Finding Nehalennia

Atefwepwawet’s post inspired me to write about my own journey to Nehalennia. What made me search for this “forgotten Goddess”, and what drew me to her when I finally found her? This particular journey starts about eight to ten year ago. I’d been a witch for about thirteen years, I was part of a coven, had been granted my third degree initiation, together with the title High Priestess. In our coven many Goddesses (but no Gods) were represented and honoured during ritual. Within our tradition (heavily Wiccan influenced, but not Wiccan) people were encouraged to search for “their” Goddess, what is now mostly known as a Matron. One Goddess (and God, though no one except me and my partner had a Patron) that would guide you and that you would worship and honour. In my coven at the time we had Lilith, Isis, Pele, Aradia (not a Goddess, we know), the Morrigan, and Danu. We were also part of a bigger organization of covens, where the Egyptian Gods were very popular. I myself was a dedicated priestess of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna. In 2006 I had done a dedication ritual to her, and her sister Erishkigal a few years later, both “as long as the Goddess walks with me”. I know that people change, that paths wind and twist and can lead you to where you never thought you’d be. So I made room for that change. And, in 2012, I had found Inanna’s connection waning, making room for something new.

I remember standing in the circle during ritual, listening to everyone call upon their Goddesses and thinking “aren’t these all so far from home?”. I remember wondering if there shouldn’t be something or someone closer. From here. From the land upon which we stood. And then I wondered why I didn’t know this already? Why this wasn’t something I had looked into before? I knew we had worshipped the Norse Gods in these parts, but knew almost nothing of them. And what about more local? Were there even Dutch Gods and Goddesses: deities tied to our own lands and traditions? I made a vow, that same night, to, in the very least, start searching.

Photo by Dominik Lückmann on Unsplash

When you type in “Dutch Goddess” in any search bar Nehalennia is going to be one of the first names to come up. Information that is readily available all say the same things; Goddess of the Sea, guardian of sailors, goddess of prosperity and the harvest. Worshipped in what is now Nieuw Zeeland and she may have been Roman, or Celtic, or Germanic. I did some research and while I was intrigued (and found out that I had read about her before) there was no connection there. This was a Goddess we already knew (I thought), I wanted to find the ones we had really forgotten (hubris, anyone?). I delved deeper, found old books and articles, started reading history journals and archeology magazines as old as 1865. I found twenty six unique Dutch deities, one of which specifically piqued my interest: Baduhenna. I wrote down all I could find in a word document, without citing sources — what was past-me thinking? I was hoping to write one article about them. Eventually I wrote several for a few of them.

Around that same time my world view was changing. I was doubting if the Gods where even real or if they were thoughtforms, or archetypes. The research was now purely one of interest, to connect to the past, but nothing spiritual. I became an atheist witch for a while, but that also didn’t feel right.

March 2017. Nehalennia has been on my mind again and this time, I took the time to look deeper. To study her like I studied the others. And I found a treasuretrove of information. What I also found was that there were two temples dedicated to her in the Netherlands. One in the historical reenactment park Archeon, where me and my coven sisters witnessed and participated in a “ritual”, and one which was rebuilt near where the original had been found: on Colijnsplaat in Nieuw Zeeland. During my search I found that his temple is also used. That there is a small group of people dedicated to Nehalennia, today. A group of pagans that use this temple to perform their public rituals. The next one: Ostara 2017. Me and my coven sisters go, and I’m immediately enchanted.

It wasn’t enough of a pull, however. I had absolutely loved the ritual, but was it because of Nehalennia, or was it because of the people and the style? A lot more loose and free and ancient than our tradition. I wasn’t convinced. Luckily that same year there was another ritual, bigger, with a festival and everything. So, on Mabon of that same year, we made the trek again. This time it was clear. I could feel the pull of the sea, connect to the land and the past in a way I never could before. Had experiences with other pagans and witches that I felt deeper within me than many before that. There was a feeling of ancientness, of primal and wildness, that I had been seeking my entire path, but hadn’t been able to find. I found it there. I found it with Nehalennia.

Nehalennia statue at the harvest festival

Word of the Year

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. They never work for me, and I’d rather start working towards a goal when I am well prepared and truly ready, than waiting for a specific date. Something else that I have seen pop up more and more over the years, however, is the Word of the Year.

A tradition which started in the scrapbooking world, coined by Ali Edwards. You choose One Little Word (the name of her project) on which to focus for a year. It will be your guide, something to work on and something to inspire you throughout the year. I was thinking about a word of the year, not even necessarily because I wanted to choose one. But one came up anyway, and in such a clear and strong way that I knew I needed to do something with it.

Trust. I’m probably not the only one whose trust has taken a beating by everything that has happened in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had moments where I’ve felt betrayed by our governments, by society, family, friends, my own mind, and my body. It was a difficult year. I honestly don’t know if I can find it within myself to trust certain people again. Or even if I should. I even stopped trusting my own instincts and my own body when I got sick with covid. Now I’m nine months into what they are now calling long-covid, and some things might never get better. Times are still very uncertain, in a lot of different ways.

And therefore trust is a word I want to dive deep into in the coming year. What does it mean, what does it mean to me? How can I rebuilt the trust that has been broken? Do I even want to, or is it in some cases better to move on? I want to trust my body again. I want to trust life again.

There are themes that I’ve already started working on earlier, that I of course also will keep working on in the coming year. So, perhaps it is not one word of the year, but more like three. Acceptance, amongst other things because of my health. And self-love is an ongoing journey that I will still set aside my new moons for. So:

Trust
Acceptance
Self-love

Do you have a word of the year? Or any themes you wish to explore in the coming year? Share them with me in the comments!

What 2020 brought me

Of course this has been a terrible year. A year which was filled with trauma, and anxiety for a lot of people. Lots of social upheaval, next to a global pandemic. It’s been tough and it has been hell. But today, on Yule, I also wanted to focus on the good things 2020 has brought me, no matter how small.

  • Ate wild blackberries and walnuts
  • Deepened and rekindled friendships
  • Found a new favourite cookie recipe – peanut butter and chocolate cookie from the book Home Sweet Home by Hummingbird’s Bakery
  • Was asked to write an endorsement for a book about Dutch mythology and magic!
  • Discovered new series – the Witcher, Queer Eye more than a makeover, Crazy Delicious, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Community, Sugar Rush
  • New books – Minimum Wage Magic, a Court of Thorns and Roses, the Witch’s Altar, the House Witch, Folklore, Maar waar kom je écht vandaan?
  • New music – Victory, Halestorm, Ruelle, Twigs and Twine, Árstíðir, Emian, Andra Day, the Greatest Showman: Reimagined, Martine Kraft
  • New movies – Pride and Prejudice, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • New artists – Sylvia Strijk, Maartje van Dokkum, Sara Tisdale (Sergle), Michalina Grzegorz
  • Cultivated art for my temple room
  • Made some powerful art myself
  • Found a painted stone in the wild!
  • Discovered Pumpkin Spice- and London Fog lattes
  • Cultivated (not found, cultivated!) my inner strength to stand up for myself and protect my boundaries
  • Spent a lot of time with my husband
  • Opened myself up and discovered a lot of ingrained prejudice and started working through it
  • Got a gorgeous, new, custom made coat
  • Saw the Hu in concert
  • Celebrated Castlefest online
  • Had a gorgeous and misty Mabon
  • Acceptance of my sexual-, romantic-, and gender identity
  • Clarity about my career
  • Reconnected with my tarot and oracle decks
  • Stardew Valley
  • So much D&D!

Let me know: despite everything, what has this year brought you?

Yule Spell Ornament

I think I’m not the only for who December and the holidays are a strange and sometimes difficult time. So this year I decided to try and bring some light and warmth, joy and love into our home with this Yule spell ornament!

Disclaimer: I used whatever I had in my house which spoke to me of warmth, homeliness, joy and comfort. You don’t need all these ingredients, and some of the things that I have these associations with might not speak to you. Use whatever feels right!

What you need:

  • Glass ornament
  • Wool or twine in the colours of the hearth or Sun
  • Charm that represents warmth and home, in my case the bonfire
  • Salt (cleansing, snow)
  • Cinnamon stick (warmth, comfort)
  • Different types of tree bark and twigs (yule log, hearth)
  • Chios Mastic or a different yellow coloured resin (Sun, warmth, energy)
  • Juniper berry (ancestors, ancient)
  • Sun charm (Sun, warmth, joy)
  • Citrine (happiness, joy, creativity)
  • Yellow Aventurine (happiness, warmth, joy)
  • Rose quartz (love, self love, comfort)
  • Chamomile (Sun, comfort, joy)

What you do:

  • Create your space in the way that feels right for you
  • Cleanse your ornament
  • Add your salt, charging it with intent
  • Add your small herbs and crystals, charging each with intent while you add them
  • Add your big pieces, placing them in a way that looks good to you, charging them with your intent
  • Put the cap back onto your ornament
  • Wrap the top with the wool and add the charm to the outside, charging it with intent

Things I thought about adding: glitter (fun, joy, sparkly lights), cocoa powder (comfort, warmth), holly (winter, everlasting, yule), red apple (comfort, homeliness, yule), sugar (sweetness, love), fake snow (winter, joy, snow)

What would you add to your ornament of love, joy, and warmth.

A Coffee explosion

I had so much fun making the exploding box fall card, that I decided to experiment and take it to the next level. I made another exploding box, this time coffee themed.

My friend Judith always makes the most elaborate and beautiful cards for me (like this insanely awesome unicorn rainbow cake card she made for my birthday). I’d not made a single card for about three years, so I figured it was time to make something for her… just because. She is a total coffee addict and collects all things coffee, so there was only one theme I could pick, really. I loved experimenting with the “floating” coffeebeans and cups, it was a lot of fun to make. I’m happy to tell you that she loved it!

Pagan festival pages

You might have noticed that I added a subject “witchcraft” on top of this blog. And if you’ve looked you might have noticed that I like sharing some of my art grimoire pages! Besides a bunch of information that I keep digitally, or printed out in a binder, I wanted to make a book of shadows that was part artbook, part reference book, part whatever else I wanted it to be. Today I wanted to share my Wheel of the Year pages with you!

All these pages where inspired by Dominee from BlessingManifesting. I loved the watercolour effect and tried to copy that with coloured pencil.

Below the name of the festival I added some other common, or less common, names the festival is known by. Or festivals that were inspired by the pagan feast, like easter.

I really wanted the pages to make sense for me and what I’m most likely to use it for. For me that’s planning celebrations for our Circle, decorating the altar and the potluck that has become festival tradition. So for me that meant: decoration and symbols (correspondences), inspirtion for the types of spells and rituals associated with the festival (spellwork), creative ideas and the spirit of the feast (activities), and foods for the potluck (or on my own!).

Before I started on these pages, I really took the time to think about my associations with the different festivals. The things that were important to me, and that fit my path and practice. With this book it’s so important that it’s personal, so I really took my time to gather resources, look at old spells and rituals, and use a lot of intuition.

I really love how they turned out. Even with a few flaws here and there ;). Join me next time when I share my pages on the elements!

Black Birthday Booklet!

November was ever creeping closer, which meant that the birthday of my friend Chantal was nearly here. She is the one person I will ALWAYS make a card for and I always go all out. Even if I haven’t crafted all year, she will get something handmade. So this year I went a little crazy (again) by creating a bunch of small cards and binding them together like a little booklet.

First, the cover! A frame diecut, cut in half and glued together for sturdyness. With a cute “happy birthday” that I stamped and embossed.

The first pages! I love the stamp and I actually use more of those quotes for her on other cards. It’s a birthday, so of course it needed a cupcake, but in very VERY bright colours.

She has two cats, so of course they couldn’t be left out. I stamped them and coloured them in the colours of her cats. And, like me, she is a writer and a fountain pen fanatic, so these dies are perfect! The frame is the same as the cover, now used whole.

Pretty galaxy paper, which I know she loves. The moonphases are stamped and embossed with glow in the dark embossing powder! It was the first time using it, so I did not know it would dry transparent… oops. Luckily I could lightly colour over it with white pencil. And lastly, a lunar moth with a moon!

On the back I put a piece of purple coloured paper and wrote the birthday message on there. I loved making this, it was a lot of fun to think of “pairs” of cards that would both work together and be meaningful. Now of course the question already starts to brew: what to do for next year?

Cernuna?

I got a question on Twitter by a follower who wondered if I have any information about the Goddess Cernuna. I must admit, I’d read the name once in passing, while reading about Cernunnos, but I never really dove further into it, thinking that it was simply a modern pagan’s wishful thinking. After the question, however, I got curious. Is there a female counterpart to Cernunnos? Do we have evidence of a Gaulish female antlered Goddess?

Short answer: sort of.

Above is a bronze statue of an antlered woman, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia and a patera: a gallo-roman offering dish. The statue is currently in the British Museum, but was found at Broye in the Haute-Saône (Franche-Comté). Interesting is of course that she had antlers, and the fact that she is sitting crosslegged, something that most Cernunnos depictions have as well.

Another antlered goddess, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia was discovered in Puy-de-Dôme. Her other hand is empty but was likely holding another patera. She can be seen in the Musée de Clermont-Ferrand.

The cornucopia is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The patera is one of worship, of leaving offerings for a deity. However, often the figures holding the patera would not be the deity themself, but those who would bring offerings to them. So are we looking at statues of Goddesses, or of priestesses? Horns (or antlers) indicate a link to nature and the hunt. Which would make these potential Goddesses a Goddess of nature, the hunt, and abundance (and perhaps the harvest).

There is also mention of a relief of a horned (not antlered) Goddess found on a piece of pottery in Richborough, Kent, but I wasn’t able to find an image of this.

Of course we know next to nothing about these figures. Their name, or what their attributes entailed. Cernuna or Cernunna would be a suitable name, meaning “horned” but whether or not She would have a link to Cernunnos is impossible to know. And if She did have a link to Cernunnos, what would it be? Is She His consort, His wife, His sister, His female form? An interesting concept to think about.

Sources:
We Are Star Stuff – Cernunnos
We Are Star Stuff – Horned Goddesses
DeoMercurio – Cernunnos
Noémie Beck – Goddesses in Celtic Religion
Ceisiwr Serith – Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way
Sharon Paice MacLeod – Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld: Mythic Origins, Sovereignty and Liminality pg. 152-154
Miranda Green – Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art pg. 26-27
Miranda Green – Animals in Celtic Life and Myth pg. 237
Georgia Irby-Massie – Military Religion in Roman Britain pg. 100


Poetry: Find me, sister

A poem inspired by the Goddess Baduhenna.

Find me, sister
In marsh-filled forest
In sacred grove
The places which are wild and raw and free
Filled with magic and power

Find me, sister
Through ties of blood
Through bonds of spirit
See me in the faces of your kindred,
Connected and rooted to all life

Find me, sister
In spring’s green delight
In summer’s bright splendour
For, like you, nature grows and blooms
It perseveres through all adversity

Find me, sister
In the call of the crow
In the howl of the wolf
Join the frenzied roar of thousands,
And fight for those who are oppressed

Find me, sister
With fangs bared
With claws curled
Head held high and strength in your spine
Never giving in nor giving ground

Find me, sister
Crowned in iron
Crowned in madness
With shadows twisting behind my rooted throne
Whispering of all your deepest fears

Find me, sister
In darkened forest
In the depth of night
When you are wounded and bleeding
Open and vulnerable for all to see

Find me, sister
Through your tears
Through your rage
Bruised but never weak nor defeated
Bending but never, ever broken

Find me, sister
Within your heart
Within yourself
You, who are mettle-tested and battle-worn
Wear your scars with dignity

Find me, sister
Within your eyes
Within your bearing
Stand in your power without reservation
With pride in all that you are