I Finally Have a Place for My Witch Ball Collection!

Witch Balls

A close up of a witch ball from Gray Art Glass

A few years ago, I wrote about glass witch balls. They’re basically just hollow glass spheres, a bit like glass Christmas ornaments. Today they’re quite decorative and go by several names such as glass kugels, friendship balls, spirit balls, ju ju balls, fairy orbs, and medusa spheres. With all these names, there is some differentiation beginning to happen. The “witchier” names to refer to those colorful glass ornaments that have strands of glass branching within the sphere, and the more benign names tend to refer to truly hollow ornaments.

Magically speaking, the witch ball is kind of related to witch bottles and other forms of protective container protective magic. Unlike the witch bottle, though, this was something that mundane people tended to use against witches and other forms of ill luck. These glass spheres as charms probably got their start in England’s 17th and 18th centuries as plain fishing floats. They bob on the surface of the water to note where fishing nets or crab traps are, much in the same way as a ‘dunked’ witch would float. In a rather gory bit of logic, someone probably got it into their head that hanging one of these glass balls up in their home would ward off evil in the same way a hanged witch would have on the demonic forces surrounding a village. So people began hanging these floats in their homes.

By the time the 19th century rolled about and the trend began catching on in America, the idea of hanging fishing floats merged with other folk protective magic from other cultures. They started to be made with glass threads in them, not unlike dream catchers and other such items, and malice was supposed to be caught in and dissipated through the webbing. They started to be more colored, a bit like the Hoodoo bottle trees with their African origins on the grounds that evil spirits are attracted to pretty things. Indeed, most of the earlier American witch balls are blue and green in color, much like the bottles popular on these trees. (Though, as I mentioned previously, that could just be a side product of history as lots of older American glass tended to become blue, green, or violet in color when exposed to sunlight.)

More witch balls

I think this collection of solid colored witch balls is so pretty, and they look so lovely against all the ferns.

I, of course, love these silly things. As I said in the earlier post, I was first introduced to them through V., my former housemate and covenmate back in Olympia who had one hanging up in the middle of each window in her living room and lined up the windowsills with glass paperweights an apprentice glass artist friend of hers continually gifted her with. The effect was very charming, and when I happened to see a small witch ball in a downtown Olympia shop, I bought it on a whim and hung it up in one of my own bedroom windows to continue the trend. Not long after, I found another one in a Goodwill shop for just a couple dollars, so I of course had to buy that one, too.

And then I just kept adding to the collection.

After I moved out of V.’s house, I really didn’t have any place to display them, so I just stored them in a box in the garage “for whenever I get a place of my own”. And that sort of meant I didn’t really have a fixed grasp on just how many I’d begun to acquire. And over the past five years…well, it got to be a lot. I had a knack for spying them in thrift stores, which didn’t help, and they’re also alarmingly popular in Western Pennsylvania where my mother lives. Nearly every little town we explored had a boutique that sold them, and I’d sometimes get one if I thought it pretty or unusual.

Fifteen. I ended up with fifteen of these things. And I have nowhere near fifteen windows in my new place. I scoured Pinterest to see if anyone else had a collection and what they did with them…and honestly, I wasn’t able to come up with much. In the end, I decided to just hang them all together in my front window.


This is not the greatest picture. I was most of the way through the process of tying them onto the curtain rod and hadn’t snipped the excess fishing line. But it is the most in focus picture I have with the least bad lighting. Unfortunately, my iPhone camera is starting to go.

I kind of like the final effect. It’s certainly the most interesting feature of my living room, and I like seeing how different they look throughout the day as the light changes. The process of stringing them up was a lot easier than I thought it would be, too. The largest of the balls only ways 1.5 pounds, so I probably could have just used some drywall anchors and cup screws to attach them. However, I didn’t want to have a dozen screws in the ceiling (renting!), so I went with a curtain rod. I did end up needing to mount it from the ceiling as that middle orange ball is over 8 inches in diameter, and the standard clearance from a wall-mounted curtain rod meant the ball would have rested against the window. I was slightly worried about all the weight, so I did actually weigh each ball and add up the figure, but there’s still less than 20 pounds hanging from the rod, and the three brackets I used means it will support 33 pounds. I also used plain 15-pound fishing line to string them up as I thought a “floating” effect might be nice. I just doubled a length of line, stuck the loop through the glass hole, tied a larks-head knot, and fasted the other end to the rod with a few square knots. They’ve been up for at least a month now, and I’ve had no issues whatsoever.


And now you get to see my living room, a masterpiece of Craigslist decor.

And, of course, you can bet that they’re serving a witchy purpose. My coven and I specifically charged two of the balls to keep my home safe. To be honest, my home isn’t in the nicest area of town, and the previous tenant was a drug dealer: I’ve had several people stop by over the past few months to buy their stuff, which is awkward and a little scary. (Trying very hard to live very frugally so I can start saving to buy a house.) I was surprised by how much safer I felt when I finally strung the charged balls up. They also give me a strong, physical focus to concentrate on when I renew my wards, and I’ve found that makes it a bit easier, too.

If anyone is all that interested in where you can find these things, these are the artists and companies that contributed to my collection: Kitras Art Glass, Gray Art Glass, Three Crow Glass (Les Trois Corbeaux), Virgil’s Art Glass, Pairpoint Glass, and Iron Elegance.


More Art for the Ritual Room

Last year at ConVocation, I fell in love with Laura Tempest Zakroff’s Iconomage series of paintings. Most of the images in this series are of various deities or mythical figures, though at least two–“Transformation” and “Ride to the Sabbat”–depict more of a process. The pictures are gorgeous. The colors are arresting and the symbolism Zakroff brings to her subjects is highly evocative. There are so many details crammed into such a narrow space that I almost want to get out a magnifying glass to make sure I’m seeing it all.


“Oracle” and “Cernunnos” from Zakroff’s Iconomage Series

Most of the original pieces in this series have sold, but Zakroff has continued to make prints in various sizes of each.  She brought many of these prints to the 2017 ConVocation, and I found myself spending tons of time in the artists’ room looking at them. I really wanted a pair of the large “temple”-sized prints and had to actively talk myself out of buying them. I had no place to display them and did not want them to be damaged in storage. But this year, I not only have a whole townhouse all to myself, I’m starting to make a dedicated ritual room. So I decided that if Zakroff brought her Iconomage prints back, I would buy a pair to represent the Goddess and the Horned God. Luckily for me, she did, and I came home with “Oracle” and “Cernunnos”.

I really love how nicely these two look together in a general aesthetic sense, but the more I look at the two of them, the more complementary they seem. In “Oracle”, the woman’s eyes are veiled by mist or something, and her third eye is prominent. (In fact, the fact I could not see her eyes was the whole reason I chose this painting. Every time I’ve successfully had some encounter with the Goddess in meditation, I’ve never been able to get a clear vision of her face, though other aspects are clear as a bell.) In the “Cernunnos” painting, the eyes jump right out at you. “Oracle” has a bright inverted star between her breasts. “Cernunnos” has a barely discernible pentagram at his groin. “Oracle” is full of ethereal wisps and mist. “Cernunnos” is fully embodied–in fact, you can see his heart and veins and muscles. I could go on and on. In the end, I think they make an interesting pairing.

Currently, I’ve got them displayed in a (painfully) symmetric arrangement with Si Mandragora’s Goddess and Horned God prints, as well as clay tiles of Pomona and the Green Man that Daniel Conan Young made. I like it well enough for now.  This is a wall I’ll have to deconstruct every time my family comes to visit as I still haven’t come out of the broom closet, so it’s likely I’ll re-arrange things a few times a year at least.


The current gallery in my ritual room. This wall has changed at least five times since I moved in. I think I’m keeping the Command Strip company in business.

ConVocation 2018

Convocation 2018

ConVocation 2018: The Strength to See the Details behind the Big Picture

Last year, I went to my first ConVocation in Detroit after realizing I could get my convention fix fulfilled for a much easier financial commitment than going to Pantheacon in San Jose. This year, I realized that I could have arranged to go to Pantheacon (indeed, it might have been easier as I had that whole weekend off from school), but I chose to go to ConVocation instead. ConVo has such a wonderfully friendly atmosphere, and the attendees seem to roll with whatever punches come without much of a fuss. (Granted, the two Pantheacon’s I’ve been to were among the most drama-filled, but still.)

Last year, my job gave me a ton of things to do at the last minute, and I spent a huge chunk of ConVo sitting in my hotel room and taking care of that. So this year, I made sure to completely clear my schedule so that I could go to everything I wanted to go to and get totally turnt up at the parties. In the end, one of those two things happened: I had four blessedly work-free days. But I am a teacher, and winter has not been kind to anyone’s health. The Tuesday before ConVo opened, I got strep throat. I made sure I wouldn’t be contagious for the convention, but antibiotics throw off a lot of my systems, and I ended up becoming so uncomfortable that my idea of a good time ended up being baths and bed rather than drinks and dancing.

On Thursday night, I intended to go out and explore Detroit for awhile, then return to the hotel by 8 pm for Storm Faerywolf’s talk/ritual “The Watchers of the Faery Tradition” followed by the Circle of the Feri Forge’s ritual “Forming Psyche: From Details to Divinity.”

It’s hard to get the sense of a place in just an hour or so, but Detroit struck me as bigger, dirtier Indianapolis. Or, oddly enough, what I think the love child of Indianapolis and Atlanta would be. In short, I could have lived without that. I did, however, enjoy a nice steak dinner (I can count on one hand the number of steak dinners I have had in the last three years, so I was excited) and a few margaritas.

I got back just in time for Storm’s talk and ritual, “The Watchers of the Faery Tradition.” Storm gave lots of information about his tradition, who the guardians in his tradition are, and what we would be doing prior to the meditative ritual. I could really listen to Storm talk all day long–he’s very funny and engaging, and it makes taking in the content of his talks almost effortless.  I found the ritual component to be a little reminiscent of the LBRP, at least in form. We began by aligning the three souls that Faery believes people to have, and then essentially called the watchers of the various directions. In Storm’s Faery, these are StarFinder in the East, ShiningFlame in the South, WaterMaker in the West, HeavenShiner above, Fire-in-the-Earth below, and then we become the seventh guardian, Guardian of the Gates in the center. Storm had a wonderful guided meditation for each, in which we asked each Guardian “Who am I?”

Alas, I did not get as much out of the ritual as I typically do with Storm’s material as about halfway through I realized I was having antibiotic problems, and I’m not so talented a witch as to be able to focus on a long meditative ritual when I’m in lots of physical discomfort. Because of that, I decided to skip my next planned event (a Psyche-focused ritual) in favor of an early night

On Friday, I decided to attend the following events:

  • Ellen Dugan’s talk “Protection Magick for Everyone: How to be a Magickal Bad-Ass”
  • Laura Tempest Zakroff’s talk “The Authentic Witch: Crafting a Working Tradition”
  • Jason Mankey’s talk “Knowing our Mighty Dead”
  • Laura Tempest Zakroff and Nathaniel Johnstone’s ritual “Hekate at the Crossroads: A Meeting of Mind & Movement”
  • Storm Faerywolf and Devin Hunter’s ritual “The Black Rose Sabbatic Dance”
  • Jason Mankey’s ritual “D is for Dionysus: A Ritual for the Wild One”

This was the first time I’d ever been able to hear Ellen Dugan in a talk, workshop, or class on her own. Last year, I had to skip something she was in to attend a different class and only got to see her panel discussion with Michelle Belanger. Now, I’ve been a fan of her non-fiction for quite some time as it is invariably well-organized and easy to understand, and I’ve been positively devouring her recent turn into fiction, but I think now I’m a fan of Ellen herself. She’s wry and witty, and she does not suffer fools. In lots of convention-style classes, various presenters typically give people in the audience a lot of leeway, and frequently the classes get a little derailed while good intentioned but socially clueless people prattle on about a horrible thing that their High Priestess did or some psychic attack they’ve suffered. Ellen was *awesome* about checking that behavior, and I loved it. I also learned a bit on protection magic, which–to be honest–I’ve largely ignored up to this point. But now I’m single, live alone, live in a bad section of town, and I have a job that causes lots of students to dislike me on occasion…so I definitely paid attention to Ellen and will probably buy her protection magic book in the near future.

Laura Tempest Zakroff was all over Convocation, and I think I went to just about everything she did. That always makes me feel a bit like a stalker…but I got over it. Her first talk on Crafting a Working Tradition was good–as is pretty much everything Zakroff does–but to me essentially boiled down to “are you a critically-thinking witch? can you avoid being a douchebag to everyone? good–go forth and conquer”. Throughout the rest of ConVocation, though, I heard other attendees of this talk telling others how amazing it was and how it helped validate their own pathworkings, so clearly Zakroff was reaching the people she needed to reach.

After lunch, I was excited to attend Jason Mankey’s “Knowing our Mighty Dead” talk. I adore Jason to death and have historically been a huge fan of his self-deprecating presentation style, but I think perhaps I should have skipped this presentation. Jason’s gotten quite a bit into Craft history as of late, as have I. Unfortunately for me, this particular presentation was a bit of a biography lecture on dead people who self-identified as witches. I can’t say I learned more about Gardner or Cochrane or anyone else Jason discussed, though I was glad to see him introduce Rosaleen Norton and her artwork to more people. I’ve always found Norton underrepresented in Craft history, though I suppose the rest of the anglophone world generally ignores Australian people. I also appreciated how Jason carefully differentiated Mighty Dead (deceased people who self-identified as witches) from Beloved Dead (people you loved who have died), which is often a blurred line in the greater Wiccan world.

After Jason’s talk, I realized that I was very physically uncomfortable and felt about ready to crawl out of my own skin (antibiotics hate me) and considered skipping Zakroff’s Hekate ritual, but I am very glad I decided to soldier on. This particular ritual saw Zakroff’s husband Nathaniel Johnstone play an electric violin and layer various sounds together through those fancy pedal things while Zakroff basically channeled Hekate through dance. It was so moving to see. I literally felt Hekate enter the space, and the dance was utterly hypnotic. Eventually Zakroff got everyone on their feet–without saying a word–and we all joined in this dance. It was amazing to see everyone find their movements and connection without speaking, and I found myself on the verge of tears a couple of times, an event which almost never happens.

After dinner, I contemplated going to bed for the rest of the night–I was that uncomfortable!–but eventually sucked it up and went to two rituals: The Black Rose Sabbatic Dance and the Dionysus ritual. I was really excited for the Sabbatic Dance because it sounded like a contemporary complement to the ritual Jason Mankey did last year–his Margaret Murray-inspired ‘Ritual from the Witch-Cult’. I have to admit, Mankey’s ritual last year was not among my favorites, but I have in the year that has followed appreciated the historical glimpse. On paper, Storm Faerywolf and Devin Hunter’s Sabbatic Dance was pretty much the same thing: dance about in a circle for awhile and praise the Dark Lord (aka, the Magister in this ritual). But instead of a hopping conga line, Devin pretty much played the role of an EDM DJ while Storm led everyone on a collective active visualization. In the end, everyone visualized themselves transforming into animals and doing this running dance. It was really cool to watch. So many people were really getting into it and going off into an ecstatic experience. At one point, one woman even stopped dancing and was just writhing all over the ground. Other people did not reach an ecstatic point, though. Unfortunately, I was one of them. History has taught me that I need about five shots of tequila within about five minutes and a maintenance of two shots an hour to get to the point where I will dance without feeling self-conscious. I was very sober for this ritual.

I should have just gone to bed and taken the medicine to help the complication at that point, but I really wanted to go to the Dionysus ritual. In the end, though, it really wasn’t that much different from the Sabbatic Dance ritual. Mankey led his ritual crew through a much more Wiccan circle casting and invocation, and there was no EDM but rather chanting…but people were dancing (or running) about in a circle while several people made offerings of wine or apple juice to Dionysus. I did really love how active Jason made the personal energetic cleansings, and it was clear the crowd loved that, too. What would really have been perfect was if the ritual had prefaced a large dance or party or something in that space. Instead, everyone scattered to the winds for various room parties. And I went off to enjoy medication.

On Saturday, I felt a little better. My plan of attack that day was the following events:

  • Storm Faerywolf’s talk “The Witch’s Forge: Invoking the Iron Pentacle”
  • Clifford Hartleigh Low’s talk “Spellbound: Love Magic Through the Ages”
  • Laura Tempest Zakroff and Nathaniel Johnstone’s class “Stirring the Cauldron: A Ritual Exploration of Movement”
  • Jason Mankey’s talk “Building a Cone of Power: Magic in the Witch’s Circle”
  • Devin Hunter’s ritual “The Rite of the Cosmic Weaver”

Storm Faerywolf makes me think that if I had gone to the Bay Area instead of Eugene, Oregon for graduate school, I might have become a Faery/Feri initiate. There’s an awful lot about Feri that I love, and the Iron Pentacle is one of them. I was first introduced to it in T. Thorn Coyle’s book Evolutionary Witchcraft, and I’ve been enchanted by the idea of it and the Pearl Pentacle ever since. Most of this particular workshop was Storm describing what the Iron Pentacle is, which can also largely be found in Coyle’s book, but it concluded with us running a modified form of it. In this modification, the pentacle points are envisioned at the forehead, shoulders, and hips rather than the forehead and outstretched arms and feet. This was physically much more comfortable for me, and it increases the likelihood that I will incorporate running the pentacle into my own daily practice.

Clifford Hartleigh Low’s love magic talk was my wild card of the weekend, and I still don’t really know what to think of it. Low is perhaps not a natural public speaker, and I think that perhaps his talk would have been better delivered as a paper instead. To his credit, I think he understood this about himself and he pretty much had his entire lecture scripted out on note cards. Unfortunately, that also means that the talk is much more of a lecture than a conversation. I’m not knocking lectures–heaven knows I’ve done them often enough as a teacher–but these conventions are increasingly moving away from the “sage on the stage” model. And Low’s talk was a non-stop gallop through the history of love magic, a listing of historically famous love spells, and various concordances. If I had been taking notes, I might have started a fire with the friction from my pencil, Low was going so fast. And in the end, I’m not really sure I learned anymore than I already knew. I did, however, appreciate that Low made the point that so much historical information on love magic is highly coercive because marriages and relationships have only recently been about love. Historically, they’ve mostly been about power and survival. In many ways, they still are. When discussing particularly nasty love work (at least from the ethical viewpoint), Low did usually explain why those were historically done and why someone might choose to do them today. One particular spell that was about binding a person to you became suddenly understandable when Low brought up “dead beat dads”. In some cases, it’s not about binding a person to you for love, but to fulfill the obligations they have made. I appreciated the greying of love magic, and it certainly gave me lots of food for thought.

At some point during the lunch break, someone forgot a bag of popcorn in a microwave and the residential part of the hotel was evacuated for fire. Everything got sorted only just in time for the 2 pm session. In fact, Laura Tempest Zakroff and Nathaniel Johnstone held off their Ritual Movement exploration for several minutes to allow us evacuees plenty of time to join the session, which was nice. This particular session was one of my favorites of the convention. I kind of wish they’d put out a ritual movement DVD. I’ve got no way of describing what we did–I just don’t have the words. But it was wonderful, and I can see myself putting those lessons into practice in my personal Work.

Jason Mankey’s “Cone of Power” talk was pretty fun. The basis of the talk was that so many of the Craft books of the 1990s often described in pretty great detail some of the various steps of Wiccan-like ritual, but when it came to raising power, many usually just said “build the Cone of Power” without really saying what exactly that was. As Jason said, the net effect was that you got one of two impressions: that it was the greatest mystery in the world, or just something you were expected to know how to do. Jason thought it was the greatest mystery. I remember having that same impression after reading my first few Wicca 101 books, but I caught on fairly quickly that it was just a term for raising and directing energy, and that process didn’t particularly need to be cone-shaped. I do remember that not long after I realized that, I read a book that actually explained what the cone of power was. The book had a diagram in it and explained that when you were raising power, it helped to visualize that power growing into a cone extending up to the top of your circle (aka, where you envision the Gods entering). If you’re doing your visualization job well, at about the time the raised energy naturally reaches its climax, the cone will peak. And then you sort of shoot the raised energy out of the circle like a laser at the point where the cone meets the circle and envision the energy connecting to its target. Jason’s talk eventually explained the same thing, more or less, as well as gave a bit of history on Operation Cone of Power (or when Gardner and several of his friends did magical workings to help keep Hitler from invading Britain). My favorite bit was his description of “Ari’s Magic Death Ray”, which is pretty much just directing raised energy into the pentacle, which acts as a portal to wherever you want it to go. For some reason, that’s a heck of a lot easier for me to visualize than energy sent out of the circle through the cone. I’m pretty literal minded, and I tend to picture that energy zapping about in space before it reaches its target. With pentacle portals, it’s just like opening a door in space and stepping right through it. Much less bouncing about.

My last event of the night was Devin Hunter’s “Cosmic Weaver” ritual, which was pretty simple in construction, but really beautiful in practice. All it really amounted to was having a priestess sit in the center of a circle we created with our bodies, and she channeled the Goddess as Grandmother Spider. Then, a couple priests ran some white yarn from person to person until each was connected. As we were given a piece of yarn, we were told to envision filling it with our hope for what the world would be like for 7 generations hence and what we would need to do to help the world be like our vision. While the web was being spun, we all sang a chant (and for the love of me, I can’t remember the words to it anymore). When the web was spun, we all gather our bit of it in our hands as we walked toward the Goddess. Then we all collectively put it in her hands. There was a bit more, but that’s really the gist of it. I found it to be a lovely visual, and a very effective bit of ritual.

From there, I decided to skip the dance party and go to bed as I was still feeling pretty bad. And I really regret that. But it was the best choice in the end.

On Sunday, I was pretty much the only person in the hotel awake and ready to go at 6 am. So I got to have a leisurely breakfast and me time before deciding to be a responsible adult and pack my car up. I was glad I did so. The halls were crowded during the morning break with people in various states of consciousness making sure they had all their items before they checked out. It was a bit of a mad house. Instead, I got to go to a morning devotional and be thankful. I went to two classes before I left: Ivo Dominguez Jr.’s talk “A Visit with Binah” and Laura Tempest Zakroff’s class “The Art of Sigil Witchery.” I was thrilled to finally get to go to an Ivo Dominguez Jr. class. He’s one of my all time favorite pagan authors, and he’s been to pretty much every Pantheacon and ConVocation I’ve been to…but I’ve never been able to make one of his talks. He’s just as thoughtful and engaging in person as on page. And he was able to make Binah start to make sense to me (Kabballah is not my strong suit).

Zakroff had previously taught her “Art of Sigil Witchery” class at the last ConVocation. I had attended that and my mind was blown. And I bought her sigil book, Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols, as soon as it was published earlier this year. I didn’t really need to attend the session, but I wanted to take good notes to be able to better explain her method to my coven. The talk was as engaging as it was last year, but far more polished. I was very impressed.

So that was my ConVocation. If I get to go next year, hopefully I’ll be work free AND healthy enough to enjoy all the things to their fullest.

Thank you, Vixxia!

This past Yule, Santa had a very thoughtful elf working for him. Fellow pagan blogger Vixxia Wyrdwritere at Travelling a Path between Church and Circle and I have been corresponding off and on for, what, three years now? It all started after I wrote about my former coven’s Imbolc/Candlemas practice of lighting all the candles we anticipated using over the next year off the main Altar candle, which was a Solas Bhride flame. (The post explains what that is.) She wrote to ask if I wouldn’t mind sharing the flame with her…and several months later, I surfaced from mundane banalities and did. Some time later, she mentioned that she had some items she wanted to send me in return…and several months later, she did!

Vixxia and I clearly operate on similar time frames, and its one of the things I love best about her.

I ended up getting her package a couple weeks after New Year’s, and I’ve kept the items on my altar ever since. I *still* tear up a little bit every time I pass the altar and see them–they’re so beautifully thoughtful.


Opening Vixxia’s package was what I imagine opening a Christmas stocking must be like: One dear treasure after another.

Ages ago, (in retrospect, when she’d likely cooked up this crafty idea) Vixxia had asked me if I’d read Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series. I had not, but shortly thereafter started acquiring Kindle editions and the Audible audiobooks–they were utterly *perfect* for listening to on my many road trips to Pennsylvania. I completely fell in love with the series, which sees a modern Metropolitan police detective, Peter Grant, become an apprentice wizard and begin working for the supernatural division of the force. Along the way, we learn that magic is real, all the London rivers are occupied with a genus loci or two, and that friendship doesn’t always trump desire. But I never understood what made Vixxia think to turn me onto them until I read Foxglove Summer.

If you’re a casual reader, you might not be aware that Melissa is not my legal name, but my Pagan name–the circle name I took in my first coven. It means ‘bee’ and ‘priestess’, and–to cut a long story very short–bees have subsequently become an important part of my life. Well, in Foxglove Summer, Grant meets a retired wizard and his purported granddaughter, Mellissa. Mellissa is certainly fae…and she’s the ultimate queen bee. The attic of her home is a giant hive, and she seems to attract and control some men as queen bees do their drones. She was an utterly fascinating character, and she made me want to buy a physical copy of this book (something I do not do lightly now that I’ve moved my library five times in the last decade). You can imagine my delight when I saw Vixxia had sent me a copy.

I also completely nerded out over the brochure from Kew Gardens she sent me about The Hive, a large interactive sculpture created by Wolfgang Buttress. Its a glory of steel, glass, lighting and vibration all connected to a real beehive. The effects of the lighting and sound help you get a sense of what it is like to be part of that hive. It is, of course, phenomenal and I’ve been trying to get to London over the summer for the past couple years to see it…maybe this summer will be the lucky one? (Oh, who am I kidding…I have to adult and build up my savings.)

The Hive

“The Hive” by Wolfgang Buttress at Kew Gardens

But wait…that’s not all the bee-themed goodness. Vixxia also included a lovely wooden bee necklace that I utterly adore. I’ve been wearing it to school fairly frequently, and my students seem to think it’s pretty cool too. (They criticize–with love!–my lack of accessorizing skill on the regular, to this was a huge win for me.) But what completely humbled me was the little green crocheted bag. Vixxia made a Bees-in-a-Bag charm! She used a green Welsh wool that was gifted to her, and she made the blue string out of wool hand-dyed in woad. I had never seen fiber dyed with woad before, and was surprised at what a deep, rich blue it made. What I thought was particularly cool was that she made the bag look a bit like an old-fashioned bee skep! How sweet is that? Inside, she included five golden bee charms. I’ve decided to charge the bag to help me stay happy, prosperous, and healthy in my new home.

Vixxia also included a lovely book on the Winter Solstice from the artist Karen Cater, who runs the Hedingham Fair along with her husband, Colin. I adore it–it reminds me a lot of a book on Christmas my parents had. Every day leading up to The Big Day, we would read one of the little articles inside the book. I can totally see using this book to do that with my currently fictional future children, should I ever get around to making them. She also sent along a little length of applewood from her parent’s tree, and it is a lovely little wand. I am always surprised whenever I use an apple wand…you really can tell the difference.

So thank you again, Vixxia, for your lovely surprises! I adore them all, and am so pleased and humbled by how thoughtful they were. You’re amazing.

Wheel of the Year Art


My print of e. True’s “Wheel of the Year”

I’m in the process of setting up a permanent ritual space in my new apartment (well, permanent-ish…it is the guest room, too). It’s a pretty bare room right now. In fact, all that’s in it are my books and a round pedestal table I intend to use as an altar. It’s a tiny little room, so I really can’t put much more in there and still be able to cast a circle. But I did want to at least put a little art on the walls.

One piece of art that I enjoy having in my ritual space is a representation of the Wheel of the Year. This is a move that my coven leaders did both in my former California Tradition coven in Eugene and Tacoma and in my current Gardnerian coven in Indiana, and I suspect it was to help all the coveners memorize the Sabbats and keep them straight. The Sabbats are easy enough to memorize, so it isn’t as though I need it to jog my memory or act as a calendar. (Truth be told, I do frequently transpose Litha and Lammas…though I’ve been better since I started calling Litha the Summer Solstice.) But I do enjoy evocative, detailed art that I can look at for some time and meditate upon. I actually had, at one point in time, a nice Wheel of the Year print that I hung in my bedroom and that served this purpose, but it was destroyed in my move to Indianapolis.

A lot of pagan art has come out since I first acquired that print, and I was surprised at how many different versions were out there. But few had the level of detail I wanted. But then I saw e. True’s version.

Wheel of the Year True

Image from Ms. True’s Etsy store, The Stag Sundry Company.

What a show stopper! I love how she crams so much imagery into each slice of the pie, as it were. My favorite thing, though, is that she allows all the symbols to stand before the wheel spokes. This blurs the divisions between them, for the symbols of one Sabbat seem to flow into the next. To me, this helps convey the idea that the wheel is constantly turning. We don’t just move to a point and stop for six weeks until the next Sabbat comes along: the days slip by and bleed together. We’re just as likely, for example, to bake bread at the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) as we are for Lammas. And some years I barely clear away the Yuletide decorations before I start seeing the snowdrops heralding Candlemas’s arrival (Imbolc).

I am definitely enjoying having a print of Ms. True’s artwork in my sacred space, and look forward to following the offerings available at her Etsy store.

Pondering the Future of My Broom Closet


This is my life now.

Ever since moving to Oregon in 2008, I’ve been a mostly “out” Pagan. I have never told my family that I am Pagan, but that has had very little impact on my day-to-day life over the past decade, if only because I’ve lived far enough away from them during that time that they have come to see me very rarely. And when they do, it’s a fairly simple thing to take time the week before they visit to box up my pagan paraphernalia throughout the house and stow it someplace until they leave.

And, to be honest, I would be completely out of the Broom Closet if it was not for my mother. The rest of my immediate family are pretty much secularists these days, but my mother…she may not believe in everything the Catholic Church espouses, but she vehemently defends what she perceives to be the “real truth” beneath Rome’s teachings. And a big part of that is rejecting Satan and all his works.

Unfortunately, my mother strongly believes that anything under the occult umbrella is Satanic and that those who dabble in them are playing roulette with their mortal souls. She believes this as completely as I believe the sun will rise tomorrow morning. I was almost never disciplined as a child and teenager because I rarely did anything truly ‘bad’. In my early teens, I thought my mother was a blithering idiot and sassed off to her terribly. I usually got slapped for it, but that was about the extent of it. (I totally deserved the slaps, by the way: I said horrible things to her.) But when I was a junior in high school, she found a couple Wiccan books in my bedroom and proceeded to ransack the place looking for other paraphernalia. She then proceeded to burn everything she found and told me that if she ever saw any indication of my interest in the occult again, my family would not contribute to my college tuition.

I was furious with her. And I recall yelling a lot about how manipulative it was to threaten my future over a few books. And there was a huge part of me that wanted to have the whole “coming out” scene. I wanted to explain to her what I was beginning to practice, why it resonated with me, and why I felt it was helping me to be a better person. I wanted to show her how there was no evil in it, especially the way she understood evil. But when I looked at her, I did not see anger in her eyes. When she screamed, I did not hear rage in her voice. She was scared. Terrified. And that scared me. So I put up enough resistance to be convincing and accepted her terms. I did not stop practicing, but I made certain she would not see any indication of it.

Looking back, I think perhaps the Gods ‘engineered’ this moment with my mother. Prior to this blow up, I’d planned to properly come out of the Broom Closet to my parents. I had decided that I should probably undergo a year and a day of Wiccan study before I told them I was a Pagan. And the end of that year and a day was rapidly approaching–the whole reason I had those books in my room (and not in my stash in my school locker)  so that I could have reference material to plan my solitary ritual for Samhain, which would have marked the end of that first year. My mother, not one prone to snooping in my things, only found them sandwiched between my mattress and box spring because I uncharacteristically left my bed unmade that morning, and she–equally uncharacteristically–thought she’d do me a favor by making it for me.

I had thought my parents and loved ones would have considered a year and a day of serious study enough experience for me to make an informed decision on how I wanted to continue the rest of my spiritual life, but in that moment where I saw my mother’s fear, I realized that it was not enough. It was no where near enough. If I wanted her to be able to accept this part of my life, I realized that I needed an iron-clad case. I needed to know what I was leaving–my family’s Catholicism–backwards, forwards, and upside down. I needed years of study and practice under my belt, not just one short year. And, frankly, my mother would not accept any form of solitary practice as valid because I would be ‘making it all up.’ So, at the very least, I would need to find and learn from an established community and have my personal beliefs challenged and refined by them. And even if I had an exemplary spiritual training and practice in place, there was no way my mother would accept it if my personal life was a mess. She would blame any shortfall in my personal life on God showing his displeasure with me for forsaking him.

So here I am today. I did go on to complete my church’s catechism training and was confirmed (only one of my siblings to do so, so clearly Mom got a lot more lax with the boys), and I continue to study it. In fact, I finally found some part of Catholicism I understood when I started reading Jesuit writers and I have subsequently incorporated several points of Ignatian spirituality into my Pagan ways.  And those ways have now been practiced far longer than a year and a day: I’ve been a practicing Pagan for over half my life. I have been an official student of some form of British Traditional Witchcraft since 2010, and a valid Gardnerian initiate since 2015. I’m now starting to think about how I would lead a coven and the skills I need to hone to be a good Craft Elder and potential future High Priestess. In my mundane life, I graduated with Latin honors from the university my mother threatened not to pay for, and I went on to get two more graduate degrees without any financial support from the family. I have a fulfilling career (that I still find frustrating at times, particularly in how underpaid the profession is). I have no debt. Over the past decade, I might not have made much money, but I have always been able to live within my means and still afford some luxuries. I have proven to my mother so many times that I am a moral and ethical person that she now comes to me when she has an ethical problem that she’s struggling with because she knows that I will give her sound counsel.

So I began thinking…maybe its time to come out of the Broom Closet?

I think I got a nudge from the Gods recently. I began working at a new school at the end of September. I moved to the town where it is located at the start of November, and my mother came out from Pennsylvania to help me with the move. I’d done most of the major things before she’d arrived, so most of what we did was to pack up the kitchen, pick up a few pieces of furniture I’d arranged to buy through Craigslist, and tackle the job of unpacking. I’d had the movers put most of the boxes in the basement, and I’d marked each one that had something Pagan in it with a star next to a generic description of the box contents. Before my mother showed up, I set aside all the starred boxes and stacked them in a corner and lined up other ones in front of it. I figured we would just work our way down the row in unpacking, and when we got to the starred boxes, I would tell mom that they contained random ‘decor’ that I would need to sort through to see what I would keep, donate, or discard now that I was in a new space.

That plan worked freakishly well, incidentally.

Unfortunately, I had one small plastic tote that I left out of the cardboard starred boxes. It was mostly candleholders, but also had a few pagan-y items in it, so I set it on top of the starred stack. And while my mother and I were constructing storage shelves in the basement, I accidentally knocked it over and we both heard something break inside.

I told my mom to ignore it and that I would take care of it later, but while I was hammering a shelf, she thought she’d be helpful.

“What the heck is this?” she said with alarm, and I turned around to see her holding a silver goblet engraved with a pentacle.

In that moment, I realized that this could be the big moment: the big coming out. The timing was almost right, and how amazing would it be to finally have that conversation? At the same time…I was sweating in a dirty, cobwebby basement with two half-constructed storage shelves and a mountain of half-unpacked boxes. Maybe the timing was okay, but neither of us were in the best place to talk theology. So I stalled for time.

I hate to admit this, but one of the more successful strategies for deflecting my mother is perilously close to gaslighting: maintain that everything is fine and she’ll begin to doubt herself.  So I shrugged and said “Looks like a wine glass with a star design. I’m pretty sure my friend Gloria gave that to me last time we met…we bonded over a night of wine and Cards Against Humanity, so wine is kind of our thing now.” I literally saw tension flow out of my mother, which broke my heart a little. She did grouse for a minute about how it looked occult and how I should get rid of it. At one point she asked me “Are you into occult stuff?” I replied “Mo-om!” just as I would have done if it was just a wine glass and asked her to help me put the next shelf on the rack. She completely dropped it. She’s probably forgotten all about that goblet by now.

My mom’s reaction was clearly not a 180-degree turn around from when I was in high school, but I can’t help but feel like these two incidents were similar. In both, my mom found an occult thing I was trying to hide while she was being helpful. In both, she had a negative reaction. But in this recent one, that deep fear was absent. She was alarmed, yes…but not terrified. I think that at the very least, a part of her recognizes that she’s not responsible for me any more.

The incident made me think that maybe at some point soon, the coming out conversation might actually be a thing we can not only do, but survive.

And now that it’s a possibility, I’m terrified to do it.

In Honor of Buckland’s Passing

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Raymond Buckland, 1934-2017

The death that has occupied celebrity news this week was that of Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine. In the Pagan world, however, that news barely registered in the wake of another passing that same day: that of Raymond Buckland.

Buckland was one of the more influential figures in late 20th century contemporary paganism. He and his first wife Rosemary founded the first Gardnerian coven in New York–and quite likely the United States. When Buckland left Gardnerian craft in the early 1970s following his separation and subsequent divorce from Rosemary, he went on to found Seax-Wicca, which was groundbreaking in being a complete, working tradition that required no initiation to join. Anyone who studied its main text, The Tree, and chose to self-dedicate could become a Seax-Wiccan, which was incredibly liberating at a time when access to Wiccan covens was practically non-existent for most of America.

Since about 1969, Buckland served his Craft best as a professional writer and has one of the more impressive bibliographies I personally have ever seen, with at least 40 or so titles to his name in both nonfiction and fiction–and all without the use of ghostwriters. Of course, not all are memorable and some–notably The Magick of Chant-o-Matics–are downright silly. Professional writers do have to pay the bills, after all. But in between texts clearly designed for mass media and fast sales, Buckland produced important work. American paganism would not be what it is today without The Tree and the influence of Seax-Wicca and, perhaps more importantly, the influence of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, the giant cobalt tome that so many in the community have renamed “Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue.” The BCBW is such a clean, useful, and popular book that it is one of the only books on contemporary witchcraft that any publisher has bothered to make into an audiobook. It is, as they say, kind of a big deal.

Outside of paganism, Buckland also achieved a high notoriety among American Spiritualist communities, in large part due to his publications on mediumship, the most beloved of which is The Spirit Book and the most comprehensive of which is Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications, or “Big Red”. I grew up in spitting distance from one of the largest spiritualist camps in the country, Camp Chesterfield, and visited there only last week. I can personally attest that the Raymond Buckland section in their bookstore is comparatively prodigious and clearly well-loved. He even made an appearance in a 2011 spiritualist documentary produced by HBO, No One Dies in Lily Dale. (The link should take you to his appearance, about 47 minutes into the film.)

Buckland was a complicated man with a complicated life. He made plenty of close friends and alienated others. But whatever issues anyone may have had with him, Paganism in American would have looked very different without his influence, and the community honors him as one of the Greats.