Friday, May 18, 2012

Muse as Magick # 2

here's another one of mine...."Vain Roses" melodic piano composition, just a fun practice take;  by Nicolette Stevens. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Music as Magick

Shortly the next chapter in the paper I'm writing about Jerik's life will be available, but I'm also working on a lot of other things. My piano is at my Grandmother's house, and while visiting I finally got to play it again for a little bit. Music is one skill that I think also has a magical component, it touches both the maker and the listener on a deep level when it's really good. I'm perhaps not the most accomplished composer in the world, but I've written a few songs and have always felt moved in a spiritual way to do that. I managed to figure out how my webcam works and created a video of myself playing one of the first songs I ever wrote.

Initially, I started to write this piece after one of the brothers in a circle I was with passed away. I was pretty young at the time, and I looked up to the young man a great deal. His name was Pascal McGaffey, and he was a brilliant young man who played keyboards, wrote poetry, was an actor, and had also studied and performed dance as well. He was also one of the most magical souls I have met in my life, and I still miss him almost two decades later. As a friend he was deeply loyal and encouraging, and one of the things he always encouraged me to do was work more and more on my own music and poetry. I don't think I would have gotten this far if it wasn't for Pascal. here's the song I wrote for him, well, the piano part at least, if you're curious. One day I think I'm going to turn it into a Pagan symphony.

There were words a long time ago too, that no one knows. Roughly, the first part went like this:

Listen to the falling rain, dripping in the alley way,
Feel how it rests on my skin, hiding the tears again.
It's been so very long since we last had a cup of coffee,
And I wonder what you'd say to me, if you could hear my voice now.

Remember when, remember then, remember how I love you.
I'm falling down, there is no ground, I fear I'll drown, and I am lost without you.

In a far of castle high above the mist
I often wonder if you watch me sleeping.
There were better days before this lonely haze came
Me without you.

There was a time when your hand was clasping my hand,
And all both dark and bright in our souls met with our eyes,
That's when you smiled at me and said the circle's open,
But never broken, and I knew we'd meet again.

I remember how you took your coffee, what you said to me
and all the love we had.
I remember, all the vows and honor, 
and the promises we strive to keep.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Part Four- Hollywood and the Magician

 This article  is the work of Nicolette Stevens, also known as Sylviana and as Lady Jasmine. The source of this material is paraphrased from  Jerik Daenarson himself, both in person and through recorded interviews that took place in 2001. The photo of Jerik above is one I snapped one night on Jackson Square. This essay is the fourth chapter in a series telling Jerik's life story and history in the Pagan community. If you didn't read the first chapters, you can find them further down on the home page of this blog.

Hollywood and and the Magician

It was the mid 1960’s. After a brief period of living with his teacher and first spiritual mentor, Jerik decided to move on from Riverside, California. He had some friends and some good experiences there, but for a teenager Riverside seemed to be a fairly dull town. Jerik knew that there was a lot more glamor, glitz, and fun going on in Hollywood, and so he decided to move there for a while and see if it held more of the excitement he wanted from life. 

A new youth culture was almost exploding in America. Now having escaped “parent land” and having moved out of his teacher’s home, he was free to explore in a more independent way. Things were changing rapidly in the world around him as the sixties generation had its inception. People were starting to listen to bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, they were dressing differently, and acting more liberally than the generation before. Young people were discovering rock and roll, and rallying for peace. They were also experimenting with drugs, which Jerik said “he would have thought was aspirin and some vitamins” at the time. Political ideals and values were changing, and being more openly discussed than in more conservative times. The youth culture was coming on, and the idea of ‘finding yourself’ and ‘discovering the world around you’ was in. Spiritual exploration was a big part of that. 

At the time, spiritual paths other than those of majority religions were beginning to be discussed more openly, especially among young people. Many books were published on Eastern paths and meditation, which included a lot of ideas and ideals that were new to the Western world. It was now possible to meet people like the Buddhist Dean Strong in everyday life, who he had gotten to know as his high school art appreciation teacher. 

Jerik had also already discovered the Norse myths as a child and declared himself Pagan, but had not yet met anyone else who was following a similar spiritual path. Around the same time, books about Wicca and Witchcraft started to appear along with literature about other spiritual systems, and many people began to explore Pagan ideals. Interestingly, there are a significant number of other Pagan traditions whose founders lived in that area of California during the sixties. The timing of Jerik’s entrance into the Pagan world makes him a contemporary of some very well-known people, who are looked at as the forerunners of the most respected traditions of modern Witchcraft and Paganism.

It was in the midst of those social changes and the atmosphere of spiritual exploration prevalent in the 1960’s that Jerik met his second mentor, who went by the name Kelly Green. Picture a slightly skinny 6’2” leprechaun with bright red hair, flashing blue eyes, and a bouncy manner of speaking and behaving. He was slightly self-depreciating, had a huge grin and a marvelous talent for sleight of hand, and was as down to earth as he was creative. At the time Jerik met him, he was the manager of a magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Not the kind of occult magic shop that sells crystals and books about witchcraft, but the kind where you can learn to pull a rabbit out of a hat. 

When Jerik met him, he introduced himself saying “Kelly the Wizard, at your service.” With a beaming theatrical smile. He saw him do a couple of tarot readings for people at a local coffee shop, and in that moment Kelly looked something like Merlin to Jerik, who wandered over to him said “I want learn how to do what you do.” And asked how he had learned to read. In a way, that is perhaps when Jerik’s life really began. The wizard responded “Oh no, it’s the soccer’s apprentice- your name isn’t Arthur is it?”, and in that moment he Jerik did become Kelly’s apprentice. 

When Jerik finally got invited to Kelly’s house, he thought it was like a movie set from Arabian nights. It was not like the Ashram, which was a place of celibacy, fasting and quiet meditation. There was a five foot bronze Chinese gong on a stand with a big gong banger; Persian carpets on the floor instead of couches, harem pillows of enormous sizes, velvet curtains, and giant aquarium with fish underneath the Titanic. It was like a walk in fantasy, and this was the wizard’s lair. 

Kelly was in many ways different from his previous mentor. For instance, he encouraged people to have a few vices, because it keeps them from feeling self-righteous about the vices of others. He believed that life was here to enjoy and share the enjoyment of it with others. He didn’t see sexuality as a form of negative attachment, or have anything against drinking, smoking, and eating meat.  Jerik remembered him saying “I’m not going to tell you to be celibate Jerik; calling on the hand of the Lord is just fine, getting laid is fine, falling in love fine. Please do it as often as you can. And don’t become a drunk Jerik, make love all you can while you’re young, and do your drinking when you get old. “

Having been adopted and raised in a Japanese American household, Kelly was very culturally diverse and also encouraged Jerik and other people around him to develop a sense of cultural diversity. He was a Netrean Buddhist, a ceremonial magician, and a Pagan. Each of those magical and spiritual paths came together in him and affected how he thought about life and what he taught his students.

Kelly Green also had a sense of responsibility to community. Jerik was a young, long haired hippie, and like many of his contemporaries found that sometimes made it hard to keep a regular job or find a stable living situation. Kelly had a spare room and took him in many times during his time as a student. Kelly invited him to stay both when he had problems with his circumstances, and when he experienced some medical problems. Both Kelly Green and Dean Strong had a deep sense of family that went beyond one’s relatives, and their influence shows in the way Jerik lived his life. Later when he was in a position to do so for others, Jerik was very inclined to take in and look after people he cared about, including the writer of this essay. 

Once, from “living in unclean circumstances with questionable people” he developed a serious illness, and Kelly was kind enough to let him stay for an extended period of time while he got better. During his convalescence Kelly introduced him to other literature that made an impact on him in a philosophical and spiritual way, and also books that motivated him to become a great writer who could paint a moving picture with vividly descriptive language.  He shared with him “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlien, “Lord of the Rings” by J.R. Tolkien, and Alan Watts “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”.

Kelly was a fun and entertaining man, but he was also a hard master. Jerik said that “there was also a Japanese sensei in that leprechaun. Comparing magic to karate Jerik laughed, saying their relationship had moments where he would exuberantly ask something akin to “When are you going to teach me karate??” and his teacher would respond with something like “Rake the leaves.” Jerik was Kelly’s apprentice for a full year and a day. It should be noted that in many traditional settings of teaching the craft, a year and a day is a common period of study required for initiation to the first degree. 

Kelly Green was sometimes a rough mentor, but also very encouraging and compassionate. He was a great stressor of cleanliness and responsibility, which Jerik thought may have been really good for him and some of the other people that came up in his generation. He pointed out that having grown up in mostly conservative families, the kids of the sixties may have briefly forgotten some things in their new found independence and freedom, basic things that are good ideas for everyone. Jerik said the attitude was  something like “Wow, before we dropped out, we had to clean our rooms and stuff, but now, we don’t anymore. Peace, freedom, and grunge!” This apparently didn’t fly with Kelly.

While the mentality of young people in the mid 60’s may have had a few areas to mature in, the people of that generation were also vastly curious about the frontiers of consciousness. Jerik pointed out that it was an era in which great shifts and development of new kinds of thinking really started to happen. He referenced that this was the time in which the Carlo’s Castaneda books started to come out, the time which produced Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, and some great music that people are still talking about. It was a time in which America became increasingly politically polarized, and a people who were also exploring religious and spiritual frontiers. He said “The American Neo-Pagan Movement gets its biggest infusion and maybe even part of its birth in this cycle of events.”

The story of Jerik’s time with Kelly is also a good example of the effect that one good teacher can have. Later, Jerik founded his own tradition, and was a master reader and palmist on Jackson Square for over 30 years. It’s incalculable just how many people Jerik must have read for in that period of time, and those are all people who he touched with skills that Kelly helped him to develop. Jerik went on to teach literally hundreds of students, and was a mentor of many different things. Many of his students went on to have students and circles of their own. He taught a lot of people how to read tarot, how to make a living at it, and how to be a Pagan Priest or Priestess in many different fashions. Jerik said “All Pagans should keep their word, their oath, and their values.”  In currents underneath those spiritual and magical practices he also taught people how to be an honorable member of a community, how to have values and live by them, how to have integrity.   

When people speak of Pagan lineage, it is like a family tree of teaching and sharing that has been passed down through many traditions by many people. It is sometimes useful to realize that if you have been taught something useful by someone, they also had to learn it somewhere and then develop their knowledge and skill beyond that through practice and experience. Sometimes such lineage is used to trace who has what initiations in what traditions and who has gone through what specific training, but perhaps this interlinked tree has a much greater meaning that is difficult to convey in words. If this man taught me something, I also recognize with gratitude those who taught him something. 

( This article is part of an ongoing effort by Jerik’s friends, family, and students; to create a proper memorial for him and preserve his stories and writing as he wished. Cody Allison and I are working on this along with other friends, and would be happy to include material and memories by others who had a connection to him, and to his tradition which was called Southshire. Please feel free to contact either of us to share your comments; memories, class notes, experiences, and any other writing from Jerik that it may be shared in honor of our friend. Thank you! ) 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Part 3- Jerik's First Spiritual Mentor

 This article  is the work of Nicolette Stevens, also known as Sylviana and as Lady Jasmine. The source of this material is paraphrased from  Jerik Daenarson himself, both in person and through recorded interviews that took place in 2001. This essay is the third chapter in a series telling Jerik's life story and history in the Pagan community. If you didn't read part one and two, you can find them here: 

Part 3 - A First Spiritual mentor
During his high school years Jerik briefly became a part of the Air Force, in which he served and underwent basic training for about two months. He was then given an honorable discharge and sent home, having gone through basic training and been found psychologically in-adaptable to military life at the age of 17. He later thought of his military experience as something that proved to be the big gym class in Texas, which he had gone to as a way to avoid being with his parents. 

Upon returning he was a student at North Vista High School in Riverside California. He signed up for an art appreciation class, looking mostly for an easy class to pass. At the first class meeting in walked a teacher by the name of Dean Strong, with piercing blue eyes and a marine crew cut, almost like that of an eastern monk with a nearly shaven head. Jerik’s hope of an easy class went out the window but his curiosity grew, as the teacher began his introduction. He said “This is going to be the toughest class you ever took. I’m going to teach you to not only see colors, but to see their auras. I’m going to teach you about symbols and art…” and went on charismatically about the subject.

A student who was more familiar with the teacher interrupted him and asked excitedly if he was the same Dean Strong who was an all American football player, and the teacher answered “Yes, but that was a long time ago.” Jerik noticed that the way he answered the question was soft and almost humble, certainly not what you would expect from a big well known jock, and that the teacher seemed to almost shine with an aura of light around him. 

Dean Strong became Jeriks favorite teacher, and had always shown him kindness and wisdom. It came to pass one day that Jerik had another parting of the ways with his parents, and so when he hit a troubled spot and was basically trying to run away from home, he went to ask his teacher for advice. The teacher told him that he could not officially help him, but invited him to come to his ashra.  There, Dean introduced him to his wife, who lived in a separate house. Jerik started to realize then that there was something really strange about this teacher’s life. 

“What’s an 'ashram' ”? Jerik asked him. The teacher responded “A Spiritual Center”. Jerik started to notice pictures that were on display, and asked Mr. Strong if they were pictures of him. The teacher went on to say “Yes, I like to think of them as images of my slain former selves.” They were an unusual and dramatic display. He had been a carrier fighter pilot in the Korean war, and an all American football star, but had experienced some kind of deep spiritual conversion. He then studied in India and Tibet, lost over a hundred pounds, became celibate and vegetarian, and walked an eastern path that leads to Buddha-hood and the overcoming of Maya. Dean Strong had also studied at the Bauhaus in Germany, where he developed his knowledge of art and symbolism. It was this man with his wide and varied experiences who exposed Jerik to the idea of the evolution of the spirit and the true evolution of a person. 

When talking about working with the friend and teacher he went to stay with, he tried to convey just how different this was from anything he had been exposed to in his young life. “I’m a big blond Norseman. I like broadswords, burgers and blonde’s at this time in my life, and also redheads and brunettes. It’s awfully alien for a Viking to be dropped off at the ashra and told that he has to touch the tip of his tongue to the roof of his mouth and vibrate in the following fashion, and my legs don’t even bend that way…” 

Yet, Jerik needed to be someplace other than the home of his parents, and felt safe and comfortable with the charismatic teacher who became a marvelous friend to him. He remembered with awe that he had a magnificent library and meditation center, filled with statuary of the eastern Buddha and other spiritual figures, and a domed skylight overhead that filled the room with light from above. It was there that Jerik learned about Yoga and different styles of meditation. He had also never fasted before, but Dean put him on a melon fast for several days to help purge his body of toxins, as well as having him try the sauna for its cleansing steam and benefits of relaxation. He taught him about Prana Yoga breathing exercises, and several disciplines of meditation.  He studied with the man for only a little while, but got a great deal out of it. 

In the end he came to the realization that it wasn’t his path, but he tried. It was the beginning of his study in eastern philosophy and meditation, which consisted of several disciplines of yoga and the reading of esoteric and eastern texts that always had an aim towards the evolution of the spirit and going beyond the wheel of karma. Jerik found Dean Strong to be a very marvelous and transcendental man, but also discovered quickly that this wasn’t his path, that he could not walk in Buddha footsteps. He did however respect the path, and he respected the man who was teaching him so many things about spirituality and life. Dean got Jerik started on the turn inward part of spiritual evolution, where we learn not only to look in the external world for our symbols of deity, but we start looking within.

This teacher also got him interested in other ideas as well that he had not previously been exposed to, such as astral projection and other spiritual phenomena. Dean spent a lot of time in meditation, and seemed to be able to do things that other people could not or did not know how to do. The spectrum of his knowledge was far reaching. Even in teaching art appreciation at school, he exposed the students to ideas that were new for them, by doing things like teaching them techniques to see auras around the paintings they studied. Some of the ideas Dean had resonated deeply with Jerik and gave him a spiritual foundation that was different than that of his parents and family. Jerik said that he credited his very nurturing Great Aunt and Great Uncle with starting him on the path, and then his teacher Dean Strong as his first real spiritual mentor. 

( This article is part of an ongoing effort by Jerik’s friends, family, and students; to create a proper memorial for him and preserve his stories and writing as he wished. Cody Allison and I are working on this along with other friends, and would be happy to include material and memories by others who had a connection to him, and to his tradition which was called Southshire. Please feel free to contact either of us to share your comments; memories, class notes, experiences, and any other writing from Jerik that it may be shared in honor of our friend. Thank you, Nicolette Stevens. ) 

Part 2 - Jerik's Early Spiritual Influences

( This article  is the work of Nicolette Stevens, also known as Sylviana and as Lady Jasmine. The source of this material is paraphrased from  Jerik Daenarson himself, both in person and through recorded interviews that took place in 2001. This essay is the second chapter in a series telling Jerik's life story and history in the Pagan community. If you didn't read part one, you can find it here: )

Jerik’s Grandparents didn’t live in California and he never got to meet them, but he had a wonderful Great Aunt Hattie and Uncle John who provided that kind of nurturing and loving influence to him. They fulfilled all the Grand-parenting functions that a child could want, and Jerik felt later that that the Grand-parenting influence is important to children in their spiritual development of what will follow in terms of nurturing souls, while not spoiling them. He could go stay at their house on weekends, and for the rest of his life felt that the time he spent with them profoundly shaped his life in good ways. 

She was a retired schoolteacher, and encouraged him to develop a love of reading. She gave him books that he still remembered in his late years as having an effect on him, causing him to focus more on mythology, folklore, and history. His Uncle was also kind and fathering in a way that was very different from what he experienced at home. They were Christian, but their approach to religion and spirituality was also very different from what he had experienced. 

They went to what was called a Community Church, and if he stayed on weekends they invited him to go along with them to church and Sunday school. This was different, as it was an invitation rather than a demand, and he remembered this many years later as very relevant. Their church was non-sectarian and liberal in its interpretation, and very welcoming. His Aunt would ask “Would you like to go to Sunday School with us”, and at first he sheepishly answered “No, not particul-lar-larrrly.”, remembering his other earlier experiences that made him think Jesus was the guy that punished you if you fell off your bicycle. Instead of being forceful, they wouldn’t make him go, but instead she would ask sweetly “Oh, Come on, do it for me? You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.” Even to a child that seemed like an extraordinary difference, and he liked his Great Aunt and Uncle, so he went and discovered that they followed a version of Christianity that seemed very different and made him curious. 

In this church a person called a Minister would give a sermon, but the minister was not like “Preacher Billy-Bob Brimstone” The man smiled a lot, and opened his sermon with the idea that “God is Love.” He went on to tell the congregation that if we really love God, if we love Jesus, we show it by loving each other and by the good things we do. He taught that Christ is an example of how we should live; and is not punishing, but all forgiving. Then they would sing little songs together, like “Jesus Loves Me” , meant to trigger a response in the people to show love for  each other, and other good things like kindness, charity, and compassion. 

This was a totally different kind of church service than the one’s Jerik had seen in the church his parents went to, as the messages were not about things like hellfire and conversion. He discovered that he was not enemies with this Community Church God, who seemed very different than the God his parents feared and sometimes used as a threat. The sermons at the Community Church were simply reminders that we come from a god of love who is friendly and loving, and that we should be that way too.  In this church the messages were about being good to one another. Church services were a pleasant time spent in “the temple of a compassionate God”, who was friendly, filled with love, and forgiving of our mistakes.

The same Aunt, who was a retired schoolteacher, took particular interest in influencing Jerik to develop a love of learning and an interest in folklore and history that continued for his entire life. From what he said of her, she sounded like a very intelligent and deeply philosophical and open-minded woman, especially for her time. Sometimes he would ask her questions, which she delighted in answering in ways that made him think. He remembered that she had a lot of pictures, many of them of relatives from way-back-when. One picture she had was of Napoleon, which she kept in her glass bookcase. He asked her if that was also a picture of an old relative, and she smiled and explained to him that “No, it was a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte”. Curiously, he wanted to know if he was a great man. His Aunt responded “Great and Infamous”. She went on to explain, “I keep him there because he’s a symbol of How far a person can rise from nothing and how much damage they can do when they fall back again.”

He remembered that she gave him in particular two books he felt influenced him and his interests greatly. One was Charlotte Yonge’s “Book of Golden Deeds”, and included short versions of interesting historical stories like Brave Heart, and the 300 Spartans at Thermophile. She also gave him a copy of Richard Halliburton’s “Book of Marvels”, which was written by an early 20th century explorer and photographer who went to all kinds of amazing places that he shared as a fun narrative for children. In the book he shared pictures and stories about exploring places like Pompeii, and made the history approachable to curious young boys and girls with vivid imagery. He brought kids in with adventurous and interesting invitations such like “I’m going to go visit the lost city of Pompeii, would you like to come with me? I don’t have any boys and girls of my own, so I’ll take you with me, we have my camera- so come on, let’s go see the ancient roman city the volcano swallowed!” Profusely illustrated with black and white pictures the book showed him places like Montipichu, Pompeii, Troy, and covered the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was these books that initially influenced him to broaden his cultural perspective. 

Jerik had declared himself Pagan, which remained his lifelong path. His parents could make him go to church and sometimes did, but he never converted to baptism or other forms of Christianity. Sometimes his interests and perspectives got him into a little trouble, as they do for many Pagan young people. For instance he remembered going to church near Easter once as a boy with his parents, and the kids were shown imagery of Jesus suffering on the cross. When asked what he thought about it, he blurted with an innocent excitement that he thought the Roman Centurion’s had a really neat crested helmet and he liked his armor- which was perhaps not the answer they were looking for. 

His relationship with his Great Aunt and Uncle continued to be very good however, and he read practically everything they could put in front of him. By the age of nine he had read the Iliad and the Odyssey, and all the childhood classics. By the age of ten he was reading Shakespeare, Bullfinches Mythology, and Hamilton’s Mythology.  These works of history, mythology and folklore influenced his sense of theology, as well as developing a broad interest in the perspectives of many cultures. It was at this age that he made a Theological decision he never reversed. "All gods are real, all paths are real to the people walking them, but there can be more than one version even of the same god."

He saw that time period as very initiatory, those experiences at the beginning of his path which created his background and gave him a place to start. It developed in him a lifelong passion which made him a collector of legends, a folklorist and historian at heart. He described his Uncle John Offield * and his Aunt Hattie Macdonald-Offield * as the most loving mentors a person could ever have, and for him their memory became sacred forever. They were decent Christian people who opened his eyes to the world around him, to the heritage of what had been before and the history of the world, and gave him an eye to the future and the idea that education is everything. Although he did not adopt their path, he learned many good values and spiritual ideals from them, and their influence on his interests in history and culture broadened his horizons in ways that opened many doors for him. It was these initial steps that began at the age of eight which shaped him and his direction in life, and he was forever grateful. 

This was long before Jerik perused his Pagan path with many more years of study and practice, but deeply affected who he was as a person and what he believed. He influenced many people later as a teacher and High Priest, and as the founder of his own tradition which grew and shaped many others. In his time he taught literally hundreds of students. Every one of Jerik’s students, whether they know it or not, was affected by his own humble beginnings. He is still teaching, in a way, through the material he has left behind as a legacy to be shared by those who it might help to grow. That is why I think it’s important in studying his work (or the work of any Elder of the Craft) to have some understanding of his personal history and background. If Jerik taught you something or affected your life, then you have in some way been not only touched by him, but by these other people and situations that made him who he was.

(* Note:The four names that connect to Jerik’s family line are Alpine, Macdonald, Daenarson and Offield. I am unsure as to whether the correct spelling of the last surname is Afield or Offield. )

( This article is part of an ongoing effort by Jerik’s friends, family, and students; to create a proper memorial for him and preserve his stories and writing as he wished. Cody Allison and I are working on this along with other friends, and would be happy to include material and memories by others who had a connection to him, and to his tradition which was called Southshire. Please feel free to contact either of us to share your comments; memories, class notes, experiences, and any other writing from Jerik that it may be shared in honor of our friend. Thank you, Nicolette Stevens. )

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jerik’s Early History and Conversion to Paganism

Jerik’s Early History and Conversion to Paganism
Part 1

( This article  is the work of Nicolette Stevens, also known as Sylviana and as Lady Jasmine. The source of this material is paraphrased from  Jerik Danerson, both in person and through recorded interviews that took place in 2001. )

Jerik was born in Pomona California on November 17, 1946. It was around the time World War 2 ended, and the soldiers returning home caused a sudden population explosion in and around the small community he grew up in. While he was still very young he and his family moved to a more agrarian farming community called Chino, also in Southern California. His Father’s name was George and his Mother’s name was Mildred, and they were both simple people with Southern values who came from Tennessee.

He remembered the place he grew up as a “Southern California in another time and another place, that doesn’t exist that way now.” It was full of wonderful natural beauty that he could see from his front yard, under sparkling azure blue skies with the sweet smell of orange groves in the air. From where he lived he could see the beautiful snow-capped San Bernardo Mountains, an hour to the west he played in the sparkling clean Pacific Ocean at Newport beach, and to the East he found the desert lovely.

With three growing seasons in the year his childhood was filled with a natural wonder in this small farming community of only 15,000. The community grew immensely during his childhood, and he described California at the time as “A golden land of opportunity, unfortunately many millions of people had the same idea and they Californicated it. “

Although Jerik remembers his childhood in a lovely place, the climate in his home was sometimes difficult. Jerik’s mother Mildred was a Fundamentalist Methodist, and his Father George was a Southern Baptist. They sometimes had strong disagreements on religious issues that their son later saw as a theological disharmony. On small issues such as whether the religious officials should be called ‘Deacons or ‘Elders’ of the church, and whether a person must be totally immersed in Baptism or simply sprinkled with holy water he watched them argue; sometimes to the point of throwing dishes and pots and pans at each other.

He was an only child for 13 years, and discovered at a young age that the world was not always as he imagined it to be. Jerik’s Mother and Father were not always the kindest of parents, although he said that he had utterly forgiven them the harder moments of the past, and would not want to besmirch their memory. They were simple people with Southern values who have long since passed on, and Jerik hoped each of them found their reward in an afterlife appropriate to their individual paths whatever they may have been.

His conversion to Paganism happened during his childhood as part of a challenging experience that became a mystical moment for him. The experience itself not only brought him onto the path he took as his own, but later gave him a personal sense of how sensitive children are to spiritual things. Later in life he used it as an example to explain how children sometimes see and feel things that many of our adult minds have been conditioned to reject as imaginary.

He was a boy of eight years old, and one mild autumn evening was taking a ride on his old fashioned bicycle with his dog at his side. The dog, named Blackie,  was on a nylon leash which somehow got tangled in the chain of the bicycle, and Jerik went flying over the handlebars. With a skinned knee, slightly bent bicycle, and limping dog he quickly returned home to his family. He was upset and a little scraped up, and looking for love and attention and to see if his dog was alright. Instead he was met with an angry father who shook his finger in the air at him, telling him that he must have been doing something wrong while his father wasn’t there to watch him, but that Jesus was always watching and would see that he got what was coming to him. He was frightened by this and a little angry that he came home looking for support and sympathy, and his Dad responded in this kind of way. His temper flared a bit and in a child’s words said something like “Well then I don’t like this Jesus very much, That’s dumb.” His Mother did not react well either, and shocked at hearing her child’s comment said “Now just a minute young man, if you don’t love Jesus, then the Devil will get you!” They sent him to bed early, took away his nightlight, and told him that since he didn’t love Jesus that tonight the Devil would come for him. 

In telling the story during an interview Jerik said “An invocation had now been made to another power, weather they were aware of it or not.” It got dark and chilly, and he felt something unpleasant and scary in the room, kind of looming in the blackness with the things of childhood nightmares. He knew that he couldn’t call on this Jesus his parents spoke of so much, having somehow made himself an enemy. Young Jerik felt it was kind of a no win situation, in which Jesus would punish him for falling off his bicycle by sending the devil to come get him in the middle of the night. However, he had a toy sword he had made himself with a surveyors steak he had “sharpened” with sandpaper. He was determined that this “Devil” wasn’t going to get him without a fight.

The chilly wind continued to blow, and the boy sensed something unpleasant in the shadows, and so he tried to stay awake. He crouched in his bed with his wooden surveyor stake sword, ready for a fight, as the thing in the darkness at the foot of the bed seemed to grow stronger. It was like there were tendrils or claws hooked into the bedding, trying to draw him into this vortex of negative energy. However, with a boys defiance and the strength of his sword, some tenacity in his Scorpio soul wouldn’t give in to the darkness. As the hours wore on he got sleepier and sleepier, the negativity looming in the darkness seeming to get stronger, until suddenly something magical happened.

The room was suddenly filled with a beautiful glowing bluish light, and the frightened eight year old child found himself looking up to see a woman. She was kind of transparent, and herself bathed in this strangely beautiful glowing light. She had long golden hair, and a shirt of bright silver mail, with a blue grey cloak draped over one shoulder. At her side he saw a long gorgeous sword, and she reached out a hand to him. “You may rest, I will guard.” She said. Awed at this vision, he asked her if she was an angel, and she smiled at him with a loving kind of amusement, saying “No, I’m not an Angel, I’m your guardian. You won’t know what the word means,  I’m a Valkyrie. You will know more soon. Now rest and sleep, young warrior, rest and sleep. the dark will not claim you, nor the white crest.

He laid down with a feeling of rightness in the world, his sword at his side, knowing that the bright blue light would not go away. Peacefully he slept, relieved that some positive spiritual force cared weather he was swallowed up in the night by void and darkness.

The next day when he woke, his parents expected recalcitrant humiliation, but he seemed fine, and asked if he could go to the library. Somewhat perplexed they let him go but told him to hurry back for chores. Then at the library he passed up the children’s section, and  found an enormous blue book in the adult non-fiction section called “Tales of the North”. 

It was a beautifully illustrated edition, and upon opening the first page he found a illustration of a tall armored God in a winged helmet with ravens on his shoulders and fierce wolves at his feet. The book named him Odin, King of Gods and Lord of Asgard, who gathered the souls of heroes to Valhalla. He flipped the page, and staring at him was another beautiful illustration, of a beautiful blond woman in chain mail with a long bright sword at her side. The book further named her a Valkyrie, and said that they were daughters of Odin in a company led by Freya, whose job it was to gather the souls of heroes to Valhalla and also to be felia- or the guides and protectors of young heroes. Further the text explained that a young warriors of Odin would dedicate themselves to the gods by going to the sacred grove, to make a small cut in a rite of passage and shouting a prayer of dedication.

He of course had no idea at the time what an ancestral path was, or that he tied to this by blood, but knew that he had been drawn to the book and that the picture was just as the woman he had seen protecting him in the night. So he went to his own grove, played by two peach trees and an apricot in his back yard, and with much effort used his extremely dull cub scout knife to get three drops of his blood to fall on the earth. Then raising his wooden surveyor sword he shouted to the heavens the words he had read in the book. “Odin, help this young warrior to grow, help me to be a warrior; help me to be wise, cunning, strong, valiant, self-reliant—make me your warrior!”

He would like to report, he said, that the heavens opened and the Valkyries chorused, but really he was just a young boy standing in his sacred grove of three threes in the backyard; shouting nonetheless his dedication to Gods he hoped were listening. That moment shaped the entire path of his life, so indeed, I think the Gods were listening.

( This article is part of an ongoing effort by Jerik’s friends, family, and students; to create a proper memorial for him and preserve his stories and writing as he wished. Cody Allison and I are working on this along with other friends, and would be happy to include material and memories by others who had a connection to him, and to his tradition which was called Southshire. Please feel free to contact either of us to share your comments; memories, class notes, experiences, and any other writing from Jerik that it may be shared in honor of our friend. Thank you, Nicolette Stevens. )

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Magical New Orleans

2011 has been interesting for me. About a year ago I moved back to New Orleans from Seattle and started reading Tarot on Jackson Square again. New Orleans is a very magical city, with many different cultural and religious influences which are complex and interesting.

Long before European settlers the area was lived in by Native American tribal people. The settlers from abroad came here with different cultural values, religious beliefs, and social and political ideals. Although it may be difficult to clearly see the impact now, current US cities that were colonized by the French may have a deeper native American influence than other cities originally colonized by the British. In general, the French developed a much friendlier and more mutually beneficial relationship with the Native peoples than the British did. French settlers were more inclined to learn native languages, participate in trading fur and other goods, and learn about native foods and medicines, and intermingle bits of culture. It's likely that those with a friendly relationship traded philosophy as well as recipes.

This came up for me yesterday when I was working on some research and writing about Louisiana folklore, and looking for references about the Cajun tale of the Rougarou. The word Rougarou is almost interchangeable with the word 'Loop Garou', which is the French way of saying 'Werewolf'. Stories told most frequently about this creature describe it as a large hairy creature with the body of a man and the head of a wolf, and the suggestion that the creature was once a man who transformed into an animal, and who may have the power to transform others. In Louisiana, stories of the Rougarou have been used to scare children into good behavior for centuries, potentially. It's the thing out in the swamp howling at night, and could come snatch you up if you don't behave, or if you wander out into the forbidden wilderness. I'm still tracing the history of the story as it applies to local folklore in New Orleans, and found that other than being a new interpretation of an old French legend, it joins and mingles here with some Native concepts and stories.

So, in New Orleans we have been influenced by the French, British and Spanish settlers; the original tribal peoples in the area, and also by Africans and others who became part of the culture during the years of slave trading. They brought beliefs and ideas that have transferred themselves into modern practices of Voodoo, Santaria, and other related paths.

The result for any kind of spiritual or mystical person living in New Orleans today is interesting and difficult to describe. It's definitely a place I encourage people to visit and explore, because some things are beyond words and the experience of being in this place can be very beautiful.

Want to know more about Louisiana folklore and history, and the Rougarou?

Louisiana History Wikipedia

Cajun French Loup Garou

Awesome Picture of the Rougarou Statue at the Audubon Zoo

Louisiana Folklore: Rougarou, Wikipedia article

Cajun Folklore and the Rougarou, article by Brandon Folse

Article by Jamie Lugibhl on the Louisiana Folklore Legend of the Rougarou

Scholarly article on Pre Columbian and Early American Legends about Bigfoot-like beings (From : Traditional Attitudes Toward Bigfoot in Many North American Cultures, By Gayle Highpine)

Detroit and New Orleans: le Loup Garou

Cryptozoology: The Rougarou

If you have any other references to stories of the rougarou or loup garou, particularly ones that include a naughty little boy or girl who gets snatched up and what happens to them, let me know! I'm working on a reaserch page about the Rougarou and that story. Thanks! :D


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Silver Pentacle Jewelery

I have been creating a lot of pages on Squidoo, some of which I know the readers of this blog will love. The newest one showcases some nice pentacle jewelery I found online. Check it out, and then look through all the other pages I have there to find all kinds of cool stuff about divination and the Tarot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm working on a lot of things right now....

Some of which is related.

I'm in the process of creating a Wicca 1010 Recommended Reading List on squidoo, and slowly adding sections by author. The list when complete will probably be a small library full of books, and will have links and information about the authors mentioned. If you come across this, have a look, and met me know if anything I should add immediately pops to mind.

The page is hosted on Squidoo, another interesting web publishing format. I'm creating a number of other pages there, too, and there is the possibility that over time it might generate a little money. I'm trying to get to a point where I'm making a living with my writing, however that page and the following one are part of another ongoing project. I've spoken about my friend and elder Jerik Daenarson in this blog before, and am working with some friends on some writing projects in his honor. We're actively trying to raise some money to take care of some things for him, and preserve and share his writing. Granted, I don't expect the page views on it will generate a lot in terms of funds for our project, I think it's a good idea because it may raise awareness about it in the Pagan community at large. Please check this page out for more information:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Diary of an Ordinary Witch: My Art Work

 ( above: Treasure Box by Helen Pattskyn, available on Cafe Press)

     I had the pleasure of sitting in the kitchen of this lovely Pagan author, Helen Pattskyn, as she was working on some of the original art in this series and for a unique mystical tarot deck. Check out her vibrant use of colors, which I think add a lot of passion and emotional current to expressing these archtypical scenes of mythology and fantasy. Have a look at Helen Barbara Pattskyn's Blog here:

Also be sure to check out her cafe press merchandise- the keepsake boxes with her artwork would make a lovely place to keep Tarot cards or ritual supplies, and the coffee mugs would make delightful gifts. I can't wait for mine to come!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Deepest Thanks to Lady Lark and Lord Peter

With some friends, I am trying to put some of my Elder Jerik's Pagan teachings and history into a sharable format. I was recently sent an interview he did with an old student of his, around the time we first became friends. Some of this will be shared in the near future, but it is a very long interview with some sensitive information included, and I want to make sure I have proper permissions from the kind folks who have shared it.

It's like having a final class with a mentor you loved deeply, and I have no words of gratitude which could possibly express how happy I am that this interview exists and has been passed on.

With their permission, some of this will be shared here and on Jerik's memorial site shortly. It is my intention to be respectful of the great kindness they have shown by forwarding this to friends who were asked to be the caretakers of his writing.

Thank You to those who are helping to make this possible, with all my heart.

Nicolette/ Sylviana/ Lady Jasmine

Friday, June 25, 2010

Interesting Conversation....Food for Thought

I stumbled across an interesting conversation in a blog on Paganism and Wicca that you can find on A person wrote in, because they may have to testify in court against a friend who they know committed a burglary. They were concerned that their testimony could harm their friend.

Clearly, the person in question who committed the crime initiated the cycle of harm with their actions- and the other responses basically said 'roast the bastard!'.

I decided to respond with a different approach, which I bet will be unpopular. This person seeking advice is concerned about their friend, and a conflict of loyalty and citizenship. My response considers several different approaches to this situation and the reasoning behind them, and leaves it to the questioner to decide what their best course of action is.

If you're curious about my thoughts, which may involve a little playing the Devil's advocate, follow the link below. I guess I just didn't think it was so black and white. I hope I never have to make the same kind of decision, but I don't know that I would stand against someone I felt Love and Loyalty towards, particularly if I felt motivated to get them help. I'd be conflicted, too.

What would you do?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The History of Summer Solistice

I posted a short relevant article on the History of Summer Solistice here, and thought it might be interesting to share further :

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius - book review

When I think of meditation books, I don't think of books about how to meditate, but of books that make me meditate upon the thoughts therin. There are many styles of meditation, and I think that when it comes down to it it becomes a very personal experience. I encourage people to study different styles and approaches to find that which seems most valid and useful for them on a personal level. One book I have always enjoied is called "Meditations", and was written by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius a very long time ago. It has survived into modern literature as an excellent example of the rich spiritual philosophies shared through early writing.

The book as available now contains twelve smaller books or chapters, each which show how Marcus wrote personal essays to help him delve into his own thoughts. The excercize itself shows how journaling and writing may be useful to the spiritual and philosophical development of a person. It seems that he wrote the essays with the focus of his own growth and personal guidance, although he may have also looked to a future where his ideas would be shared. I often use the work to inspire myself, and have found the stoic thoughts to be a source of calm and careful thought on how to live an ethical and balanced life.

When I use this book, I most frequently turn to a random page and see what thoughts it has for me today. Whatever I turn to seems to give me insight. This is a kind of divinitory meditation known as biblomancy. The technique is named for the bible, although it can be done with any book one finds inspiring. I do this in a very informal way, simply by relaxing and thinking briefly about my issues and questions, and opening to a random page. I read what is there and them spend a long time sitting quietly and thinking about the subject and how it applies to my own life.

In general, Aurelus is known as the father of stoic philosophy, and his ideas encourage one to not allow negative emotions to have too much sway in life.He felt that dwelling in too much emotion was a common negative indulgence among people, which can lead to additional grief and problems. He felt that harm was often caused more by a person's reaction to events than the events themselves, and counciled balanced and ethical living. I would definately reccomend it to others as a source of inspiration on using clear and rational thinking as a form of meditation and a basis for living.

( This essay was orginally posted by me on )

Friday, December 11, 2009

Moon Signs in Daily Effect

I was found an old notebook of mine today, and came across some notes I took while sitting on Jackson Square in New Orleans with my friend Jerik. He was a master Tarot reader there for many years, and was known in the community to spend his free time teaching other interested folks things about the Tarot, Palmistry, Witchcraft, Norse Mythology and other mystical subjects.

One idea that he was fond of is that the moon signs have an effect on daily life. Not your personal moon sign as defined by your natal chart, but what sign the moon happens to be in today. He used this in a very practical way as a reader. He picked his clothing for the day by referencing the moon sign, feeling that using colors that go along with the likely emotional energy of a day would help attract the right clients to his table. He taught me this, and I found that whenever I used it, I did have more clients and make better money. I believe in this stuff, but it really seemed to work so well that I found it almost startling. You can try your own experiments by having a look at this basic set of notes I jotted down while we were hanging out, and doing a little bit more research on your own. These are just rough notes taken on the spot and you'll have to look up what sign the Moon is in on a given day, but I found these concepts very useful.

( notes transcribed from a class with Jerik )

The moon changes approximately every 2 ¼ days, which influences the mood of the day when the moon is NOT aspecting another celestial body. ( aspecting a sign or planet, etc. – ex. Moon conjunct Venus, or Trine Jupiter, or Square Mars, etc. - is void of course.

Moon Sign traits are similar to solar meanings, yet more emotion based and intense in some ways, and more influential in a daily cycle of events.

Moon in Aries

To figure out for instance how an Aries Moon will effect a day, you first ask yourself what the general traits of Aries are. Pushy, headstrong, pioneering, often impulsive, me first, yet a passive cycle. When people are starting a project, Moon in Aries is good. It is not as good for detail work as it is for broad general progressive beginnings.

Wear red and black, and faded denim blue.

Moon in Taurus

Taurus is more mellow, inclined towards comfort foods and practicality. The energy of this sign likes to deal with the factual world as it is- meat and potatoes. It's a good time to focus on pets, gardening, grocery shopping, and crafts and hobbies done with the hands. The mood is soft and sentimental, slow to impulsive. It is the worst time to be selling intangibles, though it may tend towards sweet and cuddly, old fashioned romantic moments.

Wear earth tones, greens, soft blues, and traditional patterns.

Moon in Gemini

Gemini is ruled by Mercury, and brings things about to communicate involving lot's of consideration. Impulsive to change, adapt and communicate. The power of persuasion works well when the Moon is in Gemini.

Wear bright happy sunny colors!

Moon in Cancer

Cancer is ruled by the Moon and is strongly emotional. People will be sentimental, aesthetic, interested in the beauty of comfort, romantic, and slightly obsessive. It's a nice night for ballroom dancing! It deals with tradition, family, familial affairs, and affairs of the heart. Soulful music like Loreena McKennett playing piano might be appropriate. It is a good day for lovers of beauty who will be impassioned by the highly emotionally charged moon.

Wear midnight blue, turquoise, navy, sea-foam, white, ----and pearls or mother of pearl. Think sea-like colors.

Moon in Leo

Leo is ruled by the sun- make it big or bust. Magnanimous, generous, pride, ego ( and sometimes tending to hurt feelings due to big ego and pride moments.) Leo can be a tycoon's moon, perfect for wheelers and dealers, show offs, and intense performances. understand the energy of moon in Leo- think “Big Spectacular Moon!”

Wear black, purple, gold and let your hair flow.

Moon in Virgo

Virgo is the mutable Earth sign, it is the moon sign for service, detail and organization. It's energy tends to be practical. It is a good time for learning, talking through matters with associates and friends, and is a great time for setting departures because Virgo is the sign of reason. It is also a good time to balance one's budget and clean up after little details. People will tend to behave more down to earth and practical when the moon is in Virgo.

Wear subdued practical colors in tailored or uniform-like styles.

Moon in Libra

Libra is the cardinal sign of Air. When the Moon is in Libra, people like to theorize balance and harmonize. Libra also tends towards beauty and romantic moments. Communications are balanced, but not as detail oriented as when the moon is in Virgo. Libra theorizes a lot ( wouldn't it be nice to organize a charity ball? ) where Virgos focus on actually doing- theory rather than practice.

Wear soft harmonic colors, rust and turquoise, etc. No straight black.

Moon in Scorpio

Scorpio is the fixed water sign. It is a passionate, sexy, brooding moon full of innuendo and intensity. It tends towards heroism, passion, loyalty, and sometimes murderous cold rage.
Wear strong tone scents and jewel colors.

Moon in Sagittarius

Sagittarius is the mutable fire sign, ruled by Jupiter. Philosophy, impulse, outdoorsy things. May be careless of detail, idealistic, and experimental. Sometimes prone to teasing, horseplay, and stupid stunts.

Wear purple and mismatched colors.

Moon in Capricorn

May involve tyconnery and wheeling and dealing in a more conservative sense. Moods may be somber, serious, melancholy. It is ruled by Saturn and is the Cardinal earth sign. Can involve concepts like big money and practicality in the same sense- think British.

Wear winter colors.

Moon in Aquarius

This is the fixed Air sign, ruled by Uranus, the planet of invention and revolution. It involves novel social theories, crusades and social consciousness. People tend to care about issues more, be willing to try new things, and be experimental.

Wear electric psychedelic colors.

Moon in Pisces

This is the mutable water sign, ruled by Neptune. It is romantic, sappy, flowing, soft and sentimental. People tend to fantasize, sentimentalize, wallow in emotional issues, and be intensely psychic.

Wear romantic colors and look frilly and feminine.

Side note: Jerik asked me to try to find him a copy of the Book of Conquests by Jim Fitzpatrick, which I jotted down with the rest of these notes. It's a a graphic novel that came out of Canada in the late 70's he wanted to hunt down extra copies of. I don't think it had anything to do with this lesson, but jerik had interesting taste in books and movies, so I bet it would be entertaining to read.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pythonic Wicca: as in Monty, not the snake.

Ah, the Crafters. Now here is a piece of Wiccan History that could easily get lost and forgotten, and I don't think it should. Working with them as a teenager was my introduction to being a part of Pagan Circles, and I had many wonderful adventures with the folks who became Family to me then. The Crafters as a group had something interesting to say to the rest of the world of Paganism. Serious, beautiful, elaborate rituals and ceremonies can be wonderful-- but the Divine may also be approached on a down-to-earth level; and has a sense of humor. Laughter in fact, may be an appropriate offering, and a way to build magical energy if one knows how to do that and focus it towards a positive goal.

Much, much more on all of that later.

The Crafters, which has been disbanded for some time, was highly influential in the forming of multiple groups in Michigan. Most of it's members at one point or another taught classes or formed groups of their own. In terms of order of progression, those wonderful family circle moments we shared in a small town effected each of those member's and their perspectives and philosophies, which they have then shared with others. I think it is noteworthy that this group formed a very unique tradition that blended elements of traditional ritual with more eclectic ones- and sometimes, quite eccentric. Our traditions however made sense for us.

Sometimes understanding comes in context. A person who had never been to a crafters ritual and read the notes for a particular circle might wonder why the circle was opened with the phrase "Everybody Duck!" . Being there would make it clear and funny-because you would have seen the HP, a short guy swinging a sword around in a crowded small living room.

Rituals were always lively, and filled with a sense of Love and Family. We were known for the humor we would sometimes incorporate, but we also as a group studied many spiritual and magical traditions and learned a lot together. Although the group no longer exists, there is some material on the web that talks about the experiences those people shared together, which may give insight to others studying the craft or having their own experiences and explorations.

The image at the top of this post was the Crafter's Logo, drawn by Figment, who was the high priest of the group and known for his creativity. :-)

Here are some relevant pages:




PS Fig- May the circle be unbroken, and may we prove that the miles don't matter. That said, I'm never going to get the ninja surprise Eldering- so, do I at least get mingions now? ;-)~

Ah, it's that time of year....

I remember the first time I attended a Pagan Yule Gathering. I was sixteen, and an older girlfriend of mine called and invited me to go. We were dressed in Renaissance knock-off thrift store finery, with our best ribbons in our hair. That one event was the doorway I had been looking for into the world I belonged to. I had been having my own private spiritual experiences since I was a child, particularly in moments when I was out by myself in nature. I was very attuned to the Pagan spirit of things and some forms of Wiccan tradition, even though I didn't have those words until I was about 11. After I found several books that really talk about the history and philosophy of natural magic in a sphere of spirituality, I had spent several frustrating young years looking for a gathering like this.

I met that day quite a few people that came to mean a great deal to my life. ( I don't think any of those folks would mind their names being used, after all, once you're on the cover of the Detroit New's what's the point of hanging out in the broom closet? But, still. )One day one of them will stumble through here, and hopefully it will make them smile to be remembered. I wonder if they had any idea how excited I was to be there, if it shined through my eyes like I bet it did.

There was a huge circle, which was properly prepared and cleansed, the elements were invited, the God and Goddess called, and a Divine play was performed about the Holly King and the Oak King. We did some meditation and asked for blessings in the coming year, and did a great communal dance that began as a circle and became a spiral. Winded and full of laughter, we all shared a huge pot luck feast. I think that might have been the night of Nathan's Wiccaning, too- I remember Pascal saying "I give you power over fire." and having him blow out a candle.

That time for me is steeped in them memory of forming deep and lasting friendships that had a sense of being family on a soul level. The way I value things in life may come from a principal I have about regarding and respecting the value of connection and community.

think there was a tradition somewhere.....

we would gather together in the cold to share warmth and bread, and light and laughter; and as the evening deepened there would be stories......
so perhaps this winter I will share some of mine, and try to get some interesting Pagans to share some stories of their own personal journeys.


Nicolette Stevens/ Sylviana

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Importance of Elders

In very simple terms an Elder is one who is further up the path, someone who has more life experience as well as seasoned training and many skills in whatever path they walk. In some Pagan traditions what this means is very formalized, and in others it is not. It may be easier to understand what the role of Elder really means by watching the behavior of those you would give that respect and regard.

One such person in my life was Jerik Danerson, who was a master Tarot Reader and Palmist on Jackson Square in New Orleans for over 30 years. He also was a Pagan Elder and fine High Priest, who shared his knowledge and great depth of feeling freely and with love to all who approached with an open mind and heart.

Jerik worked on the square regularly, and while sitting at his Tarot set up spent his days conversing with his colleagues, with friends, clients and visitors to the city. He loved New Orleans very much, and delighted in showing visitors around and telling them about the amazingly interesting history of places in the French Quarter. He always found time to have long and deep talks with people from all walks of life, and frequently gave great kindness to those many people would overlook. He took street kids into his home and would give them a safe place to stay while they got on their feet. In between his readings he could often be found helping his friends sort out their issues with each other; encouraging this couple not to fight, this parent to do the best for their child, these friends to work together on important things, that artistic tourist to follow their heart and learn to paint or do whatever it is that moved them. Jerik was truly a Southern Gentleman; he was gracious in speech, kind in word and deed, loyal in friendship, protective of loved ones, and genuine in his dedication to his spiritual callings. He was a man who regularly found joy in the simple things in life, and even in the most difficult times would look for the good.

He was an incredible writer and a storyteller that I would describe as bardically gifted, and it was a great joy to me that he constantly encouraged me. I am blessed to have known him, to have shared letters with him, and countless nights of wonderful conversations. Jerik meant a great deal more to me than I know how to say. If someones life could be an example of what an Elder is, I think Jerik Danerson is one who should be honored in this regard.

He wrote me an amazing letter once with his story of making it through the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and should you be interested I recommend having a read. You can find it here:

Jerik's Hurricane Katrina Story

Happy Birthday Jerik, I raise my glass and my heart to you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Community Alters

(alters-and-offerings#2- photo by Nikki Stevens)

Here is an example of what I would call a community alter. The large Budda statue sat in an outdoor garden that was shared by a community of people, who all started to add things like candle holders and flowers around the statue. It is an interesting example to me of how an impromptu moment of community sharing can cause people with different perspectives on their personal spiritual philosophies to share a space and an intention in harmony.

Alters and Offerings

There are many different styles of making prayers and offerings, and people of all kinds of spiritualities have different ways of setting up spaces that honnor sacred concepts. Some people are very spartan in terms of physical elements they use to represent personal connection to spiritual things, others are very elaborate. This is the first in a series of photos I've been taking over time, to represent different styles of alters and offerings. Above is a photo of a simple offering of flowers that was placed in a backyard to honnor the nature spirits and the divine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Power in Visualization or Vivid Imagination

I remember another moment from childhood with a crisp visvidness. It was perhaps the first time I can remember feeling astonished by being met with an expression of the metaphysical theorys my young mind was working on.

My mother and I were coming out of a hardware store in the Summer, and there was a sidewalk sale. It was the early eighties, and in the small suburban town I was in, this was almost something of a social event. There was a vendor with cotton candy. There were tables of stickers and toys and other things for very low prices. I'm sure there were hotdogs. I remember that there were games. One of them involved spinning a roulette wheel after guessing a number. If it landed on your number you won a prize. I wanted the little stuffed puppy, and badly. I guessed my favorite number, and the roulette wheel spun round and round. In my mind, I VIVIDLY IMAGINED that ball landing in the numbered spot I wanted. Just as the picture was totally clear, the spinner stopped. On my number. I got the stuffed puppy.

My imaginary friend said “ Well, now that you know how that works, life is going to get extremely interesting. “

I was about seven, and I still remember that moment very clearly. It's curious, the way such things come so naturally to children. I think there really must be something to the idea that children have not been taught to believe that magic isn't real yet, that their ideas are not steeped in the knowledge of a firm set of rules for reality, and that their experiences of fairytale stories and superhero cartoons in fact sttep them in the idea that magic really is real and the adults don't get it. That in fact is why Peter and Wendy didn't want to grow up- they didn't want to loose the land of make believe and the feeling that it has a certain kind of reality to it.

25 years later, I'm more rather than less sure that what we believe and dream are possible, and how we think on those things, has a -dramatic- effect on the courses and pathways of our lives. Whether we know it or not.