Deconstructing Rites of Passage

“In the universe, there are things that are known,
and things that are unknown, and in between them,
there are doors.”   – William Blake

1Rites of passage are ritual activities and teachings designed to help individuals transition from one stage to another in their lives. These transition points might include puberty, marriage, having children, graduation, or death. They differ from “rites of celebration” which simply acknowledges the event. Unfortunately, our modern society, with its fast pace and stress, has caused many rites of passage to become lost to obscurity or labeled “quaint.”

The phrase, rites of passage, was popularized by Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957), a French anthropologist, in his book “Les Rites de Passage (1909).” There he discussed ceremonies that he found across cultures and societies that celebrated an individual’s transition from one state to another. In particular, he found four different circumstances where these rites were used:

  • Change in status. Modern events might include marriage or an initiation.
  • Change in location. Modern events might include moving into a new house or to a new city.
  • Change in situation. Modern events might include starting a new job, graduating from high school, or coming out as LGBT+.
  • Passage of time. Modern events might include entering puberty or eldering.

Based on his extensive survey of preliterate and literate societies, van Gennep held that rites of passage consist of three distinguishable, consecutive elements: separation, transition, and reincorporation.


In this first stage, the individual is removed from their current state and forced to break with their previous practices and routines. This detachment or “cutting away” from the former self often involves a metaphorical “death.” This stage is necessarily destructive because destruction is necessary for regeneration.

During a rite of passage, the individual might symbolically or literally show their willingness to remove themselves from their current state. This might be accomplished by having the individual give away or destroy something representing their current state. In a marriage rite of passage for example, you may see the father present the bride to symbolize the transition from her childhood home.


During this stage, the individual has shed their old state but has not yet transitioned. Van Gennep used the word “liminality”, from the Latin root, limin or “threshold”, to describe this state.

1It is here that the individual’s reality may feel altered. Parts of their identity may feel as if they have completely unraveled, even dissolved. This dissolution of the known can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since we are hard-wired to belong to a certain place and time. The individual can feel sorrow, even grief, about what has ended, been destroyed, or died (metaphorically or physically). That is why it is so important to have a ritual leader that knows more than just the “script” of the rite but can help guide the individual through this important step. The liminal portion of the rite entails an actual traversing of a threshold and we do not want the blind leading the blind through this tenuous moment.

Witches and magicians have, for thousands of years, known that these liminal states can make magick powerful and amplify any working that occurs within them. Contemporary Pagans will often refer to this state as a “crossroad”, a “gate”, or even “a place that is not a place; a time that is not a time”. One might conjecture that the individual, existing momentarily between states, is put into a position where literally anything seems possible and barriers that usually prevent the manifestation of thoughts is bypassed and yet until something is done, everything is also unmanifest. Judika Illes in the book “The Element Encyclopedia of 1000 Spells (2010)” wrote that “Magically speaking a crossroads is the place where multiple forces converge, where anything can happen, where transformations may occur. Energy is liberated and expanded at the crossroads. Instead of hopping over boundaries, you can stand in the center and be inundated by power, potential, and choices.”

During the rite of passage, the individual is prepared mentally, physically, and/or emotionally to cross this threshold. Some of the ritual techniques may include having the individual spend time in a contemplative state such as meditation while the ritualist holds sacred space. Sometimes mysteries might be shared. The individual might have to overcome a challenge or ordeal. The ritualist may have the individual physically or symbolically cross through a gate in order to help them feel, imagine, and experience this crossing.


In this final stage, the individual has crossed the threshold and is now removed from isolation and re-incorporated into the community where they are acknowledged for the first time as a “new” being. This stage is often characterized by elaborate recognitions such as formal dinners, debutante balls or college graduation ceremonies. They might be presented an emblem of their new status such as jewelry, new clothing, or a new name. This stage often involves individuals, immediate family, and larger community.


Life’s great passages are by nature spiritual. Rites of passage provide us the tools for co-creating our own lives and help us “connect the dots” between our major transitional turning points. They affirm the human mystery and mutability, our connection with the universal.

Contemporary Pagans can use rites of passage help them find and define the patterns and cycles in our individual lives that might otherwise seem to be random happenings if viewed separately. They can help us transition intentionally the “terrible cloud of unknowing” rather than becoming paralyzed, running away, or going through it alone. By reclaiming these rites, we can fill a spiritual void in our modern lives and fully realize and honor our connection and place in the Spiral Dance of life.

“The moment in between what you once were,
and who you are now becoming,
is where the dance of life really takes place.”
– Barbara de Angelis

Posted in Rituals | Leave a comment

Honoring Our Ancestors, Creating Our Future

“Before us stand the unknown generations to come. Beside us stand the Beloved Ancestors whose efforts have taught and guided us, as we have joined them in the Great Work. Now we must go forward, strengthened by the bond of generations: the living and the Ancestors: the incarnate and the discarnate: standing together: one Tradition, one Family – straddling life and death, transcending time and space! A single circle of love and power, duty and honor, in which each member plays a vital role.” ~ from the Correllian Lustration of the Living ritual.

1This summer I visited the gravesite of my great grandfather who is buried in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Having a rather widely dispersed family, this was a rare opportunity for me to honor a distant ancestor.  This was also an opportunity to reflect on my own life in their presence and appreciate all that I have received because of their efforts.  And lastly, this was an opportunity to reflect on my own future and those of my descendants.

Prior to walking the path of Paganism, I did not pay much attention to my family’s ancestry as we did not celebrate or acknowledge any form of cultural identity or heritage.   But my studies soon taught me that the study of ancestry was an important part of learning “Who am I?”  Knowing our ancestors better helps us to know ourselves better.  We came from somewhere and the clues of who we are reside with our ancestors.  Our talents and abilities to quirky qualities, as well as likes and dislikes, can be revealed when we connect with our ancestors.  Marcus Garvey stated, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” How are we to grow and become better, if we have no roots?

In our bodies we carry the blood of our ancestors and the seeds of the future generations.  Every time I look at my children, I am reminded that a part of me resides in them, a part of my parents resides in me, and that this chain extends back to the very beginning of creation.   I am here today because humans who are genetically similar to me were survivors.  They learned to overcome a multitude of problems and adversities such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines.  I am strengthened by who I came from and inspired by the those who will follow.  I am a living representation of my ancestors in this time.

2I feel that the most important and most challenging way I can honor my ancestors is to fulfill my personal potential.  This gradual and ongoing work includes striving to become a more ethical, balanced, and open-hearted person.   Acknowledging my ancestors does not mean I have to like or agree with my ancestors’ choices. It does not mean that I have to condone behavior that they may have perpetuated in their lifetime that I feel was not upright and kind. It also does not mean that I should hide it.  But now the evolution of my ancestry is mine to determine.  I am in a position to positively influence this evolution, so why wouldn’t I?   No matter who our ancestors are, our own personal and monumental task is to become the best person that we can possibly be – someone in whom our own descendants in times to come can take great pride and find inspiration.

We are our ancestors, when we understand them, we understand ourselves.  By proactively learning about them, our ancestors can become a tremendous source of healing, empowerment, and nourishment in our everyday lives. To remember who we are is to claim the sacredness of our self.  If you can make your ancestors real for yourself, learn their stories and who they were, your life – and death – will take on added meaning.


Posted in Paganism - General | Leave a comment

Harvest Ritual for Pagan Pride Day

tableThis is a simple opening ritual that I helped facilitate at Kansas City Pagan Pride Day 2018.  The intent was to acknowledge the four primary purposes of the Pagan Pride Project: Charity, Community, Activism, and Education.



  • Ritual Leader
  • East
  • South
  • West
  • North
  • Table
  • Table Cloth
  • Chair
  • Plate
  • Fork, Knife, and Spoon
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Candle
  • Cup
  • Water


[RL] Welcome to the Kansas City Pagan Pride Day 2018!

[RL] This event started in 1999 and through the support of the Kansas City Pagan Community, it has been held every year since then. In the space of a single generation, Paganism has blossomed from relative obscurity to a thriving community. Our spirituality has been recognized on military tombstones, and our clergy have invited by several statehouses to offer opening blessings. Pagan groups are increasingly common on college campuses and military bases. A new generation of Pagan children has been born and raised within our traditions. There are is an increasing number of books and internet resources to include podcasts, website, on-line education and blogs. And there is more diversity than ever within Paganism so that each of us can find the practice that calls to our soul.
But …

[RL] There is much still do do.

Because of religious intolerance, fueled by misunderstanding and fear, those who have chosen to follow a Pagan religious belief often cannot live their lives openly and honestly. . Too often they see themselves surrounded by others that seek to dehumanize those that do not believe the same as they do. They silence. They shame. They intimidate and terrify people from openly proclaiming what they believe. Though they might never make a racial slur or discriminate based on gender, we find that they still exhibit religious discrimination because they believe that there is only one valid religion, or because they were simply misinformed about another’s religious practices. They fail to understand that tolerance is not enough. They need to realize the value of plurality of opinion, background, and viewpoint, especially in an increasingly global community.

[RL] At this time, let us take a moment to create our sacred space together and be reminded of the goals of Pagan Pride Day.


Let us all face East.

As we face the East, we connect with the powers of the Element Air and call upon the blessings of Education.

As Pagans, we recognize that it is important to understand other’s perspectives, to broaden our own, and to fully experience and educate ourselves.

Pagan Pride Day reminds us that ignorance creates fear, and knowledge is the key to tolerance. It reminds us that if we ever hope to practice our spiritual paths openly, we need to give the public, and each other, accurate information about our path.

Take time today to think about our accomplishments but recognize how far we still have to go. What can you do to help educate those around you?

For Blessings of Air, We Give Thanks!
All: We Give Thanks!


Let us all face South.

As we face the South, we connect with the powers of the Element Fire and call upon it for the blessings of the Activism.

We all have a great number of opinions about what is important, and many of us have participated in arguments, rallies and other overt action in support of those ideas.

Today, Pagan Pride Day is about reminding us that we should take pride in calling ourselves Pagan. We should be proud of the spiritual path that we have chosen.

Living proudly and openly in societies where your emotional, physical, professional well-being is constantly at risk is nothing short of brave. The fact that we are seeing more Pagans today live openly and honestly despite these challenges is a miracle.

Take time today to think about our accomplishments but recognize how far we still have to go. What can you do to help to make this world better for your fellow Pagans?

For Blessings of Fire, We Give Thanks!
All: We Give Thanks!


Let us all face West.

As we face the West, we connect with the powers of the Element Water and call to mind blessings of Charity.

Pagan Pride Day offers us an opportunity to demonstrate our compassion to our communities where it is needed. It gives us an opportunity to recognize and share our own abundance.

Take time today to think about our accomplishments but recognize how far we still have to go. What can you do to help demonstrate your compassion?

For Blessings of Water, We Give Thanks!
All: We Give Thanks!


Let us all face North.

As we face the North, we connect with the powers of the Element Earth and call to mind blessings of Community.

As Pagans, we are a community of different races, values, politics, religious and spiritual paths, gender presentations, philosophies, and a host of other diverse elements. Pagan Pride Day is an opportunity to celebrate our differences, as well as our common interests, and to demonstrate unity as a community.

Our community gains strength by interacting with each other and weaving networking webs. It gains strength by people volunteering their time and talents in support of the community. It gains strength by people finding ways to complement and help fellow Pagans, rather than using methods such as Facebook to attack or condemn another.

Take time today to think about our accomplishments but recognize how far we still have to go. What can you do to help build our community?

For Blessings of Earth, We Give Thanks!
All: We Give Thanks!

Setting the Harvest Table

[RL] As we have gathered here together to enjoy this beautiful day and celebrate Pagan Pride Day, let us take a moment to show each other hospitality as we set a simple Harvest Table for those present and those that could not be with us today.  Pagans often use symbols to help signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense.

[RL] First, let us prepare a table.

This table represents the strong Pagan community that we have here in Kansas City. This festival is a time that we gather to build community and provide support for one another. It is a time that we gather to celebrate the bounty of the harvest together. Pagan Pride Day is an opportunity to show ourselves and the public that we are a significant. We know that we are never going to be able to practice openly if we don’t know anyone else in our local Pagan communities. We need to weave networking webs in our cities, in our towns, in our rural areas. We need these webs to support one another. That support will also show those who would restrict our practice that we are a growing congregation of people who adhere to a faith that, while different, is as valid as their own.

[RL] And now a table cloth

[Table Cloth]
This table cloth represents the natural world around us. Paganism is often described as an Earth-based Religion, but most Pagans do not believe that they are set above, or apart from, the rest of nature. Pagans see the sacred in everything around them. They not only find nature sacred, but see everything else around them as a part of the Divine. They understand divinity to be immanent, woven through every aspect of the living earth. By reconnecting to the universe, we learn to interact with it. Pagan worship is mainly concerned with connection to, and the honoring of, that immanent divinity.

[RL] And now a chair

This chair represents hospitality. Early agricultural societies understood the importance of hospitality and the importance of developing a relationship with your neighbors. Many people, particularly in rural villages, celebrated the harvest with great deals of feasting, drinking, and eating.

Think about what you should offer your fellow Pagans. What can you contribute to our circles, groves, and covens? What will be the seed have you planted to build a stronger community? To have a strong Pagan community you need to be part of the community! We need to get to know each other. We need to come to each other’s aid. We must volunteer when help is needed and not overwork the few until they get burned out. We must avoid the witch wars that only serve to tear apart our community. We must offer helpful advice, especially when it is solicited. We must support our Pagan crafters, musicians, stores, leaders, teachers, mentors, and elders. We should continue to strive to extend the hand of hospitality to one another.

[RL] And now a plate

This plate represents the sacredness within Paganism. The circle has a great many sacred meanings and is often used in Pagan spiritual practice. The Circle is an unbroken line which has no beginning, no end and no direction. Ancient stone circles can be found throughout the world where ancients gathered to honor their Gods.

Modern Pagans often choose to stand in circle when in ritual. The circle is symbolic of equality, where no person is more prominent than any other person. Circle meetings ensured that all people could speak, and the words spoken were accepted and respected on an equal basis.

The circle is also symbolic of the Wheel of the Year which is used to associate the cycle of seasons with the cycles of transformation. Today we celebrate one point on that Wheel.

[RL] And now a fork, knife and spoon.

[Fork, Knife, and Spoon]
These utensils represent the tools we choose to enjoy in our spiritual practice. Sacred tools have been used by ancient religions for thousands of years. The bells of a Buddhist, lighting candles in a Catholic church, or a golden goblet for ceremonial wine during communion are all perfect examples. Many modern Pagans have also chosen to include sacred tools in their own practices, but they also recognize that they are the most powerful tool of all. It is their intentions and energies that determine the results of any work. It is the focus, concentration, intentions and desires that reside within them that are the real ‘tools” of a Pagan.

[RL] And now some salt and pepper

This Salt and Pepper represents the Autumnal equinox that we celebrate during this time of year. It is the time of balance between day and night, before night takes over and brings the coming winter. It is a time to look clearly at where we are weak in spirit, where we are strong, and where we stand somewhere in between. It is a time to balance our needs with our wants and our fears with our desires. You only learn from experience, and only gain wisdom from self-reflection and awareness. This is a time to embrace both the dark and light halves of yourself so that you might understand the whole story of your journey.

[RL] And now a candle

This candle represents life. The presence of the gods will not shelter us from bad things happening, because it can’t: bad things are just a part of physical existence. What the presence of the gods does is help us heal and grow stronger, help us pick up the broken pieces and form them into something beautiful and meaningful. Bad things are trials that make us wiser, stronger, more compassionate and creative. They are the fuel of evolution that helps us to reach our full potential as human beings. It gives value to our experiences. That is the heart of Pagan theology – recognizing the fragile nature of existence and celebrating it as much as you can, while you can.

[RL] And now a cup

[Empty Cup]
This empty cup represents that which we should let go. Like the trees that lose their leaves each fall, now is the time to discern what you are ready to release. Like the flowers letting go of their seeds and putting off manifesting new blossoms until next spring, now is a time to release the past and concentrate on what you will manifest in the future. Like the trees who send their energy into their roots in the fall, now is a time to contemplate and seek self-reflection so that you might prepare yourself to blossom again in the future.

[RL] And now some water

[Water] – Pours into Empty cup
We fill this cup to represent all that we wish to manifest in our lives. Manifestation is one of the most powerful processes in the world. Most Pagans believe that Manifestation isn’t just about dreaming but about DIVINE ALIGNMENT. It is about aligning your thoughts, emotions, and actions to achieve you should manifest, what you want to manifest, and what you need to manifest. It is about introspection and outward-looking. It is about expanding your potential, and conquering societal and self-imposed limitations. It is about taking PRIDE in who and what you are; and celebrating what you have and what you will attain.


[RL] Let us transform this place together into an event that is accepting of all beliefs. A place that can allow anyone that chooses to self-define themselves as Pagan an accepting and loving place where they grow in pride and confidence in their chosen path. This is also a place for non-pagans to join with us with the intent to experience and learn more about Paganism.  May each of you have a wonderful harvest festival. And may the blessings of the Gods be upon you.



Posted in Mabon/Autumnal Equinox, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tolerance Within Paganism

A 2016 Gallup Poll exploring “Free Expression on Campus,” found that even in the supposedly accepting atmosphere of college, 54% of the students surveyed stated that the climate on their campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive. 50% also believe that Americans do a poor job of seeking out and listening to different views. One result of this has been the creation on campus of “safe spaces” (a place where students can go where they won’t be exposed to topics that make them uncomfortable) and “trigger warnings” (when a professor cautions students that upcoming material could be distressing).

So here you go. This article is not a “safe space.” And it comes with a “trigger warning” that you might extremely disagree some of my views.

I am very proud to be a Pagan. But sometimes I catch myself being embarrassed by others who call themselves Pagan. I am proud to call myself Pagan and of my own beliefs and convictions, but I do find myself uncomfortable when I am grouped with other Pagans that have views very different than my own. When I identify myself as a Pagan to others, I often feel the need to add qualifiers so that my beliefs are not confused with those they may have been seen in the movies, heard in their church, read in a fantasy novel, or even seen practiced by others at a hate-group rally.

I have never been one to tolerate absolutism from any camp, so I have never reacted well to anyone who refuses to consider new ideas and perspectives. But I definitely have been guilty of rolling my eyes upon hearing a viewpoint that I feel naïve, willfully ignorant, unjustifiably arrogant, or just wrong. I find it difficult to accept “Pagan Standard Time” as an explanation for rituals starting 30 minutes late, personal gnosis dismissing scholarly research, Pagan leaders describing their organizational skills as “herding cats”, the practice of cultural appropriation to the extent of disrespect, and the claim of eclecticism without the understanding of the practices they integrate.

When we compare Paganism to other religions that have a strongly unified set of beliefs, our independent spirit is often seen as problematic. I have often engaged in the “not my Paganism” discussions and wondered whether Paganism would be better off organized under a more consistent thought or theology. Does Paganism just need to resign itself to a religion of solitary practitioners and such diverse beliefs that defining Paganism to others is difficult, if not impossible?

Some within Paganism are quick to just dismiss those with different views than their own as “not really Pagan.” Sometimes these views may be more philosophical such as gender roles, eclecticism, Reconstructionist versus new religious movements, traditional versus progressive practices, ceremonial versus folk magic, and hard versus soft polytheism. Sometimes we find Pagans that have even more extreme views such as the belief in the marginalizing practices of racism, misogyny, misandry, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia or transphobia

Our Pagan community reacts to those that have a different view in a number of ways. Sometimes that are simply ignored. Other times we label them with terms meaning to demean them such as fluffy bunnies, hippies, new agers, white lighters, insta-witches, book Pagans, extremists, or we simply place them on the “flake-o-meter” scale. In some cases, we will even take active action against these groups to disrupt their practice or prevent them from sharing their views.

Our community often emulates our current political environment which is rife with intolerance and wall building on all sides, even from those that would classify themselves as tolerant, progressive or liberal. At public events all over the United States, we have seen it demonstrated that many find it more acceptable to interrupt or prevent the free speech rather than create an environment where we can question or even challenge another’s beliefs with tough questions. We create confrontations that comprise mostly of emotional exchanges and physical violence that do nothing more than creating more polarization.

As a host of several local Pagan get-togethers, I try to create a safe environment where each person can express their views. I also have the reputation of asking challenging and provocative questions during these events. To me, Paganism has always been a camaraderie of spirit, not necessarily one of ideas. We must accept that we are a community that encompasses a wide range of views. I hope to encourage polite and reasonable discussion and debate without rudeness, sarcasm, or insults. The intent of these discussions it to not change minds, but to open minds and expand our view of reality. We do not have to acknowledge the view of others as valid or even correct, but we do have to recognize that they exist and they do influence our reality. Shutting them down and not allowing them to be expressed only leads to your own ignorance.

Further reading:
A War of Words on College, January 21, 2018
Being embarrassed by Paganism,
My Love/Hate Relationship with Neo-Paganism

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Year’s Resolutions? – Think W-I-C-C-A

1A New Year, at least according to the Gregorian calendar, is upon us and many use this time to create new resolutions. But as long as there have been resolutions, people have struggled to keep them.

The practice of creating New Year’s resolutions is at least as old as ancient Roman times when such resolutions were made as pledges to the god Janus, the namesake for the month of January. Janus was the god of all beginnings and its derivative, doorways. He was invoked as the first of any Gods in regular liturgies. The beginning of the day, month, and year, both calendrical and agricultural, were sacred to him.

As we spend this time meditating on the how we might want to improve ourselves and developing our New Year’s resolutions, consider the acronym W-I-C-C-A:

Who, What, When, Where, Why

  • Who – The practice of Wicca is about self-responsibility and growth. You should establish your new year’s resolution based on how you want to grow and then take responsibility for that change. It is not about placing blame on others or expecting others to create the change for you.
  • What – Self-reflection and self-assessment are important before any growth can occur. Be fair and really examine your current state in relation to where you are trying to go. One technique I use in my practice is called shadow work or the acknowledging of the darker, more hidden motivations of my actions.
  • When – The beginning of a new year is a good time to make a resolution to change your behavior in some way because you know millions of people are doing the same thing. Take advantage of the enormous positive energy this creates. But your self-examination might determine that this is not the right time for the particular change you seek. Balance and priorities are also important considerations.
  • Where – Success is not a destination, but walking the path you were meant to walk.  Establish resolutions that help you walk that path.
  • Why – Clearly understand why you want the change, and make sure you do it for good reasons. Be fair and really examine your current state in relation to where you are trying to go. Establish resolutions that help you walk that path.


As spell workers, we should be very familiar with this step. It is important to be clear and precise with your resolutions. “Get more exercise” is vague. “Eat healthier” is not precise. For example, instead of “Get more exercise” choose “Walk 5,000 steps daily” or “Take the stairs each morning to get to my office, not the elevator.”

You should always strive to make your goals measurable as it makes it easier to track your progress. This might be easy if your goal is to lose weight, but in other cases it might require more creative thought. For example, if you want to stop biting your nails, you might try taking pictures of your nails over time.  You might have to seek a trusted mentor or friend to provide you periodic feedback. You also need to make sure you are measuring the right things. For example, if your goal is to increase your knowledge of herbology, then you must make sure the books you read increase your knowledge and not just repeat the same information, or even worse, provide you bad information. Logging progress into a journal or making notes on your phone or in an app designed can help you track and reinforce behaviors.


Make a public declaration. Telling people you intend to lose 20 pounds, run a marathon, learn how to speak a foreign language, or achieve some other goal will make you more reluctant to abandon that goal. Social media can be a useful tool. Post your new diet plan. Text those who can encourage or network with you. This can be the reminder and motivator to keep you on track. Accepting help from those who care about you will strengthen your resilience and reduce the stressed caused by your resolution.

When I consider my resolutions, I am inspired by the third round of a Heathen ritual of Sumbel which is often called the “Oath, Boast or Toast” round.  During this round, Heathens may make an oath to do something or improve on something. If they choose to do so, the oath will be considered sacred, absolute and binding to the point that the other participants will make note of your oath and keep you to it. Heathens consider oaths as obligations for those who witness them as well as for those who make them.


Permanent change happens when habits are changed. Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. One of the easiest ways to change is to find a habit you already have that is well-established. For example, if you already go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, then consider adding in 10 more minutes to the existing walk.

Also, consider making the new action EASY to do in the beginning. Since you are trying to establish a conditioned response, you need to practice the new habit from the existing stimulus from three to seven times before it “sticks” on its own.


It is important to accept incremental victories. Be appreciative of your successes and avoid centering on your failures.

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Rewarding progress increases your probability of success. Reward yourself both for what you have achieved and the act of trying. In other words, don’t wait until you have lost the full 20 pounds to reward yourself. People who have attained success tend to focus on behaviors, rather than outcomes.

Create a positive, appreciative environment of appreciation around you. Appreciate your partner, your children, and your friends.  Appreciation is like having a savings account for a rainy day.


I hope that whatever resolution you decide to make creates positive change in your world. Remember, even small actions can create great change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Post-Election Grief – It is to be expected

If your candidate lost, you might experience what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined as the five stages of grief.  Though these were created specifically to relate to how people relate to death, I see many of these same stages already in play on this post-election day.

  1. Denial & Isolation1

The first reaction to the election results is to deny the reality of the situation. “This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening,” people often think. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions.  Our heart rather than our head rules our belief system.  It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the loss. We block out the words and hide from the facts. Against the better judgment of everyone around us, we can’t help but entertain fantasies of things somehow working out.   We fantasize about recounts, or criminal convictions, or even assassinations.  This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

  1. Anger

As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be directed at anyone or anything.  We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us angrier.  We lash out at others on Facebook or in person.  Again, we react chiefly from our heart and not our head.

  1. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control.  Examples of this stage might include:

  • If only the third party voters had voted for our candidate…
  • If only I had gotten more involved with the election …
  • If only _____ had won the primary …

Rationally, we may know that the person or action is not to be blamed, but we need to try to make sense of what just happened.    People start reaching for any excuse.

  1. Depression

Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms.  For example individuals might feel tired all the time, not wanting to do anything but lay in bed, feeling disconnected from people even when you are with them, being on the verge of tears most of the time, have trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of appetite or overeating, increase in drug or alcohol use and (the big one) hopelessness.  Hopelessness is the most pervasive and debilitating.  It is the thing that leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different than it is right now.  Hopelessness makes it feel like you will never move on and that nothing will ever work out for you in the future. We worry about the possible consequences of the election results even though no actual action has taken place.  We worry that out day to day activities will suddenly be suddenly upset.  We worry about the threats to our belief systems and our way of life.

  1. Acceptance

Finally, this is the phase in which we are able to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t always come on suddenly; it often happens gradually, little bit by little bit.  Acceptance doesn’t always involve harmony and flowers – there is almost certain to be lingering sadness.  Acceptance entails making peace with the loss, letting go of the relationship and slowly moving forward with your life. Sometimes it feels like this phase will never come, which usually means you’re still struggling in an earlier phase.  Some never reach this stage, and never see beyond their anger or denial. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Acceptance does not mean passivity.  Acceptance releases the power that your life circumstances have over you. When things don’t go your way, you don’t become paralyzed by negative emotions such as anger, fear, resentment, or regret.  Acceptance also isn’t the opposite of caring. You may still care about the political issues that were important to you and you reinvigorate yourself in finding ways to overcome them. However, you won’t spend every moment thinking about what went wrong with the election.

Coping with any loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 Reasons Why Pagans Should Vote

jfk-quote-21. Because Voting is Very Pagan! Voting is an ancient Pagan tradition. Apathy, on the other hand, is a modern invention – it suits those in power very well indeed, but it dis-empowers you!

2. Because Many Do Not Believe your Religion Counts. A Public Policy Polling (PPP) national survey conducted between February 20th and February 22nd 2016 of Republican voters, found that an astonishing 57 percent of Republicans want to dismantle the Constitution, and establish Christianity as the official national religion. Only 30 percent oppose making Christianity the national religion. ( ) If you don’t vote, other people are going to make the decisions for you. There are people out there who hate us, and who want to take away our rights and freedoms. They are organized, they are active, and they vote. What about you?

3. Because Voting Honor Our Ancestors. Citizens may take their right to vote for granted, but it wasn’t truly that long ago when entire swaths of the population ― like women ― were denied that right. Women gained suffrage in 1919, meaning the grandmothers of many not-voting millennials were alive during a time when they were prohibited from casting a ballot. Since the era of women’s suffrage, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans have all faced obstacles to voting at various times (and plenty of the issues are still ongoing). Accessibility issues continue to disenfranchise citizens with disabilities of every age and race.

4. Because Pagans Are Encouraged to Have Strong Opinions. If nothing else, voting is a license to justifiably complain about your elected officials. Your grievances will carry more weight if you speak out as a voter trying to hold your candidates accountable for promises they made. “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the people and burn their behinds, then they will have to sit on their blisters.” – Abraham Lincoln

5. Because Lighting a Candle Isn’t Enough. Voting is where the magical meets the mundane, where we take our intentions and put them into action. Ever wonder why nearly three-quarters of the American public supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but Congress refuses to act? There are many reasons, of course, but at least part of the answer lies in the fact that many Americans who support those policies do not bother voting. Nearly 80 percent of people with yearly incomes of $75,000 or higher voted in the 2012 election, compared to just 60 percent of those earning less than $50,000 a year. By age, voter participation of older Americans eclipses that of those under 30.

6. Because the Personal is Political. The Federal and State government decides who gets to benefit from the tax dollars we all pay. Politicians control these purse strings, and they hand down money from above for things like collage loans, animal shelters, libraries, breast cancer research, and more. Make sure that the causes and services you care about get funded. Referenda on the ballot can also make a major difference where citizens decide on the issues that can most directly affect you including public school control, marijuana legalization, gun control, and discrimination laws.

7. Because “As Above, So Below” is also true in politics. It’s not just the President on the ballot. How much the next president can do depends on whether his or her party controls either the Senate or the House. The consequences of ignoring congressional races can reverberate for years through the appointments of Supreme Court judges or the gerrymandering of congressional districts in order to maintain control. Then there are the other important state and local officeholders on the ballot.

8. Because We Want “No Taxation Without (Equal) Representation”. Although the 114th Congress is hailed as the most diverse Congress in history with more women and minorities than ever before, it still does not very representative. Our current Congress is 80% white (US population is 12 percent African Americans, 9 percent Hispanics, and 3 percent Asian/Pacific Islanders and other groups), 80% male (US population is 51% female), and 92% Christian (Pew research found 71% of American identified as Christian in 2014). This is further skewed because the Republicans control both houses of Congress, but the majority of the non-white and women lawmakers are Democrats. Then you can find further lack of diversity in income, occupations, education and other demographics. If you want a representative government, then you need to vote one in.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Columbia: The Goddess of the United States

washingtondc-goddess-columbiaWhether you think of her as an archetype, a land spirit, or an old goddess with a new name, Columbia is the name that some Pagans are starting to reclaim as the personified ideals of America.

In the early history of the United States, Columbia was visualized as a goddess-like female national personification of the United States and of Liberty itself.   Some historians claim that she emerged from the imagination of Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who in 1697, wrote a poem suggesting that America’s Colonies be called Columbina, a feminization of Christopher Columbus’ last name.  Her association as America’s Goddess was reinforced 70 years later when, Phillis Wheatley, a former slave and the first published African-American female poet, wrote an ode to General George Washington invoking Miss Columbia in 1775.   In 1798, Joseph Hopkinson wrote lyrics for Philip Phile’s 1789 inaugural “President’s March” under the new title of “Hail, Columbia” which was once used as de facto national anthem of the United States until 1931.  In 1801, our seat of government was renamed from the Territory of Columbia to its current name, the District of Columbia.  In the War of 1812, Miss Columbia began appearing in political cartoons, and by the mid-19th century, she was a common figure in political cartoons as well as in the literary realm.  By the 1890s, women dressed up as Miss Columbia for patriotic events.  In various World War I posters, Columbia pleaded, beseeched, and implored viewers to save food, send their sons to war and buy bonds.  In World War II, Columbia reappeared with the same pleas.

The image of the personified Columbia was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a woman between youth and middle age, wearing classically draped garments decorated with the stars and stripes; a popular version gave her a red-and-white striped dress and a blue blouse, shawl, or sash spangled with white stars. Her headdress varied; sometimes it included feathers reminiscent of a Native American headdress, sometimes it was a laurel wreath but most often it was a cap of liberty.” (This liberty, or Phrygian, cap, is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward. In late Republican Rome, such a cap served as a symbol of freedom from tyranny. It has been used to symbolize liberty in numerous countries of the Americas.)


A defiant Columbia in an 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon, shown protecting a defenseless Chinese man from an angry Irish lynch mob that has just burned down an orphanage.

By 1920, the Statue of Liberty replaced Columbia as the primary female representation of the United States in most instances.  Though often used interchangeably, some still distinguished Columbia is the United States personified, and Libertas (Lady Liberty) is the personification of freedom.

Today, images of Columbia, or other similar divine feminine representations,  adorn the entrances to all of the major federal government buildings in Washington, D.C. She stands blindfolded, faithfully balancing the scales in front of the Department of Justice. She is the source of Inspiration and Knowledge displayed at the entrance to the Department of Education. She is the Goddess of New Life, abundance, provision and harvest who offers her cornucopia to her subjects at the Department of Agriculture. She stands guard atop the Capitol Building and from behind the Speaker of the House’s podium. America’s Goddess watches, protects and guides from atop her silent perch; encouraging her subjects to set aside selfish desires and serve her in faithful submission. Some might even see the temple of our Goddess, the “District of Columbia,” does not allow its citizens to vote based partly on the notion that all who come to the “district of the Goddess” should forfeit their individual egos and agendas and instead work for the Great Goddess and her agenda of liberty, justice and democratic self-governance.

Today, many Contemporary Pagans see the Goddess Columbia as an important matriarch of the United States and the symbol of those ideas.  In 1993, for example, Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits led a group in consecrating a statute of the Goddess of Freedom when it was brought down to ground level for cleaning and restoration.

What can we learn from the Goddess Columbia today? Most Contemporary Pagans practice a spiritual practice encompassing both a masculine and feminine divine, but they also recognize the dominance of patriarchy in today’s moral and spiritual thoughts.   When our country was founded, it was seen as a kind of magickal future for the human race.   Radical new principles embodied by Columbia such as freedom of speech, thought, and religion were integrated into our laws as inalienable rights.   Unfortunately, many see the United States  ignoring or at least down playing many of these principles.  It is important for more people to remember Columbia, and bring the feminine back into the language of our democracy. We live in a changing world. As a society, we are on the cusp of great change. The way we actively pursue that change will forge our future.   The Goddess Columbia expects no less.



Posted in Paganism - General | 1 Comment

Classical Elements in Contemporary Paganism

The Four Classical ElementsA pre-Socrates magician-philosopher, Empedocles of Acragas (c. 495-435 BCE), is the first to be credited in western civilization with the dogma that everything consisted of combinations of four basic components — fire, water, air, earth — which he called “roots.”  In his writings he also appears to make it clear that he found these roots as more than just material substances, even associating them with the Gods Zeus, Hera, Nestis, and Aidoneus.

Simplifying the physical world to these easily observable and basic functional units was later embraced by other Greek philosophers, to include Aristotle, and the four classical elements became the cornerstone of Western philosophy, science, and medicine for the next two thousand years.  Ancient cultures in Egypt, Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India also had similar but different lists.  For example, the Chinese Wu Xing system lists Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water though these are described more as energies or transitions than as types of material.

Today, science has taught us that there are 118 known elements with 94 naturally occurring on Earth, but many Contemporary Pagans still find value in viewing the world as composed of these four classical elements.

  1. Simplifying our View of the World. The world is complex and simplifying the world into the four classical elements helps them as they resacralize the world around them. How would you relate to Osmium, Bismuth, Strontium, or Meitnerium? Just as the ancients were able to visualize and relate to a world composed of four basic elements, so do some Contemporary Pagans today.    For example, when you think of “Earth” what comes to mind? Perhaps you feel the stable element of solidity and grounding. Or maybe you see Earth as the third planet from the Sun. Or for you, Earth the rich brown soil in your own backyard? Earth is all these things and more. Earth can be found in the language we use every day. Next time you hear the phrase “down to Earth” think about the words and what they mean. More and more each year, people are drawn to things that help reconnect them to the Earth. Looking at the world around us in simpler ways allows Contemporary Pagans to see the world more real, more alive and allows us to see it in more sacred and magickal ways.
  2. Finding Relationships.  Some Contemporary Pagans in their personal world views find relationships between apparently unconnected things such as emotions, objects, actions, qualities and symbols. These relationships are called ‘correspondences’.   Each is used to suggest another. Contemporary Pagans will often create correspondence tables based on the relationships that they find.  For example, Aleister Crowley’s ‘777’ contains many tables of these relationships or ‘correspondence tables’. Various tables of correspondences are also found in Chinese traditional and Indian Ayurvedic healthcare manuals.One of the most popular correspondence tables is that relating to the classical elements. For example, let’s look at the element of Air. Of all the elements, Air is perhaps the most elusive. It can be the most difficult to describe, but can also be one of the most vibrant. Air brings us the light sensation of a cool breeze, the sudden rage of a storm, and the sweet smell of every scent we experience. When we breathe certain scents, we can easily visualize the source and may often even taste or feel it. When we think of Air, we may think of filling our lungs and with it communications or singing. Each one of these may lead to more relationships: communications may lead us to think of learning, intellect, community, anger or joy; singing may lead us to music, dancing, joy, and movement. As we dwell on the essence of Air, as with any of the elements, and its relationships, Contemporary Pagans increase their understanding of the interconnectedness and sacredness of everything around them.
  3. Comparing and Contrasting. Breaking things into simple groupings allows us to compare and contrast easier. Comparative thinking is one of our first and most natural forms of thought. Without the ability to make comparisons—to set one object or idea against another and take note of similarities and differences—much of what we call learning would quite literally be impossible. Breaking something down into smaller chunks allows you to see more clearly how the pieces fit, and how to tackle each piece individually. This can often help get you started in problem solving because now you have identified tasks that you can actually do. Though comparing and contrasting four things, versus two or seven, is a subjective choice, many Pagans find that some things fall naturally into groupings of four just as Empedocles found when he developed his philosophy.  For example, Hermetic and Wiccan magic often refers to the Four Powers of Sphinx which are related to the four classical elements: to know (air), to will (fire), to dare (water), to keep silent (earth). (These are also known as the Four Powers of the Magi, Motto of the Sphinx, the Four Pillars, the Powers of the Elements, the Witch’s Pyramid, and the Magic Pyramid). Taken together, they form a “simple but not easy” program of personal improvement and spiritual development as well as a useful framework for decision making.

The Elements in Magic

As Empedocles associated the Elements with the Gods, Contemporary Pagans will often view the Elements in more than their symbolic form and instead view them as powers of nature and with it have developed an extensive, and often complex, theology surrounding them.

For example, let us touch on some of the theology surrounding the Element of Fire from a classical Greek perspective.  Empedocles distinguished Fire as the Agent of Action (Kinêtikê) among the Elements.  In Vehicles of the Soul described in Neoplatonic lore and Chaldean Theurgy, Fire is the radiant body, while Earth and Water correspond to the gross body, Air to the spirit body.  The radiant body (augoeides), also known as the astral body (astroeides) or aitherial body, is the vehicle of the Higher Soul, which is responsible for the intellect, including discursive reason, but also for the Rational Will.   In the myths, Prometheus created humans by mixing Earth and Water to create the gross body; and then Athena breathed Air into it and imbued it with a Spirit-Soul. Prometheus added the Higher Soul, which is the Fire that He took from the Wheel of the Sun and brought to humanity in a Narthêx (giant fennel) stalk.  Hippocrates says that the soul is an Immortal Warmth (Athanatos Thermon), which sees, hears and knows everything; most of this Warmth is pushed to the outermost sphere, where it is called Aithêr, and forms a kind of Fiery World Soul.

A more common use of the Elements is in Contemporary Pagan ritual in the form of the Watchtowers.  The concept of the Watchtowers come from Christian Enochian magic, got a makeover by the Golden Dawn, and found their way into Wicca.  The Watchtowers are a tutelary or guardian spirit of one of the four cardinal points or “quarters” (north, east, south, and west) that are used during ritual to help create a boundary for a ceremonial circle or sacred space. They are also variously associated in many traditions with each the four classical elements.  The Watchtowers may be asked to “guard” the boundaries, or they may be invited into the ritual to share their “powers” often related to their correspondences.

The Elements are also commonly associated with various magickal tools or objects.  For example, you may see Air associated with the athame or ritual knife, Fire with a wand, Water with a Chalice, and Earth with a Pentacle though various traditions may use different associations.   In Tarot, they might be relate Swords to Air, Wands to Fire, Cups to Water and Pentacles/Coins to Earth but again, you may find different associations used.


The classical elements, like most broad spiritual concepts, can have many uses and meanings. Try to step back a bit from traditional teachings and cultural norms, even within .  Avoid charts created by others and work to developing your own spiritual understandings.  Create your own lists of properties and correspondences.  Elements are multi-dimensional.  Look at things from a variety of angles. Look for how these magical forces manifest in very simple ways within your own surroundings. Often we draw the boundary between magical and mundane; nature does not.

“…if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.” ~ Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Mysterious Cat

Mysterious CatIn a small town bar in a small village, the town’s people gathered for community, banter, philosophy and gossip as they did most weeks.

As conversation flowed, Jessup asked everyone if they had seen the strange cat.  “Last night when I looked out into my back yard, I saw this strange cat run fleetingly by.  It was all black with fierce green eyes,” said Jessup.  “I did not get a good look at him though, but he looked like something that should not be messed with.”

“The only cat around here is an old grey feline” said Alfred.  “It comes around my house nightly when I take out my trash.  I usually throw him a few scraps and he wanders away.  I am not sure where he came from since we haven’t had any cats around here in ages.”

Carl announced that he had definitely seen the cat and always left a bowl of warm milk out for him to enjoy.  “The cat never howls at my house,” he stated.  He argued that he has found that kindness always attracts the best in people.  “The cat has become an important part of my daily routine and I am not sure what I would do without him,” he said.  “I am so glad that he came into my life.”

Doug said that he remembers seeing the cat once and even looked it up in a book to see what kind it was.  “You all must be seeing him in the dim light,” Doug said.  “The cat is definitely a long-haired Persian; and according to the book, you should never feed him anything but fresh fish. The book also says that your must leave it someplace where it can be found and then walk away, because he doesn’t like to be watched.”  Though Dough admitted to never actually seeing the cat eat the fish, he always had faith that the cat would be satisfied.

Bob spoke up and complained that the cat must be the one that always bothers him in the middle of the night by sitting on the fence outside his window howling.  “The cat looked more auburn to me though, but it must have been the same cat.  I usually throw a boot at him to make him go away.  Cats are such a pest and we would do good to be rid of it. Attaching yourself to a cat can only lead to it being dependent on you.”

Greg laughed at the rest of them and said that he found it to be a very friendly cat that always came up to him for petting.  He even confessed to talking with the cat who appeared to listen to him closely.  “I would say that she was more of a Siamese cat though,” he said.  He challenged the book and argued that it was best to find out what the cat liked by trying different things.  “You should treat the cat as an individual.  I have found that he likes hard cat food the best.”

Kyle laughed at them all and accused them of not knowing the difference between a boy and a girl cat.  “She is definitely a girl.  They have a certain walk and look about them,” he said. “And besides, the cat acts so much like my dead mother-in-law, I would swear that this cat was a reincarnation of her.”

As the townspeople continued to argue amongst themselves as to the behavior, desires and description of this cat, the last of the cats wandered into the abandon barn on the other side of town to sleep until their next outing.


Posted in Critical Thinking, Interfaith | Leave a comment