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Why There Are So Many Solitary Female Pagans - The Hard Truth

"I’ve always wanted to find a pagan group.  Sometimes I feel so lonely doing rituals by myself in my bedroom.” My new friend, lets call her Ashley, took a sip of her wine and relaxed in her chair.

Ashley and I initially met through Instagram.  Upon seeing all the pagan and tarot content on my feed she sent me a message and we started talking about all kinds of topics.  As she also lived in my city we decided to meet in person for some wine and occult discussion - two of my favorite things.

“Have you ever gone to any of the pagan community events in the city?” I asked.  I was waiting for the answer I knew I would hear.  An answer I’ve heard from countless other girls my age.

“Uh, yes..” She started. “But I didn’t really vibe with the people there.”  Ashley looked at me, waiting for the indication that I understood the subtext of her comment.

And yes, I did understand exactly what she was talking about.  For I too have had a variety of ‘interesting’ encounters at various events since I started learning about paganism and wicca as a teenager.   

Going to a new pagan event can definitely be a bit nerve racking, especially if you’re going by yourself.  Some events I have gone to have been wonderful experiences.  In fact, I just went to an excellent summer solstice celebration where I met a lot of new pagan friends.      

However, this is often not the norm.  Usually at pagan events there is always a much older man, often with minimal social skills, who approaches me and begins a conversation.  This usually doesn’t bother me as I love talking about spirituality and paganism with new people.  However, often the conversation takes a dramatic turn when he says something inappropriate and completely out of context to what we were discussing.  This is usually in the form of the man saying something about his sex life in order to see my reaction or have me divulge personal information about my own sex life.  

For example, I might be discussing my ritual plans for the next Esbat and then he will randomly yet suggestively mention how he’s really into sex magic and is planning on meeting up with some of his ‘friends with benefits’ for a full moon tantric sexual celebration.  At this point there is an awkward silence as he waits for me to reply and I think about how to exit this conversation as quickly as possible.

While I’ve never felt in danger at any Pagan events, these types of conversations have definitely made me feel uncomfortable.  Just because us Pagans tend to be a sex positive group of people, it does not mean that I feel comfortable discussing sexuality with strangers. I wish more people understood that and this is why I’m writing this article.  

Of course I do not to mean to suggest all male pagans and witches are like this or that this occurs all the time.  I have plenty of kind and respectful male pagan friends that I’ve met at various events.  However, I believe that we do need to recognize that this is in fact a real issue within our community.

I have had countless young girls who find me on social media and message me about similar issues and experiences they’ve had.  How many young and bright girls does our community lose from our inability to seriously tackle this issue.  

I understand that this article is sure to draw some controversy and by no means am I trying to call myself an expert or say that I have the solution.  All I’m asking is that we have our own discussions about these topics so we can continue to build a respectful community for all.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Do you have your own experience that you’d like to share? Post below in the comments.

Uncovering the Meaning of Tarot with the Pagan Otherworlds Deck

Capturing the elegance and majesty of renaissance painting, the Pagan Otherworlds deck captivates and charms even the most discerning divinator.  The artistic shading and colors bring to mind the frescos of El Greco and the postures reflect the drama of a captivating Caravaggio.  These cards beg to leap from their deck and be framed upon the wall to be admired by passerby.  A contemplative symbolism nestled within each card alludes to Raider-Waite conventions, yet departs occasionally to create an immersive world where Pagan traditions collide with a Renaissance regal aesthetic.

I’d like to express the artistic and symbolic excellence by describing my three favorite cards within this deck: The High Priestess, Death, and The Devil.  

The blue hues in the High Priestess card mimic the all too familiar shroud of the Virgin Mary.  Yet the priestess reflects a deep female mysticism that is often lacking in modern interpretations of the Virgin.  Her blue cloak clings to her body, a reminder that her femininity is not something to be hidden, but is indeed the very source of her power.  Here the High Priestess is studious, with a book of mysteries upon her lap as she sits relaxed upon her stone throne.  Her feet dwell in the rivers of the subconscious and symbols of the moon twinkle betwixt her fingertips.  Her face is beautifully calm with the assured gaze of a Botticelli Venus.  An inspiring depiction of the innate majesty of female power, intelligence, and magic.

A much different macabre aestheticism presents itself within the Death card.  Death valiantly strides forward, his ever-present scythe at the ready.  Evidence of destruction already wrought lies in the form of human heads beneath his feet.  His posture fills the space as his blue cloak swirls along his skeletal frame, creating a cohesive composition.  Emanating from his spine are rows of arrows in the form of wings.  His menacing war-wings cast a stark departure from the beautiful feathered wings that appear elsewhere in the deck.  Hope comes in the form of a delicate flower following his trail, a reminder that new beginnings always follow destruction.

The Devil card is often a challenge for contemporary tarot artisans.  A delicate balance must be struck by maintaining the symbolism yet avoiding cliche.  Our Pagan Otherworlds Devil departs from his smoking hellscape to join our world of the living.  An uncanny masked face brings to mind the complex bestiary of Hieronymus Bosch.  His hair-suit and animal horns allude to costumes worn during Pagan ceremonies still performed today in Europe.  Human heads again appear within this card.  Though instead of decomposing at the creatures’ humanoid feet, they are attached to his matted suit.  It’s as if they have lost all independence and have become mere parasites to their lascivious host.  This unique interpretation references devil imagery found in other tarot decks, but does so delicately.  Instead of roaring flames and heavy chains, this Devil card conveys its warnings with a lighter, yet still poignant, symbolism.    

The Pagan Otherworlds deck adds to the ever growing aesthetic integrity of the Tarot community. Tarot is unique from other artistic mediums in that it does not simply passively contain archetypes and symbolism.  These concepts are activated and molded into our own lives through their use in readings.  While tarot can be appreciated by its aesthetics alone, it is the action of their use that uncovers its true value.  As we interact with the cards we attach our own narratives to their original interpretations and thus create a continuously evolving realm of meaning and inspiration. Tarot cards are a tool and their imagery is our guide.  Yet it is our own intuition that transforms the cards from physical objects into channels where we can glimpse within the depths of our subconscious and beyond into the realms of the greater unknown.

This review is not sponsored by Pagan Otherworlds or their parent collective of artisans, Uusi.

What are your own opinions of this deck?  Do you have a different interpretation of what tarot means to you?  Let me know in the comments below.

If you're interested, you can click below to learn more about the tarot readings I offer.

Beltane Revelry & Flower Crown Lore

A crowd of ancient Romans roar with applause as a simple laurel wreath is placed upon the head of a victor --so begins the history of the flower crown.  Awarded to heroes and emperors to signify respect and success, this simple crown of leaves soon became a powerful and regal symbol.  You can see it today across our museums, a halo of marble or bronze resting atop names that have lasted throughout history.  

Not to miss out, the plebeian masses of our ancient world donned these natural crowns and added flowers to honor their Gods and Goddesses during special occasions.  Upon May Day, flowers ringed the heads of youthful maidens as the Romans celebrated Flora, the Goddess of flowers and fertility.  When us modern Pagans wear a crown of flowers during our May Day rites we harken back to these early festivals.  

As the sun falls across the hilltops of Edinburgh, modern Pagans come to celebrate a different kind of May Day festival.  Capturing the beliefs of the ancient Celts, this modern Beltane celebration helps to bring the sun out of it’s winter prison.  A great bonfire is made in the center of the circle as followers dance along its perimeter.  Those brave enough jump over its flames in hopes that it will grant them protection throughout the year.  Special garments are worn, or perhaps taken off, to recognize and appreciate the fertility of nature.  This celebration also contains a reenactment of a marriage ceremony between the God and Goddess--a reminder that our fertility too is tied to the fertility of the Earth.

These ancient May Day celebrations have morphed and changed throughout time as they incorporate different cultural traditions and histories.  Here in America our May Day still persists in our larger society, yet it holds on by mere threads.  As young girls wear flower crowns and entwine their ribbons around the Maypole they are, possibly unknowingly, participating in a modern form of a these fertility rituals.  Perhaps if the Pagan nature of May Day lore was better known these celebrations might cease even further within our larger society.  How do we balance maintaining the symbolism and intention of these festivals yet be able to incorporate and include a wider subset of our population?  Or perhaps, Pagan rites should continue to be confined within our community.  Such questions are often on my mind during these seasonal celebrations.

Part of the joy for me personally in reclaiming these great festival days is to once again bring to life these ancient customs. While our contemporary interpretations often deviate heavily from their origins, I still view our modern festivals as a way to connect with our Pagan ancestors.  

Many of us experience history by visiting ancient sites and monuments.  I call for a more immersive approach.  Let us don these crowns of flowers and celebrate with remembrance around a great fire.  Let’s take history out of the museum and toast it together as we dance amongst the stars. Such beauty and elegance should persist throughout time and such moments of revelry and merrymaking should endure.

Should you make your own flower crown or build a bonfire this May Day, take a moment to smile with the thought that you are actively connecting with both nature and our Pagan history and are helping to keep it alive for future generations to come.  

How to Make a Flower Crown

1. Take a piece of floral wire and form it in a circular shape.  Rest it atop your head and size it so that it fits comfortably.  Tape the circle shut with floral tape; you may want to wrap the tape several times around the ends of the wire.

2. Choose your greenery and flowers.  I recommend starting with some greenery and forming it along the whole circular wire so that you will have a base to add your flowers on.  Attach the greenery to the wire circle using your floral tape.  

3. Cut the flowers so that they have a stem of at least 2 inches.  This will make it easier as you tape the stems to your crown.  You can add as many or as few flowers to your crown as you like.  

Climbing the Branches of Yggdrasil

A Review and Reflection of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

We are all brought up with the classical myths of Ancient Greece and Rome.  We can recall their stories, visualize the characters, and visit their ancient temples and sites.  By comparison, the Norse myths seem shrouded in mystery and misunderstandings.  They somehow feel more foreign, more ancient, and more inaccessible.  With Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman takes us in hand and guides us through these powerful tales.  He does so with a narrative prose that makes these myths feel familiar and relatable.  Relying upon the Poetic Edda and it’s various translations, Gaiman weaves a collection of tales that introduce us to these larger than life figures and the many worlds they inhabit.  

Many of us are already acquainted with the mighty Thor.  A generation of children, including Gaiman himself, eagerly followed the adventures of Thor as a superhero through his comic book series.  Despite the comic's mythological and historical inaccuracies, it helped bring the world of Asgard and its divine inhabitants to life.  The recent Thor movies additionally help contribute to widening the audience for this mythology.  

The comics and movies, however, provide only a sliver of light onto the vast world of Norse mythology.  Gaiman is on a quest to deepen our understanding and as he guides us through Yggdrasil and it’s nine distinctive worlds, one begins to understand the complexity and richness of this web of gods, goddess, frost giants, elves, and dwarves.

Gaiman gives the Gods and Goddesses personality and thus brings them to life.  As I read through these tales I found myself joyfully laughing at Thor’s wild antics and smiling at Loki’s cleverness.  I felt concern when lovely Freja was about to be wed to an ugly giant and I felt triumph when Thor recovers his stolen Mjölnir.  These stories sometimes balance on the absurd.  You will read of Loki giving birth to a giant horse, Thor dressing as a bride to disguise a thieving giant, and Odin transforming into a Snake in order to sip the mead of poetry.  Instead of being jarring, these moments become believable through Gaiman’s brilliant storytelling.  

The tales go beyond the humorous and absurd.  They are touching, imaginative, and contain themes that translate into our present day.  Loki gains complexity with each tale as his intelligence is both admired and vilified by the other Gods.  As a half giant, Loki represents the ultimate outsider.  He’s not even supposed to be in Asgard with the others and no one knows how he ascended to their realm.  He vacillates between being an agent of chaos and risking his life and dignity to assist those who may never truly accept him.  Loki is a villain we can all see within ourselves and thus we too can both admire and scorn his actions.

Watching over these realms is the All-Father, Odin.  Odin gave his eye for wisdom and hung himself from the world-tree, Yggdrasil, for knowledge of the runes.  Odin understands that knowledge is power and has sacrificed himself many times over to achieve it.  His thirst for knowledge is insatiable, and he even enters our world dressed in disguise to see things from our point of view.  Odin sends his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (‘thought' and ‘memory’) to travel the realms far and wide so that they might bring him new knowledge and perspective.  It is honorable that the leader of the Norse Gods should have such respect for knowledge and understanding.  With each story Odin becomes more mysterious, more complex, and more worthy of our admiration.    

Many question why mythology is important and if it still holds value in our modern tech-focused society.  I exclaim a resounding ‘YES’ to such questions.  We humans are storytellers.  The stories we tell define our culture and bring us together in common knowledge.  The great myths of the old Gods reference a world we could only dream of, yet their wisdom gives us guidance and comfort.  These ‘tall-tales’ illuminate our imagination and kindle our compassion.  Such stories are worth preserving and sharing among generations yet to come.  With Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman helps these deities maintain their immortality and refreshes their stories for a new collective of storytellers, big-thinkers, and adventurers.  

The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune

The rocket of time pulls the wheel as it makes another round. The heavy wood crackles and pops as it continues to cycle, heavy with the weight of our fortunes.  We rest on its edge, as our hopes, fears, and dreams dance precariously around its perimeter.  With a sudden jerk of movement, we are pulled upwards.  Stretching, reaching, growing till we reach the top in a riotous conclusion of ecstatic joy and fortuitous fortune.  We stay but a moment.  The scent of time carries on the wind and the inevitable decline casts a shadow of impermanence on our face. 

And yes, our fears are answered with a large crack as the wheel starts and the movement continues. Down the wheel we go to crash in a crucible of tribulation.  The weight of the wheel carves a trench deep into the earth and our hopes, once so true and tangible, get ground beneath the wheel into a dust.  A ghost of our former joy escapes to carry in the wind.

All is not lost, however, for down in the darkness, our hope remains as a flicker of light.  The flame slowly grows until, with sigh of relief, we hear that great crack again and begin to be pulled upwards.  The despair is momentarily forgotten as we remember what we have ahead, what we have to look forward to.  So again we reach high, forever upwards.

And so it goes, a Sisyphean cycle of triumphant success and morose depths.  Yet we carry on knowing that even in those dark times, the wheel will turn and hope will eventually come within reach.

This is the first in a poetry series I'm working on about the Major Arcana.  I would love to hear what you think, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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