Mabinogi Study Group, and Summer Plans

Hello, witches.

About a month ago, I organized the first session of the Mabinogi study group on WitchSpiral PNW, my regional Discord channel for Celtic Polytheist witches in the Pacific Northwest. There’s still time to join us if you’re in the region, and never felt that you quite got all the way through the four branches of the Mabinogi. We’re a small group, and are all learning and supporting each other. Our study includes how to properly pronounce those beautiful, challenging names, as well as examining the story lines to gather historic, magical, and folkloric insights. Check out the details on the Events page.

I’m also excited to report, from quarantine, that I’m moving ahead with plans for some Summer 2020 offerings for Celtic polytheist witches who want to learn how to work in a group. If you’d like to start or join a circle or coven, it’s important to know how to step out of your personal ways of working and build that power in a group.

Speaking of quarantine, if you’re a Pacific NW Celtic Polytheist, consider joining my Discord channel. We are warm, friendly, welcoming, and talk about everything from food to ritual skills to ancestor magic and witchcraft books. Why be isolated during this time? Join us. I promise we’re not scary. OK, maybe sometimes, but in an intriguing way.

Finally, if you’d like to join my old fashioned email list to hear about future events, email me, or follow the blog.

I hope you’re all well, and have stood outdoors under the recent full moon.
-Talasyn

WitchSpiral PNW is moving to Discord

Well, it’s time. I’m building a small, friendly, progressive online community for Pacific Northwest witches who work with Celtic deities, lore, and ritual forms. It’s a new incarnation of WitchSpiral, and if it is a fit for you, you are welcome to join. I hope you’ll consider becoming a regular. Click below to get started. See you soon.
-Talasyn

Witchy / Occult Podcasts

I’ve recently been talking to two witches in my circle about podcasts we each enjoy. For me, podcasts are a favorite way to do some witchcraft “continuing education” on a whole bunch of topics, and to learn more about traditions, practices, and beliefs outside my own little patch.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Down at the Crossroads / The Infinite & The Beyond
Hands down, this is my favorite. Chris Orapello and his wife, Tara-Love Maguire, are trad witches who just published their first book last year.  They invite a pretty broad range of guests to their show, so it’s a great cross-pollination experience. Some of their interviews are stunning. What I appreciate about the host, Chris, is that he gets his ego out of the way, and lets the guests tell their stories. This podcast has been going on for several years.

Missing Witches
This is a brand new podcast that’s just over a year old. The women who run the show tell the stories of a multicultural range of witches, and address some controversial questions with dignity and respect. They ran an episode on Z Budapest, the Dianic witch who paved the way for legal tarot readings in the US, but who is also problematically anti-trans, and managed to present the complexities of this woman very effectively. The production values are great, as well. Check out the episode on Pamela Colman-Smith. 

Rune Soup
I just started listening to this one a few months ago, and like it a lot. Gordon White is an occultist living in Tasmania, and he invites guests from lots of different trads on his show.  

Story Archaeology
This will probably not be new to some of you, as it’s been out for several years.  Isolde Carmody and Chris Thompson have been recording these spirited, wise retellings of Irish mythology for years.  Isolde is taking a break from the podcast for health reasons. 

Blúiríni Béaloidis:  Folklore Fragments

“Bluiríní Béaloidis is the podcast from The National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, and is a platform to explore Irish and wider European folk tradition across an array of subject areas and topics.”  I love this podcast, coordinated by Jonny and Claire, two employees at UCD.  Sadly, Claire recently left the show after what sounded like some friction with her co-host. I don’t know what’s next for the podcast.

Enjoy your streaming.

-Talasyn

Fairy Forts in Folk Tradition

I recently closed down my sacred landscape blog, The Faery Fort, and moved its contents to the CauldronFire Witchcraft site. Let’s face it–it’s easier to manage a single resource, and I find that too much social media drains me. In honor of fairy forts, here’s a podcast on this fascinating topic by one of my favorite podcasting teams @ Blúiriní Béaloidis, with Claire and Jonny from the National Folklore Collection at University College, Dublin.

Claire and Jonny have their own wonderful patter, and this episode is particularly interesting. If you’d like to know more about the intersection between modern life in Ireland and old faery traditions and prohibitions, give this a listen.

Enjoy that waning full moon.

-Talasyn

Pantheacon 2019

It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from Pantheacon, that enormous pagan conference in San Jose, CA.  I had a reservation this year at the Doubletree, and arrived

PCon2019OhloneRegWild
A view of the Ohlone Regional Wilderness from the back windows of the Doubletree Hotel.

fresh from the airport on Friday evening to a scene of complete mayhem.  Three or four suited-up firefighters stood about, axes in hand, adjacent to the registration desk, and fire trucks with flashing lights were visible through the side entrance.  Crowds of Con attendees swarmed the desk, either trying to check in, or trying to find out why they couldn’t get on the elevators to get upstairs to the hospitality suites.  When I arrived at the desk, I gave my name to the clerk, and was horrified to hear that she had no room available for me–in spite of a long-standing reservation.  Whaaaat?  I stayed very calm, and watched while an angry guest cut in front of me and promptly cancelled his room reservation because he couldn’t get on the elevator.  Nice timing.  So, a moment later, unruffled, I had a room after all. I was glad I had stuck to my mindfulness practice.

My room was on the 9th floor, diagonally across from the Coru Cathubodua hospitality suite.  My first thought about the 9th floor was, “oh, great…I won’t get any sleep due to the parties.”  It turned out to be a fun experience, and not as loud as I’d expected.  I unpacked,

AltarPantheacon2019
My simplified Pantheacon altar.

settled in, set up my altar, and set wards on the entrances to help keep the environment calm.  Then I went out to the suites to browse and meet people.

If you’ve been following the controversy swirling around Pantheacon this year, with a few presenters becoming uninvited for reasons that some found spurious, you’ll know that some people were worried about the feel of this year’s event.  I think the numbers were actually down, with about 2000 registered on Saturday morning.  It didn’t feel particularly fractious this year, and I had a lot of conversations over the course of the four days.  Here are a few highlights of the Con.

I attended a session on “How to Start and Run (not Ruin) a Group.”  It was held by Thorn TradWicca-Mooney Mooney, the Gardnerian priestess from North Carolina whose book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide, was just published.  I read it a few months ago, and thought that she had abundant good sense.  She had with her a friend from Maine, Julia, who organizes The Witches of Downeast group.  Their presentation, held in the Northwest Circles  Association hospitality suite down the hall from my room, pulled in about a dozen participants.  While there was the inevitable guest who tried to back seat drive the presentation, the discussion and presentation were useful and highly relevant to the group formation work I’m currently doing.  We’ve all had groups that simmered and fizzled, and some that just imploded.  I particularly liked what they had to say about the utility of Meetup groups, and how they have worked with them successfully.

Selena Fox, the warm, wise elder of Circle Sanctuary, led a midday workshop in the Amici Mortem hospitality suite.  For those who aren’t sure, Amici Mortem means “Friends of Death,” and those friends turned out to be a great deal younger than I expected.  I was older than most of them, and was impressed to hear several people express interest in training as death doulas.  Fox described the establishment of a green pagan burial cemetery at their sanctuary.  She spoke with knowledge, curiosity, an open mind, and a great deal of experience in coordinating the ceremonial elements of death rituals.  If you haven’t met her, Selena Fox is one of the community’s great treasures, and is welcoming and kind to everyone.  I have a particularly fond feeling for her, as my mother used to subscribe to the old Circle Network News back in the 1980s, when witchy publications were scarce indeed!

Coming up next:  Pantheacon, Part II.

-Talasyn

Sacred Sites in Cornwall: St. Nectan’s Glen

I’ll start this post with the disclaimer that I have travelled a number of times to Cornwall, but am very far from having a comprehensive knowledge of the region’s sacred sites.  There are so many things to see.  Here are some of my favorites.

North Cornwall
St. Nectan’s Glen
is located in the village of Trethevy, north of Tintagel, and south ofBoscastle.  There is a small parking lot on the west side of the road where you may leave a car. I passed the glen on an earlier trip in 2005, but in the summer of 2016, while staying in Devon, we made a special day trip.

The path along the gushing stream to St. Nectan's Glen.

You’ll cross the street and walk down a path adjacent to a tiny stone church, and from there, into the woods.  This is pilgrimage at its best on a small scale.  The approach to the glen takes some time, and involves liminal crossings of a gushing stream, and walking on soft duff, muddy lowland paths, and a bit of climbing into the hills.  I savored the walk, and used it as a meditation in preparation for some spiritual work I needed to do.  Upon arriving at the building perched atop the stone cliffs, we paid our admission fee, and were offered some musty wellies from a nearby shed.  (Bring your own if you’re sensitive to mildew!) We slowly descended the stairways, stopping on the viewing platforms to gaze down at the loud, rushing falls.  It is a faery glen, with mosses, ferns, and life sprouting everywhere.  At the bottom, the glen opens out, and the waters are shallow.

My partner examines a log filled with coins.

Let your instincts guide where you walk, and what you do next.  People have filled the glen with an abundance of clouties and other offerings.  I took a long time just standing in front of the spectacular round opening in the stone at the base of the falls, my glasses fogging from the spray.  Something in me cracked wide open, and I enjoyed a mystical unbinding of some energies that had been very stuck before.  This moment set the tone for the next three weeks of our

Stand in front of the falls and take your time.

pilgrimage. When we were ready, we made our way back to the entrance, returned our musty boots, and walked back along the stream, down through the woods.  On the return visit I felt so light and full of joy.  It was indescribable. 

I live in Oregon, and there are dozens of spectacular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.  This was a different experience entirely, with the spirits of the place speaking very strongly and benevolently.

I’ll add a great deal more to the Cornwall page over the coming weeks.  This is just the beginning.  Next up:  The Rocky Valley, the labyrinths, and that wild saddle of rock, Tintagel.

 

Winter Rituals and Folklore

Back in the 1990s I participated in mummers groups at Reclaiming Tradition witchcamps in British Columbia.  Combining my fascinations with folklore and ritual, mummers plays and costumed evocations were sometimes remarkably potent, memorable events.  For this reason, I love to see folkloric celebrations taking place during the dark times of the year.  Here are a few videos worth a look.

The Mari Lwyd is a tradition seen in South Wales around Christmas and the twelve days of Christmas.  Featuring a decorated horse skull, often with a mobile, clacking jaw, with the “horse” clad in white, and accompanied by a costumed retinue, the Mari Lwyd makes house visitations, with the retinue striving to be invited in.  Sometimes there are traditional songs, an offer of hospitality by the people at home, or a rhyming contest.  See for yourself how this tradition has recently been revived in a local school in Wales.

A spookier and more disturbing tradition comes from the Alpine regions of Germany and Austria.  Perchta (plural: Perchten) is a folkloric woman, possibly related to the Goddess Holda, who visits homes between Christmas and Twelfth Night.  She knows, like Santa, whether you’ve been naughty or nice.  This crew of antlered Perchten is from the Tirol region of Austria, and is creepy, wonderful, loud, and decidedly ancient AND postmodern.  Take a look.

A joyful Twelfth Night to you all.

-Talasyn