Ostara is the Spring equinox, the second of the fertility festivals, and usually falls around March 21st. The sun has been growing in strength and the days becoming longer. The spring equinox represents the point where day and night are of equal length, before the days officially become longer than the nights. The promise that was made at Imbolc is being fulfilled, and the flourishing of the earth can already be seen, with the earliest of spring plants starting to bloom.
This is a festival of fertility, where we celebrate the plants, and the crops that are about to grow. Eggs are an important symbolism at this time, as they represent fertility and new life, as is nurturing that which has just been brought into the world. At Imbolc we sowed the first of our seeds, and will continue to do so as the conditions demand; for example, many vegetables require planting around about March/April time. It is important for many seedlings to keep them warm and covered, especially against the frost. This is easier said than done, as with the effects of climate change, we are becoming more prone to later frosts. However, this care and compassion is necessary to ensure a successful harvest later on.
This festival is often associated with the Germanic Goddess Eostre. But who was she? And, possibly the most pressing question, was she 'real'? Or made up by an 8th Century Saint?
There is no reference to Eostre in pagan sources. The only reference to her is from Saint Bede in his 8th Century works De temporum ratione (The Reckoning Of Time). In his works, Bede discusses the names of the months as referred to by the indigenous English peoples through the following translated text:
Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a Goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.
This is the one time up until this point that Eostre is mentioned. There are no inscriptions, no depicitions, nothing. This has lead some scholars to believe that Bede invented Eostre, or at the very least took some 'creative licence' in basing her off of other deities.
In 1835, Jacob Grimm entered the fray with his own view on Eostre. Here are some of the passages taken from some of his writing about the Goddess:
We Germans to this day call April 'ostermonat', and 'ostarmanoth' is found as early as Eginhart [a Frankish scholar]. The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name 'ostara'...it is mostly found in the plural, because two days...were kept at Easter. This 'Ostara', like the [Anglo-Saxon] 'Eastre', must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.
Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian's God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy ... Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing ... here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great Christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess.
But if we admit, goddesses, then, in addition to Nerthus, Ostara has the strongest claim to consideration. To what we said on p. 290 I can add some significant facts. The heathen Easter had much in common with May-feast and the reception of spring, particularly in the matter of bonfires. Then, through long ages there seem to have lingered among the people Easter-games so-called, which the church itself had to tolerate : I allude especially to the custom of Easter eggs, and to the Easter tale which preachers told from the pulpit for the people's amusement, connecting it with Christian reminiscences.
Grimm's view was essentially that Eostre was a local Goddess based on a more widespread Goddess, and it was Grimm that named this Goddess as Ostara. Like Eostre, it is difficult to tell whether Ostara existed in the wider world, or whether this was all speculation on Grimm's part.
As I said, Eostre and Ostara's validity as 'real', ancient deities that were worshipped and venerated is a hot topic amongst scholars. Other theories around deities with similar names, roots of names, etc. - far too many to go into here. For example, a cluster of place names in England contain a variety of Germanic and English names which include the element 'eostre'. There is no doubt as to the word 'eostre' existing, but whether it was also the name of a Goddess, and a Goddess related with Easter, is still very much up for debate.
However, don't let this stop you from working with this energy! My personal view of deity is that there is one 'universal energy', and that deities are interpretations of this energy - like the faces of a diamond. As such, she is just one face of this energy, and is no less valid. She may very well have existed, or she may well be a retelling of some other ancient Goddess. However, whether she exists or not is an interesting scholarly debate, and one which appears to be very divisive!
16/3/2023 0 Comments
Building Your Own Book Of Shadows
A BoS, or Book of Shadows, is a witches manual. Many practitioners place a lot of importance on their BoS and will spend hours creating elaborate books filled with information. However, there is so much you can include that it can be difficult to know where to start!
One of the main problems when creating a book of shadows is that you are constantly learning. If you start with a fancy notebook and write what you've learned about tarot, and then move on to write about what you have learned about bird divination, chances are that at some point in the future you are going to learn more about tarot. Then your only option is to either pull the book apart, or add another tarot section, and the whole thing can become messy and out of synch.
For this reason, I personally prefer to build my own with 'loose' pages. I actually learned book binding for this very purpose! But remember, as you learn your BoS will also grow, so it is probably best to go for a format that allows you to add and remove pages.
Similarly, when it comes to how you decorate your pages, remember you are probably going to amass a lot of them! I made the mistake of starting off using a fancy sort of paper which then went out of print and struggled to find a replacement. Another thing I do recommend if you are looking for something with a bit more of a design is to take a look on Etsy or similar for blank, printable pages with designs on which you can then print on to blank paper of your choosing and write over.
Or maybe you want to go completely modern and just have a digital book of shadows? There are many reasons that a digital BoS could be preferable; it's cheaper, easier to access on the go, and you have more freedom to add and remove pages as you go. There are definitely benefits to having a digital BoS, but for a lot of people (such as myself), creating a physical BoS is personal, creative, and fun!
Once you have decided on the format of your BoS you need to think about what to put in it. Again, with the more you learn, the more you will want to add, and potentially remove. Your BoS should mirror your own experience, and again this is another area where we can become overwhelmed. It can be very tempting to add information about tarot even though you have never studied tarot, just because you feel like you should. If you go down this route you will find it becomes very time consuming, and again once you actually decide to start learning tarot you will learn a lot more information that you will need to add in, or could even make the original information you added redundant.
Another aspect you need to consider is do you just want to contain 'factual' information, or do you want to include your own experiences? For example, using tarot again, do you want to include different spreads, but do you also want to record all of your individual tarot readings alongside it? Do you want to write a bit about a specific deity, but do you also want to record any experiences you have with them? I personally keep these two elements separate; my BoS is more of a manual, or reference book, and then I have separate notebooks that I record my experiences in. I've been practising for over 20 years now - if I also recorded every experience or every divination reading I have done, my BoS would be far too large to manage!
Below I have written a list of what you could potentially add to your own book of shadows, and based on the above I recommend that rather than just researching each subject, you make an effort to actually give these things a try. This will also help you weed out what is good, accurate information and what is just fluff - the last thing you want is to be adding misinformation to your BoS! Even this list is just a small drop in the ocean! There will be many, many more things you can add to it.
Elements and elementals
Spells and rituals
Working with guides
Working with spirits
So, in short, here some tips and tricks to help you when creating your own BoS:
1. Go for loose leaf rather than a book with restrictive pages so you can add/remove pages, or a digital version
2. Try and go for a consistant design you can maintain through lots of pages!
3. Decide whether you want to include just factual information or your experience also
4. Try to split it into sections based on the subjects you are writing about
5. Have an active go at everything you are writing about!
6. Include a table of contents
7. Personalise your BoS; this can be through the decoration, or you might want to write a book blessing for the front page or cover
The most important thing is to have fun! Your BoS can become a very personal and important part of your practice that you will grow to cherish, so it is definitely worth putting the effort in.
1/3/2023 0 Comments
Tarot Prompt: The Fool
In an effort to improve my tarot skills, I've been reading Silvia Hill's Tarot for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Reading Tarot Cards, Basic Spreads, and Psychic Development. I LOVE this book! I will do a proper review of it once I have finished it, but one thing I am enjoying is the tale of The Fool's journey through the Major Arcana, and the questions/prompts which are given for each card. So once a week I'm going to post one of the prompts on Instagram and write a blog post with my thoughts on that question/prompt. For the first card in the Major Arcana, our 'leading man' The Fool, our two prompts are:
How might The Fool's journey differ if he were aware of the danger he was in?
What do you think The Fool represents for people in different stages of life?
The Fool is the first card of The Major Arcana and represents new beginnings, innocence, and potential. But what if he knew the dangers he faced? What does he represent for people in the different stages of their lives? Below are my thoughts.
If The Fool had known the dangers he would encounter before he set off before his journey, things may have been very different. He may not have started out at all for fear that where he ended up would be worse than where he started from. And even now, with him having been through that journey and through profound change, do we know for certain he is happier and better off?
If he did still decide to start out on his journey, he may have been a lot more cautious, trying to avoid those dangers. It might have changed his experience completely. But again, can we say for certain that it would have been a better or worse experience than the one he would have experienced if he hadn't known what his original journey would hold?
Or maybe The Fool's journey was set to follow that path no matter what he did? Maybe, no matter whether he had stayed behind or started on his journey, no matter what he did along the way, he would still in some form experience the themes of the Major Arcana on his path, just in different ways? Maybe the themes and opportunities of the Major Arcana are unavoidable in life in some capacity or another (big or small, life changing or life progressing), and it is the attitude of The Fool rather than his physical actions which determine whether he will come out better or worse for the experience?
Would I have the guts to leave everything I have behind for the possibility of something better? I'll be honest, I'm very content with my life, so probably not. Would I look for the positives and the learnings in all of the themes of the Major Arcana if I had no choice but to experience them, rather than trying to avoid them or pretend they aren't happening? Yeah, I like to think I would.
As for The Fool in different stages in life, I touched upon it briefly above. I own a flat, have a decent job, friends, I have published a couple of books and generally don't want for anything. I am very content with my life. With The Fool's journey being unknown and the end consequence of it still a mystery, I probably wouldn't set out on it. If I were in a different position, if I were struggling to make ends meet, didn't have much to my name and little responsibility, then I would be much more open to the journey.
In terms of 'stages of life' I don't see these stages as being age defined, but comfort defined. The happier and more satisfied you are with your life, the less likely you are to want to do anything which could risk it. I know that is how I personally feel anyway. And as discussed above also, sometimes we have no choice but to go through this journey - let's say the death of a loved one, losing your job, etc. In this case, at this stage of life, it becomes more about preserving what you already have rather than chasing something new. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it changes the nature of the fool's journey and his attitude towards anything 'new', 'unknown', or potentially 'life changing'. Again, is this worth risking when you are comfortable with what you have? For me personally no, not if the reward is not guaranteed.
24/2/2023 0 Comments
Book Launch! 'The Water Witch: An Introduction To Water Witchcraft'; A Free Sample
Today is the day! My second book 'The Water Witch: An Introduction to Water Witchcraft' is now available to buy in both paperback and e-book formats! I've been especially excited about this one as water witchcraft is the backbone of my spiritual practice. So, to celebrate, I thought this blog post would be a 'free excerpt' of some of the book.
If you want to know more, check out my insta @thecottagemysticwitch, as I have a lot more informaiton on there about it, including a table of contents and what you can expect to find in each section of the book. But for now, here are some excerpts from Chapter Four: Tools of the Water Witch'.
Chapter Four: Tools of the Water Witch
The water witch tends to use tools as any other witch would. However, often these can be ‘water themed’ to help us connect with water energies - for example, using a wand made out of driftwood or a piece of tree fished out of a pond or river. Whilst there isn’t actually much that a water witch uses that you wouldn’t find in other practices, they might perhaps use some tools moreso than you would find in other practices. Below I will take you through some of the most common ones, and how they are used.
Driftwood: As I mentioned above, driftwood can be used to make wands. It can also be used to create divination tools, charms, or sigils, and is great to carve symbols into. Basically, anything a stick can be used for, driftwood can be used for.
Bottles Of Water: A water witch collects different types of water, and each body of water has its own association (more on that later in the book). Try to use glass bottles as opposed to plastic water bottles. Not only are plastic bottles terrible for the environment, but over time the plastic from these bottles can leach into the water. But trust me when I say that you will never have enough bottles, so start building your collection now!
Hag Stones: Hag stones are stones with natural holes in, and are most often found on the beach or near large bodies of water. They have a rich history in folklore and tradition, but most commonly hag stones can be used to bring luck and protection. They are often worn as charms or used in magic. I have a large hag stone I found on the beach which I anointed with protection oil, and now sits by my front door to protect my home.
Sea Glass: Again, often found on the beach, it is formed when pieces of glass are smoothed by the salt in the sea. Sea glass can be of any colour, and these are useful to use as colour magic correspondences, to draw symbols and sigils on for charms and divination tools, or to decorate an altar. I also find that they make good offerings for sea deities, and pieces of sea glass are a glorious find.
Sand: Collected from the beach where it has been exposed to the water, most sand contains tiny little particles of minerals such as quartz, garnet, black tourmaline, and beryl (amongst others). The breaking down of these minerals and other things which eventually form sand is not a quick process - some sands are as old as 4 billion years! As such, sand can be used to represent the cycles of life, transformation, and anything to do with the past such as ancestor, or past life work. The sands also act as a barrier between the land and the sea, and as such can be seen as a barrier between worlds.
Mermaids Purses: Mermaids purses are the egg sacs of certain sea creatures such as the skate. They are black/brown rectangular ‘pods’, with a tendril at each of the four corners. These are very much like ‘chicken eggs’ to the water witch, and can be used in magic around fertility. As the word ‘purse’ may indicate, they are also associated with abundance and money magic.
Bladderwrack: Bladderwrack is a type of seaweed. It can be used to protect those who are sailing or flying over the sea. It is also associated with the moon and lunar energies, and despite its appearance can also be used in beauty magic.
Bladderwrack is also said to aid in weather magic. One can conjure a storm by waving it in a circular motion above their heads. It can also be hung outside of the house to help predict the weather. If the weather will be warm and dry then the bladderwrack will stay dry and crisp. However, if rain is on the horizon then the bladder wrack will turn moist.
Other uses for bladderwrack include in abundance magic and spells concerning business, financial security, helping to remove negativity, and to aid in otherworld travel.
Lotus Flower: The lotus flower’s roots are submerged in the mud and during the night it submerges down into the water. The next morning it will bloom back above the water, and then disappear back down at nightfall. As such, it is often associated with life, growth, and rebirth, especially in a spiritual sense. The Egyptians believed that the lotus had the power to bring the dead back to life in the form of a lotus flower themselves, and in Hindu tradition it is said that the Gods sit on lotus thrones.
The individual colours of the lotus also carry specific meanings. For example, the yellow lotus is associated with spiritual ascension and religious belief, and the white lotus is associated with purity, balance, faith, beauty, wealth, knowledge, and fertility.
Reeds: The reed is one of the plants/trees associated with the Irish Tree Ogham. It has had many practical uses, such as being used as flooring or roofing. You can soak them in fat to create candles, and it is still used today to make instruments.
Reeds can be used for purification and protection, and to rid yourself or your space of negative energies. It is also associated with being proactive and helping you find your purpose.
Of course we can’t write a whole book about water magic and not include a section on seashells. There are many different types of seashells, and many have different properties. Think of them as the crystals of the sea in a sense, for they can be used in the same way. As you might carry around a piece of citrine in your purse to ensure wealth and abundance, you might instead carry a small cowrie shell. One of my favourite ways to use seashells is in ‘crystal grids’, but replacing crystals with shells. I use these mainly for healing purposes and find them to be extremely effective. For example, a grid consisting of a starfish, clams, cockles, limpet shells, whelk shells, and clear quartz crystals is great for bringing relief and renewal after a period of difficulty.
Below is a look at some of the more common types of shell and their associations. If you head to the beach to collect shells, make sure you leave enough for the local wildlife - many small creatures use shells as their home. Make sure to also check restrictions in your area, as some places prohibit the removal of shells and such from their beaches.
Some shells can be difficult to tell apart. The conch shell and the whelk shell are two which are often confused, so make sure you do your research. Take into account your location and the environment around you; for example, conch’s are generally found in tropical waters whilst whelks are found in more temperate waters. Sometimes this might be the only way in which you can identify that shell you found, so pay attention.
I also recommend working with any shells you find and learning what their associations mean to you. When I first started out, I read that the ark shell was great for inner reflection. So, after a particularly bad day at work I did a smoke cleanse on myself using some ‘ocean wind’ incense, and then sat down to meditate with an ark shell. I wanted to reflect on the day, what had gone wrong, and what I could do in the future to ensure it didn’t happen again. However, the ark shell had very different ideas. I felt a very masculine energy from it, and it was one of acceptance and moving on rather than reflecting. It told me that what was done was done; there was no point in dwelling on it, tomorrow was a new day, and I had the strength to ensure that I didn’t let one bad day get me down. This was quite a surprise considering everything I had read about the ark shell. So, don’t take what I have written here as gospel. You may find the shells speak to you differently.
Abalone: Commonly used as a smudging bowl for those who practice smudging, it is also associated with healing, prosperity, and abundance.
Ark: The ark shell has quite a masculine energy, and can help us feel stable and secure. It allows us to put the past behind us and move forward with strength and determination.
Auger: The auger shell promotes focus and clarity, as well as protection.
Carrier: Carrier shells are fascinating. Often the creature inhabiting this shell will cement other shells and small stones to the edge of this shell as it grows, and there are some beautiful ones out there. As such, the carrier shell is associated with abundance, growth, development, and creativity. It can be useful to those who wish to come ‘out of their shell’ or explore their own personality, individuality, or creative expression.
Clam: The clam has many different associations; these include communication, grounding, healing, love, purification, emotional protection, and helping us connect with the world around us.
The Water Witches Altar/Shrine:
I’ll preface this by saying, you don’t need an altar. It isn’t a requirement. For years I didn’t have a permanent altar or shrine set up. I moved around a lot, often living in pretty bad rented accommodation and with people I didn’t know too well, so my ‘house’ was pretty much just somewhere to sleep. I much preferred to be out in the forest or parks and working magic discreetly. Now I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I have my own space and feel comfortable having one displayed. However, if you live in shared accommodation without much privacy, or are trying to be more low-key in your practices for whatever reason, then don’t feel like you need to have one prominently displayed. If you do want an altar or shrine, even just a small lay out on the edge of a desk can work. One of the great things about water witchcraft is that many of the tools we work with can be seen as nice little decorative pieces; statues depicting mermaids, seafolk, and other mythical creatures, shells, bottles of sand, etc.
Whether you want to go all out for your altar or shrine or go for something a bit more discreet, what you display on your altar is completely up to you. Every witch's set-up is different, and should represent them and their beliefs. The water witch is no different.
There is a subtle difference between an altar and a shrine. An altar is generally a place where practical workings take place; it holds your tools and other more general magical items (such as representations of the elements, spell jars, herbs, crystals, etc.), and many witches perform their rituals and spells at their altar. A shrine is usually dedicated to a specific deity, spirit, your ancestors, etc. It acts as a space of worship, containing statues, offerings, and anything that reminds you of that which you have dedicated it to.
Below are some items you might find on the water witches altar or shrine. Of course, add whatever feels right to you, but the below might provide you with some ideas to get started with.
As you can see, there are many different tools that the water witch could use in their practice. Have a think about the tools you already use in your practice and whether you could incorporate more water inspired versions. For example, if you read runes, could you collect some light coloured shells or pebbles from the beach and draw your runes onto them? If you enjoy working with colour magic, could you incorporate different coloured sea glass into your practice? Even small things, such as swapping out your shower gel for one with a scent more closely associated with water such as coconut, or a soap which contains seaweed, can boost your connection to water energies.
Have a think about whether you do want any sort of dedicated space, and if you do, will it be an altar or a shrine? Once you have made this decision, take your time and design your own altar or shrine. If a shrine, is there a particular deity or spirit you want to dedicate it to, or maybe you just want to dedicate it to water energies in general?
Decide what you want on your altar or shrine. You might want to sketch out a rough idea of how you want it to look, or you might just want to dive straight into it and let your intuition guide you in regards to what to include and how to display it. This space should be a reflection of your inner witch, a sacred place, so treat it with love and respect.
Having spent a week snowboarding out in Andorra, I thought it would be fitting to do a post on the Gods, myths, and legends of the pyrenees mountains which run through Andorra.
Andorra is a small principality (a country governed by a Prince or Princess, although these roles are honorary) between France and Spain, and shares the Pyrenees mountains with several other countries. Despite its small size (a population of less than 90,000), it is one of the oldest countries in the world, dating back to 803 AD. As such, there is a wide range of myths and legends pertaining to these mountains, and these can differ from region to region.
The Pyrenees has captured the imagination for thousands of years. With its rugged, breathtaking landscape it is difficult not to see where myth and mystery abound in its snowy peaks. In fact, some of the most well known myths of the Pyrenees actually comes from Ancient Greece and revolves around the creation of the mountains themselves.
In one version of the tale, Pyrene was the daughter of King Bebrycius, and lover of the Greek hero Hercules. She gave birth to a serpent like monster and was so terrified she fled into the woods where she died. Stricken by grief, Heracles built a tomb by piling rocks on top of one another, and this became the Pyrenees mountains, named after his love.
In another version, Pyrene was the lover of Hercules but abandoned by him, which is why she fled into the forest where she succumbed to her death, devoured by wild beasts.
In another tale, there was a three headed creature named Gerion who gained control of the Kingdom of Tubal (Spain). This creature was in love with Pyrene, but she in turn was in love with Hercules. Fearing for her life from this terrifying monster, Pyrene fled. When Gerion failed to find the princess, he set the whole area on fire, despite knowing that the princess would most likely perish in the flames. The fire spread and destroyed everything in its path, with entire villages being utterly destroyed.
Surrounded by flames and knowing death was near, Pyrene screamed for help. Hercules heard and ran to the princesses rescue, but was too late. He then built her tomb out of rocks, and this became the Pyreneese mountain range.
Other tales from the Pyrenees describe the mountains as giants. This isn't unique to the Pyrenees, but it was said that the highest peaks of the mountains were actually sleeping giants, and their laments could be heard on the storms, specifically the Aneto summit in Spain. Another myth holds that the Puigmal summit is actually a human, whose presence guarded and protected the natural mountainous environment.
Other creatures can also be found in tales from this area. Tantugou, who is known throughout the Louron and Larboust valleys was a figure who protected shepherds and their herds. He was depicted as a tall, bearded man who dressed in a hooded tunic with animal skins, who carried with him a club. There is some debate as to whether he was a God or some sort of other being - accounts differ depending on the source.
There was the Basajun, which translates as 'wild Lord', who despite also being a protective figure was more feared due to his human/animal cross appearance.
Then we have the Drac, who was sometimes described as being dragon like, sometimes like a leprechaun, and was actually a form that the devil took in order to lure people away. From the lakes and rivers which run through the Pyrenees we have the Duanas d'aiga, feminine water spirits akin to mermaids or the fae who could be spotted in these bodies of water before they retreated to the caves they lived in.
As well as creation stories and mythical creatures, several deities have also been associated with the Pyrenees. Thanks to various inscriptions and other historical evidence, we know of roughly 45 deities associated with the pyrenees. Some of them are only mentioned the once, such as the God Xuban. Of these deities, it is difficult to be able to discern much about them. However, it is worth noting that similar names pop up. For example, at Escugnau (in the Val d'Aran), an inscription can be found dedicated to Iluberrixo. This name resembles other deity names, such as Iluron or Ilumber, and even some Pyranean Roman towns such as Illiberis. As such, it has been wondered if rather than separate deities, these are all in fact one deity who has been adpoted and adapted slightly across different regions and dialects.
The most well known of these is the God Abellio (also known as Abellion), with roughly eight insciptions being found dedicated to him. One of these depictions can be found on the Croix de Beliou. This is a stone cross, believed to be the grave of Millaris, a 1,000 year old patriarch who can be found in tales from across the region. Historians believe that he was a solar God, or possibly associated with apple trees, and he is often spoken of in the same vein as the Roman Apollo, and also the Celtic Belen (Belenus). However, it is worth noting that Abellio is only attested among the Aquitani, a people neither Greek nor Celtic.
This is just a very brief snapshot into the myths and legends of the Pyrenees mountains - there is a lot more information out there, but for now I thought this was an interesting insight into a culture which is never really spoken about in much detail.
2/2/2023 0 Comments
The Water Witch's Imbolc Kit
Imbolc is a time of hope and renewal; the sun is starting to warm the land, the seeds of creation being sowed, and the rains bring nourishment and life to the lands. I've usually found Imbolc a quiet affair, and one which I prefer to observe by myself. Unfortunately when the Sabbats fall on weekdays (like this one), I find it difficult to find the time to do anything too ceremonial. However, there are some small yet meaningful actions you can take to celebrate this Sabbat!
Celebrating Sabbats which seem to have such an earth and fire focus can feel misplaced as a water witch. But never forget, the waters are needed to bring life into the world. Life originated in the waters of the world, and so don't underestimate it's importance or its place in the Sabbats. Below are some quick and easy, water based ideas, to help you celebrate Imbolc.
The water witches Imbolc tool kit:
Cockle Shells: Represents opportunity and new beginning
Green Aventurine: Represents opportunity and abundance
Amazonite: Represents peace
Pine Needles: Represents hope and new beginnings
Lavender: Represents hope and peace
Rose Petals: Represents peace
Rose Quartz: Represents peace and comfort
There are a few ways you can use these items to help you celebrate Imbolc. Below are just a few, but feel free to come up with your own!
15/1/2023 0 Comments
The Cult Of Mithras
This weekend I fancied getting out and going to a museum, and luckily living near London there are lots to choose from! A friend suggested the London Mithraeum, a free museum housing the ruins of the Roman temple of Mithras. Mithras is a God I had vaguely heard of, but knew absolutely nothing about, so it immediately piqued my interest.
The museum itself is free, although it isn't a museum as such; there are the ruins, three interactive stands which tell you about the temple and Mithras himself, an audio talk, and an immersive experience. The whole thing took less than half an hour to complete, but was truly fascinating.
The temple was built around 240AD and dedicated to the young God Mithras - hence why it is called a 'Mithraeum'. The worshippers were an all male cult which spread across the Roman empire between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. By the 5th century AD, the temple had been abandoned, and was later repurposed as a temple to Bacchus. The ruins aren't exactly reconstructed in its original place; they were actually moved, and then moved again, although they are now very close to the original site of the ruins. Worshippers would have gathered in a room attached to the Mithraeum before entering the temple through a narrow doorway. Three steps led down to a nave, and at the end of the temple was a raised dias where the Pater would have led ceremonies. Timber benches were placed in the higher side aisles, and a well was also present in the temple, the water from which would have been used in rituals. Seven pairs of columns separated the nave and the aisles, and it is believed that these columns could have represented the seven grades of initiation into the cult; Corax (raven), Nymphus (male bride), Miles (soldier), Leo (lion), Perses (Persian), Heliodromus (courier of the sun) and Pater (father).
It is believed that the cult worshipped Mithras in the temple for roughly 80 years. When they abandoned the Mithraeum, a group of sculptures were buried beneath the floor, near the door. These were clearly placed there with care and respect, and remain some of the finest examples of Roman sculpture ever found in Britain.
Within the temple there were two main artefacts discovered which give us an insight to the God, and this pieced together with artefacts found across Europe from other Mithraeums tell us all we know about this deity, although that in itself isn't much. It is believed that he emerged as an entirely 'new' deity, but his cult borrowed reconisable motifs, such as his manner of dress, from eastern cultures.
Mithras was often depicted wearing a soft, conical cap which appears to be of eastern origin, possibly Persian. It is very similar to the caps given to Roman slaves on their release from bondage. He is typically shown looking away as he slays the sacred bull, or looking up, perhaps to the sun God Sol.
Mithras and his tussle with the sacred bull is shown on the second artefact found in the temple, the Tauroctony. It would have been the central icon to the cult, given prominence in the temple. He is shown in his distinctive cap atop the bull, his head turned away as he stabs the bull in the neck. It is unknown whether this scene shows a battle or a sacrifice, but either way, it depicts the young God as a hero.
There are other symbols surrounding this depiction. These include the twelve signs of the zodiac, and twin torch bearers either side of him. One of the torch bearers, Cautes, holds a burning torch upwards whilst the other - Cautopates - holds a nearly extinguished torch downwards. It is believed that these represent opposites - sunset and sunrise, life and death, or may refer to the constellation Gemini.
There are also other animals depicted in this scene. A dog licks the blood from the bulls wound whilst a snake reaches up to also join the feast. A scorpion is shown attacking the bulls testicles, whilst a raven, believed to be the messenger of Sol looks down on it all. Scholars believe that this may refer to myths about creation and fertility, or that the animals represent different constellations. Some believe that the killing of the bull represents a ritual sacrifice, with the bulls blood providing nurishment for the world, thus considering it a 'creation myth'.
We also have the depiction of two other deities on the Tauroctony. The naked sun God Sol rides his horse drawn chariot into the sky, whilst a fully clothed Luna - the Goddess of the moon - drives her bull-pulled chariot downwards.
Finally, we have what is believed to be a depiction of the seasons; two Gods with wings on their foreheads, one youthful and shaven believed to represent the warmer months, and one old and bearded believed to represent the colder months.
The Tauroctony is accompanied by an inscription which translates as 'Ulpis Silvans, veteran of the second Augustan legion, paid his vow: he was initiated at Orange [France]'. It is possible that this man was the founder of the temple.
There are no texts that explain the Tauroctony and scholars continue to debate its meaning. Others have been found with small variations in imagery across what was once the Roman empire, signifying regional differences in beliefs and rituals.
As for how, or why Mithras was worshipped, this again is largely known. Archaeological evidence suggests that worshippers consumed chicken, wine, and honey, which was also used in cleansing rituals. Evidence also indicates elaborate initiation ceremonies which may have included chanting, shouting, music, and the burning of pine cones as a form of incense.
So whilst Mithras remains a mystery, if you are in central London and get the chance to visit the London Mithraeum, I highly recommend you go and check out these fascinating remains!
It's been a very busy year! As well as launching my 'Art of Lithomancy' book in March, promoting that with various articles, podcast interviews, and even a conference talk, as well as preparing for the launch of my second book 'The Water Witch: An Introduction to Water Magic' in February, and working on my third book, keeping this website up to date and trying to up my social media game, one of my main aims for 2023 was to launch my own range of short course. So I spent a lot of 2022 working on these, and I am happy to announce that today marks the launch of the very first course - Shell Magick!
My original intention was to create enough courses to be able to release one long one, or two short ones a month throughout 2023. Unfortunately, I have just not had the time. It's incredible how much time it takes once you really get into it - the research, the writing, the recording, the video making....it's very time consuming. And to be honest, my recording and video game aren't even to that high of a standard.
If you head to the menu of this site you will see a section called 'Online Courses'. Click on this to be taken to the course page where you can see the courses that have already been released (in this case, just the Shell Magick one for now), as well as the other courses that will be released throughout the year. So if there is anything that takes your fancy then bookmark that page and check back later, or follow me on instagram (@thecottagemysticwitch) for updates as to which course is dropping when.
As someone who primarily practices water witchcraft, most of the courses are water witch themed, but I am hoping that you can gain something from them no matter which path you follow. Some of the courses are just short - 15 minutes to an hour long - whereas some are several hours long and comprise of several videos. The videos are all hosted on Youtube and you can either watch them embedded into the course page, or watch directly on Youtube. On the course page here on the website you will also find word documents you can download with all of the information from the course for you to refer back to whenever you want.
I have tried to make each course as practical as possible, with a mixture of theory and practical exercises, including spells, chants, meditations, and a little bit of arts and crafts thrown in there at some points.
As I mentioned, the quality isn't of the highest standard, but I'm hoping you will cut me some slack as this is the first time I have ever tried making and recording courses such as these! It is definitely something I want to improve on in the future, and I have a lot more courses planned for the future! But the main thing I wanted was to make these free to everyone; if there does ever come a time where I start charging for anything then that money would definitely be used to improve the production quality. But unless anyone finds the quality really that bad, I would much rather have it be a little bit naff but able to offer these for free to you all.
If you do have any feedback then I would love to hear it, the good, the bad, and the ugly! Either use the contact form on this website, or just message me directly on instagram. If you have any ideas for courses, any subjects or topics you would like to see covered, then please just let me know - I'm always keen to get input, and make sure I'm focusing on content people would actually like to see.
Hope you all have a great 2023, and please enjoy the courses!
14/12/2022 0 Comments
Getting To Know Your Pendulum
Those of you who have followed me for a while will know that I don't really get on with pendulums. Tarot, lithomancy, oracle cards, lithomancy, scrying - all of these I can work with successfully, but the pendulum is one I have always struggled with. However, I recently bought a new pendulum and over the past few days I've had much more success with it! It's an amazonite pendulum, and not only is amazonite one of my favourite crystals, but it represents truth, clarity, and understanding our own thoughts and emotions amongst other associations, and so is the perfect crystal for pendulum work.
Like most divination tools, it becomes stronger and more accurate the more attune ourselves with it (or it to us), and I have found this to be more true of the pendulum than any other divination tool. So, what can you do to aid in this process and ensure a harmonious relationship between you and your pendulum? Below are five ideas to get you started; this is by no means an exhaustive list, and you may find that some of these options work for you and some don't. As always, trust in your intuition and do whatever feels right for you.
Again, these are just a few simple ideas to help you on your journey when acquiring a new pendulum, but the most important thing is to have fun! The pendulum is a great tool for helping us understand ourselves as well as divining the future, and so it will react to our moods which is why making sure you are having fun with it is such an important element to pendulum dowsing!
I know I've been a bit lax with the book reviews recently - and blog posts in general! It has been a bit of a manic time, what with (trying) to buy a new flat (yesterday my third one fell through so it's back to the drawing board!), an ever-increasing workload, and preparing for Christmas with my family (which means lots of Christmas shopping!). But I am determined to get back into the swing of things, and what better way to start than with a book I highly recommend; Halo Quin's Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits.
A Pagan Portals book (published by Moon Books) released this year, it's been on my list to review for a while, and I'm disappointed that it took me so long to get around to it! Now, disclaimer; I don't really work with the Fae as such. Many of you will know me as a water witch, and within my practice I work with a variety of water spirits. Can these water spirits be considered part of the Fae family? It is a question I have pondered for a while, and Quin's book really made me consider that on a much deeper level. I came to an answer, but that is a subject for another blog post! But essentially, just because you don't work specifically with the Fae doesn't mean you should discard this book. Many of the ways of working and experiences Quin describes are ones which correlate with my own workings with water spirits, and so whether you work specifically with the Fae or spirits more generally, this book is for you.
My favourite types of books are ones which are filled with practical exercises, so you can learn and experience what the author is describing, and this is one of the reasons I loved Quin's latest offering. This isn't the type of book you read in an afternoon and then put on a shelf to gather dust. Every page is packed with ways you can begin your own journey, meditations and pathworking, and ideas to help you connect with the Fae and spirits. Quin writes in a way which is truly engaging, and her passion for the subject is evident throughout. I found myself reading a chapter and then putting the book down, eager to dive into the exercises listed, inspired by Quin's own enthusiasm to give them a go.
Another reason that this book appealed to me is Quin's balance between historical information and UPG (unsubstantiated personal gnosis). She acknowledges that everyone's path, and experiences, are different, and none are less valid than others. I personally think this is such an important element within pagan practice, and I always find it encouraging to see other practitioners supporting this approach. Related to this is the amount of emphasis Quin puts on doing your own research, and her suggestions on how to find the local resources to do so. I am a big believer in working with your local landscape to deepen your practice and connection with the world around you, and so again this was another element of Quin's book which really resonated with me and my own practice.
This book feels like it is written for beginners, but as someone who has been practicing for over twenty years, I gained a lot from reading it and so would recommend it to those of any level of experience who are looking to connect with the Fae and the spirits around them. This is absolutely worth the read, and I know for certain a book I'll be working with for a while yet!
To purchase a copy of this book, check out www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-folktales-faeries-spirits
Or, if you would prefer to support independent bookstore, then check out https://uk.bookshop.org/books/pagan-portals-folktales-faeries-and-spirits-faery-magic-from-story-to-practice/9781785359415?aid=7835
To find out more about Halo and the other books she has written (and she has some very interesting ones, her Gods and Goddesses of Wales is top of my list to check out next), then follow some of the links below:
Publishers author section: www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/authors/halo-quin
Halo's website: www.haloquin.net
Books by and recommended by Halo: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/Quin
Links to various projects and social media: www.linktr.ee/haloquin
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!