Autumn time, red leaves fall while the weeping sky looks overall.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Feature: Writer, Heather Mendel

I am so delighted today to introduce my dear friend Heather Mendel. Heather is an incredibly accomplished woman; she is a writer, an artist, a feminist, a human rights activist, a spiritual seeker, a teacher and an inspiration to many who believe we are currently experiencing a shift in human consciousness.

You can learn more about Heather and her work on her website:
Heather Mendel - Bing Images
She joyfully invites you to join her on Facebook at:

And on Twitter at: celebratingeve

Heather's book, Dancing in the Footsteps of Eve is a search for the Sacred Feminine in the biblical story of humanity's first mother. Heather utilizes the Four Worlds of Kabbalah to excavate a deeper meaning below the surface of Eve's story -- a meaning that enlightens readers to Eve's position as a positive feminine archetype who can elevate the consciousness of all willing men and women.

Heather, I remember that we first met when you and Cantor Ricki Weintraub presented a retelling of Eve’s story in music and prose to the San Luis Obispo Inter-Faith Ministerial Association. Was Dancing in the Footsteps of Eve inspired by that collaboration or was the presentation one way your idea for the book manifested?
'Dancing In The Footsteps of Eve' was gestating for many years before the book was published. I continue to offer presentations based on the central theme that Eve (rather than one woman - and a bad woman at that, once in a garden, once in time) instead is a symbol of the intuitive— a personal aspect of the Sacred Feminine that is alive within every human being. 'She' is the curious, courageous, insightful and hope-filled energy that moves us bravely into the mysterious unknown. She invites us to step out of the familiar when change is necessary.

She is always with us as The Shechina - a term that comes from the Hebrew word meaning the tangible Presence that 'dwell among us.' Curiosity is a gift bestowed on us to be used and appreciated; it is what moves the story of our own evolution forward. Without it, what would ever evolve? Where would science or spirituality be without us asking the questions of what is possible? We are blessed with unlimited potential that we access by pushing the boundaries of what we have been conditioned to believe.

Can you briefly explain the Kabbalah and how studying it has informed you as an activist?

Every religious tradition has its inner or hidden teaching that exists below the superficial rituals and dogmas that separate us from one another. Surface distinctions, in a spiritually mature society, motivates us to celebrate our diversity. Delving into the inner core of our faith traditions, boundaries dissolve and differences blend into the unified interconnectedness from which we came and to which we return. Kabbalah is the name given to the Jewish mystical teaching, practice and pathway that invites the practitioner to see deeply, to feel passionately and to decide how, where and when to make a personal commitment and contribution to make the world better because we are here.
We cannot do it all, but neither are we free to desist from being who we are and adding something to the flow of life. The spiritual journey is based on finding answers to the questions who am I and why am I here? Jewish mysticism helps me formulate the answer that I am here as a temporary, individual aspect of the The Eternal, blessed with the gift of life.I am here to be 'Heathering' just as yours, Tammie is 'Tammie-ing.' By bringing to conscious awareness the challenges I face and exercising the gifts with which I am blessed, I experience my physicality while at the same time, adding my perceptions, thoughts, feeling and intuitions into the Akashic Record of all that was, is and shall be.

If Eve could speak to her modern-day daughters what do you think she would tell us?

Be curious, courageous, intuitive and hopeful. In expecting and accepting all that you are, step forward bravely into the ongoing mystery and take your rightful place in the ongoing evolution of consciousness of which you are an essential part.
What would you most like readers of your book to understand?

Nothing is as it appears. Emerson says it well: 'Beware of what you are worshipping - for what you are worshipping you are becoming.' In Judaism, Divinity is best understood as a verb rather than a noun— as power of becoming in whose image we are created. The Hebrew words 'eheyeh asher eheyeh' often translated as 'I am that I am'— beyond gender, beyond 'thingness' —can also be translated as I become that I become.
Tell me about your upcoming project, the mystic oracle cards.

My newest project, The Syzgy Oracle, is almost complete. I have created a card deck of 22 multilayered images, interpreted from the Tarot's Major Arcana, as a practice and pathway to consciousness for women. The cards and the accompanying guidebook draw together the worlds of Tarot, Torah, the Tree of Life and transformation, mystical Judiasm, the hero's journey and sacred geometry. Coming soon to a website near you...


---- If you have written a spiritually uplifting book from a non-traditional point of view or know someone who has and would like to be featured on this blog, please leave your information as a comment and I'll contact you as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Learning Motherpeace Again

When I first came to the Goddess path I was fascinated by the Tarot. As my mentor shared what she knew about this once-secret form of divination and offered the use of her many decks, I was consistently drawn to the round cards: The Motherpeace and Daughters of the Moon decks. After practicing with both sets as well as the traditional Ryder-Waite I decided that Motherpeace was "my deck." I loved the somewhat primitive artwork and was drawn to the earthy palette. I also appreciated -- still appreciate -- that the Motherpeace cards are feminist and goddess-based, but still honor male energy.

I loved the whole ritual of reading the cards, the lighting of candles and incense, unfolding them from a silk scarf that I had chosen especially for holding my deck, the mixing and touching of the cards, stacking them into neat piles and breathing into a fully trusting relationship with my intuitive self as I choose the right cards to answer the questions of my soul.

Created by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogle

Each full moon I consulted the cards for insight into the coming moon cycle. They were ever at my side when I sought divine aid or struggled to hear the answers my gut whispered into my ear. Each year on my birthday I contemplated a lengthy spread for the coming year. I read with friends and eventually for them. I relied on my intuition as much as I relied on the Motherpeace handbook and my general Tarot instruction.

And then I stopped.

I don't know why. It may have been the year my mother passed over, and I slipped into a deep depression. I stopped doing a lot of things I loved that year, and twelve years later I am still working to recover some of them.

Now I'm learning Motherpeace again.

Two nights ago I took them out of their crocheted bag, unfolded them from their silk scarf and smudged each card, all 78 of them, one by one with a wand of burning sage. I divided them into their suits and arranged the Major Arcana from 0 to 22 then shuffled and mixed until my hands recognized the softly worn edges of their roundness once again. I lit a candle and took a breath. I made three stacks and pulled three cards. The rest of the world ceased to exist for a few minutes while examined the images on the cards then chewed and swallowed their meaning.


I've signed up for a free Tarot instruction class online and have joined the Tarot Guild, hoping to make some valuable connections and learn from those with far more experience than I. My heart flutters at the idea of being an apprentice once more.

Learning Motherpeace again means more to me than just brushing up on my divination skills. I am reconnecting, recovering. And it's fitting work in this dark season of my first year as a hatchling crone.

I'm learning Motherpeace again. Wanna read with me?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

She Dies and is Reborn: New Moon in Scorpio and Solar Eclipse

Though it won't be visible in the Northern hemisphere I've been contemplating the deepening effect of a solar eclipse on the new moon. Did you know a solar eclipse is only possible during the new moon phase? Visit Mr. Eclipse for a really great explanation of the science behind eclipses.

But it's not the science that has me thinking. I'm thinking about the power of  two astronomical events that both represent the concepts of death and rebirth happening simultaneously. It's as if the Universe itself is surrendering to the mystery and then making the journey back into the mundane world. And in the season of Samhain. And under the sign of Scorpio.

Rosetti's Persephone
If there ever was a time to honor Persephone it would be now. There are many interpretations of the Greek myth, and I resonate with modern versions that suggest Persephone traveled to the underworld of her own volition (not because she was coerced or forced), following her inner voice -- her spiritual calling. Persephone's devotion to her path and her courage to follow its shadow-filled spiral is my model for this dark cycle. I seek the courage to go deep, to go into the darkness where I've stashed my fears (they hide so well there) and BE and FEEL and EXPERIENCE.

The new moon in Scorpio supports this intent. As a fixed water sign it's all about feeling and being without analyzing. I'm sure Persephone wasn't obsessing about all the possible outcomes of her decision when she said goodbye to her mother Demeter; she threw herself into the very bowels of the unknown because she knew she should, she must. 

But she didn't stay forever; her journey wasn't about martyrdom or giving up. Persephone intended all along to make that arduous climb back up into the world of the living. She brought with her the power of personal renewal, the hope of rebirth and the spring of the soul.

Today the moon (feminine/dark/receptive/hidden/mystery) and the sun (masculine/light/active/revealed/known) will both die and be reborn. We can harness that energy to propel ourselves into a new light after the darkness. What gifts might we bring on our return? What insights and solutions?

May the new cycle be filled with blessings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Candle in the Dark

Is it really better to light a candle than curse the darkness?
It seems most of us live in a world where we accept, at least on some level, the polarity of light representing what is good and positive and dark representing what is bad or negative. My "dark side," my "shadows" are negative aspects of my personality that I'm forever trying to eradicate in some way. In the past I've described myself and others as "lightworkers" -- meaning those who dedicate themselves to a higher awareness. Besides the fact that the concept stinks of racism, the whole idea of good versus evil is growing thin for me. Like the-veil-at-Samhain thin.

And is it really so bad to sit in the darkness for a while?

Of course I'm not implying that it might be alright to harm others or ourselves in any way -- actions we might consider "dark." But if I'm mad, sad, filled with grief, depressed, broken, sick, exhausted disgusted, envious or bitchy I think it's alright -- no, more than alright -- I think it's healthy to just sit in that darkness for a while, feel it, breath it in, wallow in it if I need to. Experience it.

Because lighting a candle in the dark keeps me from ever fully knowing the dark. Because lighting a candle in the dark creates yet another shadow.

Balance, yes balance. I am always striving for balance because that's what the natural world, my place of worship, teaches me to do. Maybe the dark places should have a "No Loitering" sign, a meter that can't be reset. Do your work, get out. Because to live in darkness all the time isn't balance, and neither is it balanced to live only in the light.

Day and night, spring and fall, summer and winter, equinox to solstice and again and again. Darkness is natural and necessary to all living things. Even children are told there is nothing to fear in the dark.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Feature: Writer, June Beck

I'm pleased to feature my long-time friend and writing warrioress June Beck for the debut of "Friday Feature." June and I co-founded the Off-Highway writers' group of which we are basically the only two members, but we're happy with that. I admire her for many reasons and one of them is her recent drive to follow her passion for yoga and become a yoga teacher. She specializes in "non-pretzel" yoga and I encourage you to check out her entertaining and informative blog, Yoga for Geezers.

Her recently published book, How to Build Your Own Boat: A Spiritual Workbook is a mixture of personal memoir and "how to" instruction on finding your spiritual path. It reads like a candid conversation with an old friend, and you can purchase it here.

What first inspired you to write How to Build Your Own Boat?

I wanted to explore my own spiritual inklings and create my own path. It’s impossible to find a spiritual path that works for agnostics but I’m interested in what cannot be seen or measured, too! Problem is, the scholar in me refuses to take much on faith. I needed a path that would combine the practical Buddhist shamatha meditation, Tonglen, and the 8 limbs of yoga, my progressive political ideals with adherence to universal ethical standards. Clearly, I needed to build my own boat. Since I was sure there were others who wanted the same and would benefit from my effort, I decided to write a workbook.

You call yourself a “household yogi” what does that mean?

Yogis denounce stuff – like meat, sex and family. We often imagine a yogi as someone whose life is solely devoted to yoga, someone capable of contorting into the full expression of every pose quite easily after having practiced asanas (poses) since the age of 2. While I did start practicing yoga at a young age – 18 – I’ve studied with no guru and denounce nothing, unless you count cigarettes and alcohol. Traditionally, yogis don’t have jobs or families. I have both yet remain devoted to practicing the 8 limbs of yoga. That makes me a “householder” yogi.

When I read How to Build Your Own Boat I enjoyed the way you shared the internal conversations you were having in your head. How did you come to decide to write in that format?

I was writing a spiritual memoir as inspiration and example to help readers know how to complete the workbook, so I wrote in journalese, if you will. As my purpose was to discover my own path, build my own boat, the process was a genuine journaling endeavor – I exposed my thought process in order to make it easier for readers to expose their own.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?

We can know nothing about the spiritual world, but so many for so long have been making it up. Why not make it up as an individual? Why not create a spiritual path, a boat to help navigate the treacherous and calm waters life presents? I hope readers gain insight from reflecting on their past. I hope they find themselves empowered by the process of choosing what works and doesn’t work for them as individuals. I hope they create a more meaningful future as they traverse in this boat of their own making. And, more personally, I hope people know me as an agnostic who is also a spiritual seeker – One who recognizes the human capacity for great compassion, loving-kindness, fairness, and reason. I want readers to know that we don’t have to belong to a church, synagogue, mosque, circle or sangha. We don’t need to conform to anyone else’s beliefs in order to be clear about our own.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the content or process of manifesting How to Build Your Own Boat?

I love to write but had no idea the joy that would come upon hearing a reader talk about what s/he has realized in the process of reading my work. This Indie Pub thing – I’m learning as I go how challenging it is to turn out a polished product without the support of a publishing house complete with editorial team. Being able to share my work with readers makes independent publishing worthwhile. 

If you've written a spiritually uplifting book from a non-traditional perspective or know someone who has and would like to be featured on Your Witchy Grandma please visit my blog and leave a comment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy? Yes. Day of the Dead

Dia de la Muerta, or Day of the Dead isn't a tradition from my Celtic roots but I love the fact that it is a Pagan celebration that managed to survive the heavy boot of the Catholic Church. Historians estimate the rituals of Dia de la Muerta have been practiced for at least 3000 years in Mexico and originated with the ancient Aztecs. The holiday survived the Spanish conquistadors and forced conversion to Catholicism even though the date was moved (like so many other Pagan holy days) to coincide with the church's calender.

For me the Day of the Dead is a testament to the survival of tradition. At one time those in power were trying to eradicate the Dia de la Muerta rituals, and today people from all over the world celebrate this day, many without truly knowing anything more than it's an opportunity to laugh at our fears about death and honor those who've gone before us.

That's the power of ritual. It survives, though it may be required to morph. And though the younger generation may not even know the roots of the festivals they're participating in. That's why the world needs witchy grandmas and witchy grandpas, to keep days like this from becoming shallow displays, from becoming hollow like old bones.

So Happy Day of the Dead to you. May your ancestors be honored and appeased and may you never let fear of the unknown keep you from enjoying life on this side of the veil.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Full Moon in October: Hunter's Moon

Today the moon reaches her peak of fullness.The full moon in October is known as the Hunter's Moon and coincides with Samhain, one of the eight major holy days on the Pagan Wheel of the Year.  In addition to being a time to honor our ancestors, for many who follow an earth-based tradition of spirituality, Samhain is also considered the time of the third harvest. At Lammas or Lughnasadh we celebrate the first harvest of vegetables, fruits and grains. At Fall Equinox, also known as Mabon, we celebrate the second and peak harvest of all that grows from Mother Earth, and at Samhain we celebrate the harvest of the meat. Of course, this calender is based on the European agricultural year and applies to the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.

So what does this have to do with the full moon? Well, it's no coincidence that the Hunter's Moon and the Harvest of the Meat occur in the same month. Imagine the country folk, the pagans, living hundreds and thousands of years ago, dependent on the foods they grew and harvested from the wild and the animals they raised or hunted for meat. With winter coming it was time to take inventory of food stocks and double all efforts to prepare for the cold barren months ahead.

Not only was Samhain the time to decide which farm animals should and could be fed over the winter and which must be slaughtered, it was also the time for hunters to take to the wild and bring home meat to ensure their familys' survival. Just as the Harvest Moon in September allows farmers to work long into the night and complete the harvest during the full moon phase, the Hunter's Moon in October allows hunters to extend their efforts many hours after the sun has set and find their prey by the bright light of the full moon.

The Hunter's Moon represents survival, culling the herd (for in days of yore hunting did actually help wild herds survive the winter by decreasing their numbers), wise planning, and this year as the full moon passes through the sign of Taurus it's an especially auspicious moon for fertility and abundance.

What are your prayers this Hunter's Moon? What are you trying to capture, what prey alludes you? Now is the time to take action on your own behalf, to be fearless like the hunter who is willing to track by moonlight in order to stock her larder.

May you be blessed with good hunting this cycle.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tears of Crimson Halloween Celebration

I have a goal for this coming full moon. It's nothing earth shattering or life changing, but I'd like my book The Ones Who Dance Alone: Full Moon Celebrations for the Solitary Witch to break through to the top ten list on Amazon. It's been hovering in the teens all week, which is very exciting in itself considering the thousands of books about magic and witchcraft that are available on Amazon. At the end of the month it goes back to it's original price so now is the time to buy! It's filled with fun, practical and introspective suggestions that just may revive your full moon rituals.

I'm very honored to be part of the Tears of Crimson Halloween Celebration this year. My first published short story Zombie Cats can be found on this Listmania list for the entire weekend. At the Tears of Crimson promotion you'll find several great reads priced at 99 cents or less, some are even free! The list includes some well-known indie authors like Michelle Hughes and books from many genres like The Baptist: A Psychological Thriller by Ruby Barnes and the contemporary romance Love in Greener Pastures by Amanda Bretz.

This Tears of Crimson promotion runs through October 28. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's a Pagan Burial Like?

I'm getting old enough now that I need to understand what a proper Pagan burial should look like. Ten years ago the first of my contemporaries died. She walked the Red Road and her family honored her in death with the customs and traditions of her path.  Five years ago a coven sister crossed over. She was no longer active in our group and it was only by accident that we learned of her passing. She'd requested no public services but my sisters and I gathered at my home to remember her, to honor her before the Goddess and process the grief of not only her death, but of losing contact with her through the years. Currently our circle is mourning the loss of another dear sister. We are not in charge of her public memorial, but her non-Pagan husband has given his blessing for us to celebrate her in ritual as she would have wanted.

I would love nothing more than to gather with my sisterhood and wash our beloved's body in salt water and wrap her in a shroud we stitched together with our own fingers. I'd love to smudge her with burning herbs like a sacred bundle and lower her into the waiting arms of the Mother Earth. But those privileges aren't ours to perform. Her body belongs to her husband and her parents, as it should be.

Have you performed or attended a burial rite for a Pagan? I love Starhawk's The Pagan Book of Living and Dying and have gleaned a lot of useful and thoughtful ideas from it. But as the years march on and I come to accept that loss will become an ever-more common part of my life I wonder how other Pagan folk are dealing with their losses. We, the spiritual family members, often know more about what a person would want than their biological family members, and yet we are not empowered to act on their behalf.

Our circle will gather this Sunday at sundown, to rejoice and weep and pray together for the sister we have lost. She is free, I know, from pain and longing. As the seed sprouts, grows, flowers, and scatters as seen again. so will she. So will I, someday. So will you. I pray that in death we have a loving circle to honor us in the traditions that enhanced our living. So mote it be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Maeve -- Honoring all Cycles

A much-loved circle-sister left her body three days ago. She transitioned, she passed over, she's travelled to the Summerland. None of those euphemisms are helping me right now. She is gone and I'm not to see her face, hear her sweet voice sing or feel her warm embrace again in this lifetime. On the night of her passing I lit the candles on my altar, burned herbs to aid her transition and pulled one of Doreen Virtue's goddess cards for guidance.

Maeve, who I think of as a warrior, came to me. "Honor the cycles of your body" she said. In Virtue's deck the goddess appears lithe and graceful; she is dancing. Not at all the solid Celtic protectress I've encountered before, but her message is an ancient truth -- ALL the stages of life deserve my attention. So yes, even the cycle of dying must be honored.

Samhain has been my "favorite" holy day since I began walking the goddess path. I love the rituals that focus on remembering ancestors or exercising psychic awareness. Over the years I've led and been led through many powerful Samhain rituals. I believe the veil is thin. I've experienced deep meditations and received clear messages during this time of year, but never before have I lived Samhain the way I, and all my circle sisters, must live it this year -- with the stabbing pain of fresh loss in our hearts.

Blessed Be,