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It’s actually rather funny.

First I wanted to start a Pagan magazine. Then I realized I didn’t have all the time and the resources to run it myself. So I started writing for Crystal’s Building Bridges Newsletter. She needed someone to cover entertainment events so I said I’d love to. So far, I’ve only been to one notable event to write about, and I posted it here. I’ve been far too busy or had conflicting schedules with other events to review.

So my column has turned into a “Sam needs to wax poetic about this thing this month” feature. And, surprisingly, people read.

This month is no different. The holidays and my need to work through and around them proved far too difficult to attend, photograph and write about an event…even though there were a number to choose from (so difficult when multiple Yule events happen on the same night at the same time!). So, once again, I was at a loss on what to cover this month for the newsletter.

I was reminded by my boyfriend of my current personal journey. I had spent far too long being solely occupied with being a public Pagan. Events and people and introducing new people and organizing, always organizing. That became my duty as a Pagan, my job, I did that and I could go home and sleep. My spirituality was suffering and I wasn’t listening to the world and universe around me. Not speaking to the Gods meant I definitely was not listening to them and they demanded to be heard. So I’ve been refocusing on reconnecting myself with the divine. That really is the purpose of this blog and my current journey.

So that became my focus of this month’s article (scroll to page 6). It’s a great way to start off the year, if you ask me. It’s my resolution of sorts and that post starts it while this blog documents it.

This woukld be me finding myself again. There’s not more I can describe here, it’s all covered rather succinctly in the article. Happy reading and feel free to share with me your thoughts.

Oh and, in case you’re interested, my boyfriend’s Building Bridges newsletter debut (scroll to the last page)  is in this month’s edition as well. Where he muses about his entry into the Pagan community and onto his new Pagan path and what he’s gained from it thus far. It’s worth a read, especially since it’s bound to raise a few hairs.

My next post (which I’ll get cracking on tomorrow) will be my Year in Review and a Look Ahead.

Hope you’ve all managed to have a warm and loving holiday and all the best in 2010. Take care!

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Tonight is Friday, December 11 2009. The second Friday of the month for December. Tonight, I should be hosting Cerridwen’s Mug tonight but I’m not. We celebrated our eighth anniversary event last month, an event that was met with a good crowd, amazing energy, and tons of support. All after I spent weeks worrying that none of that would happen. Awesome! I made an announcement that night that I would take next month off to give people the chance to focus on the upcoming holidays and it would also give my boyfriend/co-host to be (PsycheDiver) and I time to scout for a new location and make the changes that we collectively feel the Mug needs in order to grow.

I took over the Mug four years ago from the original hostess. Cerridwen’s Mug was my first outlet into the Toronto Pagan community when I first started attending back in 2002 and it was still a very new moot. I loved the idea of a gathering of people at a pub, or in this case, a coffee shop who just so happen to be Pagan or had Pagan tendencies, coming together to discuss Pagan topics. I finally felt like I had my way into the community, something I had searched for years but never found. The reason why I wasn’t finding it was because back then I was still a teenager, a teenager living in the suburbs with barely a friend at all that was actually Pagan (that I knew of at the time) and the one existing moot at the time (Toronto Pagan Pub Moot) was at a bar where you had to be 19+ to enter. But the same thing happening at a coffee house? Perfect! I swallowed my nerve and trekked downtown for my first ever moot.

The crowd was warm, the hostess friendly and I realized I had found something I could see myself returning to for a while. Back in the day, Tamryn was the hostess, I met Heather from the Wiccan Church of Canada and members of Caer Avalon (formerly Coven of the Mysts from York University) who have since dispersed. That was a great, fun crowd, I learned a lot. I also…got put in my place plenty of times for making very “green” comments. And by “green” I mean “new”. Every new-to-scratch Pagan has run into that. Being in a crowd of people that know, have practiced and experienced far more than you happy to point out how vitally wrong that statement was. Hey, ya learn, right?

From there I found Toronto Pagan Pride where, that same year, Toronto Pride became my first big Pagan outlet that I had ever experienced on a larger scale. Thankfully that time I had someone to share it with when I learned one of my first friends in high school was also a closet Pagan. Back then, being a suburban sheltered teenager and rarely heading into the city, I was nervous. Paganism in a crowd outside of my makeshift practices in my own bedroom alone was a big deal. I wouldn’t’ve gone without a friend.

I am so glad I did. The Mug became my catalyst. I kept attending, very rarely missing one event and feeling horrible if I did. It introduced me to faces, names and paths in the community. It taught me of places and events I should also check out. It got me involved in Pride, it also got me involved in other community-centric initiatives (the short-lived Sacred Crossroads that resulted in a trip to the Renaissance Fair).

Years after I became a dedicated regular, Tamryn pulled me aside and asked me to take over hosting. She informed me that she had plans to move to Scotland and would require someone that was community minded and dedicated to take over hosting reigns and she immediately thought of me. I was flattered and beside myself that this one very special thing that I was happily a part of being just a member was being handed to me wrapped in a ribbon. I thought then that I would have time to grow accustomed to the idea before taking over as the one in charge. Only that didn’t end up happening at all when Tamryn informed me that situations in her life were preventing her from being able to handle hosting duties anymore and she would have to hand over the reigns to me the following month.

Shocked, I asked my friend long-term Pagan-from-high-school friend Sodayah to please co-host with me. It was a slow and steady start but we managed to get it going on our own just fine,  a change in location went without a hitch and an anniversary event was celebrated with good cheer. Not bad for our first year.

Soon, Sodayah’s life caught up with her and situation prevented her from being able to host with me. The years passed and I continued to host. Another pub moot was birthed and flourished and now the city had three to call their own (there were others but the Beaches Merry Meet and Uptown Pagan Pub Moot didn’t end up working out).

The Mug reflects my life as a Pagan, I see it come full circle. I started my journey into Pagan with company through the Mug and now I host it and call it my own. I started my venture into big events with Pagans and a lot of company through Toronto Pagan Pride and now I can consider myself a co-host and fellow organizer. It is pretty amazing.

Granted, one of my challenges now is making sure I have room in my social Pagan responsibilities for my actual spiritual responsibilities but the balance is being regained.

Now Cerridwen’s Mug is eight years old and it may be time for a change. That one issue that prevented young people from attending (that whole 19+ in a pub) is no longer an issue and teens and parents with kids can happily attend and not worry getting turned away at the door. Our regular crowd is beginning to overcrowd most coffee shops and some aren’t too happy with our occupying of tables for five hours on end. People also like having dinner around 7 pm on Fridays so a place that also served food would be optimal. Do we change the coffee moot into a regular pub moot? We’re attempting to let the crowd decide and hopefully we can find a new place suitable in the month to come. Next moot, we’re hoping, will be on Friday, January 8 2010 but since finding time to scout locations in between work and the holidays may prove difficult, there’s a change we’ll have to postpone until February.

There’s a lot I can say about the Mug, and whatever carnation it may take next. It has been a source of pure joy and love as well as heartache, grief and drama. I usually am not afraid of change and growth but when it comes down to this creature you helped build and forge, this masterpiece, this Thinker, and you start to see it crack and crumble at the seams, it’s not easy to accept that it won’t simply take a new coat of wax and ash. It may require a bit more, like an overhaul. I sat and cried on PsycheDiver’s couch over this once.

I’m bound to wax poetic about the trials and tribulations about the Mug itself in future posts to come. I’m nowhere near ready to stop hosting the Mug/moot in some way or form and if it requires an overhaul then that’s what it’ll get. There will be something and it will be back.

I knew I had to write about the Mug this month as I also published an article in the Building Bridges Newsletter this month on how to start and host your own moot (scroll down to page 11). It was the same topic matter of my talk during this past Pagan Pride. Apt, considering the crossroads I stand on in regards to it and it bids me the opportunity to reflect on the past it’s granted me.

We shall see where this goes. Until then, happy reading.

It’s been my dream for many years to start my own Pagan publication for my community. It seems like this is my path in life, as slow going as it is with as many false starts as I’ve encountered. I even managed to go to school for it.

It’s all a matter of time and effort, really. Unfortunately the two have yet to combine properly for the dream to actually launch. Northern Invocations Magazine was started, well the production end, anyway. A project this big is not a one person job and I had a team working with me. But life gets in the way for all of us, N.I. fell to the wayside unfortunately. Again, slow and steady process. Writing, editing, layout, design, art, distribution, subscription, advertising, sponsorshp, funding…it’s not easy.

My co-editor, co-conspirator, when Northern Invocations started, Crystal has formed an e-newsletter for the local pub moot she co-runs, Building Bridges. The aptly named Building Bridges Newsletter began as mostly a calendar of events for the local and surrounding areas. It soon grew to incorporate a masthead of staff (albeit a small one), articles, photography, and a rather strong following of thousands of hits a month. It didn’t take long before I decided to throw my efforts of N.I. in to B.B and combine the two so at least something would start getting out to readers. I mean, the readership is already there and Crystal has more connections to reach more people than I do. So…go with it.

The biggest difference really is the fact that I wanted to start in print so people would have something paper and substantial and material to hold on to. Unfortunately, printing costs far more than web hosting and with the Internet, you can reach more people. That’s why the e-newsletter is working the way it does. Besides, Crystal has stated that she’s looking forward to go into print very soon and that’s where I further step in.

Currently, I’m the Culture & Entertainment writer for the e-newsletter. My first article, a review of the Dragon Ritual Drummers‘ CD release party for Tribal Magik at the Hammertown (Hamilton) Pagan Pub Moot last month appeared in this month’s edition.  (Scroll down to page 4)

This will be the predominant focus of my writing and editing for the next foreseeable future, it’s a step in the right direction of being the Pagan journalist I’ve set out to be. For more, don’t forget to subscribe to the Building Bridges Newsletter by e-mail (check the website for more information) or through Facebook. I’ll also be posting the link to the newsletter here.

Happy reading.

The Mother of All

I love my mother.

I hate my mother.

It’s nothing new. Everyone who has ever had a mother has had mother/offspring problems with her before. Just the same as every mother who has ever born a child has silently wished that weren’t so. Fights, arguments, some last longer than others. I’ve gone through many years of being at odds with my mother. Many of my friends can attest to that, many of them bore witness to it. I hated my mother for a very long time.

Not until I finally saw her in a different light did my bond with her changed. I don’t know exactly how the change came about. Maybe it was my finally finding a job that could kick start a career after four months of being laid off. Maybe it was her meeting a boyfriend of mine she could finally approve of. Either way, I learned something new about her.

My mother is a witch.

She won’t admit it to herself, she would never use that term. My Pagan studies both of religion and Witchcraft were often (and still are) deemed as that “thing I do”, “Sam’s religion” which all sums up to “that thing she doesn’t trust”. I’m fine with that, 13 years have passed of me passing off Pagan gatherings, ritual and other requirements of my time as “socializing with friends in that thing I do.” Don’t ask, don’ tell, right ma? Come to think of it, it almost makes me sound like I’m in the mob…just not as exciting.

My family is Mahayana Buddhist. This goes back many generations reaching back to my roots in China. My mother is very religious…and old school in many ways. It’s not uncommon to hear her indisposed during the middle of the day, indisposed by the family Buddhist altar, chanting away in Cantonese for hours on end. I don’t know the chants, I never asked and she won’t tell me. Her reasons.

But that’s besides the point. The point really is belief, intent and will. It’s the first thing I learned as a witch. Spells, rituals are nothing more than prayer with words, symbols and tools to focus intent and will into the right place. Put everything you have into a singular focus and goal and influence change in the universe. It’s the fundamental basic of magic.  It’s the reason why Christian prayers work just as well as any spell. We know it as intuning with the divine within us and creating change in the universe, Christians know it as the will of God.

And the same can be said about Buddhist prayers. My mother made it clear to me. Every so often, she’ll bestow upon me little pearls of information that pertain to my past before I was old enough to maintain a memory. When I was born, my mother dedicated my soul to Kwan Yin (this tradition, I’ve learned, is not an entirely new concept as I’m not the only one who was dedicated to her. And this guy’s also from Toronto!). She informed me of such only a few years ago and all that did was confirm the name of the being, in all her many guises, that I’ve always known was watching over me.

When I was laid off from the job I held for two years right after I graduated from college, my mother got to work. Day in and day out (she retired early, she has a lot of time on her hands…), she’d kneel there at that altar, talking to Kwan Yin, asking her to grant me another job soon. It took months of trial and error before I landed my current position at Just-Eat.ca and only a week and a half after to be promoted to social media manager (it’s a nice way of saying that I spend a lot of time on Facebook for work).

It’s the equivalent of a job search spell I could’ve cast only my mother did it for me…consistently. Belief, will and intent, right? All focused towards the same goal and change manifested. Thank you, ma. She didn’t do it the same way I would’ve, she didn’t need candles and tools to cast this spell, just a family altar and the belief that the Buddhisatva Kwan Yin, Lady of Compassion and Mercy, watched and guided her and her children.

Buddhism teaches not to view the Buddha as divine for he, himself, was a human that had reached enlightenment. Praying to Kwan Yin maintains the focus on praying to what she represents to mankind. In essence, my mother was praying to the divine inside herself to create a change in my favor. It’s what I do as a witch under a different name.

Considering the promotion I received only after a week and a half of my being hired, her prayers delivered many times over.

Xie xie, mama.

During this past Mabon, I was asked during ritual to call on someone in my life that has made sacrifices in their life in order to help me in mine. I called on my mother and my grandmother before her and my great grandmother before her, all down the line. Proud and resourceful Chinese women who learned from the lands of the rural farming villages in China. Mothers who taught their daughters the properties and benefits of herbs, roots, berries, flowers and even…petrified worms. Healing properties mostly, ones that range from Cancer prevention, retaining blood iron levels for menstruating women, even to remedy the common cold.

My mother learned from her mother and…eventually…I’m sure I’ll learn the same. Odd ingredients with different properties boiled into teas to be drunk (and they often taste very vile), stood in (a tea to draw toxins out of the body, boil and pour into a basin, now stand in it for a while), bathed in (same thing, pour in the bath), and eaten as a dessert (swallow’s nest soup is really good and very expensive) all will bring improved health and vitality into your life.

It’s the one thing I have a right to call “ancient Chinese secrets” around here. My mother’s potions. Potions that will one day be passed down to me.

Including the one that uses the petrified worms. “Look, you can even see their little feet!” Really, thanks ma.

A road less travelled

My name is Samantha and I’m a witch.

I walk the path of a Hellenic Wiccan who actively studies and relishes any opportunity to be involved in different traditions and paths if only to broaden my spiritual spectrum. In that case I can be known as an eclectic in Paganism. I am also a Mahayana Buddhist (born and raised, Chinese family).

I’m an eternal student watching the world and the universe around me with eyes wide open, absorbing it all in. Seeing myself and my life reflected in the people, the patterns, the community, the cyclical ebb and flow of chance and situation that have brought me to where I am on this very day at this very moment and where it might possibly take me next.

When I speak of community, I speak of tribe, I speak of family that goes beyond the bonds of blood, but to the bonds of souls, of spirit, of cosmic connection and divine. I love my community, the Toronto Pagan Community and the communities of surrounding areas of southern Ontario. Almost everything I do is for this community.

I host a monthly networking social for Toronto, Cerridwen’s Mug. it’s a coffee “moot”. I’ve been hosting it for the past four years since it was handed over to me and I’ve loved every moment and responsibility of it. Even if I did dread it at times.

I’m also one of the local organizers for Toronto Pagan Pride. I’ve been involved in the project also for the past four years and was happy to take on a much larger organizing role this year.

I’m the editor in chief of Northern Invocations magazine supporting southern Ontario. This has been a pet project and a dream of mine to begin for many years and it became my reason for being a journalism major in college. It’s been a slow and steady process for a while but one I’m dead set determined to see my way through.

Active Pagan, community leader, journalist, photographer, designer, event organizer. I am all these things and more.

This is my blog to document this crazy journey that I’ve found myself walking, to explore the lessons in the patterns, experiences, and the circumstances to see where they’re taking me.

On August 31 2009, I turned 26 years old. Exactly half my life ago, I dedicated myself to a Pagan path and lifestyle. Thirteen years a witch. This blog has been started on this day to commemorate the landmark.

Mei is my Chinese name which translates to “plum blossom”. Qing ting is the Mandarin term for dragonfly. A pair of them exist in tattoo form on the back of my right shoulder. The dragonfly symbolizes transformation, strength, peace, harmony and purity and of deeper thought and meditation.

This blog is the journey of me, witch and public figure. No “broom closet” exists for me, not anymore.

My life is a spiral, I may see the past reflected but I am never in the same place twice.

Walk with me, share with me. I welcome your insight. Learn what you can from my experiences. I don’t have all the answers and I never expect to, I won’t always make the right choices but I learn every time.

Hope to see you soon.

Samantha