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The story of when Nanna, Norse Goddess of Love, called to me

Two years ago I met the goddess Nanna for the first time. 

Everybody experiences a connection with divinity differently. This isn’t true only in pagan polytheism but for anyone, Christian to Hindu. Anyone who pursues a relationship with (a) god, goddess, or spirit is going to have a different method of communication with that being. 

For me, deities have always arrived in dream visions. This is partially why I call myself a dreamworker; I’m better able to connect with other realms from the dreamscape than I am able to from woken consciousness. Some people may have the ability of clairaudience, the ability to hear a deity speak. Others may find communication with spirit at its strongest through automatic writing. For me, it’s dreams. 

And that is where Nanna introduced herself.

I knew nothing about Norse paganism. I’ve mentioned before that I’m of a Jewish background on my mother’s side. My mother’s father, however, was Scottish. His family came from the Scottish highlands to America. I’m one of many people who have found Scotland’s landscapes so beautiful that it arises a homesickness within. But exploring Scottish or Celtic folklore or spiritual traditions was not something that interested me. My grandfather wasn’t a good man, and I felt that if I embraced that part of my heritage I was also embracing him. I didn’t want to make him, as an ancestor, vibrant in my practice by engaging with my Scottish heritage. 

Even so, figures like Freyja, the Morrigan, or Bride (Brigid) have attracted my attention. But I never picked up a book or studied these pantheons. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want anything to do with the connection I had to that land because I had it through my grandfather.  (Now, of course, I’ve grown passed this. I’ve discovered that the Scottish highlands in particular offer a fantastic mix of Norse, Irish, and local Scottish lore. In the highlands can be found a tapestry of practices that emerged from centuries of Northern European travel, trade, conquest, and settlements.)

Instead, I embraced other roots and traditions. I studied mythologies of the desert and fertile crescent, seeking to trace both a bloodline and a spiritual line to figures like Qetesh, Asherah, and Ishtar.

Then Nanna came.

Photo by Dagmara Dombrovska on Pexels.com

The dreamvision from Odin and Nanna

Two years ago, while I was living in Japan, I was out with my husband and a close friend. We were bar hopping, dancing, and doing the usual wandering of the city that we did on the weekends. Rather than take a taxi home at 3am, our friend opened up her home to us for the night. We went back to her place, and I passed out hard on the futon. 

My dreams were normal and, as usually, mildly lucid. Fragments of reality and fantasy wove into one another, creating silly narratives that I was half aware were dreams but enjoyed for their spunk. 

In the final dream before I awoke, I was standing over a bunch of salmon in the grocery store. I was arguing with my husband about which one we should barbeque for a party the next day. I heard something crackle like thunder above me. I looked up and saw a bearded man with an old, ancient face peering back down on me.

He appeared massive from where I stood – easily the size of a cloud! The crevices in his skin and the tangles of his hair reminded me of the enchanted forest coloring books my mother collected. His body was aged almost like tree bark, almost like an old human man, but something was just… different. Ethereal.  

I observed him for a few moments. Then I told this man I was busy. I (melodramatically) turned my back to him and tried to continue the discussion over salmon with my husband.

But he reached down from above and grabbed me by the shoulders with just two fingers – again, he was massive – and lifted me up out of the grocery store. When he did so, I felt my consciousness leave the dream itself. I entered into a new space, and saw the dream paused on the other side of a tear in space.

I don’t want to call where I went the astral plane, because in many ways I don’t think it was; but there was something very real about it as a realm. It was dark, a little chilly, but not discomforting. There were glittering stars that seemed more like fireflies in the distance. He placed me on a kind of silver platform and, when I did, I became fully aware of myself. I was fully aware that I was no longer dreaming.

I knew my body was on the futon at my friend’s house, fast asleep. I knew it was likely nearing dawn. This realm was familiar to me, but unexplored; I felt that I had stood on that platform many times. 

The old man tapped a rod that hung suspended in space. When he did, a tapestry unrolled rapidly. It descended and descended. The length and size of the images was similar to semitrucks or the front of a large barn. I faced both he and the tapestry as if they were monuments.

The tapestry was white linen, with black silky illustrations embroidered into the cloth. A hint of color was there, as if it had faded long ago. The illustrations were of faces and figures I didn’t recognize. Each individual was arranged within columns but connected across the design by a labyrinth of tree roots, vines, and geometric patterns.

About a third of the way down the tapestry in the middle column, the old man pointed to an illustration of himself. He was missing an eye and holding an orb. I finally understood who he was.

Oh, you’re Odin.”

He pulled his massive hand away from the tapestry and nodded without saying a word. 

“What am I doing here?” My tone was certainly annoyed. I didn’t, at the time, have a good opinion of Odin. While I knew his myth and appreciated it, my opinion had been tainted by the many white supremacists who worship him. I felt immediately defensive. It was as if I were waiting for him to say something that would allow me to cast blame on him for the actions of his followers. In retrospect, I know this was very childish of my dream self to do. But I believe the gods are empathetic to the hypervigilence of people on earth around social issues.

Anyway, I very rudely asked again: “What am I doing here? I’m busy, what do you want?” 

Further down the tapestry, off to the left, he pointed to another illustration. This one was of a woman. She had long, dark hair that went to her knees. The sides were pulled up into small ties just above and behind her ears. She had a soft, youthful face. 

“This is Nanna,” Odin said. 

I laughed at him. “Inanna is nothing like that.” 

“This is Nanna,” he said again. 

Annoyed, I crossed my arms and said, “No, Inanna is a Mesopotamian goddess. She is far more fierce than this flowergirl.” (Cringeworthy, I know. But one’s dreamself is often a bit immature as 12th housey.)

But Odin didn’t flinch. He did not care that I was standing there, this puny little thing, backtalking. He did pull away, though. And when he did, the illustration began to move.

From the embroidered linen the woman emerged in full color. She was ethereal, unbound, and almost glowing with light. Her hair was dark brown with the front gathered into little burlap-like ribbons, and her dress was a gorgeous shade of blue. She was very simple in appearance, humble even, and smiled at me.

“I am Nanna.” She said this slowly, enough for me to now understand that Odin wasn’t saying Inanna – but Nanna. 

I stared at her in awe. She opened her mouth to speak again – and I woke up. 

Making sense of the encounter

My husband and my friend were already awake. They were in the kitchen making eggs and coffee. It was 6am according to the clock on the wall. We’d hardly slept at all – just three hours at most.

I reached for my phone and kept my back to them. I wanted privacy to search the internet about who the hell this “Nanna” figure was.

I didn’t know what to make of the dream, I had never heard of Nanna before nor did I know anything, really, about Norse gods beyond Odin’s mission to hang in a tree. Well, I knew that Freyja was a general badass with a cat-drawn chariot too. But otherwise, I had nothing to go on.

Of course, my phone was dead. I asked for a charger, ate breakfast, and tried to make small talk. But my mind was just racing. 

As we were getting ready to leave for Sunday shopping, I did a quick search of just her name. My heart about burst out of my body when Wikipedia confirmed for me that yes, indeed, there is a Norse goddess named Nanna. 

I waited until I was home that afternoon to lay down and read about her. I was expecting tons of articles and myths and encyclopedia entries. But I found nothing.

Again and again came up the same set of facts about Nanna: that she was the wife of Baldr, that she died of grief, that archaeologists had found a hair comb with what may be an inscription to her on it. Some people tried linking her to Inanna, but the connection has been dismissed. End.

I’ve spoken before about why love goddesses seem to come to beginner pagans and polytheists. My thesis is essentially that their expression of the divine feminine is absent from Western spiritual culture, and our thirst for that wisdom is so great that love goddesses are our first healer by necessity.

As I explore the lore and spiritual planes of the Scottish highlands, I’m embracing the complexity of ancestry and reincarnation. I wonder now if this was a hand extended to me by Nanna as I began again. I made an offering to her the following day and I have considered more than once making an altar to her in my home. So far, I haven’t. But in sharing this story, I think I’ve changed my mind.

There is so little information about Nanna available to us in the 21st century. I suppose the best way for me to learn about her is going to have to be working with her myself.

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As we face mounting natural disasters, is believing in many gods really so radical?

Autumn tastes bitter this year. Another summer of hurricanes, heat waves, and floods that were “once in a lifetime.” In reality, this was another summer of climate change. Many of us feel helpless in the face of these complex ecological problems. Natural disasters are frightening because they exist beyond our control and, often, common understanding. But an animist, neo pagan mindset helps me make sense of these events and find purpose.

I have a friend who was raised Muslim. As a teenager he followed an agnosticism that eventually led to a pessimistic, atheist worldview. He sees religion as violent at worst and a psychological c I have a friend who was raised in a Muslim household, but as a teenager soon rebelled. He followed an inclination for agnosticism that eventually led him to a pessimistic, atheist worldview. Now, he sees religion as violent at worst and a psychological crutch at best. To him, religion is a way to make sense of things; a way to feel like existence isn’t meaningless; a method to create social cohesion; a tool with which to coerce. My pagan-ness humors him, though. To be a druid in the 21st century is “woo woo.” It’s “crazy.” And that’s that.

Some people may find it hard to maintain a friendship with someone who sees their spiritual practice as a fantasy world, but I think most neo pagans are accustomed to this. Neo paganism is stigmatized such that we must tolerate judgment, however casual, in most social spaces. You may be asked something like:

“But you don’t honestly think they’re real, right?’

“So, how do you decide which gods are real and aren’t?”

“Do you, like, pray to them? Do they talk to you?”

“Just don’t do any witchcraft on me,” they’ll add with an uncomfortable laugh.

Yet, it isn’t particularly strange to believe in the sublime animation of all nature. It isn’t uncommon to see or believe in the souls of nonhuman species, whether as an extrasensory knowing or from looking deeply into the eyes of a horse. I couldn’t even begin to count how many conversations I’ve had that went something like this:

“I just have to believe my dog has a soul,” they’ll say after the passing of a beloved pet.

“Of course they do,” I’ll say. Just like every whale, bear, or tree, I’ll add quietly in my mind.

Perhaps they’ll agree with this sentiment, too.

Even so, when neo pagans share with others that they actively acknowledge (not even necessarily worship!) the existence of personified souls in nature, people are confused. They may be humored like my friend by such a magical view of the world. Indeed, my pagan practice has become a running joke among us and some of our mutual friends.

There is a disconnect between belief in the “soul” or “spirit” of nonhuman nature and belief in nature religion. I think that it makes most people uncomfortable to confront this hypocrisy, probably because it comes with some responsibility to acknowledge one’s own soul in a profoundly different way than our culture presently allows for. Acknowledgement of this hypocrisy also asks a person to answer the question of what does and doesn’t constitute a “soul.” If one can believe in the soul of their family dog, can they acknowledge, too, the soul of the old oak on their property? The granite mountains on the edge of town? The winds that come in from the harbor?

Wind and clouds, tree frog and fern, soil and stone – I have no doubt that these are conscious or, indeed, spirited beings. To live an authentically animist worldview, though, has preoccupied my mind with the inhumanity of our modern systems of being. No matter how we pick apart human existence at this moment in time, capitalism is the chief transgressor. Capitalism is the clear cancer on which natural disasters are reacting. But this post isn’t about capitalism – it’s about living with its effects as an animist pagan.

When I consider Hurricane Ida as an expression of rage from Thor or Set, the message from nature is clear: our behavior is angering the gods. Our behavior, our pollution and consumerism, is damaging the natural world. Rising sea levels feel like an echo of the Great Flood Myth found in numerous cultures, another clear warning that we may lose our civilization to deluge. Florida may yet be a new Atlantis (minus the incredible technological advancements, of course).

An animist worldview demands that we change our economic habits immediately to be more ethical and conscious of our shared environment. Personification of nature helps me personally be more accountable to the changes I want to see. Because the ocean is a god, I deeper spiritual level of commitment has arisen to my low-plastic pledge. Because the apple tree in my yard is sacred to Pomona, I feel commitment to caring for and harvesting its fruits well.

Notions of deep ecology aren’t particularly unwelcome from everyday people. Indeed, most people find them quaint, idyllic, maybe primitive. But when these very spirits of sacred nature – rivers, storms – are personified into deities, conversation changes.

I don’t choose to believe in many gods out of a desire to make my experience of life more magical or fantastic. There are people who do, and I don’t want to discount that desire as invalid – it is! – but my unshakeable pagan animism comes from a more desperate need: survival.

For me, it is as primal as it is intellectual, as spiritual as it is practical. And I don’t think neo paganism is as radical or “crazy” as the public makes it out to be.

So, what can you do?

  1. Define your animism.
    Examine your immediate environment – home, neighborhood, town, and bioregion. What does and doesn’t feel as though it has a soul? It’s easy to react to musings on this question with rationality, logic, or modern science. Put that aside for now – this is a question of what feels, to you as an animal in the environment yourself, is alive with consciousness.
  2. How do you interact with these beings?
    In what ways are you interacting with the environment and, thus, the conscious beings within them? Do you greet the wildlife and trees in your area, and honor their right to b present.
  3. Could you personify these beings?
    Experiment with understanding something like the sky itself as a personified sky spirit. This may take the form of a sky deity like Hathor or something else.
  4. What changes can you make to your lifestyle?
    These changes may be more in line with your beliefs in a sustainable, ethical world. They may be spiritual in nature. In the same way that I have committed to a low-plastic lifestyle because of my personification/understanding of the ocean as a god, what commitments could you make?

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I want my daughter to feel the land love her

I’m not sure what keeps drawing me back to animism.

People have described the call as a profound connection, a comfort, a sense of holiness. Wandering any mossy forest or looking up at the cliffs of a waterfall, I do feel those things. Yet I remain unsatisfied with the language.

When I was thirteen, my mom and I took an impromptu road trip through Oregon. We spent one night at a cottage on the Columbia – a little ADU, essentially, of a farm. We arrived just before sundown to fields of tall, golden grass. The farmer greeted us with a basket of fruit, bread, and jams from local shops in town. My mom opened the windows to let the autumn breeze in, and chatted with him. I went outside to listen to the twenty or so new songs I had loaded on my iPod shuffle.

My daughter Isidora
My daughter, Isidora, at five months

Perhaps it was the combination of a picturesque Oregon autumn and piano in my earbuds that moved me to tears.

Maybe it was a sudden appreciation for the quality time with my mom when she was in her best years.

Perhaps it was the growing awareness of myself as an aging human being who was no longer a child.

Whatever it was, as I walked through the fields towards a woodland, I felt older. I felt wizened. I felt grateful. I felt held by the landscape, as if she herself were observing me in this mundane yet sacred moment as a young woman at a bed and breakfast while road tripping with her mother.

It wasn’t the first time I was overwhelmed by a deep trust in nature, nor the last. I think most childhoods offer the experience of an unburdened trust in nature.

But it is the same time of year – early September – as the road trip we took so long ago. And I remember that farm, those golden grasses, my mother’s face, the shape of the clouds, and the colors of sunset. I remember the smell of water. I remember feeling the spiritual presence of these things at 13, a magically potent age, and the awareness of my own growth into womanhood. All in a moment. All in a place. All in the presence of earth spirits.

As I interact with my six month old daughter, I can’t help but imagine what faraway places I’ll take her to. I imagine tucked away mountain towns and charming agricultural communities. I imagine places with and without people. I imagine using my own best years to give her opportunities to love the land, and feel it love her in return.

Ah — maybe that’s the thing that keeps drawing me back to animism. Love. Love and reciprocity.

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Finding the gods among their sacred trees

The whole of nature is sacred, but is sectioned into kingdoms, parts, biomes, and ecosystems that are honored as part of the greater whole. The ancient gods are typically associated with one or more of these parts. Sometimes they are honored entire bioregions and other times a very peculiar tree. Neo pagans typically refer to this phenomenon simply as an “association.” Dionysus is “associated” with the grapevine, Diana is “associated” with the forest, Belenos is “associated” with the sun.

As I’ve grown in my own spiritual quest, this language has increasingly irritated me. Why? Well, it’s simply unsatisfactory. I’m left with far too many questions!

  • When a sacred feature is “associated” with a god/dess, how do reconstructionist neo pagans determine whether it is to be given as an offering or left alone in the natural world?
  • When is a natural entity or formation – such as a tree, a meadow, or a mountain – seen as an embodiment of the god/dess themself?
  • When a location, flora, or fauna is associated with multiple gods within a culture or pantheon, what connection is illustrated by a common association?

I firmly believe that gods and goddesses, whether seen as deity, idol, archetype, or sacred psychology, speak through the natural world. Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on whether this clairaudience with divinity is a common, shared construct created by homo sapiens. Many others see the gods as autonomous spirits living in other dimensions or planes of reality. Whatever they are (or aren’t), their presence in nature’s phenomena is indisputable.

But what about trees?

In my yard, there are pear, apple, and cherry trees. There’s also an abundant grapevine with an aggressive need to encircle the front garden. Each of these trees are subtle, distinct individuals. I’m able to meditate with them individually and seek their medicine.

Yet they each are able to offer counsel, wisdom, and insight in alignment with the gods. Through the kindness of the grapevine, I am able to speak gratitude to Dionysus and have my message delivered. I’m able to sit below the dark branches and draw guidance directly from Asherah.

While it is my personal experience that trees have unique souls, they aren’t indifferent to the gods to which they are associated. I am able to approach a trio of birch trees in a marsh and speak with them, but I am also able to rely on their support to reach Arianrhod. It’s almost as if they are portals, messengers, or ambassadors, yet this role isn’t their primary purpose. It’s simply an aspect of their interconnection with the wider bioregion and, thus, the gods of nature.

Reading about the Greek nymphs helped me illustrate this observation. The dryads and hamadryads are spoken of as a collective with autonomy, yet every now and then an individual dryad is named and features prominently in a myth. Many dryads, along with Pan, resided in Arcadia. As people, heroes, or other gods pass through, there may be a romantic entanglement with a dryad. The dryads may act on behalf of the gods. They are individual beings, living full lives, yet are intimately tied to their ecosystem, bioregion, and god/dess.

In the same way that trees give freely to humans, from fruit to timber to shade, so too do the gods of nature. We are held and supported by natural systems and have learned to thrive according to them. Trees have done the same, in bioregions from the scorching desert of Set to the far north of Skadi. With their roots in the underworld and branches reaching for the heavens, they mirror our own spiritual striving. Their long lifespans bear witness to our generations. Trees have souls. Perhaps they aren’t always as dynamic and personified as the nymphs of Greek lore. Indeed, some cultures recognize the souls of trees as demonic – particularly in the case of trees which no longer bear fruit. Malevolent, neutral, or benevolent, the connection between a tree and the “Beingness” of a supernatural entity is near universal.

Trees offer a depth of their own wisdom and medicine. Through this, they can offer us connection and communication with the gods to whom they are sacred.

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Promise of the Tulip: a Springtime Tarot Spread

Over the weekend we visited Skagit Valley in Washington for the annual Tulip Festival. I hadn’t been since I was a child and my heart was aching to get outside to enjoy springtime in a safe, pandemic-friendly way. That day also happened to be our daughter’s one month mark and we were able to celebrate her in a field of colors. (We also visited the co-op and grabbed some fruit and veggie starters for our garden – but more on that later. )

While enjoying the stunning beauty of the tulips among strangers, I was struck by how little I actually knew about their origin, history, and magickal purposes. I’ve used dried tulip petals in protection charms before – grinding them down with a little pink Himalayan salt makes an effective (though short lived) ward – but beyond that I wasn’t well informed. Our yard has tulips growing throughout in a variety of colors, so knowing their uses and energy became a top priority for me by the time we got home.

Reading up on the tulip, I learned all kinds of curious facts, like they’re originally from Central Asia, associated with martyrdom and protest in Iran, and their petals are edible. What really stayed in my heart, though, was their association with love in the context of their perennial nature. Tulips store their energies in their bulbs, and are happy to reinvent themselves genetically to suit aesthetic tastes and new environments. This flexibility and hardiness is a bit of a contrast to their rigid yet delicate appearance, reminding me of pointe ballet dancers.

About the Spread

I developed this tarot spread to represent the promise of the tulip to return the following year. Their glorious burst of beauty in bloom is indeed short lived, but returns next year with even more to bare. I made this with the mind of how we’re going to sow love in our home. We’re new homeowners, and we’re trying to fix up our place but are struggling with just how to do so; do we make changes that we’ll enjoy for years to come, or do we make changes that future buyers would love if we choose to sell in a year or two? See, we don’t know how long we want to be here – we’re very tempted to move back to Japan or England – and every decision on our cottage feels consequential to any potential exit strategies.

What long-term projects are you pouring your love into? That’s what this spread is here to help with.

  1. The love to be sown
    How can you best sow your love and energy into the project, job, or relationship? What “love language” needs to be spoken?
  2. Influences from the past
    What previous habits, struggles, or lessons are cycling back around? What echo from previous years is influencing the project, job, or relationship before you?
  3. New perspectives to bring
    Time has passed since those previous influences and going forward requires a new perspective. What perspective or mindset do you need to take on? What should your mental mood board look like?
  4. The bloom that awaits
    Just waiting to be divinely loved, this is the reward that awaits you long-term. This is the love you will sow.

This spread settled my fears and hesitations with working on our home, and reminded me to be completely present in the moment. It’s ours now, and we should pour our own aesthetics, needs, and love into it. The next owners can do as they wish when the time comes – whenever that may be.

What about you?

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How I discovered Green Witchcraft as the path for me

It’s not that I didn’t engage in witchcraft – I’ve kept a spellbook since I was 13. But some of my best childhood memories were of wandering the yard to meditate with old cottonwood and apple trees. I’ve devoted my spiritual life since I was a girl to communication with tree souls, the gods, and animal spirits.

I’ve thought of myself as a pagan before a witch, a priestess before a magician, an animist before a spellcaster.

When I joined the British Druid Order on the beginner course in 2019, I was delighted with the teachings, the stories, and the concepts presented in the curriculum. It had the spiritual ecology I was looking for, but I still felt a crushing grief about the climate and environmental degradation. I realized that what I was looking for was not necessarily a belief system that I could personally identify with, but a toolkit for me to draw upon when I need to engage in action.

I’ve decided that green witchcraft might just be that toolkit I was looking for all along. I haven’t done a formal dedication ritual yet (I think I’ll save that for Beltane), but I have spent the last year reading, learning, and exploring if this is really what I want to do. I’m not one to embark on a new magickal or spiritual journey lightly!

Despite some of the drawbacks and critiques I have of green witchcraft, ultimately these four reasons are guiding me to take the plunge.

  1. Caregiving from Seed to Sprout

    In essence, green witchcraft is an opportunity to re-wild one’s psyche through caring for a variety of vegetation from seed to sprout.

    This was actually one reason I had decided that green witchcraft was not the path for me. Green witches are expected to have green thumbs. Of course, there isn’t an expectation to wake up one day and build something on par with A Secret Garden – a window planter of herbs would probably do. But I do not have a green thumb, and I’ve moved internationally so many times in the last six years that keeping anything more than a succulent or two has been impossible.

    But this tenet of green witchcraft is essentially what I’m looking for as an eco-pagan and environmentalist. My primary critique of modern life is that we see nature as not only separate from us, but in perpetual servitude to our needs and consumption habits. The green witch’s garden not only pushes back against this but goes a step further by incorporating natural methods of pest prevention or irrigation.

  2. Aligning Humanity with the Environment

    Green witchcraft doesn’t rely on any specific tools. It emphasizes the use of natural, organic materials that can be found on a forest walk, the seaside, or a desert canyon. Like many eco-pagans, I’ve become increasingly frustrated (and at times disgusted) with how magick, wicca, and paganism has become commodified. There are levels of tolerance to this, though. Some people don’t mind the plastic tools or hyper-witchy aesthetics flooding their Instagram feeds. At least we all came together and drew the line at Sephora’s witch kit in 2018.

    However you feel or don’t feel (I for one do have a love for aesthetic witchcraft…), I’m proud to be on the first steps of a path that actively promotes disengagement with materials that are produced unsustainably or unethically. I believe the best magick comes directly from the source, that a river pebble is as powerful as aura quartz.

  3. Animism

    As I mentioned, honoring tree souls is foundational to my spiritual life. Green witchcraft recognizes the oversouls and individual personalities of plant and animal species. This recognition leaves plenty of room for interpretation and differing approaches. Some green witches are very involved with the good people (faeries), others follow the Green Man, and still others are animists from the perspective of an indigenous spiritual tradition.

    Nature is varied and wild. One doesn’t need to look far to see that. I appreciate that green witchcraft doesn’t place firm boundaries on how one should or shouldn’t interpret the spiritual realms and personalities that animate the natural world; this inclusivity is crucial.

  4. Folk Magic

    As an eclectic pagan from Jewish heritage married to a southerner, there are many traditions that enter our household. We have a variety of symbols, totems, books, and habits that are sourced from Ancient Egypt to the Canaanites, from medieval Scotland to New Orleans Vodou. These in combination with our own invented traditions, learned habits, and good luck practices given to us by our family line have created a very colorful tapestry of associations and beliefs.

    There can be contradictions and conflicts among these – that’s the essential risk of an eclectic pagan path. But it’s important to me that any tradition I follow or engage with leaves space for nuance, variation, and the magic offered by other paths. Green witchcraft embraces folk magic and localized traditions. There isn’t a dogma or list of no-nos that you might find in other witchcraft traditions.

Truthfully, one reason I never fully identified with the term “witch” or devoted myself to magickal study was that I didn’t see the purpose of it. I’ve always held an attitude of attracting what I desire in life through a magnetic pull energetically or, when in great need, calling upon a god or goddess for assistance in manifesting or healing. The spells I have done were deeply intertwined with those deity relationships and energetic balances: I cannot think of a single spell I’ve ever done that did not call upon a god or goddess for blessing, help, and direction. This, combined with astral plane work, divination, and general engagement with spirit realms led me to adopt the identifier of hedge witch for years as a placeholder.

Yet, again and again I came across green witchcraft in my studies and found myself giving it an approving nod. It wasn’t until we were shut inside during the pandemic that I sat down and explored why I felt that magickal path – above all others – to be worth considering. It took some journaling, research, and experimentation, but I’m thrilled to begin something that I know will be a challenge and fulfilling. I’m so excited to eventually call myself a Green Witch.

First installment of documenting my journey

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What Does a Relationship with the Pagan Gods Look Like?

In the past, I’ve written about connecting with deities and have made a few videos of general tips about how to find a connection with a deity. But I keep getting questions along the same theme, and these questions come from people who are new to paganism, people who are beginner or baby witches, and even judgmental non-polytheists who insist that paganism is an exercise of fantasy. Those questions all essentially boil down to: What does it mean to have a relationship with a deity at all? 

Early in the path or during the phase of exploration, eople want to know what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to have a “patron.” They want to know specifics. Do you pray? Can you hear the gods, or see them? Do they come to you in dreams? Do they perform magical spells in your life? Just how suprasensory is this relationship, and just how grounded in reality is it – or is it not? 

To be truthful, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m sure every person who is pagan or simply religious will describe their relationship with their god or gods in a different way. But what I can do is explain what my relationships look like, how they differ between gods.

What’s different about the pagan gods from monotheism?

Many people who approach polytheism come from an Abrahamic upbringing. The majority, at east in the American context, are Protestant Christians and a few are Catholics. Leaving these religions for a pagan path doesn’t have to mean a complete rejection of the spiritual value or ultimate reality of those entities. For me, Judaism and the god of the Jews is still very real to me, even though I consider myself a pagan. I still observe, to some extent, Shabbat, read Torah, and feel a sense of reverence for Hashem. But my relationship to that god and the Jewish tradition in general is much more about feeling a connection to my ancestors, my people and my culture. It’s about acknowledging that these are the teachings and ways of life that enabled us to survive these centuries and have given us our distinct ethnic and spiritual identity. Hashem as a god is, to me, the inspiration and divine source of my people. I don’t feel a personal relationship with Hashem, not in the way that I hear Christians describe their relationship to figures like Jesus or Mother Mary. The Torah teaches us that Hashem is a mysterious god, one who we wrestle with throughout our lives, disagree with, contemplate, and seek to understand. What I imagine when I picture Hashem in my mind is the Big Bang and Hubble telescope photos of strange nebulae.  

But my relationships with pagan deities are deeply personal, sitting somewhere between worship, friendship, and mentorship. The pagan gods are more relatable to me as a human being because they are so intimately personified through their mythology, artwork, and connections with the natural world that I myself can observe. Pagan deities feel much closer to my lived experience as a homo sapien in this planetary sphere, whereas Hashem, the Jewish god, relates more to my contemplation of this planetary sphere whizzing through the vast reaches of spacetime. 

So, what constitutes a personal relationship to a patron deity?

Now, what does my personal relationship to my patron deities look like? Well, it’s a little different for each one. I work with or worship a variety of deities from a few traditions, such as Celtic, Baltic, Canaanite, Norse, and Kemetic. Depending on what pantheon the deity in question is from, my practice shifts a little. I try to incorporate as much of the traditional or ancient ways in which a deity was worshipped while still appealing to my modern sensibilities. 

One example is my worship of Kemetic deities like Bast, Isis, or Nephthys. These goddesses are representative to me of personalities and traits that I would like to inherit in myself, so spending time with them is key in growing more like them. When I feel righteous anger or rage, I lean on Bast; I might light fragrant incense, put oils on my skin, and sit in a dark space illuminated by candlelight and let myself slip into a trance with Bast as my guide. She helps me explore that anger and find a suitable, healthy outlet for it. Isis is the ultimate woman and divine mother, a devoted lover who embodies the throne upon which the royal line sits. I find inspiration from Isis particularly in my professional life, allowing her to teach me to be more confident, forthright, and daring in my workplace. I would pray to her to give me the words to ask for a raise or speak to an intimidating client. I would also lean on her when I feel that I haven’t been engaging my husband with romance, and I might try to embody her mentally in expressing seduction and love. 

So yes, I do pray to my gods. Many of my prayers take the form of whispers under my breath when I need guidance or inspiration, while other prayers might consist of spending all day working on a poem I read aloud under the full moon before lighting the paper on fire as an offering. I’ve also taken strongly to rewording ancient hymns to suit me and my needs, and enjoy using these on sacred days, special occasions, or with my daughter.

How to have magickal and psychic experiences with your deity

As for the really woo-woo bits, I find it interesting that people who come to paganism are always really preoccupied with whether or not they can expect to have visions, dreams, or clairaudient experiences with their deities. The short answer is no, you should not expect this from a spiritual relationship with a pagan deity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate that kind of relationship. 

If you’re like me and come from a Biblical background, whether that be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, you’re probably familiar with stories about Bible characters suddenly experiencing the presence of God. There’s a burst in the heavens, a crack in reality, or an angel suddenly descends. These moments herald major prophetic changes to not only the character’s life, but the world around him or her; and, usually, send the character into a fit of fear or terror. Similarly, these moments can happen in our personal lives and aren’t that uncommon. I had never heard of the Baltic deity Laima or the Norse deity Nanna, but both appeared to me in dreams and announced themselves, their name, and were surrounded by their symbols – things I in no way couldn’t conjured on my own in the dreamspace. These were visions, sent to me by the goddesses themselves. But my relationship to Isis, who I love most dearly, has never had a visual element to it. She speaks to me in subtle ways – she makes her presence known by events in my life, strange objects appearing in my path, and whispers I hear within that I could easily confuse with my own intuition. 

If you crave this suprasensory experience with a deity, don’t try to force it. Instead, focus on improving your own psychic senses so that when a deity decides to reach out to you in this way, you might actually experience it rather than miss out. Simple habits like keeping  a dream journal, practicing meditation, going on silent nature walks, eating or drinking mindfully, getting up early or staying up to stare at the moon – these are all ways you can begin exploring your own psychological and spiritual depths in a manner that will allow you to notice when something is there that isn’t coming from you, but coming from somewhere – or someone – else. 

If you’re not psychically inclined, then don’t think that these experiences are what validate your spiritual practice or your relationship to a diety. If we think back to the ancient world, we know that it was the role of priestesses to help the community communicate with the gods; they acted as mediums, because not everyone can, or is meant to, have that sort of psychospiritual conncetion with other dimensions. Some people have, through occult study and ritual, forced that connection open, and descended into near madness because it simply wasn’t the right thing for them. Be okay with that too. 

Just because some people have these skills doesn’t mean that you’re lacking spiritual skills of your own. Maybe you can’t hear or see your deity, but you have a strong telepathic connection to the animal world. Maybe dream visions don’t come to you, but you have a magickal green thumb that enables you to cure any stricken plant that comes your way. Maybe you’re not a spiritual healer, but you are a physical healer. 

The physical world we live in is just as important as the spiritual one, and both the physical world and spiritual world have multiple dimensions. Deities aren’t the only spiritual entities; there are ghosts, spirits, sprites, nymphs, elves, and all manner of beings that I personally have never connected with. Maybe you do.

We need people with all sorts of talents to help us navigate our spiritual life and our life here on this planetary sphere. So don’t think that your relationship to deity needs to look or feel a certain way just because some teenager on WitchTok thinks her gods appear in her bedroom as literal apparitions to scold her for skipping school.

Find what makes your heart and soul sing, and get good at it. 

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My favorite Pagan baby names for Spring

Here on the coast in the Pacific Northwest, the flowers are blooming and sunbreaks are lighting up the marine layer. We had our daughter in the last days of winter (a cute little Pisces!) and spent ages narrowing down a short list of names to choose from. We’re a pagan household, so we wanted a name that reflected our family’s way of life. On our quest to find the right name, I collected many, many favorites.

These spring names evoke images of flowers, new growth, color, and the spirit of renewal. For those of you keen to name your child in accordance with the Wheel of the Year – or maybe you’re choosing a new name for yourself for a dedication ritual! – I hope these options get your creativity flowing.

Baby Names

Girls

Juno
Idony
May
Saho
Chloe
Iris
Aurora
Persephone
Flora
Aya
Petal
Daphne
Shoshanna
Clover
Poppy
Una
Astarte
Ivy
Magnolia
Carmel, Carmela
Primrose
Aviva
Eartha
Anthea
Vesna
Ziva
Briony
Ashbea
Delphine
Romy
Zahra
Calla

Boys

Pascoe
Neo
Rhodes
Florian, Florin
Osiris
Arbor
Cypress
Lupin
Aton
Glade
Rosen
Apollon
Dumuzi
Peregrine
Pollux
Cove
Adonis
Gwydion
Ashton
Ashbel
Freyr, Frey
Phoenix
Aviv
Linden
Ren
Caspian
Jonas