The Message of Goddess Fortuna

I live a life of devotion. I love my Gods. Sometimes they talk to me in my dreams.  Since today is a very auspicious day, dated 12-13-14, I thought it appropriate to finally post a dream conversation I had with the Goddess Fortuna.  This is a re-post from my old Mindsay blog.  So posting this again, I hope, will bring you a great message, and us both wonderful luck.  Enjoy!

On the night of September 3rd 2009, I dreamed about the Roman Goddess Fortune (also known as Dame Fortuna).  The following is posted directly from my private handwritten dream journal.

“I am not Lady Luck,” she smiled, dressed in jewel encrusted red velvet and gold (as if she just stepped out of an Italian Renaissance painting) her hair colored amber honey, tied up in braids with ribbons of gold — real gold that shimmered like tinsel. Looking at her… she seemed ablaze with that gleam of gold, so gold it blurred my vision. When she talked to me, she was hard at work in, of all places, a modern morgue (or mortuary, it kept changing from today to ancient and back again) yet all the while, between the flickering back and forth of time, shifting of places, Fortuna’s golden aura made the room warm and comfortable. She was attending to the bodies — unzipping the body bags and decorating the dead with flowers, jewels, chains of gold, scented oil, rose petals… it was easy to breathe in the thick scent of myrrh, gardenia, roses, musk, incense…

“I am FORTUNE,” she sighed lovingly, firmly while placing daisies over the eyes of a dead man, “I am there at the end of life, but I am no nurse. I am the one with the job of making sure the lost and unknown receive a proper funeral — especially when there is no money or living people around to bid farewell to these souls. This is what you need to tell people, Valentina.”

She gave me a serious down-to-business look that sent a shiver through me.

“When a person — no matter what their significance when alive — passes from body to spirit without a funeral, it is as if they never existed. No one acknowledges that they lived. But this is not their fault. Death came to them inconveniently. It happens. However, it can be remedied. They do not have to pass into the next life without someone knowing who they were. Gods like me, we do not miss them. We grant these unknowns grace and peace — their bodies, their faces, their names, all these things stay a mystery to you, but we know them. This is perhaps the most important thing I do, providing a funeral when there was none.”

She paused while scattering more rose petals over the severely battered body of a woman. The woman is dark-skinned and Fortune’s light makes her broken corpse seem like a liquid black gold. Fortune’s eyes are moist with sad recognition. She briefly touched the dead woman’s head and the face reconstructs, glowing with Fortune’s golden aura so bright. “This one was stolen from her destiny, and enslaved by men. Her fate was entangled by money — as long as her body provided pleasure she made it with great ease, but the gold she earned never went to her. She could not own herself. In order to escape, she had to die. Her family does not know she died. She was beaten so badly, and on purpose, so no one can identify her. But I know her. See how beautiful she is? Death is kind to those who have suffered. Keep that in mind.”

I follow her as she moves on attend to other battered bodies, repairing them in death, touching and decorating each carefully.  I notice that behind her there rages a great, fiery furnace. There are two men completely clothed in black.  Completely void of any identity, they move like shadows, they are covered in a kind of opaque chiffon, wrapped up like mummies or ninjas, strips of the strange cloth cover every inch of their skin, it seems they are nothing but this fabric — without body and soul. Fortuna notices I’m disturbed by their presence.

“You see my workers?” She winks and smiles. “Pay them no mind. It is their fortune to carry the dead. They who kill cannot rise again to life until they answer for the burden of murder. Keep this also in your mind — write it down — share this — this is the killer’s burden. Murder is heavy on the soul. You cannot escape the fortune you take. Tell as many as possible. This should not occur anymore. People must know. Share what Fortune is telling you, Valentina, and your fortune will be assured.”

When I’m about to express some self-doubt, my thoughts are laid wide open for I stand before a goddess and she knows all. “Just do this, Valentina! You will see I will not forget you. You will prosper. This is not a fiction. Gold will follow these words.”

She says this as her workers, these shadow men, stir up the coals of the furnace. Quickly, they zip the dead back into their bags, some bodies into old-fashioned sacks, and one by one, the bodies’ are placed into the furnace like they are backing bread, beginning to melt into black puddles and then, without smoke, they disappear. When gone, there is no mess, no residue, no trace of them left behind. As the last body disappears, this place of death becomes cold and silver.

Funny how I associate “silver” with cold…

Dame Fortune blows me a kiss and sends me back to bed. Her voice is still in my head.

“I will reward you for following my wishes,” She said.

So let this be shared.  Let it be passed along.  May Fortune’s words of gold also be yours.

Thank you, Fortune, thank you.

**This dream was very important to me because, in the following year, my mother died, and it helped prepare me, in an unexpected way, for that life-changing event.  I began to understand more about life and death, yet also went through a series of emotional upheavals, that, I always discover, lead to breakthroughs (often our break-downs are breakthroughs in disguise).  Immediately after my mother’s death, when her body was sent away for cremation, I watched the documentary A Certain Kind of Death (about what happens to the dead with no next of kin), and not only was I reminded of this dream, that film brought me relief from my worries about what happens to bodies after they die. It’s the side of “fortune” we rarely examine — who will care for the physical parts of who we were after we’re gone, and will someone respect us when we’re dead? From what I saw in A Certain Kind of Death, even the unclaimed dead are treated with respect, a sobering prospect to ponder. One of my fears was dying alone and undiscovered like those stories you hear about in the news every now and then — no one wants to be known someday only as “that person” who died in a horrible circumstance where no one cared, or know someone who died alone undiscovered for a long while…  I truly believe the gods don’t forget us.**


The following is a list of the many aspects of this gracious goddess. Call upon any of her names below to ensure good fortune (derived from the page on Fortuna at Wikipedia:

Fortuna Annonaria brings the luck of the harvest
Fortuna Belli is the fortune of war
Fortuna Primigenia directs the fortune of a firstborn child at the moment of birth
Fortuna Virilis attends a man’s career, celebrated only by women
Fortuna Redux brings you safely home
Fortuna Respiciens — She is the fortune of the provider
Fortuna Muliebris is the luck of a woman (of note is the fortune of a woman in marriage was also Fortuna Virilis, tied to her husband’s career)
Fortuna Victrix brings victory in battle 
Fortuna Augusta is the fortune of the emperor
Fortuna Balnearis brings the fortune of the baths
Fortuna Conservatrix the fortune of the Preserver
Fortuna Equestris fortune of the Knights
Fortuna Huiusque Diei fortune of the present day
Fortuna Obsequens fortune of indulgence
Fortuna Privata fortune of the private individual
Fortuna Publica fortune of the people
Fortuna Romana fortune of Rome
Fortuna Virgo fortune of the virgin
Also something to note:
Pars Fortuna is your Lots of Fortune, or Part of Fortune; “time of birth” determining your fate that are calculated by the three degrees/angles of the major cosmic bodies that make up your Astrological natal chart — your Rising Sign (Ascendant), Moon, and Sun.

As you can see, the Goddess Fortuna, or Fortune, is incredibly involved in all aspects of life. The name Fortuna finds its root in the Latin fero, meaning “to bring, win, receive, or get”, hence why she was later associated with gambling luck. She was a very popular goddess in Ancient Rome, and today She is actively worshiped by Pagans, Witches, and many polytheists.

Awesome pages about the Goddess Fortuna and the people who worship Her:
The Obscure Goddess Online Directory: FORTUNA
Temple of the Goddess Fortuna
A Rite to Fortuna — Mirror of Isis, A Fellowship of Isis Publication

An art installment by Dawn DeDEAUX using imagery that is very close to my dream, so close it frightened me when I discovered it online: The Goddess Fortuna and Her Subjects In an Effort to Make Sense of it All — however it is a statement about

Magic and Loss

This midnight is better than last year’s
This midnight is better than when you last appeared
This midnight’s better when that old friend disappeared
This midnight’s better because the spirits’ near and cuddling

And Lou sang:

*Magician, Magician take me upon your wings
and … gently roll the clouds away
I’m sorry so sorry I have no incantations
only words to help sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away”

Then Lugh says:
“You knew the two you loved most had to go”

And with the new dawn, I learn
grasping at the old fur, I awake
setting aside my brushes, I wash
and with one last cry, I know

The Midnight Angel taught me I can survive even the death of someone I feel I cannot live without, and so he showed me, moving out of the cat’s skin, leaving me behind with all my sobs and wails, to grow silent again.

When I stand, I hear Lou sing:

“I want to count to five
turn around and find myself gone
Fly through the storm
and wake up in the calm”

Before Isis can tell me: “It has been done, They have flown”

My dream unfolds, words have no meaning
two months flow away into nothing
a year and five days and he’s as if no one
but I exist and the story is mine telling, worth knowing
I have meaning and so has my love, I hold on to everything
let go of the ghost of it, hang on to the preciousness

Oshun told me once: “It doesn’t matter if we didn’t mean as much to those we loved, what matters is that we loved, and what mattered is your love had meaning for you.  You have to really love with everything you are, don’t let that be forsaken, especially by your self, because if somebody else didn’t think you meant anything, and you now think you don’t mean anything because what they think matters more — that’s two people’s worth of power overcoming the love you could have helping you survive.  You gotta live on your love.”

And so it came to pass, the cat’s spirit onward his mission
my best friend, grown too big for the body that housed him
and far too powerful for me to hold back, gone to bliss
the cat became part of the Great Mystery, I melt to wonder

When the cat body died I thought I heard a whisper of Lou’s song come out of him:

“Magician take my spirit
inside I’m young and vital
Inside I’m alive please take me away…”

Because the body, once dead, gave birth to the brave spirit
the death was the rejuvenation of the Angel, a welcoming
the receiving of Who He really was inside, but I felt lost
there was no joyful release for me, only the cold shell
what was I to do but bury the thing, now empty, that I held?

But when They — the Goddesses Bastet, Hathor, & even slithering Wadjet — reached for my friend, it was I who began to echo Lou’s lyrics:

“I want some magic to keep me alive
I want a miracle … I don’t want to die
I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I’ll never wake
I’ll no longer exist
I’ll close my eyes and disappear
and float into the mist”

Awake for days, the funeral complete
felt the wind answer “yes”
and heard the paws in the leaves
and the echoes of many voices in the woods
announce my friend’s acceptance into Beyond
and worries ceased
and prayers increased
and many strange eyes peeked

Asleep for days, one month since death
the wind still carries his cry
the silence continues to say my name
and the memories of our life built a blanket fort
home is where I am surrounded by You, little friend
and I no longer think about that guy
and I can finally rest
and only worry is ‘have I really let go?
or will I obsess all over again?’
sometimes I think it someone else’s fear
at times all I think about is the lonely things

Wadjet-Bastet hisses-whispers all the same to me:

“When will you be done with all this blubbering? We’ve given you a new day, time has come to wash away, a new skin has grown, can you not feel the underneath, the twitchering-feeling-slickery-flickering? Lick at it. Roll on it. Dance with it.  Take your beauty back. Heal.”

I do. I do!  I will.

And Lou sang:

“I need more than faith can give me now
I want to believe in miracles – not just belief in numbers
I need some magic to take me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
Visit on this starlit night
replace the stars the moon the light – the sun’s gone
Fly me through this storm
and wake up in the calm …
I fly right through this storm
and … I … Wake … Up … In … The … Calm”

And I know what he was meaning in the singing
but I know all the magic all the more for the loss
it’s been the story of the year
it’s been what I was given

all the wonder
all the pain

Lugh said:
“It’s also in your painting. Look closer at what you do. You don’t do anything without a reason. And you were never nothing.”

I see the spirits inside the cat who was my friend
I see him now in many different ways
again, I tell you, he taught me how to live
taught me I can live, survive, live through loss

the loss of someone I cannot live without has not killed me
it is the magic that has swept me back up into Me
I am still who I am without giving in to the
ostracization that made me think me lost
I did not need some role to fit in and
don’t need work for a man’s
approval when all along
all I need is just
home and cat
and love
my God
life
be
me

*———————*

*My favorite Lou Reed song is ‘Magician’ from the album ‘Magic and Loss’*
Lou Reed died on October 27th, 2013, same day as a friend of mine was found dead from apparent suicide. Lou’s music is now married to memories of this friend, especially echoing the last conversation I had with him.

This song especially speaks to me of the losses of life and friendship I’ve endured this year. I understand the pain and the death, but don’t know why we have to lose people we love in this world. I wonder at the magic of the other world… at what may be waiting beyond my wondering.*

*———————*

Coming up soon: So much to talk about! So much has happened! Exciting news, strange paranormal happenings, new friends, renewed vigor, and finally getting my act together as pieces of my puzzle come together. Wish I had all the time in the world to write it all down. Samhain 2013 marks a little milestone for me as I finish a playing card deck and start a new venture as a spirit medium and paranormal illustrator. Yes, you heard that right.

Plus, something adorable has brought joy into my life. I have a baby girl! Um, kitten. Her name is Miss Velvet Rose the Lady Monster. That story I have to save for next time.

Expect some changes around here as I celebrate my second year here at WordPress. Yay!

Postcard #46: Home at the Shrine

There needs to be more shrines — in every city — on every block — places of peace — sanctuaries for silence, comfort, where I am embraced by Gods… Places of seeking, sharing, spaces of Away-from-Time and into Nature-Nurture. I seek a shrine nested in nature, un-interrupting the trees, a haven for birds and squirrels and many other creatures, one that lets plants grow over it, a shrine no person carefully manicures.

I want a wild shrine carved out of rock and petrified wood and earth by the wind and water. A shrine that is natural shelter, perhaps serving as the neighborhood safe house, more like Mother House — the place to go during tornadoes and hurricanes, a place never ravaged by storms or floods or fire or earthquake, and yet created by them. And when there, as I feel my heart blowing me down, when no one can hold me up, when no clergy or friend can console me, when my own tears threaten to drown me, a sister slips me underneath a warm blanket and the Gods’ stone likeness catches me under their ever-watchful eyes.

The most perfect shrine glows here with the special warmth of a camp fire, fragrant as incense and every exotic perfume I love, tender as the womb and every mother hug, calming shivers and curing panic, replacing every doubt with courage. My Gods do not suffer cowardice, and yet they know the human value of a good retreat, that in order to free myself from overwhelming defeat, I must recharge, find this place of wound-soothe and mind-quiet.

Here I re-connect with my Source. Forces far greater than myself reside in the Gods’ Home Mother House Shrine Storm Shelter. Here the space is peopled with the beings that move the world and push the buttons that make me think and dream. When I’m here I am taught I am part of all this powerful importance, that somehow this small woman I call me has more time to go, more work to finish… that this place is not the place of petitionary prayer and whimpering wishes, but another place for me to collect and list my dreams and ideas, whisper my desires and make them happen in Their name.

I want to build shrines.

I want to mark maps full of them.

Every where I walk. Place one somewhere — some invisible, some tiny, some large, for each God, and even for the Unknown Gods that walk the darkness beyond human understanding. There is no dot on the world’s map not worthy of a spot for a shrine.

I want to visit more shrines. Every one. Collect them in my memory like postcards. Write them down in poems. Like this. Places in my mind like gifts.

I believe in gifts. I believe in feeding the Gods with gratitude, not out of obligation, but of devotion, and not just with objects or food, some gifts are actions, duties, favors. A God may pass through the body of someone walking by. One may ride on the back of an animal or whistle through the trees in the form of a bird. Picking up a piece of garbage from the side of the road may save the life of a creature — one less thing that will not offend the ground or poison the water — because the land is religion, is the shrine, the place I count on to be here, especially after I am dead.

I will bury myself someday in this shrine. You will visit me every where it is planted in the earth.  My grave markers will be likenesses of my Gods dotting all over the world.  I can smell the dirt hugging me already, it is cool and dark chocolate, just like I thought a cemetery would feel, and very silent. Just like when I was above, I’m all alone and with the Gods. This place is life and shelters and molds me, takes me away from every pain…

Will I see you here, tomorrow?

Why My Love is Constant

If my love is not enough to light your way through the dark, then let me be a conduit for the love of the Gods to shine along your way. I live in love, live for love, and love always.

Every part of me hurts. Hurts out of love. I do not understand why a few people I love reward me with rejection. Yet still I love them the most. I feel that they need it the most. Perhaps more than I do.  The process of loving the people-who-hurt-me-for-loving-them is a hero-ing.  Puts me through fire.  I’m so tense, my swooning and melting hardens into steel, and my bending down to the floor in heavy cries of agony are the banshee songs of pre-mourning.

I cannot hold onto the pain alone and I do not protest. I do not weep in the dark for want of attention, or out of loneliness, nor cry for release of this life, no, not nothing as immature as that. My tears stream out of how unnecessary the rejection is — I have too much love and I find it so valuable, I must share it, give it unfaltering, like a holy mission, forgiving, wanting to pour it over everyone because I do not wish anyone else to feel the pain I do — yet this love I have is not received.  How can it be too much?

Why aren’t you taking it? Why can’t you see the good I’m giving? Why do you turn your back on me when I never will?

When your love is absent, I love ever the stronger, feel it the keener, and hear the voices of the Gods even louder… their light shines into me in my most painful darkness.

Yet I long to give it up to you.  Just so you know what constant love is.  Why it’s worth all pain, all sacrifice, and all the joy that can be come from it.

I may not believe in romance, but I believe in the holiness of friendship.  A life spent in devotion to friends means more than ever a romantic dalliance ever did in my past.  I gave up on the dreams of marriage and motherhood long ago. What I live for is friendship.  I mean it with all my heart.  Like religion.  I want to be a priestess of friendship. 

August Kiss Farewell

She’s almost gone, August
           almost gone, never quite left
           I know she will be back
           I just have to wait
           because sometimes she
           peeks out of other seasons, times
          so bright, August, she feels she will
          out last all of September right through October
          breaking into November, coaxing out of December
          especially these days when the heat is stubborn
          clings too long to the body, August the lady-child
          pushing you outside, pulling you come play
 
Yet the frost is threatening her
every morning the closer we reach the 31st
a coat of responsibility falls over the aging green
harvest days chill with dew drops dangle slow to fall
the deeper, darker nights confirm 
the white moths and fairies chase after the fire
in a frenzy, disappearing, burning, no matter warmth of day
 
August has grown, is growing, cold
            She is drawing her curtain
            the crickets and hornets hum less often
            the thistles bow, the willows bend far too low
            stiff wind slap to the face announce the end of the show
            the time when all begins display a touch of dry yellow
 
August puts down her garland crown for one of honey-gold
            the spiders, her favorites, weave gossamer death-trap tapestries
            listen!  can you hear their jaws, those spinnerets?!
            everywhere in their millions click-roar the jaws
            eight-leg symphonies, chorus of industry
            every year spiders produce the gown of the Summer’s End Queen
           quiet now, be still, and bow as she leaves…
           all through the forest, in the fields, along the road
           graceful-slow she exits with her long silk train
            dying flowers, leaves, insects stick to her rustlng, buzzing
 
But, August, she does not really ever go away
           with a wink like a star twinkle
           she sighs out invisible kisses
           you can smell them on the breeze —
                                         ripe crisp juicy apples ready for your bite.

for  Drew Jacob

Black Cat Power, Part 1: Origins & Witches

**UPDATE 10/12/2014: This is my most popular and most visited article! In light of this, I fully intend to write more on this subject. Black cats are definitely very awesome. The much promised part two is already written, but last year after the passing of my beloved Mr. Snuggles (photographed below) I lost the cheer to write with my usual passion.  Soon I will write with celebration!**
What is up with black cats and Witches, eh? Why do we go so well together? Are we good luck? Or are we all bad luck?  What special powers, if any, do we share together?  These questions and more I’ve been asked, but one question I’ve been asked the most, one my mother was the first to ask me is, “Do you have a black cat because you’re a Witch?”   My answer comes with an embarrassed laugh; “No” and I didn’t quite know how to explain why.  Yet I understood why it was a common question,  considering that every Halloween the most recognizable cliché symbolic image is one that pairs witches dressed in black next to their faithful black cats. But how did that cliché get started in the first place? I don’t think it’s just coincidence or a pop culture creation derived only from Old English literature.  

I almost forgot it was Friday the 13th this last weekend until Mr. Snuggles and I, out for our usual walk to check the mail, were stopped by two of our neighbors.  The ladies excitedly remarked how awesome it was for me to walk around with a black cat on Friday the 13th, pointing out that I was responsible for allowing my black cat to cross their path. “Well, then,” I snarkingly replied, “better be sure to give ’em a cuddle for good luck. Mr. Snuggles is a ladies’ cat!” I then added that black cats bring speedy marriages to single ladies.  “REALLY?!”  They giggled with joy, not about to believe me, but, hey, it’s a nice good luck charm, in’it?  So they, never having heard about that legend before, and me always looking for an opportunity to tell a tall tale, indulged in the magic.  Mr. Snuggles enjoyed the women’s attention like any mister on the prowl would.  When I brought him home, his fur was thick with ladies’ perfume. That’s my little lover!

I’ve discovered that, stereotype or not, the black cat is not really associated with bad luck as has been believed.  What can be believed is black cats inspire mystery and power, and their long association with Witches both historical and mythical is no coincidence.  Black cats are the tiny ‘house panthers’ we invite into our homes, providing reminders of the great unknown — little shadows of the jungle beyond — and those eyes, those sharp claws, like sickle moons to poke the skin!  I don’t know about you, but my black cat, no matter how cute he is, is still wild and fierce, the hunter that never goes to sleep.  And I, his Witch, is a Daughter of Diana/Selena/Hecate, Isis/Bast/Hathor, and a host of many goddesses of the Moon, all of whom regard the cat as sacred representative of the Divine.  Together, cat and Witch, no matter the color of our skin and fur, go very well together.  But why specifically is the black cat most identified with the Witch?

How Black Cats & Witches Became a Perfect Pair

Black Cats

  • Ancient gods took the forms of, and were occasionally personified by black cats, specifically the Egyptian Goddesses Bast and Isis.  The Greco-Roman Goddess Diana Triformis and Tergemina — Selena/Luna (full moon, mother), Artemis/Diana (waxing moon, virgin), Hecate (dark moon, crone) — especially Diana often appeared in the form of a black cat.  Black cats, being the representatives of the goddess, get spoiled by the priestesses.
  • Associated with goddess Diana and many goddesses associated with the Moon, including a few gods who ruled the Sun, all cats became symbolic of fertility and women.  The Daughters of Diana, her priestesses, dressed in black robes, some made from the skins/fur of black cats for their powerful association with the goddess.
  • Black cats symbolic of magic and darkness after the goddess Diana, who later would be known as Queen of the Witches, when her cult went underground and eventually faded from history.
  • Before the Dianic cult is dead in the north, Rome became Christian and soon anything having to do with the pagan gods must be done away with.  The Black Cat, symbol and companion, often personification of the goddesses of fertility and magic, soon gained a bad reputation.  No longer a symbol of life, the black cat became harbinger of bad luck and death.
  • Domesticated and no longer revered as gods in fur coats, cats had a job: to get rid of vermin.  This gave them the power to protect the homes of humans from parasites and disease-carrying rats.  They also had another job: provide companionship to the lonely, becoming the favorites of the widows and elderly.  Women especially loved their cats, so cats became known as “house cats” just as wives are “housewives.”
  • Black cats were accused of being Witches because; they had black fur,  they had strange sexual lives, they howled, they were scary, their growl was otherworldly, women kept them as pets, women talked to them.
  • Black cats are thought to be Witches in animal form and are hunted down and destroyed by the thousands.
  • Black cats are thought to be the personification of the Devil.
  • Black cats hunted by gypsies and sorcerers for their magical properties.  It was believed that they had psychic power and were the preferred form that demons and other spirits liked to possess when called upon to complete a task for a magician.

Witches

  • People revered the Sun and Moon and considered them gods.  Later the followers of lunar and solar divinities associated specific animals with them.  The cat, particularly the black cat, represented the Moon.  People domesticated cats not just because they were good at keeping vermin away, but they made great companions.  Roman goddess Diana transformed into a black cat several times, becoming her priestesses’ favorite temple consort.
  •  The ancient Dianic Cult (possibly ones like it) spreads throughout the known world, going as far north as the British Isles.  Goddesses from other cultures could be easily identified with the Virgin Diana.  Her priestesses wear robes of black, black representing the color of the earth, womb, and the night sky.  Black cats were revered for this holy association.
  • Diana’s religion went against patriarchal rule because its chief leaders were women.  The Daughters of Diana go underground and worship in secret.
  • Celtic version of Hecate (Diana’s crone form) known as Nicneven was worshiped when a multi-cultural intermixing of Celt, Goth, and Roman faiths were accepted.  The Diana/Hecate cult survived “with considerable vigour” in Scotland until the 18th century, but was fading before the Medieval persecutions.  Hecate/Nicneven could transform into creatures — a black cat come to visit could be the dark goddess come as a warning of death to come.
  • After ancient pagan mystery cults fade into obscurity, and/or their followers wiped out by invading cultures, some evidence suggests that their healing and magical ways were passed down between women.  The cures and spells were called Witchcraft by the Saxons who had a distaste for it, considering it treason and a sin.  It wasn’t punishable by death until the 13th century.
  • Women were accused of being Witches because; they had sex, they gave birth, they lived longer than men, they seemed to love animals — especially their cats — more than they did their husbands.
  • Women are accused of being Witches mostly because they are women.  They are said to take the forms of black cats nine times in their lifetime.
  • Witches are thought to commune with the Devil who takes the form of a black cat.
  • It was believed that every Witch was supposed to have a black cat present with them at all times.  A spirit assumed the body of the black cat to perform the Witches’ tasks of maleficia against their neighbors.

The Witch & Black Cat Share the Same Fate

Both the Witch and the black cat have their origins in ancient religions where they were revered, later to be much maligned in folklore and superstition. They became symbols of evil after people let themselves be ruled by fear of the Devil. Women were most accused of Witchcraft, and black cats were usually accused to be their accomplices by the Church, an institution that adopted ritual and creed from solar and lunar theogonies where the fertility symbols of woman and cat were regarded as sacred (even though women were not often considered citizens in patriarchal cultures that worshiped multiple gods). The Church was zealous in its war against the traditions and customs left remaining that it could not assimilate into its theosophy. Any practices not officially sanctioned by the Church were so illegal, not only were they a sin, they were punishable by death like a treason against God. In the Medieval period, suspected witches and their black cats (including any other animals associated with them that had black fur) had to be tortured and destroyed because they were the last remaining icons of a dreaded past that could not completely be vanquished. Perhaps it was feared, more than the Devil, that a revival of the pagan faiths would lead people to discover links between the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Diana, and worse yet, realize that Christianity was the same in essentials as the religions of antiquity?!

If the Witch and her Black Cat shared the same fate at the stake, what future do they share today? Well, modern Witches love their animals, no matter what the color of their fur. Even though we are far removed from the persecution of the violent past, we now live in an age where the image of the Halloween witch and black cat are cartoons — cute or grotesque, few people are aware of the history behind the symbolism and just accept it as harmless fanfare. Are we honoring the women and cats who were sacrificed by dressing up in a mockery of them? Are we not perpetuating the centuries of degradation by continuing the custom of parading their homogenized image everywhere on Halloween? Or am I taking this all too seriously? I just don’t want to consider it a joke.

The Black Cat and Modern Witch Relationship: Are We True Familiars?

Go ahead and roll your eyes at me, but I am a modern-day Witch living with a black cat. We are familiars in the sense that we are like two peas occupying the same pod. We may be a walking stereotype together, but I didn’t plan it that way. Mr. Snuggles found me late one Midsummer’s Eve 2008 (I’m telling the truth) while I was on a walk around the block. I was very depressed that night, wishing for true love, and he came leaping out of the darkness with high-pitched cries of distress. No sooner did I turn to him, did he jump up on my leg and climb up into my arms with a heart racing so fierce, I thought he would burst. Needless to say, my rescuing him was also his rescuing of me! He had fallen out of a window and was lost, desperate to find home. I was feeling empty and lonely, desperate to find someone to love. Later I would save his life when he nearly died from an infection, and he would save mine when I nearly fell into a diabetic coma.

An animal familiar is not a spirit familiar.  Even though there is a history of diabolical spirits conjured into the bodies of black cats, and into other animals, used by sorcerers to do their bidding, such an idea is not only frowned upon, it’s just not done today by Wiccans and other magicians.  The modern Witch loves and takes great care of her animals.  Animals are considered our equals on earth and even the ones we eat we believe should be treated well before we take them into our bodies.  Each animal has within them power and abilities we do not possess, so when we do eat them, and wear their skins as covering, we engage their spirit, and their special qualities pass into us temporarily as a gift from the sacrificed animal.  But don’t get the wrong idea about that, we do not sacrifice animals, we do, however, believe that some animals sacrifice themselves so we can survive. Animals have souls like we do and they can reincarnate just as well.  We need to honor them as we honor all life.

A belief passed down to me from my Menominee father is that our ancestors can come back to us in the form of animals.  The short life span of animals explains why they can only be with us for only a little while.  The animal/ancestor temporarily lives with us to look after us and give us the comfort we needed that they could not give us because either they were dead before they got to know us, or because they didn’t give it to us while they were alive.  The Great Spirit allows this to happen in order for their souls to make amends, and for us to find peace when we feel most alone and sad.

The 21st century animal familiar is not a spirit at all but an animal who forms a psychic bond with a human being.  The animal chooses whether or not they want to have this very close relationship with us.  Not all animals are so interested because they are average creatures who are more into doing the things their species like to do.  An animal familiar shows more than average intelligence and feels more at home with human beings than with other animals.  They are rare individuals with unique abilities that set them apart, or even above, members of their own species.

The modern Witch cannot will or “call” an animal familiar, it comes of its own will and appears unexpectedly in one’s life.  It may even disappear out of our lives unexpectedly as well.  Furthermore, the animal may seem to reappear or be reincarnate in our lives again in the form of another animal that closely resembles it years later.  The last four cats in my life have all been black cats that all look the same.  Friends think this is particularly weird!  But I do not visit the local shelter to pick a cat, nor do I adopt one based on the color of their fur, and I don’t deliberately choose one that looks exactly like the cat I had before.  I let the cat decide if they like me or not before I bring it home.  My cats are not slaves to me.  I don’t keep them like pets, I pretty much treat them like “people” in fur bodies.

Familiars are not pets.  I don’t believe animals should be pets either.  But I’m not above it all to rule out all the mundane reasons why my cat found me when he did and why we bonded so well.  But (go ahead and roll your eyes again, laugh, too) I’ll take one step further and tell you that the relationship I share with my black cat is a true love as real and special as a romantic one.  I consider Mr. Snuggles like my child, but he’s also my companion, my little lover who is constantly at my side.  I wasn’t sure he would be a magical assistant until he decided to participate in ritual.  He does not always want to get involved, but when he does, it amazes me.  When he began to do this, I improvised rituals to include him and it enhanced the experience and my awareness.  Psychically we have lent each other our consciousness.

It may sound crazy, but I’m not out to change anyone’s mind, or impress upon anyone that what I have with Mr. Snuggles is real or not.  We are simply a Witch and a Black Cat in love, and our relationship works whether or not you choose to believe in it.  No matter!  I listen to Mr. Snuggles and watch his responses.  His senses are sharper than mine and he tells me things with his body language and infinite tones of “meow” about what is going on around us.  Sometimes I feel very clumsy compared to him.  He’s smarter than me, I swear.  I could keep you up all night talking about him.

So, What’s Up with Black Cats & Witches?!

A few last-minute quick facts as to why this image is so common:

  • More black cats survive in a litter more than do cats of any other fur color. This may be due to a stronger immune system, or the color may help them hide from predators.
  • Black tomcats are more successful hunters because they blend better in the shadows. There may even be more black toms because there are more black cat survivors in a litter.  Maybe they’re the toughest, too.
  • The fear that black cats will be abused keeps them from getting adopted, especially around Halloween. But statistics show that it’s not only black cats, it is ALL cats in general who get abused EVERYDAY for no reason. Adopt a black cat because they are more common than you think and end their shelter time because they will be there longer than the rest of the strays.
  • The Black cat is a symbol of anarchism used by Industrial Workers of the World to warn employers that they better back off from messing with their employees.
  • Black cats were they symbol for not just revolutionaries, but Bohemians in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century. Witches, too, have notoriously hung out with the counterculture crowd, so it’s no wonder having a black cat around further pushes the point that all things related to the black cat are cool, daddy-O!
  • Long after the devilish stigma, Hollywood turned the image of the Witch and Black Cat into both a horror and cartoon icon, further implanting, along with literature, the idea that all witches have black cats. From this idea spread many stories about all kinds of fantasy witches and their faithful black cats, so popular that even today’s Wiccans think they’re cool.
  • A pop culture over-saturation of gothic and swords-and-sorcery fantasy sexy witches with their black cat familiars adds more fuel to the fire of imagination about the stereotype. Even though it can be annoyingly trite, Witches young and old today are still attracted to this fairy tale imagery and can’t resist using these images as their avatars online.

As usual, I have gotten overly prolific about this subject material, so I’ll have to break it up into two parts. Coming next: Black Cat Power, Part Two: All the Luck!

Resources:
The Cat in the Mysteries of Religion and Magic, by M. Oldfield Howey, pub. by the Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1930
The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, pub. by the Theosophical Publishing Company, London, 1888.
The Book of the Dead Trans. by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, M.A.,D.I., L.D., pub. by Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, London, 1923.
Celtic Researches by John Davies, pub. about 1630.
Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft by Sir Walter Scott, pub. by John Murray, London, 1833.
The Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray, pub. by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1921.
Legends of the Gods by E. A. Wallis Budge, M.A., etc., pub. by Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, London, 1912.
The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, pub. by Facts on File; 2nd edition (1999)
The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker, pub. by HarperOne; 1 edition (November 30, 1983)
The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects by Barbara G. Walker, pub. by HarperOne; 1St Edition edition (November 2, 1988)
The Once and Future Goddess: A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cult by Elinor W. Gadon, pub. by HarperOne (November 29, 1989)

Postcard #15: Goddess in the Woods

February at home has now begun to act more like February again. As I write, I am in blankets, hooded in a robe, huddled in front of my computer screen like a monk concentrated in prayer before an icon lit by candle flames. Words fail me right now. My thoughts run blank. I am not in awe. I wish only to speak in pictures. I must find a recent photograph that captures how it feels here right now. All I want to do is crawl in bed to draw and sleep. Outside is a world of ice and blue-black cold and hard snow pain. Next to the electric heat, my skin feels the dry sting. I can hear the song of the Winter Queen sing over the trees — a sound unlike the way the trees sway when in summer or spring — the wood groans, leafless branches squeak in the grip of the cold.

And then, as I page through the growing collection of photographs I have taken this winter, I finally notice her face… Why didn’t I see it before? Just a few days ago, I was compelled to take a photograph of the trees behind my apartment. I heard the wind howl and was just about to run back inside. Stung by cold, it is easy to decide to get lazy, and I was looking forward to just sitting around in my blankets. But the wind in the trees demanded my notice. I wondered if one of them was about to fall over. I stood for a moment to see which one was “speaking” yet then another swoosh of wind blew and more trees made that very sound. The evergreen branches shook off a fine layer of dry snow and I aimed my camera lens, taking several shots of what, as I later viewed on my computer, seemed to just be an image of several trees leaning over from the wind behind my home.

But in my boredom and chill tonight, my thoughts blanking out into ones later focused on magic and wonder, my eyes refresh and I see with dream-sight. She is there, that Goddess face, calm as a Buddha, pure as bliss, looking back at me, at you, at everyone… Just look a little closer. The wind moved the branches just right into the shape of her face. It may take a little while for you to puzzle it out right. Here is another shot, cropped as close as possible to the edges of the face, and framed just right.

Okay, so you may not see it. Yet some of you may. Let it be a gift. Be it from me or from the Goddess, a creation from my imagination, or a true manifestation in nature, or just a little coincidence — take, make, and nurture the magic when and where ever you find it!