The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer

The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer

by Asherah

When I was a young girl, I had a book of tales and poems about fairies. I don’t know where it is now, probably on one of my parents’ dusty bookshelves, missorted after a move. It was a big book, mostly pictures, and it fascinated me: I wanted to get into that world, in with the fairies.

I only remember one verse: “The fairies will be dancing, when there’s a ring around the moon.” But I remember that the big fairy holiday was Midsummer Night.

On Midsummer Night, the witches, the fairies, the spirits of the dead, the wraiths of the living: all will be abroad and visible.

I couldn’t have been more than five, but it enchanted me, the idea of slipping out at midnight, stars veiled in the humid dark of summer, maybe with a flashlight (a candlewould have been more romantic but harder to get), to a ring trodden bare in grass that flickered around my ankles. The circle would break, a small, bony hand held out to mine…

But I knew if I tried slipping out I’d get in trouble. Moreover, I was confused. It seemed Midsummer Night was June 21, or thereabouts, but wasn’t that the beginning of summer? If so, why was it called midsummer? I consulted my mother, but the contradiction didn’t bother her; she said that was just the way it was. It was only much later that I stumbled on the answer, that if Beltaine is summer’s start the solstice falls at Midsummer.

In medieval times, Midsummer was the feast of St. John the Baptist. The herbs of St. John are St. Johnswort, hawkweed, orpine, vervain, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe. Plucked (depending on your tradition) either at midnight St. John’s Eve or at noon St. John’s Day and hung in the house, they will protect it from fire and lightning. Worn about the body, they will protect you from disease, witchcraft and disaster.

Previously, Midsummer was one of the great fire festivals of Europe. At Stonehenge, it is said, Midsummer was a time of human sacrifice. The children’s counting-out rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo” may be a relic of the means by which the Druids chose their sacrifices.

It was around Midsummer when my friend Holly and I decided to enchant David, who was the cutest boy in our class. We were 11, and what might happen if he really fell in love with both of us didn’t cross our minds. (I think each of us in her heart of hearts felt he’d choose her.) Holly got a copy of the Dell pocketbook Everyday Witchcraft from the stand at the grocery store checkout line, and I talked my mother into buying me one too. One of the love spellsinstructed us to collect grass from his lawn and make a charm from it.

So we slipped out and met at dawn . I remember the feel of dawn asphalt cool beneath my feet. In Kansas City the lawns are pretty big; sitting on the sidewalk at the far corner of David’s lawn, at the bottom of a steep incline, we ran little risk of being seen. So we collected a few strands and sat a while, basking in his nearness.

If an unmarried girl, fasting, on Midsummer Eve at midnight sets the table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, leaves the yard door open and waits, the boy she will marry, or his spirit, will come in and eat with her.

Plant two slips of orpine (Sedum telephium) together on Midsummer Eve, one to represent yourself, one to represent your lover. If one slip withers, the one it represents will die. But if both take hold, flourish and grow leaning together, you and your lover will marry.

It was around Midsummer also, and I, 13, but not much the wiser, when my friend Vanessa and I did candle-magic on a mutual friend, Troy. Vanessa made a good, thick candle-poppet of him, with the wick for his head. She was angry at him, and her spell was to banish him; she buried the candle-poppet in the gutter outside her house. I had a crush on him, and my spell was quite the opposite, though I didn’t confess this to Vanessa. Our spells must have crossed, because while Vanessa and Troy made up, ever afterward Troy had an aversion to me.

To become invisible, wear or swallow fern seed (that is, fern spores) that you collected on Midsummer Eve.

On Midsummer Eve at midnight, the fern blooms with a golden flower. If you pluck this flower, it will lead you to golden treasure. In Russia, the flower must be thrown in the air, and it will land on buried treasure. The Bohemians believe that if you pluck the flower and on the same Midsummer Night climb a mountain with the blossom in hand, you will find gold or have it revealed to you in a vision. Bohemians also sprinkle fern seed in their savings to keep them from decreasing.

It was the fairies, and charms like those of Midsummer, that led me to the Craft. I won’t swear all the high points of the summers of my youth happened on Midsummer Night, but Midsummer is a kind of distillation of all summer. On that night, perhaps you can brush back a feathery, green- smelling branch to see, dancing in a ring, fairies. Or sometimes you might find such a ring indoors.

[Enter Puck, carrying a broom]

“Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide.
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.”

(from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare)

Merry Midsummer to all.


Get Your Pagan Self into the Woods

Get Your Pagan Self into the Woods


by Catherine Harper

While the pagan religions are frequently generically classified as “nature-based,” pagan culture and practice often seems to grow and flourish the most in and around urban centers. The density of people and social volatility, the greater tendency toward liberalism and an atmosphere that encourages the exchange of ideas … it’s not hard to see why. And perhaps in the cities, where at times our relationship to the natural world seems strange and contorted, we feel most strongly the need for that connection.

(Of course, I sometimes question the whole classification. Not all pagan traditions are so closely tied to real or imagined agricultural roots. And while all may be said to be tied to nature, what then does that not cover? The sky turns equally over city, meadow or forest. There are seasons on the street, as there are on a mountain, and wilderness of a sort in an industrial basin. Unless we are to posit that humans, or the works of humans, stand outside of nature, what does the phrase “nature-based” really mean? But not to belabor the point — many people in the pagan and magical communities feel drawn to, or some reverence toward places and systems of life where the touch of humans is less evident.)

One of the changes in my own practice, over the years, has been a gradual shift of interest away from magical forms and rituals toward a simpler practice dealing with direct connection and experience and contemplation. From being a city girl, fascinated with the natural world but having limited wherewithal to explore it outside of an urban environment, I’ve moved out a bit further, planted my garden, learned to drive, picked up a good pair of boots and sought a portion of my connection with the natural cycles among the mountains, among trees and streams, flowers and mushrooms, snow, sun, wind and rain.

I don’t do a lot of formal ritual anymore. In the woods, if I do anything more than just being there, it is usually simple. A small pile of stones by the side of a stream. A candle lit in darkness. A charm woven of needles or grass, hung from the branch of a tree as a gift and remembrance. I go into the mountains far less to change them than to be changed by them, that the malleable stuff that is my substance may be shaped by these other forces, vast and enduring.

Although there can be a lot of power in ritual, I find that for me the undeniable reality of these experiences grounds me, giving me a simpler but firmer foun-dation. At some level, I may strip down and plunge into a snow-melt fed stream for purification. But even more important, it is simply that I am there, the stream is there and that my soft skin comes to know that water. (Brrr!) I touch, and am touched; the symbol fades before the reality.

There is a feeling among many people that spending time in the wild is something that pagans ought to do. I think such a sense of obligation can only do us harm — there are as many ways of being pagan as there are people who so identify. It seems best to me to strive to understand our own callings and approach those things with delight. (Especially since most of us are already called to many things, and finding balance amidst such abundance is already no simple task.) And yet, it does seem like I know a lot of people who would like to spend more time in the woods, or mountains or untended places by the sea, but who don’t, not even because of the press of time and events by themselves, but because the initial steps are a little too unknown, the research a little too time-consuming, the equipment not entirely familiar. At any one time, that first trip out — or perhaps the second, or fourth — takes a little more preparation than that trip is quite worth.

And so I have for you a modest guide that I hope will help you on your way if you are wanting to get out for the first few times.

What to Bring

Clothing: The basic rule is comfortable, sturdy clothes. Your clothing should allow you to move freely, including scrambling over the odd pile of rocks, or other kinds of moving that might not be part of your everyday life. It should not be likely to be damaged by branches or thorns and it should protect you from the same. Wearing multiple layers is practical, as they can be added or removed to adjust for changing conditions. And conditions do change, the cool day turning blazing hot, the sunny day turning into a thunderstorm. Cotton, as comfortable as it is for many situations, is often not the best choice — it absorbs water too readily and dries too slowly, and so often is cold and uncomfortable when wet. If you have them, lightweight wicking fabrics will serve you well. You can also count on wool, when it’s practical.

Footwear: Good, well-fitted hiking boots are one of the best investments I can recommend for anyone. But if you aren’t hiking more than a few miles, and don’t have ankles that are unusually susceptible to being twisted, any pair of sturdy, supportive shoes will do. Keep in mind that trails are often muddy. Bring waterproof shoes if you have them, and remember that thick wool (or hi-tech synthetic) socks will give you better cushioning and will function better when wet. Also, if you’re going to be walking more than is your usual habit, it’s really not a good time to break in new shoes.

Protective gear: At minimum, I’d recommend a lightweight, water-resistant jacket. (I have one that packs to about the size of an orange.) A hat with a brim for keeping water or sun out of your eyes can be a good idea, as can sunglasses, though it does depend a bit on the time of year and weather. If it’s hot, and you don’t want to cover up, bring sunscreen. Insect repellant is often a good idea too.

Companionship: It’s easy to both over- or understate the hazards of time spent in the wilderness or relative wilderness. One is fairly unlikely to run into serious predators, human or otherwise. But even minor injuries can become serious if they prevent you from returning to the comforts of civilization. (I once fell while climbing up the side of a ravine not much more than a mile from where I lived, putting a deep slash, almost six inches long, up the inside of my leg. Not very far out, but far enough so that no one could hear me. I did get the bleeding to stop, and hobbled home, but it was a sobering event.) These dangers are greatly, greatly lessened by not going alone. It is, to be fair, a rule that almost everyone breaks sometimes. But think about it.

Navigational Material: Classically, you should carry a map and compass. Though if you’re not used to navigating by these means, I don’t know how much they’ll help you. Bring tools appropriate to your trail, whatever it may be — directions, a map, a GPS… and if the trail requires more than you know how to use, save it for another day. Remember, also, that it’s easier to get turned around once you’re off a trail than it might seem.

Other Basics

Food: Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, even if it’s just a sports bar or a handful of trail mix, bring some kind of food.

Water: Same deal. Except more so. (After one 3-mile hike that turned out to be a very thirsty 10-and-a-half-mile hike, I always carry water-purification tablets in my purse as backup, though I use a pump filter if I’m hiking seriously. But this is probably overkill for most people.)

First Aid Kit: You can go fairly minimalist. Most of the time, it will probably go unused, but those few other times you’ll be happy to have it.

Flashlight: Again, you may not intend to be out after dark, but things happen.

Where to Go

Twin Falls, Ollalie State Park: This is one of my all-time favorite short hikes, and even better for being only a short drive from the city. A nice, fairly flat walk along a rushing river surrounded by wildflowers. And then the trees thicken into forest, and there’s a bit of a hill climb to an overlook to the falls. Then down, around, and up again, past more flowers, more river and some really wonderful old trees, and you reach a bridge suspended between two cliffs, offering excellent views of both falls. From the bridge you can follow the trail up to another overlook or two, or simply call it a day and turn back. (The trail eventually connects to a multi-user interstate trail, which, although convenient, is not nearly as scenic.) About 3 miles round trip to the overlook above the bridge.

To get to Ollalie State Park, take I-90 east to exit 34. At the bottom of the exit, turn right, and follow the road until the last left turn before a bridge (which is marked with a sign saying “Twin Falls” or something to that effect). Take that left, drive until you reach the parking area.

Barclay Lake: Barclay Lake is a little farther out, and perhaps a shade longer than the last hike, but less steep. It’s a rougher trail (if you have a tendency toward twisted ankles, make sure you’re wearing supportive boots) through woods with some of the most impressive mosses, shelf fungus and contorted logs that look like trolls. There’s a certain amount of scrambling over logs and some bridges that aren’t much more than logs, along a beautiful stream and at last to a mountain lake. It’s around three miles round trip, with only about 100 feet of elevation gain.

To get to Barcklay Lake, take Highway 2 eastbound, through Index, into the town of Baring. You will see a sign marked “Forest Service Road 6024 next left” and indeed, this is the left you want to take, even though it crosses the train tracks and becomes a fairly piddling road. It then turns into a gravel track, which you follow for about 4.5 miles until you reach the trail head.

The Old Robe Trail: Rushing water. Big trees. Fallen rocks the size of houses. Dark tunnels to creep through. This is one of the most dramatic easy hikes you’re likely to run across. Parking at the trail head, you’ll head down a hill and then across a mostly flat old railroad grade trail along the side of the river. At some points, portions of the trail have washed out. These are still navigable with caution, but do require that caution.

Take Highway 9 until you see a right turn onto Highway 92, toward Granite Falls. Follow 92 into Granite Falls, until it Ts out. Turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. (The last few times I’ve been in Granite Falls there has been construction.) About 7 miles out of Granite Falls you’ll see a sign on your right marking the Old Robe Trail.

Further Resources

Washington State is netted with trails. The Mountaineers have lots of publications giving descriptions and directions to many of them (including wonder books aimed at niches — best hikes for kids, best short hikes, best hikes with dogs…). Their Web site is It lists the books available. There is also a good selection of these and other trail guides at REI,, which is a good source for any additional gear you might want as well.

Sealed by the Desert: How Dark and Light Earth Mother Brought Me Peace

Sealed by the Desert: How Dark and Light Earth Mother Brought Me Peace


by Janice Van Cleve

I had to pray. Never had I felt the need to pray more strongly than I did right then. The confluence of personal emotions and the raw beauty of the sacred space in which I found myself demanded it. I had to connect with spirit and find center.

My emotional energy came largely from the breakup. Nine months had passed, and the wounds were still raw. We broke off abruptly, then tried counseling, then made those achingly painful attempts to rebuild a friendship in the looming shadow of the broken love. It was a failure that acted itself out over and over during that summer like repeatedly scratching a scab before it could heal. I needed healing, and to do that I needed to get off this downward spiral. I needed a change of scene. So when my friends invited me to visit them in San Antonio, I accepted.

Their own relationship was none too smooth. They fought all the time and shared very little sex or even tenderness. Yet they were building a lasting relationship. From the advantage of being a disinterested third party, I was able to observe them and their friends with a bit of objectivity. I concluded that spiritual support seemed to be one thing working in their favor. They shared spiritual values and the same higher power, which served to unite them even if they were miles apart in the mundane world. Social support seemed equally important. They had a tight-knit network of couples who modeled, expected and affirmed staying together even through the difficult times. I suspected that this was because Texas was a toxic environment for lesbians and gays. Having a partner to fight with was better than having no partner at all, and finding a new one was more difficult than in Seattle. Finally, of course, they had the shared responsibility for a house and a mortgage. Nothing unites or divides like money.

Being objective about them helped me be objective about myself. My ex and I did not share spiritual values, did not have the same friends and lived apart. In this quiet retreat in Texas, I was able to see what was right in front of my face back home. Yet the last two years had not been a mistake. I learned that I could be loved. She learned that she could be respected. These were the gifts we were bound to bring to each other. The gifts were delivered. Mission accomplished. It was never in the cards that we would fill all of each other’s needs. Our roles in each other’s lives were completed. Now it was time to go our separate ways, enriched for our next mission.

It was all well and good to realize the fact intellectually, but I needed to bring spirit to that realization. I needed to pray, but this place didn’t feel right. It was a small bedroom in somebody else’s house in a mediocre suburb of San Antonio, and I had none of my tools. Besides, the energy was wrong here with all the bickering. I needed to be alone in the wild. I needed to be out there where air and earth, fire and water were exposed and tangible. I bid my friends good-bye and flew to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to visit the caverns. Carlsbad Caverns captured my imagination as far back as my childhood and I had visited them in wonder and awe two years previously. I knew it was the place I needed to be. And there I went.

Late on the day I arrived, the late afternoon sun cast an orange fire on the dry hills beyond the Pecos. Small patches of green flanked the river as it meandered down through the dusty plains to the Rio Grande, far to the south. Behind me, the Guadalupe Mountains began to gather purple shadows beneath their stony brows, just as my own shadow began to fall across the pavement of the visitor center parking lot. Soon it would be dusk. The bats would be swarming out of the caves like a fluttering blizzard to scoop up their dinners of insects down in the valley.

It had been a full day. Many and various were the adventures I had pursued in the chambers below. I had booked myself on ranger tours to explore caves that most tourists don’t get to see. My lantern cast weird shadows in Left Hand Cave, and I marveled at “soda straws” and perfectly round puddle marbles in Lower Caves. I even squeezed through Murdock’s Pinch, which is a long horizontal crawl so narrow that I had to keep my head sideways and propel myself with no more than my elbows and toes! Wonderful as these adventures were, they were dwarfed by the enveloping majesty of sitting alone in the darkness of the Big Room and hearing the echoes of far off drips from the ceiling high above hitting some distant formation as they have for millennia beyond reckoning. I can’t think of any place on earth that would feel more like the womb of Dark Earth Mother.

There was peace in the Big Room and an ageless quiet, but I could not pray there, either. The presence of Goddess was too deep and dark and ancient in that place for me. My little Gemini air spirit felt oppressed and crushed. It was all I could do to sit for a while and absorb Her intense, enveloping totality. When I had experienced all that I was able to hold, I took the elevator to the surface.

That’s how I found myself outside in the parking lot with this huge compelling need to pray. With no real direction in mind, I walked across the pavement and stepped over the edging. The rough, stony roof of Captain’s Reef is sparsely clothed in scrub, sagebrush, various cactuses and spiky yucca plants. The view is expansive, and the sky is open and broad. I breathed in the fresh air that was more attuned to my spirit than the cave and started out through the desert flora toward the plateau’s edge.

There, I found a bare rock space that was like a floor, surrounded by cacti and a number of tall, spindly branches of some leafless bush. I gathered a few stones and made a circle, and sat in their midst. The warmth of the sun-baked rock seeped into me. The life energies of the wild plants around me was vibrant enough almost to hear with my ears. I tuned my inner energies to their symphony and listened to the hum of busy insects finishing up their day’s activities. The gentle breeze washed over me, around me and through me. Here was the place I could pray.

I connected with the four directions and with earth and sky. I opened up my soul to the universe and allowed my body to live in the moment in these surroundings without any mental or social controls. Here in the wild, I was open to magick. I felt my mundane world and its cares break up like a desert mirage, and I came face to face with the reality of sun, sand and sky. The raw wind of spirit ripped through me, and I became one with it.

Who knows how long or short I traveled in that space before I caught sight of a preying mantis. So wrapped up was I in my past, I had not noticed her sitting motionless on a cactus in front of me. In her serrated arms, she clutched a grasshopper, and as I watched, I could see her contentedly munching away with no cares in the world except with the task in front of her. I could not imagine that she cared much for what happened yesterday, or even remembered it. Nor do I think she worried much about tomorrow. Only today mattered, and a fat grasshopper was enough.

Ordinarily, I would have observed this as a little slice of nature and stuffed in away in my trivia collector. This time, however, I was open to hear the message of the Goddess in the wild. Through that preying mantis, content in the moment, She worked her magick. She moved my heart and passion to feel the transformation of letting go, which I had only intellectualized before. She brought spirit to my realization, and in that moment I was free. I breathed in the fresh air and felt relief and rebirth.

I wanted to take with me a symbol of the magick that had happened on that rock. I opened my hand, and as I did so, my attention was drawn to a small stone. It was a rough piece of limestone, about two inches long, and flat on one side. On it, I could make out the image of a face. It smiled at me. I took it for the smile of Light Earth Mother and thanked Her. She was teaching me that letting go is a death of sorts, but through letting go, I would move on to new life. I accepted Her token.

The sun disappeared behind the mountains, and the bats went screaming out into the night. I drove back into town for a whopping steak dinner. Praying in the desert is hungry business!

Janice Van Cleve keeps that limestone on her altar as a symbol of death. Next to it, she keeps an ocean seashell as a symbol of life. They represent different moments in the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth.

What’s All This About “And Harm None”?

What’s All This About “And Harm None”?


by Freya Ray

“Do what you will, and harm none.” What does that mean, exactly? Why on earth would any community hamstring itself with a fundamental motto so basically impossible to live up to? When you think about it, it’s crazy, right?

The Jains, those intensely wacked-out Hindu-type people who believe all life is sacred — and I mean all life — they try. They go barefoot so they don’t inadvertently crush any little critters. They eat no animals. They wear a cloth across their mouth so they don’t inhale a bug. Now that’s devotion to a creed.

Does it work for them? If you play it out logically, any food they eat is taking food from the mouths of other creatures. In India, this equation is even more apparent than here, the land of the surplus. I’m sure Jains roll over during the night and squish caterpillars, brush gnats out of their ears with a little too much force and kill them dead, dead, dead or eat some rice with little cooked rice-eating bugs in it. Not to mention the damage that is inflicted to all the tiny dandruff-eating mites that inhabit our bodies with every belly scratch. You can run it up the food chain, too. The rice that the devout Jain eats is grown on land that is therefore not used to grow hay, and he could be causing the death of a cow through his own feeding.

Please indulge me, and allow me to run through a similarly ludicrous examination of a good little witchy person trying earnestly to do no harm. Say she wants to draw love into her life. She does a nice little ritual to draw a mate to her, being terribly careful not to make any specific requests about any particular individual, so as to not infringe on anyone’s free will. She disposes of any leftover ritual props in sharps containers or recycle bins and dumps nothing into a storm drain. She just wants to be happy, after all, and thinks she needs a mate in her life to be happier, although of course she’s fully aware that true happiness comes from being full in yourself and wouldn’t ever dream of needing to be rescued from her loneliness, although it might be nice to have sex again before she dies.

You with me? Now what happens? Anything. She’s altered the energetic balance of the universe, moving energy and intent toward a specific purpose. She’s shaken things up, sending out a “Now!” signal into the void. She might get someone, but not a very good someone but only what was available at the moment. She might get the letter of what she asked for but not the intent, because the deities are crafty bastards. She might run around after the ritual radiating sexual readiness in such an overtly enticing way she provokes a normally faithful partner to start hitting on her, causing his girlfriend to dump him. Any of these scenarios are possible, and any of them can result in heartbreak and angst for all of the players involved. Or worse, she might get what she wants, be deliriously happy, pissing off her bitter single girlfriends and losing all her pals.

Go on, play this game yourself. Ask yourself, when did I do ritual asking for something? How did it go wrong, in ways I might have anticipated but didn’t? If you’ve been playing with fire, you’ve been burned, unless you’re perfect, and then why are you reading me?

Then there’s ritual for other specific purposes. You might do a ritual of protection for yourself after a bad relationship, a woo-woo restraining order. A year later you realize you haven’t had sex since the circle went up, and guess why? Think of the untold harm this has brought all your potential sex partners during that period of time! The heartbreak!

You do a healing circle. After the circle, one participant has a nervous breakdown, another ends a long-term relationship, another quits his job and becomes an artist. Harm, or not? The nervous breakdown might lead to breakthrough healing, but then it might be the frying caused by too much energy running through a system unprepared for it. The end of the relationship might be good and long overdue, or it might be the result of someone high from endorphins released by letting go of old baggage who decides she’s too good for the partner who stood by her through carrying all the baggage, and if she stuck around another six weeks they’d have been happy together forever. The artist — following his dream or caught up in a Bohemian fantasy? Living his path or abandoning his responsibility to pay child support every month?

How on earth is one to tell?

Spirit can probably keep track of all the ramifications of individual events, but humans can’t. As to judging whether individual results are boon or bane, I’m not entirely convinced Spirit keeps score that way. When we do, it only makes for extensive confusion, and worse.

“And harm none” is a great idea for keeping Fluffbunny Artemis Moonriver from casting a spell to bring Peter Trent, the boy next door and man of her dreams, to her bed, despite his complete and utter lack of interest in giggling little Artemis. It’s a good motto to try and dissuade High Priestess Arachne Wolfspawn from casting a curse unto the seventh generation on the landlord who wouldn’t refund her security deposit because of the teensy little cigarette burns in the carpet. It’s a fine thing to attempt to keep Lord Wizard Aleister SexGod of the Ninth Circle from “initiating” all his “novices” with mushrooms and “tantric sex magick.” I’m not sure it works, but it’s a nice idea, and well worth repeating.

What effect does it have on those with both a conscience and a brain, though? You work to learn responsible magical practices. You sweat the language for your rituals, trying to envision all the possible consequences. You set up support groups and phone trees for helping people who crash after ritual. You do giveaway work more often than you ask for anything for yourself; you try not to offend people in the supermarket.

Good for you.

After a while, you realize you’ve PC’d yourself into a little box, and you can’t really remember why this whole Wiccan thing was so appealing in the first place. Wasn’t there some original moment of power and glory when you touched all of creation, throbbed with majestic spiritual strength, knew your divinity? Wasn’t there some seminal idea about living without compromising yourself to your dominant culture; following your own heart, creating your own reality?

Screw it, then. I mean, assuming you’ve got a conscience and a brain. If you don’t, then you don’t need my words as an excuse to bungle things up wildly all around you all the time.

I let that idea, harm none, lead me away from the place where I radiated power all the time. I got tired of people (only some of them, some of the time, but still … harm none) jumping back out of a hug as if they’d been shocked. I got tired of people calling me after a two-hour first date to tell me their stuff was suddenly all up in their face and they were in no way ready for a relationship. I got tired of people shrinking from eye contact as if I were overwhelming their circuits by beaming lasers from my eyes.

I mean, it’s not like I’m Guru Mai, right? I’m not offering shaktiput, elevating the consciousness of devotees with a glance, touch or hug. I’m not part of some grand tradition where running current at a zippy frequency is celebrated.

No, I was making people uncomfortable. I was doing too much meditation, too much energy work, too many readings, too much talking to God, too much teaching and ritual. Too much. I was too much.

So I stopped. I watched a lot of TV, I stopped meditating, I turned my attention to writing rather than all the other stuff that required my being terribly amped up. Readings I can still do, even when I’m not crackling with juice. Energy work, no. But it was fine, really.

Until I realized consciously what I had done. In seeking to harm none through least common denominator thinking, I had removed a significant portion of my light from the world. I wasn’t making people uncomfortable anymore, but neither was I challenging them to grow and giving them a little nudge with catalytic energy. I wasn’t radiating at the highest frequency possible for me, the one that brings me the most joy.

It’s a lot more fun being all amped up. If I thought about it, I could list the harm I brought the world by damping my energy down, but the other kind of harm was much more in my face. It’s a Wonderful Life, and all that.

That’s my point, then. Screw `em. Do what you reasonably can to act ethically and responsibly, but don’t sweat it, trying to find the perfectly harm-free path. It can’t be done. Harm happens. Every action you take, every word you speak, is going to have consequences, more of them unforeseen than foreseen. That’s life!

Take a deep breath and do what you are moved to do. If you expand the first part of the creed to “Do what you will, as guided by spirit, your intuition, your wisdom and your conscience,” you’re probably going to be fine.

There will be consequences. You’ll deal with them when they happen. But don’t let the fear of them stop you from charging yourself up, radiating light, learning energy work or asking for what you want. I’ve got the army slogan running through my head now: “Be all that you can be!” Whatever. So it’s hokey. Do it anyway.

Screw it. Do what you will, as best you can.

A Walk on the Wild Side: A Lifetime Finding Magick in Nature

A Walk on the Wild Side: A Lifetime Finding Magick in Nature


by L. Lisa Lawrence

When I sit back and try to identify my first significant spiritual experiences, I can’t come up with just one but rather a series of experiences that share a common bond of nature and wilderness. These experiences span my entire lifetime and began when I was too young to understand them.

I was blessed to grow up on the coast. Some of my earliest memories involve running along the waterline dodging the incoming waves picking up seashells, building sand castles and watching the Pacific Ocean crash onto the rocks and cliffs sending its salty spray skyward. I remember the sun setting over the Channel Islands painting the sky orange, pink and purple. I was never as happy anywhere as I was where I could experience the sand, wind, water and blazing sun.

As a small child, barely 3 years old, my heart stopped beating as a result of respiratory arrest induced by an asthma attack while running on my beloved beach. I can’t recall any “white light,” dead relatives or even the paramedics restarting my heart with an intracardiac epinephrine injection, but I did know that my life ended and began again at the edge of the sea. From that day on, I would always be tied to the water. I was literally reborn to it.

Later, farther north on the coast, as an adolescent drawn to the beach and water, I defied my parents and climbed down a treacherous trail from cliffs to the beach below, only to be trapped in a cave by the incoming tide for several hours. I was not afraid but was at peace, knowing that the never-ending cycle of the moon and sea would let me go home when the time was right. I explored the labyrinth of caves and discovered bats, otters and sea lions that were more than willing to share their space with me and didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by my presence. Time stood still while I was in those caves. When I emerged, I was shocked to see the sun setting, and I made my ascent back up the cliff. I returned to those caves many times when I needed a place to just be — although after getting in trouble for worrying my parents, I learned to check the tide tables first.

When I got older and began to expand my geographic horizons, I discovered the foothills, forests and mountains. As a teenager, I rode the bus from my small costal town up into the foothills to work at a fancy inn’s riding stable on weekends and vacations, shoveling horse poop and guiding trail rides for a mere $15 a day, unlike my friends who were working at McDonald’s or in a fashion store in the mall. My reward for all the sore muscles, sunburn, saddle sores and blisters was being able to escape into the hills on my horse, alone. The pressures of a challenging academic program, teen angst and a dysfunctional family disappeared as my chocolate brown gelding and I ascended the steep hills and galloped across meadows with the wind blowing through our hair. Almost every evening, I watched the setting sun turn the Topa Topa Bluffs a bright pink and listened to crickets and coyotes sing a welcoming song to the twilight. I was at peace. I was at home. Only reluctantly would I come down out of the hills, walk two miles to the bus stop and take the hour long ride back down the hill to “real life.”

On the outside, I appeared quite “normal”; I was popular, excelled at sports, held elected office, did well in my classes and was involved in community theater, a church youth group and journalism. But I knew that I was different and often needed to escape to nature, which was the only place that I truly felt at peace. At that point in my life, I didn’t know anyone else that was like me, so being a typical teenager, I just did my best to fit in. I would soon discover that denying your true nature doesn’t work.

If I hadn’t already figured out on my own that I was “different,” it was brought home to me in junior high school when our Methodist Youth Fellowship youth group took a religion test. We were presented with a series of statements and were asked if we agreed or disagreed and on a scale of one to five how strongly we felt about it. Our answers resulted in a numerical score that correlated to a specific religion. Out of the 14 that took the test, 13 scored “First United Methodist,” and I scored “Unitarian.” I’m certain that “pagan,” “witch” and “tree-hugging dirt worshiper” were not included on the test, and that I had, in fact, received the lowest score possible. In our small costal town, the Unitarians were “those pagans on the hill who drink wine and have naked hot tub parties” and were not thought highly of by other churches.

After graduating from high school with honors as part of a group of friends who composed a Who’s Who of well-adjusted overachievers, then graduating from college with a degree in accounting, I spent a year and a half trying to do what was expected of me by taking a stable government job. I tried to force myself to work in a concrete and glass climate-controlled building, and in true overachiever fashion I became the youngest-ever deputy treasurer for the County of Ventura. It wasn’t me. I just couldn’t take it. At the tender young age of 21, I ran off to go fight fires for the Forest Service.

It was there that I found others who also loved nature and needed to be in it as much as possible. Every morning, I would take long hikes in the mountains, encountering bears, mountain lions and eagles that did not react to me as if I was an intruder, but rather as if I belonged there. It was there that I began to have visions of the spirits of the land and to understand my connection to the earth and the meaning of my dreams. I was finally free to be myself and even had others with whom I could openly discuss these things.

Soon, I became a liaison between the federal land management agencies and the local Native American tribes. Tribe members invited me to sacred ceremonies, and elders taught me because they recognized my connection to and dedication to the land. During my time and travels with the Forest Service and Park Service, I was accepted by several tribes.

But I knew that I didn’t belong. I became confused and discouraged that it was okay for the earth to be your religion if you were Native American, but not if you were white. It was as if I was trapped between worlds, not fitting in either. I knew I could never go back to the church I was raised in, and I felt that I would spend my entire life wandering in the wilderness alone, without those of like mind.

As I questioned and explored more, I discovered that my mostly Celtic ancestors also had a tribal culture that honored the earth and that was quite compatible with what I had been taught by Native Americans. I did as much research as I could, found bookstores, covens and teaching circles when they were available in towns near where I was stationed, and I had many mentors and pen pals (this was in the days before the Internet). I finally learned who the woman was who stood at the foot of my bed when someone died or when there was danger. I had inherited my line’s banshee, who skipped a generation from my grandmother to me. I even finally found my way to a few of those “pagan” Unitarian churches.

My formal training enhanced but never took the place of actually being in and connecting to nature. I stood on mountaintops in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains talking to and honoring the spirits of the land. I sat in sweat lodges in the very womb of the Mother in the Black Hills of South Dakota and had visions that I can’t share here that told me to remain close to the earth. I’ve seen the ancestors in the pueblos of the Southwest and heard the music of the desert.

Each new sacred place in nature taught me a new lesson or introduced me to a new guide; many of them appeared in physical form and would do whatever was necessary to get my attention. High above the Colorado River, a golden eagle buzzed me numerous times and almost knocked me off a 2,000-foot cliff, appearing incensed that I didn’t recognize that it had graced me with its presence and was trying to give me a message. That eagle taught me that there is a message in every encounter and that it is our job to recognize and learn from those messages. It also taught me that the messengers don’t take kindly to being ignored.

I realize that I have come full circle back to the waters of the Pacific. I am blessed to live close to the water and to be able to walk down to it whenever the mood suits me. I often play my fiddle on the water’s edge and find myself in the company of harbor seals, bald eagles and great blue herons. I feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the magick that is all around me. Just as when I was a small child, the water brings me comfort. I experience the elements as sand, wind, sun and salt water, only now I understand what they mean and my connection to them. I am also surrounded by great people who understand as well.

I have met many people over the last 20 years who can be described as “natural witches.” They draw their energy directly from nature, work with herbs and stones for healing and are attuned to the cycles of the earth. Their mysteries come to them directly from nature, and their magick has an organic feel to it. They may or may not have had formal training, but no matter what their experiences, there is something special about them.

My grandmother, a Scorpio, was such a woman, although I don’t think she would have taken kindly to being called a witch; then again, I could be wrong. We never talked about it. She was by all accounts the original “wild woman” and certainly looked the part, with long raven hair cascading around her face and shoulders, reflecting red in the sunlight as she stood in the desert greeting the rising sun. Well into her 60s, she would wander the desert alone in search of stones, herbs and adventure. She lived on her own terms, not giving a rat’s butt what anyone else thought about her, and preferred the company of the earth and its creatures to that of most people. When she did choose the company of others, they were always artists, writers, musicians and other Bohemian types. My mother, in bouts of exasperation with the wild and difficult child I was, often said, “You’re just like your grandmother.” Writer Earl Stanley Gardener wrote a piece about her entitled “The Desert Nightingale.” He knew she was special.

I wish I had been able to recognize and appreciate the magick in her. By the time I grew into an adult and began to understand, she was gone. But her spirit remains in the mountains, desert and ocean, and in me.

How does a woman with a legacy of wildness, whose spirituality is explicitly tied to nature, survive living in an apartment in town? It has been challenging, but it has expanded me.

Six years ago, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest and attended my first indoor circles, I was shocked to find that many groups here held rituals indoors. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could connect with the elements or the gods in a building.

I got over it after experiencing my first winter here. It’s all very well and good to be outdoors, but if your fellow participants are getting pelted with freezing rain, with soaking wet feet in the dark of night, they’re going to be distracted. I work alone and in small circles outside whenever I get the chance, even in crappy weather, but for larger, public events it’s easier to be indoors.

It’s much simpler than I thought to connect to the elements while standing inside a building. Going on a simple guided meditation can connect me to the earth, feeling its coolness, inhaling its heady scent of decomposing leaves and pine needles and reveling in the feeling of fertility. With a little work, something as insubstantial as a few two-by-fours and some shingles isn’t a barrier. If I’m in the proper state of consciousness, it doesn’t even seem to exist.

Even living in a city, wilderness is all around. Wilderness exists at the edge of the water, in a local park or even under a tree in a backyard. I have seen the fey dancing in a hanging basket of flowers on a patio in an apartment complex. The Cascade and Olympic Mountains are a short drive, in a car or on the bus. In a little over two hours, I can be standing on the beach looking out at the vast wilderness that is the Pacific Ocean or across the mountains harvesting sage in the desert.

I have experienced and learned much in the last 20 years from many different sources, but the times in my life spent in direct connection to nature, to the gods, to all this is, without religious structure or human-imposed limitations, have been the most powerful times in my life.

Every place in nature, and in pockets of nature in the city, is sacred. Each place has its own energy, song and spirit guides. Go on… take a walk on the wild side and see where that journey takes you.

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

a guide to the symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: June 20-23 (usually, the date of the calendar summer solstice).

Alternative names: Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Alban Heruin, Alban Hefin, Gathering Day, Vestalia, La Festa dell’Estate (Summer Fest), the Day of the Green Man.

Primary meanings: This Sabbat celebrates the abundance and beauty of the Earth. From this day on, the days will wane, growing shorter and shorter until Yule. It is a time to absorb the Sun’s warming rays, and to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and beginning of the waning year in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. This is a time to celebrate work and leisure, to appreciate children and childlike play and to look internally at the seeds you’ve planted that should be at full bloom. Some people believe that at twilight on this day, the portals between worlds open and the faery folk pass into our world; welcome them on this day to receive their blessings.

Symbols: Fire, the Sun, blades, mistletoe, oak trees, balefires, Sun wheels, summertime flowers (especially sunflowers), summer fruits, seashells and faeries. If you made Sun wheels at Imbolc, display them now prominently, hanging from the ceiling or on trees in your yard. You may want to decorate them with yellow and gold ribbons and summer herbs.

Colors: White, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, green, blue and tan.

Gemstones: All green gemstones, especially emerald and jade, and also tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli and diamond.

Herbs: Chamomile, cinquefoil, copal, elder, fennel, fern, frankincense, galangal, heliotrope, hemp, larkspur, laurel, lavender, lemon, mistletoe, mugwort, oak, pine, roses, saffron, St. John’s wort, sandalwood, thyme, verbena, wisteria and ylang-ylang. Herbs gathered on this day are said to be extremely powerful.

Gods and goddesses: All father gods and mother goddesses, pregnant goddesses and Sun deities. Particular emphasis might be placed on the goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar and Venus and other goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include the goddesses Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis and Juno and the gods Apollo, Ares, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak/Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus and Thor.

Customs and myths: One way to express the cycle of the Earth’s fertility that has persisted from early pagan to modern times is the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King, gods respectively of the Waxing and Waning Year. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer, the period of fertility, expansion and growth, and the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Midwinter, the period of harvest, withdrawal and wisdom. They are light and dark twins, each being the other’s alternate self, thus being one. Each represents a necessary phase in the natural rhythm; therefore, both are good. At the two changeover points, they symbolically meet in combat. The incoming twin — the Oak King at Midwinter, the Holly King at Midsummer — “slays” the outgoing one. But the defeated twin is not considered dead — he has merely withdrawn during the six months of his brother’s rule.

On Midsummer Night, it is said that field and forest elves, sprites and faeries abound in great numbers, making this a great time to commune with them. Litha is considered a time of great magickal power, one of the best times to perform magicks of all kinds. Especially effective magick and spells now include those for love, healing and prosperity. Wreaths can be made for your door with yellow feathers for prosperity and red feathers for sexuality, intertwined and tied together with ivy. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for pets or other animals.

Nurturing and love are key actions related to Midsummer. Litha is a good time to perform a ceremony of self-dedication or rededication to your spiritual path as a part of your Sabbat celebration. Ritual actions for Litha include placing a flower-ringed cauldron upon your altar, gathering and drying herbs, plunging the sword (or athamé) into the cauldron and leaping the balefire (bonfire) for purification and renewed energy. Considered taboo on this holiday are giving away fire, sleeping away from home and neglecting animals.

Today’s Horoscopes for June 12th

Today’s passionate Scorpio Moon intensifies our feelings as we try to balance our needs with others’. We want to talk about our problems since communicator Mercury joins the Sun in interactive Gemini. Venus is also in noisy Gemini and her supportive sextile to wild and crazy Uranus suggests that our desires won’t necessarily fit into normal social expectations. Thankfully, Saturn’s direct turn indicates that progress will be forthcoming anyhow.


Aries Horoscope
Aries Horoscope (Mar 21 – Apr 19)

Relationships may appear to be out of control, but you aren’t too worried because you are confident that you can pull everything back together. Actually, you might even enjoy all the action today. Surprisingly, you could get what you want if you maintain a healthy perspective so you don’t act too impulsively. Slow down and turn on your charm; your witty ways may score you the extra points you seek if you remember not to push things too far.



Taurus Horoscope
Taurus Horoscope (Apr 20 – May 20)

This may be an exciting day as reality gives a boost to your aspirations, tempting you to reach beyond your current goals. Although you realize that the sky is the limit, you are quite concerned about others taking your ideas in a different direction than you want. There is more going on behind the scenes and you are rather intrigued by the notion of untangling all the threads to figure it out. Keep in mind that you might do better by stepping back and letting someone else take charge for a while.



Gemini Horoscope
Gemini Horoscope (May 21 – Jun 20)

Brilliant ideas keep popping into awareness, enticing you into desiring more than you currently have. Unfortunately, your fantasies may only be fleeting and will soon fade back into the vast reaches of your subconscious. Although it’s challenging to slow down your thoughts, it’s best not to overdo it with too much caffeine or too many exciting activities. Enjoy the buzz without going over the edge.



Cancer Horoscope
Cancer Horoscope (June 21 – Jul 22)

You may be dreaming of performing on stage today, but you probably get nervous just thinking about being in front of so many people. However, if you are not able to do your own thing creatively, you might try exploring ways to ease your anxiety. One key to your current happiness is your willingness to reach out to others; talking about your fears is a sensible first step to overcoming your own resistance.



Leo Horoscope
Leo Horoscope (Jul 23 – Aug 22)

You may be required to face angels and demons of your own making today. You could be drawn toward a lovely person, only to realize that you’ve stepped outside your regular comfort zone. Setting sensible boundaries is a smart strategy, but you must follow through by enforcing them. Thankfully, the power of positive thought can be worth more now than anything else. It’s better to associate with optimistic people than someone who brings you down.



Virgo Horoscope
Virgo Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)

You might not be clear about what is expected of you now, but that won’t likely prevent you from trying to be everything to everyone. Naturally, it makes more sense to focus and find the clarity you need, especially since your key planet Mercury is aligning with the brilliant Sun. However, don’t downplay your desires today, even if they seem out of character. Remember that logical analysis can only take you so far; exploring unfamiliar territory may be just what the doctor ordered.

Libra Horoscope
Libra Horoscope (Sep 23 – Oct 22)

You may obsess about someone or something today and you’re tempted to go overboard in order to reach satisfaction. Your visions of the future can drive you further than logic. Meanwhile, your desires may seem out of control because your key planet Venus aligns with rebellious Uranus, making it difficult for you to know when to stop. Peace arrives when you can find a healthy balance between what you have and what you want.



Scorpio Horoscope
Scorpio Horoscope (Oct 23 – Nov 21)

It feels exhilarating today when you express your desires because what you say appears to be heard. You don’t want anyone to fix anything; you only need acknowledgment from someone who won’t disappear when the emotional pressure builds. The Moon’s visit to your sign deepens your intensity and pumps up your adrenaline until you are all wound up. Keep in mind that you don’t have to push anyone past his or her resistance just because you’ve moved through yours.



Sagittarius Horoscope
Sagittarius Horoscope (Nov 22 – Dec 21)

Your words have great impact now as talkative Mercury lines up with the Sun in your 7th House of Partnerships. However, rather than motivating others with an inspirational talk, you may want to set your work aside to pursue simple pleasures. Although having fun is usually your top priority, today you have cosmic messages to deliver first.



Capricorn Horoscope
Capricorn Horoscope (Dec 22 – Jan 19)

Your ability to stay on course may be tested today, but you should be able to develop the momentum necessary to do the job. However, your route may be circuitous, and veering off course for a bit could be the best way to reach your targets. You might feel as if your current goals are unattainable, but getting discouraged won’t help. Do whatever is necessary to keep your spirits high, including yoga, meditation or exercise. These activities won’t increase your productivity, but can help you find the elusive balance that you seek.



Aquarius Horoscope
Aquarius Horoscope (Jan 20 – Feb 18)

You might not be able to settle down today because your mind is crackling with excitement. You could even fall in love or, at minimum, eagerly flirt with someone worthy of your admiration. However, if the action heats up, you may wish to withdraw to a more secure place. Emotional connections are important, but it’s also wise to spend time establishing a new routine. Don’t try to do too much now, for incremental change is easier to manage than turning your entire life inside out.


Pisces Horoscope
Pisces Horoscope (Feb 19 – Mar 20)

The energy at home today may not feel as stable as you would prefer with erratic Uranus buzzing romantic Venus in your 4th House of Family. You have things to say, but may be fearful that your honesty could stir up more trouble than it’s worth. However, worrying about what others think could prevent you from taking much-needed action. Speak from your heart and deal with the consequences as you go along.

New Moon Report For June 12 – Saturn Direct

Saturn Direct

Sunday, June 12

The forward shift of crystallizing Saturn allows positions to harden and provide solid foundations for future growth. Tackling big projects that have been difficult to grasp grows easier when matched with commitment to a well-defined plan. Facing reality in relationships is appropriate with this serious planet in Libra, the sign of partnerships. Recognizing that there are at least two sides to any situation can ensure fairness, facilitate negotiations and encourage compromise.