Posts in lifestyle
Pagan Travels - Joshua Tree National Park
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I’ve always loved the martian landscape of the Southwest. The big empty sky and cactus studded land brings a sense of otherworldliness and stark beauty. As someone who grew up surrounded by the lush trees and farmland of upstate NY, I don’t think I could ever feel comfortable living in this region, though I’m more than happy to travel here from time to time. This has been a particular tough winter for me and my skin was definitely begging for some vitamin D. So, as I was considering a long weekend trip, I happily decided on Joshua Tree for the destination.

Lately I’ve been thinking more about our National Parks. With America as divided as it is, sometimes it helps to revisit our best idea as a country, which in my view is our national parks system. So far I’ve visited Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and The Smoky Mountains, so I still have quite a long list of national parks to visit. My trip to Joshua Tree came at an odd moment. During the government shut down the park was closed briefly from the damage that was being done to the park so I wasn’t even sure this trip would end up happening. Luckily the shutdown did end and park reopened in time for my visit.


Joshua Tree is one of the many areas of the Southwest known as a vortex or a region for healing energy. I’m always a bit skeptical when it comes to energetic vortices, though I can say that I definitely felt a strong scenes of peace and calm throughout the park. It’s hard to know if that comes from an innate energetic force in the region or just the pleasant contrast in my own experience from leaving the hustle & bustle of Chicago and entering a uniquely different space.

Each day in the park began with a hike among the many trails available. As someone who spends most their working days in front of a computer, it was refreshing to spend full days outside experiencing nature. Despite being a dessert, the plant life was lush, with multitudes of different cacti and trees dotted along the mountain ridges and valleys. Us pagans often talk a big game when it comes to celebrating nature, but how many of us honestly put our words into action. This trip reminded me of the necessity to immerse myself in our natural world with more regularity. It is in these places that I truly feel connected to the divine spirit and the power within nature. It’s one of my goals this year to get outside the city more and remember that being Pagan means to actively celebrate spirituality though nature in its many forms.

5 Witchy Items to Get Rid Of

As a Pagan I often feel pressure to build my collection of spiritual items so that I can create a more cohesive ritual or spell using all the proper correspondences of herbs, incense, candles and ritual items. And while building my collection has certainly been an enjoyable process, I find that often my best rituals are the ones that embrace simplicity. This is why I’ve been on a quest to minimize many of my spiritual items so that I can better connect with the foundational energy that is at the heart of any spiritual endeavor. Going through this decluttering process has revealed many items that I’ve realized I can happily live without. Here’s 5 items you can consider downsizing to refresh your own spiritual path.



My bookshelves house many spiritual books that I’ve been meaning to read but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Every time I look at my bookshelf I feel a twinge of guilt that I’ve let so many books go unread. Instead of leaving these books to collect dust, pick them up and quickly scan them to see if there is any information that you think would be valuable for your spiritual practice. If so, copy this information down into a journal or a Book of Shadows then pass the book on or donate it to your local library.



Over the years I’ve developed a sizable collection of crystals, minerals, and tumbled stones. However, when I think back to which ones I actively use in rituals & meditation I find that I keep gravitating to only a few. In my case, I regularly only use amethyst, rose quartz, and clear quartz. Consider which crystals or stones you connect with and allow yourself to pass on any unloved or unused specimens to fellow friends.



While corresponding the color of your candles to a specific ritual or spell can certainly be fun it’s not necessary in order to achieve a positive result. Simple white candles are multipurpose and can work for any type of ritual you may have in mind. Sticking with simple white candles can also save you a fair bit of money. Even better - make your own candles to enhance the overall experience.



As a tarot reviewer and blogger I often get decks sent to me from publishers and deck creators. While some decks I immediately love, a lot of them I don’t end up using very often. If you are a tarot enthusiast like me take some time going through your collection and picking out the decks that you no longer feel connected to and pass them on to someone else.



Over the years I’ve received many witchy jewelry & decor items. While I’m of course pleased to receive these items some that are not really my style just end up in my closet. This year I’m giving myself permission to pass on these items on to someone who will enjoy them more.

You can view my corresponding video on this topic below. What items have you been decluttering lately? Share below in the comments.

Exploring the Starkness of Winter

I came across a video this morning that seemed distinctly Pagan in someway.  It’s about a woman who is the caretaker of an old hotel each winter in New England. During that time she is the sole person on the island and she talks about how this isolation has caused her to appreciate the beauty of winter in a profound way.  She talks of being inspired by the harshness of the sea, the grey horizon, and the quiet of these cold months.  

The photography she takes while on the island captures these moments of winter stillness.  It reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth, who also portrayed the beauty and starkness of winter.

During winter I live a life much different from the woman in this video.  Living in Chicago I experience daily contrasting vignettes that showcase a distinctly midwestern winter.  The smog of chimneys and the roar or the El Train make up a large part of my winter scene. And yet, I still find a beauty in this contrast.  When I walk along the lake shore path I can see the monolithic skyscrapers that jut up again the shore.  These great titans of human progress still seem small and fragile when up against the roaring icy waves of the lake.  Even here in the city I feel myself beholden to the mercy of the winter wind.  And for me part of connecting with winter means embracing these feelings of fragility and striving to uncover its inherent beauty.

What is winter like where you live?  How do you seek out the beauty of these months?  Share below in the comments.

Tea Ceremony & Witchcraft

Upon rising each morning I pull the curtains back from my bedroom window and let the morning light stream into my Chicago apartment.  I reach my hands high above my head and try to stretch myself into wakefulness.  Once I get up I put the kettle on gather some herbs for my morning tea ritual.  This little ritual I perform each morning helps to get me in the right mindset for day.  It gives me the time and space to set my intentions and bring in positivity and vitality into my body.  

I first learned of tea ritual when I was studying abroad in Japan. Soon after I began my classes at Kansai Gaidai University I noticed a humble little tea room towards the back of campus.  It was a small structure with sliding doors and a simple brazier in the floor where the tea would be made.  Upon realizing that I could sign up to receive a tea ceremony session I immediately did without much understanding of what tea ceremony actually was or what I could expect.  

When it came time for the ceremony I entered the structure and sat down upon the tatami floor.  After several minutes all the other guests had arrived and finally the women who would be performing our ritual entered.  Instead of closing the pocket door behind her, she opened it wider to fully expose the scene of nature around us.  It was autumn at the time and the hills beyond the campus were a riot of flaming colors as the maples turned to umber and burgundy.  The walls and roof of the tea room seemed to create a frame around this natural scene causing the illusion that we were looking at a painting or artwork instead of the nature around us.

It became clear to me that all sensory details were meant to be part of the experience: the sounds of the birds outside, the single birch branch carefully arranged in the corner, and the beautiful silk kimono she wore patterned with the vibrant ocher and red hues of autumn.  All were meant to evoke both a meditative atmosphere and an appreciation for the present moment.  As she began the ceremony the movement of her hands and body were like a dance; each motion deliberate and carefully thought out to maximize beauty and sensation.  

When I received my cup of tea and took my first sip the warmth spread through my body and seemed to flow all the way to my toes.  I was filled with a sense of gratitude.  Gratitude for the woman that made the tea, gratitude for this beautiful moment in time, and gratitude to the nearby tea fields that provided the nourishing drink that flowed through my body.  


Paul Coelho, author of The Alchemist, wrote “Tea Ceremony is a way of worshipping the beautiful and the simple.  All one’s efforts are concentrated on trying to achieve perfection through the imperfect gestures of daily life.  It’s beauty consists in the respect with which it performed.  If a mere cup of tea can bring us closer to God, we should watch out for all the other dozen opportunities that each ordinary day offers.”  I can see so many parallels between tea ceremony and many of the witchcraft practices I perform for I too create connection with the God, Goddess and other spirits through my own ritual practices. In my own witchcraft practice I aim to notice the spiritual throughout my daily life with the understanding that even the simplest task, such as making tea, is an opportunity to connect with the divine.

Of course with our own busy schedules it is not realistic for us to regularly participate in an elaborate tea ceremony.  My solution is the distill the essence of tea ceremony into a simple ritual you can perform each morning before you start your day.  I’ve also adapted components of the ritual to fit in more succinctly with my own witchcraft practice.  In my version I still use the time to focus on mindfulness and gratitude.  However, the components of my ‘tea’ are also of great importance as I use herbs that I’ve either grown or foraged.  In this way, I am able to literally drink in the inherent power of my local environment. 

You can choose to either use fresh herbs or to dry them for later use.  If using fresh herbs tear or crush the leaves to release the essential oils.  Keep in mind that fresh herbs may take longer to infuse into the water than dried herbs.  If using dried herbs first crush them using a mortar and pestle and use one tablespoon of crushed herbs for every 2 cups of water.  Bring your water to a boil, add your ingredients, and simmer for about 5 minutes before straining out the herbs.  

Images via Pinterest

Images via Pinterest

As I make my tea I work to clear my mind and begin to think about what I would like to accomplish for that day.  I usually decide on a particular intention or goal.   I then add honey to my cup and as it drips I move my hand in an invoking pentagram and state what I would like to bring towards me. 

For example, while the honey is dripping in the tea I might say:
“Upon this day I bring in light, positivity, health, and joy”

I drink my tea slowly and try to be present in the moment.  I think about how the herbs taste and envision the power of the earth as a light that flows into my body with each sip.  As the warmth of the teacup travels through my hands I smile with gratitude that I have been given this moment in time to connect with and appreciate the beauty our natural realm.


Do you participate in any daily morning rituals?  Share yours in the comments below. 

New Year's Resolutions - Pagan Edition

Chicago is swimming in Arctic air at the moment.  I cover up in scarves, hats, and mittens yet still the bracing cold seems to find a way to chatter my teeth and send shivers down my spine.  I’m currently seeking refuge in the warmth of a local cafe as I write this.  I choose a seat furthest from the frosty windows and quickly order a steaming mug of hot coffee with hope that my hair will soon defrost from the winter’s chill.  The holiday season is now officially over and for us cold-weather dwellers that means looking towards more months of snow and frost.  Luckily, we can find ways to supersede seasonal depression by using the time ahead for a life reboot.

So as I look ahead to the upcoming year, here are some things that I will be working on to improve my Pagan practice.

Regularly Update (and Clean) My Altar

A couple weeks ago I was adding some Yule touches to my altar and discovered that a few of my statues had not been dusted in a while and there was incense ash in various places on my altar cloth.  I’ll admit that cleaning is not my favorite task.  I know that I should be taking better care of my sacred objects so this year I’m aiming to make sure I clean all my altar tools and objects monthly.  In addition, I will strive to update my altar more often so that it more accurately reflects the seasonal changes.

Go for A Walk Everyday


Yes, this means even when it’s February and the thermostat reads -1 degree.  There’s a Scandinavian saying that roughly translates to ‘there is no such thing as bad weather; there is merely the possibility of not being dressed appropriately.’  So this year I aim to be ready for any type of weather so that I can make connecting with nature a part of my daily routine.

Eat Seasonally

Along with going for walks I would like to incorporate more seasonally appropriate vegetables and fruits in my diet as a way to further connect with our natural world.  In this way I will be celebrating the Wheel of the Year not just through my Sabbat rituals but during each meal.

Find A Community

Being a solitary pagan can be lonely sometimes, especially around the sabbats.  While there are occasional pagan events and rituals in my area, they always seem too far away or I’m too busy to make it.  Though honestly, I could make more of an effort.  So this year I will strive to make room in my schedule to attend Pagan events in my local area and hopefully make some more Pagan friends.  

Attend A Public Festival or Convention

Along with working to connect with my local Pagan groups I would like to meet others in the wider pagan community.  While I have attended Chicago Pagan Pride before I would like to travel this year to one of the larger pagan festivals or conventions in America.  Message in the comments below if you would like to recommend a specific pagan convention or festival.

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Master the Runes

As a full time tarot reader most of my day consists of giving readings and continuing to build my knowledge of the cards.  This year I would like to expand my divination experience and learn more about the runes.  While I’ve already begun my education on runes, their meanings, and various Norse myths, this year I would like to further expand my knowledge.  Do you have a favorite book about runes?  Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to add it to my reading list.



What are your Pagan New Year’s Resolutions?  List yours in the comments below.  

Visions of Ghosts & Spanish Moss

The first thing you notice when you drive into Savannah is the trees. The branches reach far over the roads creating a thick canopy of green that shades the road from the blazing Georgia sun.  Spanish moss trickles down in a delicate lace that adds a sense of sophisticated decay to the atmosphere.  As the wheels bump along the cobblestones below you begin to slow down and get the sense that rushing for anything down here is strongly discouraged.  Indeed, this is a city that runs on it’s own sense of time.  It is a clock built around mimosas at noon, leisurely walks among the verdant squares, and evening carriage rides.  I could not envision a place more diametrically opposed to our rat-race style of living than Savannah.

I had been wanting to visit Savannah for a while and I was pleased to see that the city looked just like I thought it would be.  This "city in a garden" truly looks like a place that time forgot.  The homes that line the grids of public squares are heavy with history.  To be in Savannah is to be surrounded by visions of the antebellum south.

I began my trip with a visit to the Davenport house, a beautiful home from the early 1800s.  As I toured the home I was struck by the french patterned wallpaper that draped the rooms in a vision of luxury.  Of course, I knew that this wealth came with a dark reality we must acknowledge - that all this financial success in the antebellum south came from the work of enslaved people.  This dark history permeates every aspect of the historic south and must be understood and recognized.  

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The Davenport house was well known to have it’s fair share of ghosts and as I toured the home I could almost hear uncanny piano chords floating in the air.  The sound seemed to linger in my ears for several stanzas then delicately seeped beneath the wood and disappeared. 

Moving into the study a large black and white art print hung dramatically on the wall.  It depicted a scene we all know well--the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The tour guide told me that in the antebellum south almost everyone had a copy of this image displayed prominently in their home.  He said back then people understood the fragility of their new country so they felt the need to declare allegiance to this great experiment in state- building we call America.  For some reason that idea stuck with me.  America seems so powerful and impenetrable now.  But yes, at one time, we were small and delicate.  A nation built upon radical ideas of democracy and religious freedom.  At that time the future of America must have seemed like a blank chalkboard: full of possibilities, but also with the risk that everything could quickly be erased.  

The other event that market my stay in Savannah was a nighttime ghost tour.  The coming of night cast a blanket of silence around the city.  Savannah is mostly free of the type of rambunctious tourist noise you would find in New Orleans.  When you walk the streets at night you feel the quiet in your bones and in the hairs standing upright on your neck.  You feel alone among the brick facades as you walk the cobblestone streets.  Any rustle of noise causes your head to snap towards the source of sound as you stretch your eyes to find the culprit.  

I passed through the Colonial Park Cemetery on my way to the tour.  The tall grasses seemed to quiver between the gravestones and shadows hung heavy beneath the spanish moss.  “I’m sure I'll be fine”, I said to myself as I walked along a pathway lit only by the yellow moon glowing above.  ‘Were ghostly phantoms passing behind me?’ I wondered.  Did they float swamp-like among the trees? I resisted turning my head around, fearing that I might see something from beyond the veil.  


As I finally made it to Reynolds Square, I breathed a sigh of relief that I would soon be among other travelers for the tour.  Shortly after the tour began we came across a particular house that was lit from the flickering flame of a single gas-lit lantern.  It was a very unassuming home set back from the sidewalk and behind a garden of tall grass.  With first glance at this home I felt something different.

Do you believe that magic can be in the air?  That it can follow along the air currents till it finds a receptive host.  What I will say is that the air near this small home had a particular taste.  It filled my nose with an unusual electric and heavy scent.

The tour guide told us this small home was called ‘Laura’s House’ named after a slave who once lived here when she took care of the mansion next door.  According to the story, her master once promised her freedom and that he would give her the deed for the small carriage house he let her stay in.  However, he reneged on his vow and she remained a slave till her death.  It seems she has claimed the carriage house in death and passers by often claim to see her sitting on the rocking chair of her small porch.

If there was a shade of paint that could be considered notorious, it would be the color known as ‘haint’ blue.  It is thought that this color prevents ghosts and evil spirits from entering the premises so people today still cover sections of their home in this color.  The homes next to The Laura House covered their doors, window frames, and porches this color to prevent her from coming in. Even the Laura House has this blue shade around the porch, but not the door.  The door was left empty of color so that the ghost of Laura might someday find a way out.  

The Laura House is now an airbnb so you can even spend the night there if you wish.  Though I wouldn't recommend it if you’re male.  It is said that men who stay there are often awoken with a sensation of hands clasped tightly around their throat, constricting their ability to breathe.  It seems that Laura doesn’t like men too much, and given her life story I don’t blame her.


You must be wondering if I actually saw a ghost during my trip to Savannah?  I must be honest and say no.  I did, however, feel their presence. I felt it rattle my bones as I walked along the cemetery.  I felt the electricity in the air as I stared into the Laura House.  A question I often ask myself is if these feelings are truly real.  Or, does just being in a place filled with old homes and ghost stories cause us to have these sensations.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure.  But if ghosts are real and they are out there, I’m confident that many of them call Savannah their home.


Have you ever been to Savannah?  Did you get the sense that the city was haunted?  Share below in the comments.

Mulled Wine & Merriment
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A gathering approaches.  I’m in the heart of my home tending to a bubbling brew atop the stove.  Cozy knitted socks warm my feet against the October chill and the steam from the pot of wine tickles my nose with the scents of late fall.  Warm clove and cardamom meld with the bright citrus of orange peels.  Five-pointed anise stars and thick cinnamon sticks bubble to the top of my burgundy brew.  I swirl the collection of herbs around with a wooden spoon and my cat jumps up onto the kitchen counter, trying to get a better view.   

The doorbell chimes.  My fellow witches have arrived!  I let them in and we share our tales of magic and mischief as I carefully pour the mulled wine.  The steam spirals above the mugs and twirls towards the window.  I catch a glimpse of the trees outside.  The crackled brown leaves of late October are frosted with ice crystals, yet they still dance as the wild wind whispers through the branches.   

We move to the living room and get cozy by the crackling fireplace. Cheers! We chime our haphazard collection of glasses and mugs together and begin to warm our bellies and hearts with our autumnal witches brew.


Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 8 Servings


4 cups apple cider
1 bottle of red wine
¼ cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, juiced & zested
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled for garnishes (optional)


Take a large pot and add the wine, cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, honey, and orange zest & juice.  Bring to boil then simmer over low for around 10 minutes.  Pour into mugs and add an orange peel as a garnish.  Enjoy!


Celebrating Lammas - The First Harvest Festival

The grain swells against the morning wind as waves of amber and gold ripple through the fields.  I envision what these wheat fields of Illinois might have looked like a long time ago.  Farm boys swinging scythes, their calloused hands aching with a summer of hard labor.  I envision horses neighing in the distance, their glossy chestnut mains shining in the summer sun.  I imagine a large farm table filled with sun-ripened tomatoes and loaves of freshly baked bread.  The delicate sounds of a summer afternoon, the wild hum of grasshoppers leading to the warm and hazy glow of lightning bugs as the sun falls below the horizon.

Today when I look upon the fields outside my city, I find endless rows of wheat and corn.  The fields go on for miles, a never ending surface reflecting the color of our summer sun.  In the midwest it seems we have our own ocean, but instead of water, our ocean is a sea of harvest.  Our modern fields take on an otherworldly quality in their grandness.  The visions of amber punctuated only by roaring machines that have taken the place of of scythes.  

Living in the Midwest I feel a great connection to the harvest festival of Lammas.  While other regions may provide more glamorous resources, the midwest has taken on the role of Ceres, the goddess of grain.  Our wheat and corn travels across the country and beyond to nourish millions.  It’s so easy to become complacent and unaware of the skill and hard work necessary to create this endless sea of golden fields.  So upon this harvest festival, us Pagans take a moment to give thanks for the summer bounty nature has provided.  

Looking upon my modern feast, I see not only the foods from my region.  I see the success of our beautiful country united.  I see grains from the midwest baked into an herbed loaf.  I see goat cheese from New York, and olives grown in California.  I see beer made from the hops of Washington and charcuterie from Kansas.  To hear people speak, you would think we are more divided as a nation than ever.  Yet looking at my harvest table I see value in each region of our country and feel united in this celebration of the summer bounty.  So upon this harvest day, let us come together ‘round our tables.  And let us take a moment to appreciate and give thanks to all that makes our feasts possible.

How will you be celebrating this harvest festival?  Let me know in the comments below. 

This image from Local Milk Blog

Salem - A City of Witches

The waitress poured my coffee into a delicate porcelain cup as I stared out the window looking towards the old cobblestones that my feet would soon tread.  It was hot that morning and the trees in the nearby park hung thick and languid waiting for a breeze to sway their leaves.  I was staying at the Hawthorne Hotel right in the heart of Salem, Massachusetts.  I had read that the place was haunted so of course I booked a room hoping to investigate later in the evening.  At the moment though, ghostly apparitions were far from my mind.  Instead, I was thinking about what these streets and buildings might have looked like in the spring of 1692.  

My trip to New England had taken me across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.  There was one main constant across these states and that was the forest.  Tall pine trees and heavy maples grouped together.  Looking into the forest the sunlight soon became obscured under a canopy of leaves.  Even today, in our modern world, I felt that the forests of New England seemed to conceal mysteries and magic.  

It is no wonder that the settlers of New England feared the woods.  The early villagers of Salem must have worked relentlessly to carve their town from these forests.  The ‘civilization’ they created for themselves still did not allow them to escape fear.  Their fear came, not from the forest, but from each other.  Their fear built and built until the fear created a life of itself.  Accusations and hangings ran rampant through the town, spreading like a virus.  And then, in about a year it somehow died off and the great witch trials were over.


It seemed odd thinking about such historic tragedy on a hot summer day.  Walking through the town you discover a much different community.  I’m not quite sure why modern witches have gravitated towards Salem.  Perhaps they enjoy good irony or maybe it’s an attempt to reclaim and proclaim the real meaning of the word 'witch'.  You are reminded of what occurred in 1692 around each turn as you pass by shops, museums, and historic markers.  Regardless, it was enjoyable to walk through the quaint town and visit its many shops.  While some stores were filled mostly with tchotchkes and souvenirs, I did encounter a few stores providing supplies for the discerning modern witch.  

Returning to my hotel in the evening I wandered the halls for a bit passing by the two rooms where various hauntings had supposedly occurred.  I wish I could say different, but honestly I didn't get much of a ghostly feel from the hotel.  As the skies turned dark I looked off in the distance to the line of trees.  For some reason, I couldn’t keep my mind off the sensation of walking through the forests of New England.  Here I was in a haunted hotel in a town covered with dark history.  Yet I felt it was the woods in the distance that held the real mystery and only there would I gain an true understanding of this place.


My recommendations in salem



where to visit


places to eat & Drink


favorite shops


Have you been to Salem before?  What were your thoughts?  Share your favorite places in the comments below.