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Imbolc isn’t one of the holidays that gets a lot of love and attention. Not like some of the other pagan Sabbats, anyway. It’s got the fire, but not the wild, connective, sensual energy of Beltane. It’s not got that spooky, spirits from beyond the veil vibe that you get at Samhain. It hasn’t got the frenetic, hardworking, harvest energy of Lammas or the Autumn Equinox. Sandwiched between the deep community and warm hearth fires of Yule and the wild, rangy energy of Ostara when life bursts forth from the ground, Imbolc is often treated in a perfunctory manner. …


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Leadership.

Power.

Strength.

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and consider those three words and think of a person embodying them, the image you construct would probably read as male in gender. And the person you have made in your mind’s eye probably exhibits many old school tropes that derive from patriarchy-based ideas of what leadership and power and strength look like. The person in your head is probably “large and in charge” — they stride confidently around, giving orders and dominating the scene. They know all the things, and no one gainsays them in anything. They rule because no one in their orbit can imagine them as being weak or fallible. …


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Have you noticed that most of the holidays that happen in the month of December involve the giving and receiving of gifts? Whether it’s Yule or Christmas or Kwanzaa or Hanukah, gift-giving is a component of the festivities. And that gift giving is mutual.

Is there anything worse than being part of a holiday celebration and being the one person who didn’t get a gift? Maybe it’s being the person who forgot to get a gift when you have received one. The failure of mutuality at a holiday celebration is super-duper awkward. We try to avoid it if we can. …


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One of the terms that seems to be terribly popular in pagan circles these days is the notion of “shadow work.”

Like a lot of Craft terms that get popularized into becoming a sort of Witchy Chic, “shadow work” sounds super mysterious and cool, like something that John Constantine does in a comic book. And if you’ve been doing the Craft more than a minute, you know that shadow work is an important part of walking your path. As is often the case when serious Craft practices become part of the more popular vernacular, a lot of misapprehension ensues.

So let’s get a few things straight right out of the gate…


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It’s time for another blog about Samhain. What’s it going to be this time? Another mussing on the importance of the ancestors? Maybe I should talk about how the veil is thin? Maybe I can talk about how this is the end of the harvest cycle and what that means for the coming darkness. I’ve done all those things, and so have a lot of other people.

Coming up with something new to say about a holiday that has been celebrated by pagans for thousands of years isn’t easy. And we’re in the middle of a pandemic where all of us are stuck in one way or another. Whether we’re working from home where the days are bleeding together in an endless stream that feels stultifying, or you’re an “essential employee” who must continue to risk themselves in order to maintain others’ expectations and comfort, or someone who’s lost their job and is struggling to keep a roof over their head and food in the bellies of themselves and their family. …


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In a year where cruel irony seems to be a constant theme, and the emphasis seems to be increasingly on the cruel part, the cycle of pagan holidays feels less like a wheel and more like one of those tilt-a-whirl carnival rides. The ones where you used to make sure you went on them *before* you had the funnel cake. Unless, of course, you wanted to ask your best friend to hold your hair back while you emptied your stomach with much greater speed than which you’d filled it.

And here we are at Mabon, the midway point between the height of summer and the depth of winter, the fall equinox. Among the things we traditionally celebrate at Mabon is that balance that comes with the equinox. Yes, it’s one of the egg holidays — when you should be able to balance an egg on its base and make it stand upright. The equinox is about balance, or so the conventional wisdom goes. …


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One of the biggest reasons why it’s hard for white Americans to really understand and commit to dismantling institutional racism and white supremacy is that it means rethinking so many aspects of our lives and developing a new understanding of how the world really works. Experiences that we thought we understood as “normal” for every American happen very differently for our Black brothers and sisters. And it’s not just being stopped by a police officer. Everything from buying and selling a home, to doing your hair, to going to school has a very different line and shape if you’re Black. And re-examining your experiences to identify and dismantle racism within them is exhausting. Learning how to not center yourself and make spaces truly diverse and welcoming to Black people and other marginalized people takes a lot more energy than we’re used to expending. It’s work. Hard work. And it never really ends. …


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A Daily Devotional for a Better World

I have disclosed before in this blog that I have a pretty significant devotional relationship to the goddess Freya. At the start of the pandemic, it became clear to me that as the ruler of Folkvangr, Freya’s chief concern is to protect the people and hold up the flame of humanity in a time of gathering darkness. Freya is first and foremost a goddess of passion and love, which is as much about thirst for life and for connection and creation as it is about sex. Freya shines brightly, and asks that we all do the same.

This is a time where people are fighting for what’s right. This is a time where people are trying to uphold light against the darkness. This is a time where we are going to decide what life will be like for the foreseeable future — will we live in fear and division, or will we come together in love and truth? People are marching in the streets. People are preparing to vote in elections. People are speaking up against racism and hate. People are donating to front-line organizations that are trying to meet the needs of the downtrodden. People are volunteering time and energy. None of that should stop. …


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This is not an entry about cursing the moon or the Fae or the people allegedly doing so on Tik Tok. I have no original thoughts on that, and from what I can tell the number of witches trying to tell you what to think about the practice vastly outnumber the people actually doing it.

This is about referring to those new to the Craft of the Wise as “Baby Witches.”

As with many terms that refer to people who are new to a practice or position, it’s not exactly complimentary, but its barb is blunted just enough to keep it from being fully derogatory either. …


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So here we are, at Lammas already. The first harvest. It is the time when the boughs are heavy with the first fruits. As the first time we get to collect the fruits of our labor, we often hear the phrase “go after the low-hanging fruit.” And it is apropos to this moment.

It’s important to understand all the things that phrase entails — low-hanging fruit — and why it matters so much. We all know how the phrase is used colloquially. Low-hanging fruit is easy. It hangs where you don’t need to work hard to retrieve it. …

About

Alythia of the Ash

A believer in magic and justice and the right to be exactly as you are. Anything passing for wisdom here is likely the product of surviving my own stupidity.

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