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.
In this era of social distancing amidst this pernicious COVID-19 global pandemic in which we find ourselves, focus on how your solitary spiritual practices can not just grow, but thrive. One helpful method of personal spiritual battery replenishment takes its cue from the swelling Traditional Witchcraft current in contemporary Paganism, whose tenets include, among other things, establishing a dynamic relationship with the spirits of your local landscape.
Twelve years ago today, my best friend (who is an amazing priest and vitki in his cultic tradition) Richie and I led a public Heathen devotional ritual known in some contemporary Norse Polytheist traditions as a faining (distinguished from the more-commonly-known ritual of a blòt; the former is distinguished by bloodless sacrificial offerings). It was a glorious day at a Lake County, Illinois-based forest preserve ritual location that I have always regarded as inherently sacred and immensely powerful: it is a place that shimmers with the energies of so many welcoming and helpful forest spirits, prairie spirits, and water spirits (lake and river). In attendance that Midsummer’s Day were good friends and notable Heathens in the community, such as my friend Atheleas, who served as the Illinois Steward for The Troth at the time, and several of her kindred members.
The reality is that grief from pet loss is not as easily ‘fixed’ as some would have us believe. It’s hard to live in grief that’s judged as unworthy. Grief is about love, and our animal companions often show us some of the most unconditional love we could ever experience. How often, despite our best efforts, do we absorb some of society’s judgments and think, I shouldn’t be grieving this much? Yet when we let these thoughts in, we betray our genuine feelings.
—Dr. David Kessler, You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Publishing, 2014), p. 136.
My role as cat midwife/cat mother has come full circle for my beloved Grendel: On September 21, 2007, I midwifed his feral birth in the woods behind my parents’ house; last night, June 11, 2019, I served as the death midwife who ushered him into the Spirit World after I made the heart-wrenching choice (given his Stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis less than 3 weeks ago) to have him euthanized at home sooner than I was expecting to. Continue reading
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide Sea!
And Christ would take no pity on
My soul in agony.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, In Seven Parts” (1798), Part IV, lines 224-227
In my last post, I wrote about the beauty and the power of prayer and how it forms the core of my contemporary Polytheist devotional practice. But I certainly have had my challenges over the years in sustaining my practice, like any other religious person committed to devotional piety. Whether the span lasted for weeks or even months on end, the spiritual crisis known as the “dark nights of the soul,” a term first coined by the sixteenth-century Spanish Counter-Reformation mystic known as St. John of the Cross, was a dreadful phenomenon I’ve endured many times. Continue reading
One of the origins of our modern Mother’s Day, Matronalia was celebrated in ancient Rome as the New Year and as the time for matrons to perform rites to Juno Lucina at Her temple on the Esquiline Hill. This festival was also known as “the women’s Saturnalia.”
It gives me great pleasure to announce, after several days of intensive copy editing and graphical layout, that the 48-page, full-color Winter 2018-2019 issue of Isis-Seshat journal has officially been released! With its theme of “Tending to the Ancestors,” the issue features various Polytheists’, Pagans’, and Witches’ perspectives on the importance of cultivating and maintaining ancestor veneration in their daily devotional practices, how they do it, or why they abstain. Hailing from no less than 3 different continents, this issue’s contributors reflect a world of culturally contextualized traditions, from the Heathenry/Teutonic Polytheism of Northern and Central Europe to West African and Afro-Cuban Diaspora religions. I’m so deeply thankful to the gorgeous and deeply personal original works of art, poetry, and essays that were sent to me as submissions! This issue would not have been possible without so many peoples’ support.
On the night of Saturday, November 3, 2018 into the wee hours of the morning of Sunday, November 4, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first official paranormal investigation at the Old Joliet Prison, courtesy of the paranormal investigation groups Chicago Hauntings and the Joliet Paranormal Society as well as the Joliet Area Historical Museum. My friend Edward and I joined 48 hearty souls for the 5-hour-long investigation, including renowned psychic medium (featured on the long-running Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures) Chris Fleming, who happens to be a Chicago native.
Editorial Note: This is the transcript of the presentation I gave on Saturday at the 25th Annual Fellowship of Isis in Chicago Goddess Convention. I added photos from my PowerPoint presentation and my references list.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this historic 25th anniversary Goddess Festival commemorated by the Chicago FOI Community! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna Applegate, I’m an ordained Priestess, and as a Polytheist primarily dedicated to the Kemetic or Egyptian Pantheon of Gods in my personal spiritual practice, I am very excited to be talking to you about the mysterious and powerful Scorpion Goddess, Selqet. I love Her very much. She features prominently in my ancestor devotionals and in the Spirit Work that I do, and I am deeply honored to ritually invoke Her in our Main Liturgy this evening, “The Mystical Awakening of Scorpio and Kundalini.”