The Tool Box: Amulets

An amulet is a normally mundane object which is intended to protect it's owner or wearer from negative energy. The origin of the word amulet is debatable but seems to stem from either the Latin "amuletum" which means "an object of defense" or the Arabic "hamalet" which means "that which is suspended." Amulets are often made of gemstones, coins, pendants, rings or religious symbols and nearly every culture through history and religions have some form of amulet associated with their traditions.

The first person to record the existence of amulets was Pliny the Elder, who was a Roman naturalist and philosopher. His writings titled "Natural History," which dates back to 79 CE, he mentions three categories of amulets:
  1. Objects believed to offer protection against trouble
  2. Objects containing prophylactic substances
  3. Objects used as medicine
Often times we find it is even more ordinary objects which are viewed as having amulet-like properties. Sacred texts, such as holy books are often placed under or next to the bed of the ailing. Many women have a "lucky fragrance" they feel makes them powerful or lucky. Even Garlic has been said to ward off Vampires and other evil forces. What we tend to find is that the line separating amulets, talismans, charms and other blessed objects tends to become blurred after considering objects such as dream catchers and rabbit's-foot...

Eyes, in one form or another, are one of the most commonly found amulets from the ancient world. We see them in graves, portrayed in art and on the walls of tombs. Phallic symbols are also highly common as they represent power and regeneration and in many cultures were believed to promote fertility.  The Egyptian Ankh continues to be a commonly found amulet, featuring a staff topped with a loop, it represents the union of both male and female and was the symbol of life in general.  Amulets inscribed with the names of gods, magickal numbers or alphabets have been used all through history and were extremely popular even up until and through the 19th century.

Many times we see deities from a particular religion represented on or by an amulet. In Egypt for example, it was not uncommon to see people wearing an amulet inscribed with the Eye of Horus. In today's more modern belief systems Buddhists wear small Buddha figures, Christians wear crosses, Universalists wear a Chalice and Wiccans wear a Pentacle. So as you can see, the practice is not one of the ancient religious world, but one of our own.

 Throughout the first and second centuries, as the Christian religion grew and spread the leaders of the early church discouraged the use of more popular amulets, viewing them as superstitious, pagan objects.  However, because the majority of the new Christian converts were once Pagan, and because a great many of them were converting out of need and not choice, many clung to the old ways of doing things, this included the use of amulets. The early Church recognized this reality and made an effort to both provide new "sacred objects" meant to replace these amulets and push to outlaw old amulets. These new "sacred objects" took the form of images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or Saints as well as the crucifix or cross. While Christian teachings no longer allow for these objects themselves to hold any inherent magickal powers they are seen as representing the power of God and Jesus.

Amulets can be bought, or made, or in the case of religious amulets, they are often passed from generation to generation. What matters less than their makeup or how you acquire one is the meaning you place on it.

Making the Magical Food, NATTO

About a year ago I had Natto for the first time (in this life). I tried it because I had read about Nattokinase, a substance made from Natto that is sold in certain health food stores and I think as medicine in Japan. Nattokinase has been shown to support normal blood pressure, dissolve blood clots and prevent them from forming in the first place!
Natto is a fermented cheese-like food that has been used in Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years , it's made by inoculating Soybeans with a certain Bacteria called Bacillus subtilis.  Nattō contains large amounts of vitamin K, which is involved in the formation of calcium-binding groups in proteins, assisting the formation of bone and preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin K1 is found naturally in seaweed, liver, and some veggies, and vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods like cheese and miso.  Nattō has very large amounts of vitamin K2, about 870 micrograms per 100 grams of nattō. It is also a non meat source of B12 so it's a good thing for Vegans and Vegetarians to eat. Nattō contains many chemicals alleged to prevent cancer and recent studies show nattō may have a cholesterol lowering effect.Nattō is also said to have an antibiotic effect, and its use as medicine against dysentery was researched by the Imperial Japanese Navy before World War II.
But basically it a a Slimy stinky, stringy mass of strong tasting Heaven.
Anyway I developed a taste for it, and now so has Taryn, and it's good food for the baby inside I decided to find out how to make my own.
So here we go.
Stuff you need:
A bunch of cooked organic soybeans (4 cans or equivalent) It's best to start from scratch (dry beans) but I couldn't find any in town so got canned organic beans.
A way to keep the inoculated beans at about 108 F.and moist ( I'll give you a tip how I did it).
A tad of salt, maybe a teaspoon
couple tablespoons of sweetener to feed the culture ( I used molasses).
and a couple containers of packaged Natto from your local Asian store (or the culture/bacteria from a place online like Gemcultures).
So the most important part is to keep it about 108 F. and fairly moist, with s fair air supply for 24 hours.
So here is what I did.
I got a big pot that our dehydrator top fit on, ran an external thermometer which I just hapenned to have (see honey, it's good I save all that stuff).
Then is a bowl I mixed the 2 packages of store bought Natto (the seed). With the salt and soybeans and molasses. I put  a plate on top of the bowl and then put the  bowl down in the pot and set the temp to around 108. You don't want it to go under 100F..... a little higher isn't as big of a deal cuz it's gotta be really hot to kill the Natto bacteria.  ( I played with the controls beforehand so I knew where to set the knob on the dehydrater). Then I put a towel I soaked in boiling water down in there too.  Now I just let her rip, checking to see if there was still water in it....and I let it go for 24 hours.

TA DAA.  See the strings...that means it worked.  Now you can age it in the fridge for from a day to a week....

Or if you are like me and can't wait you will put it on top of a nice lamb curry that you made for lunch, and are now having for dinner...

Divinaton: What the heck is it?

Ever flipped a coin to make up your mind? If so, then you have already tried your hand at a very basic form of Divination and didn't even know it...

In it's simplest form, Divination is simply a means of making the unknown - known! Nearly every culture around the world has some form of divination tool or ritual as a part of it's history.  When we think of Gypsys for example, the first thing that tends to come to mind is the woman with the crystal ball, a perfect example of divination dating back ages!

 Most people who practice divination believe that all things, living or not, are made up of energy and that this energy is all interconnected to the energy of all things around them. It's the basic idea that we are all a part of the universe and so is everything else, this makes us connected to both one another and to all things. When you are working with objects such as a pendulum, bones, tea leaves, runes or other forms, you are connected to them, and they are connected to the divine.

 One theory of how divination works is that the information obtained comes from within ourselves.  Our minds, bodies and subconscious are consistently collecting and processing data and information, most of which we are never aware of. So it's feasible to think that this information is accessible during divination. Could it simply be that the unconscious mind plays a part in how the Tarot cards are ordered?

There is also the idea that these events are truly random and that it's up to the reader to interpret the patters and meanings of what they see, rather than that the tool itself actually has any power itself. With this thinking those same Tarot cards would be shuffled and laid out in a completely random way and it's then up to the subconscious of the person reading them to decide what the relationship of those cards is to their reason for reading...

In both of these theories WE are the connection to the knowledge, whether you see that knowledge as coming from some divine source or not, the tools are simply tools that help us access that information, rather than giving information themselves.

There is also the theory called synchronicity, which simply means that everything is meaningfully interconnected to everything else. Random events, no matter how disconnected they seem, contain meaning and wisdom if their hidden meanings can be found. For certain types of divination such as Tarot or Runes this theory seems to fit.

Can divination really tell the future? Most popular divinatory practices seem to prove so. However physics teaches that events happen totally at random. Which brings us to the question of whether fortune telling is even possible, or if it's all just a guess. Do events maybe occur the way foretold simply because we expect them to and therefore we take the steps to make them happen that way?

Well, to find answers to these questions you need to discover what you believe. For those who believe solely in physics, there is no question that things happen at random and therefore can't actually be foretold using mystical or any other means. However, if you truly believe in physics without the possibility of the divine, you wouldn't be reading this in the first place, now would you?

So what are some of the types and tools of divination? I'll get in to detail with most of these more in further postings, but for today I'll just give you the basics. You may be at least generally familiar with some of these, while others may be completely new...

Astrology - The reading of celestial bodies (sun, moon, stars & planets) in order to tell the future
Augury - The reading of the movement and activities of birds
Bibliomancy - The reading of Books, frequently religious texts
Cartography - The reading of Cards. This includes Tarot, Angel Cards, and even regular playing cards.
Chiromancy - Palmistry - The reading of the palms of the hands.
Chronomancy - The study of time in order to predict lucky and unlucky times and days.
Extispicy - The reading of animal (or human) entrails
Geomancy - The reading of markings on the earth or how soil lands when thrown.
I Ching - Chinese divination using coins or sticks.
Lithomancy - The reading of Stones or Gems
Necromancy - communing with the spirits of the dead.
Numerology - The translation of numbers in to meaningful sequences
Oneiromancy - The reading of and translation of dreams
Onomancy - Divination surrounding the meanings behind names.
Pendulum - The use of a hanging pendulum to receive simply answers.
Pyromancy - The reading of Fire.
Rhabdomancy - The reading of Rods
Runecasting - The reading of Runes.
Scrying - The reading of reflective objects. Includes Crystal balls, Scrying Mirrors and Water.
Spirit Board - Talking Board use - Ouija board
Tasseomancy - The reading of Tea Leaves of Coffee Grounds

There are many other forms of divination found all around the world, and each of these categories tends to hold many variations and options as well. Some are easier than others to "master" and each person will be drawn to different forms. So if you're looking to get in to divination, and one form doesn't seem to fit, try another... As I said in further postings I will talk about some of these in more specific terms and how tos, so stay posted and discover what works for you.

Country Tips on Cilantro/Coriander

I love Cilantro, and to me, Coriander (cilantro seed) is like the essence of the Cilantro. Did I mention I love this stuff?  Well one problem I found in my salsa making days, and in cooking with Cilantro loses all it's flavour.  But on the other hand Coriander seems to maintain it's. So I use it when cooking.  Oh, in case you didn't know, Cilantero, in fresh leaf form mobilizes heavy metals out of your body, in fact it's one of very few substances that do this even across the blood brain barrior.... so for those of you worried about oncoming senility...(generally caused by heavy meatals that accumulate in the brain tissues totally screwing up the whole electrical process there) this stuff.
OK so every year we start with seed we saved from last year. Now here is a little tip, something I figured out that has saved me a lot of grief in the Springtime, when getting out last years seeds only to find that some little critters liked those seeds as much as I like sunflower seeds..... So here's the solution....that good ol food grade diatomeceaus earth. Microscopic skeletons of diatoms that are like razer sharp daggers to small little critters. (works on fleas and all kinds of nasty fur inhabiting creatuers as well)..... and it doesn't bother humans to touch, like chalk.... totally good to eat, doesn't bother pets, but you don't want to breathe a lot in of course, don't want to breath in dirt or old rags either.... but anyway, mix it in with your seed.  So we start out the year with a mess of this seed. Half I save for cooking, and totally broadcast the other in a huge area... I'm not going into the growin process here... gotta be on the Flow or it'll bolt every time.... But here now it's the end of the season.... Here is a huge harvest of coriander.
So,now that we have a fresh crop, what to do with all the leftover coriander seed.. ?
Well, I put it in a food processor and dusted it up as much as it wanted to go, then sieved it out with a fine screen..... Then put it in a salt shaker to use when cooking....
Yummmm, I love that stuff

What we can learn from the Westboro Baptist Church

For those of you who follow me on FaceBook or who know me from any number of websites have by now no doubt seen one of my rants about the Westboro Baptists... This morning I found out they are coming to a town near me, and frankly, I'm disgusted by it! And I have made it very clear that I will happily go counter-protest this... It should NOT be welcome here...

However, after my third or fourth rant this morning I decided to move on and get ready to go to the show tonight. While I was in the shower I started thinking...  "What makes these people do this? Why do they make themselves a target just to spread hate?" My first and gut answer (which still may not be so far off) was "They are a bunch of nutbags!" but then I thought about it, and I don't think that's really what's going on here.

I think this is a case of just the opposite... These people are doing something, which although hateful and disgusting, should in some ways be respected. - No, I didn't lose my mind, keep reading - These people are not doing this out of hate, out of disgust so much as they are standing up to do what they honestly, wholeheartedly believe is right.

Through the 60's and 70's it wasn't terribly uncommon to see sit-ins or picket groups for positive reasons, Peace, Love & Tolerance. However, today, we tend to ONLY see picket groups such as the WBC, and other hate groups. Groups which want to limit freedom, squash tolerance and abolish love have become the norm while those of us who have a firm belief in such things sit back and HOPE it happens and HOPE no one listens to these groups.

Which begs the question, what are we supposed to do? Well, I don't know that their is really a right answer. Obviously I would never support what the WBC is doing. On the other hand, the fact that these people are willing to make themselves a target simply because they choose to stand up for their beliefs (no matter how warped I find those beliefs to be) is admirable and something I have to have respect for.

I am very proud of who I am, of what I am and I am very secure in my beliefs, as you all know. However, I don't know that even I could muster the guts to travel the country, standing on a street corner with a sign boasting those beliefs... Does that make me bad? I sure hope not. Do I like what they are saying? NO! But I wish there were more groups who were willing to get out there and stand up for their beliefs - Of course I hope that there would be more people out there who would stand up for positive things rather than to spread hate and intolerance... 

Point is, for all their bigotry, all their hatred, all their intolerance - there is something to be learned here. The lesson may seem hidden, but it's clearly there, we should all be so proud of our beliefs and lifestyles to stand up for them, even if we have to stand alone!

Mastodon Ivory..the ultimate

Long ago and far away some nice folks brought me some mastadon ivory to do some work on for them. Seeing as how I had no "due date" it kept fallin behind all the stuff that did have a due date. But finally many moons later I have a few pieces to show for all that time. Looking at the picture Taryn took of the first one I did way back then, and seeing how thick the dust and dirt are on it.... you can tell it's been sitting in my shop a while.  Well here are some pics.
This first one is a technique I've only used a couple of times, a combination of scrimshaw....and carved down to give it depth.
Here's a nice Tree of Life.
This is the first one I tried...notice the dust. I left the "bark" of the tusk in it's natural state surrounding the carving so folks could see what the outside looked like in it's natural state..
This next one is a self portrait I did of myself in a previous life ....
........just kidding.
This was something new I tried. Heavy deep cuts and dots....
Mastodon sure takes a shine. Hard as rock and very dry and flaky....but awesome..

Magickal Correspondences: Days of the Week

You can keep this information (as well as future correspondence information) in your Book of Shadows! As I always say, it's better to have and not need, than need and not have!

  • Planet - Sun
  • Sign - Leo
  • Colors 
    • Gold
    • Yellow
    • Orange
    • White
  • Plant/Trees
    • Marigold
    • Heliotrope
    • Sunflower
    • Buttercup 
    • Cedar
    • Beech
    • Oak
  • Stones
    • Carnelian
    • Citrine
    • Tiger's Eye
    • Amber
    • Quartz Crystal
    • Red Agate
  • Planet - Moon
  • Sign - Cancer
  • Colors
    • Silver
    • White
    • Gray
  • Plant/Trees
    • Night Flowers
    • Willow Root
    • Orris Root
    • Birch
    • Motherwort
    • Vervain
    • White Rose
    • White Iris
  • Stones
    • Moonstone
    • Aquamarine
    • Pearl
    • Quartz
    • Crystal
    • Flourite
    • Geodes
  • Planet - Mars
  • Sign - Aries & Scorpio
  • Colors
    • Red
    • Orange
  • Plant/Trees
    • Red Rose
    • Cock's Comb
    • Pine
    • Daisy
    • Thyme
    • Pepper
  • Stones
    • Carnelian
    • Bloodstone
    • Ruby
    • Garnet
    • Pink
    • Tourmaline
  • Planet - Mercury
  • Sign - Virgo
  • Colors
    • Orange
    • Light Blue
    • Gray
    • Yellow
    • Violet
  • Plant/Trees
    • Fern
    • Lavender
    • Hazel
    • Cherry
    • Periwinkle
  • Stones
    • Aventureine
    • Bloodstone
    • Hematite
    • Moss Agate
    • Sodalite
  • Planet - Jupiter
  • Sign - Sagittarius & Pisces
  • Color
    • Purple
    • Royal Blue
    • Indigo
  • Plant/Tree
    • Cinnamon
    • Beech
    • Buttercup
    • Coltsfoot
    • Oak
  • Stones
    • Sagilite
    • Amethyst
    • Turquoise
    • Lapis
    • Lazuli
    • Sapphire
  • Planet - Venus
  • Sign - Libra & Taurus
  • Color
    • Green
    • Pink
    • Aqua
  • Plants/Trees
    • Pink Rose
    • Ivy
    • Birch
    • Heather
    • Clematis
    • Sage
    • Violet
    • Water Lilly
  • Stones
    • Rose Quartz
    • Moonstone
    • Pink Tourmaline
    • Peridot
    • Emrald
    • Jade
  • Planet - Saturn
  • Sign - Capricorn & Aquarius
  • Color
    • Black
    • Gray
    • Indigo
  • Plant/Tree
    • Myrrh
    • Moss
    • Hemlock
    • Wolfsbane
    • Coltsfoot
    • Nightshade
    • Fir
  • Stones
    • Jet
    • Smokey Quartz
    • Amethyst
    • Black Onyx
    • Snowflake Obsidian
    • Lava Pumice

We got "THE" call!

We are so excited to finally receive the long awaited call last Friday! I had resigned to the fact that it would likely be another month or so before we were matched, then when I arrived home from work Carlos calmly said "The agency called - you may want to call them back." WHAT!!!!! I called, we received the email with the info and her pictures and promptly started filming "our moment." We've been talking with Ean for months about his baby sister so it was the sweetest moment when we opened the photos and he said "baby sister." All night, he continued to ask for "baby sister" pointing to the computer. What a sweet moment the Lord gave our family.

So, we officially accepted the referral today and we've covered our fridge with her photos. I can't wait to see her. God is so good!

The Tool Box: Book of Shadows Part 2, Buying Premade

When I went through all the whats and whys about Book of Shadows that you CAN buy a pre-made or professionally made one if you chose to, rather than using a notebook or binder. As with any other major purchase this is something that you need to look in to prior to committing. There are some beautiful options out there, some of which have blank pages, others have some pre-written information already in them.

My personal suggestion is to stay clear of those options with pre-written pages unless they are basic stuff like history or the Rede or something along those lines that would be the same regardless of whether you write them out or not.  Because a BOS is such a personal thing, I don't suggest buying one full of pages with someone else's Ritual or Spell work in it. If you want to do that, there are lots of published BOSs out there to choose from and they will cost you HUNDREDS less.

I would also suggest if you are going to purchase one of these beautifully made books to also invest in some good writers. Cheap Ball Point Pens are great when you keep your BOS in a cheap note book, but when you have spent a large amount of money on the book itself or when you have chosen to create your own heirloom BOS, a cheap pen just down plays the worth.

If you are someone who has chosen to type your BOS because your hand writing is not what it could be, make sure that the book you purchase has printable or removable pages so that you can use them with your printer - you may also consider a program that adds some nicer Script style fonts, that will add some beauty.

I would also suggest, if you are going to put this kind of money in to purchasing a Pre-Made Book of Shadows be very selective over what goes inside it...  I am a huge fan of the idea of an Heirloom BOS, as that's what I plan to make mine in to. I want something beautiful, full of information and something my decedents will be proud to have, keep and use.

I covered all the things that you want to keep in YOUR personal BOS, but what do you want to keep in your Heirloom version? Well, as with anything else, it's really up to you, however, what I like to do is keep all the personal experiences in a separate "journal" (also called a Book of Mirrors). I have talked to a few people who have a family book of shadows, and each of them have stated for them it's better to keep all the technical and historical stuff in the family book and then keep their own separate journal/BOM for the personal aspects. This allows them all to share their writings, spells, information, rituals and so on, while still allowing them to keep their own experiences their own. It also cuts down on the great bulk of the book, which would honestly grow beyond limits if everyone in a family of 5 or 6 added their personal experiences to it.

One family had what I found to be a beautiful tradition. My friends grandmother started their family Book of Shadows. And like I mentioned here she kept her personal experiences separate in a number of journals/BOMs. When it came time for her to pass everything on she passed on everything, including her journals/BOMs, which the family keeps in their attic in a steamer trunk. But what made this personally beautiful to me is the fact that her mother and aunts have continued to add to the collection, as she is also now doing, and as she would like for her children to do (who are also being raised in the craft).

The final piece of advice I will give on this subject is simply - KNOW WHAT YOUR BUYING! Make sure you are either buying from someone locally or at least someone you can contact with questions. You want something that is well made with good quality materials. If you're crafty enough, it would be great to look at a few of these options and then make your own... But for those of us who are not so crafty, there are LOTS of places on and off line where you can find Beautiful, Hand Made Books of Shadows. I am listing a few of my favorites below for you to take a look through. I have contacted these makers and checked out their ratings and reviews as well as made sure they were okay with my listing their products here. But please make sure you contact them directly with any questions or concerns BEFORE you buy!

Check out these links and see what you like, what you think and/or get some ideas for yourself...

Mystic Moon Media  -  Wonderful Esty Shoppe!

Lapulia Studios

Magical Omaha

Allegheny Candles - Pittsburgh Local!

Brahm's Bookworks

Bewitching Books

13 Moons

From The Shadows - Located in UK

Pagan Parenting: Awesome Poem!

I do not know who the author of this poem is but I couldn't help but share it...

Hush Little Pagan Baby
Hush little baby don't you squall,
Momma's gonna buy you a crystal ball.
And if you still can't see beyond,
Momma's gonna buy you a magic wand.
And if that wand don't change your fate,
Momma's gonna teach you to levitate.
And if that astral makes you sick,
Momma's gonna buy you an incense stick.
And if that patchouli smells rank,
Momma's gonna buy you a sensory deprivation tank.
And if that tank dont float your bones,
Momma's gonna buy you some precious stones.
And if those gems dont ease your heart,
Momma's gonna buy you a natal chart.
And if your planets go berserk,
Momma's gonna buy you some body work.
And if your aura still needs kneading,
Momma's gonna buy you a past life reading.
And if your destiny stays hid,
Momma's gonna buy you a pyramid.
And if your chakras still feel stressed,
Momma's gonna take you on a vision quest.
And if power animals don't come to charm ya,
Sorry kid, it's just your karma.

The Tool Box: Book of Mirrors

Thanks to modern day cinema, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't know what a Book of Shadows is. However, when it comes to a Book of Mirrors, I've come across many long time Pagans who have never heard the term. Personally, I think this is simply because while a Book of Shadows includes more "public" information - history, rituals, traditions, spells and other things you may share with a coven, group or family - the Book of Mirrors is a very very personal thing.

So what is a Book of Mirrors? Well, very simply is a Magickal Journal. In olden days a mirror was often called "reflecting glass." THIS is the meaning we attach to this journal - Reflection. Unlike a Book of Shadows which has technical information, how to and maybe even advice for future generations, a Book of Mirrors is solely for the use of the writer. Although from time to time they are passed on as well.

The idea of a Dream Journal is nothing new to many people, and most Pagans make a point to include their personal magickal experiences either in their BOS or in a second volume. A Book of Mirrors is essentially that second volume! It's a book, almost always hand written, which is filled with Dreams, Visions, Meditations and even personal experiences with Divination, Ritual, Spells and the like.

For many, SOME of these pieces are kept within their personal BOS, and others are simply not kept. However, there is some importance with keeping these things both accessible and current. The most obvious reason for us to keep a record of these things is so we remember what happened, what we saw or where we went.

But why does this information matter? Well, for many Pagans, their connection to the world around them is something very important. They don't tend to draw a line between awake and asleep, which means that the realms of conscious and "unconscious" are more easily blurred for them. Many find reason and meaning in dreams which can only be discovered upon reflection. Almost all will tell you that experiences through Meditation are not only personal but meaningful.  It's also very helpful to keep a personal record of ones more magickal experiences.

So, what is the difference between a Book of Mirrors and an every day Journal? Simple, a Journal may be filled with what happened in your life. Who did you spend your day with and what did you do? Who said what? What did you have for dinner?? Your Book of Mirrors should be filled, not with the mundane, but with the magickal! If you encounter an especially magickal moment during your mundane daily life, there isn't any reason you can't include it, but the majority of your daily life wouldn't be worthy of including in a Magickal Journal...

The simple difference is that while the purpose of a mundane every day Journal is simply to remember, the purpose of a Book of Mirrors is to reflect! To those who keep a Book of Mirrors, it's a blessed part of their day to pick up that book and begin to write, to read over old passages and see how they affected today, and to use what they have written as a way to help them make the proper choices long term...

Pagan Children Stories: Just An Ordinary Child

An Earth Mother story by Elspeth Sapphire

There was a child.

Just an ordinary child.

Yet in one way, he was not so ordinary. This child cared.

He cared about his mommy and daddy. He cared about his dog. He cared about Mrs. Sally, his next door neighbor. He even cared about grumpy Mr. Green who lived in the ugly house on the corner.

"Mommy, if I lived in such an ugly house, I might be grumpy, too!" Then he waited until Mr. Green left the house and went down to sweep his walk.

The child was always doing something helpful. His mother would get up in the morning to find the kitchen clean and shiny.

"Oh! Is it brownies?" his mother would exclaim.

The child would only smile and say, "No, just me!"

He helped because he cared.

Then came a day where people made fun of him for caring. "Why waste your time helping?" they asked.

When he tried to help, people either yelled at him for what he did or said that it wasn't enough. Slowly the caring turned from love to dislike to finally hate. He started doing things just because they hurt other people.

One day, his mother yelled at him. The child waited until she was out of the room, then picked up a ball and threw it at the vase that his mother had cherished since she was a child. As he stared at the shattered pieces, the child realized that he finally gone too far.

Without stopping to think, he ran out the door and down the walk. He ran until he was out of breath. Looking for somewhere to hide, the child noticed a small woods by the side of the road. He slipped into the cool shade and threw himself down on the grass and wept.

How could he have done such a thing? He loved his mother. How could she love him now? Why should she care?

As he laid, grass tickling his face, a breeze began to blow between the trees. The child ignored it, clenching his fists around clumps of grass. The breeze only blew harder. Then it began to whisper his name.
Amazed, the child sat up. "Who are you?" he whispered, looking all around the trees.

"I am a mother...just like your mother." The voice sounded a sigh.

"But where are you?" The child was puzzled by this voice without a body.

"I am everywhere, my child, for I am the Earth. I heard your pain and answered your Call."

Tears began to fall down the cheek of the child. "I didn't call anyone! Besides, I am a bad person and no one likes me."

A laugh now echoed through the breeze. It ruffled his hair like a caress. "Silly child! Do you think that just because you were angry, your mother will love you less?" The voice grew sad. "My children are always doing hurting things...both to themselves and to me. They try to destroy me time after time. And I, too, sometimes get angry. Yet..."

The voice was silent for a long moment. "Yet, they are my children. And I love them. Perhaps, if I care enough, someday they will learn to love instead of hate...create instead of destroy. Someday..."

The boy sat silent. He thought about how he used to care about his fellow men. Then he let all that caring turn to angry and hate.

"Mother Earth? Maybe if I love enough people...if I will teach them to love in return." "Perhaps..."
The child jumped up. "I will! And I will start with my mother!"

As he exited the woods, the child heard a whisper in the wind, "Never be ashamed to care!"

Hurrying home, the child was surprised to find his mother sitting weeping in front the broken pieces of the vase. *She must be more upset about the vase than I thought.* he thought as he stood in the doorway.


To his shock, his mother jumped up and hugged him tight. "I was so worried about you." She brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Surely, you know that you are more important than a vase."

The love in his mother's eyes made the child feel strange. She was more concerned about him? In that moment, all the anger that he had created to keep him from caring melted away. Standing in his mother's arms, he vowed that he wouldn't let anything ever stop him from caring.

There was a child.

Just an ordinary child.

Yet, in one way he was not so ordinary. This child cared.

Freedom Of Religion

In the wake of all the drama surrounding the Muslim Community Center going up in New York I felt it was important to address the issue of Religious Freedom...  Many people in my experience are more than willing to spout off about the First Amendment and their Freedom of Religion when it fits their needs. Yet, in recent weeks, more than ever before, I have seen a HUGE outcry for discrimination based solely on Religion. I've seen it from every group imaginable and all in all it's both frightens and angers me...

The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees us the freedom of Religion. But what does that really mean? What is the first amendment?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The First Amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits the making of any law "respecting the establishment of religion," impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

 Originally, the First Amendment only applied to the Congress. However, starting with Gitlow v. New York, (1925), the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to each state, including any local government.

Okay, so what this all boils down to is that our first Amendment Guarantees us protection against any and all legal actions which limit out religious freedoms. However, it does not unfortunately guarantee us protection from the beliefs or misconceptions of others. What it DOES do though is allow all of us to opportunity to express our religious beliefs, enjoy our religious traditions and live the lifestyle we choose without threat of religious persecution by legal establishments or law makers.

In addition to this First Amendment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin. While this law too, has since been amended to include sexuality and disabilities the basics of this Act have never been altered. The original purpose of this act was to prohibit employment discrimination, however, this part to has been extended in order to stop discrimination in other aspects of our lives as well.

Because of the combination of both the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Act, we are living in a society today which gives us the right to equality, regardless of our religious alignment... And also because of these laws that no one else has the ability to refuses us employment, service, entrance, or provide us with unequal treatment based on those alignments.

But what does all this mean in real world terms? And who does it REALLY apply to? Well, simply put it applies to ALL of us - Every single American, regardless of the popularity of their beliefs. That means that be we Pagan, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, NO ONE has the right to stop us from having the same rights as everyone else. It also means that WE do NOT have the right to stop others from having the same rights as we have simply because of their religious beliefs.

We don't HAVE to agree with everyone else, and we are free to believe they are wrong or that their religion in general is wrong. And thanks to the clause about Freedom of Speech we even have the right to make our standing known... However, what we are NOT free to do is to try and force our beliefs on others or try and force them to conform to what we believe they should believe or do - Even when we don't understand or agree with their beliefs!

Because the drama surrounding the Muslim Community Center is what inspired this post, and because it's currently on the minds of many, I am going to use this as my example. Because of the actions of a group of Terrorists and because of the general misunderstandings and propaganda people choose to believe surrounding Islam and those of the Muslim faith, the simple building of a Community Center has become headline news.

Thousands of Americans have come out against the building of this Center solely because of the religious affiliation of those creating it. A few of these Americans have even gone so far as to involve legal authorities and create legal red tape for the group in general. However, because of the laws in place today, these actions MUST be seen as discrimination and MUST be shot down! It would be unconstitutional and illegal to stop ANY religious group from building a Center - for worship or for other purposes - simply because of their religious beliefs.

Personally, I don't understand the drama around this issue, mostly because I am someone to does her best to find out the FACTS before I jump on to either end of an argument. But also because, even if I didn't do my best to find the facts before making judgment, I am a FIRM believer in FREEDOM! I understand that I don't have to like something or someone, but that my beliefs shouldn't in any way impede on anothers rights.

As a Pagan, religious freedom is a HUGE deal for me. Because it is this freedom which allows me to have the life I want, to educate others and myself, to have this blog, to build a website and openly state "I am a Pagan!" Without that freedom, my rights can be removed at ANY time, and if you simply take a moment to look around the world, look through our history books you'll notice that Pagan's rights tend to be the FIRST to go. And personally, I don't want to do anything that aids in the removal or revocation of my rights.

Now, how could standing up against something like a Muslim Community Center aid to the removal of our rights as Pagans? Simple. Every action taken against ANY religious community adds to the erosion of those rights in the public eye. And once we start to allow those lines in the sand to be drawn, once we allow ourselves to see other religions as less deserving we are opening the doors for others to do the same to us. Which opens the door for the majority rule to take over - once again. This is NOT something we can allow...

I want to end this post by asking each of you what you see as more important? The FREEDOM which we are lucky enough to be blessed with, or the removal of that freedom from another group...  In the end there can only be ONE answer - In order to preserve OUR freedom, we MUST stand firmly on the side of Freedom and Civil Rights, regardless of our feelings toward ANY religious group which may be involved! To take any other action not only shows our lack of gratefulness of those Freedoms which we all take for granted, but also erode our right to have them!

The Celtic Knot

The Celtic Knot is one of the most recognized and well known designs in Celtic jewelry & art. Knot designs are found throughout ancient stone art & tattoos, in manuscripts and just about anywhere the Celtic people left their mark throughout their travels. Knot designs are not limited to the Celtic peoples, in fact similar designs exist in Norse and even Chinese cultures. 

While many guides to Celtic art exist, all complete with meanings, the meanings of these designs have largely been lost to time. We currently know of NO authentic knots with meanings of love, loyalty, sisterhood or any of the other common things people attribute to the designs. The never ending, interweaving designs seem to suggest themes of eternity and interconnectedness, and knots may have been made at one time to trick evil spirits. However the actual spiritually connected meanings behind these works can only be guessed at today.

The many figures of interwoven people and animals could very well have represented the dependence of the worlds of nature and human life had on one another. Two or more knots laced together could easily have symbolized lovers, family, hunters & prey, God & man or any number of other meanings. Some knots no doubt were used as magickal talismans for protection or blessings. Today we tend to see the more decorative knots over those with purpose and reason behind them. Many knot designs are found in early Christian manuscripts as well as other written works, however, these would have been included out of beauty over a spiritual meaning.

We have almost nothing in the way of Celtic records, as they themselves lived by oral tradition and simply didn't have writings to leave. Because of this most symbols have been interpreted by archaeologists and other scientists or scholars who studied the symbols in context. Some of the ancient symbols of the Celts have had their meanings altered over time as the influence of Christianity influenced the cultures. As a general rule the shape of the design  often determines the "meaning" of the knotwork. Triskele & Trefoil shapes should generally been regarded as Triskeles.  Bird, fish or animal designs usually represent the attributes of the animals. Circles tend to represent unity or eternity. Spirals depict reincarnation or cycles of life, death and rebirth. Triangles and trefoils represent the dominions of earth, sea and sky. Squares or four-fold shapes are "Shield knots," symbols of protection.  None of the authentic Celtic Knot designs seem to be identifiable as Mother, Brother, Sister or Family, these instead have been altered knots to fit meanings or quickly assumed meanings rather than one based on knowledge or understanding, these however were simply not a part of the basic Celtic way of thought... 

Get Loose: The Benefits of Loose Tea

**This article is not specifically something of a Pagan nature. However, many of us in the Pagan community do our best to strive for a more natural and naturally healthy style of life. Because of this I felt this article and the links to follow it were of a great benefit. Please take the time to read though things and check out our Teaporia Shoppe  for yourself...**

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Article By: Bill Waddington

Similar to the debate of choosing pods vs. brewed coffee, the long-running discussion of loose-leaf tea vs. teabags rages on. Most vendors immediately choose teabags whether they believe they are cheaper or succumbing to the myth that they are more convenient. What many vendors don’t realize is that loose teas provide a premium quality, flavor, merchandising options, and a surprisingly lower priced product that can’t simply be found in teabags alone.

You should know right from the start that I don’t like teabags. I don’t make teabags. I don’t sell teabags. But as a tea seller I feel it is vital to look critically at the question of loose vs. bagged tea.

I refer to myself as a tea seller but that term also embraces coffee shop owners, tea growers, tea packers, tea brokers, tea wholesalers, tea retailers, restaurateurs, grocers - we all sell tea. And one of the most fundamental decisions every tea seller makes is whether to market and sell loose leaf tea or bagged tea. With all of the teabag tweaking and repackaging that has been going on in the last few years, many folks jump immediately onto the teabag band wagon, not realizing there is a whole range of other options to consider.

When considering this question of loose vs. bagged I believe there are two factors you should consider before all others, quality and cost (or profit margin). Of course there are additional issues to consider such as convenience, consumer trends, meeting quantity demands etc.

The Quality of Loose vs. Bagged

The upper range of loose leaf tea is of tremendously higher quality than any bagged tea. This is a fact that all great teas are loose leaf teas. There is no great tea in teabags. I realize there are some teabag manufacturers sputtering with indignation and getting red in the face right now. But I stand by my statement; there are no great teas in teabags. By great tea I mean competition level or world class tea. There are no teabags that equal the quality of the best loose leaf teas.

This is not to say that all teabags have poor quality tea in them, far from it. I personally have a fondness for Typhoo teabags. There are many teabags that have good tea in them. And of course not all loose leaf is great or even good tea. It should also be noted that at some point personal taste enters the equation. You may find that you may happen to like a particular inexpensive tea, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But the fact remains that the best quality teabag is nowhere near the best quality loose-leaf tea. Not even close.

The Cost (Profit Margin) of Loose vs. Bagged

When looking at the cost or profit margin issue, the gap between loose tea and bagged tea is even more dramatic. Simply put, there is a phenomenally higher profit margin in loose tea than in teabags. Looking at wholesale prices, you can easily purchase good to excellent loose leaf tea for between one - eight cents per cup. You can purchase great and competition level loose teas for 10 - 20¢ per cup.

Mass-market teabags (generally containing mediocre to average tea) seem to run between 10 - 20¢ per cup. Supposedly better quality teabags seem to run between 20 - 30¢ per cup.

The trendy super-premium teabags seem to run between 30 - 70¢ per cup. And these super-premium teabags are still not as good as the best loose-leaf teas, despite the fact that they are 5 to 10 times more costly.

At any price level you can always get a dramatically higher quality loose-leaf tea for the same price than a teabag. And when comparing loose and bagged teas of similar quality (a difficult task at best) bagged teas will always be dramatically higher priced.

Simply put loose-leaf tea is one of the few arenas in the world where you can get a much higher quality at a much lower cost.

So then the question changes from, “Why bother with loose-leaf tea?” to why would anyone want teabags (with their higher costs and lower quality).

The Myth of Teabag Convenience
The primary reason people choose teabags is “The Myth of Teabag Convenience.” This is the big gun of teabag advocates, that teabags are much more convenient than loose-leaf tea. This is just a myth but it has been around so long, that it has almost achieved the status of accepted wisdom. But it is simply not true.

We sell lots of loose-leaf tea to restaurants. Restaurant managers are some of the most practical hard-nosed individuals I know. Without exception they have a strongly held belief that teabags are less work than loose-leaf teas. So one of my jobs is shooting holes in the myth of teabag convenience.

I always ask if they are concerned that converting to loose-leaf tea will be extra work (i.e. less convenient) for the servers. Invariably the answer is yes. So I offer them a challenge. I will prepare loose leaf tea and one of their experienced servers will prepare teabags as they have always done. We almost always finish at the same time. And then I have them taste the two teas. The loose-leaf tea almost sells itself. There are so many clever ways to steep loose-leaf tea today (do-it-yourself disposable teabags, in-cup or in-pot brewing baskets etc.) that it doesn’t take any longer to prepare a two-cup (standard restaurant size) pot of tea, than it takes to prepare a two-cup pot of tea with teabags.

Reasons for Selling Teabags

Another rationale for marketing and selling teabags is that with teabags you can achieve a more consistent flavor profile over time and over large market areas. There is definitely some truth to this. Unfortunately this more consistent flavor profile is usually defined as a lowest common denominator of quality. But clearly there is a large and ongoing demand to address this need for consistency. Teabags may be best suited to fill this need.

Another rationale for marketing and selling teabags is that you can bring your costs, and thus the final retail price down. In fact there are many people who believe that teabags achieved a dominance in the industry because it gave growers/packers, and manufacturers an avenue to sell lower quality tea. While it is true that you can bring some of your costs down (by using cheaper tea), more importantly you will also be bringing your profit margin down. In the long run that is a very unhealthy business model.

The truth is there is a definite market and place for teabags, but not at the exclusion of loose-leaf tea. Loose-leaf tea will always offer an opportunity of higher quality with lower costs. It is certainly great to see the tweaking and redesigning of the teabag over the last few years. And although much of this redesign of the teabag is pure marketing and hype there seems to be a decided effort to figure out ways to help the teabag deliver a better quality cup.

There are some who would say that this argument, that loose-leaf tea delivers higher quality with lower costs, is all fine and good, but it is only applicable on a very small scale (like a specialty tea store) or just in a food-service setting. I disagree strongly. McDonalds would be much better served if they would convert to a decent quality loose-leaf tea. The tea they presently offer to their customers is really dreadful. They would be able to achieve lower costs while delivering a noticeably better tasting product. The principle of delivering higher quality with lower costs is valid for any business, large or small, food-service or retail.

Additional Benefits of Loose Tea

In addition to better quality and higher profit margins, there are some other good reasons to market and sell loose-leaf tea. First, there are many more flavor choices and blend options available with loose-leaf tea. In fact with loose-leaf teas it is very easy and affordable to create custom and proprietary blends, signature items that are absolutely unique to your customer’s business. With teabags there is a huge economy of scale necessary that makes it difficult and much more costly to create proprietary blends.

Also in retail settings (from coffee shop to tea store to traditional grocery store) there are the additional sales of other tea brewing/infusing devices, when you are selling loose-leaf teas.

Another reason to focus on loose-leaf tea is that is where the growth is. Teabag sales in the U.S. are flat, at best. Specialty loose-leaf teas are on a very healthy upward trend.

In addition, I believe there are many more merchandising opportunities using loose-leaf tea vs. teabag tea. Loose-leaf teas are much more eye appealing than another box teabags on the shelf.

But, I am not saying, “Don’t carry teabags.” No. A market has been created for them, and as a seller of tea you need to be attuned to that market.

But keep in mind this fundamental truth, loose-leaf tea is one of the few things in the world that delivers much higher quality at a much lower cost. Shouldn’t this be one of your primary goals in working with all of your customers?

About the Author: Bill Waddington is the founder of TeaSource, a Minnesota based specialty tea wholesale company. As such he imports and blends some of the finest teas from around the world. Bill has also served on the board of directors of the American Premium Tea Institute, was the chairman of the 2004 Specialty Tea Institute Symposium, and was a featured speaker at the China International Tea Expo, Beijing 2005.

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Asatuar Values

Generally the Asatruar are very principled people, but that doesn't mean their faith is without joy. If a life is well lived there should be plenty of time to gather with kin and celebrate, but there are also times to work hard and perhaps even to battle. The Asatuar Values are reflected in the Nine Noble Virtues, which offer a moral Compass. They also make consideration for their reputation and the honor of their families will remain after their death.

Nine Noble Virtues

The Nine Noble Virtues provide a guide for living a good, just life. These values are not recorded in ancient lore but were developed by modern Asartu organizations based on the working in the Havamal, which is a collection of poems in the Poetic Eddas. Most Asatru consider them to be ample moral guidance. The Virtues are not rules like the Ten Commandments, but are single words that embody important personality traits.

   1. Courage: This is nor merely the lack of fear in the face of danger. It's also the courage to stand up for the rights of others and yourself. It's the courage to live according to these moral values even when it seems all around you are in violation.
   2. Truth: Honesty, which is the key part of maintaining personal honor. It's also allegiance to your gods, your religious beliefs and your family.
   3. Honor:  What drives you to act according to the Virtues and what is right. Without honor, you are nothing. It precedes your arrival in new places and follows you after death.
   4. Fidelity:  Being faithful to your commitments, both to your friends and family as well as the world at large.
   5. Discipline: This is really self-discipline, working hard to keep yourself on the correct path. It's also getting yourself back to work if you're relaxed a little to long.
   6. Hospitality:  Welcoming people warmly in to your home and treating others with respect. It's also treating your house spirits with the dignity owed them.
   7. Industriousness:  Not just working hard at your chosen career, but working hard at your faith. It is forming a kindred if you can't find one to join.
   8. Self-Reliance:  Instead of or in addition to seeking help from other people or the gods, you do what is necessary to fulfill your own needs and desires.
   9. Perseverance: Continuing in the fact of difficulty, whether it's in your personal life or a challenge to your faith from the outside.

Oaths and Oath -Breaking

Oaths made by and between Asatruar are taken very seriously. An oath is much more than a casual promise - it's a pact and a solemn promise to preform some action. A popular type of oath is the oath of Frith, in which Asatruar promise to uphold the honor of a person or the group as a while. Oaths can be sworn during rituals called blots or sumbels. They can also be made outside of rituals. It isn't usually necessary to write them down, but witnesses may be present.

An oath should be broken only in dire circumstances. In cases where keeping an oath would directly harm either "oath-brother/sister" the oath may be broken, however you should do your best to uphold an oath at all costs. Because oaths are taken so seriously it's a good idea to consider your oaths very carefully prior to making them and to avoid making oaths until you get to know the other person well. You could view an oath similar to signing a contract, if you wouldn't sign a legally binding contract with this person for this propose, you shouldn't be taking the oath.

An amazing week, on the Flow

This week I was determined to Create a ton of stuff. Last week I cut and polished a whole lot of of cabs (pieces of wood to work on)... So all I had to do was create. It went amazingly well. I got four trees carved for the Bridesmaids of a wedding (plus one I'm going to gift the bride). I did a ton of inlays and a couple pairs of earrings and a really cool Dragon Cauldron spoon.... Good week.
I was going to string some up tonight but realized I'm all out of beading wire. So I'm hopin we can watch a movie on Netflix, eat some organic popcorn with organic Ghee and Brewers yeast...and just kick back for a few... Sounds good. Looking forward to market tomorrow.

Are you a Real Pagan?

Okay, so this is coming out of the numerous posts and books I have read that seem to reinforce the idea that you have to follow a SET belief or live your life a SPECIFIC way in order to be a Real Pagan. I've seen some rather nasty comments lately on a few of my sites and in groups because they feel others aren't living a proper Pagan life. This idea seriously sickens me.

While there ARE set beliefs, teachings and traditions surrounding certain Pagan Traditions, Paganism as a whole is a very individualized belief system. Each of us has to follow our heart and there is no RIGHT or WRONG way to be a Pagan. In my opinion, that's what makes Paganism so wonderful.

IF you choose to belong to a specific tradition or to join a coven, it's important that you both agree with and follow their set beliefs and teachings, however, if you don't agree with them, you don't have to try and force yourself to believe that way, you can simply find a different path, or follow a solitary path. Solitary and Eclectic Pagans are by no means LESS of a Pagan or LESS than worthy of the title or Pagan than anyone in a coven, grove or group... They are simply on a different path.

I've heard some comments lately such as: "Real Pagans believe in One Goddess and One God," "Real Pagans don't eat meat" and "Real Pagans call the corners during ritual." Frankly, I would love to tell all those people "Real Pagans Don't Judge!" But then I would be right there with them...

Point is this... There is NO right or wrong, no black or white... Paganism is ALL about individualism and a relationship with the divine... Paganism is NOT a rule based organized religion or something which has to adhered to... You won't find any sacred texts or all powerful, rule setting hierarchy here, if that's what you want, you should rethink your religious choices!

The Tool Box: Book of Shadows

While a Book of Shadows is not a MUST for all Pagans, but it's something that many keep. Especially those who practice magick or witchcraft. However, even for those who don't practice magick, a Book of Shadows is a great thing to create. A Book of Shadows is simply a place for Pagans or Witches to keep a record of their beliefs, experiences and knowledge. For those which children or a coven it can work as not just a personal record, but a record of group experiences and teachings. Many parents choose to pass them on or leave them for further generations upon their death.

Contrary to what we see in movies, a Book of Shadows is not an evil thing, it's not made of the flesh of babies, it's not a living being, it's not signed by some evil force - it's simply a book, written by a Witch/Pagan/Coven as a way to keep all their knowledge together in one place.

Some people keep a "magickal journal" which is similar to a BOS, but tends to only include their experiences. And others keep a Book of Mirrors in addition to a magickal journal or Book of Shadows...  However, I will cover a Book of Mirrors in another blog.

Many Pagans & Witches believe that a BOS should be hand written, however, with all of the advancements in technology, there are more options today than there were years ago and as with anything else, this to is being embraced by Pagans and witches... Many choose to either keep a "digital back up" BOS or simply type it out. There are advantages to both options, so it's all about what fits you!

Handwritten Version Pros & Cons:  Your Book of Shadows is considered to be a sacred tool, and should be consecrated as any other tool would be. A hand written or at least physical version of a BOS, is obviously much easier to do this with. Also, by hand writing the information and your spells and rituals in to your book it helps you to transfer your energy from you to the book but also helps you to memorize - or at least partly remember - what is in the book...  However, if your hand writing or spelling are, well, less than perfect - or less than legible - and you plan to pass your book on hand writing may be a hindrance.

If you are planing on creating a hand written version, you have a few more choices to make. Many people simply buy a notebook and go, while others prefer to spend the money on a more pricey "heirloom" option, and still others prefer a binder and loose leaf paper. Some things to consider when making a choice is what do you want to include, how large could this get and do you have somewhere to keep multiple books should you run out of room in a traditional notebook or "heirloom" type of book or journal...  Is decoration important to you? If so consider decorative paper, page protectors and a binder. This will allow you to have the fancy look without needing to be an artist.

Digital Version Pros & Cons:  If you plan to keep a digital BOS, only, there can be many complications. First, while it is a great way to stay organized, a simply computer virus or internet crash can send all your hard work out in to oblivion never to be seen again - hours, days, even years of work can be gone in a small instant. It's also nearly impossible to consecrate a digital copy and unless you'll still need to memorize or print things out prior to doing ritual or magickal workings. On the other hand, if you belong to an online group or circle, trading and sharing information is easier when all you have to do is click send. IF you belong to a group which only exists online an online group BOS, may work well for you all. And having the ability to simply run a search on your files and pull up everything you are looking for over having to thumb through a book has it's obvious advantages.

Typed Version Pros & Cons:  A typed version falls somewhere between the other two options, and for me has always been the best option. While it's not going to absorb your energy in the same way as a written version will, it's still something which is physical and thus something you can both consecrate and imbue with energy. In addition you don't have to worry about things like spelling and messy handwriting. AND it's easy to personalized with different fonts, bold or italicized options, graphics, pictures and/or colors... It's also easy to create a digital backup (just in case) in the process, since you're going to type it up anyways - you might as well save it... A typed version is also very easy to organize, with the added ability to add or remove pages as needed... Again, here, I'm a fan of the binder & page cover idea - simply because it makes things so much easier and helps to keep things neat - PLUS, you can always buy a larger binder as your book grows!

So what should you include in your Book?

Because a Book of Shadows is a very personal thing, it's up the the individual what actually goes in to it. However, there are a few basics which most people do choose to include...  First I'll go over these basics and then give you a peak in to my own book...

Here are some basic categories - you don't have to include each of them, nor do you have to fill them as you feel others would - use what information YOU want to use.

  • History - This could be the history of your path or just general information that you feel is relevant.
  • Beliefs, Laws or Rules of your Tradition or Coven - if you're a solitary you could simply write in what guidelines you believe in.
  • Your WHY Statement - This is a "letter to the writer" (YOU) about why you chose this path, why are you here and what do you plan to get out of it. You could also include your dedication ceremony here.
  • Magickal Alphabets - Some Pagans choose to use magickal alphabets when writing spells, or when using writings during magickal workings. So it's good to have and practice them.
  • Correspondence Tables - Stones & Crystals, Colors, Moon Phases, Herbs, Gods & Goddesses - It's always better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it!
  • Gods & Goddesses - Include Gods & Goddesses you work with or who fit your tradition or path, if you're eclectic start with those who call to you and build from there. In addition to the basic info, include a once over on their myth and/or family tree
  • Sabbat Information & Rituals
  • Other Rituals - Esbat, Dedications, Initiations, Wiccaning, Handfasting & Handparting - should you have and or need them. This section will grow over time.
  • Herbs, Flowers & Plants - Chances are your understanding about the magickal properties as well as that of the mundane, medicinal and day to day uses of different herbs and plants will grow over time - so will this section.
  • Divination - Both a how to and a record - Tarot, Runes, Scrying - whatever you're comfortable using.
  • Sacred Texts - Things like the Wiccan Rede, Charge of the Goddess and other important writings that don't really fit elsewhere.
  • Magickal Recipes - As you collect recipes for oils, incense, or herb blends, keep them in your BOS. You may even want to include a section of food recipes for Sabbat celebrations. 
  • Spells - As you write or collect them, include them
  • Personal Record - This is where you keep your "journal" of what happens and when. When did you cast a spell? What happened? And so on...
Now, as I stated prior, you don't need to include everything. These are just ideas for what you can include, what you feel is important. And as you grow, so will your book, so don't feel you need to include everything on day one. If you want to include a section on God & Goddess Myths, don't expect to have all the information at once, and it would take ages to write or type it all up at once. So simply focus on one at a time.

My Book is growing all the time. I started small and simple and over time it's blossomed beautifully! Here's what I have so far:

  • History and Timeline - I mostly add little bits and pieces as I learn them. Cultural and Religious
  • Tools - Basic & How to information
  • Magickal Associations - Colors, Gems, Herbs, Gods, Trees & more
  • Myth - Gods, Goddesses & others
  • Sabbats & Esbats - Basic information & Rituals
  • Other Rituals - Blessings, Paganings, Dedication & more
  • Divination 
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  • Personal Record
Okay, as you can see, I'm a little bit of an over achiever... But I like to have everything at my finger tips. I started with a small $.50 three ring binder and it's grown from that in to the big 3" type... Don't feel inadequate if your book doesn't look like ones you see in movies or online, what is most important is that it's YOURS!

Breaking Stereotypes

People from all walks of life, in all corners of the US tend to buy in to the same stereotypes when it comes to religious beliefs. We get them from watching TV & Movies, reading popular books and comics and from those around us. Many people grow up within strict religious beliefs, these people tend to have a stronger belief against others than those who do not grow up this way, which is easy to understand. However, because of the strong stereotypes and media propaganda which is spread throughout the US (and other similar countries) even those who do their best not to be involved with religious bigotry get sucked in to these same general beliefs. Now, what does that mean? Well, it means that when people hear words like "Christian" or "Church" the think normal, good but when they hear words like "Pagan," "Witch," "Coven" or "Wiccan" they think evil, demonic or weird.

Even many people who have or do know Pagans or Wiccans, easily buy in to the propaganda surrounding their traditions or beliefs. In the majority of these cases people simply believe what they hear or see on TV or in literature. In recent years there have been a few moives, tv shows and popular books which have shown Pagans, Witches and/or Wiccans in a better, more honest light - however these are still few and far between and are still the great minority. On the flip side of that since the early 80's popular movies like "The Witches of Eastwick" and "The Craft" have shown witches and Paganism in general in a negative, all be it entertaining, light. These movies tend not only to fall in line with what people already believe but help to reinforce old die hard stereotypes left over from more ignorant times in our history.

As a Pagan and a Witch, I strongly believe the ONLY way to counteract these beliefs is to act. We can all sit back and wine about being oppressed, abused and hated, but that does nothing to change how people perceive us. However, confronting and changing hard set beliefs is not an easy thing to do. No one of us can make so big of a difference that the world takes notice.

So what CAN we do? It's easy to look at the world and just say "it's too big, I can't make a difference!" But one thing we need to remember is that with any similar situations through history it takes a great many actions by a great many individuals to change the thinking of a generation. Lets take for example the civil rights movement in the 50's and 60's. While Martin Luther King and Malcom X were responsible for taking charge and motivating people, without those people to motivate their words and actions alone could not have made the impact they did. It took the thousands of people behind them, supporting them to make the changes which have lead to the general acceptance for African Americans which we have today... Although I will admit that the Civil Rights Fight is far from over and far from complete.

So what is the point to all this? It's easy to become involved with a movement when we have a Martin Luther King to follow behind, but what happens when you feel like you're alone in the crowd? What happens where there is no powerful speaker to back up? Is it still possible to make a change? Is it still possible to alter how people see Pagans? Witches? and other similar groups even without a big loud movement? YES - Without doubt, YES!

Now, I am in no way suggesting that you become that leader. I am in no way saying you should go out of your way to make yourself a target, as many of these Movement leaders have done...  However, as with any movement it takes millions of little nudges to move a mountain...  So even a small step once in a while can contribute to the bigger movement.

Starting small is easier than you may think! People tend to think change has to be hard, it has to take lots of time or money... In truth, it doesn't take either. The FIRST step is believing in what you are doing. As a Pagan, most of us do our best to live by our beliefs and love of nature...  So, why not make our first steps in that direction? Every little thing we do to further our natural lifestyle helps more than us - it helps the earth, and it helps the movement. HOW? Well, we are living in a world where "green" is in. Everyone is doing their best to be green...  So why not do our best to "fit in" to that movement, because it is already here and it is something that people will see! Make a point to use green products, reusable bags, recycle, re-purpose our belongings...  People WILL take notice!  Want to make them notice faster? Get some friends together & clean up a park or a road side. Have a study group or a coven? Why not adopt a highway? Raise money to clean up a park or playground?

The point to all this is that small steps DO make a difference and WILL make a point. People see Pagans as evil, demonic, uncaring people. The first step to proving them wrong is proving that Pagans are loving, caring and good natured. Helping our earth, helps us all... And IF you can get a group together to put their name on a project or rededicate a park to, it makes a HUGE statement to the surrounding community.

Want to make a bigger impact? Start a study group, or invite others to the one you already have. Join a local pagan group and get them involved... As with any movement, the biggest struggle is how people outside the movement see those who are in it. Give people no cause to see you as evil. Treat your beliefs as a way of life and be willing to be open to questions. DO NOT open yourself to hate, that's not what I am saying. However, acting secretive or refusing to answer questions only furthers the belief that Pagans have something to hide.

IF you're still in the closet, not a problem! You can still make a difference by supporting Pagan groups or causes. AND by doing your best to live a lifestyle which reflects your beliefs. Pagan charities are few and far between, however they DO exist, and there is a growing number of them. There are also a growing number of Pagan Civil Rights Groups which need support as well. If you aren't willing just yet to come out and be in the open with your beliefs or openly support things in public, it's not something to be ashamed of, and is completely up to you... The internet gives us access to hundreds of opportunities to make a change and support the cause without "coming out."

Change comes in small waves. FIRST we have to change how people see us an individuals. SECOND comes changing how others see us as a whole. ONLY then can there be true equality without overall prejudice.

Pagan Parenting: Sleepy Time Rhymes & Prayers

I found these on another site - or a few actually, and found them to be beautiful. So I wanted to pass them on. As I find more I will add them!

Bed Time Chant/Prayer
~Author Unknown

Conjure circle round the bed
Where I lay my weary head.
That in it's gold and silver light,
I will spend a peaceful night.

The Magick (a bedtime chant)
~Author Unknown

O golden light,
O silver light,
Please, weave your web around me
And protect me through the night.
My day is done, my night begun,
With dreams before me found.
I shall sleep in peace and light,
My protective circle bound.

Bedtime Prayer
~Author Unknown

Now I lay me down to sleep
Through the twilight, and dark so deep
Earth and Water, Fire and Air
Stay with me while Mom's not there
Elements guide me through the night
And leave with thanks at mornings light

Sh, Sh, Sh
~Author Unknown

Out come the stars
Sh sh sh
Bright shines the moon
Sh sh sh
Sweet sings the nightbird
Sh sh sh
"Go to bed
Sandman said,
"Sh, sh, sh."

Bedtime Prayer
~Author Unknown
Now I lay me down to sleep, Please help me learn my world to keep. To guard the air and skies of blue, The oceans, lakes, and rivers, too. Save the mighty forest lands, The plains, the shores, and desert sands. Protect all creatures, wild and free, In air, on land, and in the sea.

~Author Unknown

Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top, When the wind blows, your cradle will rock. Birds will serenade you, Stars guard the night. Slumber in peace, 'til morning brings light.

Bedtime Prayer to Keep Nightmares Away
~Author Unknown

Mother Earth and Father Sky
Cradle me here where I lie.
Keep me safe the whole night long
As I rest in your arms so strong.
Mother Earth and Father Sky
Keep me safe here where I lie.

Bedtime Prayer
~ Author unknown

Day is done, it's time for bed
Goddess bless my sleepy head
Earth and Water, Air and Fire
Bring gentle dreams as I retire
When the morning sun does rise
The God will bless my open eyes

Child's Prayer
~Author unknown

Now I lay me down to rest.
I pray that all the world be blessed.
Lady Moon and Sister Star
Watch over me from afar.
Mother Earth is always there
And keeps me safe within her care.
The Lord of Dreams will dance and sing
And happy dreams will to me bring.
And when I wake to greet the day
Brother Sun will light my way.

Carrying the Cross

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

From my devotion today: Think about it - our biggest burden is us. We cannot manage our own lives, but we are exhausted trying to do just that. We cannot determine our own futures, and it's mind boggling to try. He says we must "deny ourselves" . . . denial of all self-management that weighs us down . . . surrender to everything that rivals our dependence on God.

A Key to Happiness

Tonight Taryn and I were having some nice quiet moments together....and we were talking about this and that, and she mentioned just how blessed we are.
"Yep", that we are....
and then she tells me how tonight when she was writing her "10 things she was thankful for today" list, which she does every night before she goes to bed....
Well she said that it was a whole lot more than 10 things today..
She just kept writing and writing until her list covered two pages of things about today that she was thankful for.....
A pretty good ending to a day, huh?
Then she asked me what my plans were for the night, ( I sleep less than she does) and she asked if I was going to go back and make some more music (as I was doing earlier this evening).
  I said that I had a few options, I could do the music....
or write something,
or create something in my workshop,
or do a blog post
or lay there in bed next to her while she slept reading my very fun book.
She said, "Isn't it wonderful when you have a whole bunch of options and you love them all, and isn't it great when you are living the life you love"... (I'm paraphrasing now as I forget the exact words)... And I'm sayin, "Yep".
And she reminds me of a conversation she had with someone who had said that ,"happiness wasn't their natural state, and they had to work hard to find it." And she said how she thinks that Joy is the Natural state for a soul, and that if we do what we love and what makes us feel good, that is when we are living our souls purpose. Because we're here to share our souls purpose with the rest of the world, and the way to do that is to do what brings us joy.
The way we know that we are on track with our souls purpose is to guage how joyful we are.....
Basically ,"if we're doing what brings us joy,
we are living in line with our souls purpose,
and this is the best gift we can give to the world.

Can you see why I love her so darn much...~~~

So, do what brings you joy...
not what you think you should do....
based on this or that....
not what your parents,
or your school councelor say you should do.
  Do what brings you joy...
and your life will be........
Now I know some of you would say,
"that's a big DUH"...
and yes it is,
but there are a whole lot of folks that just haven't quite grasped that yet....
so we remind them...
Do what makes you joyful.......
and your life will be Joyful
And it is totally a choice within YOU.
As simple as a decision...
Do what makes you joyful...
and have a joyful Life..