New Old Ways Newsletter

The theme of the July 2020 edition of the Southland Pagan Press will be Old New Ways. In the midst of this Coronavirus crisis many people have turned to old time crafts.

In the upcoming newsletter we would love to hear about the old crafts of bread making, fiber arts, pottery, weaving, growing and preserving food and any thing else you can share.  We need your submissions (blogs, slide shows, videos, podcasts, etc) by Sunday June 28th.

If you have events you would like feature the deadline is the same. Please submit your events at this link or reply to this email to submit either article or event. 
The newsletter will give you full credit for the work and link to your contact info of choice. Our preference is to link to the original source but if one is not available other arrangements can be made. 

Family Rituals to Mark Life’s Passages

by Suburban Artemis

An ongoing project of mine is writing a resource book of rites of passage for pagan families.  I have been compiling rituals I have written to celebrate transitions in our young daughter’s life,, such as giving up the pacifier and the end of the breastfeeding relationship.  It won’t be complete until she is grown — she is six as of this writing, so many more transitions to come!  Please enjoy this draft of the introduction and first chapter. 

Family Rituals to Mark Life’s Passages

When my daughter was born, I had the distinct feeling of having visited the underworld and having returned as a new being, with new powers and abilities.  And here was this brand-new person, totally dependent on me for everything, not just sustenance and warmth but also a spiritual foundation on which to find her trust in the universe.  A terrifying set of responsibilities.  And too few places to look for wisdom and guidance.

I came to paganism in my fertility journey.  I had lost touch with the Christian god of my childhood and I needed some divine support.  I had the experience that many pagans do of reading something and unexpectedly saying to myself “Oh – that is what I am!”  It was through the support of my coven sisters and the divine intervention of Yemaya (and Oshun) that I finally had a viable pregnancy after years of suffering.  Bringing a baby girl into the world opened my eyes to the utter necessity of standing up to the patriarchy, beginning with recognizing the female in the divine. 

Resources for pagan parenting are few and far between.  There are some noble efforts at websites, and books for children and parents alike, but the reality is that parents have very little time when their children are experiencing these passages and little interest in writing about them after the fact, although it would be tremendously useful for those who come after.  The books that currently exist are mostly geared toward holidays and projects to do with the children.  There is not much dedicated to rites of passage. It is as though these gateways don’t exist, as though pagans spring as fully formed adults and members of the community from their mother’s womb. 

It is my intent with this work, written in pieces, lovingly, over my daughter’s childhood, that I leave behind something that speaks to you. You may be raising pagan children yourself.  Or maybe you follow another tradition and are looking for wisdom and concrete ideas to create your own rites.  Creating ritual for your children is a priceless gift.  If you start when they are small, they will grow up with an inherent understanding of the importance of marking and celebrating transitions.  Even if your children are already older, introducing them to reverence for the passages of life will plant a seed that might bloom at the most unexpected and needed time.

Here it is, laid out for you, dear reader.  I have kept it all real.  Not every ritual was smooth, blissful success and I will include my commentary on how each unfolded.  I learned from each one, and each one, in its own way, served the purpose for which it was intended.  The rituals outlined in this book are not meant to be followed word for word (although you are most welcome to do so) but as inspiration for you to find the magic you need to gracefully pass through your own transitions.

Chapter One:  Conception

New moon in Cancer, 2013.  I’ve been initiated into Twilight Spiral Coven and I am tasked with creating a new moon ritual in order to receive my second degree priestesshood.  My husband and I have been struggling in a dark place.  Two miscarriages, two years of “secondary infertility” (how can it be secondary if I’ve never actually had a baby?)  I see a box checked on my chart at the doctor’s office that says “habitual aborter”.  Fertility drugs give me hallucinations.  We have a failed attempt at artificial insemination.  We have given up.  We are ready to cash out our retirement to put a down payment on an adoption agency (couldn’t risk spending our retirement on a failed IVF)…we need to get the ball rolling if we want a child BEFORE we enter our forties. 

I am at my office job, using my time wisely to plan the ritual.  I am going to ask the universe to make peace once and for all with our choice.  Scrolling though a google search on mother goddesses, I come across Yemaya.  I do a little research and find a beloved song that I didn’t really understand the words to.  It is a song for Yemaya.  I begin creating the ritual in my mind:  it needs to be at the beach.  The new moon is coming up in Cancer, that watery, nurturing energy. 

I ask the girls to bring peacock feathers.  I find a tablecloth, blue with silver stars, I had sewn for a patriotic table display the year prior.  In the kitchen at work I find a blue dish shaped like a shell left behind by an art student long ago.  I buy seashells at Michael’s and peacock scrapbook paper.  Our high priestess checks with the authorities to make sure we can use real candles for our “prayer circle”.

The day of the ritual arrives.  I drive the whole coven to the beach.  We set up our altar in the sand near the parking lot, where a river meets the sea. It is getting dark.  My husband is serving as a bouncer, making sure we are not interrupted by passersby.  It is windy.  We begin the ritual.  We barely make it through calling the elements when a wave comes out of nowhere.  An ocean wave, reaching for the parking lot and taking with it many sacrifices we had not intended to give.  Not just the peacock feathers but almost everyone’s shoes.  A new cell phone is destroyed. 

There is much debate if we should continue on.  We agree that those who want to sit it out can wait for the rest to finish.  We write our wishes and deposit them in seashells to return to the ocean.  I ask Yemaya to settle this situation once and for all.

I dream that night of driving with the coven to the top of a mountain where we see the sun and the moon come together as one.  I take a pregnancy test the same week.  Unbeknownst to me, I had conceived at the summer solstice.  And this time, it stuck.

New Moon Ritual Honoring Mama Yemaya and Our Original Waters

This ritual was performed by Twilight Spiral Coven (now Temple Sophia) but could be modified for solitary practitioners.  You will need your ritual tools, an offering for the goddess, paper and pen for writing your petitions and seashells for each participant with an opening that can hold the petitions.  If the beach setting is not available to you, get creative!  You can create your own salt water at home.

Cast circle and call quarters according to your tradition.

Evoke the goddess:
Yemaya, mother of the waters
You are deep and mysterious as the sea
Thank you for gifting us with the seashell, so we can hear your voice
Help us to glean new understanding by revisiting our source
Share with us your protection and creative force. 

Make your offering.

High Priestess:
New moon in Cancer:  a good time to revisit our original waters.  Cancer is a sign that challenges us to come out of dependency and master our moods, initiate ideas and move people. Let us trace the lineage of our feelings, and find treasure there.  What is in your past that deserves a second look for understanding, meaning and healing?  Reflect on your family and where you come from.  What is unresolved in your soul?  Now I will sing to Mama Yemaya – as you listen to the song, think about what you would like her to help you bring to fruition.  (The song used here was “Back to the Sea” as recorded by Sky Cries Mary)

Now write on your paper whatever you would like Yemaya to help you to finish.  Fold your paper and put it inside your seashell. 

All say:
Great Mother, your daughters beseech you
It is our spirit mixed with you
That sends us here to make things new
Mother Yemaya, your waters carry our hearts
We ask that you bring our wishes so that we may have a fresh start.

Return the shells to Yemaya’s ocean body.

Thank you Mother, your blessings abound, and we are ever grateful.

Here you may do cakes and ale and/or a blessing circle.

Release the goddess:
Mother Yemaya, mother of all the orisha
You are the beautiful, divine feminine
Star of the Sea, Ocean Goddess of the Crescent Moon
Thank you for sharing your presence tonight.
Go if you must, stay if you will.

Release the quarters and open the circle.

Suburban Artemis encompasses the creative work of Heather Westenhofer, artist, certified yoga instructor and second-degree priestess of the Temple Sophia 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.

A Croning Ritual

adjusted for print by Kandy Crenshaw

This ritual is a collaborative creation by a group of solitary practitioners. Our friend requested that we gather to celebrate her transition to the crone.  It was a joyful and impactful experiences to come together with our ideas and create a ritual that I will treasure always. I hope you find some inspiration within.  

Maiden, Mother, and Warrior all refer to roles taken by participants. The maiden wears a white veil, the mother a red veil and the warrior a purple veil. The Supplicant role is the person being led through the ritual.

Maiden will walk the circle and lay the white flower blooms in between each elemental altar saying, “The maiden walks in wonder and the world flowers beneath her feet”

Mother will walk the circle and lay 4 apples on the ground just after the flowers and says, “The mother walks in fruitfulness and the world changes as she passes”

Warrior will walk the circle and lay 4 arrows on the ground just before the flowers “The warrior walks in courage and the world bends to her will”

All three walk the circle and sprinkle breadcrumbs “The crone walks in wisdom and guides all women home”

Mother calls the east and lights the candle “To the East, we invite the powers of Air. To remember our lessons and inspire us to continue learning”

Maiden calls the south and lights the candle “To the South, we invite the powers of Fire. To burn away regrets and shine your gentle rays upon us for growth”

Mother calls the west and lights the candle “To the West, we invite the powers of Water. To cleanse us of negativity and purify our thoughts”

Maiden calls the north and lights the candle “To the North, we invite the powers of Earth. Let your renewing strength bury all ills and open new paths before” 

All three return to the altar and light the goddess candles. Maiden white, Mother red, Warrior black.

Maiden approaches Supplicant who is waiting outside of the circle. Maiden says “I am given name, daughter of Mothers name, daughter of grandmothers name, daughter of great grandmothers name. The goddess knows me by chosen name. Will you be purified and come into our women’s space? Wait for an answer then begin cleansing at the end say,” by the ever renewing power of the maiden you are cleansed ” The Maiden takes the Supplicant by the arm and walks her to the Mother.

Mother says “I am given name, daughter of Mothers name, daughter of grandmothers name, daughter of great grandmothers name. Will you name yourself and come into our women’s space? Wait for an answer then anoint her forehead with salt water,”by the nurturing love of the mother you are blessed and welcomed, Supplicants given name” Take her by the other arm and walk her to the entrance together.

Warrior stands at the threshold and says, “I am given name, daughter of Mothers name, daughter of grandmothers name, daughter of great grandmothers name. Do you enter our womens space with love and trust, Supplicants given name?” Wait for an answer then hold the curtain aside, “by the tender trust of the wounded warrior you are welcome” Mother and Maiden lead Supplicant to the altar and Warrior follows. All four take up places around the altar. 

Warrior invokes the silent host “We are but the latest in a long line of sacred women. I call upon the women, the maidens, the mothers, the warriors and the crones that have celebrated these rites before us. Come and witness silent host!”

Maiden hands Supplicant the basket of offerings and says, “Supplicants given name , would you like to honor your ancestors?”

Supplicant honors welcomes and gives offering to her ancestors. 

Mother invokes the supplicants chosen goddess: “I invoke thee, Hecate, Midnight’s Lady, Goddess of the cross roads  and the Three Ways, Protectress of children, midwife, healer, come, be here! Mother of night! Dark Power of the moon! Keeper of the shadow,Hear our call Mistress of Wilderness, we call to you and ask that you join us and witness this croning rite, let your growing light shine upon or intention.”

Maiden says, “We gather in this womens space to honor the path of Supplicants given name. Honored Sister, will you wear this veil?” Drapes Supplicant in the purple veil and takes her to her seat. Mother pours wine for all and hands it out and Warrior takes cakes for all and hands them out then everyone sits on cushions in front of Supplicant. 

Maiden says, “Mother Warrior Supplicants given name, will you tell us about your first blood?” Supplicant tells story 

Mother says, “Mother Warrior Supplicants given name, will you tell us about your first love?” Supplicant tells story

Warrior says, “Mother Warrior Supplicants given name, will you tell us of your most fierce battle?” Supplicant tells story

Maiden says,”You have much wisdom and experience is there any wisdom you would share with a Maiden?”
Mother says, “Honored Nurturer, have you any wisdom to share with a Mother?” 

Warrior says, “Your battles inspire me, have you any wisdom to share with a Warrior?”

Mother stands and takes the wine cups and such back to the altar, the rest follow suit and tidy up.

Supplicants given name, before you can truly take the title of crone you must willingly let go of the titles of Mother and Warrior. In the company of these women gathered – seen and unseen – to whom you are daughter, sister, mother, and friend speak your last words as Mother and then shed her veil.

Supplicants speaks.

Maiden says “A crone is the beauty of the dark moon, she is weathered by time and tempered by experience.”

Mother speaks “ She knows confidence and freedom and strives to be one with truth. She is maiden with knowledge, mother that knows loss and warrior in repose.”

Warrior speaks” She walks in her hard won wisdom and uses it to guide women and the world.  Do you accept this mantle of crone? 

Mother provides a gift

Maiden provides a gift

Warrior provides a gift

Supplicant given name daughter of ____, daughter of _____, daughter of _____, What shall the goddess know you as from this day forward? Supplicant gives her new name. All hail Crone, ____! All shout new name and toast. 

Crone ____, have you any words to share?

Goddess thanked: Hecate, of the crossroads! Thank you for joining us in this celebration. Hail and farewell.

Maiden says, Crone ____, would you like to thank your ancestors? Supplicant’s ancestors are thanked

Silent host thanked: We joyously thank our silent host of women that have walked these paths before us! Hail and farewell. 

Maiden goes to the  north and says, “Earth, thank you for your presence, hail and farewell”

Mother goes to the west and say, “Water, thank you for your presence, hail and farewell”

Maiden goes to the  south and says, “Fire, thank you for your presence, hail and farewell”

Mother goes to the west and say, “Air, thank you for your presence, hail and farewell”

Warrior takes up the basket  and walks widdershins around the circle picking up the arrows at the end states, “The warrior returns to battle.” 

Mother takes the basket and walks widdershins around the circle picking up the apples, “The mother returns to caring for her folk.” 

Maiden takes the basket and walks widdershins around the circle picking up the blooms and at the end states, “The maiden returns to her exploration.” 

All return to the altar and take hands. “May the crone watch over them all” and extinguish candles.

The Rites of Passage for Witches

By Augusta Johnson

Do you remember the time before being a witch?

Do you remember the feeling of becoming one?

Lastly, do you remember the transition between these two things?

Even if one is born into a family tradition or heritage, each practitioner of the Craft experiences a singular moment of transition between being just a regular old human and that of becoming a witch. You know what I mean – that “aha” moment when you suddenly knew that magic was at your fingertips, and that you were now part of an awakened reality where anything was possible, because YOU were now MAGIC. Remember?!?

That instance of transition, whether it be a minute, or a year and a day, is what anthropologists call the liminal period. Liminality is defined by Merriam-Webster as “of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold”. Whether one is formally initiated, or informally decides to claim the label “witch” for their own, there is still a glimmering moment of what anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep calls “liminality”. This is the bridge between two states of being in a rite of passage, when a person separates from their prior existence and incorporates into a new identity.

For traditionalists, much is made of the “year and a day” of study before initiation, but there should be equal attention paid to the magical moment of “betwixt and between”. For a moment in time, we are literally caught between worlds, the so-called “normal” 3D regular, and the etheric, supernatural one. When a witch makes that transition of identification, they literally shed self and spirit, ideally forming a new being that is able to traverse worlds and dimensions. They were human, flesh and blood. Now they are a witch, a magical entity able to cross planes of existence and bend the laws of nature (fingers crossed!)

But can the witch sometimes stay in that state of liminality? Caught between worlds can be a literal dilemma for many who are “in the broom closet”, unable to commit to the title of “witch” publically due to social norms and economic realities. One foot in the normal, one foot in the magical, they seem to hover marginally in-between. Perhaps it should be more correctly viewed that once one has claimed this identity of “witch”, and all that entails, one can be seen as fully crossed-over, that their public self is now only a persona, cloaking the true witch self. For even in the broom closet, the rites of passage can occur, and hence, the transformation will be complete.

Years ago, I remember reading how a famous witch compared becoming a witch to jumping off a cliff – that there was no way back. I have always liked the finality of that thought, that becoming a witch was not just a social transition, but a religious one, that the taking of vows, consciously or subconsciously, meant something. Even those who renounce the Craft still carry the “witch” definition with them as a former, and hence permanent, part of their existence. (Yes, I am unfortunately reminded of Christine O’Donnell, the most notorious of former witches. Commence eye roll!)

Lastly, what if you are a pagan contemplating witchhood? Not to deter those who balk at the finality of what I stated above, but the contemplation of such a rite of passage is indeed rife with consequence. You will be choosing to cross into a world of magic and possibility, to embrace marginality, and to own an identity that is still cloaked with disapproval in most quarters. My witchly advice, however, is to seize the moment, make that jump, and look for the magic that transits your path from one state to the other. The moment in-between is pregnant with potential – let it be yours.

Augusta Johnson is a high priestess and witch, and proprietor of Wolf River Artifacts, an e-commerce business that specializes in repurposing and recycling of clothing and home goods.

Bibliography “Liminal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. The University of Chicago Press, 1975.