What’s New at Moody Moons?

As autumn makes its official debut, Magical Moody Moons presents fresh offerings from the handmade workshop, including a new line of jewelry (more to come!), totem oils and of course, Moody Moon’s signature Samhain items.

Click on the photo to be redirected to the product page for more details!

Back in stock!  Samhain oil!

As dark begins to overtake the light, the witch’s festival of Samhain approaches.

This spicy aromatic oil is blended with organic essential oils and herbs chosen especially for this sacred festival. Steeped and finely strained in a rich olive oil base.

The charm tied to the neck symbolizes the crow, which is said to carry messages back and forth from this world to the world beyond.

Bottle is approximately 4.5″ tall.

Are you a fire sign? A red-headed witch? Someone who considers the fox a personal totem? Or maybe you’re just in need of some of the smokin’ hot, fierce energy in your circle?

Introducing Fox Oil, the first in Moody Moon’s new line of totem oils.

Enjoy the spicy, evocative scent of essential oils chosen for their sacredness to the fox and steeped in an olive oil base.

Use this oil to anoint candles, gemstones and altar items, or burn it to fill your sacred space with the awesome energy of the crafty, wise fox.

Jar is approximately 3.5″ tall.

It’s mid-harvest season, and as the smell of wood smoke and falling leaves fills the air, it’s time to turn our attention inward for personal reflection.

This handmade blend of fall herbs, botanical oils and aromatic spices, including orange peel, dried apple, cedar, rose and thyme is specially crafted to fill your sacred space with the essence of autumn and the Wiccan harvest festivals Lughnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain or Spirit Night.

Place mixture on a charcoal burner in a fire safe dish during meditation, scrying, divination, spell casting or ritual celebrations during the Harvest Season.

Please use caution as the herbs sometimes spark when burned!! Never leave this or any other loose incense unattended.

Jar is approximately 2.5″ x 3″

Gorgeous drop earrings with turquoise and om pendants.

Reputed to emanate natural “chill out vibes,” turquoise heightens spiritual awareness and brings the mind and body into alignment.

Om is an ancient mystical Hindu symbol of a sacred mantra used in scripture, before meditation and during spiritual rites.

Alloy-free, fishhook ear wires.

Drop length: Approximately 3″

Free domestic shipping on all US orders for this item.

Earrings made of the most serene, soothing gemstone in world!

Lapis lazuli’s brilliant, deeply saturated indigo-blue color appeals to the eye and the spirit.

Wear them to sooth frayed nerves, open the third eye and release negativity.

Points are about 1″ long. Earrings have about a 2.5″ drop length. Alloy-free fish hook ear wires.

Free domestic shipping to anywhere in the US.

Moody Moon’s introduces cloth menstrual care.  Don’t be scared!  It’s no big deal!


This 11″ reusable cloth menstrual pad makes a perfect addition to your stash for overnight needs or heavy flow days.

Choose from floral/fuschia or adorable fox pattern on the pad with contrasting orange arrow/zigzag pattern on the wings.

Topped with 100% cotton, terry cloth soaker/absorbent core and backed with PUL (waterproof fabric). This PUL is a little more breathable than some of the more waxy PUL fabrics.

Wings are fully lined with soaker material.

Hand-executed whip stitch on pull-through seam.

Snaps are sew-on (as opposed to the machine embedded snaps).

Pre-soak in cold water to avoid staining, but otherwise, you can feel free to throw this pad in your washer/dryer.

If you haven’t yet made the switch to cloth pads, this one makes a nice starter pad to try. One cloth menstrual pad replaces up to 300 disposables.

This set of two regular absorbancy gray and white polka dot cloth tampons are made of 100% natural cotton flannel with an organic twine pull string.

If you haven’t made the switch to cloth, this set makes a perfect introduction. Everyone thinks cloth menstrual care is “a little too much” until they try it and get hooked!

Unlike designs that are sewed rolled, “roll up” design makes them easy to get them clean for reuse.

Simply roll them tightly before use, then unroll to wash.

A cold water rinse before washing is recommended to prevent staining.

 

 

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Pagan Travel: The Green Witch’s Guide to Costa Rica

 

(For all my posts on pagan-inspired travel destinations, click here.)

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In Costa Rica, the locals say, Pura Vida.

Roughly, this translates to “it’s all good,” “no worries,” or even “hello.”

Pura vida, like so many of the best expressions, renders no true equivalent in any other language.

But directly translated, Pura Vida means “pure life.”

When I think of Costa Rica, I think of the pure life, and all the things I love about the wild, breath-taking, adventurous spirit of this beautiful country.

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Costa Rica appeals in particular to Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) and anyone who identifies as a green or Hedge Witch.

Boasting some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, the green witch will marvel at the lush, tropical cornucopia of plant life, and the impressive local knowledge of its medicinal and spiritual values.

 

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The drainage pipe in the upper left of this photo is part of an ingenious system that collects rainwater, redistributing it for use in the beautiful pools and fountains of this guesthouse hotel.

 

Every place vibrates with a certain energy.  This energy is both static and infinite.

As individuals, we “read” this energy and experience it according to our beliefs, impressions, state of being and the context of our lives.

For me, Costa Rica means rest, rejuvenation, and purification.

Perhaps because I love me some spa time.

The ritualism and use of natural herbs and oils to honor the body as a temple deeply to my pagan self.

Costa Rica’s unique access to botanicals combined with its world-class service industry makes for some of the most amazing, quality massages and spa treatments available at a price much more affordable than Europe or the US.

It’s not impossible to score an top-notch facial for $15.

I especially enjoy making magically meaningful beauty treatments at home, so I brought this recipe home for my green witches on the Stateside:

Mint Chocolate Face Mask

*greek yogurt (3 tbsp)
*cocoa powder (1 tablespoon)
*3 drops peppermint oil

Mix it up, and ahhhh . . .

mint chocolate mask

(Or even better!, let me mix up a batch of the scrub version for you personally.)

Stay away from the bigger, more commercial spas at hotels and look for little places tucked in between shops on the charming streets of La Fortuna.

Usually, there’s room to negotiate if you feel comfortable bargaining, but even on the high end, an hour long massage runs less than $50.

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My inclination towards natural healing and holistic health drew me to the healing waters of the hot springs in La Fortuna.

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Situated near a majestic volcano that dominates the landscape like a great, sleeping giant, the deep fire that roars beneath it feeds hot springs all over the area.  Many hotels even have private natural springs.

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Many off-beat travelers value lesser known, more local attractions, and I personally enjoy them very much over super-touristy, Disney theme park type stuff

On that note, if ghost chasing piques your interest, check out the little-known Sanatorio Duran.   Built originally to treat patients dying of the then widespread epidemic of tuberculosis, the Sanatorio also served as a prison and a mental hospital.

It’s no wonder local legends abound about this strange and beautiful place.

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(Look forward to more on the Sanatorio Duran, as I plan to showcase it in an upcoming Featured Haunting post.)

Whenever I go anywhere, I take note of the wildlife I encounter.  Every place teems with its dominate species.   In Tanzania, you may think of the mighty lion.  In New York, you may think of less-mighty (yet formidable) subway rat.  For many people, Costa Rica conjures images of butterflies and brightly color tropical birds.

But I think of alligators.

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We passed this one on a stroll through Manuel Antonio, where he soaked himself in a natural drainage ditch just 4 feet from the sidewalk.  No barrier, no fence.  Nothing standing between us and this ancient creature with razor-lined jaws.

Oddly, a man stood on the sidewalk, tossing what looked like some kind of hairy palm fruit.  (You can kind of see one right in front of the mouth in the photo below).  The alligator happily ate them—-I always thought they were exclusively carnivores?

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As a totem animal, the alligator represents primal energy, courage, protection and The Gatekeeper.

I find the eyes especially unsettling, and in them, I see a jarring reminder of the beautiful but dangerous world beyond our five senses.

Speaking of totem animals . . .

baruca masks

Although (sadly) indigenous tribes in Central America continue to shrink, the Baruca people of Central America still carry on a rich tradition.

The above masks made Costa Rica famous for its hand-carved wood.  Baruca people began making these masks 500 years ago to scare away Spanish invaders.

Christian invaders thought the masks symbolized the devil, but in fact, they represented fierce versions of the Baruca totem animals.

Of course, Costa Rica remains largely Catholic, but I love seeing little pockets of living-yet-ancient pagan traditions around the world.

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Wildflowers in  Costa Rica’s rain forest wonderland burst with a delicate, vibrant beauty.

The orchid—a flower I think of us as impossibly fragile in my own region—grows with particular tenacity in this climate, poking its way through the thick of the jungle in search of sunlight.

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In my childhood, my great uncle visited us from San Jose and brought with him bouquets of orchids from Costa Rica for the ladies in our family.

(How did he manage to get them through customs?)

I still vividly recall the image of his wife standing at our kitchen counter, gingerly flicking water droplets on the exquisite, graceful blossoms with her fingertips to keep them from fading in the drier, cooler air of the Northeast US.

If you live in North America or Europe and keep a pot of orchids indoors through the winter, you know what a marvel it is that this plant actually grows somewhere wildly without any help from human hands.

In ritual, the orchid symbolizes:

*beauty
*femininity
*soft touch
*grace
*elegance

Leave them on the altar or use them in beauty and romance spells.

Perhaps even more than the flowers I know and love, I marvel at all the strange, otherworldly flowers for which I have no name.

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unidentified flower

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For those with a deep love of gardening, I recommend you not leave without a tour of the farms that grow one of the earthiest, most wondrous plants ever gifted to the human race by Mother Earth herself: coffee.

I consider it one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets.  Lesser known than coffee powerhouses like Columbia, Costa Rica nonetheless grows some of the finest coffee in the world, and the growers there know their crop in a way we rarely think of it in the US/Western World.

The indigeneous healers in Costa Rica recognized the medicinal and spiritual value of this magical plant centuries ago and still use it this way today.

coffee plant

At the very least, if you drink imported coffee anywhere, know that it tastes completely different at the source.  The vibes coming off well-grown coffee beans (or “cherries”) on the vine give me a heady, dizzy feeling that ruined me for the ordinary, pre-ground, store-bought stuff.

In spell craft, coffee makes a wonderful addition to rituals for motivation, moving forward, energy clearing, and creative pursuits.  Include fresh, unprocessed beans in mojo bags for these purposes.

For the gardener, touring a coffee plantation opens creative possibilities for sustainable growing practices.  Our guide impressed me with the interesting and unique ways Costa Rican coffee farmers make the most of the land space and soil quality by mingling complimentary crops.

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Sit down. It’s just a yuca leaf.

While coffee plays a key role in Costa Rica’s economy, my visits to Costa Rica drew my attention to the importance of responsible growth and labor practices.   Coffee production impacts Costa Rica’s rain forests and rivers to such a degree that the (exceptionally) environmentally-conscious government often passes laws regulating the process to ensure sustainability.

However, corruption often impedes the enforcement of these laws.

In addition, farmers often exploit cheap labor from neighboring countries like Nicaragua, even employing small children to spend hours picking coffee beans in harsh conditions.

Witnessing directly the devastating effects of child labor while abroad makes ignoring these things much, much more difficult.  I encourage all pagans to look these things in the face and practice less harmful consumerism as a key feature of a nature-based spiritual experience.

I think we all sometimes forget real people live on the other end of our purchases.  Protecting their interests should be a part of everyone’s investment in better karma.

coffee labor

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Natural Living for Pagans: 10 Ways to Live Closer to the Earth

Oh, pagans.  I love my people.  I really do.  Adorned in flowery skirts, tattooed with woad or dripping with crystals, my sisters and brothers in the Craft really do live life according to their own rules.  But there’s one thing we all agree on:

Nature is cool, man.

If nothing else, we like us some trees.  We sleep in the trees.  We put parts of trees in our tea.  We even have workshops . . . about trees.

How many of us have gone to a class at one of the local occult boutique, or been to a workshop at one of the festivals that brighten summer, to listen to a self-appointed magickal guru wax poetically about the virtues of “living in harmony with nature” and “connecting with the earth daily.”

Everyone nods, smiles, and we all vow to do just that.

And then you look down.  And in your hand, you find yourself holding a very unnaturally orange bag of Cheetos, which you plan to wash down with your tasty Mountain Dew and then drive home in a camper that’s about as fuel efficient as an oil rig.

I’ve done it.  I continue to do it.  Daily, even,  I note what might politely be called “ironies” and less politely call “hypocrisies,” or at the very least, inconsistent practice of my own belief system.

Some of it can’t be avoided.  We can’t all pitch organic canvas tents on a mountain top in the middle of the Blue Ridge and “live off the land” our whole lives.

But even suburban or urban life offers many opportunities to live closer to the earth, eliminate wasteful habits and bring about a healthier, more globally conscious lifestyle.

natural living for the natural witch

Start composting.  Even if you don’t garden or you live in the city.  This simple act of reverence for the earth and its resources makes a lovely daily devotional.  It may seem insignificant at first, but over weeks and months, you begin to see how much waste you produce, and how much of it may be returned to the earth instead of a landfill.  Try dedicating your compost pile to a spell or personal cause and think of your deposits as offerings.

Try cloth menstrual care.   Everyone knows someone who does the cloth pads.  She’s always one of those wild sisters who swears it’s this whole primal experience.  I don’t know about all that, but cloth tampons and pads produce less waste, force you to unapologetically confront your hang-ups about the realities of womanhood and are way cheaper in the long run.  Plus they come in lots of cute colors and styles.  If you cloth diapered your little ones, this will be a piece of cake.

Donate.  Simplify your living space by donating all that stuff you think you need but don’t.  Let go of any unnecessary objects, especially electronics and devices that encourage mindless time-wasting and keep you indoors.  If you want to ritualize the experience, try donating an appropriate object as an offering to the universe.  For example, give your largest pair of jeans to Goodwill to boost a weight-loss spell.

Gather your own firewood.  I don’t know if you noticed, but that stuff is expensive even at Walmart.  And buying firewood cheats you of the experience of collecting it yourself.  If you have a hearth in your home or even just a backyard fire pit, take a walk in the woods and collect it yourself before your next Sabbat or Esbat get-together.  Better yet, invite some help.  This activity makes a romantic walk in the woods or a fun, screen-free after-dinner walk with the kids depending on your mood.

Get to know your local wildlife.  Your unique geographic location offers a wealth of resources for any herbalist.  The freshest, and often most potent plants for the herbalist or metaphysical practitioner are not in a fancy organic supplier’s catalog or the health food store—it’s in your backyard.  Or growing between the cracks in the sidewalk, or vining its way up the side of the abandoned building near the railroad tracks.  Photograph random plants with your phone, and identify them for their medicinal or metaphysical properties.  Even knowing 10 local herbs and where to find them is a very valuable skill.

Switch to cloth shopping bags.  You very likely already have some stuffed in a drawer or under your sink.  You just never use them.  Use them.  And don’t worry that you won’t have plastic bags to line your waste baskets.  Even if you use cloth all the time, you will inevitably still manage to accumulate plastic bags everywhere.  That’s a monster you can’t kill.  Just aim to tame it.

Stop using harsh chemical cleaners.  Not only are they totally unnecessary, they often make things worse, inviting antibiotic resistant bacteria into your life and exposing your pets and family to harsh commercial compounds.  Make it magical by using appropriate protection herbs, cleansing essential oils and natural air fresheners to “enchant” your house with homemade cleaning “potions.”

Make natural eating a slow, but steady course.  If you’re like me (or any one of the millions of Americans on crazy diets), you very likely have, at least once in your life (usually in January), cleared all the junk food out of your house and gone on some kind of militant health craze that you know is doomed to fail even as you are doing it.  Slow, steady progress to natural eating is much more sustainable.  Set small goals, like going to the farmer’s market once a week or planning at least a couple of “whole food” meals per week.  Or just try cutting out soda and replace it with sparkling water and lemon.  Once you’ve stayed consistent for a few months, try eliminating or adding something else to your rotation.  After a while, natural eating becomes instinctive.

Consider a more fuel-efficient car and/or drive way less.  Do you drive even very short distances just because that’s your habit?  Don’t miss the chance to be outdoors and out of the rat race.  Can you bike to the grocery store?  Find a Zumba class or a coffee house within walking distance?  Even if you can find one chore or regular activity to walk or bike to every week, your health and mental well-being stand to benefit by leaps and bounds.  And the next time you make a car purchase, chose fuel efficiency as a top priority—even if it means driving a yellow car with an unfortunate legacy of decals from the previous owner.

Speaking of which, buy used.  Take advantage of sites like Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook trading groups to enjoy the financial and environmental benefits of second-hand stuff.  Many times, you can get what you need for free or next-to-nothing.  While some things (like bathing suits and underwear—-ick) are worth getting new, many things (like sturdy cookware, wood furniture and toys) cost so much less second hand.  Buying used also tends to keep usable things out of landfills, puts money back into the local economy and reduces production of greenhouse gases.

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10 Witchy Ways to Harness the Power of the Solar Eclipse

Even if you resigned yourself to not looking directly at the sun during the solar eclipse because you missed the boat on securing appropriate eye wear, you can still use this amazing astrological event to your ritual advantage.

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Charge your runes.  Runes have deep ties to solar energy.  If you have a set, leave them under the eclipse to absorb this amazing solar energy.

Call the energy of the lion.  For the eclipse tomorrow in the US (August 21st, 2017), the moon will be in Leo, supercharging this zodiac sign’s energy exponentially.  Any spells that the lion might enhance, such as spells for confidence or courage, are best conducted on this date.

Create a human sun dial.  If you will be celebrating the eclipse at a public ritual or with your coven, hold hands in a circle during the eclipse and chant to raise power during this epic astrological moment.

Gather the light.  Leave any crystal points you have to absorb the magic of the eclipse so that you can “store it” for future use.

Make sun cakes.  These are so perfect to pass around for cakes and ale or just as a solar eclipse “party favor.”  If you’ve never made sun cakes, here’s how.

Burn some sun magick incense.  While most blends available at occult shops cater to the moon’s energy, there are incense blends and potions made specifically for the sun’s energy.  This is the perfect time to explore sun magick!

Do a gold glitter blessing.  Any craft store has glitter available in gold tones.  Get some, pass it out right before the eclipse, and then let everyone scatter it like confetti.  It creates a super mystical vibe and is a great way to raise power.

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Place a piece of red jasper or garnet near your heart.  Wear a red jasper or garnet necklace during the eclipse to draw the considerable power and influence of the eclipse’s solar energy towards you.

Pass around a chalice of mimosa.  Orange juice and champagne both have strong solar associations, making them the ideal pour for sacred chalices.  Pass some around during the moment of totality.

Make a wish.  In a spiritual tradition that places so much emphasis on the power and beauty of lunar energy, the power of moon is no more evident than in that rare moment when it actually blocks out the light of a celestial body that is 400 times its size.  Stand in the majesty of her shadow and ask her to make things happen for you.

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Pagan Parenting: Natural Living for Toddlers

Raising a child in my tradition poses some unique challenges.

For that reason, I periodically like to update you all on our progress so that other pagan parents know they’re not alone!

I last talked in depth about this subject in my post Pagan Parenting:  The First Year if you’d like some background context.

Please note:  There are lots of wonderful ways to raise a child.  None of these ideas are meant to be definitive.  I submit the following suggestions humbly and with respect for our diversity as parents looking for ways to raise our children in a natural and spiritual environment.

I enjoy coming up with creative ways to introduce my toddler to a life centered around natural living, compassion and heightened sense of spiritual awareness.  I hope the ideas here inspire you to come up with your own unique pagan parental journey.  🙂

To start, I always try to take a step back and observe my child’s abilities.   What do we do on a daily basis?

How might I best modify our routine or activities to creatively guide him towards an enlightened, open-minded path?

How do I steer him away from all the flashing lights and plastic and television that surrounds him and encourage him seek out the intrinsic beauty of the world?

Those are some pretty big questions!

The first goal I made for this year started with eliminating plastic toys.

Instead, I aimed to surround him with more natural materials like cloth, wood & metal.

A lot of people think natural toys come attached to big price tags, but I found this completely untrue!

To begin with, for us, minimalism works when it comes to toys.  I discovered (quite to my surprise) that while plastic toys with flashing lights and noisy gizmos engage my child briefly and intensely, he lost interest in them quickly and they became useless objects discarded in the toy box.

This made them addictive, and I found myself purchasing new ones almost weekly to keep him occupied.

Now that gets expensive!

On the flip side, when I introduced him to simple, traditional toys, it took a while for him to become interested, but once they engaged him, he played with them for hours and returned to them over and over.  Which in the long run, works out to be much cheaper.

But even the upfront investment in natural, simple toys need not be prohibitive.

If you are open to purchasing used or antique toys, thrift stores offer a great opportunity to find affordable toys like wood cars, rocking horses and blocks.  Just be mindful about things like lead paint, and small parts that pose a choking risk.

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However, if this idea makes you too nervous, you still have lots of options!  I found wood and cloth toys very affordably at IKEA.  Or, if your budget gives you some freedom, Plan Toys makes excellent toys made of sustainable materials.

Anyway you get them, I found less is more when it comes to toys.  Rotating a few toys proved more effective for us, engaged my toddler longer and let his natural abilities shine through to me.

For example, he loves wheels, and will play with the gears on this cast iron toy bike, endlessly hypnotized by the way it moves.

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All of this inspired us to make a decision I never thought we’d make:  We opted to enroll our child in a Catholic Montessori preschool. 

I know a lot of pagans have difficult or complicated histories with Catholicism and Christianity in general and I don’t want to negate that.

Personally, my experience with Christianity has been largely positive, so sending my child to a Catholic school poses no conflict for me or my husband—although filling out sections in the application truthfully without raising any eyebrows proved amusing:

“What denomination are you?”

(Uh, Unitarian Universalist?  We’ll go with that.)

I know his school teaches religious education as part of the curriculum.

I’m personally very comfortable with that.

I really want to steep my child in a spiritual community——even if it’s not mine.

Neopagan religions generally don’t encourage proselytization.

My husband isn’t pagan, no one in my (biological) family is pagan and I’ve never suggested any of them should become pagan.

To me, that extends to my child.  Of course I’d love to raise a “second gen” and have a child who is as enthusiastic about my path as I am—but I expect him to carve his own way, and I see my role as one of guided exposure, not predetermination.

I will teach him about my traditions as we go, but ultimately, when he reaches adulthood, I am called most to expose him widely to many different faiths so that he might make his spiritual and religious choices with as much information as possible.

Although Catholicism piques my interest spiritually (in particular, the idea of prayer to Mary, the high ritualism of ceremony, and the sacredness of art in Catholicism fascinate me) the “Catholic” part of this preschool seemed almost beside the point.

What really intrigued me was the Montessori approach, which has no association with paganism, but it feels pagan to me—the emphasis on both individuality and community, a progressive approach to education and the respect for children as human beings with their own minds really appeals to me.

Oh, and in the school we chose, there’s no plastic toys!  🙂

So we’ve covered toys and school.  Now let’s eat.

Food and mealtimes gave me another great opportunity to encourage natural living in my toddler.  In this respect, the universe blessed us generously.

I know not all parents have the time to prepare homemade food for every meal.

I was very lucky to have the option to work part time and I chose to do just that, so I have room in my schedule to cook a lot.

Having said that, if feeding your child “real food” from scratch is something that’s important to you, don’t be discouraged!  It’s not impossible to do it with even time constraints.

Actually, although I enjoy cooking, I don’t really need to cook much at all.  Raw fruits and veggies make up most of my toddler’s diet.  I buy some prepackaged things, like plain Greek yogurt and whole wheat pasta, but for the most part, I stick with totally unprocessed foods.

I make large batches and freeze them in single serving portions.  Homemade bread, quiche to reheat for breakfast, sweet potato mash, and all the other 10,000,000,000 recipe ideas on Pinterest I’ve yet to try make great freezer meals without the preservatives.

I also banned plastic tableware.  I noticed something whilst traveling overseas to . . . almost any other country in the world—-Americans take for granted that everything a child touches must be made of plastic.

I noticed in other places, families sat even the smallest children at the table to use tiny versions of the adult tableware.  Very early on, the children learn to handle these items with care, whereas American children treat tableware roughly well into the preschool years.

I picked out several wood bowls, as well as small “toddler sized” metal and wood spoons.

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I compromised on sippy cups.  If you live overseas, you might be quick to point out that everyone else also teaches their children to drink out of a glass between 12-16 months.  You guys are awesome.   I don’t how you do it.  My kid throws a cup across the room as soon as I put it in front of him.  So we do sippy cups.

In small ways, we even started to help our toddler make the connection to his food and the places it comes from by visiting pick-your-own farms where he could actually eat fruit right off the tree.  We particularly enjoyed our experience at the peach farm last month!

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Finally, one positive step forward to natural living that nearly everyone will find rewarding and achievable is a “screen free” hour every day.  I don’t let my toddler use any screened device at all yet, but I also don’t want him to constantly be surrounded by other people using them, so I try to take him on regular nature walks and I make it a point not to bring my phone.  It’s good for both of us.

And we have the good fortune to live near the Civil War battlefields, which are among the most beautiful trails in the world.

Towards the end of this year, I look forward to celebrating the Sabbats with my toddler, because he’s already old enough to start appreciating little things about them.  I’ll try to make some footnotes around the coming Sabbats about how that goes!

Blessed be!

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10 Ways to Use Wildflowers in Witchcraft

use wildflowers in wicca

Freeze them in ice cubes.  Pluck flower heads and place them in an ice cube tray.  Fill the tray with water and freeze for some “summer energy” during the darker, colder winter rituals or to use when the flowers aren’t in season.

Leave a bouquet of wildflowers at the crossroads as an offering to the goddess Hecate when you are facing a difficult decision or major life change.

Make flower crowns for summer rituals.  Weaving flower crowns from local wildflowers you gathered by hand the morning of the event lends power and meaning to any ritual.  And you can make them any time of year.  I posted instructions for a winter version here, but the same basic technique applies.

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Make a blessing jar.  Get a vase or mason jar, place some meaningful gemstones in the bottom, fill with water and create wildflower arrangement that includes herbs & flowers chosen for their intent.  Place it near a window to bless your home, or give it away to a friend.

Plant them in your garden.  While many wildflowers tend to be invasive in the regions where they grow, that also makes them almost impossible to kill if your thumb isn’t so green.  Many produce seeds that can be gathered, but some you can just pull up by the root and transplant to a pot.

Add them to cupcakes for the Cakes & Ale portion of a ritual.  Hopefully, it goes without saying that you need to check to make sure the flowers are actually edible, and especially to make sure they aren’t poisonous.  Lots options exist within those boundaries.  For inspiration, check out this example of fairy cakes made with candied violets.

beltane faerie cakes

Press them in your Book of Shadows.  If you have a specific spell that requires a flower which grows seasonally in your area, gather a few during the growing season and press them into the pages where you wrote the spell.  That way, when you go to cast, your key ingredient remains conveniently nestled in the pages with it.

Mark the circle.  Go on a nature walk before your ritual and gather enough flowers to ring your casting circle.  This makes an  especially lovely bonding experience for coven rituals.

Create seasonal smudge wands.  Nothing adds a delicate touch to the ritual like fresh, local foliage.  If you know your local flowers and their associations, making smudge wands puts put that knowledge to use in visually pleasing way.  And if you don’t know your alchemic way around queen anne’s lace or black-eyed susans, you can always I’ll be happy to make one for you .  🙂

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Roll them into candles.  Gently heat a pillar candle in the oven until it’s just beginning to melt on the outside, then roll it on dried flowers.  Looks gorgeous on the altar.

Make salves and tonics to treat mild ailments.  If you’re well-versed in the medicinal or magical properties of your local herbs, take this time in the season to make a store of home remedies for cold & flu season.

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I fasted for 40 days to seek spiritual insight. This is what I learned.

A nearly universal feature of spiritual traditions around the world, fasting plays a role in Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and countless other religions.

But with the exception of some pagan reconstructionists, fasting isn’t something emphasized in modern witchcraft or neopaganism in general.

The lack of information about fasting as a pagan or occult practitioner lead me to experiment with it from that perspective.

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Before we go into exactly what motivated my personal experiment with fasting, let’s go over what didn’t:

1.  I did not fast to lose weightI did, of course, lose weight.  And to the extent that I feel transformed physically by the inner revolution of the experience, I suppose weight loss contributes to the sense of “rebirth” into a new body.  But weight loss was not the primary goal. Also, I never left a healthy weight range, although I was on the higher end of that range before the fast, and I am on the lower end now.

2.   I did not fast to debate about the health benefits/dangers of fasting.  All kinds of claims loom around the internet about fasting and its benefits to health.  Some of them are pretty plausible (fasting increases insulin sensitivity) and some of them are downright dangerous (fasting cures cancer).  I’m not here to make any claim about the health risks or benefits.  That’s not what I was out to do.  I’ll let people far more qualified than I deal with those issues.

I ask you not to confuse this article with an endorsement of fasting in general, but simply consider it an account of my experience with the practice.  It really isn’t for everyone.

Fasting powerfully effected both my mind and my body.  I entered this journey with a lot of respect for what I was about to do, and I set limits.  The most important for me:

1.  I planned to stop immediately if fasting interfered with my work, or my ability to care for my child.

2.  I planned to stop immediately if I dropped below a healthy weight.

3.  I planned to stop immediately if I felt fasting seriously effected my emotional or physical health.

3.  I did not fast to support a spell.  But I think that would be interesting.  This fast was not part of a spell or ritual, but I think fasting in place of an offering to add power to spell work or ritual is an interesting idea.  I may try it.

Please note:  Mine was not an absolute fast, or a water fast.  I ate about 500-600 calories once a day, which was enough of a challenge for me.  I don’t know that the exact nature of the diet itself matters, but I tried to stick to simple, humble meals.   Mostly plain vegetables and rice.

Here’s why I did want to fast:

1.  To enhance the mind/body connection.  I tried short water fasts of 2-3 days before this experiment.  Very quickly, I experienced how sharply and directly fasting connects the mind to the body.  I wanted to know if a longer fast might deepen this connection.

2.  To promote mental clarity.  In particular, Buddhism and Hinduism have rich traditions of fasting to aid meditation.  Experienced fasters often claim enhanced abilities to visualize, more vivid dreaming and longer attention spans.  As someone with lots of interests and a notorious tendency to jump from one task to another, the idea of heightened concentration really intrigued me.

3.  To promote and deepen compassion for others.  Please do not misunderstand me.  As an otherwise well-fed person living in the first world, I obviously recognize that a voluntary period of fasting for personal spiritual growth bears no comparison to the hunger experienced by those living in starvation around the world.

However, I think at least exploring the sensation of deep physical hunger opens a sense of greater compassion for those who live without the luxury of daily bread.

Gandhi’s fasts especially inspired me to try fasting as an act of reverence.   Reading about his life during this time enriched my fast.

4.  To strengthen self-discipline.   Self-discipline behaves much like a muscle—the harder you work it out, the stronger it becomes.  I didn’t believe in the beginning that I could really do this for 40 days.  I was wrong.  And being wrong about that makes me wonder what else about my own limitations I’m wrong about.

5.  To change my relationship with food from one of impulsivity and thoughtlessness to one of mindfulness and respect.  Fasting forced me, in a very direct way, to confront the hang-ups about food my culture and upbringing impose on me.

In that way, I found it nothing short of life-changing.

Fasting taught me a lot, and almost all of it surprised me.  Here’s what I learned.

Fasting intensified my sense of mind/body awareness powerfully.  Just becoming aware of the sensation of physical hunger verses “mental” hunger is a revelation in a world where many of us go weeks without ever hearing our stomachs growl.

Even though this wasn’t a true water fast, I think this fast required more discipline than the short water fasts I’d done before.  Whereas in a true water fast, your hunger eventually subsides and stays that way for a very long time, eating once a day means triggering the metabolism and appetite.

Resisting it in that period after a meal really tested me, especially if I was in a setting that encouraged feasting, where well-meaning friends and family pushed food in my direction.  That none of them knew about the fast probably exacerbated it—-but I don’t know.

Knowing may also have made some of them more insistent.

By the way: people are really, really weird about fasting. 
While the acceptance of fasting as a practice varies widely in different cultures, in the United States, people seem particularly unsettled by it.  It’s almost taboo.  If you go around telling people you’ve dropped down to 500-600 calories a day, they usually:

1.  Think you have an eating disorder.  Particularly if you fall on the lower end of your weight range.

2.  Believe that abstaining from regular meals is inherently unhealthy.

3.  Question your mental health or think you are involved in a cult (if you tell them it’s for spiritual reasons).

4.  Do, think or say something equally ridiculous.

For all these reasons, and also because I think silence intensifies acts of reverence, I only told my husband about my fast.

Surprisingly, no one else seemed to notice.

To the annoyance of servers all over town, I ordered a lot of tea and water at restaurants, but I still went out with friends and family.  I continued to teach two yoga classes and two belly dance classes a week.  I chased after my toddler with plenty of energy.  I ran my handmade website without any extraordinary difficulty.

It interfered much less with my day-to-day living than I expected.  Actually:

Fasting definitely sharpened my focus.   In the beginning, it really interfered with my thinking.  A constant state of hunger distracts even someone with laser concentration.  Personally, I’m kind of flighty as it is.  So I struggled.  A lot.

I fought my impulses very hard at first.  I doubted myself.  I rationalized.  I bargained.

But eventually, the hunger goes away.  It’s bizarre.

After about a week, the hunger started to fade.   I read about this phenomenon, but I doubted it completely until it happened to me.

After two weeks, as my stomach began to tighten up and even small amounts of food left me feeling very full, it became almost more difficult to eat than not to.  At first, I found it a little alarming.  It’s so counter-intuitive.

However, once it happened, a fog seemed to lift, and suddenly, my sense of focus and awareness opened up a lot.

Reading, writing, meditation and creative pursuits held my attention much longer.  I often got “lost” in my tasks in a way that more shallow concentration simply doesn’t accommodate.

Prolonged fasting demanded much more from my mind than my body.  Before the fast, I expected to experience a near-debilitating toll on my body.  In fact, I felt energized most days.

Generally, I don’t engage in high-impact exercise.  My regimen mostly consists of low-impact dance, long, brisk nature walks and yoga.  But my active life continued mostly uninterrupted.

In fact, I was able to go deeper into more challenging yoga poses, relax more fully in them and hold them longer.

But mentally, fasting completely reworked my wiring.  I never realized how impulsive my relationship with food was until I spent a month constantly reminding myself: don’t lick the spoon, don’t taste-test the spaghetti sauce, don’t take the chocolate mint on the dinner check, don’t accept the free sample at the grocery store, and yes, a stick of gum counts.

For strength, I left offerings of bread or food on . . . pretty much any altar that welcomed them.  Certain Hindu and Buddhist temples in particular encourage food offerings, although you must be careful to look up the specific customs of what offerings are appropriate (meat almost never is, but in some cases, neither is garlic or mushrooms).

Sometimes, I just went on a walk with dog or baby and left offerings of handmade bread in the woods.  I found this really cleared my mind and kept me centered.

I carried also wore or carried tiger’s eye to remind me of my own inner strength, and I left the 5 of Pentacles tarot card on my altar.

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The Five of Pentacles is sometimes called “The Poverty Card” and symbolizes humility.  It seemed appropriate.

All of these things comforted me as I struggled through the more challenging hours and days of my fast.

On the upside, my one pauper’s meal a day tasted amazing. 

An old English proverb goes something like this:  “Hunger is the best spice.”

Even if it was just brown rice and raw vegetables with no sauce or butter, every flavor exploded on my tongue.  I noticed a heightened sensitivity to spices and salt.

I also found myself much more consciously grateful for food, much more respectful of how I used it, and more aware of when and how I ate it.

I went to the farmer’s market get the freshest possible ingredients.  I rubbed green beans between my fingers and gently squeezed cucumbers, fully appreciating them with all my senses when I made selections.  I prepared almost everything from scratch.

And I took my time eating.  I took pleasure in it.  It took much less to feel satisfied.

One benefit of my fast did not occur to me until I checked my bank statement:  Fasting saved me a lot of money.

Our food bill often creeps pretty high—not because we eat a lot, but because we eat well.  I try to feed myself and my family whole foods, avoid fast food, processed food and mostly either make my own or get it from a trusted source.  This benefits my health, but it doesn’t benefit the purse strings.

I set aside this extra savings.  Initially, I thought about using the money to buy canned goods for a food bank.  But local food banks proved surprisingly difficult to find!

So I plan to donate the money directly to a charity yet-to-be-determined, preferably one that benefits world hunger.

(ETA:  I donated to the organization Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.)

Now, a few reality checks.

While this proved to be a mostly positive experience for me, I want to avoid downplaying the intense and sometimes unpleasant side effects.

I was often irritable.  I noticed some pretty sharp mood swings during my fast.  Nothing super dramatic, but I sometimes felt “blue,” or unable to tolerate minor inconvenience.   This usually passed quickly.

I was cold all the time.  As my resting metabolic rate started to drop, so did my body temperature.  Even on warm spring days, I wore sweatshirts and socks.  I think this type of prolonged fast would be much more uncomfortable during the colder winter months.

I had a hard time sleeping.    Fasting undeniably interfered with my sleep cycles.  Particularly once I entered deeper ketosis, I went at least 48 hours without sleep several  times.  However, I experienced sharp mental clarity and the lack of sleep didn’t seem to impact my performance on any level I was aware of or made aware of.

Simply put, I struggle to sleep deeply, but I also didn’t seem to need as much sleep.

In general, fasting was really, really hard for me.  Like most people, I fought a lifetime of conditioning to maintain a strong fast.

Although I fasted without any serious impact to my daily life, my inner world rocked completely.

To give you a point of reference, I lived under the burden of a pack-a-day smoking habit for more than a decade before I quit 6 years ago.  This 40-day fast tested my will at least as much as the first 40 days I quit smoking.

Having said all that, I definitely want to do it again.

Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section, or share your own fasting experience.

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