My day job and my caregiving responsibilities have definitely been eating up my “spare” time as of late, but, thankfully, I was able to set aside a full workday (8+ hours) yesterday for the express purpose of creating new beaded gemstone ritual jewelry pieces to sell on my Etsy site, Jackal Moon Designs!
Blessings bright on this beautiful, summery (here in Chicago, we’re looking at bright sunshine and temps in the mid-80s again!) Beltane and Eastern Orthodox Easter Sunday! As my friend Szmeralda observed, “You’ve got double the magic!” in my household as dual-faith observances, begun on Friday, continue.
No, I’m not writing this post from the perspective of outing myself as an extraterrestrial, although, to quote the character of Harry (marvelously played by Alan Tudyk) on the hit SYFY Channel series Resident Alien, “I hear they’re pretty cool!” 🙂
Earth Day: Cause for Optimism, Cause for Despair
Every Earth Day brings up a whole host of emotions for me: on the one hand, I feel gloriously optimistic and tremendously inspired by the passion of climate change activists, especially galvanized young voices on the vanguard of the movement such as 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her peers. There’s no denying that in the past decade or so here in the US, environmental, climate change, and habitat/resource conservation issues have definitely risen to the forefront of the collective consciousness, economically (feeling greater degrees of empowerment as consumers to align our shopping choices with our personal values) and politically (where these issues are, unfortunately, vehemently debated across party lines, of course). From the social justice angle voiced by BIPOC activists denouncing the overt, systemic racism behind decades-old policies of polluting communities of color and the sacred lands of First Nations Peoples to the more personal economic and health angles of looking to maximize energy efficiency and reduce waste in the home while opting for organic foods on our plates (and even growing our own produce), more and more people are, thankfully, thinking about and acting upon a desire to promote sustainability. (Today’s Google doodle, screenshot below, made me applaud and cry tears of joy!)
On the other hand, since I aspire to live every day as Earth Day with my conscious choices, I also feel a world of despair weighing on my heart. The plain facts of the case are that we’re all crowding ourselves on an increasingly fragile planet with drastically shrinking resources. Our late-stage global capitalism exudes a rapacious appetite for destruction, laying waste to swathes of Amazonian rain forest with illegal logging (China can’t get enough timber) and drying up entire rivers in Chilean villages so life-giving water can be rerouted to corporate-owned avocado orchards (watch the Netflix documentary Rotten if you haven’t already; it’s a disturbing eye-opener of the ugliness in global food production). I seethe with rage. I feel sick to my stomach. I often cry in states of deep despair when I watch the YouTube videos of my favorite evolutionary biologist, Dr. Guy McPherson. In his ocean of data pertaining to mass extinction events and what he terms “near-term human extinction,” he soberly tells us that our efforts to save the planet, while stemming from noble intentions, amount to “too little, too late.”
That’s despair and tidal waves of hopelessness stemming from the macro level. At the micro level, to give but one example, when I see how my neighbors repeatedly throw litter around in my neighborhood (in front of one park in particular), often from their cars as they careen down my street at outrageously high speeds, I feel the heaviness in my chest and tightness in my throat that is the same visceral response I have to grief. Since the pandemic began last year, it’s routine for me to have latex-free disposable gloves in my purse or in my pockets, so I invariably make a beeline for the garbage I see strewn about and take the time to dispose of it in the closest public trash can I can find. But I can assure you I am grumbling very misanthropic thoughts under my breath as I do so! I think a part of me wants the human race to die off because we in Western societies have been, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution at least, such ungracious guests in our Earth Mother’s house! Like the brilliantly visionary Tool song “Aenima” informs us, “The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.”
We live in very challenging times and it seems like we’re on the fast-track, collectively, to devolution, not the vaunted “progress” that our misplaced faith in technology as the ultimate savior tricks us into believing.
What’s a Witch to do?
As far as Sabbat celebrations go, Imbolc was always one of my favorites (I love liminal markers in the shift between seasons, especially between winter and spring), but the Imbolc of exactly one year ago, 2020, will forever be cherished in my heart as the most spiritually poignant one I’ve ever experienced. I had a moment of profound epiphany that any contemporary Polytheist, of any tradition, would recognize the same way I had: a moment of instantaneous transformation wrought from an encounter with an earthly avatar of a very Living Deity, a vibrant Holy Power Who will always command my reverence and devotion even though the Gods of the Celts have, largely, remained elusive to me despite my many attempts at reaching out to know Them. I know in my heart that in the second floor hospital room of Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois, an avatar of Brigid knocked on the door and asked to be let in to comfort my suffering mom. And she came on Imbolc Day: February 2, 2020.
I’m going to state my personal bias up front: This is an astonishing modern grimoire written by a personal friend of mine who is an extraordinarily talented Witch, artist, writer, and devotee of the Goddess Hekate: Jeff Cullen. In 2019, he approached me and announced that he was going to be developing the idea for Liber Khthonia into a book. In addition to consulting me in an editorial capacity to discuss the structure and content of the manuscript (I did copyedit the final draft), Jeff honored me greatly, knowing of my reputation in the Chicago Pagan community as a Priestess of Hekate Khthonia, by asking me to write the book’s Foreword! I was thrilled to do so and saw the entire undertaking of the publication of Liber Khthonia as fulfilling a vital need among the Goddess’ ever-growing number of devotees worldwide who have been yearning for just such a book to deepen what can only be called a devotionally anchored Hekatean Tradition of Witchcraft. The book, hot off the presses, is now available in a handsome hardcover edition that truly belongs on the library shelves of every Witch who adores the Queen of Witches!
My time-honored tradition of performing divination to foresee the year ahead with my calendrical/zodiacal houses/clock face spread continues unabated. However, due to being very busy working New Year’s Eve and Day and needing yesterday to rest and decompress, I had to wait until today to actually do my Tarot spread. Come join me on this journey of (self-)discovery, won’t you?
Once again, pre-Christian Celtic and pre-Christian Slavic magico-religious observances overlap at this time of year. While many Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate May 1 as Beltane, and bring the greenery o’ the Wildwood into their homes and ritual spaces, my Serbian Witch self celebrates this Friday as Biljini Petak, the “Friday of Gathering Wild Herbs and Flowers.” Celtic or Slavic, this time of year is held sacred as the start of summer, and some very ancient Powers are revered and thanked for Their blessings of returning the earth to vibrant life and verdant fecundity after the barrenness and tedium of winter.
The Sun’s annual transit through Taurus is one of my favorite times of the year. There’s a real palpable sense of Spring finally arriving (its arrival is typically delayed here in chilly Chicago): the trees and tulips are flowering, the warbler birds are out in full force to serenade day and night, and my personal artistic/creative endeavors receive a very welcome Venusian boost of energy. I’ve been making quite a lot of necklaces to sell on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns, and I’d like to showcase a few of them for you now. COVID-19 be damned: it’s time to get our ritual bling on!
I love being a morning person. I’m not one to sleep in past 6 a.m., even on the weekends, so I’m up and walking my dog, L’il T-Man, very early in the morning. Our first destination is the paupers’ graveyard near my home. It’s a treat to witness the dawn of a new day from the vantage point of standing in one of the commemorative concrete circles, each of which bears bronze plaques that honor a different demographic group buried on the premises (e.g., John Doe Civil War dead, John and Jane Doe victims of the 1871 Chicago Fire, Cook County Asylum for the Insane patients and their children, etc., over 38,000 total bodies).
And in the past 7 years of living in this far Northwest side Chicago neighborhood, the paupers’ graveyard has been my focal point of clean-up efforts every Earth Day. With today being the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and it being the Dark of the Moon at the time of this writing (the New Moon at 3° Taurus will occur tonight at 9:25 CDT), I am dedicating my clean-up efforts in a wider context of spiritual service to one of my Patron Deities, the ancient Anatolian-Greek Goddess, Hekate Khthonia (Hekate “From Inside the Earth”).
April is National Poetry Month. As a former college English instructor, a published poet, and an ordained Priestess, I honor the legacies of artists whose works have transcended the boundaries of their artistic mediums, and the vagaries of the times in which they lived, rippling out with profound spiritual force to affect so many people today. American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is such an artist who has had an incalculable effect upon my developing spiritual consciousness from my adolescence onwards; I go so far as to hail her in the ranks of my Mighty Dead, my spiritual forebears in Witchcraft.
Three years ago, I began to meditate on the idea of Plath’s poetry as a vehicle for encountering Dark Goddess energies and the need to harness those energies in a public Pagan ritual format. I knew I wanted to weave together the strands of my academic analysis of her work (I taught American poetry at the undergraduate level for 3 years as an adjunct English professor on Oahu), my Priestessing skills in generating energy and directing it towards a specific purpose to benefit a group of participants, and my own personal religious devotion to specific Dark Goddesses (e.g., Hekate, Nephthys, Hel). Art served as the medium of inspiration, as it often does: not just Plath’s poetry, but my artistic interpretations through acrylic paintings of some of Plath’s most famous works.
The following chronicles my process and its eventual public ritual outcome: an evening of tribute to Plath’s genius through the ritual encountering of Dark Goddess energy, recitals and discussions of Plath’s poetry, and a shamanic journey facilitated by the use of my 2017 painting An Homage to Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ as a portal into the Otherworld. My goal was to have ritual participants surrender to the “blackness and silence” of the Dark Goddess, as described in Plath’s inimitable voice, and experience the transformative gifts of the Shadow.