Have you Heard of the Witch’s Heart?

I found these posted to eBay. I’d never heard about a witch’s heart, in this way. A lot of things were “to ward off evil spirits”. But, I wonder, how was this a witch’s heart in particular. What made it something other than a decorated hear? Like a claddagh (the heart with a hand holding it on each side and a crown on top) there must be a story to this witch’s heart too.

Looking into it, I found that it is also known as a Luckenbooth, the Scots word for a workshop or lockable stall. This name came about in the 17th century when they were sold in booths in Edinburgh, Scotland along the Royal Mile. These were the first permanent shops in the city but they were demolished in 1817.

The charm started appearing in the 15th century. Usually the design has the bottom of the heart twisted to the right.

In the Middle Ages they were worn to ward off evil for lovers and loved ones. Tiny witch’s hearts were pinned to baby blankets to ward off evil spirits and evil eyes.

By the 18th century they were worn as tokens of love, symbolizing being bewitched (with love) by or for someone.  Some have a crown (a symbol of loyalty) on the top. Double hearts were for a betrothal or marriage. They could be engraved with dates, initials and mottoes on the back. Most were made of silver with jewels (real or paste) like garnets.

It is more often called a luckenbooth brooch or pendant when I have searched for it online. I suspect the history of being known as a witch’s heart will eventually be forgotten. The luckenbooths tend to be very Celtic Scottish looking. So, search for witch’s heart if you want less history and more heather (heathergems).

Art by Margaryta Yermolayeva

I was looking online for nothing in particular, just taking a break from something else I should have been working on. I found a witch postcard for sale on eBay that was kind of funny, caught my curiousity. I found the artist and searched for her, Margaryta Yermolayeva. She has a lot of art, mainly in the folk art Halloween theme.

This is my favourite. I like the colours, the outdoors scene and the atmosphere. It looks like a misty spring morning to me. The grass is that light shade of green, like new grass before summer cooks it. She (Ryta) may have never been in Ontario (she was born in Russia, now lives in the US) but this scene could be in so many countries and places, including Ontario. A scene you could have covering a whole wall, like a mural and not get tired of looking at over the years. Simple, lovely, and calming. One of those ‘just right’ things.


She also has greeting cards for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and of course, Halloween. The US dollar and shipping cost made it too pricey for me. But, I did find a set of cards for Christmas that I almost bought. Quite unique, with a big smiling moon looking down on a Christmas scene. A flavour of witch/ Pagan yet traditional enough to send to anyone on your list.

Witches from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was an Australia illustrator in the early 1900’s.

I have seen her work many times without knowing who she was. This week I posted an image on Twitter and WebGrrl sent me a link with her name, history and other illustrations she had done. I found another link with more about her and more of her work. I especially like the witches, they are far from warty and old. Lovely.

Look for more online. Some are being sold as digital downloads which seems very cheap and dishonest to me.

Science, Religion, and Witches

Today I found a site called The Secular Witch. I had been reading about agnostic Witches and a link came up from the site. Most people seem to think you can’t be agnostic, or an atheist, and still be a Witch (as a religion). I don’t agree. The religion is not about a god or goddess. It was about nature, life, the planet, and so on. It is sad if people now believe in a god/ goddess and have lost this idea.

The Secular Witch is a place for non-religious witches to find resources and support when it comes to atheist, agnostic, skeptical or science-loving spirituality and witchery.

Maybe people still have the old idea that science and religion don’t mix. I think they are versions of the same thing. Early science was seen as magic, experimental and religion was a part of it. Why divide them now?

Then I found Naturalistic Paganism

In summary they seek to explain the universe without resort to supernatural causes. Adopting scientific explanations and skeptical of any claims that are not supported by mainstream science.

In the end, this is a lot of labels and classifying of ideas and people. It is nice to just be an eclectic and let things sort themselves out a bit rather than trying to identify, classify, and control it all.

But, it was interesting to read about both sites and I will have them in my links.

Just to Listen and Not Expect More

Having any kind of faith, belief or religion is about labelling yourself and having others label you. Even an atheist, someone who does not believe in any gods (or any formal religion) is labelled, an atheist. A religious based name and word. Funny how so many things are ironic like that.

My label, as best as I can pull together the words, is an atheist Green Witch. I may be wrong. Does it depend more on your perception of those words, or mine?

If you’re reading this you might want to tell me, but I may not listen, or believe, or accept what you have to say. Usually, I do listen but people confuse the word listen with taking action. In reality, listening is not the same as believing, accepting, doing, etc. People, in general, really need to re-learn what it means to just listen and not expect more.

Where the Wild Things Are: I Believe in Santa Claus

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, December, 25, 2003.

I believe in Santa Claus. Maybe I just choose to believe. But I think there’s more to it. In part it’s the Christmas spirit generated in this season, sharing good cheer and love, friendship. Maybe it’s the atmosphere of giving and not just taking. Maybe it’s the strength of all those children who also believe in Santa Claus. All those things combine and make strong magickal forces. You may scoff all you like. But the fact is this is a powerful time of year. Each person wandering around with their own part in the whole of the Christmas spirit contributes to the power. Each good deed, each gift shared and each friend greeted is part of a huge ritual taking place.

Children traditionally set out offerings for Santa: milk and cookies, something for the reindeer and a tidbit for the elves. We send him notes asking for blessings. Santa also has ritual music and poetry, widely known and frequently chanted at this time of year. The rituals are passed on to each new child, carried along and given new life for each generation.

All those people, no matter what path they follow, know about Santa Claus. He’s the focus of the spirit of giving and good will. For children he’s the figure of authority, he who must be pleased. Cultural icon, old wives tale or commercial legend, Santa has been given power and there doesn’t need to be an actual human being for that power to exist. We don’t need to see a man in a red suit driving an air borne sleigh, packing a bottomless bag of toys to believe in Santa Claus. It’s all around us, every moment of every day in this season.

So, scoff if you choose. But, I believe in Santa Claus. I like it that way.

Merry Yule, Seasons Greetings and leave Santa a little something tonight.

Where the Wild Things Are: Yule or Christmas

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, November, 23, 2003.

Christmas, by that name, is a Christian holiday, Christ’s Mass is how it started as far as I remember. Also, if you want to get technical, holiday is also a Christian word, coming from holy day, the long, extended version before the remix.

I was thinking tonight, do you call it Christmas or always religiously, in a semi-fanatical way, call it Yule? To me, I don’t think the small things are worth fighting against the tide over. I don’t mind calling it Christmas or a holiday. I know what it means to me. I know where it comes from, historically and spiritually.

I also know how I celebrate it. I don’t go to a church, not one recognized by the average Yellow Pages phone book. I live in my ‘church’ it’s always with me and all around me. Mostly, I just like being outside. That’s when I feel closest to everything that matters and makes me feel good.

So, for me Yule or Christmas, is about time outside as well as our family traditions. The Christmas tree, singing carols, the exchange of new pajamas on Christmas Eve, the big dinner, making bread together, driving around admiring the fancy coloured lights, and so on. My favourite things are fresh, new snow on Christmas day and admiring the tree all lit up and decorated with ornaments we’ve made and kept from year to year and relatives past.

However you feel about Yule, remember the spirit of the season. Don’t insist people recognize you as Pagan, call it Yule whenever you might be listening and don’t make someone feel their Christmas is less than your Yule. Play nice. Religious tolerance works both ways.

Where the Wild Things Are: Can you Be Yourself and Be Pagan?

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, August, 24, 2003.

Being Pagan isn’t about putting on a show. It’s really a very personal thing, a choice you might keep to yourself forever or reveal to your family or friends. They call it coming out of the broom closet cause that’s kind of cute. But, you were never in a closet. Being Pagan is about being free, living with the Earth and respecting our history/ traditions. How can those be bad? Why would you have to keep that under wraps?

I think people think they have to prove a point or show off when they yabble on about how Pagan they are. In the case of craft names especially, those were meant to be secret, from everyone! But here and there you can find Pagans using their craft names more than the name on their birth certificate. Some rationalize it and say that’s their public craft name and they keep a secret one, privately. So, why the show?

Can you be yourself and be Pagan too? I think that’s what it really comes down to.

If you have to dress a certain way, display certain objects around you and change your name to fit in, where do you really fit in? Being Pagan should be comfortable, part of who you already were. It should add to you, not reprogram you.

Think about your own Pagan or Wiccan lifestyle. Are you putting on a show or are you just being Pagan cause that’s part of who you are? If you have all the toys and gadgets chances are you’re really missing something. If you’ve copied tons of spells from the web but never written any of your own, chances are you’re missing the point. Reorganize, rethink and stop to breathe, find out what part of yourself is Pagan and relearn. Get back to the essentials, rediscover being Wiccan and have fun again. You can’t be having fun if you’re always trying to catch up to some ideal of what being Pagan should be. You are Pagan, you made that choice, so just go ahead and be Pagan. No song and dance required.

Where the Wild Things Are: A Pagan Celebration

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, September, 22, 2003.

Tomorrow is the Autumn Equinox. I should be doing something, celebrating the changing seasons. But I’m not. I’ll be at work from 9:00am till 8:30 at night. By the time I’m done I will be too tired to drive myself home. But, I have to do that so I’ll manage somehow. Times like that I’m so glad it’s the car that does all the work!

Anyway, real life does interfere with how Wiccan or Pagan we would like to be. That’s ok, it’s reality. If I was to skip work and the big meeting after work, that would be living in some unreal imaginary world of my own creation. I have to work to make money to pay for my car, my rent and the clothes I wear while I do all those other things. Now and then I even treat myself to a new book, a fancy coffee or a day of window shopping.

It’s ok to live in the real world. It’s ok to miss a Pagan celebration. It would be nicer to not miss it. But, really as long as I’m alive and still on this planet I’m not missing a thing. As I drive I’ll be looking at the darkened forest I drive through on the way home. I’ll be watching for deer and foxes who sometimes show up along the roadside in the evenings. I’ll be listening to the sounds of the night as I drive with the windows down to let in all that cool night air and the scent of crisp Autumn leaves.

You may not light candles, perform rituals or chant pretty rhymes but that doesn’t mean you’re not celebrating along with the rest of the world. It’s what you have in your heart, mind and soul that matters, even if you only express it to yourself. You don’t have to prove how Pagan you are to anyone but you.

Where the Wild Things Are: Are you Superstitious?

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, October, 22, 2003.

Are you superstitous? Don’t deny it too quickly. There are sorts of little things we do without even considering them to be a superstition. Do you read horoscopes? How much credit do you give to them? Would you consider your day not as great if you have a poor horoscope? Kind of superstitious aren’t you?

Wicca and Witchcraft are full of superstition though we might deny it. I think, Pagans in general, try to distance themselves from the occult and the superstitions which have all gotten a bad reputation.

It’s funny cause the very stuff they deny is partly what their beliefs are based on. Occult was a word long before Wicca. Meanwhile, I expect superstitions have been around right from the first people on the planet.

Most people think about superstitions around weddings, births and deaths, the major life events. I think those are the times when we are most off balance, in need of some extra sign or guidance that everything will be ok. That’s really what a superstition is. Just that extra assurance that you’re going to be all right.

Of course, some superstitions are safety precautions. You should avoid walking under ladders, breaking mirrors and squishing spiders. Not because you fear having a run of bad luck but because it’s less likely ladders will fall on your head, glass will cut your hand and spiders are needed for eating other bugs. It’s all logical and reasonable.

So go ahead and avoid stepping on cracks, tossing salt over your shoulder and so on, guilt free. Superstitions might be soffed but they have their own purpose and history. As long as they harm none what’s the harm in humouring your own superstitions?