Bringing Yoga into the Pagan Toolkit

by Suburban Artemis

Coming to paganism is a highly individual experience, and there are as many reasons for being pagan as there are pagans.  Many of us come seeking a spiritual path that embraces the physical body, rather than denying it.  But how much of that do we live on a day to day basis?  Are we really present in our bodies?  Are we honoring our bodies as repositories for the divine?

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga we are most familiar with in the west, is a set of tools which may be used by practitioners of any religion or tradition.  Like witchcraft, it is a means of manipulating energy for a specific purpose, and these tools may be used by anyone of any faith to move along their chosen path.

My project, Suburban Artemis, grew out of my desire to explore the connections between yoga and western pagan practice. My students enjoy the well-known benefits of yoga practice, such as increased strength, flexibility, and focus, in addition to furthering their pagan practice through creative means of connecting to their bodies, the elements, and the deities they revere.  Below, I will share a practice which illustrates some simple ways in which yoga poses can deepen our spiritual work.

Meeting the Ancestors:  A Restorative Yoga Practice
Ancestors:  Not Just for Samhain!

Have you heard of “Christmas and Easter Christians”?  People who only go to church on holidays and forget about it the rest of the year?  Well, I was a “Samhain Pagan”.  When it came to ancestor work, I would spend October in a flurry of research and preparation for welcoming those who came before me, only to forget about the connection the other eleven months of the year.

Maintaining a year-round connection with your ancestors (however YOU define them) can make a huge difference in your daily life.  Ancestors are your tribe!  By keeping a simple ancestor altar in a common space (like the kitchen), it is easy to get in the habit of offering little things they like to eat or even just lighting a candle each time the family gathers.  In addition to keeping an altar, spending time in meditation with the spirits of those who came before you is a lovely way to find guidance for issues that come up in daily life.  Below I will describe some yoga poses which will help you meet your ancestors in a full-body meditation.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:  Find a comfortable, quiet spot on the floor where you won’t be disturbed, preferably near your ancestor altar.  If you have a yoga mat you could use it, but it’s not necessary.  Grab some blankets or towels and have them folded nearby, and if you have a yoga block, set that out as well.

POSE #1:  SAVASANA (Corpse Pose)

For best results in this practice, and for your own safety, it is important to take a little time to ground, center and shield before you begin the meditation.  Lay down on your back, and find a comfortable position, if possible with the legs extended and the arms by the sides.  Become still, close your eyes and focus on your breath.  In my own practice, I like to imagine roots growing down from my spine into the earth and breathing earth energy up into my body, then out around me like a shield.  You may do this in the way that is appropriate to your own tradition. Take your time.  When you have created your shield, seal it with the intention that only well and elevated ancestors may enter your space and interact with you.


Bring your knees in to your chest and move your feet and toes.  If you are preparing to commune with blood ancestors, imagine the ways in which your feet look and move like theirs.  Look at your hands.  Use them to move your knees in circles.  Bend and straighten your legs.  Explore all of your body you can see here, lying on your back.  You might even receive images in your mind from ancestors you did not know in life, pointing out your physical similarities.


With your knees in toward your chest, let them drop over to one side while keeping both of your shoulders on the ground.  If your legs do not quite reach the ground, you can support them with folded blankets underneath or in between (see photo).  If it feels all right for your neck, turn your head in the opposite direction.

supported twistSUPPORTED TWIST

Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Twists act on the body like the wringing out of a sponge, allowing us to “squeeze out” anything that does not serve our practice.  Holding the twist, reflect on anything you have inherited from your ancestors that is not serving you.  (Remember, your shield is in place to protect you from any energy with malicious intent).  Be open to images that arise both from those you knew in life as well as those you have only heard about, and even those ancestors so far back you know nothing about them.  Let that unwanted inheritance dissolve with your exhales.  Stay on this side for 3-5 minutes, or as long as seems necessary for your work, and then repeat the movement and meditation on the other side.


Place the soles of your feet on the mat and lift your hips up toward the ceiling.  You may want to move in and out of this, rolling up and down the spine, several times before holding the pose.  When you are ready to hold, slide a yoga block or a folded blanket underneath your hips (not the low back).  Let your hips rest on the support and take your arms out wide.  If it feels better to extend your legs forward on the ground, you may do so.

supported bridgeSUPPORTED BRIDGE

Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  With the front of your body stretched and open, you are ready to receive messages from your ancestors about what work they would like you to carry on.  Keep your mind quiet and open to anything that arises.  Your creative center is elevated, ready to hear your calling and bring it to birth.  Stay here for 3-5 minutes, then lift the hips, remove the prop, and hug your knees to your chest.


Roll onto one side and press yourself up to seated.  Fold a blanket or towel so that one side is about as long as your spine and then roll it up.  Sit in front of it and lower your spine down so you are laying on the roll.  You can use a second blanket as a pillow at the top if you need more support for your head.  You may keep the soles of the feet on the mat or extend your legs forward.  Take your arms as wide as is comfortable.

supported heart openerSUPPORTED HEART OPENER

Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Feel the space in your chest in this shape – lots of room for your heart, for love and gratitude to grow.  Take some time now to reflect on the sacrifices your ancestors made so you could be here right now.  You may know some of their stories.  Some may come through revelation in this moment.  Hold this space of gratitude in communion with your ancestors for 3-5 minutes.  Then carefully roll off of the blanket on one side and press yourself up to a seated position.


Sit with your legs crossed or any way that is comfortable for you.  With your spine tall and your shoulders relaxed, drop your chin to your chest and begin to rock your head from side to side.  Feel a gentle compression in your throat, activating your communication center.  Tune in to anything your ancestors need to say through you.  You are their voice.  If it feels good, begin to make full circles with your head in both directions, stretching the throat and opening yourself up to speaking their truth.


Stretch your legs and come onto your hands and knees.  Press your hips back to your heels and walk your hands forward until you can put your forehead on the ground.  You may take your knees as wide as you need to make space for your body.  If the forehead does not reach the ground, fold up a blanket or place a yoga block underneath.  Anchor your third eye on the ground or the block.  Tune in to any other messages your ancestors may have for you.  If you get the feeling you should spend some more time in this shape, fold up several blankets and place them between your knees so your chest and one cheek may rest on them in supported child’s pose for 3-5 minutes.

supported childs poseSUPPORTED CHILD’S POSE


Remove your props and come back to lying on your back as you did in the beginning.  Still your body, close your eyes and allow yourself to rest, absorbing all the benefits of your practice.  You may stay in Savasana as long as you like; at least 5 minutes is recommended.

Suburban Artemis offers private and group yoga classes in Orange County, CA.  To learn more about my projects and public yoga classes, visit or follow me on Facebook and Instagram (@suburbanartemis).  To experience a complete yoga session with Suburban Artemis, including music and guided meditation on connecting with the ancestors and many other themes, contact

WestenhoferSuburban Artemis encompasses the creative work of Heather Westenhofer, artist, certified yoga instructor and second-degree priestess of the Twilight Spiral Coven in Southern California.  Drawn to art and religion at an early age, the interplay of these interests manifested itself in many different careers and hobbies.  After a period of upheaval, darkness, and introspection, Heather began to synthesize a way forward in communion with the spirits and beliefs of her ancestors.  She came to rest in the old religion, honoring the natural world and the divine in both male and female form.  She has dedicated her life to birthing the creative work of the goddess, bringing the numinous to earth, and releasing the untamed into the domestic sphere.




by Ava

Behind the Orange Curtain! That’s what you always hear about Orange County … and it’s not a good thing. But there is a pagan-friendly place called The Museum of Woman that welcomes pagan-oriented events, supporting the pagan person and family in their beliefs, history and spiritual natures. The history of what is now called “paganism” is literally the history of all humanity –suppressed. But no more! We see paganism reviving in our culture in many ways … and The Museum of Woman is one of those ways.

You know (and most people don’t!) that before the johnny-come-lately patriarchal religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism was 250,000 years of Goddess –all over the planet, in every culture. Everybody venerated The Great Mother, one way or another. This perspective of seeing the female as divine, as the “creatrix of all,” influenced everything about daily life. But this incredible span of a quarter million years where all humanity was aligned has been erased from the modern mind. Children are taught nothing whatsoever of this actual human history. Even in college “comparative religion” courses, we rarely hear of it. Your religion, your spirituality, your view of life has been—up until now–erased in our dominator-model, patriarchal culture. And this erasure is a crime against humanity. Against you. Against Life itself.

But at The Museum of Woman, we bring your perspective back by educating the modern mind with a museum that tells the story of this heretofore lost history … that shows that the “pagan” point of view was one that all humanity held for millennia, with resulting greater peace, prosperity and justice in those societies.

We are here to support the pagan community. We have Goddess Sunday Services on the first Sunday of every month from 1-2 pm, open to all, women, men and families. We have a joyful Happy Hour every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm with free wine, food, music, fun and friends. We welcome your events, your classes, your workshops, your celebrations, your ritual, your ceremony. We even provide free space to pagan groups wishing to meet in a public space on Fridays and Saturdays.

Come visit and see what is now “behind the Orange Curtain.” It’s a good thing!


Ava – Director, The Museum of Woman

17905 Sky Park Circle #A Irvine CA 92614




Friday 12 noon to 8 pm, Happy Hour 5:30—7:30 pm

Saturday 12 noon to 5 pm

First Sunday of the month: 1-2 pm, Museum Sunday Services for all

RENTAL RATES: Begin at $50/hour; call for quote for your event

Vernal Equinox: Revelation and Fertility

by Jesper Toad


28408124_10156311199005116_924044286_oThe vernal equinox marks the point in time equidistant between Candlemas and Beltane when the hours of night and day are experienced in equal measure.  During this high point of the spring season light waxes and darkness wanes as the days lengthen.  Occurring on the gyre of the year directly across from the Autumnal Equinox, this time of celebration concerns the fertility of the community, emphasizing planting and tending, rather than harvesting and processing which takes place on the downside of the year. The imagery that surrounds this season is one of fertility and the emergence of new life—the germination of seeds and the appearance of the reproduction of animals—from where this vitality was hidden in seeds and eggs  and secreted within wombs.  This mysterious emergence unfurls in daffodils and narcissi, bursts from seeds and eggs, and arrives with the appearance of young rabbits, lambs, calves, and foals.  In times prior, this abundance of life, this celebration of warmth and light, was marked by the lack of resources that were the result of the harshness of the preceding winter season.  The Christian observance of Lent reflects this: amid the promise of life the people refrained from the consumption of meat, fish, and cheese in an ascetic effort to reserve resources.

Ronald Hutton suggests that, although the contemporary Pagan name for the season originates with the Germanic goddess Ostara, there may be little credence in finding the origins of the world Easter in the Germanic goddess Eostra, who is mentioned only once in an early eighth century source (1996, p. 180).  The symbols of the hare and the egg, rather than being associated with these goddesses, are more likely to have originated from more recent Germanic folk traditions.

The relationship that ties hares, or rabbits, with Easter, and with the Vernal Equinox due to the proximity to Easter, is difficult to unravel.  The notion that hares are connected with goddess Ostara or Eostra appears conjectural, although it certainly accounts for the connection in the minds of Contemporary Pagans. Although the convention of the Easter Bunny appears to come from the German tradition of the Easter Hare—the Osterhase—the hare, along with the egg, nevertheless seem to have strong associations with the Vernal season (Hutton, 1996, p. 203). In Europe and North America, spring presents the environmental conditions favorable for hares to reproduce, and for birds to build nests and successfully care for their young: consequently we associate the vigorous and fecund hare and the ubiquitous egg with the fertility and burgeoning life force of the season.

If we approach the hare and the eggs as if they were images occurring in a dream, using the psychoanalytic process of amplification to make connections to mythic, historic, and cultural parallels, we can build a better understanding of the connections to the vernal equinox (Jung, 1947).  These multitudinous young are birth and nursed in warrens hidden beneath the ground, recalling the groundhog who saunters out six weeks earlier at the beginning of February, ushering in the springtime of the year from where it had been safely sequestered underground.  The symbolic connections of the ubiquitous egg appear to relate not only to the regeneration and rebirth that occurs at the vernal equinox, but also hints at something hidden and revealed.  The shell of the egg occludes our vision of the contents, separating that which is outside from that which it contains.  Like a seed, it holds a potential that is waiting to emerge into the world.  In mythology, it is the chthonic and spiritual ophidian serpent that incubates the egg that gives birth to the world, which emerges twice born from the broken shell, the golden yolk sun rising and giving nourishment to universe.

The representation of three hares running in a circle, with one ear from each hare forming a triangle and the second ear either not visible or hidden by the preceding hare’s ear, can be found on medieval buildings throughout Britain.  It has been suggested that the iconography of the three hares, which often occurs on religious structures, relates to the Virgin Mary or the Catholic Trinity, although to my mind the resonance of this trio of gamboling hares seems to whisper of some other mystery, far more wild and potent.  The Threefold rotational symmetry of the hares recalls the three phases of the lunar cycle (waxing crescent, full, and waning crescent) and the three aspects of the triune goddess—Maiden, Mother, and Crone—although arguably this association between moon phases and the ages of womanhood is a more modern notion popularized by Robert Graves in The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth in 1948 (Hutton, 2001, p.41).  Of more interest is the puzzle that these three hares present: that of an un-decidable figure occurring when our brains attempt to interpret a two-dimensional figure as a three dimensional object and fails at the attempt.  All the hares’ ears are present and accounted for, and at the same time half of them are missing.  Each hare is individually complete, but all three cannot be complete at the same perceptual moment (Singmaster, 2004).  The three visible ears frame a triangular opening, and the shape of the triangle is associated with the vulva, the entrance of life into the world, and likewise the exit through which it descends into the underworld.  Where are the other three ears, the invisible ears?  Perhaps they are in the otherworld, framing another gateway—for every door is both an entrance and an exit, and these aspects shift depending upon which side of the door you find yourself—and it is through this other portal that the life that has gone underground in winter can emerge again.  These hares in a circle, chasing one another, recalling the spinning of the earth, the revolution of the seasons, the gyre of the year, which also recalls the pacing of the mill, through which witches enter into a liminal state, between the manifest, concrete world, and the hidden, fluid, imaginal realm.

Somewhere, here, between the seen and unseen ears of the gamboling hares, as well as hidden in by the opaque shell of the mysterious egg, there is a mystery awaiting revelation.  Like the Lenten Veils that conceal the sacred portions of the church during Passiontide, they exist to be rent asunder to yield their mystery with the cresting of the vernal tide.

The Hares Gate Rite

Struggling with my personal connection of the triskelion of hares to the vernal equinox resulted in the incubation of an experience of the mystery, which I used as the basis of the rite below.  This ritual celebrates the rush of vitality that accompanies the conjunction of the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage, between what I relate to as the two great spirits of the underworld—the White Lady and the antlered Lord of the Gates of Life and Death–and the opening of the gate from that world to this through which the vital energies emerge into the world.  This piece is constructed in such a way that it may be either used as a solitary mediation, or as part of a group ritual.  In either event, this rite is best performed outside, in a garden ready for planting, in a park, or in some wild forest clearing.  The poetic framework for this piece draws inspiration from the French rondeau consisting of fifteen lines in three stanzas with the first line of the first stanza serving as refrain for the remaining two stanzas.  The repeat “Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring” and the last line of the first stanza “She the jewel-box, He the key, each the gateway opening” make a nice chant if practicing alone, or a call and response if more than one person is involved.  Through the rite the participant or participants pace rhythmically round in a circle, to induce a trance state, facilitate the images as they arise from the underworld, and to assist in building the energies that ease open the Hares Gate at the height of the vernal tide.  As a visual aide, a triangle might be drawn in the grass with white corn meal, or outlined with smooth white stones.

Create sacred space in the way you know how.  Hold some seeds in your hand, preferably something native and non-invasive if you are in a wild place, or the seeds of summer flowers if in a garden.  As you begin to pace in a circle read or recite:


Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring;
Round they chase each other, dancing for the king.
Each an ear is showing, each an ear unseen;
this secret they are hiding: a threshold for a queen.
She the jewel-box, He the key, each the gateway opening.

From that world to this, through the gate the hares are weaving,
flows foison up from deep below, vitality returning  

Where it lay hidden, since the frost, down in the Labyrinthine.
Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring!

Half again a brace of hares within a gyre is withing
whilst day is waxing long and dark is finally waning.
Now when the Lord of Life and Death enclasps his livid Queen,
The gate bursts wide and into this world life and love careen
After winter’s long retreat again the earth is thriving!
Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring!

28459597_10156311199805116_937050456_oAs you walk, close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Imagine three hares running after one another, circling round and round, until their ears overlap, or blur together. The space in the middle of the dancing hares is a triangle that revolves.  Watch as this triangle rotates, spinning in the space in the center of the Hares’ Dance.  The triangle turns, first quickly, then more slowly, and comes to rest point downward.  In this position, narrow toward the earth and wide to the sky, the triangle becomes the pubic triangle of a bone white woman. White as a tooth, white as the moon, her thighs and belly revealed, but her face veiled, obscured.  Regard the White Lady a moment.

Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring;

She the jewel-box, He the key, each the gateway opening.

28340970_10156311205215116_2062647528_oA shadowy man approaches her, his darkness against her pale skin, the branches of his antlers held high, and phallus proud before him.  Pause a moment with the Lord of the Gates of Life and Death.

Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring;

She the jewel-box, He the key, each the gateway opening.

The woman and the man come together, first hand in hand, then mouth to mouth, and skin to skin, and all the while it seems as if you are between them, a part of their love making.  As they come together, her triangular gate opens slowly, and the life that has been kept safe within the otherworld floods through the open doorway, through your body, and into this world.  The life force rises through your arms and into your hands, enlivening the seeds held between your palms and fingers.

Gamboling the Hares Gate, three rabbits make a ring;

She the jewel-box, He the key, each the gateway opening.

Scatter the seeds, and the energies they now contain, in the direction of each of the four winds.

The Gyre wheel spins from tide to tide;

The Vernal Equinox reveals

The gate through all that’s fertile reels;

The Gyre wheel spins from tide to tide.

Jesper Bio image


Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives. These seasonal writings and images are excerpts from The Enchiridion Magistellus, A Visual Handbook of the Witches’ Art. Jesper can be contacted at 




Graves, R. (1948). The white goddess: A historical grammar of poetic myth.  London: UK: Faber and Faber.

Hutton, R. (1996). The stations of the sun: A history of the ritual year in Britain.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hutton, R. (2001). Triumph of the moon: A history of modern Pagan witchcraft. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Jung, Carl Gustav. (1947 [1954]).  On the nature of the psyche. Coll. Works (Vol. VIII). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Candlemas: Purification and Emergence

by Jesper Toad

27018943_10156228950485116_338088523_oThe celebration of Candlemas—sometimes called Imbolc,  Imbolg, or Oimelc—falls midway between the winter solstice and after the fields, long harvested, have been plowed into the ground in preparation for the new year’s sowing, and the vernal equinox.  Candlemas marks the first stirrings of spring after the winter’s long dark; the thaw in just beginning for many of us, the world emerges from beneath the shroud of snow, and life unfurls from old roots and bones.  Although February second is also Ground Hog’s Day in North America, reflecting the move the United States played to shift the end of winter and the beginning of spring from the first of February to the vernal equinox, it nevertheless is embedded in the turning of the seasons: If the groundhog sees his shadow, winter continues, and if he does not see his shadow, spring will soon come early.  The dry and cold energies of the dark are waning at this cross-quarter day, and overtaken by the swelling of the wet, cold tide of spring. Situated between the still lifelessness and the first stirrings of life, the mythic elements of Candlemas are concerned with purification and the emergence of light, warmth, and life.

Observances that occur around the first of February predominately feature two mythemes, one concerning the blessing from a saint or goddess upon the upcoming year, and a second recognizing the growing light as the days become longer.  Many Contemporary Pagans associate the opening of spring with Bride or Brigit (two spellings among the many regional variations).  Rites revolving around this Catholic Saint appear to have been framed against an older, pre-Christian, deity or spirit, and were originally geographically limited to Ireland and the surrounding islands.  However, the past handful of decades been popularized in the canon surrounding the wheel of the year.  These rituals feature the greeting of Saint Brigit with cakes laid upon the windowsill and the making of a bed in a corner or by the hearth so that she may rest from her journeys.  Sometimes a sheaf of grain, decorated with shells and ribbons, is fashioned into a likeness of the Saint for this celebration.  The criosog Bridghe, or Brigit’s cross,  an equal-armed figure made up of rushes and sometimes straw, were made on the eve of Imbolc, and hung in the eves to protect and bless the dwelling over the duration of the upcoming year and to keep it safe during inclement weather (Hutton, 1996, pp. 134-138).  When in Ireland I visited a park that had painstakingly moved historic cottages from their original foundations, presenting them as artifacts of a folk life that had all but disappeared from the island.  In several of the cots there were constellations of crosses tucked into the thatch, blackened by generations peat smoke.  Candlemas was more widespread, and a reflection of the theme of awakening reflected through the mythology of Catholicism.  Candles were blessed upon February first, and were featured in processions and often kept throughout the year to be lit for protection during storms and to bless the home (Hutton, 1996, pp. 139-145).

I am presenting here a few bits of litany that I hope can easily be woven into your celebrations for this season: a short ritual featuring the crios Bríde, and a simple candle blessing for the season.

The Crios Bríde

The crios Bríde—the girdle of Bride–was a circle of plaited straw or rushes marked in each of the circle’s four quarters by additional cross-shaped constructions and often decorated with bright bits of cloth and ribbons.  In parts of Ireland it was paraded through the town by children, and its arrival was greeted as a good omen for the upcoming year.  Men and woman would step through the crios Bríde in an act of purification, emerging fresh and new—reborn—from the circle of rushes, and strengthened to face any illness or hardship the upcoming year might bring (Harrow, Kondratiev, Miller & Reddington-Wilde, (2003), p. 136).  I have rewritten the verses in Kondratiev’s description of the Irish ceremony, finding inspiration in the heroic Italian Rispetto, a type of poem originally written to pay respect to a woman.  For this ritual you will need a representation of the crios Bríde, either a great circle of straw or reed decorated as above, or perhaps a plaited cord of suitable size that one could pass through the loop created when the ends are tied together.  Since the symbolism is one of rebirth—a girdle or belt is worn around the area of the womb and pelvis—red seems to me to be an appropriate color to feature in the construction of the crios Bríde.  I imagine the crios Bríde being passed around the circle, with each person presenting and aiding the next to pass through.

The crios Bríde is presented and the following rhyme is recited:

This fortune’s scarlet girdle circles round

The twelvemonth of the season’s spinning gyre!

And three times through the cincture shall confound

The ills of flesh, of soul, of spirit dire.

An individual passes through the crios Bríde three times; each time the following words are said:

All maladies of body, heart and mind

Are purified, renewed, reborn, refined:


After passing through the third time the final part of the litany is recited:

Whoever passes thought this girdle’s girth

Shall sevenfold increase in health and mirth!


The Candle Blessing

On the night of Candlemas this prayer might be recited over the candles to be used for the coming year:

Sweet Lady whose hands turn the gyre

Past winter cold to emerging

Warmth and light—the snow is melting

Behold this light, it heralds spring.


In ev’ry seed a flower waits

To lend is beauty willingly;

Each candle hides a blessed flame

Behold this light, it heralds spring.


Blessings on these sacred candles

That their bright flames may forward bring

Good blessings on our house and kin

Behold this light, it heralds spring.


Jesper Bio image


Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives. These seasonal writings and images are excerpts from The Enchiridion Magistellus, A Visual Handbook of the Witches’ Art. Jesper can be contacted at 


Harrow, J, Kondratiev, A, Miller, G W, & Reddington-Wilde, M. (2003).  Devoted to you: Honoring deity in Wiccan practice. New York, NY: Citadel Press Books.

Hutton, R. (1996), The stations of the sun: A history of the ritual year in Britain.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Seeds of Growth in Southern California

by Krystal Rains

21688079_sAmong other traditions of the New Year, I participate by choosing a ‘word’ to focus on during the upcoming year. My word for 2018 is “Growth”. While that has many personal meanings, my work with the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) is certainly a significant part of it. I cannot imagine a better opportunity for me to share the seeds of my ‘growth’ than in this Imbolc season newsletter.

In 2013, a fellow female Veteran let me know that she was attending a meeting 5 minutes from my home, and that became my first introduction to SLOLA. While I wasn’t up to vegetable gardening at that time, the mission of this organization was something I was excited to support, and I joined for a lifetime membership fee of $10.  Founded in December 2010, the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) is headquartered at The Learning Garden at Venice High School. The San Fernando Valley branch was the first out-growth of the main library when they recognized the significant difference in climate between the SFV and Westside LA, and what and how to grow in the different regions. In the past few months there have been new branches opening in Woodland Hills and Altadena with another soon to open in Watts.

“SLOLA MISSION is to facilitate the growth of open-pollinated seeds among residents of the Los Angeles Basin. We are building a seed collection and repository, educating members about the practice of seed-saving, and creating a local community of seed-saving gardeners. We seek to preserve genetic diversity, increase food security and food justice in our region, safeguard alternatives to GMO’s, and empower all members through a deeper connection with nature and the experience of self-reliance. We will strive for excellence in all that we do, knowing the preservation of seed is a sacred trust.”

Unlike a seed bank, a seed library is interactive. Members can check out seeds for free in the hope that they will take them out, plant them and in the next two years, let a few of the plants ‘bolt’ and bring some of those seeds back to the library. Many members also donate favorite seeds to the library to expand the collection. Meetings include a presentation to spur enthusiasm and learning for members of all interests and skill levels. Presentations I have enjoyed have been about Peppers, Tomatoes, composting (traditional and worm), several urban farms in the LA Basin (including a couple of field trips), water capture systems, and recently a presentation by the founder of the Palestinian Seed Library.  Each branch has a slightly different perspective and format. Our SFV branch includes a luncheon potluck, the Woodland Hills branch is part of a community produce exchange, and the Venice and Altadena branches have various presentations.

My recent contribution to our local branch was a presentation on “Seed Saving in the Native Garden”. I have my own California Native Garden that started over 9 years ago with whole plants; it is designed to self-seed when appropriate, but this gave me a chance to learn more about native plant seeds and seed saving. After my first presentation at SFV in October, I was asked to present at the Woodland Hills branch in December, again in January at the Venice main branch, and in Altadena on February 3rd.

Native plants might sound unusual in a fruit and vegetable garden, but there are important reasons to add a few native plants in your own garden. Many people are aware of the problem of the honey bee colony collapse. This is devastating for many reasons, and as an herbalist, I value my honey bees, but I also value the over 1400 native California pollinators. Using native plants in your gardening is as important as their use in large agricultural farms and vineyards, because it increases the yield and health of the other plants. Those native pollinators require specific plants to survive, just as the Monarch Butterflies require milk weed, but they pollinate many other plants. For more information on Native plants, I recommend the Theodore Payne Foundation and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, two important organizations in the history and preservation of our California native plant species.  Their members literally wrote many of the books on the subject. As native plants are becoming more popular, you will find many gardens and nurseries carrying them. There are other organizations in other areas of Southern California that are great resources too, but these are what I am most familiar with. The California Native Plant Society has an amazing reference  for landscaping, called Calscape, that includes which at nurseries you can find the plants locally. The appropriate season to plant and seed most of our local native plants has nearly ended (although native milk weed should be planted in early spring), but I hope that these resources will give you inspiration to plan and design some interesting upgrades in your own gardens. Plan on planting between October and January of next season as this will give the plants the best chance at surviving our harsh summer temperatures when many are dormant.

Continuing on my personal theme of “growth,” I am excited to be working on edibles in my own backyard this year. I already have two citrus trees, some herbs, and succulents. A recent visit with a friend and her very active imperfect gardening has inspired me, especially as she shared plants, cuttings and seeds. My ancestral heritage is farmers on both sides of my family, but childhood divorce separated me from the family that would have helped me learn to grow, cook and preserve food at just the age that I would have started. Each of the steps I take on this part of my path is forging a better connection with my ancestral line in a healthy and productive way. I have emotional blocks and anxieties that have slowed my connection, but I can hear the encouragement in my heart each time I attempt something new in my gardens.


Seed Library of Los Angeles
My native garden album on Facebook 
Altadena Seed Library presentation event
Theodore Payne Foundation 
Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden
California Native Plant Society
Calscape (a service of the Native Plant Society)

Moonwinders and Thaumatropes

By Jesper Toad

Play is something that is integral to the wellbeing of the soul. However, our indulging in play is something we lose sight of in the rear view mirror as we run about adulting, dashing between career and home, working to achieve at school, taking the kids to soccer practice, fixing heart-healthy meals, and struggling to pay the bills. Add to this that the Overculture, of which all contemporary magical peoples hold dual citizenship, often teaches us that play is unproductive, a waste of time, sinful, and sometimes induces feelings of shame in us for engaging in stolen moments of play (Brown, 2009, p. 7). In contrast to this, current research suggests that the ability to engage in play is a primal, preconscious, preverbal, and biological process (p. 15). This ability to play allows us to unite the logical, language based portion of our psyche with the emotional, primal part revealing itself through images and feelings. When these two parts of the psyche work together, deep in dialogue, the sense of wonder that is integral to the world of magic awakens. This wonderment propels us across the boundaries of the familiar world into the Imaginal Realm—the place of myth, fantasy, and dreams. The Imaginal Realm is not the product of the human imagination or constructed of human fantasies: it is before and beyond the human imagination, and perceived through the organ of the human imagination. Through this organ of the imagination—the Imaginatio Vera—we can perceive the dreams, images, and mythic narratives that arise there. Engaging the Imaginal Realm through creative play and ritual is, in my opinion, a large part of the work we engage as creative Contemporary Pagans. To this end I have adapted the simple toys presented here—the moonwinder and the thaumatrope—to our magical sensibilities, intending them to engage our childlike sense of play, and ease open up these doors of perception. Additionally, these toys can be adapted for meditative or spell work.

Moonwinders, whizzers, or whirligigs have served as children’s toys and campfire diversions for centuries: Native American versions of this toy date back centuries. Moonwinders were popular toys for colonial children, and children in the Great Depression played with versions made from large buttons and thread. It is a simple game: the looped threads on either side of the body of the moonwinder are pulled, causing the object to spin. The moonwinder is known by a variety of names, including skyewinder, whirligig, whizzer, and buzz saw.

Thaumatropes were popular nineteenth century toys that featured a round piece of board or wood with pictures on each side. When twirled about by the strings attached to either side these two pictures would merge into a single image. The merging of the images is due to an effect referred to as the persistence of vision, an optical illusion that occurs because our vision momentarily retains images, and one image becomes overlaid upon another. The word thaumatrope, first recorded in the early 18th century, is a combination of the Greek thauma—a miracle or wonder—and trope—from tropos, to turn.

Materials for the construction for either of these toys requires a round circle of card stock, card board, or wood (these can be found at craft stores), a hole punch or drill, and about three feet of cord for each moonwinder or thaumatrope. Images are provided with this article, but half the fun of creating this toy is engineering personal images to twirl and spin. If using the images copy and size them to the tag board or wood disc. Using a printer, print and cut out of the pairs of illustrated circles, and glue them to either back to back—if printing on a heavy cardstock—or on either side of your cardboard or wooden disc. If making a moonwinder, the orientation of the images is not important. If constructing a thaumatrope, make sure the pictures are inverted in relationship to one another: that the picture on the back of the thaumatrope when you turn it side to side is upside down. Tiny marks have been added to the images to guide this process. After the glue has dried add a coat of spray polyurethane if you like, to seal the pictures to the disc and add durability to your toy. Next, drill or punch two holes opposite each other at the edge of the disc where indicated. The difference between the moonwinder and the thaumatrope is in the way the cordage is attached. To make a moonwinder, pass the cord through both holes and tie the loose ends together. To use, hold the cord between your two hands with the disc suspended between. Wind the moonwinder by twirling the disc around, which twists the strings. When pulled taut, the disc will spin. A simple video demonstrating the creation and use of a moonwinder type toy can be found at


The materials to make a thaumatrope are the same for making a moonwinder, except that the cordage is cut into two equal halves. Each cord is looped through a hole on each side, and the loose ends tied together. The thaumatrope is held between the hands and same manner as the operator observes the picture that appears on the face of the disc. A good video demonstrating the thaumatrope can be found at

Both of these simple toys have magical applications. I find when I am working with the moonwinder the spinning and changing tension of the strings can induce a light trance or meditative state. The thaumatrope can be used as the focus of a simple spell, as suggested by the some of the designs provided. The idea is to break the spell into two visual components, one on each side of the thaumatrope. When the images are spun together into one, the intent of the spell is triggered. The examples given show a protective spell featuring the traditional spell of the heart and pins, and an invocation for the preparation of magical work, calling upon the Plough Witch who tills the land in readiness for the sowing in the spring.

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Jesper Bio image

Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives. These seasonal writings and images are excerpts from The Enchiridion Magistellus, A Visual Handbook of the Witches’ Art. Jesper can be contacted at

Making Art From Your Heart

by Jeanne McLaughlin

Art from the heart 2There are few things more satisfying than creating.  You get to present something completely new to the world that wouldn’t be there without you. And you get to be in charge of all the details, make all the decisions! How God-like!  How fun!!!

Whatever your medium is, please make your creations with love, and with the best (highest quality) materials you can get. Wherever possible, use earth-friendly, recycled or upcycled materials.  People respond to this greatly, and you’re doing Mother Earth a favor.  Most of all, be different!  Be unique!  After all, if you’re making/selling the same thing as 10 other artists, your sales will be dismal.

For example, in my case the medium is feathers, bones, or any other “leftover” or cruelty free animal parts.  None of my feathers are commercially bought.  The feathers in craft stores come from birds who have been killed for their plumage. Instead, mine are cruelty free, having molted naturally from live birds; most of them I’ve gathered myself.  When I use bones or skulls, they are ones I’ve picked up myself while hiking.  That in itself sets my work apart, and I also have the rule that I don’t make two of anything.  Each piece is unique, thus ensuring the buyer of a one-of-a-kind work.  Each pair of earrings, each feather wand or skull bells set is as individual as you or I.  When I make small leather medicine bags, I use “upcycled” leather from the thrift store.  You’d be amazed how much inexpensive, usable leather you can get from a $3 pair of pants or a skirt!

Please do yourself a favor – refer to yourself as an artist or an artisan, not a crafter.  Not only is this true, it raises your work several levels in the eyes of the buyer.  Calling yourself a “crafter” gives people the image of popsicle sticks and cotton ball type of items.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but you want to be taken as a serious artist, don’t you??)

Take pride in your work.  Before you present it as finished, double check everything.  Any hanging threads?  Any drips of paint or glue? Paying attention to the details elevates your quality and increases your sales.

Speaking of sales, it’s most important to decide for yourself if you’re doing a hobby or trying to earn some income.  In the first case, there are no rules and few cares.  It’s just for fun and not for business.  However if you’re creating your artwork for income there are many things you should do: get a resale number, save every single receipt (for taxes), keep a mileage log of every festival you sell at, or business errand you go on as all those miles are deductable.  Best of all is the “home office” deduction.  If you can designate one room to *only* use for your art/business, then you can deduct a prorated amount of your rent and utilities.

Most importantly of all – have fun!  After all, if you’re not enjoying your creations then why make them?  They should be something that makes your own heart sing.  And if your creations can be practical as well as pretty then you’ve got another advantage over your competitors.

I’ve submitted some pictures of some of my favorite pieces to inspire the artist in you.  My general guideline is when the piece looks like something I’d rather keep than sell, then it’s done.  😉

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Jeanne McLaughlin is a Medicine Woman who spends her life studying and teaching Shamanic ways. Jeanne’s personal practice is Animal Medicine; working with animal spirits when they pass, and making Medicine Art from the feathers & bones she finds in the wild. Jeanne can be contacted at and you can find her beautiful work for sale at Shaman Art from my Heart.


by by Jesper Toad


The curved face of Newgrange appears suddenly, looming through the hedgerow of trees, dominating the otherwise flat farmlands.  White quartz stones, fished out of the Boyne five millennia gone, shore up the sides of the hill, while the west facing entrance features inwardly bowed walls of dark stone, towering over the cup-marked and bespiraled kerbstone that marks the entrance to this ancient megalithic site.  Uncanny, the great mound has an un-natural relationship with surrounding landscape: the entire structure has been constructed by the hands of man.

The monolithic monument of Newgrange in Ireland aligns itself to the winter solstice sunrise, and is believed to have been erected somewhere around 3200-3000 BCE, during a creative cultural and spiritual transition from the construction and use of early tomb-shrines to that of circular ceremonial enclosures.  Although it is important to recognize the ritual importance of the stations of the sun, and in particular the nadir of the winter solstice, Newgrange, Stonehenge, and the other megalithic monuments aligned to cardinal points of the sun are atypical, comprising only a small percentage of the hundreds of Neolithic structures in Britain (Hutton, 1996, pp. 4-5).

Midwinter in the northern hemisphere marks the height of the period of cold and darkness, and the point in which the great annual gyre begins spinning back toward light and warmth.  The dominant symbolism of the season, shared by several religions, is that of the return of light, often represented in the image of a numinous child emerging from the obscured and unknowable womb of the great mother.

Newgrange swells up from the surrounding Irish countryside like the pregnant belly of a woman, promising life, even though it also serves as the repository that receives the remains of those who have gone before.  This megalithic monument seems intimately linked with birth, occurring at the moment of greatest darkness, and death, that darkness into which we all must travel: they are one in the same gate through which we pass between the visible and the invisible realms.

To enter the great burial mound is to take a journey into the underworld.  The great kerbstone—the threshold of the house of death and rebirth—must be clambered over, and then one squeezes past the flat, upright stones that line the narrow corridor leading to the inner chambers.  As I shimmy sideways and duck where the ceiling is low, I wonder about the people who essayed this passage before me: not just the thousands of tourists wandering through on a yearly basis, but back in the mists of time, to people who approached the mound as a mystery, who housed their dead within this raised earth, and whose bones and ashes eventually found themselves interred in the great stone basins of the side chambers.

The visitors crowd the central chamber beneath the corbelled roof. The lights dim, and finally go out completely in order to demonstrate how the light of the sun passes through the roofbox and travels down the sixty-foot passage to illuminate the farthest reaches of the burial mound.  Standing in the utter darkness, I realize how seldom modern Americans experience a complete lack of light, and a tangle of panic begins to unwind from deep in my belly.  The weight of the unseen burial mound above and around me presses close, and I fight unbidden feelings of isolation and terror.

Mythically, this traveling into the abysmal depth of the realm of the dead at the time of the winter solstice is the beginning of the abaissement du niveau mental, which exhausts the ego of psychological energy as the individual descends into the creative unconscious to witness the cyclical destruction and recreation of not only the world.  It is a rehearsal for the end of our lives, when the temenos of the mother swallows each of us down.  The great womb becomes our resting place, our grave: we dissolve in the absolute darkness, returning to an undifferentiated state.

Later this grave, the tomb, the ash-filled urn becomes a womb-like alembic, a transformative container in which the sacred conjunctio oppositorum—the union of opposites—of death and rebirth occurs (Abraham, 1998, p. 219).  Reduced back to this primal state of being in the maternal womb we are ready for the recreation of the world, and the re-emergence of the purified and reconstellated ego (Edinger, p. 47-48).

The darkness is so absolute that the images behind my eyes emerge and dance across the vacant visual field.  When the dagger of light first dimly glimmers upon the floor, it seems as if it is one of these hypnagogic images, until I brightens enough to banish the phantasmagoria of the mind, and becomes the only thing within the darkened place of death, silence, and possibility. Light darts down the corridor and enters the small crowded space, playing out golden upon the dusty floor, driving panic before it as it fills the room with life and hope.

On the winter and summer solstices the sun appears to set and rise in the same place upon the horizon.  The word solstice is phenomenological, deriving from Latin solstitium, meaning that the sun stands still (Hutton, 1996, p. 2).  This lack of movement of the solar orb suggests a suspended moment of time, a mystical diastema between the fading of one year and the vitalization of the next.

Newgrange has a special orifice above the main passage through which the morning sun shines, invading the central chambers and disrupting the reign of darkness and death but a few days surrounding the winter solstice (Hutton, 1996, p. 4).  This orifice, carved with a geometric lozenge and cross motif, reminds me of the fontanel, that fissure at the top of the skull through which shamanic healers blow back a lost soul into the corpus of the body (Ronnberg, 2010, p. 404).  It is through this rectangular stone oculus above the entrance to the tumulus that the sun fertilizes the tomb, calling forth the souls from the fecund darkness, and initializing the return of life and vitality from where it lies resting within the earth.  As witnesses to the rebirth of life, we take our place in the cosmic dance of destruction and creation, knowing we will never be eternally lost, but will re-emerge, transformed, to span another and another cycle upon the face of the beloved earth.

In this way we enter into the mythic narrative.  The birth of the wunderkinder—the wondrous child—at the winter solstice is also, if we submit to the transformative process, the rebirth of ourselves.  Standing in the darkness of the womb-tomb, between the living and the dead, at the moment the sun stops, our hearts stop, our minds stop, creativity incubates and we prepare for a new stage of growth.  If we have engaged out work in earnest we experience an apocatastasis, a resurrection to an original state of wholeness and potential.

The tourists file out, ducking the low stones, and squeezing the narrows.  The passage out of the tumulus is now like a birth canal, as one by one we blink our way into the sunlight to clamber over the great kerbstone.  I pause, looking at the spirals, circling in, circling out, in a constant circumambulation around an obscured center point.  Walking out amongst the stones upon the Irish green on this soft summer day, I wonder at the re-enactment of the midwinter sunrise in the darkness and the elsewhere and the elsewhen it evoked.

When we have come through the darkness, when the sun has begun to strengthen and we know that the fertile seasons are fated to return, then it is time for celebration.  The pre-Christian festivals that marked the dying and reborn annual cycle included various practices, common among them bedecking living spaces with evergreens, feasting, gift-giving, dancing, and singing.  Consequently, a song seems most appropriate.  I have adapted the old carol to suit new needs, to serve as a song for this endris night—endris meaning long and enduring—at the dark time of the winter solstice.


This Endris Night
This cold and lonely endris night

Of darkness and dismay

The shadows catch between my bones

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


But from my belly shines a light

A babe as bright as day

Struggling to be born this night

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


The babe’s head crowns as if through clouds

No moon or star astray

And cries aloud into the dark

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


My arms enclose the lambent form

An innocent display:

The babe upon the mother’s breast

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


Brought forth upon this endris night

You bring the break of day,

Sweet child of promise, child of light,

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


The interplay of light and dark—

The stars, the moon, the day—

Each spirit tending to its sphere

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


Brought forth upon this endris night

You bring the break of day,

Sweet child of promise, child of light,

Lullay, bye-bye, lullay.


Hutton, R. (1996). The stations of the sun: A history of the ritual year in Britain.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ronnberg, A (Ed.).  (2010).  The book of symbols: Reflections on archetypal imagery.  Cologne, Germany: Taschen

Edinger, E. (1985). Anatomy of the psyche: Alchemical symbolism in psychotherapy.  La Salle, IL: Open Court.

Abraham, L. (1995). A dictionary of alchemical imagery.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Jesper Bio image


Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives. These seasonal writings and images are excerpts from The Enchiridion Magistellus, A Visual Handbook of the Witches’ Art. Jesper can be contacted at

Images of Rebirth: the Ancient Egyptian Concept of Creation

by Maatkara, Chantress of Hathor

We are your children, we ask for rebirth,
Each day anew, we are born with the Sun
– “Lady of the Sky”©2002 by Morgana RavenTree

Tut Lotus
Tutankhamun in the guise of Ra rising from the lotus on the Mound of Creation

Existence began in darkness.  The Primordial Waters existed alone, unchanging, but moving continually.  At one moment, the flowing waters caused a grain of sand to move. This caused it to push against another grain of sand and caused it to move, and so on and so on, until slowly the Benben, the first mound of sand, rose from the waters to become the first dry land.  Upon this mound, a fragrant lotus bloomed and from the lotus emerged Atum, the First One, he who was both male and female for he brought forth life from within himself.  He masturbated, sneezed or spat forth Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture) from within himself.  From them proceeded all the other gods.

There are many creation stories from all over ancient Egypt.  Each major city had its own version featuring its local deity.  In some versions the creator was Heru, in others Ptah, in still others Asar (Osiris), or Amun.  In the city of Iunu (more commonly known by its Greek name, Heliopolis), the creator was Ra (or Re) the Sun God.  Each day Ra travels across the sky until at the end of the day he is swallowed by Nut, the goddess of the night sky.  At dawn, he is reborn from Nut’s womb and begins his journey again.

These images of rebirth and renewal were an integral part of Egyptian cosmology.  For the Egyptians, these events happened not in some distant past, or even their own early history.  The creation of the universe happened this very morning and happens again every morning.  The creation “myths” were happening all around them in the present.  Creation was not a one-time event, but occurred and reoccurred continuously – the annual inundation (flooding) of the Nile, the Sed festival renewing Pharaoh’s life and reign – but it all begins with the rebirth of the Sun, and therefore the universe, every morning.

It is difficult to imagine what it is like to live surrounded by such imagery, one of the many reasons it is difficult for modern people to understand the true nature of Egyptian culture.  So, which of the creation myths is true?  They’re all “true” in their essence, a concept modern people find hard to understand, but the Egyptians understood.

One of these mornings, go out just before dawn and raise your face to the rising sun (but don’t look at it).  Spread your arms and feel the warmth and power of the sun.  Let it re-energize you.  While the Egyptians had complex rituals for this purpose, you need only greet the Sun with humility and praise in your heart, and receive the power of (re)creation.

Recommended readings: Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts by James P. Allen; Idea into Image: Essays on Ancient Egyptian Thought by Erik Hornung; Ancient Egyptian Religion by Stephen Quirke; Eternal Egypt by Richard J. Reidy

I Give You Bread, I Give You Beer – Food Offerings in Ancient Egypt

By Maatkara, Chantress of Hathor

“Hail Amun-Ra, I present to you honey, the Eye of Heru, the sweet one, the exudation of the Eye of Ra, the Lord of Offerings.”

1What exactly are “offerings” and why should we give them?  Simply put, offerings are gifts we give freely with joy in our hearts.  We give them to the Gods out of respect (or sometime fear), to the ancestors to honor them and even to spirits to appease them. 

In ancient Egypt, one of the most important aspects of ritual was the act of making offerings to the gods or ancestors.  The Pharaohs of Egypt were called the “Sons of Ra” (the sun god) and functioned as the intermediary between the gods and the people.  Because of Pharaoh’s divine status only he or she could act in this capacity.  Each day at sunrise, Pharaoh, or an officiating priest representing him, removed the statue of Ra from its shrine inside the temple so it could be purified (with incense, natron (sodium carbonate) and water), dressed in clothes (literally, the statues wore clothing and jewelry) and anointed (with oils or sometimes honey), then returned to the shrine, ready to receive a ritual meal.  The meal enabled the God to regenerate his life force.

Although the gods were also offered fragrant flowers, scented oils and incense, the simplest food offerings were bread and beer, traditional foods no Egyptian could live without.  Meat, fowl, fruit, vegetables, oil, honey and wine might also be offered.  After allowing time for the God to consume its essence, the priests and temple staff would share the foods.

A similar “feast” occurred at the end of the funerary rites after interment of the mummy into its tomb.  As part of the funerary rites the family would gather in a special room in the tomb and assemble a funeral banquet.  The food offerings would be blessed by the priest and the family would celebrate the departed family member. This was a festive occasion and the guests would wear their finest clothes and jewels.

Afterwards, when the deceased had “eaten” the essence of the foods, they were divided up by the family, with a portion also given to the priest. Often a portion of the meal was placed inside the tomb before it was sealed. 

In a sense, when Pharaoh (or priest) performed the morning ritual, he was making offerings to his own ancestors, being their divine descendent.

In common villages, the family might hold a similar funeral banquet and share the food with the village.

The offerings were a farewell to the deceased and a symbolic nourishment for them, but they also had another purpose. They distributed food among all the family members or even the village so that even the less-fortunate could share in the bounty.

When you observe your rituals, you may wish to add the offering of foods to the gods as the ancient Egyptians did. Remember, the best offerings are the ones given with no expectation of return.     

 Recommended readings: Egyptian Food and Drink by Hilary Wilson; Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard Reidy; and Ancient Egyptian Magic by Bob Brier.