Tree Frog Tattoo by Sylvie le Sylvie

pacific tree frog tattoo by sylvie le sylvie

My first tattoo. Inked and finalized by Sylvie le Sylvie.

Pacific tree frogs (Pseudacris regilla) are the most commonly heard frogs in British Columbia. They can change their colour in a matter of minutes. As amphibians, they live their lives in two worlds: the submarine life of a tadpole and the semi-terrestrial life of a grown frog. They embrace the elements of Earth and Water, making their homes in each.

The hind legs of my frog are represented by a feather and a leaf of the broadleaf plantain (Plantago major). The feather is a representation of elemental Air. Broadleaf plantain leaves are used to soothe stings and small cuts. They are like natural bandaids!

The square together with the intangible circle represents the altar, a sacred space, with its magickal circle of power.

Surrounding the altar are four offerings. In the upper left is the flower of the bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), an edible, if bitter, taproot. Following clockwise is a representation of solar Fire: the sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani). An ammonite fossil (Ammonoidea) resides in the lower right corner. As the remains of an extinct mollusc, ammonites represents the element of Water and mortality.  Elemental Stone (or Earth if one prefers) is represented as a quartz cluster (SiO2).

These were not the original symbols and meanings, though the central image of a frog and its connection to the four elements has remained consistent throughout the three year revision process.

From the beginning I was keen to design the tattoo myself and have that design translated by a tattoo artist to better fit the medium of skin and ink. I wanted to have the tattoo inked in my home town of Nelson, BC. After careful consideration, I found the work of Sylvie le Sylvie, of the Timber Tattoo Co. Animals and plants are plentiful in her work, which has a rich, black and white, aesthetic. After a consultation, she made several changes to the design, arriving at the finished product a week later. The tattoo was inked on a drizzly morning on the day after the vernal equinox.

This is my first tattoo. It may not be my last, but for now I could not ask for a more magickal connection to nature, the elements, and the mineral, floral, & animal kingdoms.

Poking Fun

I came across this slightly foolish idea in Scott Cunningham’s book Earth Power. It’s an awesome book which I highly recommend. However, in his section on fire magic, Cunningham quite seriously implies that burning a sample of tobacco as a symbol for the problem of smoking is a good idea. I got a good laugh out of it. Sometimes,

For the symbols think a moment – if you overeat, take a portion of your favourite food and throw it onto the fire. Smoking, drinking the same.

It could be worse, he might have suggested drinking the alcohol!

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“No I’m not smoking. I’m just burning this cigarette as a magical symbol of my desire to quit!”

New Cedar Wand

It has been a while since I have taken up my carving knife to create a new wand. I find that carving is rarely something which I can do without the right attitude. Still, when the spirit of inspiration strikes I must be ready. I started this wand more than a month ago and bit by bit I completed it.

I used a new finish this time around. Normally I use walnut oil, but I wanted to try linseed oil for a change. I really enjoy the smell and texture which linseed oil has on wood. I’m not quite sure which I prefer so I may simply mix and match the two from now on. We’ll see.

I created a page for this wand talking about its special attributes: Cedar Wand with Aragonite.

To purchase this wand, visit my etsy store.

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Elementals

Swallows fly in skies of blue.

A trail of sun-dust, an evening hue.

Swooping fast, they circle me.

Chasing each other, they dive for the sea.

The mermaid’s tones transform all three,

As they fall ‘neath the waves at skeleton quay.

Azure dolphins fly with grace,

Through the towers of this watery place.

The volcanic fires scorch the trees,

The salamander grins; more fire please.

They blink their eyes and turn to dust,

As they sink beneath the earthen crust.

Repecting Religious Ancestry

Autumn is the season of decay. The trees shed their colourful leaves and seem to die, reminding us of the finite nature of human existence. The very land appears to die in preparation for winter. It is then no surprise that we reflect on the somber tone of the season by remembering those we have lost. Some cultures venerate their dead while others perform rituals to banish the spirits of the vengeful fallen. Lavish festivals are thrown and simple feasts performed the word over. Here in Canada, the most obvious, and perhaps least sacred of the these festivals is Halloween. In the truly unique, secular nature of North American culture, it is mostly an excuse to spend money and to strip away as much as possible from the ancestral festivals that it is an amalgam of. Festivals like the Roman Lemuria, Celtic Samhain, and the Christian All-Hallows-Eve. Those festivals are now largely forgotten. I am not here to claim that my chosen festival is superior, or to make the ever so tired argument over whose spiritually ripped off whom. Instead, I want to briefly examine how the different religious and social values of our ancestors relate and to share an opinion on respecting them.

Problems invariably arise when any two religions are held against each other. In the Pagan community, there is a lot of backlash against organized religions like Christianity and Judaism. Many of us come from religious backgrounds other than our chosen path. As a practicing Pagan, I embrace the autumn season as a time to reflect on and honour my ancestors. As the son of a Jewish mother and a Christian father however, I believe that my ancestors should be honoured in a manner which they would find meaningful. I was raised Jewish, bar mitzvah and all. I still celebrate several Jewish festivals religiously, particularly those which are rooted in the heritage of my people, but in a manner which allows me to practice my own beliefs. Although it is no longer my religion of practice, Judaism is a part of me. Not only is it in my blood, but it has entered into my soul as well. It can be no different for my ancestors.

A dumb supper setting from examiner.com

Many modern pagans celebrate the sabbat of Saimhain as part of the wheel of the year. For some, this may include a seance or dumb supper where food is set for the spirits of the dead and the meal eaten in silence. A dumb supper is a lovely and beautiful ritual, but not one which I feel entirely comfortable with, let alone a seance. I doubt very much that my Jewish grandparents would have found that to be an honour.  I realize however, that this is only one way of performing a dumb supper and that many do not view the ritual that way at all. The ritual can easily be modified to become more of a prayer, a silent vigil for the dead, a reverent way to remember the dead of any culture. Calling on their spirits, not always so. This Samhain, I do intend to pray for and remember both my Jewish and Christian ancestors, but in a manner which is true to their memory and that they would have found respectful.

It is entirely possible to pray in your own religious way for someone who practices another religion in a way which respects their beliefs. I have thought long over how to best do this. Some would argue that it would be sacrilegious to do so while others would argue that the form of the prayer matters not. Their is a good deal to be said about both arguments here. Essentially, this becomes a matter of religious ethics which apply whether the subject of the prayer is alive or has passed on. The conclusion which I intend to follow is the balance which works for me. As long as the object of the prayer does not conflict with the beliefs of the subject, then the form need not be considered. 

Each individual is free to practice whichever religion or spirituality calls to them. That said, we must all respect the practices of others. It is important to remember our heritage the way it was, not in the way we are and it is important to celebrate the lives of our loved ones. So whether you participate in any holiday of the dead this year or whether you simply turn off all your lights in hope of hiding from the troops of trick-or-treaters, try to remember those who came before you. Try to honour their memory in some small way that is meaningful for you both.