What is a Familiar?

August 9, 2018

Familiars are spirits which help witches with their magic. The term has morphed in common usage to mean any beloved pet owned by any person. In the strict magical sense of the word, this is incorrect.

A familiar can be an incarnate spirit or an embodied one, as long as the familiar is dedicated to the witch or magician. It does not have to be an animal and can be a plant or a stone. It is never a person. The magical relationship between a witch is a conscious one, actively employed.

There is a strong psychic bond between a witch and her familiar, and the familiar may help a witch with divination. It may magically carry out a witch’s bidding. It may carry messages to otherworldly realms. If you don’t do divination, cast spells, or communicate with the dead, you don’t have a witch’s familiar. That would be like saying you have a barber when you never cut your hair.

It is possible to have more than one familiar, but in practice that is difficult, and many witches move sequentially from one familiar to the next. Having a familiar takes a lot energy. Maintaining any close relationship takes energy. In addition, there is the energy expended keeping the familiar in check. An effective familiar will try to steal your power, so be attentive.

Photo: Jana M. Cisar/US Fish & Wildlife

First Harvest Blessings

August 3, 2018
Goshawk nest in birch tree. Photo: Jensens

Well, the goshawks, reportedly, have flown the nest. The trail is open and people report traveling unmolested. Not sure when I’ll walk that path alone again.

I heard reports last month of two other trails in the county where Northern Goshawks were threatening mountain bikers. The prevalence of goshawks in the Adirondacks has been a matter of speculation for years, with one theory being that they are too shy to give an accurate count. But now it seems that for one month out of the year they are more than willing to make their presence known. I wonder if numbers are recovering or if we’re having an irruption. Time will tell.

Here are some fun facts I learned about the Northern Goshawk.

1) They have such strong talons and are so aggressive that they’ve been known to pierce bicycle helmets in attack.

2) They hunt starlings, which is a major point in their favor. While starlings are famous for their accomplished singing skills, in North America they are an invasive species. Starlings are loud and obnoxious in large groups.

3) Goshawks kill a lot of Blue Jays and keep that native species in check.

4) They like to consume their prey on the ground and don’t have a lot of enemies (unsurprisingly).

5) People are more likely to be attacked when hiking solitary, although this year groups, including groups with dogs, have been attacked.

Things are returning to normal in the village. People are reporting nuisance bears who have learned to open garage doors, but that’s an ongoing problem, and at least the bears run away when they’re confronted.

The Change in Progress

July 27, 2018

I have a lot on my mind right now, but the astrologers say this is not the best time for sharing, with a super lunar eclipse in progress and so many planets retrograde.

Until next week, Hearth.

Oh My Goddess, Not This Again!

July 20, 2018

I was planning to write more this week about the Northern Goshawk, but I’ve been sidetracked once again by the patriarchally-minded Pagans, Witches this time, who no-platform feminists for disagreeing with them. I don’t even blog about this every time it happens, or they would effectively silence my voice by giving me nothing else to write about. But this week the entry in the no-platforming hall of shame is especially egregious: Max Dashu was disinvited from an event in San Francisco entitled “Modern Witches Confluence” per objections by trans activists.

As someone noted in a (still undeleted at the time of this writing) comment, there could be no such confluence without the scholarship of Max Dashu. Amidst many decades of concerted misinformation and specious attacks from the academy on the legacy of Witchcraft, Max has been a persistent voice on the side of truth, with meticulous research backing up her conclusions. She is the best scholarly resource Pagans have had since Robert Graves.

By parsing her work, those with “a shared vision of inclusion” (whatever that means) have revealed Max as having thought crimes, of not believing every part of the trans narrative. Not believing, in current Orwellian parlance, is “non-inclusive,” and the punishment for this heresy is…wait for it…non-inclusion.

Max’s book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion 700-1100 can be purchased here. Here is my review of the book. You can also support her work with a donation here.

Well That Was Interesting

June 29, 2018

Last Friday I had a frightening wildlife encounter, the most upsetting in my life so far. I was not harmed in any way, only badly shaken. A friend of mine, upon hearing about the episode, said, “Oooouuuu! You can write about this!” It is a testament to how unnerving the experience was that a day later it still had not occurred to me to write about it, ever. Maybe I will, next week or next month or someday, but I’m not ready to revisit it yet.

People who have read my books must be wondering, “What would it take to shake her up?” Trust me however: I have been humbled. Stay tuned.

Happy Solstice!

June 22, 2018
Photo: Jon Sullivan

flower • sunflower •
is blooming • is in full bloom •
spring melts to summer •

Gone Fishing

June 15, 2018

… or the vegan equivalent thereof.

Rainbow Trout. Photo: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Ruth Barrett De-Platformed at Goddess Gathering

June 8, 2018

Ruth Barrett reports that after being signed on as the featured speaker at Gaea Goddess Gathering in Kansas, she has been disinvited after at least one person objected. Ruth says she has not been given a reason for being ousted, but that she believes the person objected to an anthology she edited several years ago, Female Erasure, about the effect of trans politics on women’s lives. Ruth says she was open with the board of directors of this Pagan festival about her practice in Women’s Mysteries with natal females, and that her concert and workshop would not be about trans issues.

This is something that happens, somewhere, every year. Last year, at the Fayetteville Goddess Festival in Arkansas, a group of lesbians had the temerity to offer a lesbian focused workshop for lesbians born with a vulva, and some trans women objected to the workshop being offered on the Festival grounds, then objected to the workshop being listed in the program, then objected to the workshop happening at all, then later tried to get the Festival organizer fired from her job for scheduling the workshop in the first place. The year before that, there was campaign to get Ruth fired from her job at Cherry Hill Seminary. Before that, there was a campaign by LGBT organizations to no-platform artists who appeared at The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a music festival attended by many Witches which allowed trans women to attend but refused to center trans women in the program. Pagan Spirit Gathering suspended rituals for bio women in response to trans activist objections. And of course there’s Pantheacon.

Ruth has asked that people contact the Gaea Goddess Gathering to express their disappointment in that organization’s cowardly unethical exclusionary sexist decision to withdraw their invitation. I want to suggest two more things. The first is to buy and read the book Ruth edited, which is well researched and well documented and does not anywhere argue that trans people are not entitled to life, safety, healthcare, or other basic human rights. Just read the damn book, listen to other points of view, and risk having a thought crime!

My second recommendation is to put something in place which makes it difficult for speakers/leaders of Pagan gatherings to be disinvited by a few vocal people. It should be standard in every contract to lead a Pagan conference, workshop, ritual, or gathering, that there be a very large financial penalty for cancellation. By “large” I mean much larger than the paltry sum usually offered to the leader. In order for this to work, it needs to be standard, meaning other people besides Ruth need to make that stipulation. Men and women need to make this demand, which is really in everyone’s interest. I have organized two spirituality conferences, and I understand that it’s a thankless job and a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t have to be so very sexist. Conference organizers have to ask themselves whether, at the end of the day, their hard work is really about catering to religious bigotry and further entrenching systemic sexism.