The White Hind

I saw her for the first time yesterday, and I didn’t have my camera. Today, I thought I’d go out and see if I could find her again. My instinct told me to go to my special place on the heath. And she was there 🙂 The White Hind.

© Joanna van der Hoeven 2021

Prayer is a personal thing

Deity in any Pagan tradition is a very personal thing. The best way to get to know more about a deity, apart from extensive research, is through prayer. Some people have difficulty with the word prayer, seeing connotations to other religions with which they prefer to disassociate themselves. However, prayer is not relegate to certain religions, and is found the world over. It is not solely a Christian practice or only pertaining to any of the other Abrahamic faiths. How else would we communicate with deity, whether it is a pre-Christian Irish goddess or Greek god of the sun, or a God and Goddess of our local area with no recorded historical name? If you are communicating with a deity, that is prayer.

Prayer can be simple or complex. You can recite long, flowery verses in loving devotion within a ritual to the gods of your choice, or you may choose to honour them with a few simple, heartfelt words throughout the day. How you choose to pray is entirely your decision.

Prayer is simply opening up a line of communication with deity. When we begin to establish a connection with deity, we find a growing relationship that flows both ways. We can talk to the deities, and they can respond in turn. There are many ways to pray, such as:

•           Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude

•           Prayers of devotion and love

•           Prayers of petition, such as asking for healing or guidance

•           Daily prayers to keep up a connection to deity throughout the day

•           Seasonal prayers recited in honour of the Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year

Your prayers might be spontaneous, with words inspired by the beauty of nature spoken aloud or quietly in your mind to the gods and goddesses. You might find beautiful, written prayers in books and literature that you wish to recite and/or memorise for ritual or daily practice. Old prayers are not necessarily better than new prayers. As well, writing your own prayers might have more relevance to your own practice than reciting the words of others. If you are feeling poetic, try writing your own prayer to deity, after doing thorough research on their attributes, their likes and dislikes, their form and personality. You can then write your prayer around those ideas. Here is an example of a prayer that I wrote to the Welsh goddess, Arianrhod:

Lady of the Silver Wheel

Whose realm of the starry heavens

Glitters in silver and in gold

Whose gifts of prophecy and sovereignty

Are shared amongst your devoted

Lady of magic

You challenge me as you yourself have been challenged

And I rise

I rise

I rise to the challenge

To be my most authentic self

With your guidance and wisdom

Now and forever more

This prayer takes into consideration her connection to the moon, her abilities and also her stories told through the Welsh myths. It is written plainly, without rhyming or meter. If you prefer to use rhyming and meter, this is also a good choice, for prayers are easier to memorise in that fashion. For example:

Ceridwen, Ceridwen

Brewer of the Awen

Lend strength and protection

Ceridwen, Ceridwen!

When engaging in prayer, it is important to consider that there really is someone on the other end, and that being does not wish to continually be asked for things without getting anything in return. If we are constantly petitioning the gods, then imagine what it would feel like if someone was constantly petitioning you for help. The gods help those who help themselves. There is no problem with prayers of petition, so long as they are balanced with other forms of prayer, perhaps daily prayer or prayers of gratitude.

Know that when we are petitioning the gods, we are not handing over our fates to them, or asking them to solve all our problems. It is still up to us to instigate the change that is needed in our lives. We can petition the gods for help and guidance, but we must also do the hard work that is necessary as well. We practice an independent tradition, based upon personal responsibility. After all, that’s why we are Pagans! And as Pagans, we pray to the deities, as often as possible, both in ritual and outside of ritual, to keep that connection and relationship strong.

A Busy Day!

So, alongside the launch of the second series of Witchy Ways for my YouTube channel, I’ve also now got a second series started for Down the Forest Path Podcast on my Bandcamp page! The Imbolc e-newsletter has gone out, and I’ve got fingers in a lot of yummy pies at the moment. It’s all go for 2021 – two books being written, lots of new projects and endeavours – hello, energies of Spring!

Snowdrops

Series Two of Witchy Ways!

Wow – so many episodes of Witchy Ways, that I decided to start a new series 🙂 I’ve also now got the drone and new editing software, so I think the quality of the videos has improved immensely. What do you think?

Skadhi’s Message

Go outside.

But it’s raining.

Go outside.

It’s cold, and my arthritis is acting up.

Go outside.

It’s going to be dark soon, and it’s nice and warm in here.

GO OUTSIDE!!!

Okay, okay…

My feet, shins, hands and back hurt. The air is cold on my face. I currently hate the world, because it’s full of idiots who aren’t abiding by the guidelines to keep this pandemic at bay. I hate our government. I hate not seeing my family. I am sad and angry and lonely and fed up and in pain.

The beech wood has mostly passed me by. I finally look up, and see the light coming through the guardian oaks that border the wood. The ground is hard, the mud has frozen. In that pale, low light, on the edge of the heath, I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with winter.

Breathing in Skadhi.

I am taken back in my mind to hours spent in the forests of my home, on my skis, with no one around me. Just me and the chickadees and the blue jays, the snow and the snow shadows. And here I am, across the ocean, with just me and the crows, the deer and the long shadows. I remember.

I REMEMBER.

My heart awakens to winter. Its song fills my soul. I step outside of my pain, and embrace being alone. I am sovereign and I am free. I am out in the wilderness of the heath, with the deer herds and the hawks, the falcons and the foxes. I am with them, I am of them. I am winter. I am in the utangarth, beyond the innangarth. And it is good. It reminds me who I am.

I am strong, I am resilient. I know what I want. I have made it, I have made a life and a home. I am happy, I am doing what I want in life, what I was meant to do with the skills I have. I am resourceful and I am lucky. I am grateful.

Skadhi walks beside me. She has been there my whole life. She doesn’t guide me, she inspires me. I walk my own path through the snow drifts, I glide where I can, I toil where it’s necessary. I hear her song in the north-easterly winds that blow against the house, bringing sleet and snow. I am hearing her speak her mind, and I do the same. Skadhi took on the might of Asgard. I can take on the might of Midgard. For I know who I am.

I get home, the darkness is all around me. The winter night draws in, the frosty ground crunching under my feet. I look up at the stars and find the North Star, my guiding light in the inky blackness. I set my bearings, to steer my life on the course that I desire. I then go inside, and have a cup of coffee. My cheeks are flushed, and the house is warm. I feel better. And I know why.

I listened to Skadhi’s message.

Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start the year with a podcast about oaths and resolutions 🙂 I’ve made this one available on my YouTube channel, but to have an opportunity to listen to all episodes (23 so far!) please visit my Bandcamp page 🙂

End of Year: In Dance

It’s been about a year since I’ve properly danced, and I’m a little rusty. I am not a professional dancer, by any means. I just love to dance; I always have. These videos are to encourage you to dance, in whatever capacity you can manage, to express yourself and to move your body, getting in touch with nature and with your own nature.

When I was a teenager, I would figure skate every night at the local rink (which was free, and outdoors, which was very cold). I was self-taught, watching the competitions on the television every Saturday. I would have loved to have had lessons, and also dancing lessons, but we were on a very tight budget. In later years, I started doing Flamenco, but after a month the teacher moved back to Spain! I then began belly dancing, and continued for 13 years. Now, as my arthritis is kicking in, I’m finding belly dancing hard on my hips, and so I’ve returned to dance in a freeform style. I love being outside, dancing to what I see around me, allowing the songs of nature to blend in with the music.

This piece seemed a fitting end to 2020, as there is hope in the world with the start of the worldwide vaccination programs, changes in government and the lengthening of sunlight during these cold winter months. It’s also a story of a personal journey through 2020. I hope you like it.

Music: “Moving Towards Fine”, by Amaranth Cove, via Epidemic Sound.

Happy Holidays!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has walked down the forest path with me over this year. It’s been a difficult and trying year for so many, and I feel hope that so many have pulled together, lighting the darkness so that others can see, guiding them through the dark night of the soul.

This year, I’m no exception to the many who have slogged their way through personal pain. Physical illness and surgery, isolation and separation from family (and not knowing when I’ll be able to return to Canada to see them), and now a recent death in the family and more have all laid their burden upon my soul. But I take heart that the days will soon begin to lengthen, and find hope in the darkest of days. There is a long way to go for most of us, and the trials and tribulations of winter still lie ahead. But have courage, and remember the good moments, the times of joy and celebration, for they will come around again.

We must all accept personal responsibility for getting out of this pandemic. Stay safe, stay well, and look after your loved ones appropriately. I wish you all the best in the coming year, and I’ll be back here once again after a little time off during the holidays.

Blessings of the solstice season, to you all. xoxo

The Holly and the Ivy video