Looking For the Best Pagan Books?

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Check out Moon Books. That links to their Twitter. Their bio gives you all the info you need to find their books. They’re in the UK, but you can still order straight from them, or buy their books on Amazon or from Barnes and Noble. They don’t sell “fluffy bunny” witchcraft books or just books of spells. They do have some books of spells, like Candle Magic by Lucya Starza and Every Day Magic, also by Lucya Starza (who is also on Twitter and quite a nice person.) They have a book about depression, Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell, a book about Rhiannon (who was she? Fairy queen, goddess, both?) and a book about The Morrigan. And these are just a few. I believe their site lists their full catalogue.

The also having books like Naming the Goddess, Aspecting the Goddess, and Kissing the Hag. I received the last yesterday. These books delve into more than Wicca, witchcraft, and paganism. You’ll find things relevant to your daily life. You’ll find things about life as an older woman, paganism from a queer perspective, who the Dark Goddess really is, and the origins of familiar fairy tales.

There are also books about gods . . . I saw a tweet the other day about a new release, a book about Odin. I believe that they have a book about the Green Man. They have something for everyone. And not all the books are just about Celtic deities and Celtic paganism. I have so many that I haven’t read them all yet. From the back cover of Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith: “Weaving stories of Inanna, Persephone, and Psyche with self-enquiry and sacred ritual Journey to the Dark Goddess invites you to venture within.”

Sound intriguing? Just be aware . . . these books are so fascinating that they’re addictive, and you’ll find yourself pre-ordering and buying at least one a month. And, they also have some fiction titles. If you’re serious about paganism and you’ve been looking for pagan books that deal with self-improvement, follow Moon Books on Twitter or visit their site.

Disclaimer: I do not write for Moon Books (unfortunately, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as their authors.) I’m just a big fan of their books.

 

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Candles: Altar Advice for Pagans

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I was going to title this post “Candles: Altar Advice for New Pagans,” but I realized that a lot of us who have been at this for a long time get set in our ways and sometimes need a tip during difficult times.

I have spent a lot of money on altar figurines and statues, and a real mini cast-iron cauldron, because as a teen I had to keep my altar on the down-low, not recognizable as an altar to family members (even though it was in my bedroom where they did not belong.) I used angel figurines from the dollar store as goddesses and a china swan to represent the element of Air. I didn’t have an athame or a wand. I still don’t have a wand. I could buy one, but I’d rather make one. All the trees in my yard are maple, dogwood, cedar, and crepe myrtle. I need to go to the park and find a different type of tree. I received my beautiful athame, handmade in Scotland, as a gift. I’ve always collected crystals and pebbles and feathers. I built a big, beautiful altar, and two separate shrines, and the things that are proving to be the constant expense are candles.

I use candles daily in my practice. I have asthma and really can’t tolerate incense, and I have enough Catholicism in my background to feel that I should light a candle every day just to honor the Goddess, not to mention using them for other purposes. Having OCD and two cats, I only feel safe using jar candles. And they’re relatively expensive when you use so many as I do.

Where I live, you will not find a black candle in a store, even at Halloween. They have to be ordered. One dollar store has a great range of smallish (about five inches tall) jar candles in every color and nice scents, but again, expensive on a daily basis. So I’ve turned to tealight candles for daily use, some holy day use, and marking moon phases.

2018 green candle holder

This is my absolutely fabulous (found on Ebay) Goddess/tealight holder that I use to mark the South on my altar. Now, you could build your entire altar around just this piece. That’s something to consider if you’re building an altar for the first time. (FYI, my altar cloth is a family heirloom, a dresser cloth made by my great-grandmother. Yours doesn’t have to be a certain color with symbols that scream ALTAR CLOTH.)

I’ve had the great good luck to track down three Sheila Wolk statues based on her paintings. And I included a thrift store find that really fits in well and looks like a child version of her Spring Bliss.

2018 candles

(Wolk’s Frost Bearer isn’t visible in this shot.) I added this goblet-shaped candle holder because all I had on hand to mark the full moon were tealights and none of the small holders satisfied me. This frosted glass holder is another dollar store find, and safe for tealights. The candle has already burned down and out.

So I’ve decided to reserve colorful, scented candles for extra special occasions and use tealight candles the rest of the time. I can buy a bag of decent, vanilla scented tealights for less than $3 at Family Dollar. If you can find votive candle holders in a variety of colors (thrift stores) then you can use white tealights for pretty much everything. Just google how to safely remove candles from glass holders. Hint: butter knife is not the answer.

Happy witching – Robin

Wiccan/Pagan Prayer Beads

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2018 wood prayer beads

I’ve bought two sets of pagan/Wiccan prayer beads and converted a jade Buddhist mala into a Wiccan mala. None of them met my needs. I started school at a Catholic school, although my father was a lapsed Catholic and I wasn’t familiar with anything Catholic. I was immediately mesmerized by the Mass, the statues, the shrine to Mary outside the convent, the prayers. Ever since discovering Wicca, I’ve wanted to recreate that feeling of wonder and daily prayer and ritual. You can do that entirely without any Catholic influence. I feel comforted with a candle flickering under a statue of a woman and beads between my fingers.

I bought the beads pictured above from The Broken Vial on Etsy. They arrived quickly. They’re strung on non-stretchy cord, but have just enough space between beads to facilitate easy movement. They’re almost weightless, and the 13 bead string is small enough for your pocket (or purse, if you’re a woman.)

No suggested prayers were included. I dislike pagan prayers rewritten from Catholic prayers. I thought about the weightless wooden beads, the Goddess charm and the leaf, 13 moons, 13 trees, and easy-to-memorize Goddess prayers. I wrote this:

(On the Goddess charm)

Mother of the moons, earth, and year

(On the spacer beads)

Spring

Light increasing-

Summer

Shadows lengthen-

Autumn

Harvest in-

Winter

Shortest day-

 

(On the three small beads)

Maiden

Full of abundance

Breathes summer in

 

Great mother

Rises from tree

Abundant harvest bows

 

Wise Winter

Sleeps the earth

Prepares it for

 

(On the leaf charm)

Greening

Fruiting

Resting

Earth.

 

So those are just my quick prayers jotted down after having the beads for a full day and handling them. The beauty of our religion: You can write your own.

Blocked

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I’ve read tweets by people who tried to follow someone they’ve never encountered before and found themselves blocked. It finally happened to me tonight. Someone I follow retweeted someone they follow. I liked the tweet, or I tried to like it, but Twitter informed me that my “like” had failed. I found that strange and tried to view the person’s Twitter. The tweets didn’t load. I went from Tweetdeck to Twitter and tried again. The actual Twitter site informed me that I had been blocked.

Why? I am 100% certain I’ve never interacted with this person. I went to my backup account to view their tweets and try to understand how I offended them. We seemed to be in almost complete agreement politically. Then I saw it–a tweet about someone being in violation of “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So it seems that this person saw a tweet of mine, realized I’m not a Christian, and blocked me from following them. Why? I don’t often tweet about being Wiccan. I certainly do not proselytize. I was as bemused as the time I ran into that conservative, racist, homophobic pagan. I think that the great majority of the people I follow and the people who follow me are religious. I don’t know what they think of my religion, but it’s not a subject that comes up.

I guess I got used to the tolerance of liberal Christians on Twitter. A conservative, close-minded, intolerant Democrat confuses me as much as a conservative, intolerant pagan. But as I said yesterday about writers like me who chose to be politically active on Twitter, you do you. I have no intention of bothering this person who doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to. I did block them in return. Perhaps that was petty, but it seems fair.

I follow a liberal Christian pastor because I agree with most of the things he says about politics and our society. I bought his book and gave it to my Christian cousin for Christmas. I’ve given my mother a large, beautiful crucifix that hangs over her bedroom door. That I hung over her door for her. I gave her a bust of Jesus that occupies the den with my Rhiannon altar. I set up the large Nativity every Christmas because my mother says I’m better at arranging it than she is. I send religious Christmas cards to my religious friends and family members. I make a sweep of the house before someone comes over to make sure there aren’t any books about paganism on the coffee table.

I do this to make my existence in a Christian environment easier. I do it to make my mother’s life easier. My Christian extended family has nothing but sympathy for my alcohol and drug-addicted relatives, but if they found out that I’m not a Christian . . . .

Sometimes, when I encounter religious intolerance, I wonder why I bother being tolerant of others. I wonder why I care what people would think. It’s always a bit of a shock because I’m so used to the cozy, tolerant environment in our home. It’s like the time I was at the store and picked up a cookies and cream candy bar and the man in line behind me felt completely free and entitled to comment on the candy and the fact that I’m overweight. It’s why I like working remotely and sticking to stores close to home. I’m not tolerated. I’ll never be accepted. I’m a pagan. I’m bisexual. This is the second time in my life I’ve said “I am bisexual.” And I said it the other time on this blog, where I feel safe and in control. I get dyke comments elsewhere on the web by people who don’t know a damn thing about me other than I have a pixie cut. And I’m always bemused by that.

We live in a bad time. I could hide my religion and sexuality and political views and be a good girl, but that would make me feel like a coward.

As I said on Twitter, I’m not concerned with your religion. I’m concerned with your character. I’m glad I have so many accepting and tolerant friends. Intolerance carries with it divisiveness, and that hurts all of us who are working towards righting our political system so that everyone is equal.

How to Create the Altar You Want Even If You’re Low on Cash, Short on Space, or in the Broom Closet

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I don’t usually write such long titles, but I wanted to make sure I got your attention! Now that I have, let me tell you how to create a beautiful altar with little expense and the bonus of being easily disassembled and hidden.

First, let me say, it is absolutely true that you can create an altar with items you find on a nature walk and couple of candles. Nature walks are great ways to find things like attractive stones, pinecones, and seashells. (Please respect the rules of national parks/historic sites and don’t take items from them.) City parks and public beaches should be okay. I found a hag stone on a public beach.

If you’re like me, you prefer an attractive altar that combines both. Pagan objects are hard to find if you live in a tiny town like mine. When the holiday season begins, dollar stores are great sources of little pumpkins, cauldron-shaped candle holders, mini Christmas trees that can be used as Yule trees, reindeer, and a variety of Christmas ornaments that you can re-purpose into altar items.

You can use a fairy figurine as a Goddess figurine. You can use an angel. Figures to represent a male deity can be harder to find. Deer figurines can be a solution.

You can find amazing things in thrift stores, and the inventory changes every day. I found my carved wooden box designed to hold cards in a thrift store. I keep my first set of Tarot cards in it.

If you just can’t find what you need in a brick and mortar store, there’s always Ebay and Etsy. Pagan items are often very expensive, but they don’t have to be labeled pagan to be used on your altar.

My advice is to put your money into a small (I’m talking teacup small) real cast iron cauldron with three feet to ensure it doesn’t make the surface you place it on hot. DON’T burn anything but a candle in a candle holder. I had a heavy glass ashtray crack just from burning herbs. If you buy a cast iron cauldron, please read up on how to care for it so that you don’t accidentally ruin it like I did with my mom’s cast iron skillet.

If you’re looking for Goddess and God figures, you’ll quickly realize how expensive they are. My Rhiannon and Morrigan were $35 each. Here are two solutions for multiple goddess figures:

Goddess Paper Dolls by Dover Publications

Goddess Paper Dolls by Julie Matthews

I have the Dover book. If you want to know if a particular goddess is featured in it, please feel free to leave a comment and ask. It’s a high-quality book and the art is, to me, much better than the book that costs twice as much. Just please remember to keep your paper dolls safely away from your candles.

You can use a picture as a Goddess/God representation. Print out something you like and frame it. The Dover paper doll book has a Rhiannon doll. I have it in a frame on my Rhiannon altar.

I have a seasonal altar devoted to fairies. If you’re looking for inexpensive fairies, search for miniature fairies on Etsy. I bought three, one white, one black, and one Native American, and three little mushrooms with spirals on them. They’re meant to be decorations for potted plants and had thin metal stakes on the bottoms. I broke off the stakes by working them back and forth, then used a nail file to file down the stub.

In another Etsy shop, I found stars (pentacles) made from grapevines. They’re small, and you can run any type of ribbon or cord through them to hang them up. The same shop sold miniature fairy brooms. You can use a broom to represent East on your altar. It’s a lot less noticeable than an incense burner ;).

On Ebay, I found a seller who sells candles about eight inches tall in female and male forms and in a variety of colors. They’re meant to be burned in spells, but I use my green female figure candle as a Mother Nature figure. Again, keep them away from candles you’re going to light to avoid softening the wax.

Candles. Candles are often pricey and can bring on asthma attacks if they have intense fragrances. If you want a safe, unscented jar candle, check dollar stores and the “ethnic foods” aisles of grocery stores for candles featuring saints. You can soak off the labels in hot water. Just don’t submerge the candles, because water can run into pockets in the wax, making the candle unsafe to burn.

When you re-purpose Christian items into pagan items, you may feel as if you’re doing something wrong. This is leftover guilt from rejecting your Christian upbringing. Remember that these are inexpensive items sold in bulk. Unless it’s blessed by the Pope, don’t worry about it. I painted a white plastic statue of Mary meant for garden decor black and used it as The Crone. I have yet to be struck by lightning.

Setting up an altar to a particular deity can be challenging. I recently discovered a line of vintage ceramic animals, people, and objects called Wade Whimsies. A figurine was included in boxes of Red Rose Tea, sort of like the toys in Crackerjack boxes, but really charming and collectible. Luckily, there are so many on the market that you can usually find a handful for less than 10 dollars on Ebay. Last night, while working on my seasonal altar, I decided that I wanted a mermaid to represent West. I got on Ebay and searched for Wade (not Wade’s) Whimsies mermaid. They made a mermaid! Several people were selling only the mermaid for eight dollars. Then I found a seller who had the mermaid and several other nautical-themed items for eight dollars. Free shipping. Now, please understand that these Wade Whimsies/Red Rose Tea figurines are TINY. They’re smaller than a quarter but nicely detailed, and many have “Wade England” inscribed on the base.

You may be in a living situation where you can’t keep your altar up permanently or can’t openly display pagan items because it would create conflict with roommates or family. Or you may not have space for a large altar. These situations call for “stealth altars.” Miniature and innocuous items are ideal for such situations. A candle is just a candle. A miniature fairy is just a miniature fairy. A pocket knife with a black handle is just a pocket knife with a black handle. You can hide little items easily if you have to. You do not have to have an altar cloth with pagan symbols. You don’t have to have an altar cloth at all. If you want one, you can use a scarf or placemat. I have my fairies on a wicker placemat. Just don’t use it for any other purpose.

There are many simple ways to cleanse objects of old energies. One way is to burn sandalwood incense and pass the item through the smoke. You can also burn a sandalwood candle. Your intent is the key. Another is to leave the item sitting on your windowsill in sunlight all day or moonlight (preferably full moon moonlight) all night, depending on your intent for using the item.

I don’t usually write such long blog posts. I’ve just been remembering times in my life when the people I lived with attacked me for being Wiccan. And, even now, working as a freelance writer, I still find myself looking for the least expensive items. Sometimes I can afford to spend $35 on a statue. Sometimes I can barely scrape up $4 for a book.

I haven’t discussed books yet. As a teen, I checked out books about Wicca from the library and hand-copied the most important parts into a big, multi-section notebook. I still have it. Hand-copying information about the deities, the pagan holidays, spells, and reference lists about herbs and stones and candle colors is actually a great thing to do, because you’re creating your personal grimoire or Book of Shadows. Right now, I’m dealing with cold-weather utility bills and I’m in a freelancing dry spell, so I don’t want to spend money on printer ink rather than a book. I’m writing things down, saving them in Word documents, and saving images with info into my camera roll. When I my marriage was dying a slow death and my ex-husband was going through my things on a regular basis, I created a virtual vision board for my books on my iPod. I was able to keep the iPod out of his hands.

I am strongly against stealing art, books, and music. You can find Creative Commons imagery. You can make notes from online articles and library books. You can buy a song on iTunes. Don’t pirate eBooks. It’s the same as stealing a book from a store. 99.999% of published authors aren’t wealthy. Even if they are, don’t steal from them. It’s wrong, and it’s not acceptable behavior for a pagan or Wiccan or witch. We are better than that.

Items you can find at thrift and dollar stores:

  • Vintage funky candle holders
  • All types of figurines
  • Unused candles
  • Incense burners
  • Bells
  • Art
  • Books
  • Handmade things
  • Holiday decorations
  • Blank books/journals
  • Scarves
  • Vintage fabric items originally used to dress up dressers, vanities, and chests of drawers
  • Goblets
  • Seashells
  • Mirrors (for scrying)
  • Geodes (large rocks broken in half to display the crystalline interior)

If you’re lucky enough to live near a used bookstore, you can find all sorts of books about witchcraft, and novels. I have two copies of Triad, the book that inspired Stevie Nicks to write Rhiannon, that I got for less than five bucks apiece at a used bookstore. One is hardback with the dust cover, the other is paperback. Most thrift stores have a used book area. Unfortunately, stores affiliated with religious organizations weed out occult books. They often miss novels. Just remember that anything you intend for your altar or for ritual use must be cleansed, because it carries the energies of previous owners.

Are you artistic? The most wonderful and powerful objects are those you make with your own two hands.

I remember vividly what it was like to hide the pagan part of my life when I was young and when I was married. I remember wanting an altar that reflected me and honored the Goddess at the same time. I remember hiding books. I remember sitting in the library copying things by hand from books.

Now I don’t have to hide anymore, and sometimes I have the money for a pricey Tarot or oracle deck, or a figurine, or a cauldron. I just hope that this post helps you if you’re in the same position I was 30 years ago.

-Robin

P.S. Again, please ask any questions by leaving a comment, or follow me on Twitter and send me a DM.

When a teacher changes course

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Solitary Wiccans/Pagans often come to depend on people who present themselves as teachers because we don’t have the support system of a coven. When that teacher’s path changes, we can feel as if the earth has shifted under our feet. It’s comparable to a Christian pastor announcing that she no longer believes in a key element of Christian theology and will no longer follow what she has preached for a decade.

Two months ago, I wrote about Doreen Virtue’s conversion to Christianity. We should have seen it coming, I suppose, as she increasingly focused on Mary and Mary Magdalene, the Templars, the quest for the Holy Grail, and the well at Glastonbury. I was fascinated by those things for years. That’s how I discovered Doreen and bought two of her decks. I do believe that Doreen’s Goddess Guidance Oracle helped me connect with Rhiannon when I realized that a Christian form of paganism was not for me. Then she went to angel decks. I had absolutely no interest in them. What bothered me about her conversion to Christianity was her decision to alter her previous work to remove deities that she now considers “dark.” That’s wrong. Are her old, original decks now worthless? Not at all. If you’ve been using one or more and they work for you, I say keep using them. You may miss her teachings using those cards, but if you still feel connected to the cards, that’s good. They’re still a tool for you and one hard lesson of Wicca/Paganism is that everything created and named by human beings is fluid. I question my witchy world daily. That’s the point. I picked this path because I didn’t want dogma.

I’ve recently been reading books by a prolific academic author and teacher. Just when I felt I was beginning to understand what I needed to understand about The Morrigan, like not saying I wanted to “work with” Her, this teacher underwent a profound spiritual experience, and her devotion to some deities, including Macha, has changed. At first I was shaken. Then I remembered that I was drawn to The Morrigan, Goddess of War, Queen of Phantoms, and possibly the most confusing Celtic goddess of all, when I “should have” connected with Brigid, goddess of hearth, poetry, healing, and many other things close to my heart. Why did I physically reach past Her for a statue of The Morrigan? I only had a superficial knowledge of Her. I just felt a connection. That connection isn’t broken by this very knowledgeable teacher’s change of path. Her previous writings aren’t to be dismissed. Our teachers are learning, too, examining their beliefs every day, as we should.

A teacher can’t determine what path is right for you or which deity or deities you should follow or call on . . . only you can know that, and you have to learn two things: how to read the signs that a deity is calling on you, and how to trust yourself.