Offerings, and Doing Witchy Things When You Live in a Neighborhood

You probably make offerings to your deities, at least on holy days. I make offerings at the new moon, full moon, and waning moon. (I generally consider the full moon influence to last an entire day.) I make offerings when I ask for something. The offerings are usually coins, small objects, crystals, stones, flowers, drawings, wine, whiskey, or milk. This depends upon the deity (Rhiannon or The Morrigan, although both like stones, crystals, and objects like a piece of jewelry.) What do you do with your offerings when it’s time to remove them from your shrine or altar?

In my back yard, there’s a small boulder that has slowly sunk into the ground over decades. Only the top is still visible. It’s between a dead dogwood tree covered with fungi and a cypress tree with ivy growing up it. The first spring grape hyacinths come up by the boulder. That little corner of the yard has a nice witchy vibe.

I’ve buried physical objects around the boulder. Since I have two Matrons, I “divided” the boulder in half by writing an R in chalk on one half and an M on the other half. If I use whiskey as an offering to The Morrigan, I pour it on Her half of the stone. I buried a drawing of a crow next to the stone . . . and we seem to have so many more lately. I offer wine to Rhiannon. I also scatter cold incense ash around the stone, and herbs that I use in rituals. Sometimes I pour birdseed and sunflower seeds around the stone because both Goddesses are associated with birds.

I had been happily visiting my Witchy Spot all summer and fall. The house next door was empty. That side of the house is the best: dogwoods and crepe myrtles on the property line, shade, thick patches of clover, masses of violets in spring. Now we have neighbors. Their back door and car port face my spot. I know they’ve seen me, and because I live in a tiny, conservative town, I now have to have an explanation of why I’m doing something harmless on my property, at least 30 feet from the property line. I had to think up a lie just in case because if I say, “I’m Wiccan, and I’ve designated this area of my property as a place to worship my Goddesses . . . .” Well, you can imagine.

My lie is: when I was a child I had a kitten that was hit by a car, my grandfather buried it by the boulder, and I go there because I think about the kitten a lot because the boulder is sinking into the earth and vanishing.

Life should not be that way, but it is if you’re not “normal.”

Self-Doubt, Wicca, and Paganism

My problem with self-doubt is such that I double-checked whether I needed the hyphen before I started writing this post.

It would be surprising not to have greater than average self-doubt when your memories of early childhood include your father telling you, “You can’t draw people. You always mess it up” and “She would have had her own bass to mount and put on the wall if she hadn’t yanked up on the rod.”

I remember going through the rituals that were early signs of OCD when I was about nine, when my parents’ marriage was coming apart. I had little rituals that I believed would keep anything bad from happening to my family. They didn’t work.

My two major manifestations of OCD are fear of losing things and constantly second-guessing myself. I mentally view myself as someone else might and find myself lacking. You’ve wasted eight years of your life working on a series that’s all wrong. You really can’t draw. Look at all these people half your age with their digital art and you and your stupid paper and pencils. Everything that you enjoy is common and unsophisticated. You didn’t get the job because you’re old and fat even though you just submitted your resume, you never got an interview. The cats slept in the living room. They don’t like you anymore. You can’t even do religion right. The very Goddesses hate you.

I finally found a book about depression written with pagans in mind. Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell is the most helpful book about depression I’ve ever read. I imagine that many pagans and Wiccans who choose a polytheistic path go through a lot of self-doubt. I met my first Matron goddess through The Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue. (If you’re interested in these cards, I advise you to seek out the 2004 original edition, because Ms. Virtue has decided to revise her original work to better fit her conversion to Christianity.) One night I asked my cards if a particular goddess wanted to reach me. I drew Rhiannon’s card. It all made so much sense. I read as much as I could find of Rhiannon’s story (mythology) and felt a great kinship with her. I felt that, over the next few months, I got to know her.

Then I started to wonder . . . did she really “choose” me? Did she want to be in my life as my Matron or one of my Matrons? Was I wrong, as an acquaintance suggested, to choose a particular goddess instead of venerating the Goddess in general? Did I commit an offense by setting up a shrine to Rhiannon? I read an article by a well-known male witch who came off vehemently against polytheism and thought, this guy must know better than me.

Now here is where I’m going to offend someone, somewhere: I do not trust men. Yes, I’m bisexual, yes, I’m attracted to men, but I don’t trust men, and I certainly can’t worship a male deity. And after I read the article and its emphatic denial of polytheism, I thought, I don’t even want to read articles or books by pagan men. And I’m not sorry.

I do know very well that Rhiannon’s story is the story of a woman involved with several men over the course of her life. She endured what I consider domestic abuse. She gave birth to a son. Her forbearance, cunning, wisdom, and birthright knowledge of fairy magic draws me to her.

Did I make the right decision?

Writing it out, considering Rhiannon’s story, I realize that this is a woman who didn’t question her own judgment. A woman who became Great Queen Rhiannon.

I hope that this post helps other pagans and Wiccans struggling with self-doubt.

 

Your Life Knows No Answer

Who is Rhiannon?

From the Welsh Mabinogi* we learn the name Rhiannon. She is featured in all four branches of the Mabinogion. Although she has a devoted following among neo-pagans, there is no record of her being called a Goddess. Her name is thought to mean “Great Queen,” and her first appearance in our world places her in the position of fairy royalty.

To understand Rhiannon, we must understand her name. She has been associated with an evolution of the horse Goddesses Epona and Rigatona. Some of the evidence linking her to Epona is little more than Roman monuments to “Epon(a)e Regin(ae) Sanc(tae).” Regina does mean queen, and Epona is a horse Goddess who may be of early Celtic or Roman descent

Horses were considered deities or holy in pre-Christian civilizations. Both Celts and Romans rode horses into battle. Animals, horses, cows, sheep, and pigs were power, currency, and life and death. Epona meant “mare” in some Celtic languages.*

Language evolves. How did Rigatona become Rhiannon? “In the evolution from Gallo-Brittonic to Old Welsh, one of the sound changes is that soft ‘g’ between vowels vanishes [Watson p.5]; thus Gallo-Brittonic Rigatona would produce thus Old Welsh Riannon and modern Welsh rhiain, rhianedd (lady, ladies) [Gruffydd p.98]. This gives the first of three links between Rhiannon and Epona, her name or title.”

And there, it seems, we have it.

We now know her name (which is of extreme importance in the tales about her and in modern-day worship of her) but who is she?

We encounter Rhiannon in the First Branch of the Mabinogi. She is riding a white horse that walks at a steady pace. No man can catch up to this horse. Rhiannon is obviously an otherworldly (faerie) being, a Great Queen associated with horses (wealth and war, specifically victory in war) fertility (of horses and people) and death, because in the Celtic worldview, life and death cannot exist apart from each other. As a Goddess of death and the underworld, she is associated with enchantments and burial mounds, labyrinths, and the truth to be found at the heart of the maze.

Rhiannon is accompanied by three magical birds, the Adar Rhiannon, who can sing the dead awake and the living to sleep. Sounds great, right? But the living sleep for seven years, and perhaps the awakened dead are warriors, armies. Remember that Rhiannon, like almost all Mother Goddesses, rules over fertility and death. She isal a Great Queen of enchantment. She rules in the underworld (Otherworld of Faerie.) She chooses to enter the mortal world and suffers greatly, falsely accuses of murdering her child. She steadfastly bears her punishment until her child–stolen, not murdered–is returned to her.

Like many Goddesses, Rhiannon is associated with the moon. This is probably because faeries and enchantments are creatures and things of night and mystery. Occasionally, Rhiannon is confused with a solar deity who uses a chariot to pull the sun across the sky. This is an obvious reference to Greek mythology. There are Solar Goddesses in some cultures:

  • Áine, an Irish faerie queen
  • Amaterasu, a Japanese deity
  • Sekhmet, an Egyptian solar deity
  • Mawu, an Egyptian deity associated with creation, the sun and the moon
  • Brigid, one of the major Irish deities associated with the sun and fire

It is safe to say that Rhiannon rules over so many things that she need not be the Goddess of the moon nor the sun. She is enough unto Herself.

What draws people to Rhiannon? The song Rhiannon by Stevie Nicks is one. Stevie Nicks wrote the song after purchasing the novel Triad by Mary Leader in an airport and reading it on the plane. I have touched on very little of Rhiannon’s mythology here. People may be drawn to her due to her association with horses, birds, magic, music, faeries, victory, birds, and unearthly patience. To learn more about Rhiannon, I recommend the book Goddess Alive! I’m very excited for Pagan Portals: Rhiannon: Divine Queen of the Celtic Britons.

Rhiannon is mystery personified. If you’ve been called by her, as I was, I hope that I have given you enough information to feel confident in your connection to The Great Queen.

Fleetwood Mac Live – Rhiannon – 1976

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabinogi

6000 Old Year Woman/Infant Burial Found

The woman and approximately two-month-old baby she held in her right arm were disinterred from their grave at Nieuwegein in the Netherlands. Nieuwegein, located in Ultrecht, is a Stone Age site.

What makes this (presumed) mother/baby burial is the age of the burial site. The gravesite is 6000 years old, making it the oldest baby grave site found in the Netherlands. I say “baby” rather than “infant” because the child had teeth. This led the archaeologists to believe that the baby had been around two months old when it died.

DNA tests will confirm whether the woman, who was about 30 when she died, was the baby’s mother. So far, there are no clues as to what caused the deaths of the woman and child. Maternal and infant death rates must have been unimaginably high 6000 years ago. Childbirth today is risky. Every woman who gives birth is at risk of death. Women recovering from childbirth and their babies have always been vulnerable to the plagues and fevers that decimated early civilizations, medieval societies, and great Middle Age cities.

30 was an above-average lifetime for a woman 6000 years ago. I speculate that the baby was the last of many pregnancies and few live births for this woman. What happened at two months that took the lives of mother and child? The article from ibtimes.co.uk doesn’t give us any idea. The article was published on January 31, 2018, so many of the details are forthcoming.

At the end of the article is a poignant artist’s impression of the woman and child just before their burial.

 

Imbolc

Ewes begin to lamb around the first of February. At its heart, Imbolc is an ancient Irish festival celebrating the births of the first spring lambs. The word Imbolc has multiple meanings, most relating to pregnancy and lactation.

Imbolc is sometimes called Brigid. The great Irish Goddess Brigid is a triple goddess, with each Brigid holding sway over the areas of life most important to our ancient ancestors, most relevant to this holiday fertility and farming.

Imbolc is also considered a day sacred to the Maiden. This may be a modern neo-pagan interpretation of the holy day; however, cleansing and renewal are also associated with Imbolc, so it’s not too great a stretch to include honoring the Maiden aspect of the Goddess in the Holy Day festivities and observations.

The day before Imbolc is a good day to cleanse your altar. I use a cloth for my shrine to Rhiannon. I decided not to use one with my new altar, because my Earth Mother candleholder is top heavy and needs to stand on a bare surface.

We have so many options when it comes to altars. I googled Wicca altars today. Everyone one was an art project. Most have similar elements: a Spiral Goddess figure, a Horned God figure, pentacles, candles, goblets, daggers, crescent moon shapes, wands, and cauldrons. I didn’t see anything specific to an Imbolc altar (like a figure of a sheep.) Many pagans keep shrines* or altars to Brigid year-round. Altars dedicated to Brigid almost always feature a Brigid’s cross, lots of candles, and pictures or figurines of the Irish Goddess who reigns over smithcraft, healing, and poetry.

Altars tend to be ongoing projects. We removed some elements, add others, and sometimes just start over. You can use incense or sage smudge sticks to cleanse a space before creating an altar. I have asthma. I use a pinch of cleansing herbs in my cauldron or in a candle to avoid heavy scents. You can also use scented candles.

I am a fan of using non-traditional figures on my altars. I had two Willow Treefigures holding cats. One seemed like a young woman to me, the other like an older woman. The young woman is standing. The older woman is seated cross-legged. I found not a figure but a plaque featuring a girl huddled, hiding behind her kitten and her hair. Unlike the figures, the girl had no wings. I saw her as The Maiden. I saw in her myself as a child, drawn up, protecting herself and the kitten. We frequently place personal items (photos, sentimental items, jewelry) on our altars. I liked the clean look of the altar I created today. My “Maiden” arrived in the mail today. It seemed like a good omen.

I’m happy with the girl, woman, and older woman, featureless in their white gowns, and plan to keep this altar up for at least the rest of the year. Cats are a hugely important part of my life. The faceless Maiden, Mother, and Wise Woman/Crone go well with my faceless Spiral Goddess. Corn dollies are popular aspects of pagan altars and festivals. The Imbolc corn dolly is called The White Goddess or The Little Brigid (Brideog.) It’s a corn dolly dressed in white. I’ve added one to my altar. The altar also features a cauldron, athame, and a wicker basket full of semi-precious stones, with a set of prayer beads on top.

2018 imbolc

If you still haven’t created an Imbolc altar, visit your local dollar store. They’ve just started putting out gardening decor.

Remember why we celebrate this night: the year is turning to spring. The ewes are beginning to give birth. For our ancestors, this meant that they and their families might live another year, and they thanked The Goddess for that.

*Shrine vs. altar