A misty autumn equinox

Mabon or the autumn equinox usually isn’t really my festival. Which is weird, because I adore fall and everything that has to do with it, but I never really connected. Wow is this year different!
The weekend before the equinox is usually reserved for the Nehalennia festival here in Zeeland. A day filled with workshops and ritual. This year, because of the pandemic, this is one of the things that is, unfortunately but understandably, cancelled. So I wanted to do something in my own way. Last weekend that was a picnic at the water front, a picnic in the park, and making devotional ritual oils for my deities. And then today, the autumn equinox itself.

Since I had the day off and I wanted to take that day for myself, the plan was to sleep in. However, since my partner had to work early and I am a morning person, sleeping in meant seven o’clock in the morning. *sigh* Then partner came back into the bedroom saying the world had dissapeared, and indeed, there was so much mist, we couldn’t even see the parked cars. I thought to myself “man, I would love to take a walk in this.” Then I remembered that I had the day off and no-one was stopping me! So I made breakfast and took it to the tiny park in front of our house!

After breakfast and meandering for a while I even found that the park was a bit bigger than I thought it was, and I discovered this amazing tunnel of hazels. Beautiful. I also discovered that we have walnut trees, and I ate a freshly foraged walnut for the first time in my life!

By then the sun had risen more and the mist was slowly fading, creating this beautiful light in the trees. In Dutch we call this a Zonneharp, which means Sun-harp.
Back home I took a nice, cleansing shower and had lunch with a bowl of delicious, harvest-y pumpkin and carrot soup. I’d had the plan to do a ritual indoors, but the weather was so nice, I decided to instead grab my witchy journal and head back outside.

I journaled about what I am harvesting this year, and what I would like to “seed” for next year’s harvest. For the first time I also drew oracle cards in public, not really caring what others thought of me (growth!). I made contact with the land spirits and foraged some sweet chestnuts which I am hoping to turn into a rune set! I also ate my first freshly harvested blackberry ever. It was also delicious.
Another nice surprise was waiting for me when I came home, a home-made card by my lovely friend Chantal, to wish me a happy fall!

I adore it, and it was such a nice suprise on this already surprising Mabon day! And as such, a festival that I normally don’t really recognize, just became an entire day of witchiness and festivities. Next year, I’ll know better and hopefully have another amazing autumn equinox.

Offering bowl restoration

Many years ago, at a fantasy fair, I picked up a small black offering bowl with a small silver pentacle in it. I used it for a while, then put it away, then burned a candle in it which I couldn’t get out of it anymore, and so on. This bowl I have both loved and felt completely indifferent over in the years that I’ve had it. However, I wanted to make an offering bowl for Baduhenna, since I had none on my altar. So, time for some restoring and re-loving this small bowl!

Before! No longer black, stained and faded. I picked up my matte black and metallic silver paint and went to work.

Back to what it was when I bought it! Gorgeous matte black. I wasn’t done however, now it was time to link it to Baduhenna.

Baduhenna had a sacred forest somewhere in ancient Frisia. Because of that I wanted to add some greenery to Her bowl in the form of ferns. I have no idea why, but I associate ferns with Her. I also added the bindrune I made for Her a few years ago in silver paint. The bowl now sits proudly on my altar, filled with labradorite, garnet, moss, fern and a metal raven skull charm. I love it! And I actually feel much more connected to it than even when I first got it.

DIY Oracle: step 2, play and experiment

So in step 1 we brainstormed and thought about what our oracle would look like and what type of oracle we want. Which brings us to the next part: gathering resources and experimenting! This is of course the time to go all out. Try different things, use unusual materials, just play and see what works for you!

First I went through the stacks of magazines that we still had laying around. I was lucky, I had gotten an entire stack of photography magazines from my sister, which gave me a whole bunch of beautiful nature photos. As well as old photoshop magazines for a few more modern or artsy pieces. I now have a bunch of images to work with, but I still have a folder on my phone and computer as well, that if I come across something that might work, I can save the images.

For me I already knew I wanted black cardstock and minimalistic images. So first I grabbed two scraps of black cardstock, some inks and a masking stencil.

So first I tried Distress Oxide Black Soot. White very pretty, this was in no way glossy, so not what I had envisioned. Next!

Test nr. 2: Distress Shimmer Spray in black. Shimmer! Yay! However, I wasn’t a fan of the droplets and grungy effect. At least, not for this project. So… Next!

For the next one I didn’t have any scraps left, so I needed to cut a bigger sheet into smaller pieces. A perfect time to decide how big I wanted the cards to be! I dove into my oracle decks and pulled out different cards. I held them in my hand and tried to find the size that worked best for me to hold and shuffle, but was also big enough to show larger photographs. I decided on my Messenger Oracle by Ravynne Phelan for a base, but then just slightly wider. For me that was four inch by three inch, which also made it easy to cut with my paper cutter. I have a corner punch, but was afraid it was too small, but as you can see it works perfectly!

I spoke to my craft guru (my mother) and told her about the effect of what I wanted to achieve. She said clear embossing powder and I slapped my own forehead because why didn’t I think of that?! So this is stamped with the Penny Black Butterfly Charmer and then embossed with clear embossing powder. Love it! The only “problem” is that this stamp is not clear, and quite bulky so I always have some issues to get the full image stamped, as can be seen at the top of the card. Still, I do like it. But, we’re experimenting, so… Next!

Same technique, different stamp. This is the Prima Marketing Wave Background. However in black it’s more tigerstripes than waves. And since I have a strong dislike for animal prints…. Next!

I don’t even have a photo of this next one. I stamped the Kaisercraft Hexagon, which I normally love, it’s one of my favourites. However, on this size card, it looked like someone had run then over with a car… yeah, no… Next!

This is Viva Decor Brick&Wood (the wood part, obviously). I kind of like this, but felt it didn’t look enough like bark for me to love it.

So the butterflies are by far my favourite! so that is the one it’s going to be! I’ll have to figure something out (read, probably buy a thing) to make sure that the stamp will cover everywhere and will be in the same place on every card. But, I love it! So, next up: the front!

This actually went pretty quickly. I had a magazine from our time in the zoo last year and it had a bit about the windmill parks at see. So I took a bit with the least windmill (since it’s a test anyway) and went through my paperstash for a matching paper for the bottom. Black glitter tape and a small piece of scrap paper for the word, hastily written in paint pen.

So now I know what materials I need, what the end result will look like (at least a little) and how it will all come together! Join me next time when I show you the way to (hopefully) get all the cards cut in the same size!

Art Journal: Elen of the Ways

Sometimes the divine speak to – and through – you in unexpected ways. This was supposed to be a practice of painting fantasy faces. But when the redhead was done it felt like something missing. I painted the branches/antlers and there she was, Elen of the Ways.

I was still missing something so I grabbed my golden paintmarker and simply started writing, the words flowing with such ease. They aren’t my words, they are Hers.

Come join me, oh wild one
running free through the woods
I will guide you on your path
show you the way to go
follow my Way; the sound of pounding drums
the sound of your own heartbeat
hear the song of your soul
and happily find out where it takes you
know that wherever you are
no matter what path you are on
you are not alone, oh wild one
for I am in the ground under your feet
the birds soaring above you in the sky
the stars lighting your way
I am right here besides you
walking next to you

Elen of the Ways

Writing fiction as shadow work

Amanda Ylva, a writer who is also on Tumblr posted a reply earlier about how writing fiction helped her through some pretty tough times and deal with some pretty intense emotions. Because it is so personal and contained some triggering subjects I didn’t want to reblog it directly, but it did get me thinking.

She speaks about how she wrote with her depression as the antagonist in the form shadowy creatures. And that is just so amazing to me. It’s a tool that lets you confront your feelings in a direct way without being overwhelmed. You have a degree of separation between you and your depression, namely a character, or at the very least, a pen and paper. And like she says, you can have conversations with your shadowy antagonists, which will probably give you a lot of answers that you didn’t even knew you had.

She also says that she will give dialogue that has been painful for her in the past to her characters. Things said to her that were painful, or thoughts that she’s had about herself. Then other characters react to that in a very healing way. (”I am not worthy, do I even deserve to have desires”) (”your life is your own, you are worthy simply for being alive”). And that is such a good way to deal with that. I have had therapy (and am on the waiting-list to go back) where these techniques were used, but then as a visualisation, where you see yourself as you are now, saying these things to the self you were when this dialogue was born. But with writing it as a different character, you will get different, but no less meaningful, things that will be said.

I’ve had some realizations about my own fiction writing and trauma recently, but that had to do more with certain recurring themes. Certain plotpoints that I keep injecting into my writing in various ways. Some subtle, some less so, but all of them have some themes the same. Using the writing of fiction in this way would be a more direct approach to working through certain thoughts and emotions and yes, shadows as well. I could see this as a technique to “speak” to your shadows, to get them to show themselves and to integrate them.

Thank you, Amanda for giving me something to think deeply on.

(First posted to Tumblr, revised for the blog)

Ode to Nehalennia

Nehalennia statue, Nehalennia festival 2019

A poem or prayer that I’ve written to my Goddess, Nehalennia. She is the Goddess of the North Sea, of seafaring, commerce, the harvest and the dead. I’ve originally written it in Dutch, but I’ve translated it in English as well. Find both versions below.

In de kolkende golven hoor ik Haar stem.
Nehalennia.
Haar wind speelt door mijn lokken,
Haar zilte zegening raakt mijn lippen.

Deae Nehalennia.
Zij die de storm trotseert, en sterker er uit voortvloeit
Zij die de weg laat zien en onze reis bewaakt
Zij wiens woede schepen ten onder doet gaan
Zij wiens tedere omhelzing rust en vreugde brengt

Vrouwe Nehalennia,
Kracht van de Noordzee
Hoor mij aan!
Want ik ben Uw dochter,
Uw gezouten water stroomt door mijn aderen
Uw storm raast door mijn lijf
Uw kracht en diepte heb ik geërfd

Moeder Nehalennia
Hart van de Noordzee
Wees met mij!

Noordzee by Marjolijn Ashara

English version

In the churning waves I hear Her voice.
Nehalennia.
Her wind plays with my locks,
Her silten blessing touches my lips.

Daea Nehalennia.
She who faces the storm and flows from it, stronger
She who shows us the way and guards our journey
She whose rage causes ships to perish
She whose tender embrace brings us peace and joy

Lady Nehalennia,
Power of the North Sea
Hear me!
For I am your daughter
Your salted water flows through my veins
Your storm rages through my body
Your strength and dept I inherited

Mother Nehalennia
Heart of the North Sea
Be with me!

(First published on my witchy Tumblr)

By any other name…

Or: my journey to Cernunnos.

Horned One by Marjolijn Ashara. A fallen tree looking like a cloaked, horned figure in the distance.

I discovered witchcraft and paganism in the late ’90s, early ’00s. Our household didn’t have internet yet (gasp! I know!) so all I had available to me were books and the computer in the school library. Back then the only books we could get, especially here in the Netherlands, were wiccan. Wheel of the Year, God and Goddess, circle of protection, wiccan rede, the whole shebang.

The Lord and Lady. I found the idea of that duality fascinating. (Not so much anymore, but that is for a different post) I didn’t come from a Christian background and the times that I’d been to church had been overall a pleasant experience, though not for me. So I didn’t have a problem with a male deity in my path. And, on the other hand, while I found the idea of a female deity empowering and logical, I didn’t have the feminist revelation that most other Goddess-worshippers seemed to have. (That has also changed quite a bit) So for me it was logical. A man and woman, mother and father, who together create all life. Sure, their progression through the wheel of the year seems a bit wonkey, but that’s minor hiccup, right? (Oh how times have changed)

I named my God Cernunnos, the Horned One, Lord of the Wild. And the antlered figure was something that I was very drawn to. The untamed, the wildness of nature, all things that called to me. The Goddess changed for me, many times, but Cernunnos stayed.

the Horned One on my altar

Then, I started learning. I learned that the Lord and Lady were actually supposed to be named Gods, but probably not Cernunnos, but Pan. I learned that we didn’t know anything about Cernunnos, except for the pillar where his name appeared on once, and that’s it. I learned that the aspects that wicca had placed on him: masculinity, virility, sexuality, the forest and woodlands, were not per se for Cernunnos at all. Instead they were for this Horned One, who might be Pan, but who had become this melting pot of all antlered and horned deities who were tied to nature.

But then who had I been calling upon? Who had I been talking to and who had I seen in meditation after meditation? I stepped away from the name Cernunnos, found it not fitting. I didn’t read further into His lore either. My mistake. It also bothered me that everyone seemed to have this Horned One as their male deity. Did I then really have a bond with this deity, or was it just because it was what’s done? Did I even want a bond with a God that allll the other pagans and witches worshipped? (I had a bit of a problem with “popular things”) I started doubting the experiences that I’d had. My second mistake.

My path changed and changed again. I became an atheist secular witch, not believing in the Gods at all. Later I began to see them as Jungian Archetypes, as aspects of myself that I drew to the front when I called upon the Gods. But neither felt right. I realized that even though my logic was saying that they couldn’t be real, that they couldn’t have influence on this reality, our reality, that my heart didn’t care. I believed again. I found two Goddesses whom I am both devoted to; Nehalennia and Baduhenna. I reconnected with whom I had called Horned One for years and restated my devotion to Him as well.

The fact that the Horned One remained nameless started to grate. I had names and titles for my Goddesses, but not for Him. I also had finally truly disconnected Him from the wiccan version of the Lord. This after doing quite a bit of shadow work on, amongst other things my wiccan roots, and gender and deity. The realisation that masculine- and feminine energy meant nothing when talking about deity. That even though the Horned One was a sexual creature, sexuality and masculinity were not the things that I, personally, associated Him with. (Again, this is for a different post) So I started looking into antlered deities again.

Cernunnos by Iren Horrors

I came upon Cernunnos, of course, but this time I stayed. I read and listened. I learned about who He might have been, what the scholars and historians think based upon His imagery. What other pagans, those not so influenced by the dogma of duality thought of Him. And I read. And I read it again and again until finally that one thing registered in my brain.

Cernunnos, meaning “Horned One”.

I reached out to Him, my antlered Lord of the wildness and hunt. “I’ve been calling you by this name the whole time, haven’t I?”
“Yes. It doesn’t matter in what language you say it, I’ve always heard you.”

And so He is named once again. Cernunnos. But not after the masculine half of the wiccan duality. Instead after the ancient, antlered God that has been worshipped by many, many names all over the continent, if not the world. The Gaulish Cernunnos with the horned serpent and torc. God of the forest and the hunt, Dweller in the liminal, Lord of animals and the chthonic roots. And so He is named…

DIY Oracle: step 1, brainstorming and research

Recently I’ve gained an interest in shadow work, and during my research binge I’ve found that a lot of people use tarot and oracle decks as a tool to help them in their shadow work. A lot of the decks they use are darker and often eerie, with lots of horror elements and skulls. There is nothing wrong with that, and I have a few of those decks myself, but they don’t fit me or where I stand in my current path. So I went searching for a deck that spoke to me, something that would work for me, and I found… nothing.

So after watching Dawn Michelle’s videos on her handmade deck I was inspired and figured: why not make my own? And why not share my process so you can make your own as well?

Fase 1: Theme
So my first step was brainstorming and research. Starting with choosing a theme for my deck. I’d already picked my theme, sort of through necessity: shadow work. Now, I didn’t want all the cards to be deep, thought invoking, dramatic cards. So what could I add that didn’t take away from the goal of the cards or the feel that I wanted them to have? For me, shadow work stands hand in hand with personal empowerment. This because of my habit of underestimating or forgetting my own power. So those would be the offset to the shadow, which also gave me a working title: “Power and Shadow”.

Comet Neowise by Marjolijn Ashara

Fase 2: Brainstorm
I didn’t write any of this down, and I think I should have. So I’m giving the advice to grab a journal or open a new document and just… write. Write down anything you can think of about the ideal version of this deck. Some questions to help you get started:

What oracle do you want it to be? I knew I wanted a card deck, but it could of course be anything! Painted stones, pyrographed wooden sticks, charms, you name it.

What are the colours? I decided on muted tones with lots of dark blues, greys and blacks. I also wanted the backs of the cards to be black and/or grey.

What are some card names that you can think of right now? I did write some of these down quickly; collision, healing water, let go, toxicity, storm, adrift. Along with, if I had them, a short meaning to each. For collision this was “confrontation needed/unavoidable”, just so I could remember why I had that title.  

What does this deck need to have; are there certain themes, images or words that are a must-have? This will not only help you get a clearer view of the deck, but will also help you where to research. I know a theme was shadow work, so I knew I had a direction to search in. I knew I wanted to incorporate poetry into them, shot poems by people like Nikita Gill, Abigail Lovelace or something I wrote myself. The moon and stars are very important to me, as is the sea. I love nature and forests, so those are for me must-haves in anything that has to do with personal work. For empowerment the wolf is a very strong symbol for me. So I knew where to search for meanings and names of the cards, as well as art or photographs.

Fase 3: Research
Start looking at other oracle decks. What do you like, what don’t you like? Both in looks, aesthetics, vibe, card names and themes, you name it. What decks do you have, are they hand-drawn or digital? Lots of colour or not? What themes or images keep coming back in these? That will help you get a clearer view of the things that already work for you.

I also watched videos about other people talking about their favourite oracle decks for shadow work. I noted some of the things they said and wrote them down. I felt drawn to some of the cards and titles and wrote them down as well. I watched flip throughs of the decks they mentioned and took notes in my notebook about the things that spoke to me. For example: the Vampire Deck by Lucy Cavendish gave me the names “redemption” and “primal”.

Primal by Jasmine Beckett Griffith and Lucy Cavendish

Keep your notebook handy while looking at other media as well. A video by Joey Morris about a ritual do deal with a break up gave me “sunset: letting go, liminality, healing from endings”, while a video about creativity by Kelly Ann Maddox gave me “sacred rebellion: Fight capitalism, do things for yourself, not because they make you money”. Inspiration is everywhere, darlings!

Research the themes you are working with. What are things that keep popping up in your theme? In my chosen themes it was things like privilege, the inner critic, childhood, toxicity, forgiveness, release, being kind to yourself, self love. Find those and see how you can incorporate them into your deck, and what they mean to you.

Look towards other decks (both DIY and not) to see what style speaks to you. I mentioned Dawn Michelle’s videos earlier, I love the cards that she made, but I knew that even though I think they are gorgeous, they are too busy for me. I knew the moment I had a sort of visceral reaction to her “simplicity” card, that that was way more my style. Clean, simple and the picture is the star of the show. I had a stack of photography magazine clipping that I knew would work perfectly for this style.

Simplicity by Dawn Michelle

For the backs I had fallen in love with a deck of playing cards, where the cardstock was matte, but the images were glossy. I knew that would be perfect for the feel that I wanted this deck to have. So I went on to step 2: experimenting!

So join me next time to see how I experimented with making my own cards, what worked, what didn’t work, and how I found the perfect cards for me. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and also tell me about your oracles! Have you made one yourself, how and what did you use?

A new look!

A new drawing for the header, new colours, and a new feel overall. It was time. The previous colour scheme (blue and purple) is still a favourite of mine, but I feel the new colours and art reflect me more. And yes, a pentagram proudly displayed in the header of the website.

So what does this mean? Well, I’ve been on a pretty long hiatus (3 years! Oh my!) and of course in that time I’ve done some thinking and changing. So you might notice another change as well; the shop is closed and gone (for now?). Witchcraft has become a bigger part of my life again, and I realized that most of the things that I was creating, was linked to my spiritual practice. So why not show that?

So am I back? To be honest, I don’t know. I want to be. I want to share more about my craft(s) and have conversations and connect to others. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep up a regular posting schedule. But I want to try.

So what else will change? Probably the overall theme of the blog will change more towards witchcraft, paganism and spirituality. Simply because that is what I am spending most of my time on. More rambling thoughts about certain subjects. More crafts and poetry and less stories (although I do have a few lined up). Maybe also more rambly D&D stories and thoughts if I feel like it. And, hopefully, more interaction with you all!

Epiphany

X-Men- Dark Phoenix
X-men Dark Phoenix promo picture

I’m back with a new story! This short little thing was written for a writing contest with the theme “heroes”.

   The thing no one understands is that everybody can be a hero. We all are, for a tiny moment each day, a hero. We are heroes when we stand up for what we believe in, when we are our true selves – fearlessly, when we show courage, even though we are afraid. Small moments perhaps, but important ones.

   As soon as Superheroes enter the scene, you forget about the existence of those common heroes. Perhaps that is because we are surrounded with these acts of small heroism each and every day. We lose sight of them in the mundane, and then, when a shiny new Hero appears who can create fire out of nothing, like me, you forget about all others.

   You point a camera at me while ignoring the real heroes; the first responders, the parents protecting their children, the survivors. Even beyond this busy aftermath, you have no more love left for the nurse caring for your grandparent, or the people cloaked with rainbow flags, walking hand in hand. And yet –

   And yet.

   And yet they have it easier, not being in the spotlight. Not being “Super”. They are not under a microscope every second of every day. Their every move judged, weighed, picked apart for meaning that isn’t there. Sometimes getting a scoop of peppermint ice cream really is just that.

   You know, I saved your lives last week. Saved the entire city, to be exact. And afterwards you flocked around me with your cameras and lights, and you shoved dozens of microphones in my face and asked me questions.

   Do you realise you never ask me the right ones? You never ask how it feels to save people, or if I was afraid when I had a gun pointed right at my heart. Instead, you ask about property damage and if I am afraid I will get sued this time, again. Instead, you talk about the loss of life as if I am the one responsible. You ask me about my opinion on unrelated things, like your entertainment or politics, knowing that I can never give you a real answer, my answer. Because whenever I do, whenever I show you that the fact that I am fire in human form is not the only thing about me that may be different, you scorn me. Your cheers turn to ridicule. Your love turns so easily to hate. Those that don’t despise me give well-meant warnings about “public opinion” and “playing the audience”.

   You see, the thing is, when I first discovered that the flame within my soul became too much to keep in, I was happy. I was overcome with joy at the thought of being something. Something more. I raced to show my parents and they were so proud. Not afraid at all. I went to a school filled with children, both with powers and without, and I was happy. Then you posed me a question, did I want to be a hero? Well, of course I wanted to be a hero! I wanted to save people, help people become better than they were, and I still do.

   I’ve only recently come to realise that I remember that question through rose-tinted glasses. Looking back, I now hear that it wasn’t a question at all, but a choice. Did I want to be a hero and stick to your rules, fit in your neat little boxes, or did I want to be medicated? Because I was too much, too loud, too dangerous to let go unchecked. But back then I only heard the word hero and I was sold. You see, the thing is –

   The thing is.

   I used to be happy. I used to be proud of who I was and what I can do. Proud of the red and gold suit that you gave me when I graduated. When I had learned to push that roaring wildfire in me down until nothing but a spark remained. Before I heard the whispers behind my back and the vitriol spewed right in my face because you only see me as a Hero, not as a person. Before I realised that although I fight for your freedom, you have put me in a gilded cage.

   You want me to burn like a candle – small and controlled, giving off just enough light. But that is not who and what I am. Fire consumes and grows bigger with everything it touches. That is what I want to be. Not the flame, but the Phoenix, ever rising from the ashes and spreading my wings to soar. Flying high above you all and your judgements, and pettiness, and hatred. Looking down and seeing your truths and the evil that rests in your hearts. And then burning that evil out until only the righteous and good shall remain. And oh –

   Oh.

   An epiphany is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It rushes through you, leaving adrenaline and happiness in its wake. Just like the flames that flow under my skin, trying to find a way out and spread like wings, this enlightenment also cannot be contained. It clears the head of all distractions, making me see the bigger picture for the first time in my life, and let me tell you, darling, it is beautiful. I’ve finally figured it out, you see, figured me out. I was never meant for this life. I was meant for something more, much more, than mundane, yes, but never this life of containment and masks. Of rules and restraints. Now I see that even though you have pushed me, shaped and moulded me into your hero –

   I was meant to be your villain all along.