A Rose by Any Other Name

February 14th, 2020

“I’m not Pagan, I’m Heathen.”

“The difference between a sorcerer and a witch is (fill in some kind of nonsense here).”

“I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.”

You’ve probably heard people say something like this, if not all of it.  Words define the universe around us, so it’s only natural that people want precise definitions for those words.  But topics like spirituality and magic don’t lend themselves well to precise, finite definitions, which can actually foster ignorance rather than understanding.  In science exact definitions are a useful tool, but even there it can be misleading.  Scientists scoff at the idea of alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, but the fact is they did exactly that.  (Don’t believe me?  Read Dennis William Hauck’s  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy.)  It only seems impossible today because modern science redefined what we mean by “gold”.  The more precise a definition, the more it excludes other possibilities.  This is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is necessary, but it should be approached with humility and the knowledge that those other possibilities do indeed exist.

And let’s face it, the English language is renowned for its fluidity.  We can choose to hop, leap or jump.  We can be joyous or delighted.  English allows us to express a single concept in multiple ways, often with a different emphasis or tone, but in words that are essentially synonymous.

So don’t worry too much about labels.  Use what is appropriate at the moment, taking into consideration who you are speaking to and the context of the conversation.  I am a Pagan, a Heathen, a wizard and witch and sorcerer.  You can label my spiritual path Anglo-Saxon or Saxon, I don’t care which because all of these terms are correct.

Don’t waste time trying to define what you are not.  Just know who you are, and accept that there may be numerous words that define you.

Dead Grandparents

October 21st, 2018

Ray Buckland died only a year ago and already there are people making claims that they have some kind of leadership position over the tradition he created in the 1970’s.  But there’s nothing new about this behavior.  It’s easy to say that somebody initiated you or appointed you or otherwise conferred some position of authority to you when that person is safely dead and buried.  Far too many witchcraft traditions have been passed down from conveniently dead grandmothers.

The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon has come before me with questions about the Steward of the Seax tradition.  The answer to any question like that is the Seax tradition does not have a Steward. It has not had one since Mark Ventimiglia (the tradition’s second Steward) made such a mess of things trying to promote his own homophobic, vegan agenda. This is a fact. Ray and I discussed it in person, and I also still have an email that Ray sent me on June 24th, 2013 in which he flatly says, “I therefore decided (after Ventimiglia left) that the Seax-Wica must sink or swim on its own merits. Hopefully I had given sufficient information to create a good foundation. Others could build from there. So there is no longer a Steward of the Seax-Wica.”

This is a good thing.  The position of Steward was supposed to be nothing more than a person who people could go to if they had questions about the tradition.  But Ventimiglia’s tenure was evidence that a position like this can be corrupted if it conveys even the slightest position of “power”.  And that is the very antithesis of the Seax tradition.  One of Ray’s primary goals was to create a tradition without hierarchies and claims to authority.

Ray did not acknowledge any Steward or other authority of the Seax tradition after Ventimiglia, and I have the email to prove it.  The lesson here is that if you need a dead grandparent to back up your claims, choose one who hasn’t left a paper trail.

Into the West

August 19th, 2018

At the end of The Return of the King when the end credits come up Annie Lennox’ haunting lyrics ask, “What can you see on the horizon?”

This summer, after seventeen years in Pennsylvania, my husband and I returned west across the Mississippi to settle in Dubuque, Iowa.  This move brings us closer to our families and to longtime friends in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, but at the same time it is a new and wondrous experience for us.  Everything is at once new and yet familiar.

We’re glad to be closer to the lands of our ancestors.  Scott and I are both sons of the Midwest.  His people came from Minnesota, mine from Missouri and Arkansas.  This is our place, our part of the world, and we find that we are more comfortable here.

Nevertheless, old patterns have been broken and the new have yet to emerge.  I have several writing projects that I’ve been kicking around, however only time will tell which will come to fruition.  I’m sure that all of these projects will be shaped, at least to some degree, by my new experiences here in the Midwest.

What can I see on the horizon?  The vision is not yet clear, but I hope it will be something wonderful.

Reversed Runes?

May 9th, 2018

I have been asked again about the reversed meanings of runes, interpretations when the runes pulled are upside down.  I think this notion originated with Tarot readings, although even with Tarot reversed meanings are a later adaptation.  Assigning reversed meanings to the runes is demonstrably erroneous.  First, none of the Rune Poems give any “reversed meanings”.  The very idea reminds me of those old rumors of how you would supposedly hear Satanic messages if you played Stairway to Heaven backwards.  Like that song, playing the Rune Poems backwards will only produce garbled mush.  There’s no hidden meaning.  Each rune (a word meaning mystery or secret) is exactly what it is.

As evidence of this, notice that more than a third of the Anglo-Saxon runes (Gyfu, Hagol, Nied, Is, Gear, Éoh, Sigel, Ing, Dæg and Ior) appear EXACTLY THE SAME whether they are upright or upside down.  It is literally impossible to tell if any of those runes are reversed unless the card, chip or stone is marked in some way to show which way is “up”.  If the runes were each intended to have a positive and negative interpretation they would all clearly have a top side and a bottom side.

We are fortunate to still have the runic mysteries (in the Old English Rune Poem for the Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc; the Norse and Icelandic Rune Poems for the Younger Fuþark).  Adding contrived “reversed” interpretations changes any serious study of the runes into a modern perspective only peripherally related to rune lore.

Spirituality and Race

April 12th, 2018


I recently heard that at least one right-wing racist group is under the impression I am “pro-Nazi”.  If this tidbit of news has reached you, or should it at any time in the future, let me clarify something.

I’m not.

First of all, even if I wanted to join the club Neo-Nazis are notoriously anti-gay.  They would also expect me to be racist and anti-Semitic and neither of those are really my thing either.  Frankly, how anyone who has read even ONE of my books could think I’m pro-Nazi boggles my mind.

It’s a shame these people latch onto Germanic spiritual paths and try to twist them into something they aren’t.  Anglo-Saxon is a culture, not a race.  Anyone of any race or ethnic background can honor and praise the gods of the Anglo-Saxons.  You may not know this but Woden has a substantial following in Peru, and his followers there have distinctly brown complexions unless there’s something wrong with the color on my computer monitor.  If it were up to me everyone would worship Woden and Thunor and Ing Fréa.  I give offerings and praise to my gods because they are freaking awesome, not because I’m “white”.

I would make a terrible Nazi.  I hang out with men and women of all races.  Last year I joined some Jewish friends for their Passover celebration (because my gods are NOT “jealous gods”).  I find men sexy, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.  I’m sure Neo-Nazis would never accept me in their clique.  Nor do I have any desire to sign up.


A New Look for a Great Book

February 10th, 2017

I honestly believe that Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer is the best of my books, and I am not alone in that opinion.  Just last month the owner of one of the nation’s largest New Age stores told me she thought Wyrdworking was the best book about Anglo-Saxon runes available today.  And apparently “the people upstairs” at Llewellyn Worldwide are also impressed by the book, because they think it should be reaching a far wider audience.

Because of this, my acquisitions editor contacted me last year and asked how I would feel about the book getting a new title.  I certainly had no objections.  Back when I submitted a book called Charming the Plow, Elysia (my editor) said the title was confusing and insisted I change it.  That’s why it became To Walk a Pagan Path, which managed to hit the #1 spot for several months on Amazon’s list of Pagan books.  So if Elysia wanted a new title for Wyrdworking, I was immediately on board!

And so there were meetings.  Ideas were tossed around.  I was told that the book would also get a new cover by the talented Kevin R. Brown (who did the amazing cover for To Walk a Pagan Path).  Officially, Wyrdworking went out of print.

This coming September, with a beautiful new cover, my book will be released as A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery and Magic.  If you already have Wyrdworking, don’t worry, you aren’t missing out on anything.  The new version is the exact same book, only with a different title.  The fact is, most people don’t know what ‘wyrd’ is, and so they don’t have a clue of what ‘wyrdworking’ might mean.  Under this new title, my book may reach countless people who would otherwise pass it up.  And some of those people will feel a connection to Saxon wiccecræft.  And some of those people will hear Woden’s call.

And that, after all, is why I write these books.

Blessings of the Green Man: An Activity for Pagan Kids

July 29th, 2016

Here is a way to share your love of Paganism with all but the very youngest children.  When using green onions in a recipe, leave 1½ inches from the root intact.  Let your child put this piece in a small cup of water, roots submerged, leaving the very top exposed to the air.  Several onion roots can be placed in the same cup if you are using more than one.

After this, the child should put the cup in a sunny place.  It does not need to be on a windowsill, but the cup should get at least a few hours of sunlight each day.  Within a couple of days a new green shoot will emerge.

When a shoot is about three inches long, the child should now plant the onion in a pot of soil.  This pot can then be set outside or in a sunny windowsill.  The new onion plant needs to be watered regularly, of course.  When it has grown to 9″ or more the onion can be uprooted, the green part cut up for cooking, and your child can start the root again in a new cup of water.

This simple activity involves the child in Pagan spirituality in multiple ways.  Engage your child in a conversation about Ing Fréa, the Saxon god who rules over plant growth and abundance.  The growth of a new onion demonstrates the eternal cycle of life.  In a world where we have largely forfeited the ability to provide our own food, this can help children begin to reclaim that power.  The child experiences a personal cycle of planting, growing, harvesting, and planting again.

A Celebration of Love

February 13th, 2016

Once again in the early lencten (spring) season, Valentine’s Day brings us a day of celebrating with chocolates, flowers and romantic cards.

Oh, and the recurring claims that it’s a Christian holiday, or that it’s a Pagan holiday, depending on whether the speaker is Christian or Pagan and how he or she feels about Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Really, people, be serious.

How are the so-called Pagan origins of Valentine’s Day remotely relevant today?  What do boxes of chocolates have to do with the Lupercalia?  Exactly how many Pagans set February 14th aside to give offerings to Juno?  (Okay, there are probably a few followers of the Religio who do this, but they’re the exception, not the rule.)  Sure, Valentine’s Day can be celebrated by Pagans – just like Arbor Day, Veterans Day or any other secular holiday – but to say it’s an innately “Pagan” holiday borders on being silly.

As for it being a Christian holiday, are there many Christians out there who even know (or care) who Saint Valentine was?  Is he the patron saint of greeting cards?  The patron saint of chocolate candies?

The truth is, Valentine’s Day is just as Pagan or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Islamic or Satanic as you want it to be.  Any religious meaning Valentine’s Day may have comes from you as an individual.  Because Valentine’s Day is simply a celebration of love.  It is a day to rejoice in those who you love, in those who you have loved in the past, and in those who you may love someday in the future.


February 6th, 2016

Faith.  I know the followers of the Abrahamic religions like to use this word, but I don’t consider my own spiritual views to be “faith based”.  Taking this even further, I don’t think it’s healthy for any Pagans to base their spirituality on faith.

In Heinlein’s novel Stranger in a Strange Land, Jubal Harshaw says, “I’ve never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith – it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.”  That pretty much sums up how I feel about it.  The cruel and insensitive acts of the Westboro Baptist Church are faith based.  The men who hijacked jets and flew them into the World Trade Center Building were motivated by faith.  Faith, untempered and alone, has caused some of the greatest horrors in human history.

I can’t honestly say that faith has no role in my spirituality, but it is the same level of faith I apply to all other aspects of my life.  I have faith that my truck will start when I turn the ignition key.  I could be wrong, but that’s what usually happens.  I have faith that a friend will return something I’ve loaned.  I have faith in countless little things like this, but none of these are faith based; they are based on personal experiences.

In a similar way, I don’t believe in an afterlife out of sheer faith.  I believe in an afterlife because I have seen and heard and felt those who have gone from this world – both human and animal.  It is something that I’ve experienced.  It is experience, too, that has led me to believe in the gods.  Is faith involved to any degree?  Of course; faith is a natural part of how we relate to the universe.  I have never had a personal experience or interaction with Athena, but then I don’t need that in order to believe Athena exists.  Not when thousands of other people have experienced Athena’s presence over thousands of years.  My belief in Athena is not purely faith based, but rather based on the collective experience of others.

In my opinion, Pagan spirituality should never be a “faith”.  It should be neither a matter of belief nor of disbelief, but of experience.  When our spirituality is experience based there is no need to defend it.  When we cast aside unfounded faith all things are up for debate and subject to change, if further experiences warrant it.  And we should be comfortable with that.

I have faith in this.  For now, anyway.

To Give Thanks

November 16th, 2015

I recently read an article written by a radical Christian urging people to eschew the Thanksgiving holiday because it is allegedly “Pagan”.  In his argument the author cited various harvest celebrations observed by Pagan cultures.

On the flip side of stupidity, I’ve known Pagans who didn’t think we should be celebrating Thanksgiving because it is a “Christian” holiday.  After all, the holiday commemorates the first Thanksgiving, when the Puritans sat down with indigenous Americans, and everyone ate turkey and sang Kumbaya.

The idea of a “Thanksgiving Day” actually did originate with the Puritans, but not the way most people think it did.  Thanksgiving Days were an anti-Catholic reaction to the many holidays celebrated during the English Reformation.  People were just having too much fun, and so the Puritans wanted to eliminate all of those holidays (including Christmas and Easter) and replace them with Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving.  These were not recurring events; they were observed in the wake of disasters (fasting) and victories (thanksgiving).  The first annual, recurring Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 after the failure of the infamous Gunpowder Plot.  Today it is still celebrated each year in England as Guy Fawkes Day.

It is possible, though poorly documented, that the early Christian (Puritan) settlers and some indigenous Americans shared a feast in 1621, but an annual harvest celebration did not become a tradition in New England until the late 1660’s.  But more than anything else, it is an American tradition.  To call it a “harvest” festival is not really accurate.  Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November, long after the harvest season has ended.

Thanksgiving is exactly what its name implies, a day to give thanks.  In Christian households families will be giving thanks to Jesus.  Here we will be giving thanks to Woden and Þunor.  To argue who should be giving thanks for blessings received is to miss the whole point of Thanksgiving.

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