Witches’ New Year: She is Everywhere by Caryn MacGrandle

Samhain, the Witches ‘New Year’ was a busy time for me. I did a workshop at a local large artist facility Lowe Mill Arts in Huntsville, Alabama. I watched and participated in a releasing burning ceremony the next night at the same artist site. There is so much we are needing to release especially with where we are in the world right now. 

And then the following night, I was in charge of a Fire Circle at the Witches Ball at Mill Kat Healing Arts Center where I host my weekly circles.

I admit to some trepidation hosting the very public Fire Circle. I live in the deep south of Alabama most definitely not known for its open mindedness. A friend told me that she shared the Witches Ball event on her facebook page and received the comment, ‘that is how they indoctrinate you.’

Oh my.

But we are not in a time to be deterred by fear. I have been called to share this magic. And people need it.

Continue reading “Witches’ New Year: She is Everywhere by Caryn MacGrandle”

Coming Home for Samhain by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Tigh nan Cailleach, House of the Cailleach, Glen Lyon, Scotland

Samhain is the beginning of winter according to the Celtic calendar. On this day, people brought their livestock in from the pastures and settled by their hearths to survive the coming cold until the magical renewal of spring. Here in New England, leaves are beginning to blaze red-gold, plants to brown as nutrients fill their roots, and animals to nestle underground to hibernate. Across the northern hemisphere, we should once again begin our own retreat below the the busyness of our lives to re-energize and plan for the fruition of spring works.

I’ve usually thought of winter as a time of withdrawal from other beings and the world, but maybe Celtic tradition offers us a more nuanced way of perceiving this season. A wonderful Scottish Samhain story has made me rethink of winter as a time to also reconnect and re-vitalize each other and chart our course to spring’s promise together. I cannot say what the story means to those from whose land it emerged, but I can share the thoughts it evokes in me. Settle in, get comfy, and listen…

Continue reading “Coming Home for Samhain by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger

We’ve just entered November, the beginning of winter, the season of darkness. Twenty-odd years ago, I led a group of students through the Wheel of the Year in a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. (I also wrote a book with the same title.

Continue reading “Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger”

Tlachtga, Forgotten Celtic Goddess – by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoI am the Sun – bringer of the warming light of day. I am Lightning –  bringer of fire to Earth. I am Tlachtga who flew through the sky together with my father Mog Ruith in our glowing wheel. I am destruction and creation. I illuminate the darkness and point to the pathway of light that resides in each of you. Over time I made my final resting place at the Hill of Tlachtga, where the great fire ritual of Samhain is practiced, reminding the folk of the promise of Sun’s return at the end of the time of darkness and dreaming.  

  Continue reading “Tlachtga, Forgotten Celtic Goddess – by Judith Shaw”

Embracing Darkness: All Hallows Eve in Old Lancashire


Come Halloween, the popular imagination turns to witches. Especially in Pendle Witch Country, the rugged Pennine landscape surrounding Pendle Hill, once home to twelve individuals arrested for witchcraft in 1612. The most notorious was Elizabeth Southerns, alias Old Demdike, cunning woman of long-standing repute and the heroine of my novel Daughters of the Witching Hill.

How did these historical cunning folk celebrate All Hallows Eve?

All Hallows has its roots in the ancient feast of Samhain, which marked the end of the pastoral year and was considered particularly numinous, a time when the faery folk and the spirits of the dead roved abroad. Many of these beliefs were preserved in the Christian feast of All Hallows, which had developed into a spectacular affair by the late Middle Ages, with church bells ringing all night to comfort the souls thought to be in purgatory. Did this custom have its origin in much older rites of ancestor veneration? This threshold feast opening the season of cold and darkness allowed people to confront their deepest fears—that of death and what lay beyond. And their deepest longings—reunion with their cherished departed.

Continue reading “Embracing Darkness: All Hallows Eve in Old Lancashire”

Lifting the Veil – #WontBeErased by Joyce Zonana

Samhain is upon us. Halloween. The Day of the Dead. All Saints’ Day. All Souls’ Day. That liminal time of year when the doorways to what the Celts called the Otherworld, Annwn in Welsh, are open. In New York City, we have the 45th annual Village Halloween Parade, a queer extravaganza of puppetry, masquerade, and cross-dressing that draws some 60,000 participants and over 2 million onlookers. Elsewhere, we have children in costume and lawns covered with plastic skeletons and illuminated ghouls. Everywhere, if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse of  “the piper at the gates of dawn,” the vision granted Rat and Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: “something very surprising and splendid and beautiful”—Pan the goat-god, boundary-crosser, Friend and Helper, trans-being.

jz-headshotJust last week—a few days after the New York Times reported on the Trump administration’s efforts to define transgender out of existence—I read for the first time Welsh writer Arthur Machen’s 1894 novella, The Great God Pan, today considered a classic of horror fiction. Condemned as “morbid” and “abominable” by most critics when it was first published, the tale was hailed as “un succès fou” by Oscar Wilde, recuperated in the 1920s by H. P. Lovecraft, and particularly praised more recently by Stephen King, who called it “maybe the best” horror story “in the English language.”

Original edition with cover illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

The “queer” tale (the word “queer” recurs frequently throughout) is told by a series of straight-laced Victorian men, each of whom is horrified by the unspecified behavior and bearing of a mysterious woman, Helen Vaughan. Readers are led to suspect that Helen is guilty of some sort of sexual excess or transgression, but nothing is specified until after her suicide, when the medical examiner reports that he was “privileged or accursed” to see the “skin, and the flesh, and the muscles, and the bones, and the firm structure of the human body that I had thought to be unchangeable, and permanent as adamant, beg[i]n to melt and dissolve”: Continue reading “Lifting the Veil – #WontBeErased by Joyce Zonana”

Tlachtga, a Light for the New Year (Samhain) by Deanne Quarrie

deanne_2011_B_smThis is the story of Tlachtga. Her name means “Earth Spear.” Her story gives us the name for a famous place in Ireland where to this day, the rites of Samhain are held in her honor. This location is called the “Hill of Ward” and it is near Tara. At this gathering Druids lit the bonfire on Samhain, from which embers were carried far and wide and were used to light the new fires for the new year. The location of the celebration was critical because they believed it to the place where this world and the Otherworld were the closest together.

Tlachtga is mentioned in two pieces of Irish literature, the Banshenchas, “the Lore of Women” and in the Dindsenchas, “the Lore of Places.” In translations by Christian monks, her story has been confused with biblical characters and Tlachtga has been all but forgotten.

hill_of_wardFrom all of these stories of Tlachtga, the earliest we can find reveals her as a goddess (druid) who arrived with the Firbolgs, long before the Tuatha De Dannan and Milesians. She was the daughter of the Chief Druid, Mogh Ruith of Munster. His name means devotee of the wheel, which relates to the sun. Mogh Ruith, a blind man, taught his daughter Tlachtga all his skills. Together they worked with all the best masters of magical knowledge in Ireland and Scotland. from this we know she was a highly trained Druid in her own right.

In one story Mogh Ruith and Tlachtga constructed a fabulous flying wheel named Roath Ramach, a machine they used for sailing through the air. It was said to be made from two pillars of stone. She made the Rolling Wheel for Trian, the Stone in Forcathu and the Pillar in Cnamchaill (Cnamchaill means bone damage). These devices were feared by all and stories were told that any who touched them died, any who saw them were blinded, and any who heard them were deafened. The pillars themselves, represent lightning, which does tie in with the meaning of her name, Earth Spear. Lightning certainly could be seen as a spear thrown to the ground and it could also kill, deafen and blind those touched by it.

Tlachtga can be seen as a goddess of death and rebirth as well as the sun and lightning. Hers is a tragic story, for as she gave birth to three boys, her subsequent death gave power to the land in the process. Her sons, Doirb, Cumma and Muach became the rulers of Munster, Leinster and Connaught. It was said that as long as they were remembered, no one could claim the land. (spoken of in the poem below) However, as we know, that did not last forever. And who knows, it may well be because they were all but forgotten. So, it is that Tlachtga is intimately linked with the symbolic death and rebirth of the land at Samhain.


For Trian – no honour -Tlachtga
Created the red mobile wheel,
With the great Mogh, and Simon she brought
Her wisdom, thus leaving the moving wheel.
Finished stone of Forcarthus she left and pillar of Cnamchaill.
Whoever sees it becomes blind.
Whoever hears it becomes deaf.
Anyone taking from the wheel will die.
[Missing lines in text…]

After the woman came from the east,
She gave birth to three sons in hard labour.
She died, the light & wise one.
This urgent unconceivable news was to be heard by all.

The son’s names were of great import…
Muach and Cumma and Doirb
Others [text missing again]
As long as Banba remembers the names of the
Three sons as the truthful story tells ………….
No catastrophe will befall its inhabitants.
The hill where Tlachtga is buried,
Surpasses all other women,
Remember the name it was given..
The Hill of Tlachtga.
Irish Manuscript Text
Translated by S. Geoghegan.

cauldron2Tlachtga’s story is tragic. It is possible that she was once a Sun Goddess, highly revered for her fertility and the land. Tragically her story changed so thta now it is her tragic death that is remembered. For this reason, she is a goddess of birth and death, “The Hill of Ward” has been regarded by Druids for eons as the “Temple of Tlachtga.” It is here where the old fires of the Celtic Year are ritually smothered out and a new pure flame is lit for the year ahead.

May Tlachtga be remembered as brave, courageous, and wise, her brightness dimmed by the new patriarchal powers that had invaded the land. May her light of the new year carry you bravely into the dark months ahead and may her light stay kindled until we great the rising sun at its new birth.


Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of the Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch where she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, Northern European Witchcraft and Druidism. She mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

Ghosts by Lauren Raine

Florence's Hands by Lauren Raine
Florence’s Hands by Lauren Raine











Where do the dead go?

The dead that are not corpses, cosmetically renewed

and boxed, their faces familiar and serene.

Or brought to an essence, pale ashes in elegant canisters.


I ask for the other dead

those ghosts that wander unshriven among our sleep,

haunting the borderlands of our lives.


Continue reading “Ghosts by Lauren Raine”

In Memory of Margot Adler (1946-2014) Priestess, Journalist, Skeptic, Mystic by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham headshot jpeg“Ritual has the power to end our alienation from the earth and from each other. It allows us to enter a world where we are at home with the trees and the stars and other beings, and even with the carefully hidden and protected parts of ourselves that we sometime contact in dreams or in art.” –Margot Adler

Margot Adler died of cancer on July 28, 2014. A Pagan priestess, she asked for memorial events to be held in the season of Samhain, also known as Halloween.  At this time of year, the rituals of many religious traditions remind us that we are all connected, the living, the dead, and those to come, one continuous communion.  In this spirit, I offer a tribute to the late Margot Adler.

Though I must have heard her distinctive voice on National Public Radio where she served as an innovative and eclectic journalist for thirty years, I encountered Margot Adler’s work more intimately by accident—or synchronicity—as countless others have.  I had recently found myself face to face with the goddess.  As if in answer to my question: “Who are you and what do you want from my life?” a hefty book literally fell off a shelf in a small-town bookstore: Margot Adler’s ovarian work Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Pagans. Writing as both observer and participant, Margot brought into fruitful union the spiritual seeker and the fact-finding reporter, the social activist and the ecstatic celebrant.  I had found a trustworthy guide for my own explorations. Continue reading “In Memory of Margot Adler (1946-2014) Priestess, Journalist, Skeptic, Mystic by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Ode to Mum – Source of My Being by Jassy Watson

For the Love of Gaia Jassy WatsonLately I have been contemplating my ‘source of being’. I had always assumed it was my connection to the earth. It is this of course, but my revelation came when I realised it was the connection to my mother, and my connection to her mother – me as mother, and not just my birth mother, but all mothers. The earth as mother, the universal mother, cosmic mother. All of them, my source of being.

My memories of growing up start from a very young age. In fact, so young, I have vivid memories of being born. I remember being breastfed and the smell of my Mum’s skin which was such a source of comfort. Thinking about my source and having these early memories re-surface has come at quite a pertinent time of  the year, considering that it is Beltane in the Southern Hemisphere, and Samhain in the North. At Beltane we celebrate the coming summer with fire and blessings of fertility, life and abundance. While at Samhain we are remembering our ancestors, those who have passed and loved ones who are still with us. Yesterday, the 31st, I flew from Australia to the USA  and I have been able to experience both transitions. This following poem and accompanying artwork represents these polar opposites;  birth and death. More importantly, it is an ode to Mum.

Continue reading “Ode to Mum – Source of My Being by Jassy Watson”

Fand – Goddess of the Sea – a Shapeshifter for Samhain by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoFand is a Celtic Sea Goddess whom some scholars believe originated as a Manx sea deity (the original inhabitants of the Isle of Man).   With time She became the most loved of Ireland’s fairy queens, called “Queen of the Fairies.  Fand, meaning “Pearl of Beauty” or “Tear” was stunningly beautiful.  Though she was married to the Celtic Irish Sea God, Manannan Mac Lir, She, like other faery queens, fell in love with and then enchanted a mortal man, linking our world with Her Otherworld.  Being the Goddess/Faery Queen she was, Fand fell in love not with any common man but with Cuchulainn, the greatest Irish hero.

Continue reading “Fand – Goddess of the Sea – a Shapeshifter for Samhain by Judith Shaw”

Entering Winter, the Season of Darkness by Barbara Ardinger

Halloween used to be spelled “-e’en,” with the apostrophe replacing the V in “eve.” The N was probably added so the word ends in a consonant and we don’t have “hallow-wheee.” But people get lazy, and since the late 20th century, both the V and “eve” have disappeared. This holy day is the true beginning of winter. In pre-Christian Europe, it was celebrated by the wild Celts, who called October 31 Samhain (pronounced approximately SOW-un). Today it’s a major sabbat, or holy day, celebrated by most modern pagans. Although religious fundamentalists keep trying to convince us that Halloween is an evil pagan festival (emphasis on the evilness of pagans) and pressuring retailers not to sell little collectable witches, the name of this day is in fact Christian: it’s Hallowed (or Holy) Evening, or the Eve of Holy Days. In the olden days and still today in, for example, the Jewish calendar, a holy day begins when the moon rises on the evening before. October 31 precedes All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Like Christmas Eve, it’s a holy (but seldom silent) night.

All Saints Day, the Catholic Encyclopedia informs us, was instituted in the fourth century when dioceses began to divide up and exchange the relics of martyr-saints. At first, only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were recognized, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyr-saints. The theological basis for All Souls Day is the doctrine that “souls that have not been perfectly cleansed from venial sin are debarred from the Beatific Vision.” With prayers, the living can help the dead pass through purgatory. To commemorate “the faithful departed,” the Catholic Encyclopedia further tells us, the priest recites the Office of the Dead and celebrates a Requiem Mass. The vigil for All Saints, or Hallows Eve, was also first celebrated in the fourth century. The Mexican version of this holiday is Día de los Muertos, which is also celebrated on November 1 and 2. That’s when we see the wonderful costumed skeleton figures and the sugar skulls. Like similar festivals in cultures around the globe, this is a celebration of family and ancestors.

Continue reading “Entering Winter, the Season of Darkness by Barbara Ardinger”

Maeve (aka the Celtic Mary Magdalen) on Elections, transcribed by Elizabeth Cunningham

You are a poet and a seer. Say you are a V.I.P (very important poet; in the first century CE when I lived such a thing was possible). Because of your poetic prowess, your ability to go between the worlds and see into the heart of the matter, it has fallen upon you to seek a vision. Who will be the new leader of the tribe?  Here is no simple matter of primogeniture. Here no ballots to be counted or stolen. No one has had to endure televised political conventions or candidate debates. It goes hardest for the sacrificial bull, who has been slaughtered and must be consumed—by you, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked, depending on local tradition. In either case, you consume the flesh and blood of the sacred bull. Then you are wrapped in its still-bloody hide. You fall into a trance, you dream….

My name is Maeve (rhymes with brave). I came to be known as Mary Magdalen. (How that happened is a long and exciting story, but not the subject of today’s post.) I am taking Elizabeth’s place to make some commentary from my first century perspective as you twenty-first century Americans prepare to elect new leaders. (You hope you will be electing them. I’d trust poets in bloody bull hides over electronic voting machines any day.) The rite described above, called the tarbhfleis or bull-sleep, was used to select the kings of Tara. The Celts counted wealth in cattle, so the bull was revered. The Gallic god Esus (as the druids called Jesus) was associated with the sacrificial bull. The infamous Queen Maeve of Connacht (for whom I am named), that champion of women’s sovereignty, went to war over a bull that defected from her herds to her husband’s. People said that the bull did not want to be ruled by a woman. Those were fighting words for Queen Maeve.  Continue reading “Maeve (aka the Celtic Mary Magdalen) on Elections, transcribed by Elizabeth Cunningham”

%d bloggers like this: