Sunday, December 30, 2012

Solstice/New Years Ritual: Recapitulation

While traveling over the holidays with my husband, I read this wonderful article by Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal magazine, and I was inspired.  With the aid of a roaring fire, I convinced my husband to help me modify this ritual to celebrate the old, the new, and the unknown.

1. To start, build a fire with your partner.  Include the rest of the family if you wish, but make sure you share this ritual with someone you love deeply.  Let the fire burn for a bit, adding fuel and just enjoying the warmth of the blaze.

2. Take a sheet of paper and something to write with, and make sure everyone who is with you is similarly equipped. 

3. Write a list of all the moments in the past year that brought you joy.  You can be as vague or specific as you want.

4. Share the list with your partner: read your own entries out loud and listen as he reads his.  Don't discuss or judge, simply be a listening ear.

5. Offer this list to the fire.  You might say something as you burn it, like, "Thank you for the joys of this year."

6. Grab another sheet of paper.  This time, write down all the moments you regret or that caused you discomfort  in the past year.

7. Share the list, and remember not to pass judgement on yourself or your partner.

8. Offer this list to the fire.  You might say, "I accept the negative pieces of this year, and I let them go."

9. Now it's time for a third list (and this is my favorite part of this ritual): write down all the things you wish for in the coming year.  Be wild, creative, and ambitious; there's no limit on wishing.

10. Share this list, and offer it to the fire.  You might say, "I can't wait to see what the coming year holds."

Now, linger in front of the fire.  Share some wine or a sweet treat, or simply watch the flames in silence.


A new year is coming, and we all have the chance for new, amazing things.  Let go of the past, and step forward with an open heart and a sense of hope.  There's nothing that's truly impossible!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Solstice

'Twas the night before Solstice
and all through the town
the people were smiling,
there wasn't a frown.

The branches were laid
'cross the mantle with care
to honor the revels which
would soon occur there.

The children were shrieking
with fiendish deligh
buzzing with sugar
to stay up all night.

One cat at her food dish
and one on my lap,
all cozy and snug
for a long winter's nap.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
but the twinkle of stars--
the night was so clear!

And the stars filled my vision
with so much good cheer
that I flung open my arms
to bring in the New Year.

The darkness is fading
and daylight grows near
and the world has a message
we all need to hear--

Oh, children, and teachers, and mothers, and lovers,
oh, fathers, and daughters, and sisters, and brothers
with love in your hearts and light in your eyes
you can transform all the tears and the sighs!

Go into this year
with a spring in your step
and remember, each of you,
this dream we have kept--

For peace to reach over
the whole lovely earth
and for all souls to know
the feeling of mirth.

This is my wish on this magical night--
may your Solstice be merry
and your Christmas quite bright!

~Jen McConnel, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Signing the contract!
I've been waiting and waiting to share some really good news with you, and I've finally received the okay:

I am now a Red Wheel/Weiser author!

*Wow.  I got tingles just typing that!*

To make a long story short, fortuosity has linked me up with an amazing editor at an amazing house, and The Busy Girl’s Book of Simple Spells: Goddess Magic for Wealth, Health, Happiness, and Love will be out sometime late in 2013/early 2014!

I am completely over the moon, and I can't wait to share this book with y'all!  I'll keep you posted as the release draws near, but for now, I just wanted to shout to the universe a big, fuzzy thank you.

What an amazing Solstice gift.  

What are you thankful for today? 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Love, Light, and Responsibility

When I was eighteen, and very new to the Pagan path, I had fantasies of living in a temple and serving as a priestess of old.  I had my first chat with Goddess, and begged her to open my eyes to all things.  I thought I'd be getting esoteric knowledge.

She sighed, and smiled sadly.  "Once seen, things cannot be unseen." 

I didn't listen, just assured her that I could handle it.

She's been gentle with me, but in the intervening decade, I've started to see more and more, and now I know what she was talking about.

It wasn't esoteric, magical wisdom that she granted me (although there's been a share of that, too).  My eyes slowly began to see the hurt, the madness, and the fear in the world.

Sometimes, it feels like my heart is breaking.  Sometimes, it feels hopeless.

This is why, after my first youthful daydreams, I've shied away from the title of Priestess.  I have not been ready to take responsibility for the people of the world, and I have not wanted to bear the burden of suffering that comes with service to the divine.

But the suffering is here, and the only way to combat it is to fill the world with love and light.

I try to do that, but sometimes, the darkness feels too strong.  After global and local tragedies especially, I feel almost hopeless.


But I refuse to let darkness win.  I will spread love and light one small piece at a time.  Even if it just means smiling at the man on the corner and meeting his gaze.

I'm not quite ready for the responsibility of Priestess, but I might be getting closer.

Do one beautiful thing today.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER by Julie Hearn

The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nell is a Merrybegot: a child conceived on May Day. Children like her are sacred to nature, and it's true that Nell leads a charmed life for a time. But then a new Puritan minister comes to town, bringing fire, brimstone, and two sneaky daughters. When Nell refuses to help the oldest daughter, Grace, rid herself of an unwanted child, Grace decides to get even. She and her sister stage demonstrations of possession, whipping the town and their father into a righteous frenzy. A Witch Hunter is called in, and Nell is sentences to hang. But nature takes care of its own, and the Piskies and the Fairies band together in an unusual act of good will to see Nell safe. Her fate is magical, like the world she inhabits, and it is impossible not to love this spunky witch.

I didn't expect this story to be peppered with actual magic: I thought I was getting into another historical novel. The history is there, don't get me wrong, but there's enough magic to please anyone with an addiction to fairy stories and folk lore. Plus, I always like witch trial stories that aren't set in Salem: the UK had a gory history of murdering women long before those girls on the continent got the fits. All in all, this is one of my new favorites.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

I'm really thankful that I've started doing the card a week on this blog: each week has been uncannily accurate so far, and this card is no exception. Balance is something I struggle with continuously: I'm a writer, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a crazy cat lady.  Bringing my many selves into balance is a challenge, and I've come to accept that there is no such thing as perfect balance in my life.  Balance indicates stillness to me, and while I may get all my balls up in the air with precision every now and then, I'm rarely still.

But maybe the cards are telling me I should be, at least, just for this week.

What does balance (the card or the word) mean to you?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reviews: DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Diana is the last of the Bishop witches, and she's spent her entire life avoiding magic. When she inadvertently unlocks the spell that binds an ancient manuscript, she can't ignore her power any longer. Diana must learn how to manage her magic, and fast, or she'll be an easy target for jealous witches and xenophobic vampires. Breaking the rules that govern magical creatures, Diana marries Matthew, a tall, dark, and broodingly stereotypical vampire. He pulls her into a world of blood feuds and danger, but overlaying it all is his quest to understand the four races: witches, vampires, daemons, and humans. Diana is the key to unlocking the genetic mysteries of the relationship between the creatures, but time is running out. Luckily, a powerful witch and an ancient vampire know how to stretch time to their purposes.

This novel has romance, magic, danger, and betrayal at every turn. Despite the fantastic creatures, the characters are all resonant and real, and it was wonderful to re-read this book. Hurry up, July, so I can see what happens next!

 Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel continues Diana and Matthew's twisted tale, sending them to Elizabeth's England in an effort to escape the Congregation that hunts them, both for their forbidden love and for Diana's as yet untapped power. But England in the sixteenth century poses a whole new host of problems, and Diana struggles to maintain her focus as she becomes swept into intrigue and daily life in old Europe. With a host of wonderful characters, Harkness explores magic in a fun way as she started to do in Discovery of Witches. While at times I felt like I was reading a witchier version of the Diana Gabaldon series, I enjoyed this sequel and can't wait for the final book in the All Souls trilogy.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: WITCHES OF EAST END by Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Freya (yes, she is exactly who she sounds like) has been bored ever since Salem. When The Council stripped her family of their powers and consigned them to the mortal world, she and her sister and her mother had to learn to blend in. But Freya doesn't blend, and after a few hundred years, she decides to make a love potion. Because, really, what harm could it do? Her sister, Ingrid, and their mother, Joanna, soon fall off the magical wagon as well, but possible repercussions from the council pale in comparison to the nasty grey sludge that is infecting their town. Is it possible that after all this time, Loki has escaped and is pulling the threads that will bring about the end of the world? And if he has, will Freya recognize him in time, or will the trickster jeopardize everything in his gamble for power?

Witches of East End is a great mix of passion, mistakes, and mythology. The setting is fresh and the twisted myths are delightful. Pick this one up if you like stories with a lot of power boiling just beneath the surface.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Card:Queen of Cups
Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

This is a card of nurturing and emotion, which I could really use right now (I'm a college teacher, and it's exam week).  The Queen of Cups also symbolizes the culmination of romance and love, not to mention representing enhanced aspects of all things water; creativity, emotion, poetry, and personal contemplation.  I'm feeling a little ragged today, despite the beautiful weather, so this was a welcome card to start the week.

What does the Queen of Cups mean to you?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: DESERT PRIESTESS by Anne Key

Desert Priestess: A Memoir by Anne Key
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had the opportunity to read this unique book recently, and it's got me yearning to travel to Nevada. In her memoir, Anne Key recounts the three years that she served as the chief priestess at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality. This temple is dedicated to the Egyptian deity Sekhmet, and it sits in truly liminal space. Just outside of Las Vegas, bordered by a bombing range and a nuclear test facility, Key learned what Sekhmet's myths mean in the modern world.

Dealing with community, leading rituals, and caring for the temple were all an integral part of Key's experience. She also learned from the land and the native peoples, enriching her sense of personal spirituality. A myriad of difficulties cropped up, but Key worked through them with patience and a little help from the lion headed lady.

The idea of a thriving goddess temple in modern America seems incongruous, but at the same time, tantalizing. Key's experience is unique and will appeal to those who crave spiritual memoir and tales of the divine feminine.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Card:Nine of Swords
Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

I have to admit, I was less than thrilled with the card I pulled this week.  The nine of swords is a card of insomnia and worries, and I've always been prone to both.  Thankfully, though, this card is close to the culmination ten, so I hope that whatever worries are keeping me awake at night (and believe me, it's a long list) are coming to a close.

What can I learn from this card?  Well, I already knew I hadn't been sleeping very well lately, but I tend to ignore my insomnia and pretend that I don't have any least until nightfall.  This card is reminding me to give credit to my concerns, but not to let them take over my life or disturb my sleep.  So, with that in mind, I'm going to try to be kinder to myself and give myself permission to slow down.  It's okay to be worried, but this too shall pass.

What does the nine of swords mean to you?

Blessed be!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: THE FOREVER GIRL by Rebecca Hamilton

The Forever Girl: Sophia's Journey by Rebecca Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sophia has returned to her small Colorado town after college, but she doesn't really want to be there. Her mother's church is openly intolerant to her Wiccan faith, and because she witnessed a murder years ago, the rest of the town doesn't quite trust her. But all of that pales in comparison to the supernatural mess she finds herself in after accompanying her best friend, Ivory, to a paranormal club.

Earth elementals (vampires) begin hunting her, and Sophia must learn the secrets of her soul if she wants to survive. Caught up in a complicated relationship with the magical mixed breed Charles, Sophia doesn't know who to trust. Ultimately, her greatest strength lies within, but will she discover this before it's too late for the mortal world?

This was a fast read reminiscent of Twilight. The world building is intricate, if a bit rushed, and the story never lags. If you are a fan of any urban paranormal, check out this book!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Card:Six of Swords
Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

This card symbolizes travel or transition, and I started laughing when I saw it.  Like so many people in America, I am gearing up to travel over the coming holiday.  It's nice to know my trip should be smooth, since this is a card of positive travel and transition.

This card also indicates a chance for me to detach from my workload, which is something I'm really looking forward to.  It's so hard to just leave work behind sometimes, and the holiday season gives us each an opportunity to slow down and focus on family, blessings, and of course, beloved carols.

What does the Six of Swords mean to you?  Safe travels, everyone! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lexi lives in Near with her mother and sister. Since her father's death, she has begun to step into his shoes (literally: Lexi wears his old hunting boots when she goes out roaming on the moor outside of Near). One night, a strange wind starts blowing, and a strange boy appears. The next night, children begin to disappear from their beds. Lexi doesn't believe that Cole, the stranger, has anything to do with the disappearances, but the rest of the village quickly gives in to fear of the unknown. Lexi and Cole must work quickly to discover the sinister secret of the Near Witch, a creature who was murdered hundreds of years ago by the villagers. The truth, however, is much more complicated, and the odds seem stacked against Lexi and the mysterious boy. The villagers may not remember the truth of the Near Witch, but that doesn't mean she isn't real.

This excellent story has at its core a very classic tale of wicked witchcraft: it's a ghost story tinged with revenge, and the whole thing reads like a beautiful, familiar fairy tale.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck. 

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Card: Ten of Pentacles
Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

Like all the pentacles, this is a card of prosperity and abundance.  It indicates the culmination or end of a creative project, and is a positive, joyful card of successful expansion.  This is a card that represents fulfilled desires, realized plans, and completed projects.

I laughed when I drew this card.  I just finished a draft of my next big creative project; literally, I wrapped it up moments before pulling this card.  I'm still enjoying the sense of fulfillment that comes from working on a long-term project that is one step closer to being realized.  This week, I'm going to try to stay focused on the positive message of the Ten of Pentacles and remind myself: I can do it!  The end is in sight.

What does the ten of pentacles mean to you?
Namaste and blessed be!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: SAVAGE BREAST by Tim Ward

Savage Breast: One Man's Search for the Goddess by Tim Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am frequently distrustful of men who write about women's spirituality (what's your motive, dude?), so when my book club decided to read Tim Ward's exploration of the goddess for our April meeting, I was hesitant.

Boy, was I wrong.

I don't remember the last time I gobbled up a spiritual memoir. (Oh, wait, yes I do: Phyllis Currott's "Book of Shadows", over two years ago).

With a wonderful narrative voice, Ward blends myth and history with his own personal quest, pursuing the vestiges of goddess culture from the Minoans to the Anatolian plains. Each chapter focuses on a certain goddess and her culture, and Ward's work is richly informed by archaeology and Jungian principals. Ward is brutally honest in his writing, including pieces of his own fragile soul in the telling. What emerges is an excellent work, part research and part memoir, examining the widespread yet vastly different goddess of ancient times. Through his fiance and other women in his life, Ward also learns to see the ancient archetypes play out in the modern world.

If you loved "When God was a Woman", or if you have any interest in goddess spirituality, this is a must-read.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: WICKED GIRLS by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the story of the trials in 1692 is well known, this novel explores the happening in Salem through the POVs of the primary accusers: girls between the ages of 12 and 17. Hemphill plays up the peer pressure aspect, reminding readers that groups of girls can be unspeakably cruel, and that it is hard to give up popularity by making the right choice. The narrative was fresh and quick, and I liked the distinct motivations that each girl brought to her accusations: in this rendering, it was more than just a land grab.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review and Promo: Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery

Review:  I couldn't wait to curl up with this excellent book, and I wasn't disappointed.  Usually, I read craft manuals in small chunks, but I flew through Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery.  Kris Bradley has provided wonderful spells and rituals that any witch can do.  Although she doesn't spend a lot of time on Magic 101, Bradley does offer an excellent herbal section with culinary and magical correspondences, as well as an in-depth exploration of household deities from around the world.

Told with an intelligent, conversational tone, Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery is bound to become one of your favorite magical tools.  Bradley shows, over and over, how easy it is to incorporate a magical and spiritual practice into your mundane life.  I especially like the section on the Sabbats.  Anything that makes magic more accessible is important, and Bradley has certainly done that!  A great read, especially for witchy women trying to balance the demands of home and family and still add sparks to their lives.

In addition to my review, I've got a real treat for you today: Kris Bradley dropped by to show us how to practice junk drawer divination.  Plus, you'll find a giveaway at the bottom of the post.  Enjoy!

Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery: Everyday Magic, Spells, and Recipes
By Kris Bradley

Genre: New Age/ Wicca

Publisher: Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-57863-515-3

Number of pages: 224
Word Count: 49,000

Cover Artist: Jim Warner

Amazon   B&N

Book Description:
For domestic goddesses everywhereadd some magic and fun to those mundane household chores with Mrs. B.'s Guide to Household Witchery. Whether you're sweeping the floor, making a meal, or cleaning out that junk drawer, domestic witch Kris Bradley, creator of the popular blog, Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, will show you how to create spells and magic to bring happiness and balance into your home.
Bradley offers ideas and solutions to make the most out of everyday items, activities, and obligations. From Anchovies to Broccoli, and Wine to Yeast, from sweeping the floor to blow-drying your hair, you can change your outlook on life with a pinch of knowledge and a dash of magic! The book includes simple rituals, spells, and ways to connect with the spirits that watch over your home and family. Includes an appendix of herbs and a complete materia magica from the kitchen pantry.
Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery features:
        Room by Room: How to create magic while you cook, set up a family altar in the living room, or do a junk drawer divination
        The Elements for the Domestic Witch: a primer on the 4 elements and how to balance them in your home
        The Domestic Witch's Herbal: Magical uses for every herb and food in your pantry, as well as instant magic with prepackaged spice mixes
        Simple Sabbats for the Busy Witch: simple ways to celebrate the passing of the seasons
Magical Recipes: More than 100 recipes and spells

GUEST POST: Junk Drawer Divination
-Kris Bradley

October is the perfect time of year to work some divination for the rest of the year. Tarot cards, runes, tea leaf reading - they are all wonderful ways to take a peek into the possible future. If you are lacking in divination tools, you only have to look as far as that junk drawer that most of us have in our desk or kitchen somewhere.

What you’ll need:
A small bag or box to gather your items
A notebook and a pen to keep track of your personal item meanings and readings
Assorted items from your junk drawer, old board games, or the bottom or your purse or backpack

What to do:
Assign each item it’s specific meaning. Hold each item and tell it what it’s meaning will be. For example, hold a coin (for prosperity) in your hand and say, “I name you prosperity! You represent financial success.” Write down the meanings you give to each item in your journal. Assign one item to represent the person you will be reading for. Also be aware of what you will consider the “front” and “back” of an item. If there’s no obvious sides, place a small mark to

To do a reading, gather all your items into your bag. Ask a specific question, if you have one. Tilt the bag over and spill the contents onto a flat surface. Find what represents you or the person you are reading for and see what’s closest to it. These are the things that will affect you the most in the near future. The things furthest away will be less influential.

Here are some ideas for things to add to your bag to get you started:
Cork: Good cheer or festive get-togethers
Ring: A commitment to something or someone
Matchstick: A good omen. If any unlucky objects are near, it voids them
Key: A new beginning or the opening or unlocking of something
Toy car or small toy train: When close to the item that represents the person you are reading for, it represents an accident of some kind. When farther away, it represents travel or a long journey.

Happy divining!

About the Author:
Kris Bradley is the magic behind the popular blog Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom (2500 readers). She helped establish The Sisterhood of the Triple Goddess coven in Keyport, NJ and is a legally ordained minister, in addition to being a witchy wife and mother. Her work on domestic witchery has been featured in and as a national column for She lives in Keyport, NJ.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Goddess Goodies: Abundant Cider

For me, baking and playing in the kitchen are a part of my spiritual practice.  Maybe it's my natural kitchen-witchery showing through, or maybe it's because of the warm memories I have of learning to bake with my mom and grandma.  For whatever reason, I love crafting warm, gooey goodness that I can share with my family and friends in the spirit of the Goddess.

It's finally, obviously fall: the nights are sharp and cold, and in the mornings, the sun warms everything until the smell of woodsmoke lingers just on the edge of my nose.  It's my favorite time of year, and as the harvest season winds down, I wanted to celebrate abundance while staying cozy and warm.

And that's how Abundant Cider was born!

This works for individual servings, or a large group.

1. Heat some apple cider (in the microwave for a single serving, on the stove top for a vat)
2. Stir in a tablespoon of honey or caramel sauce for each person who will drink (for one cup, just one TBSP will do).
3. Sprinkle cinnamon liberally on top of the cider as you stir.
4.  Dedicate your drink to the abundant goddess of your choice: Demeter, Lakshmi, and Fortuna are the ones who leap into my mind, but there are countless others.
5. Drink and enjoy!

How will you ingest the abundance of the season?

Blessed be!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Call for Submissions: Queen of Heaven

I am thrilled to announce that I'll be editing a devotional anthology to the Queen of Heaven.  Submissions for A Mantle of Stars: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of the Queen of Heaven open on November 5, 2012, and will close on April 1, 2013.  Poetry, rituals, and research are all welcomed.
"What does this Goddess mean to you?  Perhaps you offer cakes to her on each full moon, as so many of the ancients did.  Or perhaps you have seen her serene face in church for years and felt a tug towards her majesty.  The Queen of Heaven is a powerful Goddess, but she is not cruel: even in her virgin aspects, this Goddess is a global mother to the children of the earth.  She is not a Lady to cross, however: there are countless tales of justice being served at Her hand.  Fierce as a lion, gentle as a dove, the Queen of Heaven is ever present, as long as we are beneath Her sky. We need only look up to see her beauty."  (From the call for submissions)

For more information, check out the submission page over at Neos Alexandria.

This is such a heart project for me.  As an archetype, the Queen of Heaven is my primary devotional figure.  I'm dedicated to one of the goddesses who bears that title (Isis), and I'm fascinated by the many faces this powerful goddess has worn throughout history.  

The archetype is rich, and I can't wait to see what is contributed to the devotional: what an amazing opportunity, to birth this project.  I am thrilled.

Will you be submitting?  Spread the word!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: THE IRON WITCH by Karen Mahoney

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to read the first book in Karen Mahoney’s Ironwood series for some time, and I finally got around to it this week. What a great vacation read!

Donna has been raised by a powerful group of alchemists, the Order of the Dragon. All her life, she’s kept their secrets, but when wood elves begin attacking her within the boundaries of the city, Donna can no longer stay silent. She confides in her best friend, Navin, but the confession only brings trouble into his life. With the help of the mysterious Xan, Donna must embark on a dangerous quest that will test her loyalty to the order and to the memory of her parents. She can make a bargain with the elves who are the Order’s sworn enemies, or she can lose her best friend forever.

With many secrets still buried at the end of this excellent novel, I am hungry for the rest of the series. I’d love to swap writer stories with Karen Mahoney someday: she seems to love twisting myth and fairy tale as much as I do.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Inspired by Brigid

I spent the last week in a small pine cabin somewhere in rural Pennsylvania.  I was attending a writing workshop with an emphasis on storytelling through verse, so it's no wonder I started thinking about Brigid.

One of the first goddesses I ever discovered, Brigid has long held a powerful place in my heart.  I'm a poet, a dreamer, a fire-keeper, and this Celtic goddess-turned-saint really speaks to me.

Brigid (some people pronounce her name "Bride", and there are infinite spellings) is a triple goddess: she embodies maiden, mother, and crone aspects, and she's the patron of poets and smiths.  She's also associated with newborn lambs, and her feast day of Imbolc/Candlemass honors the first glimpse of spring.

Even though the mountains of Pennsylvania were caught in the depths of a beautiful fall while I was there, Brigid was on my mind.  The group of passionate poets (nineteen talented women) gathered around a roaring fire each night to sip wine and swap stories, and each morning, the scent of wet pine and woodsmoke filled the air.

The inspiration I found there is still working its way through me, and I am so thankful to have had this one beautiful week to set my worries and my reality aside and immerse myself in poetry.  There is no better way to honor Brigid then by honoring your own creative flame.

What creativity waits in you?  How do you honor Brigid?

Blessed be! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: MOON MYSTERIES by Nao Sims and Nikiah Seeds

Moon Mysteries by Nao Sims
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nao Sims and Nikiah Seeds have crafted a quietly empowering book. Filled with art, poetry, and prose, Moon Mysteries seeks to empower women by exploring the menstrual cycle from a place of love and joy. I wish I had read this in my feminist hey-day in college, but I still enjoyed the book and the suggestions Sims and Seeds put forward for self-care.

There are even some recipes, rich with iron and other nutrients: I really want to try the recipe for Dark Chocolate Beet Cake.

If you are a woman, this is a book you should read, whatever your comfort level with your body and your cycle. It is empowering and lovely. As I said, I wish I had read this when I was younger.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Goddess Goodies: Treasure Brownies

For me, baking is a spiritual practice.  Maybe it's my natural kitchen-witchery showing through, or maybe it's because of the warm memories I have of learning to bake with my mom and grandma.  For whatever reason, I love crafting warm, gooey goodness that I can share with my family and friends in the spirit of the Goddess.

 Even though I like to bake from scratch, sometimes, life doesn't allow it.  That doesn't mean I have to ignore my kitchen witchery: this easy brownie recipe is fast and fabulous.

I love dark, decadent deserts, and there are plenty of goddesses who would agree with me.  Take your pick of dark ladies to celebrate with these Treasure Brownies: I like to make these for Hecate, but you can make them for Kali or Spider Woman.  Remember, it's the intention that counts!
 You will need:
1 box of regular brownie mix
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
18 peanut butter cups (smaller than a muffin cup)

Muffin tins and cooking spray

1. Prepare the brownies as directed on the mix, but add two eggs instead of one (this makes the brownies more like brownie-cupcakes, which is perfect for our purposes.)

2. Unwrap eighteen peanut butter cups.  Use this step to set your intention: think about the value of things hidden in the darkness, and give thanks to the dark goddess of your choice for her presence in your life.

3.  Spray the muffin pans and fill them halfway with brownie mix.

4. Place one peanut butter cup in the center of each filled muffin cup, pressing down gently.

5.  Bake following the directions on the box (usually 30 minutes will do it).

6.  Cool on a wire rack.

Share these goodies with your tribe, and enjoy.  Blessed be!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Red is for Remembrance by Laurie Faria Stolarz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I used to work at Barnes and Noble, I was drawn to this series by Laurie Stolarz. I kept meaning to read it, but somewhere in between work and school, that never happened. I finally picked this one up, and I wish I'd read it sooner! Again, I started at the backwards end of a series (woops), but it was easy to get into the world, and I loved it.

Stacey is in mourning. She delayed her college admittance by a semester, but she still isn't over the death of her first love Jacob. To make matters worse, his body was never found, so Stacy clings to the fragile hope that he is still alive somewhere. But eventually, she'll have to move on, and when she meets with the college president, she learns why she's really there.

Her scholarship is a sham: the president has a young daughter who sees things. Her dreams and visions upset her, but the president has heard about Stacey, and knows that she's in a similar boat. He wants her to help Porsha, his daughter, deal with her own budding telepathy. But Porsha and Stacey may have more in common than he realizes, and together the girls work to prevent a murder from happening. Their quest for justice will lead them far from the campus, to a cult-esque commune in the woods.

I loved everything about this story. It's well-paced, the characters are resonate, and Stacey presents a thoughtful portrayal of a Wiccan protagonist that's hard to find. All in all, this is an excellent read, and I have no doubt the rest of the series would be just as captivating.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Thresholds: Walking with Hecate

This season is always one of transition, but sometimes, periods of transition give way to standing around in liminal space.  The image of the threshold is very powerful: you cross one every time you leave your bedroom, your house, every time you pass from one place to another.  We wander over infinite thresholds in our lives, most of the time without even noticing that a change has taken place.

But sometimes, we slow down, whether by choice or by circumstance, and instead of striding confidently across the threshold, we find ourselves hovering.  One foot in the past, one foot in the future, or, more commonly, each foot in a distinctly different place.  Straddling a threshold can be scary, not just for the lack of movement, but also for the feeling of division.

Hecate knows all about this conflict.  She can bridge the lands of the living and the dead, the mortals and the immortals, but she doesn't really seem to fit in anywhere she goes.  She's powerful, make no mistake about that, but this dark triple goddess doesn't have a place to call her own.

Except thresholds.

Hecate claims liminal space with pride, lingering between worlds with ease.  When your life feels divided or you feel like you've stopped moving forward, consider talking to Hecate.  As a goddess without ties or boundaries, Hecate is arguably one of the more powerful mythic figures that we know.  She moves effortlessly between eras and cultures, shifting from Ancient Greece to medieval Europe with ease.  She's even making her way into modern pop culture and literature: this is one goddess who doesn't know her place, and that's a beautiful part of her strength: she refuses to be limited.

What can we learn from Hecate?

There's power in lingering on the threshold.  Hecate demonstrates this.  But sometimes, it's hard to linger.  Consider your time in transition as a time to learn, to absorb, to observe.  Hecate's power stems not only from her fluidity, but from the fact that she sees everything: when Demeter lost her daughter, Hecate was the one who pieced the clues together.  If you find yourself hovering over a threshold, savor that time.  You have entered Hecate's realm, and there is much to learn from her.

Do you ever feel trapped between worlds or choices?  How have you dealt with feelings of liminal and limitless space?

Blessed be!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: MOON MAGIC by Dion Fortune

Moon Magic by Dion Fortune
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dion Fortune's books are packed with esoteric wisdom, and she's sometimes a hard author to read. I've been working my way slowly through this novel for months, but last night I was finally able to finish it.

This book is the sequel to "The Sea Priestess", but it could easily be read and understood alone. I preferred this novel, in fact.

Lilith Le Fey is a strange woman by the standards of pre-war British society. She lives alone, practices ancient magic, and is searching for a priest to help her change the world. She finds that priest in Rupert Malcolm, a renowned neurological doctor with a prickly personality. Malcolm is a vital man, but time and again, he chooses to allow his vitality to be sacrificed to the norms of the society. When he meets Lilith, he undergoes a deep spiritual transformation.

This novel is rich with symbolism, and in fact Fortune has been quoted as saying her novels are practical manuals for magical transformation. If you enjoyed "Mists of Avalon" or any of Marion Zimmer-Bradley's other titles, you will like this novel. Remember, it's slow going, so take your time and don't get frustrated if the small font and sometimes spotting punctuation throws you momentarily.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: BEAUTIFUL DEMONS by Sarra Cannon

Beautiful Demons by Sarra Cannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harper has been kicked out of her second to last foster home. If she can't make things work at Shadowford, a home for "troubled" girls, her social worker has promised her a quick trip to juvie. Determined to finally make a home and finish a school year in the same place that she starts, Harper is on her best behavior. But her past comes back to haunt her when the head cheerleader meets a grisly death. The issue? The girl was killed by something that very much resembles the power Harper has tried to keep secret. It doesn't help that she may or may not have killed her adoptive father, and Harper is instantly a suspect.

What happens next is bizarre, but not unexpected for paranormal readers. Harper may have found a place where her powers will be valued, or she may have fallen into something more dangerous than she could have imagined: only time will tell.

This is a great book to read during a storm, or in an old, spooky house. Looking forward to more from this author!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: SUMMONING THE FATES by Z. Budapest

I've decided to start featuring book reviews whenever I read anything magical.  Fiction, nonfiction, it's all fair game! 

Summoning the Fates by Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zsuzsanna Budapest is a leading figure in the women's spirituality movement, yet somehow this was my first encounter with her as a writer. I really enjoyed this book. Budapest looks at life through astrology, focusing on the Norns and the Fates as guides for different phases of life. Instead of the Western concept that the round numbers (like 30, 40, and 50) mark dramatic change, Budapest advocates for a complex astrological cycle.

Although I didn't understand some of her ideas, my own life seems to line up to what she's saying: evidently, the first major transitional period in life occurs sometime between the ages of 26 and 30, where the first self gives way to the second self. I certainly feel like I'm starting my second identity as a writer!

Her writing style is conversational and filled with folk tales and rituals, making this an easy read. Don't read the epilogue: it's a bit more, um, biased than the rest of the book. If you enjoyed Sue Monk Kidd's "Dance of the Dissident Daughter", "Summoning the Fates will be right up your alley.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Goddess Goodies: Pomegranate Scones

For me, baking is a spiritual practice.  Maybe it's my natural kitchen-witchery showing through, or maybe it's because of the warm memories I have of learning to bake with my mom and grandma.  For whatever reason, I love crafting warm, gooey goodness that I can share with my family and friends in the spirit of the Goddess.

When my husband got groceries this weekend, he texted to let me know that pomegranates are back in season.  Since Persephone has been on my mind lately, I decided to experiment with pomegranate scones.

 You will need:
1 pomegranate
2 cups flour (I use wheat, but most people prefer all-purpose for lighter scones)
1/4 cup of honey
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 TBSP cold butter
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream (I use low fat)
2 egg yolks
 1. Slice the top off the pomegranate, and score the fruit three or four times.  Invert it in a bowl of cold water for at least five minutes: this will make it easier to get the pomegranate seeds out.

When you are able to remove the seeds, do it slowly.  Working with a pomegranate is very meditative,  and this is the step in the process where I set my intentions for the recipe.  If I want to honor Persephone, I think about her story.  If I want to fill my tribe with love and joy, I think about that.

Make sure you rinse the seeds and drain them.

2. Combine flour, honey, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Cut in the butter until it's crumbly.

3. Combine sour cream and egg yolks, add to the crumb mixture.

4. Mix in pomegranate seeds.

5. Flour your hands and divide the dough into two round balls.  On a floured baking sheet, press the balls flat.  Score them with a sharp knife, but don't separate the scones yet.

6.  (Optional): Whip one egg white and drizzle it over the scones.  Add cinnamon and sugar, pouring it over the egg.

7. Bake at 425 F for 18 minutes

Cool on a wire rack.  WARNING: these scones are crumbly!

Enjoy with a cup of chai tea or your morning coffee.  Blessed be!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Mabon: let's talk about the Underworld

I know, I know, not the most cheery topic for a bright Friday morning.

But today is Mabon, the fall equinox, and it is on this day when sunlight and darkness are in perfect balance.

It is also on this day that Persephone begins her annual descent to the realm of her husband, Hades.

Fall is my favorite season, and while I'd much rather twirl about in the sun, soaking up energy for the coming winter, I've had the idea of the Underworld descent on my mind lately.    What can modern women learn from these stories?

Persephone travels to the Underworld every year, cycling from her role as daughter to her role as wife and queen.  Her descent tugs at the seasonal tides, and her return signifies the beginning of spring.

Then there's Psyche.  She had to journey to the Underworld and back again before she could win her lover and be reborn as a goddess.  Her journey was about the help she received along the way, but even with celestial advice, she almost didn't make it.  Luckily for her, Eros stepped in at the last minute to keep his love alive.

Stepping away from the Greco-Roman myths, consider the tale of Inanna.   When she travels to the Underworld to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, and pay her respects to the dead,  Inanna surrenders the tools of her queenship as well as the protection of her clothes.  Naked before her fierce sister, Inanna is captured, condemned, and hung on a meat hook.  When her faithful minister comes after her, Inanna is allowed to return to the light if another soul is left in her place.  She returns home to find that her lover, Dumuzi, isn't acting the way he should.  He doesn't seem concerned about her death: in fact, he's lounging about on her throne, enjoying the remnants of her power.  Inanna knows right away who she'll be willing to sacrifice to her sister.

Traveling to the Underworld can be seen as an initiation into power: all three of the goddesses discussed here become stronger after their ordeals in the land of the dead.  They leave behind a part of themselves and emerge in their full strength.

How can we learn from these stories?  Today, as the earth is balanced between light and dark, it is a good time to think about that which we are ready to leave behind.  Like Inanna, we must shed our protective layers in order to become what we are meant to be.

As we step into the dark season, focus on the strength you will learn this season.  What can you leave behind?

Blessed be.