I have been a practicing witch nearly all of my life, I just didn't have a name for it. I have been practicing my own form of Wicca for over 20 years. I am currently the high priestess of my coven and am a legally ordained minister.

May 062011

The mailbox fills with seed and plant catalogs boasting the newest bounty of crops bred and born to meet our modern gardening needs. And I’ll be the first to admit that I browse effortlessly until that unique plant catches my eye. And I will also admit to having shelled out significant amounts of money for these new and unusual varieties and species. But some of the plants that I truly cherish are those that were handed down – the “old world fairy” rose bushes, taken from a house long gone to development; the forsythia bush and lilacs also saved from the very same development; the tomato plants, grown from the lovingly hand-pollinated seed, saved from year to year and given to me by my grandfather. These older variety plants are vanishing from our landscapes as we replace them with the “new and improved” versions. But all is not lost. Heritage societies are preserving our plant diversity, especially older variety plants.

Why is this important? Well, it is estimated that “within 50 years a fourth of the earth’s 250,000 flowering plant species could vanish because of habitat loss.” (National Geographic, Volume 192, #3, September 1997, pg 141.) While this is just an estimate, this loss of diversity could be devastating, not only to the environment, but to humans as well. We could be losing species that hold keys to medical mysteries. In fact, “a Mediterranean vetch yielded a protein that has helped detect rare human blood disorders.” (National Geographic) It really is in our own best interest to save the plants in these seed banks.

There are many seed banks around the world and most of them are working banks. They will send seed samples to researchers in agricultural institutes and universities. There are heritage societies where people can contribute their own heritage seeds and receive other people’s seed in return, in order to propagate these plants in a wide variety of locations. Not only do these plants hold potential value for use in the kind of medical research mentioned above, but some of the older varieties are resistant to the pests, insecticides and herbicides that plague the newer versions of plants. When a set of corn viruses nearly wiped out the crop in the 1970s, researchers were desperate to protect the corn from the main nine damaging viruses. With some luck and some looking, a perennial ancestor of corn, Tao sente, was found in a remote area in Mexico. It was resistant to seven of the nine corn viruses! Careful breeding back into modern corn has resulted in a much stronger, disease-resistant crop. But Tao sente grows only in a small area in a specific habitat. This plant could have easily been lost to us altogether if that very particular habitat had been damaged or destroyed. And along with a destroyed habitat, we also would have been destroying our own chances at survival. I wonder how many other such plants we have already committed to extinction.

So while we may ooh and ahh over the latest developments in plant genetic manipulation and the careful pollinations of plant breeders, it takes a bit more heart to find the value in the older species. The modern designer plants? They have their place. But in my book, they take a back seat to those older varieties which remind us of the strolls in our grandparents’ gardens. After all, haven’t our heritage plants been crafted over time? Do we have the time to recognize that our plant diversity is disappearing? Do we have the heart to save them from extinction – if only for our own sake?

 Posted by at 4:11 pm
Apr 242011

Gaia Invocation for Beltane

The scent of green leaves and blossoms float to us
on sweet breezes this Eve
The luxurious glow of growth and renewal
Reflecting both Brightness and Darkness
A night blessed by sacred joining

You have long been the watcher and guardian of life
And endings
A procession of children who call you home
Hail Gaia, Dance through us
Our souls are moved by Your breath
Our bodies flow with Your blood
Nurturing, Growing, Blooming

Plant Your seeds of knowing within us,
That we may move with confidence and courage

Fertilize our imaginations
Moving us to create our world anew with fresh vision

Sweep clean our doubts and fears
So that we can more fully embrace life and the wonders that it brings

Fill us with Your Love of life
So passion can more fully envelop our being

Be pleased to be with us in our circle
For Your very being is our being
Feeding each other throughout time and space
Blessing All who seek Your Love
So Mote It Be!

Thanking Gaia at Beltane

Hail Gaia

We thank You for Being here this Eve
And we are truly thankful and blessed
By planting us with your knowing seeds
By fertilizing us with imagination
By sweeping clean our doubts and fears
By filling us up with Your love of life
We are reminded daily of our connection to You
Be blessed and honored as we bid farewell

Blessed Be!

© 2003 Sabrae


 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Apr 072011

It seemed back in mid-March we were well on our way to spring – beautiful sunshine, warm weather and the return of thunderstorms, some of which were quite violent. I can’t recall a single spring where we had three instances of hail in a ten day time period.

And then the inevitable setback – cold and snow. Yuck. Now don’t get me wrong, I LIKE cold and snow – in the winter. But this has been a pretty snowy and cold winter, and while I love the quiet stillness, I am ready for spring and growth and action.

Joyfully, the last couple of days have turned back to spring and I’m hoping this time the season will stick with us a bit longer – at least until summer!

While the understory plants have slowly been greening (way too much multiflora rose), not much has been happening with the larger trees – until three days ago. On Monday we had a really warm day as a result of an advancing cold front. Here in Ohio, we get these strong  wind currents that bring up moisture and warmer weather from the south. These are the winds that bring the returning migratory birds. Also, they are often the precursors to some terrifically violent thunderstorms with a temperature drop immediately following. Anyway,  it must have been something in the wind – the warmth – that triggered some of the first large tree leaf breaks –  apart from the very early willows. I love seeing the trees aglow with that yellow-green aura that can only be termed “spring green”.

In town along the Hocking River, the cherry trees are in blossom. It’s a beautiful sight. Also, the other town trees have been flowering – a number of magnolias are just starting the show. Out here in the rural areas, the trees seem ready to flower, but haven’t done so yet. Given the warmer weather forecast through the next week, we’re bound to see some blooming soon. The forsythias are nearly past their peak. And I’m wondering how much longer we’ll have the daffodils and jonquils.

My perennial herbs and flowers are coming back strongly, although some of my thyme might have to be replaced this year. It looks as though this might be the weekend to divide and replant hostas.

Last weekend, in addition to doing some much needed landscape maintenance, we took a trip around the place to clean out and spruce up the multitude of bird nesting boxes that we’ve installed over the years. We can hardly wait for the returning purple martins and tree swallows. The bluebirds should be looking to build nests too, and in the old nest boxes we found remnants of wren and chickadee nests in addition to the others. The local permanent population of Canadian geese have broken up their winter flocks and are pairing up and building nests. Mornings are filled with the sound of the wild turkeys gobbling and drumming – staking out their territories. I have also noticed a considerable uptick in the territorial “drumming” of the various woodpeckers species.

The warmer evenings are also encouraging our local amphibians in singing their songs of love: spring peepers, pickerel frogs and Eastern American toads all fill the void of silence so predominant in winter.

Observing nature in all her beauty, wonder, fierceness and power is an intimate part of being a witch. It’s part of the connectedness thing. For me, spirituality is rooted in connectedness and a big part of that is about paying attention. I’m truly grateful to live in a fairly rural area with such an abundance of plants and critters.

Oh, and before I forget, we also  found our first tick.

Yep, it’s Spring!

Apr 032011

What is leadership? Is leadership about having power? Is it about being the center of attention? Is it about authority? For some people it is all of these and more. But in my opinion, leadership is about taking responsibility. This is a hard lesson for some folks to learn – so hard, in fact, that they never learn it. Choices come from taking responsibility and that is the real power – being able to make your own choices. But the ironic twist is this – being responsible also places boundaries on those choices, because your choices have to represent the good for all, not just what you personally want.

The stereotypical HPS (high priestess) is incredibly psychic, she knows what is going on in everyone’s head, she says jump and everyone does. She is the ultimate authority, never wrong, never with normal human foibles. She is all-wise, all-powerful, at the center of the circle. She directs the power of the circle, because each person raises it and hands it over to her. Many folks who are interested in forming a coven, think that by becoming the high priestess that they will somehow become transformed into this person. (Or if they are incredibly self-deluded they think that they already ARE this person.) They like being the end-all, be-all of their witchy universe. In order to maintain this fiction, a couple of things can happen. I should note that this is applicable to males too. They enjoy playing the high priest, and in the most extreme cases, act as though the high priestess role is secondary or unnecessary. I will continue to write this in the feminine. Just be aware that you could easily substitute HP (high priest) and he/him for the HPS, she/her.

Beware of these Leaders & Structure Types!

Lots o’ Newbies
If you have a lot of people new to the craft, then they generally come in with this preconception of the HPS. The HPS can keep some of her older members by putting them in higher positions or making them her trusted advisors. Basically she needs to get folks to buy into that structure (with her at the top) and she does that by giving them their own positions to protect. This structure can actually last for a while, especially if it is in an area with a very transitory population (i.e. college towns). It usually breaks down when 1) her trusted advisors start challenging her because they want to be at the top or 2) there aren’t enough positions for the newbies to transition into. This structure depends a lot on very delicate balances of power at the top. This balance can turn into a full-fledged struggle for power.

The Weaker the Better?
An HPS can maintain her fiction if she only gathers weak people around her – people who want to be told what to do, how to do it, etc. They aren’t confident in their own abilities and the HPS actively works at keeping them in that space. With lots of weak members, usually the HPS spends a great deal of time and energy in manipulation. What makes these members weak is that they will abdicate all of their power and responsibility to the leaders. The payoff for the HPS? She has created a coven that actually feeds off of her energy!

Form, collapse, form again, ad infinitum…
Some never get it. They form a group. The group collapses. They blame the former members of the group. They try to form a new group. The new group collapses. They blame the latest members. They continue this cycle over and over again. Usually between the group cycles they go through the “I am a proud solitary” thing. This is not to say that being a solitary is not a fulfilling practice, because it is. But they keep coming back to the coven/group formation stage. They desperately need to be at the center of things, thus they keep trying to form a coven to meet their own personal needs. The members in the group eventually come to the realization that the group isn’t there for everyone, it is there for the leaders so they can be leaders. A note here – very often these folks will cycle through different traditions with each group formation. There aren’t enough witches, so they try Asatru or druidism or OTO or CAW or (fill in the blank).


What to Do?

In all of the above instances, there is usually a great deal of psychic vampirism or energy sucking. The leader needs the group because it feeds them in some way. Sometimes it is energy, sometimes it is other things. Look, having a group shouldn’t be a substitute for the missing pieces of yourself. That is something that you need to work on to be a whole, balanced person. People who use groups to avoid working on their weaknesses are hurting themselves and their coven mates.

What is true for everyone else in the coven is the same for the HPS. She should be working on her own issues. Sometimes there is a backlash from the people in her own group who have put her on the pedestal. The pedestal can be quite high and the fall can be quite devastating. And fall the high priestess must, because she is just a human being. Problems can eventually arise when the newer members of the coven come to find out that she isn’t – can’t – fulfill the role of the stereotypical HPS. They become hypercritical because she isn’t perfect – the Goddess incarnate. In some cases the newbie, who always thought that being a high priestess was forever out of reach (because they had very outlandish ideas about what a HPS actually is) then becomes convinced that they are better suited to the job and that they should be the HPS. This is an interesting reversal. The new member does not recognize all of the other skills that come into play when leading a group. Power within and power over are really different things. Sometimes people have trouble distinguishing the differences. They see power over as a manifestation of good leadership and power within as being weak when the opposite is true.

In our group, every member has the right to veto anything. This is truly shared power. Because I do not act as the stereotypical HPS, many people have thought that I am weak, and that the group was just waiting around for them to personally step in and be the leaders. I would laugh if it weren’t so distressing. These folks see the group as ripe for the picking and an easy way to get their own power needs met. They are usually frustrated when they realize that they won’t get their own way.

If you are thinking about becoming the leader of a group, you need to be prepared for what will come at you. Being publicly known can be even worse. It can arouse jealousy and then the rumors start flying. Many years ago, a couple of people started rumors about how terrible of a high priestess I was. They added (big surprise) that they could do much better. They also said I didn’t have any power, couldn’t do effective magick, etc. But then, the same people started rumors that I was causing all sorts of bad stuff to happen – some of it unimaginably bad. They even credited me with causing things to happen that I didn’t even know about until years later. Some of these accusations were very hurtful and were by people that I had really trusted and thought of as close friends. Personally, working through the hurtful feelings and the subsequent damage took a lot of time.

In spite of the hurt I felt, I also thought this was pretty amazing. On one hand I am weak and worthless, and on the other, I can affect all of these lives with my magick!

People can be irrational and personally vindictive. There really isn’t much you can do except to continue to be the person that you are. The detractors eventually run out of steam and hopefully, an audience. Usually they are into some sort of power trip and if they don’t get their satisfaction from you, they will turn their attentions elsewhere. Unfortunately there really are some bad groups out there. But what I am trying to say is that gossip won’t always tell you the truth. Meet folks. Listen to your intuition. Decide for yourself.


Why Bother At All?

With all of this said, you might wonder why someone would even be a HP/S. I guess I would have to say it depends on where your gifts are. Some people are just naturally good at handling leadership roles and developing/running rituals. I used to think that anyone with the right training could handle the ritual end of things. I don’t believe that anymore. I have seen rituals from many, many different people – from complete beginners to experienced, trained ministers and just about everything in-between. I have found that more training does not necessarily mean better ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I think that people can always improve these skills. But it does seem that some folks have a natural knack for it and others don’t. Creating a ritual is not simply about writing down some words and assigning some parts. (Alas, this is another essay!) Also, dealing with group dynamics is part of the skills necessary for facilitating a group. Being able to teach is very important too. In Janet and Stewart Farrar’s book, A Witches’ Bible they state that, “She [the high priestess] is expected to be a combination of teacher, psychiatrist, nurse, mother-confessor, referee, scapegoat and reference librarian.” When I read this description I smiled, because of how close to the truth it is. It doesn’t mean, though, that a HPS can do all of these equally well, just that she has to do it at one time or another, and hopefully with some success.

Mar 272011

The grass is greener and warmer days full of sunshine fill our senses. I can’t help but think about the garden returning to life and the future garden that I will be planting. With that in mind, you might want to think about all of the possible uses of that future plant material. Think now what you will want in the coming year, so that you can plant wisely. Here is a brief list of all of the various types of ways to use herbs magickally around your house, home and ritual spaces.

One extra note: be careful when using oils and such that will go on your skin. While the scents of cinnamon and citrus can be uplifting, some of these oils can be highly irritating. When in doubt, leave it out – or at least make sure it’s highly diluted. Also, what is totally acceptable for one person may be really irritating to another.

Altar Decorations/Arrangements
Whether a simple vase of flowers and herbs or more elaborate wreaths, choosing plants for their energy can be rewarding. These can be made from fresh or dried plant material.

Mixtures that are put together in a cloth, pouch, mini-bag, etc. for a very specific purpose. These are then left in an appropriate place.

Bundles of herbs that are used to sprinkle salt water in a ritual or around the home in purification.

Mixtures of fresh or dried herbs or oils to create magickal baths. Oils can be added to mixtures of epsom salts and baking soda to create wonderful bath salts. Don’t forget to use a tea ball, cheesecloth, or something else to keep your herbs from going everywhere!

Herbs steeped in water and breathed in for a particular purpose. These can also be sprinkled using aspergers or dispersed in a spray bottle. These are like teas except they generally are not ingested. While not really a “brew” because there is no steeping, a version of this is to put a few drops of essential oil into water, shake it really well, and use it in a spray bottle to bring wanted energies into your space.

Dream Pillows
Herbs stuffed into pillows for a particular purpose; better sleep, psychic dreams, vivid/lucid dreams, etc.

Herbs and plants can bring specific energies into the food that we eat.

Is a broad catagory that encompasses many different techniques. Do not self-dose or self-medicate without being under the supervision of a professional!!! Also, don’t eat any plant unless you absolutely know that it is safe!

Burning plant materials for a specific purpose. People are most familiar with sticks and cones, but these can be time consuming and messy to make. Try getting incense burning charcoals and putting the plant materials/oils directly on the hot coal.

Especially potent if made specifically for certain spells. Locally, we use pokeberries (or ink berries) to make magickal ink. But it is poisonous, so don’t use it on any spells you plan on eating!

Herbs/oils mixed into some kind of fat/lard/beeswax.

Used for anointing people, candles or objects. Usually a scented base oil. Please, use only essential, “authentic” oils. While synthetic ones are cheaper, they don’t actually contain the energies of the plant. If the oil is listed as a perfume oil, it’s probably not real.

Finely ground materials sprinkled on an altar or ritual space to add energy to the working. Be careful that your powders don’t contain ingredients that will stain!

Attractive mixtures of scented, usually dried, plant materials. Can be simmered to release scent or used as a dry mixture.

Herbs and oils can be either introduced in soap made from scratch or can be added to commercial Castile or other unscented soap that is “melted down”. Note: Castile soap can be very drying and a bit harsh – so you may want to add a cosmetic oil to the soap. Almond oil or Jojoba oil are good choices. You can also buy glycerin soap and add your own twist to it.

Steeped herbs/plant material that is then ingested.

Plant materials are soaked/infused in an alcohol base. The energies are released into the alcohol and the plant material is strained.