Change

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Witchcraft is a path of change. Usually we practice magic to bring about a change in our lives, or the lives of those around us. In the years that I have been a practicing witch and pagan, my path has gone through a lot of changes. From a wiccan based one to a more nature and pagan based one. From only doing spells for myself to doing spells for social change on a global level. From practicing in my bedroom with an altar on top of a dresser, to having an entire room dedicated to my craft. Live is a river, ever moving and winding, and witchcraft is no different. It’s the reason I made the Write your Witchcraft challenge, to document those changes for yourself.

But no matter how much things changed, there were a few things that were a constant. A few small things that have been so ingrained into my practice since the beginning. And now that has to change as well, and I find myself adrift. I’ve mentioned before that in May of last year I got ill with Covid. On top of me still not being anywhere near recovered, it also damaged my lungs in such a way that I have to rethink much of my life, including my witchcraft and pagan path.

I’m going to need to find a way to practice without incense, burning candles, perfumed spell oils, strong scenting herbs or flowers, and smoke of any kind. Which might not seem like such a big deal, but for the past twenty-one years all of those things have been such a big part of my path. A cornerstone of sorts. My daily offering to the Gods is burning a candle and praying to them. I use incense and smoke to cleanse my magical tools. I use incense as a representation of the element of air, both in circle when creating sacred space and when charging something with the elements. In our coven we use spell oils to anoint ourselves before stepping into sacred space. I use candles to create a warm and intimate mood for my ritual workings. I burn certain herb mixtures for protection and cleansing when preparing for ritual.

I know I’m not alone in this, that there are many witches out there with asthma or other lung problems who also can’t use these things. So that helps, knowing I’m not alone, as well as reading a lot of tips and ideas for alternatives. But it’s difficult right now to try these alternatives. I don’t know what I would respond well to or not, and with the lockdown and the virus still going strong, I can’t go around to shops and try things out. It also doesn’t help that I have this gorgeous altar room which is now mostly finished (as finished as it will be during a lockdown) and I can’t be in there for more than five minutes before my lungs seize up because of something in there. It’s making me feel a bit lost and desperate. Witchcraft is a path of change, and this is another change that I can and will work through. I will find new ways to cleanse, to create sacred space and a sense of peace and intimacy. I will work around obstacles and make new traditions. I know all this. But right now, I’m mourning the loss of the path I had.

Element pages

Another peak into my Art Grimoire! Today I wanted to share my pages for the four elements with you. I wanted this one to be quite simple, the triangles with representations of the elements inside, and then have keywords which are my personal associations with each element.

What I love about this method is that I can keep adding correspondences and associations as they come to me, right up until the box is full!

Deity Bindrunes

I received a question on how I made my Nehalennia bindrune, so I figured I’d make a quick post about my process.

Nehalennia Candle Shrine side view with Nehalennia bindrune

First really quick: a bindrune is a symbol which combines different runes, in this case using the elder futhark. They can be used for magical purposes, combining their different properties towards a certain outcome. In this case, I use them as a symbol for a specific deity, combining their different areas of rule into one powerful symbol.

So step one is brainstorming. I usually sit with a crappy notebook and just jot down all the things I want to incorporate into the bindrune, or the domains of the deity I wish to make this bindrune for. This is a messy process and can take several days or weeks, depending on how smoothly this goes. Cernunnos’ bindrune came together super quick, only a few days, for example, while Baduhenna was a lot more nebulous, taking several weeks to get right.

Burnable Spellboxes with deity bindrunes. Left: Baduhenna. Middle: Nehalennia. Right: Cernunnos.

For the Nehalennia I settled on four runes of the elder futhark. Raidho: for travel, in this case across the North Sea. Laguz: for water, since Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North Sea. Fehu: for material wealth, most of her followers were hardworking merchants, and Nehalennia is a Goddess of prosperity as well, so I associate Her with reaping the fruits of your (hard) labour. Gebo: for gifts, relationships, and exchange. She is the Goddess of the harvest, and keeps the ships safe on their travels, but it comes with a price – and exchange – in the shape of an altar stone commissioned for Her. She gives, so much, but she does expect things in return. A relationship of equals.

After I made my choice it’s as simple, and as complicated, of trying out different combinations until one feels and looks right. For some runes this is very quick and can happen in one doodling session, like the Cernunnos rune or the Nehalennia rune. For others it takes multiple sessions to figure out something that works, like with Baduhenna.

Deity Bindrune concept page in my bullet journal. The top two-thirds are for Baduhenna, which eventually became something different entirely. The bottom one-third is for Nehalennia, the circled bindrune being the final one.

A parting note: for some it is important to not include the reverse or mirrored versions of the rune, since their meaning is different and often opposite of the upright one. For bindrunes, I do not have this belief, because I am using the meaning of the upright runes to built something new, while still holding the original meanings. They lose their individuality (a bit) to join into a conjoined and new symbol, with new meaning. But, this is for every individual practitioner to decide.

a Card for Imbolc

Last monday was Imbolc, the pagan holiday which celebrates the start of spring. A symbol for Imbolc are snowdrops, which are also my favourite flowers! So, because I finally wanted an excuse to use this stamp, and I wanted some freedom in playing around, I made this Imbolc card. A soft lilac cardstock base with layers of white plain card stock, green mulberry paper, and plain card stock again. I used distress oxides to create the background and stamped my snowdrop over it. With white pencil I coloured the “drop” part of the snowdrop. I cut out the letters and added a layer of nuvo aqua shimmer to both the letters and my snowdrop.

I love how soft this card turned out. This is the first time I made a greeting card for a pagan holiday, but I quite enjoyed it, so it might just have to become a new tradition!

Baduhenna: Valkyrie, or Dutch Morrigan?

Photo by Martin Lopez via Pexels

Baduhenna, the Dutch Goddess of battle and the forest. I already knew of a possible connection with Badb, one of the Morrígna, due to the etymology of both their names. The root badw- or badv-, meaning battle, that they both share.

Donahue, in his article “the Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses”[1] exposes perhaps a deeper link. He states that it is likely that the Scandinavian and Germanic Valkyrie and the Irish Wargoddesses evolved together. That is to say that because of the close relations between the Celts, the Gauls and the Germanic people it is likely that these cultures intermingled, and through that their mythology and beliefs were influenced. The Valkyrie for example, went from demons, “those who bring fear”, to beautiful, almost Goddess-like, women who chose the slain and poured mead in the Halls of Valhalla.

De Vries, in his article “studiën over Germaanse mythologie”[2] also speaks of the links between Valkyrie, the matronae (triads of Goddesses commonly worshipped by the Germanic tribes), the Norns, the dísir, and the Goddess triad that is the Morrigan.

Next to Badb and the Valkyries, there is another Goddess to consider. The Gaulic Goddess Cathubodua, whose name means “battle-crow”. Perhaps Her link with Badh is even a stronger one, with the crow aspect being right there in the name. All we have of Cathubodua is the inscription of the name upon a shield, unfortunately not a lot to go on.

Baduhenna might not have the crow in Her name, but she does have something else. Her “mythology”. I’m putting “mythology” in quotation marks here, because it is not myth, it is history. However the history only tells us that there was a battle, that the Frisians against all odds attempted to overthrow the tyrannical Roman leader, that they won that battle and killed 900 Romans, and that the retreating Romans were so paranoid, that they slayed 400 of their own men. Those are the facts. But if we look at it in another way, a different story can perhaps be told: a small group of people won a battle against a far greater and better trained army. This battle was fought in a sacred forest, dedicated to their Goddess; a Goddess of war. Divine intervention perhaps, the Goddess choosing which side of the conflict will be the victor, and which will be slain. Much like both the Valkyrie and the Morrigan. The remaining soldiers fleeing, but being so overcome with confusion and madness that they turn on their own battle-brothers. Just like the madness that Badb spreads when she flies over the battlefields in her form as a crow. Which is why Braakman is his article “Baduhenna. Godin van het Slagveld.”[3] states that Baduhenna and Badb are one and the same, and says: “Baduhenna had struck again.”

So we have a Gaulish Battlegoddess, the Valkyries, and the Morrigan. So where does Baduhenna fit into this? Perhaps nowhere, for as far as we know She is not part of a triad or group, like the Morrigan and the Valkyrie. But to me, they do have a connection. To me, the theory that the Valkyrie and the Irish-, Gaulic-, and Germanic Goddesses of War and Battle influenced each other, and therefore, grew together, seems very logical. I tend to see them as sisters, or cousins. Not the same, but part of the same family.

For me personally, the link with the Morrigan is stronger, simply because of Baduhenna’s “mythology”. This is also the reason I relate crows with Baduhenna, without there being evidence for it. And perhaps also because Morrigan was already a known Goddess to me, through my partner who considered Her his patron for a while. I always felt drawn to the Morrigan as well, but it never felt right, not completely. And who knows, perhaps this was because She was trying to point me towards Her Dutch sister all along.

[1] Donahue, C. (1941). The Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses. PMLA,56(1), 1-12. doi:10.2307/458935
[2] de Vries, Jan P.M.L. (1931). Studiën over Germaanse mythologie. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal en Letterkunde, 50, 85-125. Link.
[3] Braakman, W.A. (2001). Baduhenna. Godin van het Slagveld. Westerheem. Tijdschrift voor de Nederlandse Archeologie, 50(1), 2-12.

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.