Encounters with the Dark Goddess: Artistic and Ritual Reimagining of Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

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.

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Check Out My New Jewelry Listings on JackalMoonDesigns!

I was ridiculously productive in the sweltering Chicago heat yesterday, making no less than 14 gemstone beaded necklaces in the span of an 8-hour workday; 12 necklaces have since been listed for sale on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns. From devotional pieces intended to honor Deities across a swath of pantheons (Celtic, Kemetic, Hellenic) to my new and expanding line of Spirit Animals to more standard occult fare, there’s truly something for everyone in this diverse lot!

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Musings on Spirit Familiars

My household in my 1200-square-foot Chicago condo is comprised of myself, four cats (Beowulf, Grendel, Hela, and Máni), and a corn snake named Brimo. I often think about the fact that, were I transported to Early Modern Germany or Scotland, I’d have certainly been executed for the “crime” of Witchcraft because a woman alone as the sovereign of her household was shockingly unacceptable, and my animal companions—deemed devils in animal form according to the superstitions of the time—would have certainly cemented my reputation as a consort of Satan and gotten me strung up on the gallows or worse. I simply could not have been viewed as a childless-by-choice woman who loves her pets as family and treasures each of their unique personalities as gifts.

witch-feeding-her-familiars

A wonderful Witch Mother feeds her familiar spirits kept in the cupboard.

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Walpurgisnacht Chant

A blessed May Eve/Walpurgisnacht/Beltane to all who celebrate in the Northern Hemisphere, and a blessed All Hallowstide/Samhain to friends Down Under! Here is a little chant we used to do in my coven after the balefire has been consecrated and we danced around it to raise energy:

Walpurgisnacht

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Walpurgis Night, the time is right,

The ancient powers awake.

 

So dance and sing, around the ring,

And Beltane magic make.

 

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,

Upon the eve of May,

 

We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,

Forever and a day.

 

New life we see, in flower and in tree,

And summer comes again.

 

Be free and fair, like earth and air,

The sunshine and the rain.

 

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,

Upon the eve of May,

 

We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,

Forever and a day.

 

As magic fire be our desire

To tread the Pagan way,

 

And our True Will find and fulfill,

As dawns a brighter day.

 

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,

Upon the eve of May,

 

We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,

Forever and a day.

 

The Pagan powers this night be ours,

Let all the world be free,

 

And sorrow cast into the past,

And future blessed be!

 

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,

Upon the eve of May,

 

We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,

Forever and a day.

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If you’d like to read about traditional witch lore regarding Walpurgisnacht and Germanic folklore, you’ll probably find this blog post I wrote to be of interest.

Hail, the Queen of Elphame!

Sekhmet and the Ma’at of Letting Go: Reflections on My Sekhmet Ritual at PSG 2014

Editorial Comment: I am extremely pleased that the essay you’re about to read below has been accepted for publication in Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s forthcoming anthology on the goddess Sekhmet entitled Daughter of the Sun: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Sekhmet. My essay is being published under my legal name and I will retain all copyrights to it. The book is being released next month; I’m so excited!


 

“Sekhmet and the Ma’at of Letting Go”

Just prior to leaving for the 2014 Pagan Spirit Gathering, held June 15-22 in Illinois, I had been seeing, due to its popularity among several of my friends, a recurring post on my Facebook News Feed—one that irked me.

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“The Divine Feminine Propels Us Onward”: The Legacy of 19th-Century Romanticism for Today’s Spiritual Seekers

Editorial Note: This essay was first published in Pantheon, the official journal of Chicago’s Life Force Arts Center, a gallery and performance space dedicated to literary, performing, and visual arts rooted in spiritual expression. I retain all copyrights.


 

“The Divine Feminine Propels Us Onward”:

The Legacy of 19th-Century Romanticism for Today’s Spiritual Seekers

How comfortable are you in describing yourself as a creator? Do you identify as one? Why or why not? Is that term solely reserved for artists? Or parents? Or the holders of patents? Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re breathing new worlds into being on a regular basis. Performing on open mic night. Whipping up an amazing quiche, baked from scratch. Delivering a solid presentation that ends up landing new accounts for your business. Creation is our divine mandate; it’s something we’re all called to do. It’s our divine birthright as creatures made in the image of God/dess/Spirit/Ultimate Reality—whatever you want to call It, that ineffable Source of our truest, highest selves. Continue reading

A Night with Starhawk and the “Goddesses of the End Times”

By way of editorial comment: I wrote this essay the day after the event happened back in November 2006. I tried getting it published in Sage Woman and Circle Magazine at the time but never received word. Well, now that I’m in the blogosphere, I can release it into the world–Namaste, Bitches--as was my intent for all Pagans who appreciate Starhawk’s work in the world to enjoy.

It came unbidden and electrifying, the chance to see in person the woman who altered the course of my spiritual unfolding in this lifetime when I was but a fifteen-year-old seeker: Starhawk. Continue reading