In the early 5th century, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a theological essay against Paganism called On the Divination of Demons. In it, he proposed the argument that all Pagan Gods are actually demons in disguise.
If you have not heard of St. Augustine, you should know that he kickstarted many arguments for Christianity. He was born 40 years after Rome officially became Christian, although most of the Empire was still Pagan at this time. Augustine’s mother was Christian and his father was Pagan, so he understood both sides. He wrote many philosophical arguments for Christianity, his largest being The City of God.
In On the Divination of Demons, Augustine fought back against the assertion that a Pagan Oracle predicted the invasion of Serapis's temple. He argued that Gods did not speak to this Oracle; demons did.
[3.7] The demons have also gained, through the long span through which their life is extended, a far greater experience of events than humans can attain, since their lives are brief. Through these capacities, which the nature of an aerial body is allotted, the demons not only predict many things to come, but also do many wonders. Since men cannot say and do these things, some judge them worthy of their service and the bestowal of divine honors, especially under the impulsion of the vice of curiosity, on account of their love of false felicity and of earthly, temporal excellence.
As a side note, Augustine also argued that future predictions were not impressive because circus performers also do things that he couldn’t understand.
[4.8] How many marvelous things have funambulists and the other theatrical specialists done? How many marvelous things have artisans and especially contrivers made? Are they really then better than men who are good and endowed with holy piety?
I’m not trying to undermine St. Augustine’s intelligence, but I laughed so hard when I read that he compared acrobatics to accurately foreseeing an invasion.
Regardless, the idea that Pagan deities are actually demonic pervades through Christian literature. We see it in sermons, theology, Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is no wonder, then, that many people fear that messages from Pagan deities are actually demonic in origin.
Can Spirits Impersonate Deities?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is it depends on your method, experience level, and knowledge of the situation.
If you do not know how to fact-check the messages you are receiving, you are prone to deceit. If you are not used to the deity’s signs or how They speak, you are prone to deceit. And if you do not know which red flags to look out for, you are prone to deceit.
I find that people most often encounter this with divination. Divination is one of the best ways to contact a spirit or deity, and it is easy to fact-check by asking the same questions over and over. But if you do not know how to do that, then a spirit can easily take over your pendulum/cards/whatever divination tool.
That said, not all shocking or disturbing messages stem from malicious spirits. Sometimes, people just misinterpret signs. If a practitioner is stressed, anxious, angry, etc., they can mistake these strong emotions for intuition or divine signals. I’ve seen it happen even in practitioners with 10+ years of experience.
People often ask me if they need protection spells to contact a deity. No, you do not. I always recommend spiritual protection for people who are interested in magic, because it is better to be safe than sorry. But you don’t need a spell to know who you’re talking to; you just need to know the signs.
Red Flags to Watch For
While you are trying to communicate with a deity, watch out for these red flags. Regular readers might recognize some of these from my malicious spirits post. That is not a coincidence.
How to Guarantee That You’re Speaking to a Deity
Depending on your situation, you can try one or more of these techniques to fact-check the concerning message.
Although it is possible for a spirit to pose as a deity, it is not common. If you reach out to a deity, you more likely receive a response from Them. If you want to learn how deities can contact you, check this post.
St. Augustine made an intelligent philosophical argument in On the Divination of Demons. However, I believe that he is wrong. Pagan deities are not demons in disguise, for two reasons:
In 2007, researchers from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, tested how color influences pain. They set up participants to feel mild electric shocks. Before shocking them, they showed the participants one of six colors. When participants saw the color red, they felt more pain than when they saw green or blue. It makes sense; many people associate red with burning, bleeding, or inflammation.
During a later study in 2016, French scientists found that color has a physiological effect on people. Participants who stared at red had higher testosterone levels, and they tended to feel more dominance and arousal.
It is no secret that color affects us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Color is important in every system of magic, no matter where or when it comes from. That is why color magic posts are so popular...and why so many of them are wrong.
The Fault of Color Correspondence Lists
If you look up almost any witchcraft website or book, you will find correspondence lists. These lists are meant to be easy resources for people to glance at when they need it. As a result, most of these associate colors with single nouns. For example, you might see the color “red” with correspondences such as “fire,” “sex,” “passion,” and so on.
But these lists only scratch the surface of what colors mean and how they affect us. I’m willing to bet that the two studies I cited earlier told you more about red than any of the correspondence words in the previous paragraph.
To be clear, I’m not trying to start beef with people who create color correspondence lists. These lists can be great starting points to inspire people and get them thinking about color. But what I am saying is that, in magic, color has so many associations that further research is imperative.
Colors Have Contradictory Meanings
Pop quiz: what is the most common wedding dress color?
If you live in the U.S. or Europe, you probably answered white. If you hail from China or India, you probably said red. And if you’re familiar with wedding culture, you probably said that dresses came in a variety of colors until Queen Victoria popularized white in 1840.
But this question isn’t about the wedding industry. I’m trying to point out that every culture has a different association with colors. And depending on the culture you reference, you might find that a color means more than you think it does.
Let’s return to white. Many people who grew up in a Christian household end up associating white with purity. But if you lived in China, you would find that white is commonly associated with death. White chrysanthemums frequently appear on caskets, and some people even wear white to funerals (not often, but it does happen). Meanwhile, Finnish folklore says that seeing a white animal--especially albino--is an omen of death.
You might say, “But isn’t black the color of death?” In many cultures, yes. If you’ve seen ancient Egyptian art, you’ve probably noticed that chthonic deities (including Anubis and Thoth) are portrayed with black bodies. But in the same culture, black is associated with fertility because the Nile banks turned black when they became moist. In fact, one of Egypt’s nicknames was Kemet, meaning “the black land.” That’s two seemingly contradictory meanings within the same civilization.
When I look at color correspondence lists, few take culture or religion into account. You have no idea which culture the author is from. You can only assume that, wherever they’re from, red means “passion.”
Even Emotionally, Colors Have Different Meanings
When I look up color correspondences, I often see people cite emotional implications of colors. For example, many people will say that the color blue is calming because of its associations with water. Several psychology studies have reported on color’s emotional associations, and even they have come across mixed results.
Remember that 2007 study I mentioned where seeing red resulted in more pain? You might be surprised to learn that a different study recorded the healing powers of red. In 1996, researchers gave participants placebo painkiller pills of different colors. Warm-colored pills ended up working better than cool-colored pills.
On top of that, each color created a different effect. When participants took a blue or green placebo pill, they felt more calm and tired. But red, orange, and yellow pills were more stimulating.
The contradictory meanings of colors do not work against magic; they work for it. Depending on the spell, a red candle can heal someone, seduce a partner, or curse an enemy. The power stems from the practitioner and how they use it.
Create Your Own Correspondence List
.Before I continue, I want to shout out my friend Lumi who gave me the advice that I’m about to tell you (and for just being fantastic). If you want to learn more about color or art magic, visit her Instagram @artbylumi or her Tumblr @artwitchpath.
To kickstart your color magic journey, create your own correspondence list. With paint, pens, or whatever medium you prefer, jot down every color of the rainbow. I recommend doing different shades too, as light green and dark green could mean different things to you.
Do not worry about folklore or magic yet. Just write down what you think of when you see that color. Is it calming? Scary? Do you associate colors with certain deities or seasons? Approach this as an intuitive writing exercise.
If you need help starting, check out this Instagram poll that I put on my story this week (@death.witch.envy). This is what my followers had to say about certain color associations.
Do you agree with these results? Do you disagree? Can you think of another color that is more calming, happy, negative, or healing?
At the end of this post, I’ll show you my working color correspondence list. I used paint swatches and wrote all associations I could come up with. Hopefully, it will inspire you.
As You Research, Add to Your List
As you study your Craft, you’ll likely find colors along the way. Update your correspondences as you learn. The more you work with color in magic, the deeper of an understanding you’ll get.
Also, do not feel pressured to write down the meaning of blue in every single culture or religion. Try to focus on what you are practicing. I mentioned some Chinese associations earlier, but my religion and ethnicity are not Chinese, so I do not use those in my practice. Instead, I focus on ancient Greek, Irish, Sumerian, or Egyptian correspondences, depending on the spell or deity I’m working with.
Whenever you perform a spell or ritual, write it down. Include which colors you used in candles, pen ink, flowers, etc. Did the spell succeed? Did it not? This is why I always recommend writing down rituals; it’s the best way to learn what works and what does not.
For more examples, check out my color correspondence lists below.
The winter solstice, Yule, is rapidly approaching. Many Pagans celebrate Yule, and while I was researching the holiday, I wondered where the traditions came from. I knew a few things, such as that the Yule log and wassailing came from Norse culture. But when I researched more, I found out that Yule is an amalgamation of several cultures, from Roman to Egyptian to modern-day Christmas.
This post is an exploration of modern-day Yule. I’ll go into the history of where certain celebrations came from and how they gathered to create the holiday. Then, I’ll discuss how you can celebrate Yule today.
NOTE: For this post, I will call ancient Pagans “Pagans” and modern Pagans “NeoPagans.” I don’t usually do this, but I’m making an exception for clarity.
The Ancient Germanic Jól
The first written record of Yule we have comes from fourth-century Germany. During that time, the Yule festival began after the first day of autumn. In the tenth century, Haakon the Good of Norway shortened Yule to 12 days at the end of the year. The ancient calendar did not encompass 365 days, so the 12 “extra” days became the celebration.
The word Yule comes from the Old Norse jól and Old English ġēol. It was pretty clearly a Pagan holiday. One name for Odin, jólfaðr, literally means “Yule Father.” The holiday celebrated the winter solstice, and it was a time to make oaths, such as marriages and rulership.
The Old Norse practiced a form of trick-or-treating on Yule. Children would ask their neighbors for treats such as figgy pudding. For dinner, communities would traditionally eat boar (ham), wine, and nog.
In the Middle Ages, people practiced wassailing. It was similar to Christmas caroling where people would sing at neighbors’ doorsteps with a wassail bowl. The bowl was filled with some kind of drink, usually cider, wine, or ale blended with honey and spices. They offered their drink in return for gifts.
Ancient Pagans also believed that the trees slept through autumn. During Yule, they would pick orchards and lay them near trees to “wake them up.” Mistletoes were considered to be sacred and a symbol of Freya. If they spotted a mistletoe, the ancients would let it fall onto a white cloth. Then, they would give parts of the mistletoe to each household to ward off evil.
The Yule Log
The Yule log is perhaps the most well-known holiday tradition. And no, we’re not talking about the French dessert. We’re talking about a log that is burned throughout Yuletide. Today, NeoPagans often decorate logs and place candles in them in honor of the tradition.
For the ancient Norse, however, the Yule log was an entire tree. Communities would take great care to choose a sacred tree to chop down. After cutting off the branches, they would haul the trunk into a long hallway. Instead of lighting the entire tree on fire, they only lit the end. Over time, the ancients would push the trunk into the fire, burning the entire thing throughout the 12 days of Yule. In Holland, Pagans gathered the tree’s ashes and placed them under their bed for protection.
The Roman Festival Saturnalia
The ancient Romans had their own solstice festival, Saturnalia, which went from December 17th to December 23rd. There are many interesting facts about Saturnalia, but I’m going to focus on the factors that likely influenced modern-day Christmas and Yule.
Saturnalia is widely credited as the origin of “Christmas cheer.” The holiday was created to imitate the rule of the Titan Saturn (Cronos in Greek), who governed a golden age. During this time, the Romans practice “role reversal” where their usual societal rules did not matter. Slaves ate with their masters, wars would go on pause, and all political squabbles would cease.
Partying and gift-giving were huge aspects of Saturnalia. On December 19th, the Romans would give each other sigillaria, or gag-gifts. For regular gifts, children often received toys, and adults could get expensive gifts such as a farm animal. A common gift was a cerei, a wax candle that signified the sun returning after the solstice.
People decorated their homes with greenery and wore colorful clothes called synthesis during dinner.. Singing, dancing, gambling, and playing games were common celebrations, as well as large feasts. I’m sure that you can see the similarities between Saturnalia and modern-day Christmas/Yule.
The Ancient Egyptian Winter Solstice
The ancient Egyptians also celebrated the winter solstice. For them, the return of the sun was closely associated with their sun God, Horus. However, in the Middle Kingdom, this festival celebrated the births of five deities over five days: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.
I want to address the common myth that Horus was born on December 25th. This is incorrect. According to Plutarch, Horus was born on the winter solstice, which can land between December 20th and December 22nd depending on the year. Although these dates are close, they should not be conflated.
The Egyptians frequently associated deities and pharaohs with the sun. They built their shrines so that the sun would rise in between two pillars on the solstice. They knew that they could not live without the sun and welcomed it back in winter.
The Mysterious Origin Of Christmas Trees
Although some NeoPagans say that Christmas trees were appropriated from Paganism, the truth is not so black-and-white. Historians still aren’t sure where the Christmas tree tradition began. However, we do know that ancients from several cultures decorated with evergreens.
The ancient Celts used to decorate temples with green boughs, the plant of the sun God, Baldr. The boughs symbolized everlasting lift and the return of the sun. The ancient Egyptians also placed greenery over doors and windows to ward off malicious spirits and illness.
So when did people start hauling trees indoors? Historians still aren’t sure. The first record of a decorated Christmas tree came from Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation. Luther reportedly came up with the idea to place candles near a tree after lights outside of his church.
Many historians believe that people were likely bringing trees indoors for many years before Martin Luther. Perhaps Luther was the first well-known figure to decorate a tree. But as for where Christmas trees come from, we’re not quite sure.
Did Christians Steal Christmas?
The claim that Christians stole Christmas from the Pagans is everywhere, especially in Pagan communities. I can’t talk about the history of Yule without addressing these accusations.
First off, the claim that December 25th came from the winter solstice is not entirely correct. In the second century, Clement of Alexandria claimed that Mary conceived Christ on March 25th (the same day as his future death). Therefore, Jesus was born nine months later, on December 25th.
When missionaries aimed to convert Pagan populations, this date came in handy. The most effect method of conversion was to take previous holidays, locations, and figures and change them from Pagan to Christian. Although Christmas was already being celebrated, it was close enough to the winter solstice that the celebration made sense to many Pagans.
In my opinion, the most common misconception about the Christian conversion is how long it took. Many people assume that conversation was quick; it wasn’t. Conversion took hundreds of years. In the Norse, Nordic, and Celtic countries, areas were constantly being taken over by Viking clans before returning to missionaries. So one area would become Pagan, then Christian, then Pagan again over hundreds of years.
This is why we see so many Pagan traditions blended into Christian ones. People took old Pagan celebrations, such as decorating with evergreens, and continued them with a different religion. On top of that, the government eventually became Christian, and it enforced how people should celebrate holidays.
Now, I’m not trying to relieve the missionaries from blame. They absolutely forced people to convert, and there are cases where the word “stealing” is appropriate. For instance, in Ireland, the Goddess Brigid was so popular that missionaries transformed Her into Saint Brigid. But for Christmas, I personally believe that the answer is more complicated than “Christians stole it.” The Christian holiday already existed, and Yule traditions eventually blended in and became Christian.
Wiccan Yule and the Holly and Oak Kings
In Wicca, Yule is a Sabbat, or a celebration of the sun. In some traditions, Yule honors the rebirth of the Horned God. The God passed away on Samhain (Halloween) and is reborn on Yule.
In other traditions, Wiccans celebrate the legend of the Holly King and the Oak King. Although some claim that this myth is ancient, we have no record of it before Robert Graves’ 1948 book The White Goddess. Graves compared the legend to other myths such as Lugh and Balor and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Similar comparisons came from the 1890 book The Golden Bough by anthropologist Sir James George Frazer, but the Oak and Holly Kings story did not arise until later.
According to the story, the Holly King and Oak King battle throughout the year. The Holly King represents darkness and gains power during the autumn equinox. On Yule, the Oak King, which represents light, overthrows the Holly King. In some traditions, these kings are aspects of the Horned God, and the Oak King fights for the Goddess.
How to Celebrate Yule Today
You might have read about all of these traditions and gotten confused. How can we celebrate modern-day Yule when it has so many origins from so many cultures? Fortunately, many of these holidays have overlap, and we can decide which traditions we want to celebrate.
How do you celebrate Yule? Did I miss any facts or traditions? Are you reading this on the holiday or before? Let me know in the comments below!
On the first Saturday of every month, I asked my subscribers what questions they have about death witchcraft, magic, or Paganism. They submitted many amazing and intelligent questions. Here, I've answered five of them.
I was wondering if you know how to get started with osteomancy? I’ve found no resources that explain what to use, how to read them, or anything. Thank you!
There are many different techniques of bone divination. Osteomancy, also called throwing bones, is by far the most popular method in America that likely derived from Hoodoo. It’s also my favorite form of divination.
Osteomancy can be performed in a couple of different ways. One method is to assign a meaning to each bone. While choosing your bones, tap into their spirit and decide what each one will represent. Love, money, creativity, malevolence, luck, and career are common ideas. After you throw the bones, decide what they mean based on where they land.
Another method is to divine based on the shape that the bones make. This is similar to scrying, except that you throw the bones and decide their meaning based on where they land.
When I’ve spoken to osteomancers, most combined both techniques. For instance, some people throw bones onto a blanket and discard ones that land outside of it. Others include long bones or sticks as “blockers.” For example, if a blocker lands between creativity and career, that may mean that one’s career is hindering their creativity.
Keep in mind that bone-throwing sets aren’t only bones. Keys, dice, coins, and sticks are also common ingredients. Sea shells (bones of the sea) and snail shells (bones of the land) can also be included. Everyone’s osteomancy set is unique, and witches often gather their sets over time.
I talk about this more in Death Witchcraft: Volume 2. I’m also happy to write a post about it. If you’d like one, common below.
What is the difference between a book of shadows and a grimoire? I sometimes see them being used interchangeably.
A lot of people use the terms interchangeably, and many debate over what they mean. Based on my 12 years in this community, here’s my understanding.
The term “Book of Shadows” originated from Wicca, but it is not solely used in that religion. A Book of Shadows is one’s personal journey through the Craft. It not only contains spell information, but also personal beliefs, journals, dreams, and records of your successes and failures. In traditional Wicca, a Book of Shadows would include one’s initiation into the religion and coven.
A grimoire is far less personal. It is a book of spells, magical theory, and folklore. Think of a grimoire like a textbook, while a Book of Shadows is closer to a personal journal. Both store information about one’s Craft.
Hello! I feel really called towards Spirit Work, but it’s just so hard to stay motivated to train and practice when your senses aren’t developed at all, I become overwhelmed by doubt and even skepticism. Do you have any tips?
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling, but know that these feelings are normal. Especially now, when we’re all stuck at home and anxious about the pandemic, it’s hard to remain motivated. (See: Quarantine Witchcraft.)
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be born with psychic abilities to practice spirit work. I’ve seen people go from hearing and seeing nothing to seeing other peoples’ experiences through visions. I was one of them.
The key is finding the right technique to practice. This is easier said than done, especially when older magicians recommend what you “should” start with. When I first started out, a lot of people said that anyone could do dream work. I struggled to work with dreams for years only to learn that I can’t. I wasted so much time doing that.
If you’re not seeing results from your current Craft, you may need to switch things up. Pause energy work and start practicing divination. Look into a different path, such as chaos magic or traditional witchcraft. Try a different divination tool. You may be surprised by the results.
Also, are you writing down your progress? I suggest writing down your results after each divination session or spirit work practice. Even if your results are, “I saw nothing in the water this time,” or “I might’ve seen a coyote, but I’m not sure,” write it down. Keeping a journal will remind you that you are making progress, even if it is small. Even if a sign, vision, emotion, or impression seems like nothing, it may come up later.
If your issue is practicing consistently, I will direct you to my previous blog post, How to Practice Magic or Paganism Every Day Consistently. I hope this helps.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just begun worshipping Hades?
Congrats on your new divine relationship! My advice will stem from what I struggled with during my early days of worshipping Hades.
First, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who worry that, if they do something wrong, their deity will be mad at them. In my experience, Gods are far more forgiving than that. They will give you a chance to correct yourself and improve in the future.
Years ago, I gave an offering to Hades and promised to bury it later. I forgot. The next time I approached the altar, I felt that Hades was annoyed (understandably). I buried the offering outside, and everything was fine. I didn’t “ruin” my relationship; I made a mistake, and that’s okay. It’s how we learn.
Another piece of advice is to not take anyone else’s word as law. On social media, many people claim to be the mouthpiece of a deity. The word “godphone” gets thrown around as a symbol of authority. Never consider anyone’s opinion of a deity as law--not even mine.
Talk to Hades yourself. Learn what He’s like. Discover which offerings He enjoys and how He prefers to communicate with you. This is YOUR relationship. Don’t worry about what anyone else is saying or doing.
For more info on worshiping Hades, check out the blog post On Worshiping Hades.
What does it mean to you to practice death witchcraft?
For me, death witchcraft is an act of religious devotion. I began as a way to worship Hades. As a Wiccan, I’m used to combining witchcraft with religion, and I wanted a way to honor Hades through magic. Caring for the dead is and sharing what I know is how I worship Him.
On a personal level, death witchcraft gives my life significance. Right now, I am alive and can work with the dead. But soon, I will be dead. By caring for the deceased now--and sharing my knowledge about the craft--I guarantee that future magicians will communicate with me when I’m gone. Forgotten souls will no longer be forgotten. The dead will continue living in our hearts and minds.
One of my greatest fears is dying without impacting the world in any way. Death witchcraft is how I make my impact.
Thank you all for your questions! I apologize for those whose questions I did not answer. If you have any further questions, comment below, or stay tuned for next month's Answering Asks!
While browsing through witchcraft blogs, I see a lot of posts about building altars on a budget. Those are wonderful, but I want to approach altars from a different angle. How can you make a functional altar that’s also beautiful?
Today, I’m going to write a fun post as a break from all the chaos. I’m going to redecorate my Hades altar and guide you through the process. If you redo your altar after this, post it on Instagram and tag me @death.witch.envy!
Determine Your Altar’s Function
Many posts about altars discuss the “purpose.” For instance, you may build an altar for a specific deity. Perhaps you want to practice your craft at your altar. Will your space focus on nature, ancestors, or something else?
But I want to take this a step further. What will you do at your altar? Or rather, what do you want to do? Perhaps you want to practice spirit work there. Perhaps you plan to create more jar spells at your altar, or you want to journal more.
Thinking about your altar’s function will determine the setup. For example, if you want to write in your grimoire at your altar, you’ll need enough space for your notebook. If you want to practice more fire magic, include a jar of candles and matches.
Write down everything you’d like to do at your altar. This will determine which tools you include and how much space you’ll need. If you need a lot of space (like I do), stack all of your decorations and tools in the back. Leave the front open for your work.
Sort through What You Already Have
While setting up your altar, focus on the stuff you already have. Don’t wait for a specific crystal that you want to buy in the future. Appreciate what you have--and get creative! Decorative boxes, bags, jars, sculptures, and rocks can make great altar accessories.
Lay out all of your materials so that you can see them. If you’d like, pinpoint what color palettes you have. In my pile, I have a lot of blacks, tans, blues, purples, and pinks. I decided to use blacks, tans, and purples for my Hades altar. Of course, you don’t have to make a color palette. But it can be fun to explore what combinations you can make.
Decide What You Need and What You Go Without
When deciding what to put on your altar, aim for the absolute minimum. Divide your stuff into three piles: must-haves, maybes, and no’s.
Your must-haves are tools that you WILL use on the altar. Don’t include tools that you might use; add ones that you know you’ll use. Remember, you can always add more tools later.
However, your must-haves can also be sentimental items. Is there a statue that improves your prayer? Or a family heirloom that makes you happy? Perhaps you have a crystal or candle that gets you in the “witchy” mindset. If you can’t imagine your altar without it, then it’s a must-have.
Keep out your maybe pile and put away your no’s. When you set up your altar, focus on the must-haves first, and add the maybe’s if you have room.
Related: Offerings for Deities: The Basics
If You Include Containers, Fill Them Wisely
Adding boxes to your altar can save space and look elegant. But if you’re going to include storage, fill the containers with stuff that you frequently use. If your box holds old letters or crystals that you never take out, it’ll only gather dust.
Before decorating my altar, I filled my favorite containers with tools that I need. The basket holds graveyard dirt, bones, and wands. The box stores my favorite crystals and candles with candle holders. My coffin containers have more bones and bone candles for my Hades worship.
Now, for the set up!
Establishing symmetry will always make your altar look put-together. If you have a long table like I do, placing items on both ends will signal where the altar begins and stops.
For my Hades altar, I have two candles that I use for death work. I also have two skeleton statues. Although these pairs don’t match perfectly, they still look symmetrical. They’re similar in height and appearance, so they frame both sides wonderfully.
Create Different Heights
If you want your altar to look aesthetically pleasing, vary the object heights. Include some tall candles next to short candles, or a short teacup next to a tall statue. It’ll entertain the eye.
To create height, stack boxes or books and place objects on top. For my Hades altar, I stacked a Konstantinos book and my old Greek mythology book. Both match my color palette and provide a platform for the rest of my tools. Plus, they were both influential for my Hades worship and death work.
Related: On Worshipping Hades
Arrange the Biggest Objects First
This step will make your decorating a lot easier. If you have a large statue, candle, or crystal tower, place that on your altar first. The smaller objects can surround the big objects. Plus, including large items will automatically create height variance.
On my altar, the biggest object was my obsidian scrying mirror. I placed it on top of the books as a centerpiece. The rest of my tiny objects can go around the mirror.
Have Fun with Smaller Decorations
After your large items are set up, your smaller decorations and tools go on. Experiment with different arrangements and colors. Remember, must-haves go on the altar first, and maybes can be added if there’s room.
First, I placed two bones that I commonly use in my practice. Then, I added a jar of graveyard dirt. Those are some of my must-haves because I work with them frequently. Another must-have was a purple Cerberus sculpture that my friend made for me. (Visit her Etsy at IntotheCaveCreations!)
The rest were maybes. A tiny Greek jar filled with coins and a black candle skull fit perfectly. In front of everything, I included an offering bowl for Hades. The altar is pretty, functional, and contains plenty of space for my death witchcraft.
Decorate Shelves Similarly
If you have shelves of witchcraft supplies, you can decorate them similarly. Place the largest containers first, and stack books and boxes of different heights. I’m lucky enough to have a bookshelf as my altar, so I keep all of my supplies underneath my altars.
If you’re closeted, store items in discreet boxes. That London box in my bookshelf has hid my witchcraft supplies for years. If it weren’t underneath my altars, nobody would guess that it’s witchy.
Related: My Death Witch Travel Altar
If It Can Go on the Wall, Hang It
If you want to save space, use the wall. Hang decorations that can’t fit on your altar. Install shelving to contain more of your supplies that you can easily reach.
I created a magnetic herb container out of an old advent calendar from Starbucks. I painted the container lids to label every herb. Then, I hung the advent calendar over my altars. Whenever I need some dried herbs, I can easily grab them. Plus, it makes a wonderful decoration.
Did this guide help? Have you redecorated your altar during quarantine? Let me know in the comments below!
Most Pagans begin their journey by studying Wicca, and then they may convert to a different Pagan religion. I was the opposite. I started my spiritual journey by studying Hellenic Polytheism, because I felt a close affinity to Gods such as Zephyrus.
When I was 12, my family lost our house in the recession of ‘07. We moved in with my grandparents, and I entered a long depression. All I could do was wait until we moved back home. For some reason, I felt a strong affinity to Zephyrus, the God of the West wind. In my mind, He represented a favorable change and would sweep me back home soon.
I didn’t connect to Zephyrus again for another dozen years. Now, during social isolation, I’m feeling the same way I did back then. I can only wait for change to happen. Once again, I feel drawn to Zephyrus. But this time, I want to actively worship Him with the knowledge of Paganism I’ve gathered over the years.
Worshipping a lesser deity is hard. Resources on the God/dess are sparse, and few blogs and books even mention Them. If you want to work with a minor deity, you landed on a good article. Here’s how I found information on the worship of Zephyrus.
Find Your Sources
Because few people worship minor deities, you likely won’t find offerings lists or worship guides online. So what do you do? Now, you have to go to the source. Read ancient texts and authors who wrote about this deity.
Search the deity’s name through Google Scholar, which will display verified texts from universities and researchers. You can also scour databases such as theoi.com. If you find an author who wrote about the deity, pull up a PDF of the work (if possible) and search the keyword. On my computer, I can type Control + F to search the deity’s name.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but only trust resources from the culture that worshipped the deity. Looking up ancient Norse guides for Sumerian deities will result in inaccurate information.
If you’re stumped, shake up your keywords. Since googling “Zephyrus” got me little, I switched my terms to “ancient greek wind worship” and “Anemoi.” Those brought up more results and authors that I didn’t find before.
Search for Symbols
In deity worship, symbols matter. They can become objects on an altar, prayers, devotional artwork, or offerings. Write down how your deity is depicted, even (especially) in ancient art.
For instance, Zephyrus is often depicted with wings, so we can assume that wings (or possibly birds) are an appropriate symbol. On at least one occasion, He was portrayed with scattered flowers across His mantle. Now we know that flowers could make a decent offering.
Write notes on any food, animal, epithet, or physical description of the deity. Although modern art can help, it stems from the artist’s perspective and may not reflect how the ancients worshipped the deity.
Read between the Lines
Chances are, the minor deity won’t have correspondence lists of offerings, symbols, herbs, etc. Most ancient texts don’t have those details in list format, either. Some records will outright tell you what an appropriate offering is (i.e., Orphic Hymn #81 attributes “fumigation of Frankincense” to Zephyrus). But if you can’t find these, you’ll have to read in between the lines.
For instance, a story in the Iliad details how Patroclus’s pyre wouldn’t light. To spur the flames, Achilles poured offerings to Boreas and Zephyrus. We now know that some of Zephyrus’s offerings were poured, but what could the liquids be? In ancient Greece, libations were usually wine, water, oil, honey, or milk. So we can assume that any of these liquids are appropriate for Zephyrus.
Even the “Weird” Facts Count
Never discount unexpected or weird facts. Mythology had several writers and a hundred different story versions. Many deities have several different representations, some of which may seem out of character.
When researching Zephyrus, I found that Oppian credited Him as the father of tigers. Not what I expected, but I keep it in mind. I also remember that only one author cited this (that we know of), so I don’t have to go overboard associating Zephyrus with tigers.
Take Your Tools and Worship
After research, you can move on to worship. If you haven’t interacted with this deity before, introduce yourself to Them. Speak or write a prayer, and express that you’d like to work with Them. Give an offering based on what information you’ve dug up.
I often receive questions about how to approach a deity for the first time. People want to know whether to speak formally or informally, what to offer, or what to say. They are (understandably) scared of doing something “offensive” or “wrong.” And I can’t give you an answer on what’s “right.”
Every God/dess is different. When first working with a new deity, be receptive to how They respond. For instance, while praying to Zephyrus, I sensed that He doesn’t enjoy flattery like my other deities do. I praised Him, sensed that He didn’t like it, and stopped. I didn’t get punished or ruin my relationship with Him; most Gods are more caring than that.
Your deity may enjoy informal speaking or praises; They may not. You’ll have to figure that out on your own. Before contacting Them, ground yourself, and remove all expectations. Give yourself permission to feel a bit awkward and possibly screw up. It’s all part of the worshipping process. As long as you remain respectful, you’ll be fine.
There’s also a possibility that the deity doesn’t want to interact. If this happens one time, try again. If it keeps happening, you may want to respect Their wishes. Not every deity/human relationship will work out.
Don’t Expect There to Be a “Right” Way
Everyone worships differently--even with well-known Gods who have millions of followers. If mainstream deities don’t have one-way worship, why should minor deities?
You will receive little information on your deity. Expect that. Know that you may have to improvise your prayers, offerings, and rituals. And that’s okay. Although research is crucial, working with your deity will give you all the knowledge you need.
Because resources on minor deities are scarce, you’ll have to work harder to gain this information. Follow these steps for the most reliable results.
Now that many people are stuck at home due to their virus, their daily routines have disintegrated. We have to invent, schedule, and stick to new habits. For Pagans and magic practitioners, this re-surfaces the topic of consistency. Many of us want to practice every day, but we struggle to do so.If you ever hear someone say that “all you need is motivation,” they know nothing about habits. If that were true, researchers wouldn’t conduct studies or write books about habit formation. No one would need advice from psychologists, because we’d all be “motivated” already.
So if motivation isn’t the key to a consistent practice, what is? Everything relies on how you go about practicing. Have you decided on what to do and why? Did you set out your tools? Schedule in your meditation session? All of these add up to keep you in touch with your deities or magical practice.
In this post, I’ll outline what steps you can take towards practicing your craft or religion every day. Many of these tips come from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. I’ll list more recommended books at the end of this article.
Schedule When, Where, and What
In 2017, a psychologist asked participants to plan their goals either by thinking or writing them down. Participants who wrote down a plan were 42% more likely to achieve their goals, according to the study. Jotting down your schedule can force you to stick to it.
To schedule your magic/worship time, follow the three W’s: when, where, and what. The “when” is a specific time of the day, and for how long. “Where” is the location you’ll do it, and “what” is the activities that you plan on doing.
James Clear also recommends a method called “habit-stacking.” Essentially, you plan a new habit after a pre-established one. For example, After I brush my teeth [current habit], I’ll meditate for five minutes [new habit].
Using these tactics, I’ll plan my own routine as an example. Around 7:15 a.m., I’ll make my morning coffee. After that, I will practice my craft. I will cleanse the living room, and then I will perform a rune reading/scrying session at my desk. It’ll take 10 to 15 minutes.
Make It Quick and Easy
When we encounter something we don’t want to do, our brains make up several excuses. “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” and “I’ll do it later” are common ones. The more you plan to do, the more excuses your brain will invent. Assume that when the time comes, you really won’t want to practice your craft. How can you get around this? By making it easy.
First, don’t make your habit too long in the beginning. I recommend only ten minutes a day (read more about that here). James Clear suggests an even shorter amount of time: two minutes. Whether you do two or ten minutes, it isn’t long enough to dampen your day. Anyone can do something for two minutes.
Don’t make your session too complex, either. Shorten it to one tarot reading, protection spell, or smoke cleansing. You can add on more once the habit is established. For now, you just want to get used to doing something witchy at the same time every day.
Determine Your “Why”
Remember back to the first time you practice witchcraft or Paganism, when you felt motivated and got a lot done. Back then, you had a “why” that was clear and decisive. It may have been as simple as “I want to know more” or “I enjoy this.” But it was enough to encourage you to work.
Without a foundation, we won’t feel the need to get out of bed early or turn off the TV. We need a clear reason for why we want to practice more, and we should remind ourselves of that reason consistently.
Perhaps you want to grow closer to a deity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to get better at geomancy. Or perhaps practicing every day gives you a sense of calm that lasts hours afterward. Whatever your “why” is, write it down and place the note in a spot that you frequently visit.
Put Everything out Where You Can See It
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” matters when creating a consistent practice. For months, I tried to perform divination every day, and I couldn’t stick to it. I eventually realized that my desk setup was hiding all my divination tools. Instead of placing my rune set in a spot where I can easily grab it, I tucked it inside a pencil case at the back of my desk.
Your craft will become unavoidable if you make it obvious. Keep your tarot deck out in the open. Place a crystal in your bathroom where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. Our brains are lazy, and we’ll be less likely to practice if we have to unpack all of our tools first.
If you’re closeted, you may not be able to leave your tools out in the open. I recommend writing a note to yourself. It can be discreet; the word “practice” will kickstart your memory enough. Place it in a spot where you’re guaranteed to see it.
I recently transferred all my tools into open boxes and set them on my work desk, which is by the kitchen. I can easily see and grab any tool I need in the morning.
Don’t Try to Change Other Habits at the Same Time
Learn from my mistakes; don’t work on more than one habit at a time. For years, I couldn’t establish a consistent practice because I tried to do too many things at once. I would go on a self-motivation kick and overbook myself. “Well, if I’m connecting with my ancestors daily, I might as well go to the gym every afternoon. And cook all meals at home. Oh, and I need to go to bed earlier, too.”
Take it from me: when you work on one habit, the rest will follow. When I wake up early to practice my craft, I often make breakfast at home. I work out later because I have more time. I feel more productive after a round of spirit work, so I write a blog post. Focus on changing your craft now, and the rest of your goals will manifest without you even thinking about them.
Record Your Streaks
The more often we practice our craft, the prouder we feel. For this reason, I highly recommend recording your streaks. When you finish your daily cleansing, mark it on a calendar. If you do it the next day, you’ll have a streak. These trails of success make us less likely to take a day off.
If you need to take a day off, however, follow the “two day rule.” The idea is that you should never take two days off in a row. If you’re too busy to write a prayer for your deity, give yourself a day off, and do it tomorrow. YouTuber Matt D’Avella has a great video on the two day rule if you’re interested.
I track my habits using the free app Habitica. It’s an RPG that gives you a customizable character. As you complete real-world habits, your character levels up, and you can upgrade it. In my experience, apps that reward me for streaks are more motivating than ones that punish me for missing a day.
Have Someone Keep You Accountable
This is a tip that I’ve heard for years but never took seriously until recently. To phrase the tip briefly, have others keep you accountable for your habit. Checking in with another person will peer pressure yourself into achieving your goal.
I never did this because of social anxiety, and I have missed out. Recently, I teamed up with the Pastel Priestess (who runs a podcast on Hellenic Polytheism) so we could keep each other accountable. We told each other our goals and checked in every day to reveal what we did.
There are less personal ways to hold yourself accountable. You can tell everyone your goal on a blog, like I’m doing, which will hopefully work. Hopefully. Otherwise, you can download habit-tracking apps that connect you with friends so that you can both see each other’s streaks. Some apps (like Flora) will have you donate a small amount to charity if you don’t keep it up.
In short, here are the techniques that I used to develop a consistent magic practice:
These books aren’t necessarily witchcraft or Pagan-focused, but they can help you determine what takes priority and how to practice every day.
Of all the questions I receive from readers, this one is by far the most common: is it a sign?
By “sign,” I don’t mean stock market predictions or an indicator of disease. We’re talking about religious signs--messages that deities send when They’re reaching out to someone. Signs could be a dream, or a vision, or a suggestion brought up through divination.
Before we continue, I want to define what “sign” means in a religious sense.
What Is A Sign?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sign is an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. Or, it could be a miracle regarded as evidence of a supernatural power.
When I receive questions about signs, they don’t usually indicate a miracle in the biblical sense. Most of them are, at first glance, everyday occurrences. A person could be followed by a certain animal, encounter a myth about the deity, or hear a song that reminds them of the God/dess.
I’m not trying to suggest that these are “wrong” interpretations. In modern religions, many believe that deities don’t have to miraculously heal people or turn water into wine to prove that They exist. And I agree. When Gods send a sign, They usually aren’t trying to prove Their existence. They’re attempting to reach out to someone personally, which leads into my next point.
I can’t confirm or deny your signs for two reasons. First, signs are inherently personal to the individual. A dream could have profound significance to you, but when you relay it to someone else, they don’t understand the impact because they haven’t had your experiences. Second, “casual” signs--ones that aren’t miracles or otherwise unexplainable--are far too easy to debunk. Seeing a raven on your porch could be a message from The Morrigan, or it could be that a raven decided to land on your porch.
It's Okay to Doubt
In the Pagan sphere, many say that “If you doubt it, it’s not a sign.” I heavily disagree.
I would never, under any circumstances, discourage doubt. Especially in religion, doubt is healthy. It forces you to double-check your experience and ensure that this religion/deity is for you. New practitioners, in particular, don’t know what to look for when it comes to deities. Who could blame them for remaining a bit skeptical?
In my mind, a sign will remain a sign whether or not you doubt it. If you aren’t sure whether your experience is a sign, keep reading. We’ll figure it out together.
Strategically Doubting the Sign
Let’s return to the original question: is it a sign? While I can’t answer this question for you, I will give you techniques to decide for yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, if you want to confirm the sign, you need to doubt it. You’ll have to test it. When deities reach out, They tend to be obvious and persistent. They’ve been doing this for thousands of years, after all. They know how to grab someone’s attention.
My strategies can be broken down into two questions:
To illustrate what I mean, I’ll include examples of my signs from Ninhursag (Sumerian Goddess) back in November 2019.
Is It Specific?
“I’ve been running into dogs multiple times a day for the past week. Is this a sign from Hades?” This is an example of a generic occurrence, not a specific one. Why? For one, it’s common. A lot of people own dogs, and it’s likely that people encounter dogs every day without realizing it.
More importantly, this isn’t specific to Hades. Yes, dogs are one of Hades’ symbols. But they’re also a symbol of Ares, Bau, The Morrigan, Set, and Fenrir. If it is a sign, how do you know that it’s Hades? Why wouldn’t it be any of these other deities?
In my early years, I may have defended this by saying it’s the worshipper’s intuition. Yes, intuition plays a strong role in deity contact. But during my path, I’ve mistaken my strong emotions for intuition. I interpreted common animals and flowers as signs from a God because I wanted them to be signs. That’s not intuition; that’s confirmation bias. Our desire to work with deities and connect with Them could cloud our judgement.
As you begin to work with a deity, you’ll understand Their language. You may pick up on signs that you missed before after you know how They communicate. Usually, deities send multiple signs to a worshipper They really want to work with. That’s why it’s okay to wait--or even ask for--a specific sign.
Here’s an example of specificity. During a scrying session, I saw my spirit guide take the form of a fox. My spirit guide is not a fox, so this is unusual. The fox ran through a marshland of reeds, which is a vision I had seen before with this spirit guide. It represented the Sumerian underworld.
Afterward, I researched any connection between a fox and the Sumerian afterlife. In one myth, Ninhursag’s lover, Enki, lay dying. Their child asked a fox to fetch Ninhursag and bring Her to Enki. This story connected death, the fox, and Ninhursag in such a specific way that I thought it had to be Her delivering a message or my spirit guide leading me to Her.
Can It Be Repeated?
At this point, I wouldn’t blame some readers for thinking that I’m treating this more like a science experiment than faith. This step is where faith comes into play. To confirm a sign, you have to trust that a deity can repeat the sign--and will repeat it if you ask Them to.
Why do deities send signs in the first place? It’s to catch a person’s attention. If you wanted to talk to someone, would you shoot them a text, or would you place a specific plant along their route to work? Probably the former. Unless you knew someone really well and established the whole plant code beforehand, they probably wouldn’t pick up on the randomly-placed hydrangeas.
Although deities don’t text, They’re usually just as obvious while trying to gain someone’s attention. With some exceptions, most won’t drop one sign and say “take it or leave it.” They want you to notice. They want you to reach out to Them. That’s why signs can be duplicated.
Here are two methods to do so.
If you’ve ever wondered why divination is so prevalent in the Pagan community--this is why. Divination is designed to answer your questions. If you experienced what might be a sign, confirm it through divination. If you received a possible sign through one form of divination, use another method.
Once your sign is repeated through divination, it’s a fairly safe bet. This is especially true if you use more than one method to back up your experience.
After my scrying experience, I tested Ninhursag’s message with my rune set. I received the rune algiz (sometimes called elhaz) that looks like someone stretching their arms upward. Algiz portrays Yggdrasil, a tree that connects the divine to worshippers in Norse mythology, and it mirrors how priests called down the Gods. Those were both convincing symbols to reach out to Ninhursag.
If you have a divination tool, use it. Ask if X deity is reaching out to you. Ask if your sign was divine. Ask if you have any other responses from said deity. If nothing else, having another source confirm your experience will be reassuring.
Respectfully Asking for More
“Have you tried talking to the God/dess?” is something I’ve written a surprising number of times. If you have little experience in speaking to Pagan Gods, this probably isn’t your first instinct. Throughout the community, we hear so many stories about Gods “choosing” people or calling to them through dreams and symbols. But those stories aren’t’ rules. You don’t have to be “chosen” or receive a grand vision to have a fulfilling relationship with the Gods.
Think of it this way: If a God wants to talk, They’ll be pleased that you responded. If you texted a friend, would you ignore their answer once they responded? Probably not! Trust that the Gods want to communicate. This is what faith is all about.
So how do you politely ask for more? Begin by opening up about your struggle. Perhaps you want Them to choose you, but you want to be absolutely sure. Perhaps you never considered this deity before and want more clarity for why They sent signs. If you’re respectful, I doubt the Gods will be disappointed about your honesty.
Afterward, you may politely ask for another sign. Make it something reasonable and specific. For instance, you may ask for a similar dream to the one you had before. Maybe you’ll ask for a certain song to come on the radio or something to come up in your research. Just something that’ll say that the deity heard you.
Also, give the Gods a time limit. My recommendation is a couple of weeks. It’ll alleviate anxiety on your part.
Here’s an example with Ninhursag. After my scrying and rune reading, I asked Her for another sign. I requested that someone would bring a non-breakfast pastry into work by Thanksgiving. Since the holiday was coming up, few people would want to bring pastries into work because they’d be busy cooking for their families. It was possible, specific, and give Her a reasonable time frame.
I asked this on November 24th. On the 29th, my coworker brought in cookies. I had forgotten about it in the meantime, but when I saw those cookies come in two days before Thanksgiving, I knew it was Ninhursag.
What happens if the deity doesn’t follow through? It’s not the end of the world. Review your request; was it too specific? Did you have the right deity? Did you allow for a wide enough time frame? Was that deity disappointed? Remember: a deity’s disappointment is not the end of the world. You can always right a wrong by putting more care into your practice.
I hope this article has helped you. Have you ever received a sign from a deity? If so, what was it? Tell me your experience in the comments below! I’d love to read them!
This past Saturday, I turned my neat witchcraft cabinet into an explosion. I dug through all the shelves and boxes and threw away at least 40% of it. The next 20% or so I set aside for donating/selling, leaving me with less than half of what I started with. Why did I do this? Contrary to popular belief, I haven't lost my mind again.
Why I Threw Out Supplies
Earlier this week, I spoke to a friend who gave away many of their witchy possessions. They did it for a different reason--they contemplated leaving the craft, and then changed their mind--but still said that they felt oddly refreshed having fewer tools. After this conversation, I remembered how I used to practice back in my closeted days. I used to keep all my possessions in one box. Whenever I wanted to practice, I would take tools out of the box, and stuff them back in afterward. It sounds hard, in theory. But I practiced more often in those years than I do now.
Don't get me wrong: magic tools are fantastic. But there's something about having a few go-to items that streamlines your practice. You don't have to stall by debating over which tool to use. You have one wand, one divination set, one offering bowl, one altar--just grab your tools and go.
In sorting through my belongings, I realized that I had plenty of tools I would never use. I've never been one for tarot decks, yet people gifted them to me; so I set them aside for donating. I saved numerous jars that I never put things in. For some reason, I kept remnants of spells that already finished. These things crowd your space. And when you're looking at a messy shelf or box, you're more likely to feel stressed out, which inhibits you from practicing.
Why I Reorganized
For this section to make sense, I have to explain how my supplies were set up. I live in a small apartment with my fiancé, so we don't have a lot of room. Because I had so much witchy stuff, I stored supplies in multiple areas. But most of them were in a cupboard, packed into multiple shelves and boxes, that was half-hidden behind my work desk. Not only were these supplies hard to reach, but they were also impossible to see. I couldn't just grab a couple of supplies and practice like I wanted to.
In order to rearrange my belongings, I have to weed out the junk. Once I finished, I had about 40% of the supplies I used to have. So I did two things: (1) I made all supplies visible and easy to reach; (2) I kept all of them on the same shelf, including my altars.
Instead of placing my tools back in the half-hidden cupboard, I put them on a bookshelf and moved the books to the cupboard (how often do you take books off your shelf, anyway?) I place my two main altars--a Wiccan altar and another for Hades--on top of the shelf. All of my supplies stayed underneath, so I can easily reach down and grab whatever I need.
I also organized my tools more efficiently. Here's how:
Do I still have a lot of witchcraft supplies? Yes. But it's all stuff that I actually use. Having them easily organized and accessible will not only push me to practice more often, but it'll also relieve a lot of my indecision. If you're feeling sluggish in your craft, I recommend cleaning out your altars and supplies.
Happy belated Lammas of 2019! This year, July's Super Black New Moon occurred the day before Lammas, and these two days could not have fit together better.
If you haven't noticed, I haven't posted in a long while. Recently, my life has become unbalanced and hectic. This month signals the hottest point of summer; it's the period where many of us feel like the heat will never end. Couple this month with a new Mercury retrograde, and suddenly you're grappling with impatience and frustration.
Throughout the month, I've been prayer journaling to work through my consistent impatience. The topic of gratitude popped up within the last week, and I was surprised to learn that both the new moon and Lammas emphasize this idea as well. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and appreciative for what you have.
If you cringe a bit at the concept of gratitude (likely from New Age spiritual overuse), I don't blame you. But know that practicing gratitude is heavily backed by research.
Here's my point: If you want to feel happier, you should be practicing gratitude. But how do Pagans incorporate gratitude into their worship? For this post, I'm going to use the recent new moon and Lammas as an example.
Lessons from the New Moon and Lammas
As many witches know, the new moon signals a beginning: the ideal time to embark upon new journeys and hobbies. This year's Super Black New Moon enhances these energies. This moon phase encourages two perspectives at once. One is a positive outlook on the future. As the new moon develops into waxing crescent and gibbous, so too will your energies grow. Waking up early will grow easier; a tough work project will slowly crawl toward its end; the hottest month of the year will cool down. When we envision "beginnings," we see ideal opportunities. Pain does not last, and if you've been experiencing several hurtful days in a row, know that they will eventually end. After all, life constantly changes, just like the moon phase.
The second message of the new moon is a focus on the present. The beginning is now. If you want to become an avid reader in the future, you won't become one unless you have that goal today. This isn't to say that the now is always positive. If you're struggling with rent, summer heat, and a slimy coworker all at the same time, the present feels like a bad omen. But remember: the new moon is a beginning. Today is a beginning. Not only do we have the opportunity to change things, but we have the resources to enact these changes. Remember this, because this idea from the new moon bleeds into Lammas.
Lammas, also called Lughnasadh or the Grain Harvest, is the summer harvest festival. In Wicca, harvest is one of the Greater Sabbats, or the most important of the Celtic festivals. Why? Because it signals a time of abundance. Although we may feel like the Earth is wilting in the heat, it's actually producing more than it's taking away. Vine vegetables, like tomatoes, corn, squash, and cucumbers are ripe for the picking. Grain sprouts during this holiday, and tropical fruits grow plump. In fact, the ancient Celts celebrated this abundance by cutting the first grain and sharing bread with their community.
However, the tale behind the name Lughnasadh grants us a perspective on the holiday that many Pagans don't know. Most understand that Lughnasadh derives from the Irish God Lugh, a master craftsman and just king. But do you know why Lugh designated the holiday? It was actually in honor of Tailtiu, wife of the last Fir Bolg High King of Ireland, Eochaid mac Eirc. Tailtiu cleared all the plants and plains of Ireland so that its people could grow crops. After she finally died of exhaustion, Lugh established a harvest festival in her honor, including funeral rites and games.
Lammas and gratitude go together like grain and sunshine. During the harvest, we celebrate the Earth's ripeness, and all who have sacrificed their hard work to feed us. We couldn't eat without farmers and butchers. They couldn't provide food without the Earth. Grains can't grow without the sun. And the sun and Earth cannot work in harmony without the Gods.
Remember this lesson from the new moon: We have the opportunity to create a new beginning. And from Lammas, we know that we have everything we need to do so. We are alive. We are fed and sheltered. The Gods gave us an entire Earth to pull from and celebrate. What's there not to be grateful for?
How to Practice Gratitude in Paganism
When I learned all these lessons from the new moon and Lammas, I realized that I had been perceiving my life in detrimental way. It's so easy to envision the future negatively when your past and present have been difficult (to say the least). Not only does the "everything sucks" mentality not reflect reality, but it also omits every blessing we have. We take the sun and the crops for granted almost every day. These are both products of the Gods, and when we recognize that, we grow closer to Them.
Needless to say, when we rehearse what we're grateful for more often, we'll feel less hopeless about our lives even during rough times. But how do we do that? Over the past two weeks, I've been rehearsing methods to incorporate more gratitude toward the Gods. And I'm ready to share some of those methods here.
As a disclaimer: I'm Wiccan, so all my examples will have a Wiccan tone. Please change them in a way that suits your own religion.
TAKE MORE BREAKS. At work, I tend to let deadlines determine my schedule. I consistently think, "I'll take a break later, and push through now." By the end of the day, I'll be worn out, hungry, and left with a mind full of "fuck fuck fuck let this be over soon please fuck." That sucks. And I know I'm not the only person who does that.
When I started taking more breaks--say, a couple 10-minute breaks instead of one 30-minute one--my day felt phenomenally better. Breaks encourage gratitude because you're focusing on your needs now, not when you finish. If you have trouble sticking to set times, schedule alarms that will force you to step away from your work desk or studies.
I recommend walking outside for your break. You can soak in all that the Gods offer and recite a gratitude prayer, which is my next tip.
RECITE A GRATITUDE PRAYER. Remember when I mentioned that repeated affirmations make people happier overall? Thanking the Gods acts as an affirmation because it reminds us of what we have.
In order for your prayer to work, it has to represent something you actually believe. For example, saying "my day is great" might not make you feel better if you know that your day has been frustrating. But reciting "the Gods have blessed my day" helps more, because no matter how your day has felt, the Gods have likely gifted you nourishing food, nice weather, good sleep, etc. It also encourages us to know that a higher power is on our side.
Make your prayer short and sweet. You don't have to memorize it, but you might want to write it down somewhere. I kept mine on a phone note that I always kept open. That way, whenever I unlocked my phone on my break, I'd see it. You can also set the prayer as your lock screen,
I made mine a poem, because rhymes and meter make verses easier to memorize. Mine is based off of one of Scott Cunningham's example prayers, but revamped (let's face it; he wasn't the best poet, bless his soul). Here is mine:
"Divine Mother, Father Divine,
Blessed am I,
to share my day with both of You."
See how short this is? It makes life a lot easier to only recite three lines rather than a page. Also, you can change any line you want. For instance, you can say "Blessed am I / to share my meal with both of You." Or, you can switch it from Wiccan deities to your own. I'm only listing my prayer as an example, or hopefully inspiration.
If you need more inspiration, look up historical prayers, such as Delphic Maxims or magical chants that correspond with your religious views.
JOT DOWN YOUR THANKS TO THE GODS. In the past, I've mentioned Pagan prayer journaling and using this topic as a potential prompt. But you don't need to have a "Pagan prayer journal" to do this; you can simply have a gratitude journal. Again, science proves that writing down what you're grateful for lifts your overall mood and outlook on life.
Every night, I like to write down five things I'm grateful for in my day, bullet-point-style. But you don't have to limit yourself to five; you can do one, or ten, or however many you want. Writing one thanks to the Gods is better than none.
You can begin with, "Dear Gods, Thank You for ___." Or possibly, "Dear ____, I am grateful that You gave me ____ today." As with all prayers, don't feel constricted by formal speech. Thanking and praising the Gods is effective in any language.
These are all the tips I have for now. This is a longer, more in-depth and personal post than I usually write, so please let me know if you enjoyed it (or even made it this far). And as always, message me about any topics you'd like me to cover. Best of luck to you and your path.