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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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.
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.
What are we talking about when we talk about “love”? It’s a pretty abstract term and fluid concept. English basically has one word for “love.” There are many terms to describe affection, fondness, or attraction for or to another person, but with the term “love” we assign all manner of emotions, desires, and commitments. We can love our parents and love our pets, love our lovers and love pizza, love sunsets more than sunrises or love the color blue. The weight of this word is often found in the context of the thing you’re talking about; we understand the weight of loving your life partner to be different than the weight of loving a particular genre of music.
With this in mind, when we talk about Love Goddesses, what are we really saying about them and their power? What traits, qualities, or actions are we equating with them?
I think in some cases the answer is obvious. There are Love Goddesses who embody sensuality so obviously that one has to assume that the type of love where they wield power is sexual, pleasurable, or romantic. But there are other Love Goddesses who seem to embody none of these things and are more regal, strict, or oriented towards justice. To those goddesses you might assume they wield power in more structured forms of love, the kinds of love that come with commitment of one’s life, time, or home such as a marriage, a family, or a duty to one’s community.
These are the 8 main types of Love Goddesses that I’ve observed and I’ve offered a few examples of each. I should say that these lists are definitely not exhaustive. I mention a wide variety of goddesses here because I want to be inclusive. Please feel free to learn and research any of them, but be deeply considerate before deciding to incorporate any into your personal pantheon that are not of your culture. Spirituality is not an excuse for cultural appropriation.
For now, let’s keep things general and high level. There are 8 types I want to cover today:
1. Goddesses who attract Love
On the surface this might sound like Goddesses who attract romantic love, but I think it’s a little different from that. The desire to attract love into one’s life implies that there’s something absent, that there isn’t a person there who you feel comfortable confiding in, being vulnerable with, or receiving tenderness from. The Goddesses who work in this area can help us create and attract all manner of loving relationships with family, friends, or romantic lovers; in some cases, I think, they’re also able to bring love into our lives in other forms like a dog or profoundly tender experience of kindness from a stranger.
These Goddesses include many beings related to springtime like Aine, Freya, or Eostre. Benten or Saraswati, Hathor, Psyche, Oshun, Yemaya, Venus or Aphrodite, and Frigga have a lot of influence here too.
2. Goddesses of romantic Love
These are more familiar, I think, to most of us. Aphrodite or Venus are the most obvious candidates for romantic love goddesses. Romance is a strange thing in the context of a pagan path, though. In many traditions from the ancient world, we find that romantic love and lovers weren’t associated with things like life partnership or marriage. The ancient world was one where people often married for duty, status, or economy; romantic pursuits were left outside of that contractual relationship. This isn’t exclusive to the ancient world, either; the modern world had this system of separating romantic love from marriage in western and eastern cultures. It wasn’t until recently that we, as a culture, have valued a merging of the two.
That means we encounter many myths and stories of what we would now consider to be infidelity and cheating, but back then wasn’t viewed in that light. So long as your duties to your spouse, family, and social performance were met, cheating has often been fine. Don’t talk about it on main street but it wasn’t always a case of public ridicule or stoning. Yet, we can also find the opposite example in the ancient world, where sexual or romantic dissatisfaction with one’s spouse was a legal reason to pursue divorce. The Hebrew Canaanites did this as did the Egyptians.
Some of the more interesting goddesses to explore when considering the boundaries or merging of romantic love and commitment are, in my opinion, Radha, Juno, Freya, and Anath. Isis, Ishtar, Inanna, Yemaya, and Oshun are also very rich in this area.
3. Goddesses of familial or parental Love
My two favorite stories here are Demeter and Isis. Both of these goddesses displayed in their myths a passionate commitment to their children and their legacy. Assuming you are a pagan, there’s also a good chance you have had some turbulence with your own parents or family. Many of us abandoned the religion of our upbringing in favor of a pagan path, and many of us have identities that our families are prejudiced against like our sexual orientation or gender expression. Working with a familial or parental Goddess has been really healing for me. I resisted seeing Isis as a mother figure for so long because I had such a bad taste in my mouth about mothers, and I wanted her to feel more like a big sister. But as I allowed myself to be vulnerable in that way, I was able to work through my own trauma. Now that I’m about to be a mother myself, I am so much more confident than I could have ever imagined in facing the task of raising a child.
If parental or family love is something you struggle with or are thirsty for, I highly recommend learning about or possibly working with the goddesses Demeter, Ceres, Frigga, Tiamat, Parvati, Ereshkigal, Shekinah, or Isis.
4. Goddesses of emotional Love
How do you experience love? Like, personally? What words would you use to describe the emotion of love, as you feel it? Your answer is probably going to be different from mine, different from your partner’s answer, different from your friend’s answer. We all have our own love languages because we all have a different experience and understanding of the emotion of love. When I think of Goddesses who wield this emotion as one of their realms of power, I think of ones who are large in their pantheons, dominating, and have stories that demonstrate many different ways of offering up that pure ray of love.
Isis comes to mind again, but others who embody this pure essence include the Sophia, Venus, Branwen, Inanna, Kuan Yin, Laksmi, Oba, and Erzulie. These are goddesses who emanate in the purest form the emotion of love, and their stories and folklore demonstrate the different ways that that emotion manifests into action.
5. Goddesses of physical Love
Emotion manifests into action, often acts of service or sacrifice. But attraction, physical attraction, also manifests into action. Physical attraction to a person is about more than sexual desire. That desire is what leads us to want to observe that person, be around them, experience their auric field, drink in their personality or style. It’s often a building block to creating a deeper emotional bond, or even emotional love.
Goddesses of physical love can help us make that first move. They encourage us to send that first message on Tinder. But they also help us discern safe and unsafe situations; a Goddess of Physical Love is there with us on that date and can help us determine whether or not a hookup with the other person is going to be an experience worth enjoying or one that might eat away at our energy. These goddesses help us pick out lingerie, select the perfume we want to be our signature scent, and encourage us to be creative in the bedroom.
Aphrodite is perhaps the most famous of goddesses who wield power in this area, but she’s definitely not the only one. Bast, though originally a goddess of war, gradually came to embody these qualities of seduction and lust. Anath, Freya, Lilith, Kali Ma, Shakti, Astarte, Ereshkigal, Hathor, Inanna, Qetesh, Kupala, Isis, and Oshun all have influence in this realm of experience. You’ll notice, I hope, that many of the goddesses most associated with physical love and lust are also associated with things like the underworld, the dark moon, or war. This isn’t a coincidence.
6. Goddesses of the broken hearted
Going through a breakup is hard. Getting rejected by a longtime crush is devastating. Being strung along by a friend with benefits can be emotionally traumatizing. Losing your partner is an immeasurable grief.
Having one’s heart broken isn’t some unfortunate, random experience. It’s a guarantee in life. Most people experience their first heartbreak in their teen years shortly after puberty, and when you’re young it feels like you won’t survive it. As you age, the stakes surrounding the loss of love rise; the pain of heartbreak never ceases, but we as individuals do learn ways to build resilience to those knives.
The people of the ancient world felt this too. Disease, famine, and war took their lovers then as they take our lovers now; rejection and betrayal occurred then as it does to us in now; even the modern difficulty of catching feelings for a friend with benefits has a mirror in the ancient world of concubines and mistresses. It sucks to be a side chick, but it’s not new.
My favorite goddess by far when it comes to the healing of a broken heart is the Morrigan. Occasionally seen as one goddess, other times seen as a trifecta, her own experience of heartbreak and devastation, her own dark nature, is deeply healing. If that dark, gothic aesthetic doesn’t work for you, Hestia is a great alternative. She’s warm and will make staying curled up in bed crying a lot less lonely. Other goddesses for the healing of a broken heart include Oba, Kuan Yin, Ereshkigal, Devi, Venus, and Shakti. I’ve also heard positive things about Yaoji and Red Tara.
7. Goddesses of self Love
Self love is a challenge. It’s a challenge to separate it from ego, it’s a challenge to maintain it in the face of emotional ups and downs, and it’s a challenge to learn what it looks like for you. Some of us struggle a lot more with body image than we do confidence in our intellect, while others among us rely on our physical beauty to mask our fears of being seen as uninteresting or not charismatic. We all worry in one way or another if we’re good enough for the rest of the world, if we’re going to be accepted by it; we worry that we might lose the love of a partner or family member if we were to fail to live up to some version of ourselves we think they expect.
Goddesses of self love are about fostering not only an independent review of the self but gradually manifesting new practices, habits, routines, and mantras that encourage a life-long relationship of loving oneself. Medusa, though not technically a goddess, is the perfect example of someone who experiences othering as a result of her condition. Other goddesses to consider are Baba Yaga, Artemis, Psyche, Green Tara, Rhiannon, Kupala, Venus, Ame-no-Uzume, the Cailleach, Ereshkigal, and Isis.
8. Goddesses of unconditional love
This might seem similar to the goddesses of emotional love, who vibrate with a pure, boundless energy. But unconditional love comes with a few other elements than just emotion. Unconditional love is a package of emotional love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, and acceptance. Sometimes we need to employ unconditional love when we forgive someone close to us, and sometimes we ache for it in the hope that we can be forgiven. Unconditional love means not holding the mistakes of a person against them, of seeing their progress more than their failures, and encouraging them to continue to grow, improve, and shine. This is often as much about how we treat others as it is about how we treat ourselves.
The Sophia, Isis, Kuan Yin, and Shekinah all embody this, as do Kali Ma, Ereshkigal, Andraste, and Asherah.
I hope this served as a useful starting point to identifying which myths and stories to begin reading, or even what goddesses you may want to incorporate into your life. Depending on where you’re at right now you might need a very different kind of Love Goddess. You may be in a loving marriage but feeling distanced from family, in the middle of a hot and cold relationship, or learning to love yourself.
If you have any additions to these lists I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or, if you’ve worked with any of these goddesses, please feel welcome to share your story. I’d love to read it and I’m sure others would benefit from it too.
Ostara is just hours away, and this will be the first sacred day I’ve fully observed in quite a while! My pregnancy had me exhausted, so beyond a little home decoration at Samhain, Yule, and Imbolc, I’ve done nothing else since last July. Most years I chose to welcome Persephone back to this realm at the spring equinox, but this year I wanted to explore something new. I’ll be making an offering to a goddess I’ve never honored before. Who? Don’t know yet, but I’ve got a little time left to come up with something! Now that I’ve transitioned into motherhood I want to open up relationships with more mother goddesses who can, I hope, teach me to be a better parent.
While exploring options for myself, I wanted to share twelve goddesses who are wonderful options for beginner pagans, baby witches, or anyone looking to greet someone new. This list is, of course, not exhaustive. There are many dozens of goddesses from a variety of pantheons one would do well to honor for Ostara. But this list might offer the right amount of inspiration and direction for you as you craft your rituals.
Greek. Also known as Kore or Propserina to the Romans, she is the spring maiden and daughter of Demeter. Together they are the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries. Persephone is the embodiment of youth, abundance, and growth; but she is also the keeper of souls in the Underworld as a dark maiden, where she spends four months of the year with her consort Hades. Though young, she’s skilled in magick, divination, and wise in the philosophies of life and death.
Associations: Pomegranates, earth, red, pink, rose quartz, black tourmaline, seeds, mint, crowns, torches, deer.
Welsh. One of the many Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, Branwen is a daughter of the sea and spring. Married to an abusive husband, she ultimately died of a broken heart when her loved ones perished in their attempts to rescue her. She is thus associated with freedom and new beginnings, especially for people seeking to break free of cruel relationships or failed marriages, and can offer a spiritual home for those feeling trapped. Birds represent her, especially starlings. Her name may in fact translate to “white raven.”
Associations: Cups, cauldrons, starlings, birds, aquamarine, rose quartz, standing stones, blossoms, white.
Canaanite/Mesopotamian. Also written as Anat or Anatu, Anath is a warrior, lover, and virgin often depicted riding a lion with flowers in her fists. She appears in many forms across Mesopotamia and Egypt, but her character as a warrior remains the same. She is as sensual as she is ferocious, a dedicated lover who can bring the dead back to life. She was celebrated at spring and harvest festivals in recognition of her role in fertility of women and the land.
Associations: Weapons, especially bow and arrows, axes, and clubs; flowers, lions, sashes, red, green, calves, sunstone, copper, iron, Mars.
Greek. Mother of Persephone, goddess of grains, parenting, and grief. Though more often associated with the harvest, Demeter teaches the acts of both sowing and reaping, making her guidance at Ostara worthwhile for those looking to pursue goals over the Wheel of the Year. She is central to a many myths, mysteries, and forms in the ancient world, making her a deeply complex goddess of both underworld and agrarian magicks. She suffered over the loss of Persephone to the Underworld, symbolized by the loss of vegetation in the barren winter months, making her an excellent teacher of patience, dealing with loss, and finding hope for renewal in the spring.
Associations: Cornucopias, wheat, bread, torches, grain, sheep, flowers, poppies and opium, fruit such as apples, Virgo, horses, green, black.
Roman. Though she has a reputation for civilized wisdom and counsel, Juno is also a guide for adolescents going through puberty and adults looking for a special someone. For those looking for love in the spring, Juno’s rulership of femininity and romantic bonds is perfect for attracting romance this season. She is symbolized by peacocks, famous for their courting feathers, and guides young women into their adulthood while promising the perfect match at the right time. Her sacred month is June when spring transitions to summer. As a queen, she is decisive and can be unforgiving in her verdicts. As a goddess of marriage, she deeply values fidelity.
Associations: Earth, air, gold, blue, green, wedding rings, thrones, diadems, the Moon, peacocks, books and scholarship
Roman. Like the Aurora Borealis that bears her name, Aurora is the goddess of extravagant light and the dawn. She opens the gates of heaven and offers renewal to the masses. As spring marks the beginning of a new agricultural year, Aurora is the perfect goddess for anyone looking to start afresh or embark on a new path. The mother of the constellations and their light, the four winds are also her children.
Associations: Chariots, saffron, poetry (especially erotic and love poems), cicadas, air, water, stars and constellations, all colors and rainbows
Eostre, or Ostara
Germanic/Saxon. The goddess of spring from whom the holiday Ostara takes its name, Eostre’s very name means “spring.” Depicted as a young woman bearing fertility, she was celebrated with painted eggs and sweet foods that are now found in the Christianized version of the holiday as Easter.
Associations: Hares and rabbits, all colors and rainbows, eggs, dawn, quartz, opal, opalite, wildflowers, meadows
Egyptian. Before she was symbolized by the domestic cat, Bast was a lioness who ruled the fertile power of the sun’s rays on the land. Protector of children and women, Bast grew from a ferocious warrior of anointing into a goddess who also embodied sensuality and love. As a guardian of the home, she is the perfect companion for a deep spring cleaning – both physical and etheric – and will encourage tidiness throughout the season. Honor her with perfumes from flowers, gold, singing, sex, and feasting.
Associations: Red, green, gold, silver, perfumes, incense, domestic cats, lions, sistrum and music, weapons, beer, carnelian, lapis lazuli, the Sun and the Moon
Phoenician/Syrian. Also spelled Ataratheh, she was protectress of the city Hierapolis near modern Aleppo in northern Syria. Known as the mermaid goddess due to her association with iconography found at Ascalon, Atargatis is a teacher of the advancements that come with civilization: improved agricultural and food systems, social structures and contracts, and inventions. Herself a force of nature, she brings fertility, moisture, and abundance. As vegetation returns with the spring, so do her blessings.
Associations: Doves, fish, whales, seashells, salt water, sand, lions, the crescent moon, red, blue, green, veils, scepters, eggs
Roman. Pomona is one of many agricultural goddesses in the Roman pantheon. She offers fertility to orchards, nut and fruit trees. Apples are particularly sacred to her. The ideal goddess for the springtime gardener, she teaches proper care and communication with fruiting and blossoming plants. Pomona is also considered a wood nymph rather than a goddess, and is associated with Demeter in the Greek pantheon.
Associations: Pruning knife, cornucopia, fruits, fruit platters, blossoms, groves and orchards, nuts, green, orange, red, moss agate, fairy stone, malachite.
Norse. A great healer and the bestower of immortality, Idunn is the keeper of apples that offer eternal youth and it is she who sustains the everlasting life of the gods. Goddess of youth, she lends her strength to the sick and rules the springtime.
Associations: Fae magick, apples, natural springs, green, red, water, earth, herbal medicine, apples.
Chinese. For the outdoorsy and green-thumb pagans, Yaoji offers lessons in herblore, magical brews, and navigating the wilderness of the mountains. If you’re hoping to spend more time this spring in wildlife reserves and parklands, Yaoji can help you learn to identify herbs, fungi, stones, and other natural artefacts on your hiking trails. Her specialty is the love potion.
Associations: Wild herbs, mountains, waterfalls, mist, fog, cauldrons, axes, dusk, dreamwork, visions, red, green, jade, quartz, rain.
I haven’t touched enough of America to conjure an archetype or a memory that can stand in for the names of these corners and borders. But where I have traveled my ears tingle at the mention of their names. Navajo Nation. Denali. California. Atlanta. Utah. Names followed by numbers, numbers followed by faceless ghosts.
Numbers. Numbers that are announced, day after day, at the close of business. A death toll from a nightly news pulpit. There are no church bells or gothic choirs to accompany the address. The woman on the television states more places, places I’ve never been, as her voice is laid over short scenes of downtown Lincoln crosswalks or roadside diners in North Dakota.
It’s the sense of infinity in these numbers that haunts the most. It’s not unlike looking up at the innumerable stars of the night sky, somewhere deep in Alaska. Each star unique, special, and distant; unknowable by me, but glorious in its power; yet lost in the whole. But where there is awe in the sanctity of stargazing, the numbers flashing across the television are a disappearing act of so much starlight I haven’t yet known.
There are hardened souls who turn their backs to these coffins. These coffins carry someones we can’t know but someones we can fathom. Mothers with the perfect rainy day soup recipe. Fathers who ultimately came around to embrace their son. Siblings who found reconciliation after years of distance. Religious leaders who acted as family to the lonesome. Grandparents who were making plans to surprise the grandchildren at Christmas.
Proud Alaskan teachers, dedicated Brooklyn nurses, new retirees to the sunbelt. Numbers. Ghosts. A thousand today, another thousand tomorrow. Starlight sealed away in coffins and memory.
There are no boundaries here. The tide rises
to permeate these caves and I welcome the drowning,
like mountain honey on a starved tongue.
Salted ocean is a cold and wet woman, awake
to the billions of stars in her waters. She:
an expanse, cosmic and unknowable, charged
with the holding of things,
people, memory. I breathe her in
like a ship resigned to wreckage
and revealed treasure.
There are no boundaries with Her.
When the cave is full I can see
through time, like the cuckoo who eats by the sun
but calls out in the night, everything is
Below, I see the distant glow of Atlantis.
High above, I see Her hellbent on erosion
reaching for and crashing against cliffs.
And there, on the rocks – the lamb of God-
Brigantia, Laima, Hera – No. My own Mother;
divine and dressed, as she always is, in black and white;
planting flowers, as she always is, in her garden by the water.
There are no boundaries here. The tide rises
to permeate these caves and I welcome my drowning
with offerings of honeysuckle and violets.
I don’t believe in death or in poison.
only Her, only the tide. The cosmic mother,
my own mother, memory.
Ten inches fell in 24 hours. Ten inches that weigh down the cedar trees, coat the mossy earth, and bury the dead. Even the hemlocks look heavy, more than they used to.
Curiously, in Western culture we celebrate the birth of a new year just ten days into this season of darkness and survival. I wondered about this from a young age dabbling in astrology. My elder sister is a solstice-portal Aries, making her birthday one of welcoming spring and a new, warm world. She, like many other Aries folks, lives her life like each day is a fresh start and an exciting new challenge. That springtime energy is echoed in the depths of winter with December 31st; New Year’s Eve resolutions and diet plans. It’s an energy so out of place with nature that something else – some other energy – must be missing from the equation.
Shortly into my magical studies I read that winter was the power season of the water witches. Winter, too, was the domain of the water zodiac signs (and, to some extent, their mutable companions). Intrigued, I swam in a very Piscean way through this concept and aimed to consciously experience this affinity. Year after year, I’ve found that my most consistent days and weeks of physical confidence, optimum mental health, general self esteem, and desire to be creative reside in the winter months. Of the water zodiac signs or not, anyone with a particular pull towards the water – holy wells, deep oceans, long seashores, river deltas, lotus ponds, thunderous rain – may find a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the waters of winter.
In some ways, the anticipation of spring pulls our hearts too quickly over this cold, dark sea, and our Oneness with winter – and all the opportunities hidden therein – are put aside for next year. And the next.
What are those lessons, anyway? Patience, for one, I’d guess. Winter feels long because it is deeply still. When temperatures are low, there is less energy on the move – less room for mistakes. Stripped bare down to her most basic of energy needs, the earth mother holds us in deep silence and witnesses the cycle of life and death. Water, an element essential to that life, also drowns, erodes, cascades, and evaporates. Water can leave a desert to die, or be present in such abundance as to create the inconceivable biodiversity of the trench.
This leads to the other lesson: presence in what is witnessed. In our case, that simply means presence in the tale of life – and it’s counterpart.
Outside are ten inches of snow and a cold wind of 26 degrees. Trees have fallen, trapping people on the highway, closing off neighborhoods, and leaving others without power. This is the third time in my lifetime of living here that we have had a weather event like this. In the beauty of this snowstorm there is danger, suffering, and material loss. Yet, where there is death there is life.
Washington State in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in our forests caused, in major part, by the lack of snowpack from winter, high up in the mountains. In our short but hot summers, that snow from autumn through spring melts. This slow melt is what has nourished our creek beds and forests while dampening the landscape, protecting it from fires. This year, we may see a less wildfire devastation here – that is, less crazed, uncontrollable heat and energy due to the nourishment of a cold, dark winter.
Ice and snow is water in solid form. Like water, it carries the energetics of remembrance, but more like an archive or library rather than the flow of memory. Ice is water’s way of standing still. The elemental spirit of ice simply asks us to do the same.
In winter, the stillness makes us vulnerable. Though we’ve adapted to physical stillness from our evolutionary legacy of migratory hunting and gathering, it would be disingenuous to imply that our mental and spiritual experience is anything but still. This is why working with the seasons in the Wheel of the Year can be such a revitalizing practice pathwalkers, as the seasons offer the most present experience we have in modern life to the natural world. Of course our ancestors venerated this cycle and presence too, but they also regularly faced the other aspects of nature on an intimate plane, like the buffalo hunt, collective grief, large predators, natural birth, poisonous snakes, and sleeping under the stars.
Especially sleeping under the stars on cold winter nights.