One of the 'non-witchy' facts about me is that I have a post-graduate diploma in information management. A large part of this based on how to properly research subjects and topics, and I eventually went on to get a job advising others how best to perform research. I love learning and researching new subjects, and whilst I say this is a 'non-witchy' fact, it has actually really helped me in my pagan studies over the years.
When I first started practicing witchcraft, the internet wasn't readily available in most homes, and mobile phones were those big chunky things that you only saw in movies (showing my age). My research was basically limited to a Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia CD and the small local library. One of the great things about the internet is that it has allowed so much information to be so readily available - simply hop onto Google, enter a search term and you are guaranteed hundreds, if not thousands of resources! Unfortunately, one of the not-so-great things about it is how much of that information is utter bullshit.
I was doing some research earlier for my latest book and came across an organisation - a specific 'temple' to a Goddess (which I won't name), based on myths and legends from a particular culture. And for a cool £1,000 a year you could train to become a priestess in this particular temple - neat huh? Except the 'ancient Goddess' they worshipped has never, ever existed in any of the mythos they were drawing from and seemed to be completely made up by the founder. They spouted a load of fantastic sounding information about how they also worshipped some very specific figures from history and then completely fabricated 'facts' about these figures that never appeared in the mythos they were aligning with. And those that weren't fabricated were just wrong! These are figures I personally work with and have done a lot of research into - the whole thing was actually kind of offensive. The worst part was that they actually had a pretty decent website, a physical location, and plenty of other training courses that looked intriguing. To anybody 'new' coming in, I can see how they would be fooled by this temple.
There is a huge problem within the pagan community when it comes to the spread of misinformation. Unfortunately this isn't a problem unique to the pagan community, but it is one we should be aware of. At best, this information is just wrong, and at worst it can be downright dangerous. On a practical level, most of us work with herbs, oils, and crystals, and not all of them are fit for human or animal use. Misinformation in this area has in the past caused death. On a more spiritual level, many of us work with deities and spirits, and not all of them are sunshine and rainbows. Getting involved with a spirit you don't fully understand can have some very undesirable consequences.
Whilst there is a lot of information out there which is just factually wrong, there is another grey area which can be a very interesting line to tread. This is the line between 'fact' and 'experience'. If I were to say that the Goddess Nantosuelta is often associated with the bounty of the harvest because ancient artefacts depict her as holding a cornucopia, then that is fact. If I say that the Goddess Nantosuelta wears a red dress because that is how she appeared to me in meditation, that is my experience. What is my experience might not be your experience. However, my experience shouldn't become 'fact' purely on the basis of my say-so. It may be a fact for me personally, but that doesn't mean it will be for you - Nantosuelta might come to you in a blue dress! Unfortunately there are a lot of writers out there who will misrepresent experience for fact to the extent that it becomes deliberately deceptive and misleading - I'm thinking of one particular book on Irish tradition which was released last year which got absolutely trashed after the author presented everything in the book as 'fact'. When a number of people in the Irish pagan community came out to highlight the discrepancies and falsehoods in this book, the author doubled down by saying that this was her 'experience' of it. And that's absolutely fine! But don't misrepresent your experience as fact, as this is how untruths get spread.
So, what can you do when you are conducting your own research to ensure that the sources you are using are true and factual? How can you tell if what someone is writing is based on empirical, evidenced fact, or whether they are writing from personal experience? Here are my top two tips. I was aiming to write more, but actually they can all be pretty much summed up by the two below.
1. What are the writer's credentials?
For example, if they have been practicing for five years but list themselves as 'Priestess of Hekate, Keeper of the Isle of the Hedgemaze, Oracle of the Sacred Potatoes, Watcher of the Snakes Supreme, and Third Level Initiate in the Temple of Dipshittery,' then I would be wary. Most titles worth earning will take years of practice and finetuning. Anyone can go on Udemy these days and take a 2 week course and qualify as a Reiki Master - that doesn't make them credible.
If you are on their website, take a look at their 'about' section. Do they list who have they trained with, if anyone (and remember, just because they haven't trained with anyone or might not have any titles doesn't make their information less valid)? Do they list any of their resources or inspiration (I find anyone who mentions Robert Grave's 'White Goddess' as a resource very difficult to take seriously)? Have they written any other books or articles that have been published by reputable sources or do they have support from others in the magickal community? Putting a writers name through Google - especially if you add words such as 'controversy' or 'bad review' to your search - can often bring up some very telling information!
2. Do they cite their resources, and if they do, can you locate and read those resources yourself?
It is amazing the liberties that some people will take, trusting that no-one will actually bother to fact check if they drop a source in there. In relation to my own research earlier with the temple I mentioned above, they stated that according to a certain ancient text there were 9 figures known as 'the 9 X's', and their Queen was 'figure X who is better known in history as figure Y'.
Luckily I have read that ancient text and knew right away that was bull - the author never referred to them as 'the 9 X's', and the whole 'Queen X is better known is history as Queen Y' is complete conjecture. Scholars and historians debate whether Queen X is the first incarnation of her name which inspired other tales of women with this name, but there is zero evidence to be able to state that Queen X went on to become the figure Queen Y. Absolutely none.
If you have read something that sounds plausible but there are no sources listed (I'll admit, I hardly ever list resources), then do a bit of research and see if you can find anything to corroborate this information. Ideally, you should be able to find other websites, books, articles, etc., that agree with that information. However, be cautious; look out for articles all coming from one website on the same subject (when I was researching a particular water spirit I found five articles giving the same background information on her - however, it turned out they were all from the one website. I couldn't find any information elsewhere on her). You want to look for different and independent resources to cross-reference your information with.
Also look out for repetitive information. Many websites will lift and shift information from others onto their own. If you are searching for a description of the Goddess Brigid, and you can only find three websites which say 'Brigid was a purple haired, yellow eyed vixen with a penchant for the strange and unusual' all using those exact words then chances are they have just copied each other. Unless you can actually trace these claims back to a source, I would be very suspicious about accepting them as fact.
Make sure that you are evaluating the sources themselves. You may have five separate sources that all say one thing, but if they are all from tumblr then again, it can be difficult to know where that information originated. Online resources such as the Royal Britannia are very useful, as are museums and local history societies. You can usually tell the validity of an author by their previous titles and reviews from other authors, especially those considered 'experts' in a particular sector.
This method is also good for helping establish what might be fact and what might just be a practitioners experience. Remember, experience isn't lesser than fact and it shouldn't be disregarded, but fact and experience are two different things.
Yes, research can be long, and sometimes boring. But please don't just read something on Pinterest and take it as gospel. Developing our learing and our understanding is an extremely important aspect of our spiritual growth, as is sharing that information with others. If you do struggle to find sources or aren't sure on the writer's validity, then you don't necessarily need to completely disregard it - it can still be useful, and it doesn't mean it isn't true! But it is suspicious, so take it with a pinch of salt, and be open to be corrected if it does turn out to be less than true.
I also refer to this spell as the 'speed up a situation' spell. It can help when there is something which is blocking progress, or if you are waiting on a decision which needs to be made before you can proceed. It works especially well when used to remove smaller blockages and inconveniences rather than large or more permanent issues - for larger issues, you may wish to repeat this spell over a longer period. Essentially, this is a great little spell to use when you just need to give something a 'nudge'.
All you need is some ice and a bowl - that's it! If you would like then you can also use representations of whatever your situation is to help you focus on your intent. For example, if you are waiting on a decision as to whether your offer has been accepted on a house, then you may want to have a door key present or a picture of the house by the side of the bowl as you perform your magick. This isn’t necessary though, and I have performed this spell successfully just using the ice and my own visualisation.
Place the bowl in the middle of the space you will be working in, along with any items you have gathered around it. Place the ice in the bowl - I just use a few cubes from the ice tray in the freezer - sit, and wrap your hands around the bowl.
Meditate on your situation; what exactly is it that you need to get moving? Are there any particular blockages that need to be removed? Or maybe things are just generally moving a bit slow? The ice will represent whatever that blockage or obstacle is, so make sure you really focus on the ice working as a symbolic representative of the issue at hand.
When you feel ready, say:
‘This ice represents [insert your situation here]
As it melts, so shall that which holds it back.
Any blockages shall be removed,
And a resolution will come soon
Begone all that stands in my way!
Bring me my answers without delay!’
Meditate for a bit longer and visualise any blockages melting away as the ice itself melts inside the bowl. Trust that progress will finally being made on whatever it is you are casting this spell for. I personally like to repeat the chant over and over to help raise power and direct that towards my goal.
You don’t need to wait for the ice to melt. When you feel you have done enough, you can just leave the ice to melt. Once it has you can simply pour it down the sink to dispose of it, or even just leave it to evaporate (I only use three or four ice cubes when I am performing this, and if I leave it overnight the water tends to have evaporated before I can pour it out).
Brigit is a deity I have to admit, I haven't worked with much. This may seem odd as my path is hugely influenced by Celtic practices, and so I was very intrigued to give Mael Bridge's A Brigit of Ireland Devotional a read. For those of you who don't know Mael, she is the founder of a group called 'Daughters of the Flame', who since 1993 have been tending the perpetual flame of Brigit (there is more information about the significance of the perpetual flame within this book). The connection Mael obviously has with the Goddess Brigit is inspiring no matter which deity you work with.
Many who know of the Goddess Brigit will also know of Saint Brigit of Kildare, who is one of Ireland's patron saints. Many believe that Saint Brigit is associated with the Irish Goddess Brigit and that the Saint replaced the Goddess as Christianity grew in Ireland. Some even believe that Saint Brigit was a follower of the Goddess Brigit, whilst some argue that Saint Brigit never physically existed. Christianity and paganism have often had a strained relationship, and it can be hard to reconcile the two, but this is one of the strengths of this book. It takes the Irish Goddess Brigit and Saint Brigit and shows how these two aspects of the same deity can work together to create a figure who can be loved and honoured by all in the modern world.
A Brigit of Ireland Devotional is a unique view into the historically complex but well loved figure that is Brigit through poetry written by the author. It provides a great mixture between historical fact with an extended glossary, pronunciation guide, resource list and bibliography in the book, and the authors own experiences and interpretations. I can't say I've ever read any other book like it - it's honest, inspiring, and very moving.
I'm a very quick reader, and it really doesn't take me long to finish a book. Ever since I was a kid people have been amazed at how I could just devour books! But this book was different; I found it impossible to read each poem without stopping to read it again and soak up the message it delivered. The imagery Mael evokes is enchanting (I especially loved Your People in this regard). It is difficult to read them and not feel the presence of Brigit around you, even as someone who doesn't really work with her all that much (the poem Why I Tend Your Flame is another which I feel deserves a mention in this regard).
I honestly can't find the words to really convey just how beautiful this book is, and how powerful a devotional it is to Brigit. All I can say is read it for yourself - you won't be disappointed. Poignant, raw, and incredibly emotive, this is a must-read for all those who have even a passing interest in Brigit.
For more information on Mael and her work, or to purchase the book yourself, please check out the links below:
Buy the Book:
Paperback: Indiebound - Independent Bookstore Finder
Book Depository: Pre-Order
Indigo Books: Pre-Order
Barnes and Noble: Pre-Order
More From Mael:
Blogs: brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.ca/ and stonebelly.blogspot.ca/
One of the practices I incorporate into my workings is using shells in traditional crystal grids to aid in healing. As a water witch, I love using shells in place of crystals. Below is one I designed for renewal and regeneration after a particularly difficult week at work.
At the centre is a starfish which is known for regeneration. From each point outwards we have some clear quartz crystal to help direct energies, and some blue glass pebbles to help connect with water energies.
Around this we have some cockle shells, to bring contentment and also self-love, as often times difficulties can impact our sense of confidence and self-worth. We have a clam shell to represent grounding and help us find our place in the world, and a limpet shell to help us let things go so we can focus on that renewal. You will also see some more crystals dotted in there; a blue and a green aventurine crystal to bring calm, and the turquoise to again represent water energies and also bring hope.
Finally on the outside we have four small whelk shells, and these are there to help point the energies 'outwards' (or towards the self). I have heard whelks referred to as 'the bullies of the sea', and so they can also represent strength or helping us overcome adversity, as well as bring guidance and inspiration.
This grid brings a subtle yet noticeable energy. It can help us accept that we may be going through a difficult time, but this time right here, right now is for us. We can let go of our worries, let go of our fears, and just enjoy this small period of peace. As it helps us let go, it brings a message of hope; that things will get better, and that we have the strength to overcome any obstacles that life throws at us. It is quite an uplifting and inspiring energy coupled with a peaceful calm; I could have sat there for ages just soaking up its energies! This really is a great grid to help you relax and unwind, let go of negativity, and build the quiet strength you need to face these issues later on. It is definitely one of my favourite grids to use - I hope you enjoy it too!
The Weekly Witch:
Once I week I talk about something 'witchcraft' related I have done with my week. How we incorporate witchcraft into our every day lives is always a topic that has interested me, so I wanted to start this blog to explore it further!