Birthday Witchcraft

Today, the 28th of October is my birthday! So I thought this was the perfect time to share with you all some magical things to do for your birtday. Here are some ideas to add a little bit of witchcraft to your already magical day.

Candle Magic: Light a (birthday) candle, make a wish, blow it out. Simple, yet effective. Traditional birtday magic!

Glamour Magic: Choose your clothes and make up in such a way that they make you feel empowered, happy and confident. Choose happy colours and patterns, draw sigils with your foundation, or wear jewellery enchanted to make this a happy day.

Food Blessing: Get a cookie/cupcake/cake/donut and bless it with happiness and love for the coming year. Think about your flavours: which do I associate with happiness, or love? Will it be a confetti cake, or is a white chocolate and rosewater cupcake better? You could also draw sigils, runes or bindrunes in the icing or frosting for added oomph.

Hot Drink Blessing: get your favourite flavor of coffee/tea/hot chocolate and charge it with warmth and self love. Stir the drink clockwise while concentrating on what you wish to imbue your potion with. Add edible glitter or shimmer (like luster dust) to make it even more magical!

Dance it Out: Have a little party (even just by yourself) and get rid of those things that no longer serve you. Put on some fitting music and think of the things you wish to let go of. Match your music to your intent: releasing anger? Headbang it out to some heavy metal. Releasing lethargy? Jump and bounce to some high-energy pop music. Releasing loneliness? Put on some Bohemean Rhapsody and sing along at the top of your lungs. Do it with friends or do it alone, but know that someone, somewhere, is belting right along with you.

Make a Toast: Make a toast to the year that has gone by. List the highlights for yourself. What are you proud of? What happened that made you laugh the loudest, that made you dance with joy or cry with happiness. Make a toast to the wonderful things that happened the last year.

Kitchen Magic: Cook your favourite food. Think about why it is your favourite? What memories or feelings does it draw up within you? Then think of ways you can enhance that with magic, for example by drawing symbols into piecrust or adding spices with intent.

Practice Divination: Do a tarot or oracle spread to reflect on the past year and see how it rings true. Do a spread for the coming year as well, then next year you can reflect on how accurate it was!

Give Yourself a Gift: Buy or make yourself something pretty. It is your birthday after all and gifts are part of that. Is there something that you’ve wanted but kept finding excuses not to buy it? Now is the time!
Make yourself a gift for next year! Make a little box filled with happy thoughts, herbs, poetry, crystals and all else you want to surprise yourself with next year. Tell future you how proud you are of them. Then next year, either burn or bury them and begin anew!

A Gift for Someone Else: Perhaps you’re not really one for gifts. That’s okay! Perhaps you’d like to give to someone else on your day. Make a donation to a charity that is important to you. Volunteer. Pick up trash in the local park. Share your sparkly tea and confetti cake with your neighbour. Share the love.

Make Plans: Make some plans for the coming year. Is there something you want to study? Break it into steps and write it down. Some practice you want to dive deeper into? Do the same.

Express Gratitude: Thank your ancestors for being here. Their loves and lives made it possible for you to be born. What better day to thank them than on your birthday? Remember that they are proud of you.
Thank your deities for the same thing and for the love and guidance they have shown on the way. (If you honour deities of course)

Practice Self Care: This is your day after all. Take good care of yourself. Protect your boundaries. Surround yourself with people and things that will make you happy. Don’t feel like having certain people over? Don’t! Or at least reschedule to a different day. Birthday celebrations can be stressful and hectic, make sure you use this day to take care of you.

Pamper yourself!: Take a luxuriously long, hot shower. Dress in soft and comfortable clothes. Make only your favourite foods and drinks all day (or order in!). Have a mini spa day. Meditate. Snuggle with your cat and watch something wholesome. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to make your birthday a bit more magical! What do you do to incorporate some witchcraft into your celebrations?

Samha’in Spell for Remembrance

“By the Veiled Huntress and the Hooded Lord,
I kindle the Ancestral flames
Ancestors by blood, bond and craft,
I honor you this night.
Beloved dead beyond the veil,
I honor you this night.
Lord and Lady of peace and death,
I honor you this night.
You are loved,
You are remembered,
You are missed.
May my thoughts and love reach you,
wherever you may be.”

Gender in Witchcraft, pt. 2

In my last post I dove (or well, dipped my toes) into the history of gender in witchcraft, to see where our thoughts and visions on gender come from. When I was thinking and journaling about gender and witchcraft came the question: does it matter? Does it matter in our magic whether we focus on gender?

For witchcraft and paganism in general I would say yes and no. Yes because we are a path that stands up for the marginalized, and being yourself and being true to yourself is something we value a lot. To know yourself, to truly and fully know who you are as a person, can hold great power. Exploring gender and what this means to you can be a (big) part of that. It can also reveal shadows; suppressed parts of ourselves that often have to do with trauma or pain, that we often have to work through. Standing in your own power with confidence and pride can spring powerful magic. Acknowledging and owning your truths can be super empowering!
So therefore I do think it’s important for women (and I mean all women) to have a space where they can be themselves without the pressure of what society expects from them. A space to talk about the things that concern us, as women. The problems that we run in to and the worries and sorrows that we have. To find the strength and power of being a woman without the weight of the patriarchy on our shoulders.
I also think it’s important that men (and I mean all men) have a space where they can be themselves without the pressure of what society expects from them. A space to talk about the things they run into, in this society that portrays them as “the bad guy”. To explore a version of masculinity that isn’t toxic. A place to connect to others in an emotional and deep, meaningful way. To form a brotherhood that is not about being a warrior and being aggressive, but instead is gentle and soft in the same way we feminists see our sisterhood. That is what I wish for them.
And for all of us who fall outside of that binary, I wish the same thing. A space to explore what gender means, what falling outside of the norm entails and the troubles that we face because of that. To explore how that influences spirituality, connection, life in general. To find power and strength in being who we are, openly.
So yes, it can be very important to focus on gender, even (or perhaps especially) in spirituality.

Photo by Anna Shvets through Pexels

However, there is another side of this coin. Discrimination is, unfortunately, also found in our community and has been there since the very beginning. Gardner was a misogynist and a homophobe. He created a “sacred” rite which hinged on him, and other High Priests, to have sexual intercourse with young women. Gay and lesbian people were not allowed into Wiccan covens for many years under the guise of the Wiccan Laws.
In 2011 on PantheaCon a group of Dianic Wiccans refused entrance to Transwomen who wished to participate in a women’s only ritual, stating that only women born with a womb were allowed to enter. Budapest, the founder of Dianic Wicca, came out with a statement which was, frankly, hurtful and outrageous. Claiming that “transies” (her word, not mine) were just men trying to encroach on women’s spaces again. This incident, which was in no way the first, sparked a lot of (trans)people speaking out against gender discrimination in our traditions.
Then there are those who take the “divine feminine” and “divine masculine” so far that it becomes toxic. An example of this is the phenomenon of the “twin flame”. Like many spiritual beliefs, it has been ripped out of context and is now to many an idea where every woman, a.k.a. the Divine Feminine, has a perfect soulmate somewhere out there, their man, a.k.a. the Divine Masculine. They claim it is our divine duty as women to heal men, so they can step into their power as true divine masculine. With lovely ripped-out-of-context poetry like: “If you want to change the world, love a man; really love him” and “Because you have a womb, a sweet, deep gateway to wash and renew old wounds.” That last one is because we (supposedly) should see the “ancestral burden” of all the confused, angry warrior-men who came before him and we, as women, can heal that with the magical power of our wombs. Right.
The idea that “feminine” means that you have to heal others, that you have to be “of service” to those in need (not just men), that you have to use your “divine gifts” of gentleness, and patience, and true love to better the world is extremely toxic! Just like the idea that all men (yes, all men, apparently) are these wounded little boys stuck in a violent rampage of fear and ancestral aggression is. Does that sound healthy to you?
Then there are the women’s movements who believe, like the Dianics mentioned above, that you can only truly connect with the inner feminine goddess if you have a womb. After all, life is created from the womb, it is the source of all living things (or so they believe). So if you don’t have one, either because you weren’t born biologically female or because of medical procedures like a hysterectomy, because of, say, cancer, you aren’t a woman (anymore). And some take it even further. Since life comes from the womb, you are only truly a woman if you’ve given birth. So anyone who can’t, for whatever reason, or anyone who doesn’t want children, is no longer a woman. Which is of course insane, hurtful and extremely toxic.
Also, I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely offensive to be reduced to a single body part. The only value I have, according to some of these feminist fringe “goddess” movements, is a womb. And sometimes a vagina. Aren’t we always accusing men of reducing us to that? Now we’re doing it to ourselves as well, but it’s in the name of spirituality so it’s okay? Hell no! I am more than a womb. You are more than a womb, or a penis, or boobs, or a vagina. We’re people! Our body parts don’t define us.

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

Does it matter in our magic whether we focus on gender? No, because gender is something earthly, something of our societal world, and witchcraft is from the fringes, from outside polite society. We work in the liminal, in the in-between. In both the realm of spirit and the mundane. We work in the shadows. With a lot of our workings, we go beyond the physical.
I spoke about the Gods in my first post. There are a lot of Gods who are shapeshifters, some of whom can also change between genders: Zeus, Loki, Dionysus. There are also Gods who are neither man nor woman, or a combination of both: Hermaphroditus, Hapi, the Christian God. There are Gods who were known to have both a male and female form: Fosta, Aphrodite, Shiva. There are Gods who could upon request change the sex of mortals: Inanna, Isis. In myth gender is a very fluid thing. Sometimes it matters a lot, usually in stories about humiliation or love, but mostly it doesn’t matter at all. We, as pagans and sometimes as witches, take a lot of inspiration from our Gods. We see (part of) ourselves reflected in what they stand for, or in their stories. So if for them gender is something fluid, something that could change one way or another, or glide along something of a spectrum, then why would ours be one or the other? If we work with them in our space, in our world between worlds, then wouldn’t we then also be granted  to be something else? To rise above the expectations that modern society holds for us? Not to mention the many cultures whose shamans, spirit helpers, guides, witch doctors, clergy and magical practitioners were not man ór woman.
To become rigid in your magical focus, on any subject, is to limit yourself. It’s important to keep an open mind. To keep yourself acceptive of change, or you’ll grow stagnant. This is true for any part of witchcraft and paganism, so also with gender. It’s okay, and perhaps sometimes good, to focus on what it means to you. But don’t let this focus limit yourself and your magic.

Up next: let’s get personal!

Drawing myself

I’ve been on a self love journey for over a year now. One of the parts I am focussing on is learning to love my body. When I was younger I’ve been bullied because of my weight. When I became older I was still often judged for it. It came to the point where I wouldn’t wear the clothes that I loved anymore (vintage ’50s dresses) out of fear of being too fat or too old. I got over that, but there was still a lot of work to do about accepting my body. Accepting myself as I am.

I came across a wonderful artist Sara Tisdale (Sergle Art) who has soft and wonderful art of full figured women. Adorable and gently coloured, just very cozy looking. And I fell in love with her style and with the ladies that she shares. So this inspired me to make a self portrait of sorts. Drawing myself as I am, full figured, wearing the clothing that I love, in a soft and loving way.

As I made this drawing I focussed on that feeling of self acceptance and -love. I truly went about it as if it was a ritual for myself. Art magic!

After I finished this self portrait I made another one, this time nude, which was a very confronting and intense magical working. She will become part of a self love altar that I am planning to set up. My work around self love and -acceptance is not done yet, but I am loving the progress I am making.

Gender in Witchcraft, pt. 1

Last year I read a post (which I can’t find anymore) about devotional tips to Frigg. The writer wrote a note at the top of the post stating that they would be referring to Frigg as “They”, since the Gods don’t adhere to our human binary of “male” and “female”. It was such a simple sentence, but it was such an impactful thing for me. I’d never thought of it that way. But to me, it made perfect sense. So I accepted it, and then never looked any deeper into it. Never thought further about what that would mean for me, or my craft.

That changed earlier this year. I was feeling a call to deepen the relation I have with the deities I am devoted to. Which led to me researching and redefining my bond with whom I then still called Horned One. As I wrote in an earlier post, I still very much saw Him as an archetype of the divine masculine. The God to complement the Goddess, which was a paradigm left over from my earlier wiccan-adjacent roots. It didn’t mesh with my earlier found beliefs that Gods are outside of our human gender structures. I couldn’t wrap my hear around it. Which meant one thing: research.

Because why does everything in western witchcraft practices have to adhere to a binary gender system? Why do we have a “divine feminine” and a “divine masculine” when it comes to our inner worlds? And further than that, why does seemingly everything in western witchcraft need to be gendered? Open any book on modern witchcraft and you’ll see gender assigned to everything. To the elements, to the days of the week, to crystals, to herbs, to planets, to runes, everything has a gender or gendered “energy” attached to it. I’ve found, especially in witchcraft and paganism, that when we want to figure out “why?” we need to ask: “where does it come from?”

It seems to start with the Greek philosopher Empedocles. He is the one who gave us the four elements that make up all matter: earth, air, fire and water. The elements are a big part of modern witchcraft, especially the wiccan traditions, or the traditions which have their roots in wicca. We call upon the elements to protect us when we cast a circle. We use the elements to bless and consecrate items. Just to name a few. Empedocles not only posited that all matter was made up out of these four elements, but he also linked them to the Gods Zeus, Hera, Nestis (Persephone) and Aidoneus (Hades). So we have two elements tied to a God, and two to a Goddess. This is where the belief that the elements are either “feminine” or “masculine” probably originates. It’s not a strange thought that this could have easily been stretched: if the elements are “feminine” or “masculine”, and things like crystals or herbs are associated with the elements, then they are also “feminine” or “masculine”.

Of course the influence of monotheistic religions can not be ignored. Our western society gets a lot of its views from Christianity. In the Christian bible God created Adam and Eve, one man and one woman. A strong binary where there is no room for deviation. It is also seen as an ideal to strive towards: a husband and wife, standing in the light of God, who together can create new life. This monotheistic view has been part of our western culture for millennia, which has influenced a lot of scholars, philosophers, artist, etc. Which in turn influences the information that we have access to now. Everything we know about our ancestors is written later, often by Christian scholars or even monks, who wrote from their (gender-binary and patriarchal) worldview.

Then of course we have the beginnings of our contemporary witchcraft: wicca and Gerald Gardner. In the wiccan faith a God and a Goddess are worshipped. Some believe them to be source of all life, others believe they are facets or avatars of a bigger force (Spirit, the All, etc.). The Triple Goddess stands for the phases of a woman’s life: the maiden, the mother and the crone. She also embodies the “feminine energies” such as nurturing, giving, sensual, loving, and wise. The Horned God is the masculine aspects, such as providing, protecting, strengthening, sexual, and also wise.
Covens are led by a High Priest (HP) and a High Priestess (HPs), where in Gardner’s days they took part in a ritual called “the Hieros Gamos” or “the Great Rite”, where the HP and HPs engaged in sexual intercourse to raise power, or as part of an initiation rite. Because, as our tradition’s wiccan inspired ritual states:  “where the masculine and feminine are joined, spirit is born.” Nowadays this is mostly done symbolically with a chalice and an athame, luckily, since Gardner is known to have “asked” High Priestesses to step aside when they were no longer young and beautiful in his eyes, which… ew.
The God and Goddess also complete a life cycle in the Wheel of the Year. The God impregnates the Goddess, after which he travels to the underworld and is born again from Her womb. Because of this, life will begin anew and nature will grow once more. Heterosexual procreation and that bond between man and woman is very important in the wiccan faith. The duality of male and female; and together they create life, is very ingrained into our modern, contemporary paganism because of this.

Then, we need to talk about Jung. In the first big wiccan revival in the ‘70s many prominent witches, like Janet and Steward Farrar, stepped back a bit from the ideas that the Gods were indeed outside of us, but instead incorporated Jungian philosophy into their faith. The Gods are then archetypes living deep in our subconsciousness, which we contact through prayer, spells and ritual. In that first revival this was a pretty common view of the world, which in turn, influenced a lot of books that were written in that time.
One of Jung’s theories is about the Anima and the Animus. Jung stated that, much like the yin-yang symbol, every woman had a bit of masculinity in her unconscious, called the Animus. And that the man had a bit of femininity in his unconscious, called the Anima. If the Animus or Anima was not recognized properly, it could have negative repercussions for the person in question. That part of the subconscious would then dictate the way the person would react in certain situations. For example, a woman acting in a way we would normally “expect” (back then) from a man, so through means of violence and aggression. So an integration, a joining from both the feminine and the masculine inside us is needed to become whole and to become a complete, spiritual being (sounds familiar, no?)

Last but not least, we have feminism. Contemporary witchcraft and paganism gained a lot of popularity in those same ‘70s, as well as the ‘60s, by being more Goddess oriented. Many of us, even now, come from the monotheistic religions which heavily centre on the divine masculine, without giving a female counterpart in that. Many of those religions are also often oppressive and discriminatory when it comes to the treatment of women. For many women witchcraft and paganism gives therefore a sense of freedom and equality not experienced before.
Witchcraft is also the craft of the marginalized, protects those who aren’t in a position to protect themselves and are an enormous source of empowerment for many.
With the arrival of Dianic wicca, a branch of wicca focussed solely on the Goddess, the Goddess movement within wicca and later witchcraft grew. Many were drawn to a path that celebrated women, and all that this entailed. This meant that the “divine feminine” became more and more important. The womb being the source of all creative power in the universe. The yoni being something not to be ashamed of, but instead something to be proud of and to take pride in. (I will talk about my views on all of this in a later post) An emphasis on sisterhood and the sacred bond we all share through the ancient mothers.

I believe all of this influenced and shaped the way we see gender when it comes to witchcraft and paganism. This all contributed in gender having the heavy influence that we see now. So now we know where it comes from… now what? Well, join me next time as I try to figure that out.

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

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?

Sacred Space

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Last weekend was the winter edition of Castlefest, which is one of the biggest and most “gezellig” fantasy and pagan festival here in the Netherlands. The summer edition is amazing and we’ve been considering it our holiday for years now. This was the first year that we visited the winter edition and it was a lot of fun! {and cold… so cold!}

One of the things I wanted to look for on Castlefest was a statue of the Goddess that I had had my eye on for a while now. The Mother, sitting on a treestump holding her pregnant belly. I’ve loved it from afar for so long that I decided that I really wanted her to be the consort to my Horned God statue. And I finally found her! Which of course was all the more reason to redecorate my altar and sacred space in a big way.

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Isn’t she lovely? For years I had my altar set up in the same way, but this time I wanted to do it differently: more open space and make everything look prettier. I decided to put the statues on their own wooden disks, a lighter one for my new Mother Goddess. I decorated it with lots of gemstones, shells and feathers, as well as an adorable shell soap that I got from one of my coven sisters. The cauldron stands for the womb of the Goddess so I placed it at her feet. I love it!

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This amazing statue we got on our honeymoon to Glastonbury and I’ve spent forever trying to find a worthy companion. Because He is sitting down, I wanted Her to be sitting down as well, which wasn’t an easy task! The Horned God is sitting on a bigger wooden disk, surrounded by petrified wood, green gemstones and lots of forest findings. There is a small piece of antler there as well and of course more candles!

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For the centre I really wanted to play around with levels and different heights, so I took one of those small wall shelves and placed it upside down in the middle of my altar space. It works like a charm and looks great! Next to the pentacle are a pair of antlers and in front are a two hagstones, one bought in Glastonbury, one found years ago. I filled the space underneath with fake greenery, selenite and quartz.

The entire workspace now feels calming and open and I think I’ve found a set up that’ll suit me for years! {which is why I wanted to share it with you all} I’m very happy with how it all turned out and I’m sure this will help on my path of re-discovering witchcraft and paganism.

I’d love to hear about your sacred spaces, do you have one? What is it like? Let me know!