Welcome to the Pagan’s Pen, where we explore the union of faith, magick, art, and writing. I’m Matt, or Taljesin., or Wamditanka, and I’m the pagan in question. I’m a seeker of wisdom, a follower of the Correllian Nativist Tradition, a writer, a chaos magician, and a devotee of the Muses. Join me in a bit of writing, reading, musing, and magick on the Pagan’s Pen Podcast, where we prove that, sometimes, the pen is mightier than the pentacle.
Mother, may I?
In truth, I say, I
Know not which my
Love will be.
I dance and turn. I
Advance, return. I
Sing a song by
The ribbon tree.
In and out, I
Weave about. I
Pass my love, my
But will I find my
Arms around my
Lover sweet by
The blooming sea?
One more time, I
Sing the rhyme. I
Wheel around my
And there I find my
Arms around my
Lover sweet my
And in her eyes, I
See surprise. I
See joy and love. I
See us be we.
Mother, may I?
In truth, I say, I
Know now which my
Love will be.
Quill Tip: The secret to good writing is good reading. Fill your brain with well-written stories. Ask yourself, “Why did I like that book?” or “How did the author make me feel that emotion?” and “How can I make my readers feel the same?”
I walk and stand in the space I am planning a sacred herb and flower garden. Right now, it is barren, torn up from recent construction, and beaten down by snows and heavy rain. The damp earth smells fresh, however, and ready to burst forth with new life. This area had been hard, dry, concrete dirt before the construction, because it was in the shadow of a tall, strong oak. Oak, though, was aging and, with her proximity to the house, was taken down. Now the space is more open to the sun, and the oak’s death allows new growth to take her place. The soil is good, and smells good, and should feed a garden well, but right now it is cold and hard, ice that must thaw within the Mother’s womb.
On this day, the winds buffet me from all sides, swirling quickly. It is new for me to be out here, one of the first sunny days we’ve had in months, the first I could wear just a jacket, and this is the first time I have toured the space since the construction. It is also new for me to do so without a podcast or audio book or music flooding my ears. New, and yet a return to what used to be. This space will do well. I pace it out, praying quietly. I will more formally sanctify and bless the space later, but right now, just for a moment, the wind subsides and peace settles upon me. I feel a meditative calm from above and below. My roots reach into the earth as my branches reach upward. Sunna’s radiance warms my face and limbs, and Nerthus feeds me with energy from below. My astral self feels the tree within it, and I am happy, and calm, and blessed. The spirits welcome my return to this connection to nature, a connection that was once such a part of my life.
After spending a few minutes embracing the sublime, I draw my roots back into myself and lower my branches. Stepping outside of the space, I feel the wind once more blowing upon me, and I hear the spirits whispering that I should return again soon.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by author Bruce Coville. He’s primarily an author of young adult books, and he was in town speaking to a group of middle school students and their parents and teachers. I don’t know whether Bruce is pagan or not (my guess is he’s not), but I wanted to relate a few things he said, because they relate to writing and also to magick, and, though the connection to magick may have been unintentional, Bruce did plan his words to inspire and encourage the kids to reach their highest potential, and in this, his words gave insight into the type of personal transformation that is possible through writing and also through magick.
Bruce spoke about the power of words. I seem to have lost my notes, so I’ll paraphrase a little bit. Bruce told us to think about a kindergarten or preschool student. We ask, “Can you draw?” and they whip out a picture. “Can you sing?” and they belt out a tune. “Can you dance?” and they make up a little dance. To ask those same questions to an eighth grader, however, we get completely different response. Bruce says this is because somewhere along the line, someone told them they couldn’t do these things, or they thought they couldn’t do these things. Someone shut these doors for them. “It’s your job,” he says to the students, “to kick down all those doors.” To the teachers and parents, he says, “It’s our job to keep those doors open for them.”
“Everything you think stays with you forever,” Bruce says, “so be careful what you fill your head with. Fill it with good things. Don’t fill it with crap.”
Writers and wizards have always known about the power of words, and so much more has been discovered about how words and thoughts can change the way a person feels. This is one of the basic points of mental alchemy: If you change your thoughts, you change yourself. Our thoughts get bound together like a book, and this book is quite thick. Each time we tell ourselves that we can’t do something or that we’re no good at something or that we’ll always be stuck in this negative condition, we add another page with that negativity written upon it, but each time we change that thought, we redact a page and correct what it says. The difficulty comes because we have thousands of pages with the negative statement on them, so it will take thousands of edits to change them all into the positive. Just like writing, it takes practice. It may take getting about halfway through that book and looking back at how far we’ve come before we start to feel different about it, but we can change our thoughts, and we can change our world.
I’d like to finish this podcast by reading a piece by Bruce Coville, though it was written under a pseudonym. It’s a poem called Ragged John by Beatrice Farrington.
Pay attention to the rhythm created by the words Bruce chose here, and think about playing with rhythm in your own writing. The May Day piece I read at the beginning was intended to be a playful rhythm, reflecting the dance around the Maypole. Bruce’s rhythmic choice is different, but important. Witches have always used rhyme to add power to spells and make them more memorable, and, likewise, rhythm is especially useful in magickal writing. Think about how you can use rhythm and rhyme to go deeper into the magick, into that place of your mind or spirit that makes its desires manifest around you. If you have a piece that you think expresses rhythm in a creative way, I’d love to read it. Send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Ragged John
Tattered clothes all fluttering
Worn out voice still muttering
Ragged John comes knocking
At all the doors in town.
And when a door swings open
Then you can hear the hope in
The thin, cracked voice that wonders
If you’ve seen his unicorn.
And we all know John is crazy
And his mind has gone all hazy
And the only thing we really wish
Is that he just would let us be.
But John, he keeps on questing
And the poor man knows no resting
For there’s something hurt within him.
And the pain won’t go away.
I’ve heard when John was younger
He was taken with a hunger
To see the white-horned wonder
They call the unicorn.
But when that star-horned, moon-maned dancer
Finally called, John could not answer;
Fear held him like a prisoner,
And he watched it walk away.
So now empty-eyed John hobbles
Across the village cobbles,
And the only fear he feels is
It will never come again.
Oh, when I watch old Ragged John
Go staggering by and wandering on,
I know there’s nothing sadder
Than a heart that feared its dreams.
If a unicorn should call to you
Some moon-mad night all washed in dew,
Then here’s the prayer to whisper:
Grant me the heart to follow.