Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 2013 Events!

Goddess Fest is almost here in the Treasure Valley!  Don't forget to come say hello to the Oaks group at Julia Davis Park July 27-28!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Herbalism - Pansies

I mentioned the quote from Hamlet in my last herbalism post that Ophelia says shortly before her death, while giving out flowers:

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts." - Ophelia,Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.

The other flower mentioned besides rosemary in that sentence is pansies.  I hadn't really heard much about the symbolism of pansies, but I think they're lovely, so I decided to do some research!

Pansies are a hybrid of several families of violas, and were bred and cultivated in the early nineteenth century.  That means that really Ophelia couldn't have possibly had modern pansies (and neither could Shakespeare), though that name was used to refer to violas as well.

This embroidery was done by a young Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) at age 11.  The initials, KP, were that of her stepmother Katherine Parr, for whom the gift was made.

Pansies go by many names.  I found this snippet from Wikipedia especially useful when looking for info on how to use the pansy in ritual or symbolism:

"The name “heart’s-ease” came from the woman St. Euphrasia, whose name in Greek signifies cheerfulness of mind. The woman, who refused marriage and took the veil, was considered a pattern of humility, hence the name “humble violet”.[ The specific colors of the flower – purple, yellow, and white – are meant to symbolize memories, loving thoughts and souvenirs, respectively."

There is also this explanation of where the name pansy comes from:

"The name 'pansy' is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought." 

Here is an image by Grandville from 1846 of a personified pansy, deep in thought:

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream the love potion used to create so much of the midsummer mayhem is made from pansy, here called by one of its other names, love-in-idleness (referring to the type of love where one wants to do nothing but be with one's beloved):

"Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.
And maidens call it “love-in-idleness.”
Fetch me that flower. The herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees." (Act II, Scene 1)

Another quote from wikipedia on symbolism says:

"In 1858, the writer James Shirley Hibberd wrote that the French custom of giving a bride a bouquet of pansies (thoughts) and marigolds (cares) symbolized the woes of domestic life rather than marital bliss."

And this little gem on pioneer custom:

"American pioneers thought that 'a handful of violets taken into the farmhouse in the spring ensured prosperity, and to neglect this ceremony brought harm to baby chicks and ducklings.' On account of its place in American hearts, a game called “Violet War” also arose. In this game, two players would intertwine the hooks where the pansy blossoms meet the stems, then attempt to pull the two flowers apart like wishbones. Whoever pulled off the most of their opponent’s violet heads was proclaimed the winner. Young American settlers also made pansy dolls by lining up the pansy flower 'faces', pasting on leaf skirts and twig arms to complete the figures"

Because of the association of thought, some people say pansies have an association with telepathy, and that holding a pansy to your ear will allow you to hear your love's thoughts/words.  The dual association with love and thought/remembrance leads some to extrapolate that pansies are good for easing the pain of a loved one who has passed away.  In the Victorian language of flowers, a man giving a pansy to his love meant "think of me."

The heart-shaped petals of the pansy also led to an association with healing a broken heart, part of the Doctrine of Signatures (the idea that plants shaped like a body part would help that body part).

One website mentions a type of divination with pansy petals:

"Pansies were fortune tellers for King Arthur's Knights of the Round table. Plucking a pansy petal, the knights would look for secret signs. If the petal had four lines, this meant hope. If the lines were thick and leaned toward the left, this meant a life of trouble. Lines leaning toward the right signified prosperity until the end. Seven lines meant constancy in love (and if the center streak were the longest, Sunday would be the wedding day). Eight streaks meant fickleness, nine meant a changing of heart, and eleven signified disappointment in love and an early grave. "

After Ophelia's death in Shakespeare's Hamlet, her father Laertes hopes pansies will grow on Ophelia's grave:

 “Lay her in the earth, and from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violet spring” (Act V, Scene 1)

As a final note, pansies and violets are edible, and have a delicate, sweet flavor.  Use the flowers in salads, or they can be sugared and used as decoration for cakes and desserts.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sounds of Paganism #2

Today for Sounds of Paganism I'd like to spotlight one of my very favorite Pagan musicians, Damh (pronouced dah-v) the Bard.  Damh has a wonderful newly designed website at http://www.paganmusic.co.uk/ with links to facebook, youtube, twitter, and google plus, along with some samples of his fantastic music.  Along with his musical performances, Damh gives talks and workshops around the world on various topics within Paganism.  He has an interesting blog, and sells CDs, a songbook of some of his music, and mp3s as well.  I don't know if Damh will ever make it to the Treasure Valley, but I would certainly love the chance to hear him live.

Damh also shares some poetry on his website.  I'd especially suggest his poem The Corn King.  If you're not familiar with the tale of the Corn King, also known as John Barleycorn, here is a good article.  It may seem far away now, but Lughnassadh, the day the Corn King is usually associated with, is right around the corner!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A new group in the area

Today I'm sharing an email interview I did with former council member and friend of the group, Paul.  Many of us have enjoyed Paul's meditation and energy work classes, and have met him at rituals over the past year and a half.   He is starting up a new group of his own, The Elementals, which will be a sort of sister group to Ancient Oaks.  

The basics - Who are you? - name, age (if you want to share), where are you from, etc.

My name is Paul Holsinger, I’m 34 years old, and I’m from a lot of different places.  I was born here in Boise and lived in Emmett, Idaho, The Philippines, and Okinawa Japan as a child.  I came back to the treasure valley when I was 19 and have been a resident here ever since.

Describe your path, how you got started with it, and how that impacted your decision to start The Elementals.

I grew up in an intensely Mormon family and left that path when I was 18 when I was finally forced to confront the problems that belief system was causing me.  I was drawn almost immediately to Witchcraft.  I found that its methods and openness were a much better fit for me and became initiated as a solitary practitioner.  I cast my first spell when I was 19 and have been fine tuning my craft ever since.

While I was in Okinawa, I began practicing martial arts and I have always been intrigued by eastern energy and health sciences.  Three and a half years ago I had a very intense experience while meditating with someone who had a unique and powerful energy.  This sparked my interest and I began to research energy cultivation methods.  In my studies, I eventually came across the science of internal alchemy in ancient Taoism.  I have since put these learnings into practice and have had some very interesting experiences.

I am also a 3rd degree Reiki instructor and I have been practicing energy healing arts almost as long as I have magickal arts.  I learned to read auras about the same time.  By nature I’m a fairly intuitive person, and I’m always looking for ways to refine these abilities and gain new skills.

What is the philosophy of your group?  What can members expect from it, what is its main focus, etc.

The group’s philosophy is centered around openness.   At its core we are magick practitioners, and energy workers.  Every spiritual path has these things in one form or another and there is a lot of value not just in finding the right fit for a path, but also in understanding the methods other paths use.  This involves finding common ground among diverse views and to do this we have to spend a bit less time on the religious side of various paths and more time understanding the philosophies and sciences underneath.

As a group we have two objectives: to share information regarding spiritual practices, and to get a chance to work with others in putting these practices into use.  To do this we are looking at having monthly presentations on various subjects ranging from working with ghosts to applying yin/yang theory to magick.  We are also going to have spell casting and energy healing workshops as well as more traditional classes such as a meditation class and hopefully more.  We are just now getting started so many of the details are still open for discussion and change.

In terms of what to expect, even I can’t answer that question just yet.  I intend on encouraging an open, ego free learning environment where people feel comfortable sharing their views and practicing with others.  I’m hoping we get to spend at least as much time doing things as we do talking about them.  Being an open group means you can’t really know quite what to expect though.  You just have to come and see.

How can people get more information and contact you or your group?

Go to http://www.meetup.com/The_Elementals/ and sign up.  It’s free.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at sauzin at gmail dot com.

Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

There are many solitary practitioners of one path or another in the valley.  Many people find that their own unique path doesn’t fit perfectly in a more structured religion or group.  Many of these people practice on their own, but find that with everyday stresses and complications it’s very easy to go months without practicing.  This group is for those kinds of people.  The kinds of people who’d rather make up their own minds then to just be told what to do.   The kinds of people who have a wide range of views, or maybe haven’t made up their minds and just want to stay open to possibilities.  This group is open to everyone with the intent of equality and acceptance while getting a chance to put ideas and practices to use. 

We are having an opening meeting around the first of June, please come by and share your ideas of what spiritual adventures you are interested in pursuing. 

Thank you and Blessed Be!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two Free Ebooks!

Today I have two free ebooks to share with you.

The first is called From a Drop of Water, a collection by various authors on the element Water and its uses and symbolism.

The second is called Towards the Wiccan Circle, by Sortia D'Este.  It is a beginner's guide to Wiccan and Pagan paths.

As always, no kindle is needed to read, so grab them today while they're freebies!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Around the Web

Recently I discovered an amazing resource with tons of free content.  The website is called Pagan by Design.  It is a sort of online book of shadows and blog by Green Witch Polly Taskey.  This site really defies description and I know I could spend hours, or probably days, reading through it all.  Have you used this site's resources before?  Do you have favorite posts?  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Herbalism - Rosemary

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts." - Ophelia, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.

Rosemary is one of the most well-loved and frequently-used herbs in the western world.  It is frequently used in cooking, herbal medicine, beauty regimes, and magic.  Rosemary is a woody perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region.  Its name comes from the latin words ros (dew) and marinus (sea), thus its literal name is "dew of the sea," possibly because it needs nothing other than the spray and dew from the ocean to live.  Its purple flowers are adored by bees, and its association with memory and the brain goes back many centuries.

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite emerged from the sea draped in rosemary.  There is also a legend that the Virgin Mary draped her blue cloak over a white-blooming rosemary bush, turning its blossoms their current blue/purple color.

Rosemary is great for cooking.  One of my favorite uses in cooking is to cut up potatoes into bite size cubes or steak fries then toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic, and chopped rosemary leaves.  I then spread them on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and bake for about half an hour at 350 degrees, turning once or twice.  Rosemary is high in antioxidants and has been shown to slow spoilage of omega-3 oils.  It is a wonderful flavoring for meats and can be used in grilling.

A popular cure for gout and paralysis as early as the 14th century was to steep fresh rosemary tips in brandy.  This was known as Hungary Water, named for the Hungarian Queen Elizabeth of Poland.

Rosemary has often been associated with memory, hence its traditional planting at the gates of cemeteries.  Studies have shown that the scent of rosemary in an office setting did help improve memory performance among employees.

Rosemary is a symbol of love and remembrance.  In the middle ages at weddings brides would wear a headpiece of rosemary, and the groom and guests would wear sprigs of it.  Couples would plant a rosemary branch on their wedding day, and if it took root it was said to be a sign of a long and happy marriage.  Rosemary has been used to divine potential lovers or attract new love.  It is said that rosemary under the pillow will repel nightmares.

Rosemary grows well from cuttings.  Simply cut a branch at a diagonal where it attaches to the main plant.  Strip off the lower leaves, dip the cut end in honey (which acts as a disinfectant) and place in a vase of water until roots begin to grow.  Make sure no leaves are below the water line, as they can attract mold and algae.

Rosemary is also known to promote hair growth.  One study showed that participants who massaged their scalps with rosemary oil daily for 7 months experienced significant regrowth of lost hair due to alopecia.  A massage with rosemary oil is also said to help joint and muscle pain.



Monday, May 6, 2013

Sounds of Paganism

For many of us, music is a great way to elevate consciousness, ground and center, or otherwise find guidance in practice and ritual.  There are many great resources out there for Pagans who enjoy music.  Here are a few of my favorites!

One of the first Pagan podcasts I found was the A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast.  This podcast focuses on goth and darker sounds.  The weekly podcast is an hour long with a nice assortment of tunes.  This is a fun way to find new bands to add to your rotation.

The Pagan Radio Network is another great resource.  With a variety of talk and music programs, it's sure to have something for everyone.

Locals might recognize the Celtic group Beltane, who perform in a variety of venues around the Treasure Valley.

Though not strictly a Hindu, I really enjoy Kirtan a type of call and response chanting of simple mantras.  It is amazing how quickly I can fall into a trance with this type of music (and often dancing) to aid me.  Two very popular Kirtan practitioners are Jai Uttal and Krishna Das.  Give it a try!

There are also many streaming services online such as Pandora, Spotify, and Last.fm which are useful as well.  Finding folk and traditional music related to your pantheon or area of interest is a great place to start.

What is your favorite type of Pagan music?  Do you like to incorporate sound into your practice?

Friday, May 3, 2013


Here is a kindle book free today on amazon - AyaMayA by Ayam Yogi Abraxis.  It's apparently an exploration of many different mystic traditions and how they connect.  I haven't read this one yet, but if any of our readers have, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  No kindle needed to read this book for free!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blessed Beltane!

Just a quick post to wish everyone the best on this special day.  Our group will be meeting tonight to celebrate with food, fire, and friends.  Here is a photo that I took today.  I think it sums up the spirit of the day - bright sun, clear water, and new life.  The goose has always been a special animal for me, and to see this pair with their brand new babies felt just right.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stone Spotting - Sapphire

Our group has a very talented stone worker in our High Priestess, Kat.  Many of us enjoy working with or using stones.  I have always been a rock hound and enjoy finding rocks and carrying them with me.  From time to time I hope to spotlight some stones and their magical properties, history, symbolism, etc.  Today's stone is the sapphire.

The 422.99 carat Logan Sapphire, the second largest known sapphire in the world.

Basics: Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide.  Other trace elements in the stone can vary its color.  Sapphires are most commonly blue, but can also be yellow, green, gray, black, purple, orange, or pink.  The presence of chromium creates a red stone, the ruby.  Sapphires have a hardness of 9 on the Mohs Scale (diamonds are 10) and are often used in industrial processes such as drilling or cutting.  Sapphires are found in many places, principally Madagascar, Australia, Sri Lanka, China, East Africa, and North America (mostly Montana).  They are often found together with rubies.  Star sapphires exist and these stars usually have either six or twelve points.  A variety of sapphire called the color change sapphire appears blue under natural light and purple under incandescent light.  These are mostly found in Tanzania.  Sapphires are the birth stone for the month of September.

The Black Star of Queensland, a black star sapphire weighing 733 carats.

Associations: Many will recognize sapphire as the stone in the engagement ring given by Britain's Prince William to his wife Katherine Middleton.  This ring originally was used by his father, Prince Charles, when proposing to Diana Spenser.  Sapphires were previously very common for engagement rings and were seen as a symbol of fidelity and true love.  Etymologically, the English word “sapphire” derives from Latin sapphirussappirus from Greek σαπφειρος (sappheiros) from Hebrew סַפִּיר (sappir) from Old Iranian sani-prijam, from SanskritShanipriya (शनिप्रिय), from "shani" (शनि) meaning "Saturn" and "priya" (प्रिय), dear, i.e. literally “dear to Saturn.”  The Greek term for sapphire quite likely was misapplied, and instead, used to refer to lapis lazuli.  During the Medieval Ages, European lapidaries came to refer to blue corundum crystal by its “sapphire-blue” color, whence the modern name for “sapphire.”  It was said to cure anger and stupidity during renaissance times.  This stone is also associated with wisdom and mental clarity, hence its inclusion in crowns and ceremonial items used by royalty and religious leaders, including the sapphire of Edward the Confessor in the British Imperial Crown of State and St. Edward's Crown.  Because of its blue color it also symbolized a connection with the heavens and was common in rings worn by bishops as well as Hindu religious leaders.

In the Old Testament, Isaiah 54:11 discusses building on a foundation of sapphires.  In both Exodus and Ezekiel God is described as resting on sapphires (a pavement of sapphires in Exodus, a sapphire throne in Ezekiel).  Some traditions state that the original ten commandments were given to Moses on tablets of sapphire.

Sapphires can focus healing energies toward someone who needs them.  They maintain their old Vedic association with the planet Saturn, as well as the blue-tinted Venus.  In some healing practices sapphires are associated with healing bleeding disorders such as tuberculosis, nosebleeds, and cardiovascular issues, as well as burns.

The Star of India, 563.35 carats.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Repost - Baking Better Bread

This post originally appeared last autumn on my Pagan-themed tumblr http://www.dianesdreams.tumblr.com.  

“Cooking means the knowledge of Medea and Circe, and of Calypso and Helen, and of Rebekah, and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all fruits, and herbs, and balms, and spices, and of all that is healing and sweet in fields and groves, and savory in meats; it means carefulness, and inventiveness, and watchfulness, and willingness, and readiness of appliance; it means much tasting and no wasting; it means English thoroughness, and French art, and Arabian hospitality; it means, in fine, that you are to be perfect and always ‘ladies’—’loaf-givers.’” — John Ruskin
Though the notion of being a “lady” seems rather antiquated to postmodern feminist ears like my own, it is interesting to recall that the word lady comes from the Anglo-Saxon word hlaefdig, meaning loaf-giver.  I don’t believe that feeding one’s family and loved ones is solely a woman’s art, but I do take the heart the notion that preparing food for a friend or loved one is an act of love, protection, magic, and bonding.  The receiver must have trust that the giver will feed them well.  The giver has all of the time involved in the cooking to imbue the dish with his or her love, intentions, dreams, prayers, and magic.
Food is a powerful medium in many ways.  It also teaches us lessons we can apply to our lives in other areas.  When making my first Pate a Choux (the pastry used for puff pastries, eclairs, etc.) last week I had one of those moments familiar to many cooks, a moment where all the hard work seemed to be falling apart, the dough didn’t look right, didn’t behave, and generally seemed like an absolute failure.  I trusted the recipe, though, I followed the directions, and then in one single lovely moment it all came together and turned out to be perfect.  That brave step into the abyss and the reassurance of a hand catching you and lifting you is something we all experience in life, and that trust in a higher power, whether the recipe or the divine, is something worth cultivating.
I have made a lot of bread in my time.  I love baking bread, and have done it on a weekly basis for as long as I’ve lived on my own.  I’ve tried to learn about the technique, the chemistry, and the history of baking, and I’ve certainly made enough doorstop loaves to learn a few things.  This past weekend I baked the loaf of bread I have been trying to bake all my baking days.  It taught me that trust in the recipe even when it didn’t seem right, it taught me to not mess with things too much and instead to trust them to turn out, and it reinforced my love of cooking on good, strong cast-iron, the older the better.
In celebration of kitchen magic and this time of year, a time in which we are drawing in as the days draw in, all engrossed in feeding those we love, here is a simple and delicious bread recipe.  Dream as you bake it, and tear into it, hot and steaming, with someone you love.  Happy thanksgiving.
Diane’s Best Boule
Sourdough starter:  If you don’t have active starter yourself, and don’t know anyone who does, it isn’t hard to make your own starter (and by make I mean catch several wild living organisms, strains of wild yeast and bacteria that will do your body a favor by digesting wheat gluten and giving you the staff of life… isn’t yeast amazing?!).  It takes a few days, and there are many different ways to do it.  Here is mine:
Mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour in a non-metal container.  Add a pinch of sugar.  Cover with a cloth and leave out at room temperature (or warmer, 80 degrees is about perfect for yeast).  Check daily.  In 4-7 days it should start looking bubbly with a little liquid on top (the alcohol given off by the yeast, called hooch), and smell sour.  You now have your very own living yeast culture, made from wild yeast unique to your area.  It can be stored in the fridge (covered) for several weeks without feeding (this varies).  It can be frozen or dried for long-term storage, and it will provide you with endless delicious food.  It will be your favorite pet, I promise. 
To feed your starter pour off the hooch on the top, add equal parts flour and water, mix with a non-metal utensil, and leave out in a warm place until it gets bubbly.  This can take several hours.  I will often feed my starter before bed and go on to the next step in the morning.  When feeding add the same amount of water and flour that you need for your recipe (i.e. if you need one cup of starter, add one cup of water and one cup of flour to your starter).  If you can’t wait 4-7 days to try this bread, make a quickie sourdough starter by adding a teaspoon of instant yeast to your water/flour mix, then treat as normal sourdough starter.  It won’t be as sour at first, but leaving the starter out every time you feed it will begin to expose it to wild yeasts.  All starter gets better with time, which is why you should try to get some from a friend. :)
Sponge: This is the start of all good breads, and will help give your bread that wonderful sourdough taste.  In a large non-metal bowl mix 1 cup of sourdough starter, 1 cup of water, and 2 cups of flour.  I use a 50/50 mix of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat bread flour.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm space until the sponge doubles in size.  This usually takes several hours, and can certainly be left overnight or all day while you’re at work.
Dough: Now the magic happens.  To your nice poofy sponge add 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 tablespoon of oil of your choice, and a teaspoon of sugar.  I’ll be honest, this next bit I never measure, so I am going to start talking in handfuls.  Your hands are going to get doughy and floury at some point, so you might as well get into it.  Besides, this is a spiritual experience.  Add two handfuls of flour (I use one white, one whole wheat), and start folding and mixing the dough.  It will be very sticky at this point.  There are lots of videos out there about how to knead dough.  I leave it in the bowl and kind of stretch/smoosh it, fold it over, rotate the bowl, and repeat.  Once the flour is all incorporated add more flour, one handful at a time until the dough just barely stops sticking to your hands.  You want it as wet as it can be without being goop you can’t handle.  This is the time to add herbs, cheese, garlic, dried fruit, nuts, etc. if you want them.
Proofing: Shape your dough into a ball (or a boule if you’re fancy and Italian) and place it on a VERY well-floured surface.  Sprinkle with more flour and leave it to sit for about 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Place in your oven a large casserole dish with a cover - glass, iron, enamelware, whatever you like.  You want the dish to get hot with the oven. 
Baking:When your dough has rested for a while and the oven is hot, carefully pull out the dish.  Gently lift your dough and place it in the dish, cover, and return to the oven for 30 minutes.  The dish serves two purposes - it distributes the heat more evenly over the surface of the bread, and it helps hold in the moisture, giving you a nice crisp crust and chewy interior.  The time while the dough is cooking is another great opportunity for reflection or other workings.  I often will light a candle or say a prayer to Brigid, who protects the kitchen and the hearth.
When you take the bread out of the oven place it on a cooling rack and try to give it at least 10 minutes to cool, this will keep it from tearing when you try to cut it.  Enjoy and give thanks to your quick mind, strong hands, and warm heart for helping you feed yourself and your family.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quickie - A Free Ebook!

Check out Kent David Kelly's For the Dark Is the Light - a Lyric Book of Shadows.  It is free today on Kindle.  I haven't read it before but got my free copy.  You don't need a kindle to read this - there are android and iphone apps and you can read directly from the computer too.  Anybody else read this book?  What did you think?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Member Spotlight - Me!

The member spotlight is a new feature that will pop up on the blog from time to time so that readers can get a chance to meet everyone involved in Ancient Oaks.  Since this was a spur of the moment decision and I haven't gotten any victims, I mean volunteers, to participate yet, I'll start by interviewing myself!

Basics - Who are you?

Hi!  I'm Diane!  I am a 29-year-old gal and I live in Boise with my Scottish husband, four cats, two dogs, and a big old garden.

Where are you from?

I was born in Seattle and lived there until I was 10.  I am a seafood addict and beach lover as a result.  Our family then moved to Livingston, Montana where I enjoyed the wilderness and the small-town life.  When I was 15 our family moved again to Boise.  I took a while to warm up to it, but now it's definitely my forever home.  I went to University of Oregon in Eugene, and loved living there too.  As part of that I spent a year living in Aberdeen, Scotland, where I met my husband and studied at Aberdeen University.  Aberdeen's a lot like Boise in some ways, and I'd love to go back.

What do you do?

I work in the Student Financials office at Boise State University.  That means I'm a great resource if you are going to college or thinking about it.  I used to do social work and I also love volunteering.

Do you have a magick/ritual name?  Why or why not?

I've never felt it necessary to have a magick or ritual name.  My name, Diane, is the French rendering of the Roman goddess Diana.  I love that, and I can't think of a better name I'd choose. :)

What is your star sign?  Do you think it describes you?

I am a Capricorn.  Capricorn is both an earth and a water sign, and I definitely feel strong connections to both elements.  Capricorns are ambitious, stubborn, hard-working, practical, efficient, detail-oriented, conventional, patient, independent (sometimes to a fault), intellectual, disciplined, sensible, dignified, reserved, polite, competitive, and friendly.  They sometimes seem not to have very deep feelings, but this is usually because they are very sensitive underneath, and don't always feel comfortable sharing these feelings with others.  I think that sums me up very well indeed. :)

How would you define your path?

That's a difficult question for me!  I would describe myself as a green/kitchen witch.  I find powerful energy in cultivating plants and through the transformation of plants and animals into nourishing food.  I also love learning about the history of different crafts and integrating them into my magical practice - especially textile arts - processing raw wool, dyeing it, spinning it, and knitting or weaving it, into garments to clothe my loved ones.  I have also loved to dance and move for my entire life.  Dancing is a very powerful act to me, as is hiking and communing with nature.  I am a bit of a skeptic, and haven't had much religion in my life, even before becoming Pagan.  Most of my rituals are small, quiet, and solitary.  My work with Grove of the Ancient Oaks has been a good learning experience for me in suspending disbelief, opening up and being vulnerable, and sharing these deep things with other people without fear of rejection or mockery.  My chosen deities are mostly from the Celtic and Norse pantheons, as my heritage is predominantly Danish, Cornish, Welsh, and Scottish.  That said, I love learning about deities, myths, and folktales from other cultures and looking for syncretism and parallels between them.  I believe that each deity is a lens through which we understand a small portion of the Divine, which is too enormous for us to ever comprehend in its entirety.  I am a bit of a reconstructionist in my path, a bit eclectic, a bit solitary.  If there's a name for all that, I'd love to know what it is!

How did you get interested in your path?

I am the child of a couple of hippies who I would describe as tree-hugging dirt worshippers.  When I was a kid our lives were very chaotic, and at a lonely and difficult time in my early teens a friend started bringing me to the LDS church she attended.  I found companionship and stability there, and a truly normal way of life.  There were rules I could understand and follow.  There were lots of happy whole families.  There were lots of people who loved and welcomed me.  I decided to convert when I was 14, and spent about a year in the church.  A move to a new state followed shortly after by the suicide of one of my new LDS friends was enough to start me questioning my path, and at the age of 15 I made a list of all the other religions I could think of and started researching.  I read the Koran just after 9/11 while my schoolmates were spewing hate about Islam.  I read sacred texts from Buddhism, Hinduism, various translations of the Old and New Testaments.  As soon as I read the first Pagan book to cross my path I knew Paganism was for me.  It was like someone wrote down what I already believed.  I was 18 when I officially dedicated myself to this path, and I haven't looked back since.

What brought you to the group?

I was a solitary practitioner for most of my practice.  When I met my husband I was thrilled to learn he was a  Pagan too.  I really enjoyed having that connection.  However, my husband discovered a few years ago that he has Jewish roots in his maternal ancestry and began exploring reform Judaism.  He officially converted about a year ago.  During the conversion process I went through a very deep mourning.  It was hard for me to be happy for him even though he was pursuing what made him feel truly whole and happy.  I decided then that I needed to look for other Pagans to share my journey.  I looked at a lot of groups, but none seemed right for me.  When I found Ancient Oaks online, something about it just felt right.  Though I'm often uncomfortable meeting new people and I'm a total introverted homebody, my need to step back from my husband's new faith and reconnect with my own path forced me to be brave, and the nice people in the group certainly made it easier.  I should add that after some time to process I really support my husband's path.  He is very happy, and his congregation is welcoming and kind.  I enjoy worshipping with them, and find that it fits nicely into my belief system too.

What is your preferred way to worship?

Much of my worship is performed silently, and alone.  I am a member of a flame keepers group to honor Brigid, my matron goddess.  We each have one day of each month in which we tend a sacred flame for her.  I occasionally read tarot.  I have an altar that is sometimes set up in my house, sometimes stored under my bed so that I can absorb its energies and it can absorb mine.  I love rocks and often find and carry them with me when the mood strikes.  I also love plants and the magic contained in a single seed.  Planting and tending to green things is a wonderful way to feel my spirituality and connection to the earth.  Often my worship involves making food or fiber items in a meditative and intention-filled way.  I also participate in circles with Ancient Oaks, and I've really enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and learning how others practice their faith.

What is your role in the group?

I am a member of the council of elders in the Ancient Oaks group.  My role is Guardian of the Air.  I feel a real connection with the Air element, even though I'm a water/earth sign.  Air is the element of movement, of vitality.  It pervades every part of the earth and connects all of us to each other.  I consider Air to be a lighthearted element that is not concerned with what is "supposed to be."  It is a constant effort for a serious neurotic person like myself to pursue that lightness and joy.  It's been very good for me. :)  I also, of course, maintain this blog.  I'm an internet junkie and a longtime blogger (started my first one in 1998) so it's a good fit.

Random fact about yourself?

When I learned that DaVinci could write upside down and mirror image I decided I should learn to do the same, and I'm proud to say I can!  I can also write with both hands at the same time, with the writing mirroring what the other hand has done (backwards with one hand, forwards with the other).

What do you do to relax?

I love reading books.  I am also a bit of a British culture junkie, especially since my husband's from Scotland.  I love Dr. Who, playing tabletop games, and occasionally participating in pub trivia nights with my knitting group.  I also teach and perform Scottish Country Dance with the Thistle and Ghillies.  We'd love to have you join us!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Well, I'd love to go back to Scotland.  I haven't been since 2007, and haven't seen any of my husband's family since we got married.  I think if I had to choose somewhere I've never been I'd choose Scandinavia.  I'd love to take a pony trek through Iceland or tour the historical sites in Denmark, where some of my ancestors lived.  I'd also really like to see the east coast of Canada - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island... it's lovely there and the history is really fascinating to me.  Also, lots of good music and dancing happens there, and there are more Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia than there are in Scotland!

Any suggestions for the group or anything else you'd like to say?

Not much!  If you'd like to be featured for the Member Spotlight, leave me a comment!  I'm happy to sit down and record your answers if you don't feel like typing them out, or you can feel free to copy these questions and type out an email with your responses.  I'd love to feature all our members here eventually!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pagan Social Networking Sites

For most of my practice, I was a completely solitary Pagan.  I did not participate in groups of any kind.  As an introvert in general I did not feel comfortable interacting with others about something so private and important, and indeed, I didn't really feel the need for companionship in my path.  However, I have always enjoyed connecting with others online, and there are a variety of websites to help you find support and companionship.

Of course, one of the most well-known pagan resources on the web is WitchVox.  This site has been in existence since 1997 and is a great clearinghouse for Pagan/Wiccan news, blogging, and networking.  WitchVox was actually how I found Ancient Oaks in the first place.  The group turned out to be a great fit for me when I really did start to need the support and companionship of other Pagans.  Here is a link to the listing for our Pagan Round Table group run by High Priestess Kat and High Priest Troll.  We also have a listing for the Ancient Oaks Group.

Another networking site is PaganSpace.  It contains a variety of news, blogs, social groups, and event listings.

The Pagan Veil has a lot of informational articles in addition to the ability to connect with others of various paths and experience levels.

Pagan Friends is a UK-based networking site that contains a wiki, forums, blogs, and plenty of chatter from folks around the world.

The Book of Shadows site has been newly redesigned to include message boards, a library of articles, and a forum.

And finally, Witchbook is a forum-style site with a very wide variety of topics and interest groups.

If you've used any of these sites please let us know what you think!  Which sites do you use to connect with other Pagans?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Updates from the Council

There are a few items of note that were discussed at the latest council meeting which may be of interest to members and friends of the Ancient Oaks.

Kat introduced the idea of doing some service for our community, and the project that we are currently interested in is called ReLeaf Boise, which focuses on planting trees in our community in conjunction with the Arbor Day holiday in late April.  This is a no-brainer for our grove.  Who better to look to the trees than us?  Stay tuned for more info or check the social networking pages (links to the right) to get involved.

Ancient Oaks also plans to have a booth at Goddess Fest 2013, which takes place July 27 and 28.  This is always a great event and now that our group has reached its first birthday it's time for us to declare our presence.  Each council member will contribute to the cost of the booth, and we will be sharing our talents and giving out information about the group.

If you know of other events or activities in the Treasure Valley area that might be a good fit for Ancient Oaks, please let us know!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Quick Post - Free Kindle E-Books

Amazon offers daily deals for kindle, including free e-books.  This is a great opportunity even if you don't have a kindle.  There is a kindle mobile app available for both Apple and Android products, or you can read right on your computer.  Here are the books that are available for free today, March 27. 

Disclaimer: I haven't read any of these books, so I don't know if they are useful.  Please comment if you've read them and tell me what you think!

Healing Crystals: A Guide to Working With Obsidian by Brenda Hunt

Money in the Tarot by Carole Sommerville

Magickal Aids in Wicca by Lady Moonraven

A Beginner's Manual of Magic by Benjamin Miro

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Happenings at the Grove

Spring is finally arriving in Idaho, and the council is hard at work to mark the changing of the seasons.  Last week the grove marked Ostara, the Vernal Equinox, and the official dedication of our High Priestess of Diana, Kat.  The occasion included plenty of socializing, a dedication ritual, and a celebratory pot luck.  Kat has worked long and hard for this honor, and we are very proud of her.

Tomorrow, March 27, is the full moon.  The circle will meet to work together on this important night.  If you wish to participate in future full moon rituals, please contact our group.  This is an invite-only ritual so we can get to know you first.

On Sunday, April 21, the group will meet at Fuddrucker's on Entertainment Avenue in Boise for a stones class taught by Kat.  Come at 1 pm and enjoy some good food while learning from Kat's wealth of knowledge about the benefits of stones and crystals.

Thursday, April 25, is April's full moon, and the grove will meet as usual to mark the occasion.

And finally, Wednesday, May 1 is Beltane, the spring fire feast.  Stay tuned for more information about the activities we have planned for this important day.

For more information about what's going on in the group, check the links on the right side of the page to connect on Facebook or Google Plus.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Right off the Press!

Dear Readers:

The Burning Cauldron is a newsletter which is published by the Ancient Oaks Council. Generally it is produced to inform the Ancient Oaks members of news, events, and tidbits.  Yet we would like to share this with the public viewers also.

Along with this newsletter there will be tidbits shared too. A few ideas might be: a tarot card for the week, a stone for the month, and other items. There will be events that our has done with pics.

There is always an open invite to our open group in Google+ Community. For those who also is resident or passing there the Treasure Valley area of Idaho. Are able to join us for our events that we host.


Blackmoon Cat