duty. This is the day for activities concerning one's true vocation and role in life, Adults may make art or do divination around their profession or vocation. It is a time to come together with others of a similar profession. Children can learn about responsibility by doing some new tasks at home and being given a token of extra year and extra duties they have gained.

December 31 is for community. This works not only astrologically but also in terms of the secular calendar. This is the day of larger celebrations for New Year's Eve. It is also a good day for kids to do some volunteer work or bring a meal to someone who doesn't get many visitors during the holidays.

January 1 is for sacrifice and spirit. This is a day for giving offerings and possibly for divination. There may be gifts of spirit for children. It is also the time to give up things or habits that are no longer useful to use. This is not merely a resolution for our own health but also an offering to our gods, land or ancestors. By giving up excesses that may harm us or our environment, we make an authentic sacrifice with a purpose.

Blessed Yule to you and yours!

Why I don't call it Christmas

I could sense the palpable relief in my children's Jewish piano teacher when I wished her a happy new year in October. Now she smiles bemusedly at our tree calendar that only goes up to the 21st of December and says, "It's not that I mind Christmas music really. I just wish we didn't have to play the same songs non-stop for a month every year at every concert."

She is very good at playing and teaching both English and American Christmas music but she is relieved that I don't necessarily want her to teach my children the standard Czech Christmas carols on the piano. Instead I printed out the sheet music for Yule song and she was delighted. Anything as long as it's a change.

Creative Commons image by storebukkebruse of Flickr.com

Creative Commons image by storebukkebruse of Flickr.com

I don't have anything against Christmas either. In fact, I rather like Christmas music, even some of the very religious carols. They are beautiful and expressive of the joy and hope of the season. I'm more than happy to wish my Christian friends "Merry Christmas" but I don't celebrate the mass of Christ.

There is no "war on Christmas" here. Quite the opposite.

I stand by my Christian friends who find spiritual solace in Christmas. That is what it should be about. Calling everything in the season Christmas, and primarily the big commercial bonanza of December being called "Christmas" is what truly dilutes and distracts from Christmas. Sure, joy, gifts and frivolity are part of Christmas, much as they are part of Yule and Winter Solstice celebrations. I'm not saying one must be solemn to have real Christmas.

But I hear Christians saying that there is more to Christmas than the commercialism. There is a spiritual core that they struggle to make the center of their homes at this time. That's worth supporting.

And part of that for me is avoiding the temptation to just call it Christmas when in mixed company, when I mean my own family celebrations, which are so clearly not Christmas, or even when referring to secular community events. I don't really want to have a long drawn-out conversation about my spirituality and culture every time I try to wish someone a good holiday.

So, I feel the pressure to conform too. Just say, "Merry Christmas" and just call it a "Christmas tree" in front of other people. So much simpler. 

Except that every time I give in to the impulse, I feel like I steal from my children, cheapen my own spirituality and disrespect my Christian friends--even if some Christians demand that people call everything that isn't Christmas "Christmas."

I grew up with earth-based spirituality, but we still called the winter holiday Christmas and the celebrations in my family were almost entirely secular. I know not all children are spiritually inclined but I always felt an uncomfortable shame about it. I knew we didn't do "real Christmas" and that seemed to mean that we were fakes.  

Our house was an idyllic cabin in the mountains with snow usually piled all around it, a tree with colored lights and home-made ornaments. There was an assortment of my mom's cookies and the delicious excitement of Santa Clause. But there was also a sharp yearning for something more, something with a deeper meaning. 

I sang Christmas carols at school and always felt guilty about taking joy in the story of Christ's birth, as if I had no right to it. But oh, it was a beautiful story and the tunes made my chest ache. Something was reborn. That I knew.

My mother did tell me about the solstice, but we still called it "Christmas" and celebrated on the 25th. When I realized that I had a choice, that I could call it Solstice and celebrate on the 21st, I finally felt truly free. It is unquestionably the right thing for me. But I'll admit that it hasn't always been easy dealing with the rest of the world. 

Even my own brothers make a bit of fun at my expense during the holidays because of my constant use of Solstice and Yule terminology. Even though they aren't any more Christian than I am. They seem to feel that I am demanding something extra from them.

But I don't mind how they celebrate. I can work an extended family celebration on the 24th or 25th into my Yule just fine. I'm glad we aren't all the same. I'm not trying to spoil Christmas or make anyone's life more difficult. 

I am simply trying to be real and respectful, while focusing on the meanings that are deeper than strategic gift buying. I joyfully accept a lot of "Merry Christmas" wishes in my community and don't care too much. But it does matter to me if someone takes the time to say Happy Solstice or Merry Yule to me. It means you are thinking about the deeper meanings of the holiday too.

I do wish that the drumbeat of " Christmas"  was less prominent at school, because my children have already internalized the belief that there is something shameful about our family celebrations. That's why when I'm out and about, you might here me refer to the school holiday program as a Solstice program or the town tree as a Solstice tree. Yet when something really is connected to the celebrations of Christians, I am happy to call it "Christmas." 

Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Solstice and merry Yule! Merry Christmas! Good Festival of Lights! Joyous Mawlid un-Nabi! Lovely Lohri! Bright wishes of joy and peace to all!

I am water

Here's a revelation from the shower..

The only time anyone gets to think in my household seems to be in the shower. Things have been crazy and the holidays aren't even here yet. Everyone is stressed out. My husband and I were on the rocks. The kids have taken arguing to a whole new level.

I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails sometimes. And I'm supposed to be resting after my eye operations. 

Creative Commons image by  Alex Dixon

Creative Commons image by  Alex Dixon

My six-year-old came and asked me, "Who is the boss in our family? Is Grandma the boss or you or Papa?" 

The seven-year-old says whoever wants to be the boss has to be big and strong enough to get rid of Donald Trump, her new nemesis. I barely even feel big and strong enough to get breakfast. Let alone a healthy breakfast. 

I was in the shower in the midst of this, when simple words came into my mind, repeating like a mantra:

I am water.
I am the river.
I am the well.

Simple. Too simple maybe. But also the answer I needed.

I am water. Our bodies are mostly water. And the only way I can make a difference in the world or in my family is the way water works its wonders--through persistent, gentle, adaptable and never-ending action. Through seeping into cracks and expanding with the frost. Through the quiet, unbeatable strength of atoms. 

My children may not eat a healthy meal every meal, but I continue to work at it. I may be blocked and dammed up at times, but when the water rises high enough, the important things will spill over. Water never stops. Never stops. 

Water spreads everywhere. Water seeks freedom. Always heading down toward the open sea. No matter how turned around, no matter how many barriers. Water always keeps seeking freedom.

I am the river. I am also standing in the river, feeling the water flow all around me. I can catch certain things in the rush. My children, for example. I have caught them many times when they might have been swept away on a tide of consumerist glitz and brain-dead computer games.

Someday I will let them go in the river. And they too will be water. They will go through the rough water and scrape against rocks. Then I will have to hope I have taught them to swim well enough because many drown.

I am the well. There is something deep. I don't want to be the only one who gives food or peace or family harmony or hope. But while I can, I let it be. It seems I must be an endless and inexhaustible source for my children and those around me.

I have railed against it sometimes. But even I know I have to be a well. In a home with small children. In a world with so much need and hopelessness. Each of us must be a well of something, whatever it is we care deeply about. Be the source.

If it is peace you want, be the source. If it is safety or joy or love you want, be the well.

And be well.

Journey to the Dark Goddess - Pagan Book Review

Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul by Jane Meredith is a startling combination of a spiritual guide book and a very practical how-to manual. It is almost more self-help than a spiritual book, although you can take it in a Pagan interpretation.

Here in one book are the myths of the Dark Goddess and those who journey to the Underworld to meet her--Inanna and Ereshkigal, Persephone, and Psyche--as well as the explanations of why and what these myths mean spiritually and psychologically, personal experience stories and clear instructions for rituals to consciously choose your journey of transformation.

Meredith sees the Dark Goddess as that which has the power to transform us through inner work. Because most people avoid deep inner reflection, we are usually brought to it through hardship, disaster, illness, loneliness, grief or depression. Meredith's concept is that a person can choose to take the steps necessary to meet transformation on our own terms--before it is forced upon us through circumstance or, if necessary, during such circumstances. 

Overall the concept is solid and well explained and executed. There is some moderate repetition but for those inexperienced with the concepts and ritual format, it will likely be helpful. The sections are well labeled and it is possible to navigate in the book, if the repetition does bother you. 

The writing is clear and enough flexibility is left in the instructions for the steps to be practical for a wide variety of people. If there is one thing that left me concerned in this book, it was the author's wise assertion that individuals consciously undergoing such a passage should always have support persons lined up in advance with specific instructions for helping the seeker should she get stuck in her process.

Primarily this includes reminding the person on the journey to the dark goddess to eat, sleep and exercise regularly. It also means providing compassionate moral support. While this is excellent advice, there was very little in the book on how to find such support or what to do when it is lacking. In today's world, it is not always easy for individuals to find authentic support and a large reason for seeking out such a book could well be isolation and social alienation. 

It may simply be that the author has no answers for this particular conundrum. She does not claim to have all the answers and in fact uses examples of her mistakes along the way as useful teaching tools to show how the steps of the journey should and should not be done. 

Using the book

Over the past month, I have experimented with the rituals, imagery and myths in this book. It just so happened that this book arrived on my doorstep at a time when I had to enter a dark and frightening situation consciously. 

I have been legally blind all my life, but my eyesight has largely remained stable. To others it may seem very weak, but I am very glad for what I have. Suddenly in the past year my sight started to fail due to cataracts. And I was told that I am in a high risk category for cataract surgery. I could become totally blind very quickly if the surgery didn't go perfectly... and there is a lot that can go wrong.

The surgery had to be scheduled at the darkest time of the year--November and December--to minimize risks. And so while I normally guard myself against the harsher parts of life at this time of year, I now had to face them fully. I also had a support person available both for the surgery and for the journey to the Dark Goddess.

It was quite a coincidence that the book arrived at just such a time, so I decided to go through it in a practical way. I have been through some dark periods--depression, social ostracism, infertility. So, I know what Meredith means when she describes a journey to one's personal underworld. 

There are a dozen rituals described in Journey to the Dark goddess but not all of them are mandatory for such a journey. I did some of the preparation rituals and exercises with curiosity but little deep connection. Then when it came time for me to consciously descend into the dark, I combined the ritual of the seven gates to the Underworld described in the book with a ritual sauna in an underground cellar and a time of utter silence.

My experience of the seven gates to the Underworld was quite different from what Meredith describes. It was a very powerful ritual, but I felt somehow detached from my emotions, which are usually rampant. It was almost as if I was watching myself from outside myself, watching this person I barely knew falling and disappearing into the gloom. After an entire moon in which I underwent two surgeries, a month of enforced rest and near isolation, and much upheaval in my relationships and household, I finally felt the flickering of returning energy .

Those things I had relinquished on my way to the Underworld--attachments to family, home, status and cherished skills--had reordered themselves and taken on a different significance. In the end, while my experience is not the same as Meredith's, it was very helpful to follow her guidelines and concepts. 

The Celtic Goddesses of the Cold Moon - International Moon Circle 6

The Cold Moon is cold indeed in Central Europe and the British Isles. It is almost never snowy but it is bone-chilling and often bleak. The sun shrinks down to the southern horizon, so that even at noon it shines crosswise across the land, throwing huge stark shadows, if it is visible at all. Mostly it isn't though and the sky and land are gray in the fallow time. 

It is at this moon that Celtic myths tell of imprisonment, ordeals, fierce storms and transformation. And yet it is also the time of rekindled hope, the sun almost disappearing and then returning, miraculously at last.

I have chosen to celebrate the Celtic goddesses for this moon. They are sometimes harsh in aspect but also embody the promise of solace and hope that the winter solstice brings. The Maiden for this moon is Aine, both a sun and moon goddess often recognized near the solstices; the Mother is Rhiannon of strength and steadfast courage in the face of unjust punishment; and the Dark Goddess is Cerridwen with her cauldron of change for the turning of the new calendar year.

Creative Commons Image by Barry of Flickr

Creative Commons Image by Barry of Flickr

The Waxing Moon

Aine is an Irish goddess of the land connected to both sun and moon. Her connection to the land means that she has the power to make a man king.

While she has many consorts, such a relationship must be on her terms. Several times in myth, she is forced to be with a man who desires power—raped by a king and captured by another man while sitting on the shores of a lake. But she escapes and takes her revenge, denying sovereignty to those who abuse her or the land.

Aine is bright and fertile, a high lady of healers and a protector of women, particularly women who have been abused. Today many rituals call on Aine to comfort and aid the victims of abuse or to bring justice to their abusers. (Burdette 2014) We can connect with Aine for rituals of healing (including healing for specific parts of the land), protection and calling on the sun for light and the powers of creativity. Her symbols are geese, the sun, the moon and apples. Use fir or apple scents.

Full Moon

Rhiannon was falsely accused of a terrible crime. She endured with dignity both the grief of a lost child and the great hardship of unjust punishment and humiliation. In times of injustice, hardship, misfortune or illness and when the sorrow of infertility spreads its shadow, we need Rhiannon’s courage and steadfastness along with the hope of eventual justice.

Creative Commons image by Lailantie Core

Creative Commons image by Lailantie Core

Still, there is no promise that we will be given all of our desires. Rhiannon suffered and was not actually granted a reward in compensation. Instead the hardship itself gifted her with even greater inner strength than she had possessed before. Her sorrow ended at last when her child was returned to her. She didn’t get revenge. Instead she continued to be a mother to the people. She was the one who was stronger and thus the one who could endure. Her symbols are horses and three magical birds who can both raise the dead and put the living to sleep. (Skye 2007)

You can connect to Rhiannon by doing horse-related crafts or putting up horse decorations. Put this quote of a Druid triad on your altar: “There are three spiritual instructors: worldly misfortune, bodily illness, and unmerited hatred.” Add a picture of Rhiannon and three bird figures or three candles (if possible decorated with birds or shaped like birds).

Also, do a Tarot reading or allow children to choose a Tarot card that they like and discuss the meanings and lessons of the cards. Tell the story of Rhiannon. Put out bird seed or homemade bird feeders for the birds who accompany Rhiannon. In today’s world unmerited hatred often comes in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia or ablism. Listen to the music of inclusion and anti-prejudice movements. Use the wood of oak and the greenery of holly at this time.

Cerridwen's Cauldron - Creative Commons image by Aida Di Leto Lundquist

Cerridwen's Cauldron - Creative Commons image by Aida Di Leto Lundquist

The Waning Moon

Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of spiritual transformation. She is considered a dark goddess primarily because transformation of this magnitude usually hurts. She also governs death, rebirth, prophesy, magic and divine inspiration. She gives moral counsel and magical potions of deep wisdom. (Auset 2009)

The moment of standing in a free natural place in starlight is hers—that yearning after mystery which is always just beyond our grasp. Her symbols are a cauldron, a white sow or an old woman in starlight. You can connect to her through rituals of transformation, divination and magic. Burn rosemary and cedar incense. Greenery of ivy or pine is appropriate.


Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Burdette, A. (2014). Aine. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 90-92). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
Koch, J. T., Ed. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
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Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
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Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
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Journey into the dark

The path of transformation

"It must be done at the darkest time of the year," the surgeon said. "That is the best hope for safety. And you may go blind anyway."

We all have dreaded words and moments when we feel the winds of the underworld howling around us. These were mine.

Since I was a small child, I always knew my vision impairment was a fact of life. Some of my earliest memories are of lying on a table in a dark room with a huge machine lowered over my face while doctors shown painful, bright lights into my eyes and asked me questions. As I recall, I was obsessed with Strawberry Shortcake dolls at the time and I told them about it... at length.

I was praised for being stoic and tough when it came to the exhausting eye exams, but I never understood why I should be praised. It had to be done. It had to.

For thirty-five years my eyes stayed much the same. There are lucky blind people and I was always one of them. Lucky is having eyes that don't change in disorienting ways.   i was always extremely nearsighted and legally blind. But now my eyes are changing. I am developing cataracts early. 

Everyone knows today that cataract surgery is no big deal though, right?  Well, except for people with "severe myopia." That is very nearsighted people. Now, I'm one of the unluckier of the people with cataracts.

Oh, there is still a surgery for it, but in this case it is high risk.

"Bear in mind that this is a lot like an expedition to discover the north pole," the surgeon, one of the top specialists for cornea surgeries in the country who has also worked at top eye clinics in the US, says

Dear doctor, I hope that isn't supposed to be you being reassuring. 

But the cataracts are progressing and if nothing is done, I won't be able to see much at all eventually. It's a lot like it was when I was a small child undergoing the diagnostic tests. This too must be faced. 

Journeys into the darkness of our own underworld are often put off, avoided, denied or fought against. And usually that struggle makes the journey harder, more abrupt and more terrifying. I know this from other parts of life--the struggle with depression as well as political change.

So, if it must be done and it must be done at the dark of the year to decrease the risk, then it must.

On Monday, I go for the first cataract surgery, which specialists say is high risk and very unpredictable. There is some chance, though a very uncalculatable chance, that I will lose more of my sight. And there is some chance I will see a little better. There is also a significant chance, I'm told, that my eyesight will not improve or entirely fail but will just become disorienting, making me one of the less lucky legally blind people for once. 

A journey into the underworld of the unknown requires a readiness to give up those things we cling to--if necessary--in order to undergo transformation. 

I have thought long and hard about the transformation part. What is it that I can gain by going into the dark? 

There is a chance that I may see more like I did a few years ago, at least for a few more years. I will not be "cured" from the perspective of others, but I can live quite happily in my blurry, magnifying-glass world. 

But there is one thing I desperately want in my life. I want to have purpose. It doesn't have to be some great earth-shaking purpose. I used to dream of being a famous journalist or author. Then I wanted to be a great social justice activist, someone remembered and admired. Finally, I wanted to be a great mother to my children--to bring up children who would have wondrous choices and opportunities. 

I am largely a failure.

When I tell my family this, they say I'm a whiner. And I am.

I'm not a famous author. Boohoo! First world problems, if there ever was one. I'm also not greatly admired among social justice activists. I have done my bits and played a supporting role in some very good causes. I can rest assured that I have made a difference, but no one will ever write me up with the heroes of the struggle to protect the earth and the climate just because I packed food in to Greenpeace treesitters.

And my kids? Okay, they are well fed and clothed, but they struggle with schooling, impulsivity and attention. They still have tantrums at school age, lots of tantrums. They will be like all of us--limited and earth-bound--in the end. I am doing the best I can as a mother but my illusions that by working smart and hard I could be "better" than most of the parents I see working frantically and clumsily around me have largely disintegrated.

Here's my thoughts once my kids turned three: "So that's why those mothers were screaming at their kids. Here I just thought they hadn't read the right parenting books or didn't have the self-discipline to stick to their guns."

Hahahaha! Now I get it.

I'm not a really bad failure. I'm just a failure at all the great dreams I had. And I feel rudderless and purposeless. 

I have been told that great journeys into darkness can yield great transformation. This may well be another of my self delusions. But I have some inkling that this journey into the dark--the physical darkness of temporarily not seeing much at all after the surgery and the inner darkness of fear--may yield something.

If nothing else it may yield something because I will be forced to rest, be still and contemplate. The surgeon has demanded that I do virtually nothing for an entire month.

It seems that just as I am entering the underworld of darkness and fear, the world or at least my native country is going down right along with me. Yes, I am afraid of that too. I have children and they are not entirely white. I am in a country Donald Trump said he wants to put soldiers in. I'm afraid.

And yet I know this cannot be stopped. We tried. 

And remember. It is not Trump who truly caused this plummet into the underworld. It was the fact that so many people have been stifled with hate media, lack of education, anger and disillusionment. When there is sickness, the journey into the dark always comes sooner or later. It is better to ask how we must transform our society than to blame one man who used the wind to fill his sail. 

Let us face the darkness together and come through the transformation.