Summer Solstice and Solar Magick

Our sun is the inventor of the greatest pyramid game: Life. The energy of the sun is responsible for the photosynthesis of the plants that we eat, and some of those plants are eaten by other animals that we in turn consume as well. It is no wonder that our ancient Pagan ancestors worshipped the sun as the solar Source of Life or as various deities such as Ra (Egypt), Amaterasu (Japan), Surya (India),Apollo (Greek),  and many more.

In the modern times, many Summer Solstice traditions have been Christianized under the banner of “St. John’s Day”. The festivities include everything from rolling a wheel down a hill, to symbolize the cyclical nature of the rise and decline of the light of the sun; bonfires to ward away evil spirits and promote healing; fireworks, with public feasting and dancing; and even the blessing of healing herbs to be used by local wise men and women in their practice for the areas they serve.  The only celebration that would make any Neo-Pagan raise an eyebrow is one in Denmark that holds a tradition of the burning of a straw witch in order to banish witches to a mythical annual gathering that takes place across the mountains. This happens in an area where some witch burnings in the late 1500s have been historically documented.

One of the healing herbs that is often sacred at this time, and would be used in the aforementioned blessings of healing herbs, is calendula- this is more commonly known as marigold. Calendula’s medicinal properties are typically anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, a treatment for acne, and the slowing of bleeding. If we look at how these medicinal properties can translate to spiritual/metaphysical properties, along with how solar the herb is in appearance and season it blooms in, then we can use calendula for various purposes:

  • Getting rid of unwanted energies
  • Purification, or blessing, of a space
  • Invoking positive emotions
  • Soothing of old wounds/traumas
  • Aiding in attraction

The above are just a small sample. To use the herb effectively for its spiritual properties, it can be taken as a tincture, made into a potpourri (other solar or fiery herbs could be handy- like cinnamon), taken as a tea, or if you have a charcoal burner – part of an incense. However if you just want to take off your shoes and run around in a field of marigolds and dance the solar energy of youth into you- well that would be beautiful. Just take pictures and make sure to post them online. 🙂

To hear more about this topic, listen tonight to The Path Less Traveled this Monday, June 18, at 9pm/10pm CST/EST.


The New Spiritual Warrior: Political Activism as a Spiritual Path

The ancient Celts were what one of mentors would call in one phrase, “bad ass”. Here are a people with a rich oral tradition, profound mythology, and a penchant for warfare that was legendary. I cannot imagine what the enemies of the Celts were thinking when first going into battle against them. If hundreds of naked men wielding swords, painted blue, and in the distance the chanting of what could only be death curses- I would be pretty scared and more than likely would have started considering a career in anything that would allow me to escape the sight of such raw strength.

In the modern world, we don’t need to get naked and paint ourselves blue to start a fight. We have the internet.

If you have been in any counter-culture, fringe group, or alternative religious community- you may have seen your share of backbiting, mudslinging, gossip, rumor mongering, betrayal, and cruelty (perhaps all at once even). A rational person would say that these things are detrimental to the communities we are a part of, yet we still participate (as victim or aggressor) in these behaviors in one way or another. The rational explanation of the irrational is instinct.

We are trained, conditioned, and created upon a foundation of instinct. As Giordano Bruno, the Italian mystic, heretic, and Neo-Platonist night say “we must expel this triumphant beast”.  If humans did not have an instinct to defend ourselves against what was different from us, whether it is wild animals or rival tribes of humans, we might not have survived as a species. There is a fundamental part of our genetic heritage that is devoted to survival at any cost, and we can see remnants of it today. If you ever have taken joy in slapstick comedy, from the Three Stooges to some Jim Carrey movies, then you are exercising the instinct that takes joy in other people’s suffering. If this instinct did not exist how could we kill another human in competition for food, mates, or other resources? Have you ever felt competitive? Enjoyed violent movies? Then you feel some of these primal instincts. These emotions are not wrong, or evil, but if we are not aware of them and function on “genetic auto-pilot” then we run the risk of losing that spark of consciousness and humanity. I like to think of that spark as the “Fire of Prometheus”.

In the ancient myth, Prometheus stole the fire of the Gods to gift to humanity. A myth can be broken down into four main categories for interpretation: natural, historical, psychological, and spiritual. In the natural interpretation- we can see this as lightning striking from the heavens and perhaps setting fire to a dry field, where one of our ancestors eventually learned how to harness it. Historical- perhaps one of those ancient fire-tenders gave the gift of fire to a rival tribe out of compassion and was punished by his leaders for it. Psychological- our sense of reason lights us up with awareness and conscious thought, so that we can make decisions that are for the betterment of ourselves and others. For the spiritual interpretation- the Gods, or the Divine, has imparted a spiritual spark within us that we must nurture and help grow.

What does this spark of the Divine, ancient warfare, and making communities better have to do with each other?

The solution is not to run from our instincts, or deny our humanity for lift ideals. The instinctive “animal soul” and the inspirational “Divine self” can meet and work together, but that work must have a target and goals (for you Tarot nerds this is part of the lesson of the Chariot card). We live in a world of injustice, and what if we used that instinct to fight to defend our ideals. What if we fought against all the types of discrimination that plague us and prevent our world from becoming a paradise? To live in a world of freedom (that allows you to trash your ex on FaceBook or join in an Occupy movement) we must defend the freedom of everyone. I might not agree with the Neo-Nazi or the Fundamentalist Christian, but I would die for the right to them to speak. This is the true price of freedom.

We can take a warrior instinct to become activists in the causes we care the most about- defending the village of our ideals against the invaders of ignorance. It has been said that the greatest wars of the “Electronic Age” are and shall be ideological ones. If we can fight these battles for things that really matter, perhaps this will draw the fire away from the petty conflicts that prevent us from growing together, learning, and becoming stronger- much in the same way that fire fighter will start a new fire to draw the original fire way.

Can we take our instincts for war and survival and place them in the service of something greater? Can we use the sword of our words to strike at those that would defile Liberty? I think we can become new spiritual warriors that can do this, and indeed if we are to keep the “Fire of Prometheus” lit, we do not have much choice.

Listen to where Paganism, Politics, and Activism meet on the next episode of my radio show with BlueFire Witch, The Path Less Traveled- Part of the Pagans Tonight Radio Network.

Pagans & Christians (or adding Chocolate Jesus to my Pagan Peanut Butter)

As I sit her at my desk taking a brief break from holiday festivities with my family and neighbors, my thought turn to Jesus. In my new home of New Mexico, there is a tradition of luminarias (candles in paper bags) placed along the roads and walkways to make a temporary city of light that lasts only on the night of December 24th. The streets are bathed in a preternatural glow, as if there is some mystery underneath the surface of the night. Although this is a Christmas tradition, it feels like such an authentically Pagan practice, I have no doubt that my ancient ancestors would have approved.

An example of luminarias set up on December 24th

Our ancient Pagan ancestors had many viewpoints that I do not believe in. Many cultures felt you had to supplicate the gods with gifts or favors, in order not to fall into disfavor; I believe that if I give offerings to the Gods, it is a sign of hospitality and love- just like I would provide food & drink to visiting guests, or gifts to the people I love most. The Ancients believed that only certain people could be heroes, or were chosen; I believe that some people are more talented than others, but the Gods love us as much as we love them and it is about the relationships we build. I realize that at the core of my beliefs there is one center, an emotional and philosophical axis mundi, which holds everything together: Love.

I know of at least two modern Pagans that are henotheist devoted to Eros (the God of Love). Henotheism is the belief that there are many gods, but one is held in the highest regard above all other gods (one of my best friends that is Christian actually calls himself a henotheist for Christ). In ancient Rome, the theological rule of thumb was very simple: you can add to the pantheon, but not take away from it. In this way, the Egyptian Isis, the Greek Dionysus, and the Roman Jupiter were all on an equal religious playing field. When Christianity was the new kid on the religious block, it was not a big deal that a group of people came with a new philosophy and a deity. The problem came when that religious group wanted to say theirs was the only god.

I believe that the one thing the early Christians had a leg up on over the ancient Pagans was a “doctrine of Love”. What I mean by “a doctrine of Love”, I mean the idea that the Universe, the Gods, and all there is made of the same thing and that thing is Love. Since we are all made of the same things and have t same “mother”, then I should try to love everyone as we are all spiritual siblings. All the occult practice I know, all the different philosophies I believe in are secondary to that deep spiritual Love that is the core of all Creation.

I believe that although we need to work at our relationships with the Gods, the Gods love us all equally- something that Martin Luther, the famous Protestant reformer, said centuries ago, except in terms of the Christian god.  I believe that we can learn from all religions, although we are not adherents of them. From my years of Buddhist training, I have learned patience and compassion. From reading the Koran, I have learned about the beauty of faith. From the teachings of Christ, I believe I have learned more about Love.

I am not saying that Paganism does not have “doctrine of Love”, but that it is not as easy to find as it is in other parts of Pagan theology. Honestly, I have found it easier in the New Testament of the Bible. I sent over a year reading the Bible once a week with a good friend. I can say I know the Bible better than most Christians at this point.  Every culture has its prophet, and the finest ones speak from a place of spiritual love and unity. The closest I have found to a Pagan philosopher that is similar to Christ is Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Christ that had many of the same miracles attributed to him and is one of the finest examples of a Pagan mystic. Most mystics will talk about this sense of Love for all things, I think it is a detriment to modern Paganism that love, mysticism, and the freedom to connect to each other without fear are not talked about and promoted more.

I think that Christians and Pagans have much to teach other. Christians can learn about the diversity of God found in Nature, and perhaps new ways to worship (personally I would have stayed Catholic if every Sunday we danced around a bonfire). Pagans can learn more about Love from the direct teachings of Christ (not how many have corrupted them over the centuries. I think that if Love, Universal and pervading all thought and action, could come more into modern Paganism then many of the problems that prevent us from uniting in the cause and service of each other and the Gods would be solved very quickly.

So I sit in a very strange place as a Bible reading Pagan- which would make me technically a heretic since I used to be Catholic. However, the best thing about being Pagan is take complete responsibility for my spiritual life- so I don’t think it matters what I read, or how I practice. I think what makes me a good Pagan is my Love of the Gods and all of the Children of the Earth. Now I better get back to the family, or I know who is going to be the Pagan sacrifice next.  😉

Happy Winter Solstice!

On the December 19th episode of Pagans Tonight, my co-host BlueFire Witch and I, spoke about various Winter Solstice traditions. Some of these were from different parts of the world and times in history. To the modern Pagan, time and space do not matter. We can take our inspiration from various sources in order to build and define the sqqpiritual practices that our meaningful to us.  Below is a brief survey of some of the winter solstice holidays we covered.


Traditionally this ancient Roman holiday was celebrated before the actual Solstice, on December 17th. A holiday market was erected, small gifts we re exchanged, and sacrifices were made. One of the most unusual customs was the reversal of the social order where the slaves were served dinners by their masters. A “Lord of Misrule” was elected that would make outrageous commands perhaps similar to this. In terms of Pagan Theology, this festival captures Saturn as a fertility deity (in terms of celebration), and as a god of destruction and chaos (hence the social upheaval).


Winter Solstice is the birthday time of a religious figure that turned water into wine, who had a birthday celebrated on December 25th by some people, and was born a virgin. I am talking about Dionysus.

Dionysus is a god of not only wine (where in ancient wine making the fermentation and “rebirth” of the wine happened around Solstice), but also of epiphanies, revelations, and letting go to the Divine not only for ecstatic celebrations and revelry, but also for connecting to the Gods in mystic communion and worship. This holiday was later incorporated into Christianity.

Celebration of Amaterasu

In ancient Japan festivals took place in honor of Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun. During the Winter Solstice, the Sun Goddess hides in a cave and it is only through the diligent work of the Kami (nature gods of Japan) throwing a boisterous celebration, does she leave her cave and bring light back to the world. Before the first sunrise after the Solstice, words and rituals in honor of the dead were conducted during the longest night. This is still celebrated in some modern Shinto shrines in Japan.


A Winter Solstice celebration of south-east Asia, that has spread through China, Vietnam, and Korea. During this time traditional foods of sticky rice balls and porridge made with sweet, red bean paste (said to ward off evil spirits) are shared with family and friends. Families gather at ancestral shrines, and hot citrus baths are taken to reinvigorate the body and spirit.

The Winter Solstice, regardless of the tradition, is a time of renewal and hope. Between Samhain (Halloween) and Yule (Winter Solstice), it feels like the modern world is a little crazy. Between the gatherings, din of shopping, and the various celebrations it can feel that Time has taken holiday. When Solstice happens, everything starts to come back together. The Universe is recreated and Order is restored.

Whether you observe it on December 21st, the actual astronomical date of December 22nd (it shifts between the 20th and 22nd sometimes), or another day among this time of the Longest Night may Life, Light, and Rebirth be welcomed into your homes and hearts.

Blessed Winter Solstice Everyone!

Fundamentals of Empathy

I once wrote a friend an email to explain empathy a little better, so I thought I would revise it a little and make it a blog post to help anyone who needs it.

Empathy training is usually something I teach along with a gamut of other skills when I do Psychic Development classes. I have to admit I try not to be someone who is “helplessly overcome with the emotions of others” like Deanna Troi, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I admit it can be one of the most difficult of the psychic arts to control. Some empaths, choose to shut down all of their emotions for most of the part, while others are very much overcome with the feelings of others and find it difficult to function. I had one student, who had problems going on public transportation for that reason, and her “gift” became a “curse” for some time.

Empathy is the metaphysical skill/talent to perceive what others are feeling, and can be divided into two categories: projective and receptive.  A receptive is a “classic” empath that feel the emotions of them around her.  A projective empath feels an emotion, and through will, or the intensity or sheer magnitude of their emotions can make other people feel what they are feeling.  Think of this in terms almost how people are naturally introverted or extroverted.  The key to being a successful empath is to master both currents, and foremost master your own emotions.

I am speaking mostly of emotional empathy, but typically the gift extends not only to emotions, but physical sensations- so we can also speak of empathy in terms of physical, or medical, empathy; emotional empathy; or even spiritual empathy, which is useful in channeling or reading someone’s akashic records (but that is a little woo-woo for even me, so I ‘m going to stick to the practical applications that help with day to day living- practical Taurus that I am.

The fist task is know what you feel at any given point.  First by yourself, and then with others.  If I am in a crowded room and a party with food, and I just ate, but I still feel hunger or desire for the food- then I might not be feeling my own feelings.  Grounding and centering work well for this- since you are grounding in your body and centering in what you are feeling in time and the space of your body.

Shielding can work as well, but shielding is only a tool and not a solution. Try not to think of shielding as much as a “force field”, or bubble of  energy to protect you from other’s emotions.  I invite you to first off think of your aura- your natural shield.  When thinking about your aura think of this also in practical sense of personal space.  I let in the emotions of my partner, and let them physically close to me.  If I just meet someone, I might literally keep their emotions “at arms length” with a handshake.  Personal boundaries of space and personal boundaries of your empathy are useful to key together because it relies on unconscious triggers you are already using to some degree.

When observing you emotions also look at your needs versus desires, and the needs and desires of the people outside of you.  This will also make you a sharper empath since you can correlate what data you are feeling and checking it against your mental data about the person that you may have or from simple observation.  This is also how to make empathy work like telepathy.  If I know a person well enough, and tell what they are feeling- then by asking myself why they are feeling that emotion at a given time, I can take some educated guesses on what they are feeling.

One thing  have noticed is that emotions are almost never black and white.  Emotions are a mixed bag, at best.  For example if I am hanging out with a friend after work- he might be happy and relieved since work is over, but feeling anxious and stressed from a difficult day.  For this reason, it important to teach yourself what your emotional language is, how they feel, and what you label them.  For example two people can look at a color, but one might
be colorblind!  Emotions, since they operate at spectrum are very similar in colors for that reason.  I might be “colorblind to my own anger, by repressing it- so you may or may not feel anger from me. Speaking of colors, empathy might not come to some people as just feelings, but also as colors, sounds, or like I said earlier physical sensations (i.e. butterflies in the stomach).

I already mentioned the importance of grounding and centering, but cleansing your emotions is just as important as working the primary tool of your empathy: your aura.  Carrying around a smudge stick, or wand, or any magical tool to banish or cleans every time you might need it- is slightly impractical (“I’m sorry. I had to bring my ‘blasting rod’ to this board meeting”) .  An empath must be in control of her emotions and master tools that are quick and effective. Here is a sampling of a few:

  • Banishing with laughter- as in making yourself laugh so that the jarring energy breaks up the unwanted emotions.  This is partially why when people are nervous they make awkward jokes
  • Visualizing being bathed in white light
  • Thinking back to strong emotional times.  Good or bad, they at least serve to center you back to your own emotions, instead of others
  • Physical triggers- like pinching yourself, going for a walk, drinking water
  • Inner banishing rituals.  If you can visualize whatever ritual or ceremony you would use to cleanse yourself, doing them internally can be as potent as physical with practice
  • Taking a walk or an excuse for fresh air when you are overwhelmed is never a bad idea.

Alright- off to the actual instructions to use empathy- both receptive and projective.  First off after you have familiarity with your aura, and if you need to strengthen it.  Imagine your aura as having settings:”permeable”, “semi-permeable” or “filtering”, and “solid”. Permeable is for letting the floodgates loose, and negating the boundary between you and someone else.  I find that extremely useful when intimacy is needed the most as in making someone feel better (then you can see what works or doesn’t when you try to improve their mood), when I am feeling the same emotions and I want to connect to that person through their emotion (like at a wedding or funeral) or even enhance my own feelings for a richer experience, and of course physical and emotional intimacy in many forms in a romantic relationship.

There is always a flow with emotions.  If I am with a friend that is happy, I can feel their emotion along with mine, and then project the stronger multiplied emotion back to him, and start an upward spiral.  If I am with a romantic partner, I can take my own feelings of pleasure and do the same.  This can also be abused or mismanaged- imagine an unethical empath picking up people at a social event, or a depressed empath that projects their sorrow to a roomful of people.

With semi-permeable, or filtering- I imagine my aura is like a coffee filter or a screen.  I feel the person’s emotions as they flow into me and I consciously only let flow what I want.  For example if I am in a heated discussion about an activist cause, but we disagree completely to the point on getting angry about how to do it- I might filter out the other person’s anger, and let flow their courage and sense of love for the environment.  This can serve to either win the person to my side if I project their feelings back at them as a term of communicating we are on the same page, or to diffuse the anger to getting constructive ideas.  I might also use a “filter” in healing work so that I am still connected to my patient through their energy and emotions, but filtering out the unwanted energies that I might be trying tot transform. Filtering can also be used to cleanse someone for them by taking in their emotions or energy and giving them back something cleaner.

Lastly a solid aura- works when you are in the utmost toxic situations or need to completely focus on your own processes. I try to key strengthening my aura, and making it solid at the same time, in order to get the boost I need.  I usually do this by visualization and building energy through breath (pranayama).  You can also do this with Reiki, if you are a Reiki practitioner, but that is another blog post…

Shamanism Today

I get a lot of questions.

Between the Pagans Tonight radio show, Face Book, and travelling, I meat a lot of amazing people, and I get just as many questions. Samhain is “Pagan New Year’s” in many ways, and one of my resolutions (as opposed to revolutions, which can get dizzy) is to help answer people’s questions as much as I can. I figure a one-two punch of blog and radio show should do the trick. Which brings me to the topic of Shamanism.

I have been into Shamanism longer than Paganism. I was studying Tibetan Buddhism for a couple of years in high school (I had to do something between writing teen angst fueled poetry and standard issue rebellion), and learned how religion in that area was a mixture of imported Buddhist practice, and the local Shamanism of the Bon people.

I define Shamanism as a group of spiritual technologies derived from mystic experience, Divine inspiration, and experimentation that seem to be in common to people from many cultures that serve the role as healer in the tribe. I think of Shamanic practice as having a set of spiritual tools. It’s not as if there was secret shaman school where you get utility belts (there is isn’t, I promise, and if there is I will let you know), but there are a lot of similarities.

The first book I read on Shamanism was Michael Harner’s Way of the Shaman. Shamanism is a word that comes from a word for what the practitioners of the Siberian are called (the popularity of that term from the historian Mircea Eliade). I bought a frame drum, and used the droning beats to get into a trance to go on journeys to the Underworld, communicate with spirits, and understand the Universe a little bit more.

Trance- the ability to get into mystical state of consciousness- is probably the most important of the Shamanic tools. When people talk about the shaman being “between two worlds”- we can say that being in trance is that liminal space. Ecstatic dancing, exhaustion, fasting, lack of sleep, types of music, chanting, sweat lodges, and meditation are very common ways to get into this state. Typically the deeper the level of trance, the better results one gets. There are of course more *cough* traditional ways of gettting into trance through entheogens- or ritualized drugs found in Nature. This includes everything from peyote, and “magic mushrooms” (psilocybin), to datura and belladonna.

Before I hear “Mark Mandrake told me to take drugs to be a shaman”, let me advise caution in all shamanic practice. You could just easily hurt yourself trance dancing through an open window and off of a tall building as you could with spiritual pharmaceuticals. In my experience, it is best to do mystical practice in general with the easiest tools to use: those in your body, of movement, breath, voice, and passion. Non-entheogenic use is the preferred method (also completely legal) and far safer. If you do decide to go the “poison path”, do not do so alone, and be cautioned of the legalities (or lack thereof).

There are many functions a shaman, or shamanic practitioner, can perform. Anything from exorcisms, healing, divination, spirit communication, to gaining wisdom through exploration and seeking visions. Some healing work can be carried through with the judicious application of herbs, and sometimes something stronger is needed like a soul retrieval. One theory is that wehn traumatic things happen to us, we lose connection with part of our spirits and go through “soul loss”. A soul retrieval is a spiritual journey, typically through the Underworld (place of the ancestors, the hidden, and subconscious), to reconnect with that piece of yourself. The shamanic practitioner Jason Morrow, looks at this process as something to be done with a spirit of self-love if doing this for your own soul, and it is the “seeking to be whole” that is as much a part of the healing process as any drum, rattle, or dance.

The spirits of the shaman can be from any place: the realm of the Beloved Dead; the spirits of the plants, animals, and stones; from sacred places, such as woods, lakes, and mountains; or from any Natural source. Any spiritual ally should be treated with respect and honor. There is a balance between subservience to the spiritual, and the “command” of the Renaissance magician bossing around spirits. As we seek to have healthy, whole, and satisfying relationships with our fellow humans- we can, and should, seek the same quality of relationships with our spiritual allies.

Lately I do, a lot of what can be called “urban shamanism”. Although I have fasted and done retreats in the woods, I live in a city. In July I did a live Shamanic walkabout through a local park. The spirits of the neighborhood baseball diamond, infused with the joy and passion of childhood sports, are just as relevant as the trees. Most shamanic practice has a belief in animism at its heart- where everything has a spirit and life force. This means that there can be something sacred found inspirits of concrete, and electrical wire; pigeon and squirrel.

Listen to the Pagans Tonight episode we talk about Modern Shamanism here. May the spirits bless you, and may you find wisdom in your Work.

Catching Up

I feel that I haven’t had a chance to sit down since April. From headlining and teaching at various festivals, attending four different Pagan Pride events, and running events and classes in Chicago (lately at the Discovery Center)- it has been a wonderful adventure.

As a devotee to the Gods of Change and Death (among many others), Samhain/Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. This season I was granted the potent gift of illness. I say it is a gift, since it has allowed me time to think about about the future, get some writing done, and start to learn how to draw. I hope it has been a wonderful season for you, and I hope you enjoy the mass of writing that will find its way to this page.