New Brighid Devotional Series!

I’ve started a new series of devotionals dedicated to the goddess, Brighid. These are available to my everyone in my Patreon community (which starts from as little as £1 a month). In these posts, you will find material that I have written, and material from others that I have come across in my research and work with the goddess (all material is credited, and links provided to find out more).

Brighid is a goddess that came to me as I was diving deeply into my Druid practice many years ago. She helped me greatly with her blessing on Druid College UK, and motivated me to keep it up (sadly, we’re only offering an online course at the moment, due to the pandemic). She has walked with me for many years, and feeling her with me is like the beautiful, golden autumnal light filling my soul.

If you are interested in joining me in my Patreon community, click HERE to find out more.

Blessings of Brighid be with you!

Note: my Patreon community also enjoys many other benefits, including material for everyone from my personal Book of Shadows, photography and more as well as special material for different levels of support.

Womb energy? Womb Space? Nope.

I have a lovely book which I’m re-reading, about empowering the wild woman within, manifesting her in all her glory. This book is filled with beautiful poetry and great exercises, written from the heart from a Woman Most Wild. And yet – and yet…

It’s one of many books about female empowerment that talks about working with the energy that originates in your womb space. While this book does state that you can do this even without a womb, it still annoys me, going against the grain of my very feminine soul. Like so many others talking about energetic womb space, many in the Pagan community with feminist goals are still being held back by a woman’s reproductive organs. At least, that’s just my opinion. I’m sure many will disagree.

Maiden, Mother, Crone. Right there, we have the Divine Feminine in a nutshell for so many Pagan paths, and yet it is one that is defined by a woman’s reproductive cycle. We are told that we can feel Her in our own womb spaces, whether we still have them or not. She is defined by her womb that birthed the universe. Is the Divine Masculine defined by his phallus? The Cerne Abbus Giant might say so, but his club is a lot bigger.

His name was Cedric Alton.

Even when I still had a womb, before the hysterectomy that gave me my life back after 30 years of living with fibroids and cysts, even then I never connected to the Divine Feminine through womb energy. I knew from a very early age that I would never birth any children physically. I never wanted to. My dolls were my friends, not children I wanted to raise. Even my Cabbage Patch dolls that I wanted so much (because everyone else had one), even then, after the first day I was tired of taking care of them as children, and they immediately “grew up” to become companions. I have never wanted children in my life. A day spent with someone who has young children reinforces this each and every time. I’m too sensitive, I like quiet and peace and being able to have the freedom to do whatever I wish or need to do at any given moment. My womb was never going to be used for what it was meant for.

Before anyone goes all “Lousie Hay” on me, I will stipulate that I firmly do not believe that my desire to not have children caused my condition. I am a staunch believer that genetics, diet, lifestyle and good/bad luck are the reasons for medical conditions. I think that if we begin to believe otherwise, we are instilling a process of blame and shame for medical conditions. Yes, the body and mind are one, and do affect the other to a certain degree, but I believe that this is taken way too far in many people’s opinions that have absolutely no basis in scientific fact. I am a very practical Pagan. I am happy to dance with the faeries in the moonlight and have a great interest in herbal medicine, but I also feel very strongly about getting all my vaccines and using the benefits that modern medicine can provide. Others may feel differently, and I respect their opinion, though I might not share them.

My womb is like my appendix. It’s a part of me, but if it isn’t working properly, it’s better to have it out. All my life I had painful periods, and was only diagnosed as the womb was being cut out of my body and the real extent of the damage from my condition became known. How much of my life was lived in pain I can only attest to now, because I am free from that pain. It’s like having a whole new life. Sure, I’ve got other problems – don’t we all – and I still ache with arthritis and manage my asthma as best I can. But I’ve got my life back. My womb space caused me nothing but pain since puberty. That’s not something I’m going to celebrate. Like an ancestor who caused you pain, you can acknowledge that they were a part of your life, but you don’t have to celebrate them.

Besides, I am more than my womb.

My womb does not make me a woman. It does not make me what or who I am today, nor did it ever define me in the past. I am more than my womb. I don’t and never have fit into the Maiden Mother Crone categories. I am me, a part of everything and beholden to no one thing.

A poster I had on the wall for many, many years: Light in the Forest by Sue Dawe

Was I a “girly girl”? Yes, and no. Labels never really stuck very well on me. As a child I loved dresses and princesses and unicorns. I also loved knocking the ball out of the park when it was my turn at bat on the baseball ground. I played hockey with the boys at lunchtime at elementary school, and I figure skated by myself in the evenings at the outdoor rink. I adore belly dance and the wonderful costumes, but I wear jeans and shirts or leggings for the most part in the rest of my life. The Divine Feminine roared through my veins, but I also heeded the rallying cry of the Divine Male and everything in between. Baseball isn’t masculine, and unicorns aren’t feminine. These are just “tools” we use to put everything into neat little boxes, just like the terms Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.

Weapons, a chariot and cats. Who needs anything more?

I have loved The Goddess all my life. It began when I was very young, and had a book about Greek myths. Artemis and Atalanta, these two ladies were my inspiration, my guiding force. Artemis, the eternal maiden, strong and free, what a role model. Running through the forests, standing under the moonlight, beholden to no one. That was The Goddess for me, and still is today, though in many other forms alongside this one. I have always loved independent female deity: Brighid, Freya, Morrigan, Andraste. Give me these ladies over an Earth Mother any day.

Some of these ladies are extremely sexual and sensual. Good for them, and good for me and all women! I’ve always embraced my sexuality and sensuality. Combined with the intimacy of a good, strong relationship there really isn’t anything better. But did I feel Their energy in my womb centre? Nope. Not once. Where did I feel Them? In my heart. Always, in my heart. That energetic centre swells just thinking about these ladies, just as it does when I think about whatever it means to be in the Divine Feminine category. Same for the Divine Masculine category. My power lies in my heart chakra, not my womb space. My love for this planet comes straight out of my chest, filling my soul with a brilliant light that guides me through the darkest of nights.

So each time I read a passage in a book, or attend a workshop that mentions moving into my womb space, I just have to grin and bear it, and shift the energy up higher, to where it belongs: in my heart. I am not my womb space, and no woman should be defined by that, whether they have them or not. Perhaps if we drop the labels we give to divinity, and forego Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine, then we will truly see that the energy really does emanate from the heart for both, or All, instead of from Their, and our, reproductive bits.

We are star-stuff, as is everything. You can’t define something like that with any more clarity. Or by their physiology. You just have to accept it, and love from that wonderful energy centre that we all have: our hearts.  

Heart energy centre/chakra. Right there in the middle of all things.

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.

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.

The Queen of the May

 

She calls

And now you know you must answer

Softly at first

At Spring Equinox

She was all innocence

All light-voiced song

And you know She calls

The Queen of the May

The virgin voice now lusty and deep

Full in the belly and full in the throat

Her song caresses you

Like her fingertips caress the belly of Experience

And you answer her call

 

She calls

And you are faery-led

Into the wild haunts

To lay yourself down

As sacrifice

Upon the altar of ecstasy

To dance free around the faery tree

To let your heart be filled

With the songs of sparrows

And swifts

As they scream overhead

To touch the grace of the deer in the shadows

To feel the heartbeat of the earth

Pulsing beneath your feet

As you set you roots down

Even as you reach towards the skies

The Beltane time is nigh

 

You hear a cry

And it is your own soulsong

Escaping your cherry-red lips

Filled with laughter

And grief

Freedom

 

You dance the circle round

Whispering secrets to the trees

The eyes of the hidden folk following

You know who you are

You know who you were meant to be

And in your breathless dance

You sweat your prayers

 

And She hears them

And with crystalline clarity you know

In the blood that runs through your veins

And the thoughts that course through your mind

In the lives and loves of your ancestors

You know you are not the only one

 

And you revel in your witchdom

 

The music slows

The eyes of the does drop to the ground

As they lower their heads in reverence

For here She comes

Sovereignty

And you look into Her in the eyes

And you see the May Queen

 

You see all that you were

And all that has been

And you nod and you smile

She takes your hand

She knows every crack in your heart

She knows your inner land

 

And as the bright sun fades

And the stars begin to shine

You honour your past

Your future is bright

And the magic never ends

As day turns into night

She blesses you

With your own inner sight

There is starshine in your hair

There is elphame in your soul

 

And you remember

All you have been

All you have seen and been told

And you have come home

 

32922149_10160357282530203_1669729950057365504_o

(Photo by Graham Haynes)

Imbolc Protection Ritual

Snowdrops ButleyThis rite uses what is commonly known as “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica. This rite specifically calls upon the powers of the goddess Brighid, and cannot be used interchangeably with another goddess. If you honour or work with other deities, you might consider using the poem as an example to write your own spell or charm of protection. Alternatively, you might just leave out all the references to deity. At the end of the poem, we find the term luatha-luis, whose meaning is not wholly clear, and which is open to interpretation. It may mean a fast-acting, possibly poisonous plant. Luis is the rowan or mountain ash, a powerful and magical tree, whose berries are poisonous when raw, but delicious and nutritious when cooked.
You can perform this ritual every Imbolc, especially if you are a follower or would like to honour Brighid. Or you can simply use it as a rite of protection. You can perform this rite after undergoing a purification such as smudging or saining yourself with smoke from mugwort or vervain.
For this ritual, I would strongly encourage the entire formality of designating sacred space. This will lend focus to your intention, as well as inviting the powers of the ancestors, the three realms, the spirits of place and more to your rite. Choose something that symbolises protection for you, a talisman if you will: something strong and durable, something that will “shield” you physically, spiritually and psychically. You can make a shield yourself, using whatever materials you prefer. This doesn’t have to be a full-body protecting hunk of steel, but again can be symbolic; you can make one out of papier maché to keep near your altar, should you so wish. You might wish to use something natural that you can carry with you, such as a stone or crystal, or even say the poem over a pendant bearing the triskele or triquetra symbol, reflecting the triple nature of Brighid. There are many ways you can use this; be creative!

Rite of Protection Using the Shield of Brighid

Set up and designate your sacred space. Once you have done so, sit or stand for a moment and breathe, focusing your intention on what is to come. Visualise a glowing light beginning to emanate from within, centred on your chest. This light reflects the light of the moon, or the light upon water, or the light of a flame. The energy from this light is not hot, but cool, flowing through you and filling you with strength and confidence, as well as compassion and love. Raise your arms to the sky, drawing down the power of the sky and the full moon. Then hold your hands out in front of you, and draw in the power of the sea, and the highest tide. Finally, hold your hands to the ground, and draw the power of the land into yourself, the serpent energy that courses and connects everything to each other. Stand fully upright once more, noting how the light emanating from within you is even brighter now. Take that light within your mind, and form it into a circle or sphere of light around you. Visualise that light encompassing you, shielding you. If you have a talisman to represent the shield, hold this aloft and still visualise the circle around you. Then say the following words, from “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica, feeling free to adapt or leave out the Christian influence:

Brigit daughter of Dugall the Brown
Son of Aodh son of Art son of Conn
Son of Criara son of Cairbre son of Cas
Son of Cormac son of Cartach son of Conn.

Brigit of the mantles,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit of the twining hair,
Brigit of the augury.

Brigit of the white feet,

Brigit of calmness,
Brigit of the white palms,
Brigit of the kine.

Brigit, woman-comrade,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit, woman-helper,
Brigit, woman mild.

Brigit, own tress of Mary,
Brigit, Nurse of Christ, —
Each day and each night
That I say the Descent of Brigit,
I shall not be slain,
I shall not be wounded,
I shall not be put in cell,
I shall not be gashed,
I shall not be torn in sunder,
I shall not be despoiled,
I shall not be down-trodden,
I shall not be made naked,
I shall not be rent,
Nor will Christ
Leave me forgotten.

Nor sun shall burn me,
Nor fire shall burn me.
Nor beam shall burn me.
Nor moon shall burn me.

Nor river shall drown me.
Nor brine shall drown me.
Nor flood shall drown me.
Nor water shall drown me.

Nightmare shall not lie on me,
Black-sleep shall not lie on me.
Spell-sleep shall not lie on me,
‘ Luatha-luis ‘ shall not lie on me.

I am under the keeping
Of my Saint Mary;
My companion beloved
Is Brigit.

Let the words sink into the air around you. Let them suffuse the light that encircles you with their power. When you are ready, draw the circle of light that surrounds you back into yourself, centred on your chest. If you have a special talisman that you’d like to infuse with this energy instead, draw the circle of light that surrounds you into your talisman. When all the light has gone where it should, stand for a moment and see how this makes you feel. You can test the circle of light, by holding up your dominant hand (right if you are right-handed, left if you are left-handed) and immediately bring the circle of light back around your being. See it spring back up with ease, to surround you and protect you. If you are using a talisman, see it coming forth from the talisman. You can call and release this power as you wish, as you need. It is not something to be played with, but something real, an energy being focused around you. You are connecting with the power of Brighid.
When you are satisfied that you have the protection you need, it is time to reciprocate and leave an offering for what you have been given. As the lady of poetry, smithcraft and of healing, an offering related of one or all of these would be suitable.
Close down your ritual, and renew this rite of protection whenever you feel it necessary.

This ritual is an excerpt from my latest work, The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.

(c) Joanna van der Hoeven 2019

Witchy Ways Video Series: Ostara

Hi all! Here’s my latest video in my new YouTube series, exploring the “witchier” side of my practice 🙂  Blessings of Ostara, and the full moon to you!