Interview with Penniless Pagan

This week, we’re sitting down with Michaela from Penniless Pagan, who graciously agreed to answer questions about becoming a pagan, retreating to nature and her favorite herbs.

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What brought you to paganism?  Was is it a particular moment of revelation, or a slow progression?

Like many people, I didn’t have the most stable childhood. Right around thirteen things were particularly heinous, and I began searching for something—anything—outside my house to keep me from having to go home. I came upon a really cool metaphysical shop several miles from my house and was immediately enamored with all the beautiful crystals and spell books inside. The owner was super friendly and welcoming, something I wasn’t experiencing at home, so it was nice to just spend a few minutes in a place that wasn’t seeped in negativity. He was so generous he actually approached me one day and said I could borrow any books in the store free of charge! Of course I read anything I could get my hands on!

As I said, thirteen was one of the worst years of my life, and I yearned for some stability and hope. When I discovered Paganism could be practiced alone, I dove in with every ounce of energy I had! Interestingly, this actually caused more strife in my home life, but ultimately gave me the strength to carry on. It showed me there was a reason to keep living, that bad things end and there was a purpose for my existence.

Did you come from another faith or spiritual background?

I was raised Catholic, but beyond bedtime prayers and celebrating the major holidays (basically Easter and Christmas), my family didn’t PRACTICE religion. Sure, they said they were Catholics, but they never went to church. EVER. The sole time I went to church for a Sunday mass was when I slept over a friend’s house the Saturday night prior! Of course, once I proclaimed in a very teenager angsty way that I was Pagan, crap really hit the fan! My mother’s husband even tried to throw me out…at thirteen!Sadly, this attitude wasn’t at all unusual for him. He was extremely abusive.

Ironically, because life is so wonderfully humorous that way, my father was very accepting of my new spirituality and even purchased books to learn more about it. Very interesting considering he was once a catechism teacher and heavily involved with the church! (Before I was born) Nowadays he’s of no particular faith, but he does remember to send me a text on every Sabbat. He’s thoughtful that way.

Fortunately, my family eventually got their heads out of their rears, into some fresh air, and realized I was not worshiping the devil! (For a spirituality that doesn’t even believe in the devil, we sure do get accused of that a lot, hm?!)My mom even transitioned to a blend of Christianity and Wicca years later. As I said, life is funny.

You seem like a practical lady who knows how to throw together a ritual on the go.  What’s your favorite “in a pinch” ritual idea?

Why thank you! =D My first go-to when time is tight is to simply BE! I think the biggest thing we all forget when trying to be “good” Pagans is that there isn’t a rule book! Life is a gift. The Goddess and God (Universe, Divine, etc) want us to enjoy it! So when a Sabbat creeps up on me and I haven’t planned an involved ritual, I simply go outside or to a park or for a hike and just take in the moment. I listen to the wind in the trees. I feel the breeze on my skin. I inhale the scent of the season. I marvel at the beauty around me. As I often say on my blog, the best way to honor nature is to be in nature! There’s no better way to celebrate a Sabbat than appreciating the nature around you!

What do find most challenging about being a pagan blogger?  Do your friends and family know about this side of your life, or are you a quiet witch?

As cliché as it is, I don’t want to disappoint readers.If they’re taking the time to read something I wrote, I need to make sure it’s worth it! It TRULY makes my day if someone leaves a thoughtful comment! It’s not unusual for me to text a photo of a reader’s comment to my husband or best friend with nothing but exclamation points as my message. It’s just SUCH an incredible feeling to know this tiny little post did something for someone. The world is a tough place; we have to help each other out!

My family and friends know I’m Pagan (it’s kind of hard to hide it with a pentacle tattooed on your ankle!). But only my husband and best friend know about PennilessPagan.com. I want to be able to connect with readers without feeling censored, and I just can’t do that if I know family is reading it. It’s kind of odd to say you can be honest with strangers and not your family, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. It comes back to creating healthy boundaries. It took me many years, but I now know who I can bare my soul to and who I need to meter. My family are decent people, we just mirror Arrested Development a little more than I care for!😉

When you retreat into nature, where do you find yourself? 

The woods. Always the woods!

Herbalism is clearly one of your specialties.  If you were trapped on a desert island, what five herbs would you have with you and why?

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to answer this question!!! I LOVE herbalism. Like, if herbs were a movie, I’d be that weirdo that spends two weeks in a tent waiting for tickets to go on sale.

Without question, goldenseal and plantain leaf. Both are amazing anti-infectives, internally and topically! Peppermint for stomachaches and headaches.Slippery elm, which is super nutritious and can be eaten like oatmeal. And chamomile, because if you’re stuck on a desert island I’d imagine you’re a tad stressed! =P

I imagine you probably do some wildcrafting.  What are your favorite items to look for on a nature walk?

Due to his job, my husband and I currently live in a very rural part of New Mexico. This part of the desert receives less than 10 inches of precipitation on year!  (You’ll hear me complain talk about this on the blog from time to time.) Therefore, wildcrafting isn’t as plentiful as I would like, but it’s something I eagerly await once we return to grass and trees.

But the desert isn’t entirely without its perks. One of the gems of the Southwest is the prickly pear cactus. It has this BEAUTIFUL fruit that yields the most gorgeous, vibrant pink juice. The juice is very beneficial for inflammation, which is fantastic because the dust and high winds produce tons of respiratory issues. Of course, it is a cactus so you have to harvest the fruit with thick gloves and pull the spines out with pliers. There’s very little in the desert that isn’t pokey and spiney. That’s why no one calls nature enthusiastscactus-huggers.😉

Anything else random you’d like to tell us about yourself?

I will knock over small children and the elderly to get to baby goats! Just love ‘em!

 Penniless Pagan is a blogger, novel writer, and enthusiastic proponent of affordable, natural living.

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10 Free Ways to Enrich Your Pagan Life

Don’t get me wrong.  As a pagan business owner, I fully encourage an occasional indulgence in witchy treats.  Get that new broom you’ve been eyeing, try the exotic incense blend, go for the gemstone that sparkles pretty.

But I also want the pagan experience to be available and accessible to anyone, at any time in her life, whether or not she has the cash to spend on ritual “luxury” items.  So here’s a quick list of ideas to enhance and deepen your pagan life that won’t cost you a cent.

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1.  Go to the library.  Remember that place?  With the books?  Kind of like Amazon, except it’s free and you’re not stuck with a clunky hardback taking up shelf space after you’re done reading it.  Even in the most conservative parts of the country, most libraries have at least a few books on the subject of paganism, Wicca or the occult.  And if they don’t, be creative!  You can build kitchen witch spells from cookbooks, learn how to raise herbs from gardening manuals, and learn about ancient Roman gods in the world history section.

2.  Meditate.  If you’ve been neglecting your meditation practice, it’s time to get back in the groove.  Even short meditation session of five minutes or less promote wellness of the body and mind.

3.  Check out a public ritual.  Odds are, there’s one within 20 miles of you.  Sites like Meetup.com and Witchvox will help you find “your people.”  With the exception of women’s only groups or other specialty events, most public rituals welcome everyone and are usually free.

4.  Try fasting.  Practiced for thousands of years by traditions around the globe, the spiritual benefits of fasting are almost universally recognized by every major faith in the world.  Unless you are pregnant, sick, diabetic or have another medical condition that might be compromised by a fast, short fasts are safe for most people.  Fasting promotes self-discipline, higher meditative states and can even have health benefits if used in moderation.

5.  Teach a workshop.  Are you uniquely qualified in a particular branch of paganism?  Maybe you know how to make brooms, or when it comes to the Nordic gods, you really know your sh*t.  Share it!  Most event organizers are thrilled to have volunteers, and you learn as much, if not more, by teaching than you do taking a class yourself.

6.  Get crafty.  Challenge yourself to throw together a spell or ritual using only what you have on hand.

7.  Commune with nature.  I mean, duh.  This probably sounds obvious to a community of self-proclaimed nature-worshippers, but be honest: how much time do you really spend outside every day?  More or less time than you spend in front of a screen?  I betting less.  Nearly all of us need more time in the fresh air.

8.  Bond with your familiar.  Whether yours is furry or scaly, take some one on one time to reconnect.  She may have a message for you.

9.  Memorize.  Do you know your astrological signs by heart?  Maybe you’d like to know a piece of pagan poetry by heart to bust out at rituals?  Just taking the time to commit small aspects of ritual life can be rewarding and meditative.

10.  Try Reiki.  Honestly, I personally have no opinion on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Reiki.  My personal experience with it is limited.  But if you are looking for a new spiritual interest, Reiki is safe, and if you’re willing to study on your own, it’s free to learn, requiring few, if any tools to get you started.

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Baby’s First Mabon

With Mabon on the way and its special emphasis on food, it seemed like perfect timing to open my baby’s eyes to the wide world of natural, earthy eating.

As a new mother, I felt intense, surprising excitement at the idea of introducing a little human being to the pleasure of a fresh, made-with-love meal for the first time.

The kitchen witch in me instantly came alive.   I knew immediately that I wanted to make his food myself.  So I consulted many herbalist manuals, international baby food recipes and general meal blessings to make his baby food healthy and sacred.

In many (if not, most) places around the world, food is a deeply spiritual experience that connects us to our life force and links us to the fruits of the earth.  Breaking bread with others in a communal setting connotes a moment of spiritual thanks in many traditions, and paganism is no exception.

We spend so much of our lives preparing and enjoying food—think how much richer if we daily took the time to savor it and honor what it offers us spiritually and medicinally the way so many others do around the world.

I want to instill this sense of gratitude and appreciation in my own child.

Hopefully, when he is old enough, he will even have his own garden to deepen this sacred connection to food, which I discovered much later in life.

During the weeks leading up to Mabon, I decided to experiment with different baby foods, appropriately using the season to introduce the new addition to natural, healthy foods and their meanings one by one, with a “feast” on Mabon of a little of everything.

After reading an enlightening book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion, I decided on the french approach of starting with pureed vegetables rather than the traditional American cereal.

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The cleansing, purifying properties of asparagus blended with the protective but joyful spirit of fresh garden mint in this puree nourishes baby’s body and soul.

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For pagans, medicinal and metaphysical knowledge of plants and herbs is a birthright.  I believe this education begins with the very first foods introduced to a baby.

I have to admit, leeks would not have leaped to mind as a first baby food, but the are apparently rich in folklore and food magick.  In Cuningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen, leeks are identified as

“. . . worn over the left ear [in 12th century Persia] to prevent intoxication.”

Obviously, this is not a typical concern for a baby, but leeks are also used in protection stews or as a metaphysical substitute for onions and garlic.

They also apparently make a great, if unorthodox, introductory vegetable.

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I was pleasantly surprised to learn that babies can eat most herbs and spices.

The spice cinnamon, as well as apples, are symbols of love and affection.  This apple/cinnamon yogurt baby “smoothie” seemed like the perfect Mabon-season treat.

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Even bolder, we tried the traditional Mabon dish of sweet potatoes, but with a kick of curry powder.

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10 Ways to Use Clear Quartz in Wicca

10 ways to use clear quartz in wicca

If you’re into stones, clear quartz was probably one of your first, and if you’ve never been into them, clear quartz is a good place to start.  This versatile, basic gem has a million and one uses.   Here’s a few ideas to make the most of it.

Leave it in the full moonlight to charge.  An easy way to make use of a full moon this month!

Bury it in the garden to bless herbs.  Then challenge the kids to find it in the spring—it’s a great way to get your garden turned over with free labor!

Store one with your tarot cards.  Try this classic method for keeping your deck cleared.

Place one near or on the resting place of a departed loved one.
 Instead of flowers, honor your loved one’s grave site with this simple, spiritual treasure.

Add it to your travel altar.  A pinch of herbs, a simple white tea candle and a tiny piece of natural quartz will turn the smallest space into an instant altar for travel.

Supercharge a mojo bag or spell box.  Include a small piece in any spell “container” for extra punch.

Place next to your bed to “collect your dreams.”  Clear quartz is believed to be a neutral crystal that “stores” thoughts.  Put it next to your bed or on top of a dream journal to help you remember your dreams.

Hang it from your review mirror.  Help to calm your nerves and sharpen your focus during this often stressful part of the day.

Attach one to your pet’s collar.  Send good vibes to your familiar.

Hold it during meditation.  This classic meditation aid soothes and focuses wandering minds.

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Chaos Tarot Spread

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Have things gotten a little crazy lately?  Don’t know which end is up?

Perfect for the seeker feeling a little out of sorts, this spread is designed to help tame the mess and make sense of your surroundings.

1.  Your foundation.  This card represents the most stable force in your life.

2.  The “disrupter.”   Signifies the catalyst of your current situation.

3.   Hidden agenda.   The underlying motives that make up the root cause—whether they   are yours or someone else’s.

4.  The obstacle.  What stands in your way right now.

5.  What your meant to learn.  Represents the test you must pass in order to restore calm.

6.  Who or what will help you.  Signifies who or what you should seek help from.

7.  Final outcome.  How things will ultimately play out if you continue on the current path.

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