Common Magick from Llewellyn Worldwide
Witches & Pagans # 38 & # 39 from BBI
Llewellyn's Witches' Companion 2022 & 2023 from Llewellyn Worldwide
First, we’ll get out of the way the debate about whether or not “spirit” animals are actually a thing, and if they are cultural appropriation. These beings can also be called totems. The word “totem” is a mispronunciation of the word doodemen, which comes from the language of the first nations of Michigan, according to Webster’s Dictionary.
From my book, Common Magick, I define a totem as:
“A spirit animal (is) usually defined as a physical being or spiritual entity that represents a person, family, clan, profession or other group of people. They can also be called a “totem”, which comes from the Ojibwa tribe of Anishinaabec people, although many cultures employ a similar concept, including British society. For example, the practice of heraldry often uses animals to signify a family or royal house. Spirit animals can help us as we perform rites, serve as a guide, or be a messenger from a deity.”
How it was explained to me by an elder of the Pottawatomi tribe is: A totem represents a family or clan, while a spirit animal guides a specific individual.
However, I do not believe this is cultural appropriation, as the notion of a spirit animal is found throughout British Isles literature and legend, especially that of the Celts. There are animal messengers, guides, and representatives all over the place – for example, King Arthur’s animal spirit was said to be a bear. There are white stags and a salmon of wisdom, wise crows, clever wrens, and sly foxes… all of whom have something to say to protagonists of the tales.
That said, let’s move on to the chipmunk. I dreamed about one last night, and when I stepped outdoors this morning, there he was, eating seeds and corn kernels that had spilled from a bird feeder onto the back porch. His little cheeks were packed with his gleaning. He looked at me, uttered a squeak of surprise, and zoomed off the floorboards like an Olympic sprinter, keeping hold of his prize. His hole is in the dirt beneath the porch, where he likely has a wife who will give birth to his children later in the spring. If so, he’s a very good provider.
People disagree about whether or not merely encountering an animal is a sign, but I think that if you view a particular being in a dream / journey / vision, then see that animal the next morning, it’s pretty much a message from the spirit world.
We must also take into account that two days ago, it was 15o F here in Michigan, but yesterday, it was a warm, balmy 44 degrees, which is almost a heat wave. Spring is on her way, and the hibernating animals are awakening. The first birds and mammals that return or emerge have some significance to the season ahead.
So I looked up the symbolism of the chipmunk online, and it said that he represents hard work that pays off, tenacity, quickness, socialization, and conversely, a tendency to be flighty and have a short attention span. Hmmm….
When I was a small child, living with my parents and sometimes a cousin or six in rural Delton, MI, I used to feed the chipmunks. This requires a lot of patience, and peanuts. One must sit very still, sometimes for hours, first offering a peanut some distance away. The chippy will scurry out of her burrow, grab the treat, and zip away to vanish underground. Gradually the nuts are placed closer and closer, until the little critter can be persuaded to take the peanut from your hand. After a while, the chipmunk will contentedly sit in your hand and munch away, or stuff all the nuts and seeds into their cheek pouches, to take home to share with their family.
So yeah, there is a connection there, definitely.
I welcome the little chipmunk, stuffing his face with nutrients, living right beneath our feet, and I welcome his message. The Gods be thanked for sending this messenger to remind me to keep pluggin’ away, that hard work will eventually be rewarded, and that persistence leads to bounty. And I welcome Springtime, and the emerging and returning animals and birds. Bendythion, chippy, and have some more corn.
Every Full Moon, Dave and I enjoy sacred drumming. It’s a way to connect to spirit through the rhythm of the Earth. It’s conducive to healing. Drumming helps form community bonding. And it’s fun!
Every culture has holy drumming in one form or another. Any society that has shamans (medicine talkers, spirit folk, hedge-riders, aka those who freely cross between the seen and unseen, or who connect human civilization to the natural world) has some form of spiritual percussion music. Some folx use the sound for making dream journeys, others for meditation or trance work. Dancing, chanting, and questing also can accompany that beat.
Sacred drumming is best done in a circle, outside around a bonfire, with room enough for body movement – although realistically, those who live in freezing climates must make do with a cozy room indoors and a hearth-fire, woodstove, or candles. A nice slow rhythm is best, with a plain four-count that mimics the heartbeat. However, faster rhythms of five, six, or seven beats can get the blood flowing. Complex beats are most satisfying later in the evening, when everyone has found their groove. Wild, chaotic drumming can summon energy for a cause. The tempo often builds to a crescendo, then fades.
In the in-between times, folks can light candles, offer prayers, hydrate, read or recite poetry, or chat together. It’s best to keep subject matter positive – since energy is high during the moons, and power is raised by drumming, spoken words can come into manifestation during drumming sessions. Then it’s back to the shared drumbeat, the sacred chants and songs, the counter-rhythm, and the bonding that ensues.
The photos are from Elements, The Lavender Door in Marcellus, top left and bottom right, and KellyAnna at Paganstock, lower left
Natural wildlife purists have castigated me, in the past, for putting up feeding stations to attract wild animals and birds to my yard. Some of the reasons they’ve given: It’s not natural – birds and other wildlife should be encouraged to forage on their own, otherwise they become dependent on humans. Bird feeders attract predators, including hawks, who then prey on the wild birds and the squirrels. Animals and birds hanging out in your yard can spread diseases. Birds in flight can wham into windows, and become injured.
Others, who are themselves birders and wildlife aficionados, think that feeding stations are a positive thing, for various reasons: Much of bird and wildlife habitat has given way to urban sprawl and suburbs. Animals and birds are displaced, and have fewer locations to forage. Feeding stations even out the disparity between natural habitat and human space. Yes, birds sometimes hit windows – I’ve rehabilitated several – but they can still bang into the glass in locations with no feeding stations, as well. Clean feeders in well-kept areas are no more disease prone than in Nature. And, well, the hawks and predators gotta eat, too.
Yes, the occasional sparrow or squirrel is taken by a feral cat. Which in turn are sometimes on the menu for owls and hawks… they are called “raptors” for a reason. Yesterday, the Northern Harrier whom we named “NoisyHawk” for her repeated piercing cry, took a small bird right out of our front yard, not ten feet from the picture window. She flew triumphantly away with her prize, proclaiming it loudly to anyone who could hear. My husband Dave witnessed the harvest (he is not as bird-savy as I, so all he could tell was that it was not a cardinal or blue jay). To the nay-sayers who begrudge the raptors their reaping, I reply, NoisyHawk is part of Nature, too. She deserves to eat as much as any other bird.
There also are kestrels, three or four species of owl, and red-tailed hawks dwelling in this area. The barred owl asks “who cooks for you?” while the great horned owl wonders “who, who?” At night, they hunt for raccoons, opossums, bats, squirrels, field mice, moles, voles, and yes, the occasional stray cat. The red-tailed hawks mostly migrate to warmer climates, and thus aren’t around to prey on the bird feeders during winter. The kestrels clean out the invasive species, like English sparrows and starlings, who can take over a habitat and monopolize all of the seeds. But Noisyhawk? She’s here all year, and we can’t begrudge her the occasional bird.
Northern Harrier aka NoisyHawk.
Post-Covid-19, the Pagan festival and convention scene is finally resuming. We've missed them so!
Paganicon is hosted by the Twin Cities Pagan Pride committee in Minneapolis each springtime around Oestara / Alban Eilir. This is one of the better-organized Witchcraft events, closing in on its tenth year. The convention held in the Crowne Plaza hotel, and features a con suite, Witches' Masquerade Ball, vendors, an art show, musical entertainment, and classes and workshops. So. Many. Classes!
I am honored to present a workshop on how to help accommodate disabled Pagans and Witches during rituals and events, as well as a class on Talismans, including creating a magickal protection sigil for yourself.
We are looking forward to meeting new friends, hanging out in the Llewellyn suite (and teaching some folk magick stuff and things), and attending other folks' classes. What an opportunity! See you at Oestara!
Where can you find 100 Witches, Voudoun priests / priestesses, and magical people of all traditions? Why, Witchcon, of course!
It's happening next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 -20, online. There are practitioners from many states in the USA, as well as the UK and worldwide, giving talks, workshops, and presentations. Knowledgeable elders teaching classes and giving demonstrations, amazing performers, rituals, virtual tours -- and if you watch LIVE, you can ask them questions directly! If you miss it, but still bought your ticket, you can watch online, anytime, anywhere, for the next year. You can also catch broadcasts from last year.
Some of the more well-known of year's presenters include Phyllis Curotte, Trish Telesco. Oberon Zell, Christian Day, Lilith Dorsey, the Dragon Ritual Drummers, Gus diZerega, Priestess Miriam, Raven Digitalis, and Silver Ravenwolf.
Yet there are a lot of up-and-coming authors, teachers, and practitioners as well. So many WitchCon presenters are from Michigan! Lady Kate Henriot Jauw, Baba Ted Jauw, Kenya T Coviak, Diana Rajchel, Synty Boehm, Mark NeCamp, Miss Aida, Shannon Marie Daoust, and myself! I feel honored and blessed to be in such auspicious company.
Last year, I learned about Bulgarian witchcraft, took a virtual tour of the Buckland Witchcraft Museum, learned some helpful money magick and money management skills, learned about Hoodoo practices, heard Laurie Cabot speak about the evolution of witchcraft since the 1970s, danced to some amazing drumming, learned about herbal tinctures, and just hung out with really cool people.
WitchCon also has a "virtual vendorium" where you can buy awesome merchandise, get a reading, or be first in line for special deals. The virtual meet and greet is like a con suite, only online, so you can chat with authors, mediums, readers, ritual leaders, and performers, as well as get to know your fellow Witches and Pagans. Totally worth $99 bucks. Join the fun at https://witchcon.com/
New Local Group and Gathering!
Tell you what, after two years of lockdowns, shutdowns, and health breakdowns, I am sure excited to get out of the house and attend some Pagan and Witchy festivals and events! While we are lucky to live during the era of online meetings, such as Zoom and Crowdcast, there is nothing like the stimulating energy of face-to-face meetings with our delightful Pagan and Wiccan people. Live. In person. YAY!.
That's why I am so very excited to announce a new Pagan / Witch / Wiccan gathering in Southwest Michigan called "Witches from 4 Corners Gathering as One". It's in Jones, MI at the Camelot Campground from July 8 -10, 2022. Their Facebook page was up for about two weeks, and already accumulated 4oo followers (there are more now). At the event itself, there will be sacred drumming, rituals, vending, performances such as fire poi, workshops like drum-making, divination, and yours truly's folk magick demonstration; camping, swimming, and just hanging out. It is kid-accessable as well as 420-friendly. Campers have to pay for their own spot, but the event is donation-only for attendees. Day-trippers have to pay $10, which is THE least expensive festival I've ever heard of.
Here is their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/478109467165182/permalink/479998380309624/
A new West Michigan area group for Wiccan and Pagan females has formed on Facebook (trans women and non-binary folx are welcome to join as well as cis-gendered ladies). While the FB group itself is private and women-only, they also sponsor coffee meet-ups in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, holiday gatherings, and other events that are (mostly) open to all genders -- check the site to insure this before attending.
It is called "Witches of West Michigan".
I attended their Imbolc rite, held in one member's lovely home, met nice people, and enjoyed a delightful feast and holiday crafts. I am planning on going to the "Witches' Brew" coffee meeting in Kalamazoo on Friday, Feb. 11th at the Oakland Drive (Oakland Cafe) location of Water Street Coffee Joint from 5 - 8. Info:
The meet-ups are free, as are some of their other events, while the holidays and divination events may charge an entry fee to defray costs of the venue.
Here is their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/357316582693920
Below is their Schedule of Events for holidays:
Hunger Moons and Long Nights
During the winter months, the full moon seems chilly, bone-white and distant, although she can sometimes look as if she is surrounded by a halo of color, glittering in the frosty night sky. The inhabitants of the British Isles and the Algonquian tribes of what is now the northeastern United States gave different names to the full moons, associated with each season. European American settlers continued that tradition. (Yes, this is true, although some claim that the Farmer’s Almanac made it up. There are native folx whose last names coincide with the moons, such as author William Least Heat Moon. There are European celebrations based on the Harvest and Hunt moons.) These names sometimes varied in different regions. Winter moon names included cold moon, snow moon, hunger moon, least heat moon, and wolf moon, all of which show a concern with keeping warm and eating regularly.
This year, the full moon in February will be on Wednesday the 16th. January’s late full moon was called the wolf moon, since this was the time that wolves often howled outside Native American villages or in forests near old European towns. It was also called the old moon, cold moon, the moon after Yule and sometimes the snow moon. The Romans associated it with Lupercalia, the festival of wolves, especially the mother canine who suckled Romulus and Remus. February’s full moon is called the hunger moon, as weather conditions could impede hunting and definitely cancelled gathering. Often, stored food would rot and country dwellers would pray that their stores would last. Some Native people called this the least heat moon. Others called it the snow moon because of heavy snowfall.
During the full moon ceremony, it’s suggested that folk magick practitioners take down the last of the Yule greenery and discard or burn it, while mentally casting aside worries, cares or fears. (This might have been done on Imbolc, Plow Monday, the Epiphany, or previously, depending on your tradition.) Toast the Ancestors with mead or white wine. Dance in the snow. Set out bread, seeds and peanut-butter for the birds. If you live in a place where making noise won’t get you into trouble, howl like wolves at the full moon.
Suggestions for this liminal time include writing negative thoughts onto paper and burying them in the snow, while mindfully working to remove those conditions from your life; ice skating beneath the full moon, and making a small snow sculpture and adorning it with outgrown mittens and unraveling winter hats. Take stock of things in your home, as our ancestors used to do, and decide what is really helpful and sustaining, and what is useless clutter or no longer necessary. Recycle or give away items that you’ve determined no longer fit your lifestyle.
While Winter Solstice marks the time that Earth’s northern hemisphere tilts closer to the sun, and the days become longer, the ancient Celts still called the time between Samhain / Nos Galan Gaeaf, and Imbolc / Calan Fair “The Long Nights”. Yule was actually the longest night of the year, but the winter months seem as though there are few hours of daylight, and the nights often feel interminable. This is a remarkable time for evaluation and self-discovery. During the Long Nights, old projects were completed and current ventures continued, but it was considered unlucky to begin new projects. It was also considered ill-advised to get married during this time. A period of contemplation was suggested.
The Long Nights are a good occasion to consider what difficult events in life we have had to endure, the hardships we have had to face, the painful situations that we have overcome. If you find it helpful, list these events in your book of shadows. During this season, people of the British Isles visited with friends and family, huddled indoors around a fire, telling stories, reciting poems, playing music and games, and creating various crafts. In keeping with this tradition, invite friends over for dinner, turn off the TV, internet and other media, and take turns singing songs or play a game of cards. (Upper Michigan residents especially enjoy rousing hand of Euchre). Light a fire or candles. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with peppermint or marshmallows.
This is also a time to show gratitude to the Gods. Donate items to a charity tag sale. Set out offerings of cheese, bread and beer. Help out at a public school, nursing home or soup kitchen. The Long Nights won’t seem so long, and before we know it, spring will be here.
Badgers, Bluebirds, and other symbolic winter animals
During the long Michigan winter, the land is notable for its silence. The insects are sleeping, many birds have migrated, and several animal species are in hibernation. Summer’s riotous noise of buzzing cicadas, chirping katydids and the concert of cheerful birdsong has been quieted. Colors are muted, and the meadows, forests, and even the skies are blanched a pristine white. This is a season of calm and introspection, a fine time to meditate, rest and recuperate, and to formulate plans for the future.
One type of soothing, healing meditation can include a walk in a park or local woodland. Listen to the soft crunching of your footfalls in the snow. Breathe in the crisp, icy air. Observe the bare tree limbs, and see if you can discover any Runes or Ogham in the shapes of the branches. Pick up a stick and inscribe magickal sigils in the fallen snow. And take some time to just stand quietly, enjoying the silence of Nature. What birds do you see? Many feathered kinfolk are clothed in their drab winter plumage: browns, grays and tans to merge with the landscape. Occasionally, a bright cardinal or blue jay will add some color to the white blankness. What animals are still active? Even a city park has darting squirrels and flocks of pigeons searching for sustenance. This is a fine time to connect with a winter totem, an animal or bird that symbolizes the season, or frequently appears at this time of year. Here are a few:
Badger: Although the groundhog (woodchuck) is famous for predicting “six more weeks of winter” if it sees its shadow on February 2nd, this legend was originally attributed to a European badger. Semi-hibernators, badgers may emerge from their dens in late winter, seeking food. They represent tenacity, aggressive pursuit of goals, and knowledge of the hidden realms. To “badger” someone means to pester them until they grant your desires. Some British Isles and Asian stories featured badgers who led people to treasures in the underworld. In Native American legend, a female badger assisted healers by finding roots with medicinal powers. The Druid priesthood were often called Badgers by the Roman soldiers, because the Druids dwelled in the forests and hid “underground”. Another word for badger is “Brock”, which translates from Welsh, Scottish and old English as “gray”, carrying the implication of ambiguous situations which are neither white or black. Call upon the badger totem when you desire strength, assertiveness, force, and to discover hidden treasures or deeper knowledge.
Goose: While many types of geese flee to the South in autumn, others overwinter on ponds and in marshes throughout Michigan. Canada geese actually migrate to the area – this is their idea of a warm climate! The goose is a symbol of wandering and journeys. In Norse and Celtic folklore, a flock of geese flying overhead at dusk or dawn was equated with the Wild Hunt. Native American legend tells us that the goose represents perseverance and ambition. Geese are good parents, and will drive away predators. They are also used in farmyards worldwide as an “early warning system”, honking furiously when strangers approach, and even biting. The term “silly goose” is usually unwarranted. It may have been a way of disparaging older knowledge and folk wisdom. “Mother Goose”, that famed keeper of folk tales and fairy stories, usually appeared as an elderly woman wearing the stereotypical black conical witches’ hat (which is actually part of the Welsh national costume) and riding on a goose. The Norse Goddess Hulda was also said to ride a female goose on her journeys across the sky. Meditate on the goose totem when you wish for safe travel, determination, protection, finding direction, vigilance, and good parenting skills.
Mouse: The little common wild rodent represents sustenance, tidiness, organization, shyness, quiet and stealth. Field mice can store large quantities of seeds and nuts right in your home, often without you noticing them. If a mouse invades your home, you may wish to discover the issues and concerns that you’ve overlooked. The term “quiet as a mouse” comes from the mainland of Europe. Most schoolchildren are familiar with the Jataka tale of the lion and the mouse, when the tiny rodent removes a thorn from the fierce lion’s paw. Aesop’s fable of the country mouse and city mouse extols keeping to situations of familiarity and comfort. The mouse can represent courage and kindness. Visualize the mouse when you require silence, industriousness, bravery and to remain unseen. I caution against “summoning” mice to a ceremony, because real mice could soon over-run your home!
Woodpecker: In some Native American legends, the woodpecker had been transformed from a scolding wife. The cartoon Woody Woodpecker may be based on another woodland Native American story of a trickster. The term “peckerwood” often refers to a rural person, now used in a derogatory manner. The forests’ drummer, the woodpecker may also represent music, persistence, and attention-seeking. Woodpecker signifies the removal of small nuisances that can, if ignored, build up into a significant problem. The bird can also represent frugality. Visualize woodpecker drilling into a problem and removing tiny irritants a little at a time.
Squirrel: As we meditate on the totem of Squirrel, we give thanks for shared bounty and stored abundance. Small and quick, squirrel can also represent energy, fast action and playful irrelevance. Squirrels may also represent trust, as does their cousin the chipmunk, as these semi-tame rodents can sometimes be trained to eat from humans’ hands. The stories of squirrels preparing for winter while other animals loaf – and subsequently starve – can be found in Native American, European and Asian legends. Call upon squirrel when you need a burst of energy or speed, to help discover hidden opportunity, and to find lost objects.
Sparrow: America has hundreds of species of sparrow, living in every possible environment, from wetland to desert. We are likely most familiar with the common European sparrow, called the English or House sparrow, which does not migrate. Their nests of straw, sticks and trash can be found in cities and countryside alike. Thus, sparrow can symbolize adaptation to varied environments, determination and resolve, and even recycling unwanted materials into something useful. One sparrow entering a house can signify misfortune, even death, in English legend. Conversely, a flock of sparrows can foretell good luck. In the middle ages, sparrows represented the peasant class. During the 1800s, sailors often received a sparrow tattoo for longtime service onboard a ship. Christian legend says that God knows when each sparrow falls, signifying that he is concerned with every creature. The Greek Goddess Aphrodite had a sparrow as her companion. Sparrows also symbolize freedom, endurance, air travel, socialization, and home.
Rabbit / Hare: We often think of the rabbit as a symbol of springtime, because of her fertility and relationship with the Norse Goddess Oestara. Yet rabbit is also a winter totem. Although not a Michigan native, the snowshoe hare can represent the transformation from winter to spring with its changing fur coat, camouflaged white, then spotted, and finally the ticked brown color known as “agouti”. African, Native American and Mexican legends extol the rabbit as a trickster and funloving character, perhaps the model for Bugs Bunny. The African American Br’er Rabbit usually got the best of his foes. In the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit is one of the celestial representations of the lunar months, and is closely associated with the moon. Likewise, Native American, Korean, and Japanese lore all feature a rabbit who lives on the face of the moon. The “lucky rabbit’s foot” came from African American “hoodoo” folk magick. Rabbit may be seen as a nurturer and protector of children during winter, perhaps because its skin in used for “baby bunting”. Call upon rabbit for sustenance, speed, outsmarting an opponent, change, cleverness, and renewal.
Deer: Besides the sacred image of the God Herne or Cernunnos, the deer appears often in fall and winter legends and symbolism worldwide. The stag with seven tines represents wisdom. All across the British Isles, there are Mummer’s Plays and Morris dancing that include a representational Stag Hunt, most notably the Abbots Bromley horn dance. Other folkplays and ritual dances contain a stag-headed figure. Japanese and Nepalese folktales have a stag prince who was transformed into a man. Cave paintings worldwide depict several half-deer, half-man figures. Shamans may have taken on the aspect of a deer in order to attract herds to the hunters. In Finland and Norse territories, the reindeer is a valuable herd animal, used for transportation and milk as well as meat. This may have given rise to Santa’s ubiquitous reindeer, first made popular in the poem “Night Before Christmas”. Deer were also considered messengers to the fairy realms in Celtic lore. Native Americans looked to deer to find patches of healing herbs, and for sustenance during the winter. Deer represents the wild spirit, foraging, evading danger, and also fertility and plentitude. Call upon a male deer (buck) to help in defense of family and for protection. Female deer symbolize peace, grace, beauty and kindness. Meditate on the deer when you wish swiftness, generosity, and plentitude.
Bluebird: We usually don’t think of the cheery bluebird as being a winter totem, yet in older European legends, the bluebird was called the harbringer of spring. She is often the first migratory bird to return, long before the snow begins to thaw. A few years ago on Imbolc, I glanced up from my keyboard to see a male bluebird perched on my windowsill. This was a symbol of good luck, prosperity and happiness. Navajo people associate the mountain bluebird with the dawn. During their winter ceremony, a sacred song honoring the bluebird is performed just before sunrise to greet the new day and new season. Russian folklore uses the bluebird as a symbol of hope. Bluebirds enjoy the suet at feeders, and will live in man-made nest boxes facing a meadow or field. Cultures worldwide equate the bluebird with luck, joy, abundance, birth, and home. Visualize a bluebird when seeking confidence.
Goddess or Saint, legend or real living person, Brighid (pronounced "breed") is honored on the first and second days of February. Her name is known across western Europe as Brid, Bridget, Bridey, Brigitte, Bergitte, Beran, Fraid or Vrain; sometimes conflated with Branwen, Bronwyn, Boudicca or Brittania. She is believed by Catholics to be a nun, perhaps the midwife for the Virgin Mary. Irish folks honored her as the bringer of soringtime, a woman versed in smithcraft, brewing, poetry, motherhood, and dairying. Bridget is the Goddess of Fire and passion and music, which might be the same thing. In the old days, women left beds for a "Bridey doll", a small poppet constructed of corn (wheat) stalks, left their scarves outside for Bridget to bless, and looked for her footsteps in the cold morning ashes. And of course, constructed Bridget's Crosses of rushes, straw, or here in the USA, corn (maize) shucks. The how-to is below.
Common Magick from Llewellyn Worldwide
Witches & Pagans # 38 & # 39 from BBI
Llewellyn's Witches' Companion 2022 & 2023 from Llewellyn Worldwide