Religion in Public and Private Schools

Every so often I get messages from students who have questions about what sort of religious expression is permitted in school. For instance, who can speak about religion, and in what context? Can your school prohibit you from wearing a shirt with a pentacle on it, or a piece of Pagan jewelry?

The answer is going to depend on two things – first, which country you live in, and secondly, whether you attend a private or public school.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on schools in the United States, simply because I don’t have the knowledge needed to speak with any semblance of authority on other countries and their laws.

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Public School Guidelines

If you’re a student at an American public school, that information is standard across the board, because there are federal guidelines on religious expression in public schools.

Why is this a thing? Well, public schools are funded by public money, which means that the federal government can take a stance on the issue. Your tax dollars pay for schools, so this means that public schools fall under the umbrella of federal legislation and guidelines.

In 1995, then-US Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley sent every school superintendent in America a set of guidelines to follow, and those rules still stand today. In general, they are as follows:

Student Prayer and Religious Discussion: Prayer and discussion of religion by students is permitted, and they are welcome to engage in these activities as long as they do so in a way that’s non-disruptive. They can even attempt to persuade other students about their beliefs, but they can’t harass members of another group in the name of religious free speech. So, you can say, “I really love being Pagan and here’s why I think you might like being Pagan too.” What you CAN’T say is, “Well, Becky, I’m Pagan and your Christian belief is STUPID and you should be Pagan like me because I’m right and you’re wrong.”

Teaching About Religion: Public schools aren’t allowed to teach religious courses, but they are allowed to teach about religion. For example, the Bible and the Koran can be included as part of a literature class, or as part of a comparative religions class.

Student Clothing: When it comes to clothing, local school districts get a some leeway from the government as far as setting dress code. Ideally, no articles of student clothing should be disruptive. You can wear a shirt that says “I <3 the Goddess,” but not one that says “Jesus sucks.”

Administrative Neutrality: Teachers and other school officials are considered representatives of the state, so the establishment clause prohibits them from being involved with student religious activity in a public school. They can’t participate in or encourage any sort of religious activity with the students.

However, if you’re a student at a private or parochial school, these guidelines may not apply to you.

Religion in Private Schools

In private schools, all bets are off, and the reason is a simple one: private schools are privately funded, and don’t receive federal or state dollars. This means they can set their own rules for student and staff conduct.

If you attend a private school that is church-affiliated, you could be required to attend religious classes, prayer sessions, or Bible study. This too is legal. If you are a student at Our Holy Father of the Chia Pet High School, and Sister Mary Margaret tells you it’s time for prayer, there’s nothing against the law there.

A private school may have a specific dress code that all students are expected to adhere to. You could be prohibited from wearing shirts, jewelry, or clothing that have Pagan messages or symbols on them.

Despite the fact that they don’t get federal tax dollars, no private school may discriminate against students on the basis of race, but pretty much any other issue (like religion, or sexual orientation) is something that gets really slippery in the courts. For instance, a Christian school might refuse to admit a gay or lesbian student because it goes against the philosophy of their church. They also might say “We only want Christian students here.” As long as they are not receiving federal tax dollars, this has been allowed by the courts in the past.

The bottom line? If you’re attending a public school in the US, you’ve got some legal standing when it comes to religious matters, but if you’re a student at a private institution, you are probably going to be required to follow their rules.

 

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July 19, 1692: Rebecca Nurse

House of Seven Gables from tpsdave by CC0 Creative Commons via Pixabay

In 1692, nearly two dozen people were put to death in Salem, Massachusetts, for the crime of witchcraft. One of them, Rebecca Nurse, was hanged on July 19.

Like many of the women and men executed that summer, Rebecca Nurse was a devout Christian. Known for her piety, Rebecca was known for being a regular churchgoer. During her trial, some two dozen community members, including relatives of the accusers, wrote, “We whose nams Are heareunto subscribed being desired by goodman Nurse to declare what we knewe concerning his wives conversation for time past: we cane testyfie to all whom it may concerne that we have knowne her for: many years and Acording to our observation her: Life and conversation was Acording to her profession and we never had Any: cause or grounds to suspect her of Any such thing as she is nowe Acused of.

So, why was Rebecca Nurse convicted and hanged, despite her role as a model Christian? It is entirely likely that the accusations against her were rooted in a series of unpleasant land disputes she and her husband, Frances, had with their landlords, the Putnam family. Young Ann Putnam accused Rebecca of tormenting her with fits, and – as was often the case – spectral evidence was considered legitimate by the court.

Interestingly, the jury in Rebecca’s trial originally returned a Not Guilty verdict, but they were asked to reconsider, since Ann and several of the other afflicted girls kept screaming and fainting in the courtroom. She was found guilty, and hanged on July 19.

After her death, she was denied burial in the local churchyard, because she had been convicted of witchcraft. However, family members later disinterred her and reburied her at the family homestead in Danvers. Today, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead is the only place where members of the public can visit the home of one of Salem’s victims.

Are You Really Cut Out for Spellwork?

I periodically (and by periodically I mean A LOT OF TIMES) get emails and Facebook messages from people who lead in with What A Powerful Witch they are, and then by the second paragraph they’re begging me for spells. This weird juxtaposition tells me a couple of things.

First, it means they’re not as Oh So Powerful as they think they are, and more importantly that they actually think Powerful is something that can be measured, when really what matters more than Powerful is Effective. I’d much rather be effective – and I am – than so-called powerful, which is all relative anyway.

The second thing it tells me is that they’re lazy. There are a floppity-million spells out there, already created by people (including me) that are just out there for the asking. I guarantee that whatever it is you think you need a spell for, someone has already written it, or something very close to it that you can tweak for your own purpose. And if they haven’t, then YOU should write one.

So you have a pointy hat – what else you got?
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If you can’t Google “magic spell for [whatever]” or “how do I write a magic spell,” then you’re lazy. A caveat to that is if you’ve already researched, and done your homework, and honest to dog, there’s REALLY NOTHING OUT THERE ANYWHERE, then your message should include “Look, I’ve tried all of the following searches and I can’t find anything, what other ways can I try to locate the information I need?” Not I need u 2 give spell 2 me now.

And the third – and possibly most valuable – thing it tells me is that you may just not have what it takes to do spellwork.

Hold on… before you send me nasty messages telling me YOU CAN’T TELL ME HOW TO MAGIC, hear me out. Here’s the thing, y’all. Spellwork consists of two parts: spell + work. Yeah, we all get the spell part, that’s covered in every single one of the Wicca 101 books. But the work part… well, that’s a whole ‘nother bucket of fish.

Work. Yes. As in, you probably have to read some stuff. You have to research. You have to do homework. You have to go out and find supplies that aren’t sitting on your bookshelf. You have to exercise patience. You have to stay up late or get up early. You have to make mistakes and learn from them. You have to make sacrifices. You have to do things that are outside your normal routine. You have to get dirty, bloody, or hungry. You have to be uncomfortable.

You have to work your ass off, because if spellwork were easy, everyone would do it.

Are you willing to do all of those things? Are you willing to accept that shit isn’t just going to be handed to you on a silver platter? Because if you’re not, then I stand by my original statement, that you may not have what it takes.

But if you’re willing to put the work into spellwork, there’s nothing in the universe that you can’t do.

Saturday Spellwork: Blessing Moon Hyssop Spell

July is the season of the Blessing Moon – this year, 2017, it appears on July 9 – and it’s a time in which our gardens are abundant and fertile. We’re watching the orchards and fruits trees ripen, the vegetables and herbs blossom and bloom, and our fall crops are rapidly growing towards the sunny sky. It’s a good time to do magic that focuses on counting our own good fortune – this simple spell uses hyssop, which is associated with not only purification, but with abundance and blessings.

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You’ll need some fresh hyssop leaves, and a cup of consecrated water. Go outside after the full moon has appeared in the evening sky.

Hold the cup up to the moon, closing your eyes, and think about all of the blessings you have in your life. Consider your good fortunate and abundance – not just of material things, but your spiritual bounty as well. Crush the hyssop leaves into the water, saying, I am blessed, I am fortunate, I have abundance in my life. New journeys begin with a single step, and I move forward each day. I count my blessings, I count my fortune, I count my abundance.

Count off all of the things in your life that you consider a blessing. Do you have good health? A loving home? Friends who always have your back? A career you love? Once you’ve finished enumerating your good fortune, offer the cup the the moon once more, and then pour the hyssop water on the ground at your feet. Take a few minutes to bask in the moonlight, considering your good fortune once more, before you go indoors for the night.

Note: A variant of this working appears in The Good Witch's Daily Spell Book.

Self Care During Tower Time

The past year has been pretty rough for a lot of us, as we see our country rapidly spiraling into the Republic of Gilead, thanks to the absolute shitshow that was the 2016 election cycle. We’ve watched as women’s rights and privileges are chopped away, and we have a giant toddler in the Oval Office who openly brags about grabbing us by the pussy. For many women in America, this has been extremely triggering, and we’re teetering on the raggedy edge of our own sanity. This is why now, more than ever before, self care is so damn important.

What is self care? Well, it’s not just physical actions – it’s also a mindset that acknowledges that it’s perfectly okay to take care of your own needs and wants. Allowing yourself the gift of self care allows you to be a functional and mentally healthy human being – and you’ll find that as you take care of your own needs more, you’ll be better equipped to deal with all the drama and rage that’s lingering in the external world. In short, self care allows for a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Oh, shit, y’all, it’s tower time…

If you’re Pagan, and the sacred feminine is a part of your spiritual belief system, tapping into that energy can be especially gratifying for women. After all, if you accept the idea of polarity in the divine, and the power of womanhood, why not find a way to incorporate that into your self care regimen? ESPECIALLY during this chaotic and turbulent period that many of us refer to as Tower Time.

So, what can you do? There are any number of things you can try, but here are a few of my personal favorite methods of self care.

Kitchen Magic

There are a number of goddesses associated with the home and hearth, including Brighid and Hestia, and there’s something magical about the act of creation when it comes to meal preparation. Plan out a meal in advance, shop for all the necessary components, and do so mindfully. Think about what you’re putting into your body, and focus your attention on chopping, grinding, dicing, and stirring.

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Turn on your favorite music as you work – for me, cook time is often accompanied by 90s Alternative on Pandora cranked up to 11 – and make sure your workspace is thoroughly tidied before you even start. Fill a sink with soapy water so you can wash pans and utensils as you go – this means less stress after your meal, because there’s little to no cleanup involved.

If you live alone, don’t worry about it – you’re still allowed to prepare a delicious meal from scratch even if you’re eating for one. I give you permission right here and now to treat yourself well!

Pet Therapy

My dog, Bandit, is an 80-pound coonhound mix, and he’s the love of my life. There are times when I’m stressed and frazzled and he just KNOWS and makes things better. I’ve discovered that taking him for a walk or run around the neighborhood helps me a lot. I leave my phone at home so no one texts or calls me and I’m not tempted to check Facebook as I’m out exploring with him. It’s good for both of us, and because he’s hilarious, he often ends up in my apartment complex’s pond trying to catch geese, with me trying to reel him back in. We both end up wet and muddy, and you know what? It’s GOOD.

On days when we’re not feeling like a walk or run, I sometimes just lay beside him on the floor or couch. He’ll stretch out along the entire length of my body, his big goofy dog nose resting against my face, breathing softly as I rub his belly. Before I know it, we’re both calm and relaxed, because there’s nothing quite like the love of a good dog.

Get Your Ass In Gear
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Okay, okay, I know. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious the LAST thing you want to do is go to the gym. Me too. But I’ve learned that there’s nothing quite as amazing as the way I feel when I’ve banged out a mile or two on the treadmill (I use the Zombies, Run app, which is a riot), put in four on the cycle, and get a good hour on the weight machines. Pro tip: Spotify has some kickass workout playlists, and anything with Pitbull songs on it makes me want to do 400 reps of EVERYTHING.

Learn to Say No

Can you please:

  • Run the PTO meeting next Tuesday?
  • Take the kids to soccer practice every night this week?
  • Chair a meeting of the book club?
  • Plan the class reunion for June?
  • Organize a charity fundraiser?

What? You’ll do ALL of them, because you hate to say no? GREAT!

No. Just NO. Repeat after me: NO.

If it makes you feel better, NO, I’M AFRAID I DON’T HAVE THE TIME AVAILABLE TO DO THIS EFFECTIVELY.

Learn to say no. That shit is liberating. Stop saying yes. Someone else will handle it. Let it gooooooo.

Reflection, Prayer, and Meditation
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For the love of Medusa’s muffins, you’ve got goddesses and gods you work with, don’t you? Call upon them and petition them for calming energy – or warrior energy, depending on what you’ve got going on – and ask them for assistance. Send out a hello to let them know you’re still alive and functional. Offer them a prayer of gratitude if they’ve gotten you through tough times. Ground, center, and shield. Meditate and communicate. The Divine is out there for us, both in good times and bad, so why are you not reaching out to them? Do it – connect with them again, remember why you chose to walk with them in the first place, and draw strength and fortitude from them.

 

 

 

Saturday Spellwork: Honey Jar

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I’m a big fan of any kind of magic that involves stuff you already have around your house, and I find a LOT of magical whatnots in my kitchen. I always have honey on hand because (a) it’s freakin’ delicious and (b) it’s good for you, from a health perspective, to eat locally sourced honey.

It’s also really good for magical stuffs.

Binding

You can use honey to bind things together – after all, it’s all kinds of sticky – so why not incorporate it into a bit of binding magic? Bind a couple of poppets together with a layer of honey between them to sweeten the relationship, and then wrap them in a cord to hold them in place.

Sweetening Jar

In some magical traditions, the honey jar is used to sweeten someone’s disposition. Got a cranky landlord or that one coworker who’s really salty? Can’t get your significant other to stop being a Negative Nancy? HONEY JAR!

There are a number of different methods for this working, but this is the one I’ve found most effective – feel free to play around and modify it until you find the one that works best for you.

Put a photo of the person whose personality needs some assistance into the bottom of an empty glass jar. Next, you’ll need to do a bit of creative writing – in some traditions this is called a petition. Write on a piece of paper what you want to see happen – it can be simple, but it should be specific, like Mary will stop being rude to her coworkers or Bob will feel happier about his life and quite complaining about things he can’t control. Fold the petition paper up as many times as you can, folding it towards yourself, and when you can’t fold it any more, place it in the jar.

Pour enough honey in to cover the photo and jar completely, and then cap the jar. Light a candle in an appropriate color – yellow for persuasion, for instance, or light blue for patience and understanding – and place the candle on top of the lid. Let it burn down so that the wax runs down onto the jar, and allow the flame to burn out on its own. Once it’s all melted and extinguished, bury the jar (with the wax still on it) somewhere that it won’t be disturbed.

 

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Maybe the Gods Don’t, But You Do

Even though it’s about a year old, recently a post over at The Shadows of Arden started appearing in my Facebook feed, so I thought I’d take a peek and see what was up. The post’s title, Tools of the Craft: The Gods don’t shop at Hobby Lobby, certainly got my attention, because coincidentally, I don’t shop there either.

At any rate, most of the discussions I saw about this post were of the “Neither do I!” variety, which is perfectly okay, because like I said, I don’t patronize Hobby Lobby for a couple of reasons myself. First of all, they’re closed on Sundays, which is the only time I really have time to shop for craft supplies anyway, but more importantly, they’re also big-time evangelical Christian dominionists who got involved an equally big-time lawsuit (based on Really Bad Science) when they didn’t want to allow employees to get their Whore Pills while on the company insurance plan because abortion/sluts/Jesus/whatever. But I digress.

However, the Shadows of Arden post isn’t really so much about Hobby Lobby per se, but about people who are eagerly scooping up potential ritual tools at big box discount chains, using them in Craft workings, and generally moving away from the notion that magical tools are uniquely personal. Instead, we’re part of a community in which our magical tools are often mass produced, typically overseas, and made of plastic and resin – that’s the gist of Silas’ original post.

And to some extent, he’s kind of correct. Would we all love to use natural items in our practice, like stones and bones harvested in the wild, or yarn lovingly hand spun from the wool of an organically raised alpaca by isolated priestesses? Sure. That would be great. I’d also like to build a forge and learn how to blacksmith my own nails and tools, I’d love to go out a-gathering crystals straight from the damp soil of mother earth herself, and if I wasn’t sort of allergic to bees I’d maybe have some hives and gather up the wax to make my own candles from scratch, because none of those things take time or money or anything.

But when I first started out as a Baby Pagan three decades ago, the Internet was without form and void, and there weren’t any Olde Witchy Shoppes in my city. However, there was certainly a Walmart that had some cool-as-farq witchy decor every fall, and I think I had a mail-order catalog from some store that sold crystals and pentacle jewelry, and I certainly bought candles by the bazillion at craft stores (I don’t recall seeing a Hobby Lobby then, but I’m sure there was Michael’s and Joann).

Buying things like this at places like these wasn’t wrong, and didn’t make them less effective for me, because they were just tools. And the best tools are the ones that are accessible to you – for some people, Hobby Lobby (or Walmart or Big Lots or Witches-R-Us) might be the only place around to get what they need.

Silas says, “There are times when we do find things that will fit in our world of magick that are worth purchasing. For instance, most of us are not blacksmiths and have no experience building an athame (knife). But we have to remember; let’s pass on that fancy plastic handle, and settle for that simple wooden or bone handled athame. Let’s etch that handle ourselves with images the Gods will adore.” That’s a great idea, and I wish that we all had a Diagon Alley to go shop at when we need stuff. For a lot of practitioners – especially newbies, who often are younger and have less disposable income than us veterans – that simple wooden or bone handled athame is just not in the realm of affordability.

As an example, when I first started practicing, I bought a very simple athame with a wooden handle – it’s of the variety you see in every single witchy shop, very basic and utilitarian, and probably cost me about $20. I’ve used that damn thing in thousands of workings over the decades, but about three years ago it just decided it had had enough. It was done. I did everything I could think of to recharge that puppy back up but it was all NEWWWWP and so it sat on my altar being more decorative than anything else. I’ve spent the past three years looking for a new athame – I found on online last summer that looked perfect for me, but turned out to be just plastic and chrome, so I returned it. I found one I kind of liked at the Renaissance Faire, but it was just too heavy and masculine and felt clunky in my hand. I thought about buying one made from a railroad spike, because I love those, but I just didn’t get around to doing it. And then this past weekend, I was at a festival, and the first vendor table I arrived at was selling hand-crafted athames.

You’re not going to find this athame at the big-box discount store…

My hand immediately gravitated towards one made of iron and applewood, and it practically hummed in my hand, saying “Haaaaay gurrrrl I’m yourrrrrs” and you’re damn right I bought it on the spot. Was it expensive? Sure – although I think I got a way better deal than I could have, because I’d have paid anything the guy was asking for it. But for a newbie young Pagan, throwing down the equivalent of three full tanks of gas isn’t an option when it comes to buying a single magical tool. On the other hand, if that newbie young Pagan finds a decorative knife they like at Hobby Lobby for $8, who am I to tell them not to use it?

The reality of it is that the tools you should be using are the ones that are available to you – and if that means you’re doing a bit of binding with some acrylic yarn you got on clearance at Hobby Lobby, or you’re crafting a witch jar with nails you found at Home Depot instead of hand-forged iron ones, then so be it. Our ancestors used roots and sticks and rocks because that was all they had. I promise I won’t judge you for where you got your stuff, as long as you know what you’re using it for and why. You do you, use your tools as you need to, and make your damn magic.

Note: The athame in the photo was hand-forged by the talented craftspeople at Artes & Craft in Hartford, Michigan.

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Saturday Spellwork: The 9 Herbs Charm

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About a thousand years or so ago, some clever soul sat down and wrote, in Old English and Latin, a collection of folk medicine, charms, and prayers. Later named the Lacnunga by a nineteenth-century editor, this text included what has come to be known as the Nine Herbs Charm.

In addition to referencing Woden himself, the Nine Herbs Charm lists – wait for it – nine different medicinal herbs, which translate into the modern mugwort, betony (although some scholars say it’s cockspur), nettle, plantain, thyme, fennel, crabapple, lamb’s cress (or watercress), and chamomile (mayweed).

Ben Slade over at Heorot has a great translation of the text, so I won’t rehash it here, but suffice it to say that this was considered some pretty powerful healing magic. Essentially, a practitioner would sing a chant calling out the names of these nine herbs and their various attributes, and then crush them into a powder. This powder could then be used in a salve which was applied directly to the patient in an effort to heal or stave off infection and illness.

So… how do we, as 2017 practitioners, translate an early Anglo-Saxon charm into healing magic? Here’s what I’ve come up with, and it seems to work pretty effectively. I’ve used this healing salve on my skin for a number of purposes – and it also works well as a massage oil, if you’ve got someone who likes you enough to give you a rubdown.

You’ll need

Equal parts of dried:

  • Betony
  • Chamomile
  • Crabapple
  • Fennel
  • Mugwort
  • Nettle
  • Plantain leaves
  • Thyme
  • Watercress

1 Cup coconut oil

1 – 2 oz shaved beeswax

Cheesecloth

Directions
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Use your mortar and pestle to blend all nine herbs together into a fine powder. Combine the powdered herbs with the oil, and place them in the top pot of a double boiler (if you don’t know how that works, here are the basics). After the water in the bottom pot has come to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and let the herbs infuse into the coconut oil for about an hour.

Place your cheesecloth over a bowl, and CAREFULLY pour the herb-infused oil into it, so you can strain out the herbal residue. Then place the beeswax in a pan, over a VERY low heat, and slowly pour the oil from the bowl on top of the wax. Once it’s all melted together and smelling amazing, pour it into a mason jar and refrigerate it for about half an hour just to firm it up. Now you’ve got a magical healing salve that you can use for any number of purposes!

Note: the amount of beeswax you use will determine how creamy or firm your salve is. I like mine easily spreadable with a couple of fingertips, so I use slightly less beeswax. If you want your salve harder, use more.

Book Review: Embracing Willendorf

If you’re not familiar with Byron Ballard’s writing, you really should check out her blog over at My Village Witch. As the official village witch of Asheville, NC, Byron has spent many years studying and teaching the traditional mountain magic of her ancestors. She’s also an absolutely amazing person who always seems able to conjure up early morning coffee, even if you’re watching the sun rise in front of a tent in the woods with her.

Embracing Willendorf, by Byron Ballard

Her newest book, Embracing Willendorf: A Witch’s Way of Loving Your Body to Health & Fitness, is one that I can’t even begin to say enough good things about. It chronicles her journey to a healthier lifestyle – and to loving her own body – by making spiritually conscious and empowering choices. It’s a practical and no-bullshit guide to self-transformation, of both the physical and the emotional varieties.

Don’t for one minute think, though, that you’re going to be sold a bunch of snake-oil products or empty promises. In fact, Byron leads in with this sharp piece of straightforward advice: “Changing your body from fat to fit is not easy, and I don’t care who tells you it is… if you think it is, you will fail again. You will be another fat American at the mall, grateful that they now make clothes in your size.”

Byron suggests starting small – in fact, with just one body part. Whatever it may be – your butt, your nose, your dainty ankles – find that one part that’s amazing and glorious, and love it. Embrace it, show it off, treat it right… and then find more parts you love. Eventually, you’ll learn to love the sum total of all of those various and sundry parts.

As if all of that doesn’t sound challenging enough, there’s more! What about the idea of self-care? Get radical, follow Byron’s advice, and learn how to take care of yourself first by meeting your own needs. You’ll be much happier for it, once you learn how to shift from being overwhelmed by the needs of others, into a mindset that allows you to treat yourself with the respect and love that you deserve.

One of my favorite sections in Embracing Willendorf is Chapter 15: Do I Have to Uncoil My Kundalini? This is a frank and honest approach to looking and feeling sexy, no matter what your size. As a curvy woman myself, I have learned that sexy is more mental than anything – if you feel like you’re sexy, you’re gonna act like you are, and other people will pick up on that.

Byron approaches pleasure and sex as sacred, which they indeed should be. She says, “In modern Paganism, we have this beautiful liturgical piece called the Charge of the Goddess, originally written by Doreen Valiente. One of the lines is All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. Pleasure as prayer is something so shocking to the Western mind that you may have recoiled from that line. But in this uncoiling chapter, we can touch on another aspect of loving your body and that is allowing yourself the thought of using pleasure as a sacred act, as prayer.”

We are powerful and amazing, and Byron never lets us forget it. Pick up a copy of Embracing Willendorf and get started on loving your earthy, strong, badass, magical self.

I totally give this one five broomsticks out of five! Order Embracing Willendorf directly from Sky Bridge Publishing, here: Embracing Willendorf

Ritual Fire Safety

It’s summertime, which means plenty of us are celebrating ritual outdoors. Inevitably, each year a few cautionary tales trickle out about people who had a gigantic OOPSIE involving a ritual fire, so I wanted to take a few moments to talk about something that should be basic common sense.

Ritual fire safety is super important, because few things can bring a ceremony screeching to a halt faster than someone sustaining a burn injury. In no particular order, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re cavorting around the ritual fire.

Indoor Fires
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If you’re doing some sort of fire indoors, such as a candle or a tabletop brazier:

  • Make sure candles are sitting on a sturdy and fireproof surface. A plate or bowl of sand or soilis good for this. A sturdy altar reduces the chance of knocking your candle over and setting your whole living room on fire.
  • Be sure to tuck your sleeves up – if you have long flowy sleeves on your ritual robe, it’s easy to catch them in an open flame. Roll or pin them so they’re out of the way. If you have long hair, tie it up or pull it back so it’s not at risk.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Make sure robes are made of natural material – if you do end up on fire, it’s less likely to fuse to your skin when it burns.
Outdoor Fires
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If you have a big bonfire or even a small outdoor fire pit for ritual:

  • Make sure your fire is built in a location that is away from anything that might be a hazard, and a safe distance from houses or trees.
  • Appoint a Fire Keeper to be the only person who adds wood or anything else to the ritual fire.
  • Keep buckets of sand nearby so you can extinguish the blaze effectively. Shovels and water come in handy too.
  • Don’t allow anyone to throw anything into the fire that might explode, spark, or cause toxic fumes. Make sure you only burn dry, seasoned wood – no treated lumber, garbage, plastic, or furniture!
  • Establish a perimeter so that no one accidentally stumbles into the fire. Be sure that kids are properly supervised around a fire.