In the Book of Luke, an angel appeared before shepherds and said “Do not be afraid.” Logically, there is no reason to be afraid--angels usually bring glad tidings. But they are also intimidating because of their unfathomable knowledge and power.
Pagan Gods are the same way. They are comforting, enlightening, and honest; but They are also overwhelming. Seven years into my faith, I still feel afraid when I contact (or even consider contacting) a deity whom I’ve never worked with before.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. I often receive questions such as, “What do I say when I pray to Them?” or “What if I do something wrong?”
Recently, I have pondered all of these questions while building a relationship with the Egyptian God Thoth. So I’m going to run through the process with you: choosing a deity, studying, and beginning your relationship.
How to Choose a Deity
“How do I decide which deity to work with?” is probably the most common question in the Pagan realm. The short answer is: Whoever you want. But I’ll address some concerns that many people have.
I have met many people who stress over worshipping a God and Goddess, or “matron and patron.” This stems from a Wiccan tradition--or rather, some peoples’ interpretation of a Wiccan tradition (see: How Do Other Deities Fit into Wicca?). If you do not subscribe to Wicca or this idea, do not feel pressured to work with two deities.
Many are interested in deities that represent an interest or hobby, such as art, sun/moon, education, or the home. This can work for some people; for instance, I first reached out to Thoth for writing advice. But you and your deity do not need to have the same interests.
Some people feel drawn to certain deities, and they don’t know why. I’ve had several people message me saying, “I feel drawn to Hades, but I have no interest in death work!” which is exactly how I felt when Hades reached out to me.
Gods and Goddesses are more complex than They seem on the surface. For instance, Hades is the Lord of the Underworld; but if you research Him further, you’ll find that He governs wealth, seasons, fertility of the land, gems, mourning, and justice. Perhaps those aspects will impact worshippers later on.
Over all, if you feel drawn to a deity, shoot your shot. You don’t need to have a reason to like a certain deity. Try the relationship and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work out, don’t fret; some deities are only in our lives for a short time.
One more thing: I highly recommend working with one new deity at a time, especially for beginners. Tackling a few Gods or an entire pantheon at once can get overwhelming.
What to Study Before Working with the Deity
Before you start giving offerings or setting up an altar, study your chosen deity. After all, you need to know what your deity prefers for Their offerings or altar.
By “study,” I’m not just talking about the myths (although those can be useful). Research how the ancients worshipped that deity. What offerings did that deity receive? Did They pop up during certain holidays? Did certain cults or occupations worship Them? Usually, the ancients did not view the deity as we perceive Them through mythology today.
One of the simplest ways to understand how the ancients worshipped that deity is through epithets. Epithets are a word or phrase that describes a certain quality of that deity. Some of Thoth’s epithets include ”He who drives away evil” and “He who created purification,” which tells me that He governs protection and cleansing.
Another method is through art. In ancient Egypt, ancients painted certain deities in specific colors. All of those colors had different meanings. Often, art also portrayed deities with an animal or object that was sacred to Them.
As you research, you might notice that some things do not translate to the modern age. For instance, Hades worshippers are not sacrificing black goats anymore. If this stumps you, look into modern worship. Pagans often talk about how they worship deities on blogs and social media accounts. You might gain some inspiration there.
One last thing. While researching, you might notice that cultures and countries all worship deities in a certain way. You must ensure that you are working with a deity with regard to Their culture. This is called appropriate worship. For instance, I wouldn’t worship Thoth in the same way I do Hades, because They are from different cultures.
How to Conduct an Introduction Ritual
Deities are like new friends: you need to build a relationship with Them, even if you are just working with Them and not worshipping. Immediately jumping into demands is rude. Because of this, I recommend an introduction ritual.
Although the word “ritual” might sound solemn and serious, it really isn’t. This ritual can be casual and lighthearted; you don’t have to use “thees” and “thous” if you don’t want to.
The introduction ritual has two main components: an offering and a prayer. By now, you should have learned about appropriate offerings through your research. If you need a foolproof offering, consider lighting a candle. It works for almost any deity. If you do not know how to give offerings, see Offerings for Deities: the Basics.
After giving the offering, begin the prayer. You do not need to recite a prewritten prayer (unless you want to). You can say it in your head, write it down, mutter it, or even sing it. Whatever feels the most comfortable.
If you don’t know what to include in the prayer, here are some ideas:
For more examples, see: If You’re Struggling with Pagan Prayer, Read This.
Many have asked how to end a prayer, or whether to use “Amen” or “Blessed be.” You do not need a sign-off like that if you would feel uncomfortable reciting it. A simple “Thank You for Your time” is good enough. You could also press your hands together, bow, or blow out the candle. These small actions might make the ritual’s ending feel more final.
If you want to conduct divination, feel free to do so. You likely will not receive a grand revelation from the deity, like a vision or voice in your head. Instead, the signs might be more subtle, such as a high candle flame or a meaningful song appearing on your playlist. If you’d like more examples, read Is It a Sign? Interpreting Messages from Deities.
If you are feeling so nervous that you can’t focus, try meditating for a few minutes beforehand. Or, wait until you feel calmer to conduct the ritual.
Also, here is an important tip: do NOT make any oaths, devotions, or swearings yet. You’ll want to make sure that you get along with this deity before becoming a devotee or something similar.
How Do You Know If You Do Something Wrong?
If you’re like me, you might be worried about doing something wrong. Nobody gets worship right on the first try. What if They don’t want to talk to you again? Or what if They end up not liking you?
In my experience, it’s pretty difficult to irritate a deity as long as you’re respectful. I’ve spilled offerings, screwed up a candle so the wick wouldn’t burn, and accidentally caught stuff on fire during rituals before (always keep a water bowl nearby!) None of those incidents broke my relationship with the Gods.
That being said, some Gods might prefer not to work with you. Or more likely, They want to work with you, but They prefer that you do certain things.
If you do something “wrong”--say, you give an offering that They don’t like, or you call Them something They don’t appreciate--you might get this “off” feeling. For example, I call Hades “Lord Hades” quite often. But when I used the title “Lord” with other deities like Zephyrus and Thoth, They didn’t like it.
When this happens, simply correct your behavior. In my case, I said, “oh my bad, I won’t call You that anymore.” Mistakes like these are not make-or-break scenarios. If you continue to act in a way that a God doesn’t appreciate, out of spite or disinterest, then you might have a problem.
If you constantly think “I’ve done something wrong” throughout the ritual, you might be too anxious. Our minds can overtake our spiritual sense when we feel powerful emotions. Take a break, work through your feelings, and try again.
Some Tips to Remember
How do you feel about working with a new deity? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!
On the 2021 spring equinox, my husband and I were standing in line (six feet apart from everyone) in the Long Beach Sun. We were behind two friends with very distinct laughs, across the street from a university’s florist department, and next to an ice cream seller in a tux ringing a bell. Eventually, we got into the Long Beach Antique Market.
This market had around 500 sellers of thrift items and antiques. With $200 in $20s, I was specifically looking for altar and witchcraft items. And I was not let down. I got everything from dried plants to altar decor to animal bones.
Many people ask me about witchcraft on a budget. If you’re reading this, then you probably know how expensive some magic tools and metaphysical shops are. But everyone can practice magic with little to no money. To prove it, I’ve made a list of witchcraft and Pagan supplies that you can buy at thrift shops, antique stores, and flea markets.
These items are divided into four categories: spell ingredients, witchcraft tools, altar items, and storage. You’ll find some crossover; for instance, the vials that I mention in Storage are also decorating my altar. At the end, I’ll show you how much you can decorate an altar with thrifted supplies.
These are items that you can potentially use in spells.
These include divination tools, books, and other items that you might use for spells, but not in them.
Whether you are religious or not, you can put some of these items on your altar.
These include jars, shelves, and other materials to store your magic supplies when not using them.
Building Altars with Thrifted Items
When I got back from the Long Beach Antique Market, I challenged myself to decorate my altars using mainly thrifted supplies. It was easier than I expected; at least 70% of each altar was bought secondhand.
If this looks like a lot of supplies, remember that I’ve been practicing for over ten years. I’ve visited a lot of antique stores and gathered supplies over time. Not all of these were from the Antique Market.
I have three altars, all on my dresser. I will name all of the items on each that were thrifted.
Altar #1: Wiccan Altar
Thrifted items: the Goddess statue, teapot, both pink bowls, amethyst grapes, opal apple, books, white vase, dried eucalyptus, air plant and its holder.
Altar #2: Death Witchcraft Altar
Thrifted items: coyote skull, glass vial (holding cemetery water), perfume bottle (holding spirit oil), pink container (holding graveyard dirt), black offering bowl.
Altar #3: Hades Altar
Thrifted Items: mythology book, glass jar with bone, black frame, coyote skull, green glass bottles, dried plants, amber medicine bottle.
Did I Miss Anything?
Do you go thrift shopping for magic supplies? What have you bought? Did I miss any items? Let me know in the comments below!
Back in May 2020, I wrote a post about planning my interfaith Pagan and Christian wedding. A few of my readers pitched in with ideas about how I can incorporate both religions or shared struggles with their own weddings. I never revealed what we did or how it went to the readers who spent time helping me.
Today, I’m going to cover what we actually did, rather than ideas of what we could do. Hopefully, this will give people ideas for their own wedding or another celebration where you need to combine religions. My husband and I made the ceremony as religiously-neutral as possible, not explicitly leaning toward Christianity or Paganism. If that sounds interesting, read on.
Also, because this is a Pagan blog, I’m going to focus on how I subtly incorporated Pagan aspects into the wedding.
All wedding photos are from Emily Saenz. You can find her on Instagram @heyemilysaenz or her website.
Making the Handfasting Cords
The first part, which I did not cover in the last post, was making the handfasting cords. While you can buy cords online, I wanted to make my own. I created four cords to represent the elements earth, fire, air, and water. The colors and designs of the ribbons reflect those. If you want a tutorial on making handfasting cords, let me know in the comments.
I also put charms on the cords that represent both faiths. Every cord had two charms, one on each end. Here is what I put on:
The Religiously Vague Ceremony
As I mentioned in the previous post, my husband and I wanted a short, “non-denominational” ceremony. We wanted the ceremony to be about us, not about religion. On the bright side, we did not need to plan much for this. The officiate takes care of it--who, in this case, was my grandmother.
We told my grandmother that we wanted a brief history about handfasting and why we chose it. She then chose a spiritual quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran which she thought reflected us. (Good thing she studied psychology and religion!)
During the ceremony, the officiate explained our reasons for the handfasting. Then, my parents and the groom’s parents each tied a cord. This symbolized both families coming together. While they tied the cords, the officiate recited the quote.
After, we removed the cords and recited our personal vows. We then exchanged rings, and viola! The ceremony is done and we get to party.
A Memorial for the Dead
Just by reading the title of this blog, you’ll understand that I work with the dead. Honoring ancestors is important to me, especially family members who were not there to celebrate my wedding. One was my grandfather, husband of the officiate.
I wanted a way to commemorate the dead. Some people weddings provide photos of the deceased, but we did not have time. Because of the uncertainty with the pandemic, we confirmed with our venue about two months prior and had to rush some things.
Instead, I purchased a memorial plaque from ThePaintedHedge. It came with a candle to light in honor of the dead. Next to it, I wrote down the names of the deceased family members and put it in a frame.
This memorial stood next to the sweetheart table during the reception. People seemed to appreciate it, especially my grandmother.
Because our ceremony was religiously vague, I found personal ways to express my Wiccan beliefs. One was jewelry. Long before the wedding, I had purchased formal Pagan jewelry from the Etsy shop Sheekydoodle. Check them out if you want something similar.
For the necklace, I chose the simple pearls with the pentagram. It complemented the simple wedding dress without overpowering. I also wore a hair comb in the symbol of the Goddess. Not to get all Wiccan on you, but marriage tends to be an obvious marker of the transition from maidenhood to adulthood. Since the Goddess has undergone all stages of life and holds our hands through change, I wanted Her there with me. This hairpiece is from Ayreeworks.
I also brought two sets of prayer beads. Initially, I was not going to do this. About a month before the wedding, I worked with my therapist on preventing “wedding amnesia.” This is when the bride or groom feels so stressed and rushed that they forget most of the day. In other words, it was something that I absolutely did not want.
My therapist recommended that I could practice mindfulness by holding something. Whenever I felt anxious, I could focus on the object’s texture or appearance. This slows down the mind and gives it time to develop memories. She asked if I had any religious object to hold, and I brought up my prayer beads.
The first is a pair of Wiccan selenite beads from Sheekydoodle (same as the necklace). I clung to these while getting ready, when my nerves were highest. It really helped to ground me--that plus planning plenty of downtime and walking outside every so often.
The second pair were my Hades prayer beads from Hearthfire Handworks, whom I highly recommend. I wore them around my wrist during the ceremony and reception. As a Hades devotee, I wanted Him to be involved with the ceremony somehow, even if I was the only one who noticed.
And yes, these methods worked. I remember almost everything from my wedding day.
The Bouquet and Other Small Aspects
While I was planning the wedding, I asked some friends on a Pagan discord server how I could incorporate more of my faith into the wedding. People mentioned the flowers, which was a great idea! But by that point, I had already settled the florals and could not change them.
My friends then asked what I had planned. My florist, Molly Zager, brilliantly incorporated artichokes into the bouquet. Jesse from Tea with the Gods mentioned that artichoke is an aphrodisiac, an unexpected symbol of Aphrodite. That worked out!
On top of that, the bouquet was green and purple. I chose these colors because I enjoyed them, and I did not expect people to connect them to Hera. The Goddess of marriage is commonly represented with a peacock--purple and green! I really enjoyed this accidental connection and used it as a springboard to start working with Hera.
Now, I want to mention some other things that I neglected in the previous post.
The venue was one of the few wedding aspects that I refused to budge on. I loved Sacred Mountain. It was in a town that my husband and I used to camp at before we got engaged. Plus, it was quite literally on a mountain. Both of us wanted a lot of trees and greenery; getting married in nature was a must for me. Grass, wind, and trees bring us closer to deities than churches, in my opinion.
Our circle arch had some symbolism. This came with the venue, but it reflects the magic circle that is often cast during Wiccan weddings. We did not cast a circle during the ceremony, but we did have a circle arch covered in florals.
Lanterns also came with the venue and were incorporated into our decor. The bridesmaids carried white lanterns filled with flowers, and after the ceremony, these were reused as centerpieces. It saved money and gave off a “witchy” feel.
Other Ideas That We Did Not Incorporate
What Do You Think?
Would you incorporate any of these ideas into a wedding? Or do you prefer a split ceremony with both Christian and Pagan rituals? Let me know in the comments below!
Pluto’s Gate was a cave that led deep underground, surrounded by bubbling hot springs. Priests would lead animals into the cave as offerings. Onlookers heard the animals panic before a loud thud, and the priest would drag out a dead cow, goat, or lamb. Birds that landed on the cave would eventually suffocate and die. Only priests could enter, and when they did, they experienced visions of the Underworld and the dead.
It’s no wonder why people assumed that this cave led to the Underworld. But in 2013, Italian archaeologists found another explanation. The nearby hot springs emitted toxic gases, specifically CO₂, which made up 91% of the air in the cave. This much CO₂ is deadly and causes vivid hallucinations.
Although Pluto’s Gate has a scientific explanation, it still portrays a universal trope in folklore: real-life locations that lead to the land of the dead. Some cultures call this the Otherworld, Heaven, Hell, or afterlife; I’m going to use the term “Underworld” for simplicity.
There are many other locations that are said to connect to the Underworld, where witches and magicians can more easily speak to the dead. I am going to cover many of these locations here, and how you can use them.
Crossroads are commonly known as a “thin place” where ghosts, faeries, witches, the Devil, and other spirits appear. You can find stories of the crossroads in Denmark, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Brazil, and the Kingdom of Kongo. In spirit work, crossroads are so prevalent that the ancient Greeks dedicated a Goddess to them--Hecate.
Some rituals require people to visit the crossroads at certain times, such as at night or on All Hallow’s Eve. Whenever the magician arrived, they usually performed divination. Crossroads were said to connect people to ghosts and tell magicians when people will die.
According to Welsh folklore, if you stand in a crossroads and listen to the wind in the trees, you will hear the names of people who will die. People in the Scottish Highlands would sit on a three-legged stool and wait for ghosts to whisper these names into their ears. In Denmark, practitioners made a triangle with their horse cart and called a ghost by name. They could then ask the ghost three questions.
Because of its associations with the afterlife, crossroads often appeared in funeral processions. In Finland and Wales, the deceased was carried across crossroads during the funeral to protect it against witchcraft and prevent the spirit from haunting the living.
Nowadays, many people visit crossroads to practice spirit work, especially in traditional witchcraft and Hoodoo. Many leave offerings for spirits at crossroads, while others go there to practice divination. Some say that you can dispose of spell ingredients at crossroads, while others go there to perform certain spells, such as hedgecrossing and traveling to the Underworld.
Cemeteries and Graveyards
We all knew that cemeteries and graveyards would be on the list, but I have to mention them. Many, many cultures speak of ghosts that walk around in cemeteries. In ancient cemeteries, everything from the iron gates to the type of trees planted were meant to prevent the dead from haunting the living (see: Trees in Cemeteries).
In traditional necromancy, otherwise known as reanimation necromancy, practitioners aimed to put a person’s soul back into their body. According to authors such as Ebenezer Sibly, necromancers needed a fresh body to do this, usually no older than three days. The necromancers would approach the corpse at sunset, midnight, or on a full moon. They would cast a circle, light (usually poisonous) incense, and perform rituals to reanimate the body and speak to it.
Most people do not practice this anymore because (1) digging into a grave is illegal, (2) entering cemeteries at night is usually illegal, and (3) it’s just flat-out disrespectful to the deceased.
Instead of performing necromancy at cemeteries, modern-day practitioners go there to collect graveyard dirt, speak with local spirits, clean graves, and give offerings. I’ve covered these topics already in these posts: Magical Uses for Graveyard Dirt and How to Commune with Spirits While in a Graveyard.
As you could probably tell by the Pluto’s Gate story, caves are often linked to the Underworld. After all, many of the ancients believed that the Underworld was literally right under their feet. Necropoles, graves, and burial sites were all underground--as are caves.
Stories of caves leading to the afterlife date back to ancient Babylon. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh entered a cave on Mount Mashu to cross the Sea of Death and enter Paradise. Across the world, the Mayans performed religious rituals in caves along the Yucatan Peninsula, believing that they connected to the Underworld. When a person was born, they emerged from the Underworld; when they died, they returned to it.
One thing to note is that, in most cultures, caves are perceived as dangerous, not just physically but spiritually. People who entered the Underworld were unlikely to return. In Ireland, caves were not only houses for ghosts, but for fae. The ancients warned children not to go near caves, or else they could get kidnapped by the fae. In England, people carved “anti-witch” marks into caves to prevent witchcraft, many of which still exist today. Because these spiritual sites were so risky, the only people who inhabited them were shamans, priests, or oracles.
Although records upon records of folklore associate caves with the Underworld, modern practitioners do not use caves as much. Certain caves see practitioners arrive for a ritual, but other than that, not many people use caves for magic.
In Germany, Russia, France, Italy, and many other countries, bridges are viewed as a “thin place” that ghosts frequent. Most often, the bridges that attracted practitioners were called Devil’s Bridges. These stone arch bridges had an unusual shape, and the ancients claimed that the Devil himself built it.
Some believed that witches and other magical practitioners would cross bridges during the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt was a procession of spirits from ghosts to fae that occurred many times throughout the year, usually around Yule. Because bridges are seen as routes to the Otherworld, many people use them for hedgecrossing or astral projection.
If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, then you know about the river Styx carrying souls into the Underworld. But the Greeks were not the only culture who associated rivers with the afterlife. In Japanese Buddhism, souls have to cross the Sanzu River to reach the afterlife. The ancient Egyptian Underworld, Duat, included rivers similar to real-life Egypt. In some traditions, Mesopotamian Underworld, Kur, also had a river.
Now, rivers leading to the Underworld (like Styx) and rivers in the Underworld (like the other four rivers in Hades) are two very different things. Nonetheless, a lot of people associate rivers with the realm of the dead. Many who have hedgecrossed to the afterlife describe rivers, and I knew one death witch who used her bath to travel to the afterlife.
Unlike other locations on this list, Underworld rivers were not usually equated with real-life locations, like the Nile. They were deemed to be entirely different rivers, possibly similar or identical to the physical world, but in another realm.
That has not stopped people from experiencing hauntings around rivers, especially in the U.S., where many rivers were sites of Civil War battles. You might have some luck connecting to ghosts by rivers; at the very least, you will meet local land spirits there.
In many cultures, rainbows connect the living to the dead. From Germany to Hawai’i to Australia, many cultures viewed rainbows as a way to connect humans to spirits and Gods.
In terms of deceased souls, folklore from Austria and Germany said that children’s souls ascended to Heaven through the rainbow. Unborn children also reached the afterlife through a rainbow serpent, according to Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Nowadays, the rainbow holds many other meanings, from gay rights to miracles to God’s promise after the flood. Some practitioners perform certain religious and spiritual rituals during rainbows, or use the symbol of the rainbow in their work. Others gather rainwater when a rainbow appears, believing that deceased loved ones send them a rainbow to let them know that they’re okay.
Other Notable Locations
While I was researching, I came across some other locations that are associated with ghosts, mainly through urban legends. There is not enough information for these to have a full section, but I want to include them because they’re interesting.
Many ancient civilizations perceived real-life locations as connecting to the Underworld, including caves, rivers, rainbows, and bridges. These places were known as a “thin place” where people can more easily sense ghosts.
Modern practitioners can use this to their advantage by performing divination there, giving offerings to local spirits, or gathering tools from there such as graveyard dirt.
Is there any location that you associate with the dead? Or do you go somewhere to practice your Craft? Let me know in the comments below!
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.