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

Beltane Wishes

Beltane blessings today and night to all I love: may your wishes come true and all hearts be light! ‘Tis the season to make merry (some to marry) and awake, revive the green and love for all of life’s sake. Shake off the dust, wipe clean a slate, who cares if our Spring is late! The Sun is in the heart and the party is up to us to start…

…even if your “party” just means you and your pet, or spouse, alone at home soaking in the quiet after long day’s long done. May you feast well and your sleep and good dreams be well won!

As for me, last night was Walpurgisnacht!  “Witches’ Night” means it’s a super witch-related fun night, nothing creepy (unless you count us as fairly nerdy).  All around the world witches were leaping over bonfires and dancing all night long.  My fun was to write a few sestinas (yes, I can write formal poetic forms, but I prefer free verse) as a divination exercise. I stayed up all night drawing and painting, and generally didn’t do a lot different than anything I don’t normally do. Not that I’m a boring witch, it’s just more peaceful being my solitary self!

Drink one for me, loves. And if you haven’t danced, get yourself out there! Go on…

What You Thought the Oracle Said Wasn’t True: A Guide on How to Read a Psychic


I have twenty years experience giving psychic Tarot readings, I’ve worked as an Occult Consultant for paranormal investigations, I moonlight as a Spirit Medium, and I seek to serve my community as an Oracle, but I will be the first to tell you that not everything us so-called “psychics” tell you are true. In the game of predictions there is a wide margin of error, hence why fortune-telling is more of a novelty and not taken so seriously. It is always up to the seeker (you) to decide what to believe in.  I have read the destinies of many people, some have taken what I said to a degree where they allow it to direct their lives into an unhealthy direction, and some have done what they’re supposed to do with their fortunes; they took what I told them as a guide, they made a choice, they took control of their lives, and perhaps look back at what I said as an interesting story to talk about at a dinner party.

Being a guide, that’s what an Oracle is, she’s not your personal doom seer, not someone to fear and expect death sentences from.  If you don’t want to know the possibilities of whether or not you’ll be with your boyfriend forever, don’t ask the Oracle.  If you really want to know when you’ll die, go ahead and ask, you’ll get a number, but it might not happen at the age predicted.  Or maybe a kind of death will happen at the age pin-pointed.  I was once told I’d have a baby at age 24, and then die at age 39, but both those ages came and went without those events!  However, at the time I was engaged… if I had kept the choice to stay in that relationship, who knows, it could have happened.

Beyond fortune-telling, there is another game, that of psuedo-spiritual advice, and a psychic can do it without a degree, they don’t have to be an ordained minister, and most just jump into it without a lick of experience dealing with the public. All you have to be is pleasant and approachable. But to make money at it, you have to have “game” just like any person out to make a connection with another — a gimmick, a look, some kind of unique talent that catches the imagination of others and leaves them wanting more. I knew about this game when I started making a living at it in the mid-90’s attending psychic fairs, and pandering on the street while homeless during the early 2000’s. The game was highly competitive, like a boot camp for crystal-baring New Age-rs and other metaphysical nerds, and I was never completely keen on the idea of taking money from people who were all-too-eager to buy everything I told them as Bible Truth. In the beginning, I was taught to always add, “Just be aware, no matter what the outcome, you always have the power of Choice”, but the message never quite gets through to people, especially when a querent is desperate for messages from the Powers-That-Be. When I was homeless, I was the one desperate to survive, and I knew how to play a part — I was an actor, I did all my own marketing, and I had a following — performing at festivals, at local cafes, anywhere for anyone, applying the tricks of the trade I saw other psychics use to scrupulous measure. I put Cold Reading to the test, and I must say it worked every time, but it was still very stressful to do because I never knew when I’d mess up. Needless to say, my “performance era” was short-lived, but it was fun being something akin to a gypsy.

Always think for yourself. Question everything you are told. A psychic, just like any good therapist, only shows you your possibilities… and alternatives as you make your choices on life’s path. But when you’re like me, when your life’s path is that of an Oracle — a person who uses trance, and many other means, to connect to the spiritual world according to her religious beliefs and/or cultural, spiritual, and magico-religious practices, to procure messages from the gods to give to seekers — the role of playing fortune-teller twists away from the game of psychic counseling to something altogether different. I have much responsibility and integrity to uphold. It feels dangerous. It’s like playing with people’s’ lives, but only if they swallow the message whole, or use it to further their cause.

In the ancient world it was also the same, I believe, because it’s evident in the hero’s epics — Oracles warn heroes that if they pick a certain path it will lead to doom, but if they pick a more domestic path, one without adventure (and therefore without valor or renown), they can live a long life with their families — yet heroes always pick, despite the Oracle’s counsel, the hopeless cause. Just like in the movie The Matrix, the Oracle seems to know everything that is going to happen, and she recognizes who-is-Who, yet events happen outside of the reach of her knowing, choices change the direction of things, even though the same result is reached, just not the way we all think it’s going to turn out.  Oracles are not know-it-alls!  If we were, we wouldn’t be poor. We’d live like the famous psychics that pop up now and then, selling their series of books and wares, appearing on television series, and what all. And if we were perfect, we’d all not have any mental or emotional pain.

Some people really want to have the abilities that psychics, mediums, and oracles seem to have because it gives them a thrill, they truly want to help other people, and they just want to know more about the spiritual world. But I’m here to tell you it’s not all beds of roses with ghosts in them giving you back massages and whispering secrets about your friends in your ears. Scary experiences will haunt you, and if you’re not strong, you’re in for several breakdowns. Natural ability or not, it’s not easy to figure out what to do, or who to go to for your own counseling on how to deal with “talking to dead people” because there are very real, very serious disorders that can debunk all that. I have questioned myself a lot, but I also cannot deny that, after so many years of practice, training, and testing, clients come back to me to testify I was “right” (whether or not I remember what I told them).

I want to write for you a small question/answer list of what to look out for when you go out for a psychic reading. Want to know what to look for in a reader? Who can you trust? Who is shady? What is all entertainment only, and real spiritual counseling? And how can I avoid misinterpreting the results of a reading? Much of it is common sense, really. Read on and see if you agree with me.

Q: How do I know when a psychic is taking advantage of me?
A: Look for clues in what they offer. Their services are usually outrageous. If they charge you a lot of money for a cleansing, or to rid you of a curse. If they tell you in a reading that someone close to you is zapping you of energy, that your house has a demon in it, or that you have a spirit attached to you and that you need them to get rid of that, and only they have your cure, chances are they want to rip you off. Especially look out for them selling you even more expensive “cures” that are really cheap ingredients like a simple wax candle, “holy oil” that is just canola oil, and soap you can buy anywhere. The money charged is usually in amounts like $99.99. Psychics like that are not true advisers, they’re con-artists. Other fake psychics may actually have some talent, but are in it strictly for money. They really want to keep you as a client. Scare tactics work every time. Believing that something supernatural has it in for you is rather flattering, and thrilling, and these psychics will play you for your money’s worth, not to mention destroy relationships and mess with your mind.

Q: What should I look for in a good psychic reader?
A: “Good” readers are professional — they do not give you any outrageous claims, they are straight forward, don’t ask many questions, and present their impressions, opinions, and advice confidently. Their prices reflect their intentions, experience, and reputation. The more references they have, you can be assured they are doing right. Look for testimonials — real ones, not false advertisements — from clients who are also professionals. Also look for a solid history that is well documented. Even if a good reader does not have these, check out where they are doing their readings: have they been hired by a reputable business? Is their place of business somewhere comfortable, appropriate, or even if it’s campy and/or decorated according to a cultural standard, is it clean and the people there helpful? Do they make you feel welcome?

Q: How can I tell when a reader is telling the truth when they answer my questions?
A: You can’t. They will point out the truth as they see it. You may not agree with them at times, but it’s up to you to decide what is true. Every psychic is an individual and will have their own unique opinions that may, or may not, adhere well to your personal views. If you go to more than one psychic, you may get more than one answer. Some will tell you what you want to hear according to how many dollars you give them. Some will tell you only what they pick up, no matter what you pay. Answers always will vary and change according to your mood, worries, and the energy you are projecting. Psychics pick up more on what is going on with you right now, and what happened to you before, and when it comes to the future, well, the future is always changing based on what you are doing now. Instead of feeding you answers, nearly all good psychics will get you to ask more questions of yourself, and think for yourself.

What is your truth? If it doesn’t match what the oracle says, then investigate what it is about you at the moment of the reading that brought about that result. If you didn’t like what the oracle said, don’t pay attention to it. Why believe everything someone “psychic” tells you? Just because someone is dealing the Tarot cards, does not mean they know more about you than you do about yourself. Pay more attention to how you feel and what you think. Again, you are asking the questions. You are the seeker.

Keep searching.

Q: What should I do to keep track of every psychic reading I get?
A: Bring a notebook and write down the results, record the reading using a voice activated device, or video tape your session. The value of documenting your reading is essential so you can go back to re-examine the results as they happened! If you want to guard against misinterpretation, having documentation to back up someone else’s claims, as well as aid you in any kind of paranormal research, is the smartest way to check the accuracy of a psychic.

Q: How can I find a “real” Oracle, or spirit medium?
A: In my honest opinion, the “real ones” are practitioners in a specific cultural or religious tradition, or have some affiliation within an organized spiritual institution. These are people who have trained and devoted their lives to the practice, and it is foremost the main service they give to their communities. Many of them do not make much money at it. Using myself, for example, I often do an exchange of services, or use a barter system, especially during times when money is scarce. Acting as an oracle is often part of the duties of priest/ess in many cultures. Major decisions are not made without consulting with this holy person. It is a very different way of thought and action than how it is in the average American Joe world. If you seek this kind of person for spiritual advice, you may have to petition them by offering them a favor or two in payment, or you may have to be a part of the religion they practice, depending upon how exclusive and secretive their tradition is. Oracles and mediums work with spirits, they do not command them to do things for people, so often times messages come from the spirits, and the spirits require offerings and favors. Again, not every oracle follows these rules, this is just a few examples added for flavor.

Q: What can a Spirit Medium do? Will they contact specific dead relatives for me? How do I know it’s real?
A: You’ll never quite know. Refer back to the top of the list and beware of the fake psychics who’ll take advantage of you while you’re vulnerable. Don’t seek a spirit medium while you are the most upset during mourning the loss of a loved one. However, sometimes when you do get a reading, miracles can happen. Who knows? It’s up to you to believe and let what needs to happen, happen.

Let me spell out for you what spirit mediums do, and what you can expect from them, with this list…

1. A Spirit Medium is Not a Ouija Board, or a Telephone! However sometimes we feel like we’re being used like a device by the spirits, we just can’t be used by people as if we are.  It would be nice if it were exact, that would at least make the skeptics settle down.
2. Spirits Communicate Through the Medium, ‘They’ Decide if They’re Gonna ‘Talk’.  There is no forcing or demanding spirits to do anything, unless you want a very unhappy, angry spirit on your hands.
3.  Spirit Mediums Do Not Always ‘Hear’ Spirits Talk:

  •  Most of the time that “talking” is our interpretation of dream-like images flashed within the mind, and it’s up to us to decide whether or not they are actually messages from spirits
  • Communicating with spirits is often flashing back to the spirits ideas in the shape of dream images, this going back and forth is a process that sometimes requires me to go into a trance-like state: I let go of my present consciousness and share consciousness with spirits, the spirits and I operate as “one” for a little while. (Not every medium does that, by the way)
  •  Spirits are disembodied beings of pure emotion, and rarely show themselves entirely in a medium’s mind, so most of the time they “talk” by projecting emotions and sensations through the physical body — it can feel like they are attacking you, especially when these sensations become painful (because sometimes a spirit is urgently trying to reach out)
  • Spirits send “thoughts”, and that leaves a lot to the imagination! Not every medium is great at interpreting what’s shared.

4. Spirit Mediums Don’t Just Talk to Ghosts. There are a host of spirits out there. Depending upon the personal beliefs of the medium, they will react in many different ways towards spirits. Some are very afraid, some aren’t. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with.
5. The Success of a Spirit Medium Depends Upon the Querent. If you have an open attitude, the more chances the world will “open” up the possibilities of spirit contact for you. If you are nothing but skeptical and don’t really want anything to happen, everything will remain closed. Simple as that.
6. Shut Up! Stop Telling the Medium All About Yourself. We want to explore and find things out on our own. Feeding us information will spoil a reading. If you want us to validate true contact with the dead, it’s gotta happen naturally.
7. Mediums Always Make Mistaken Identities and Describe Inaccurate Details that Don’t Match Up. It’s hard to tell sometimes when it’s our own thoughts and dream imagery and not that of the spirit world because both go hand-in-hand. It seems like a risky guessing game, but actually it’s funny. Sometimes what I think is the wildest interpretation is the most accurate.
8. Even Spirit Mediums have Skeptical Minds. We question things we think, we wonder if we’re right or wrong, we research what we thought were vibes, and there’s a healthy amount of doubt no matter what. I don’t buy into everything I’m told, why should you?
9. Not Every Psychic, Spirit Medium, Oracle, or What-Have-You, is Spiritual or Religious, and they will be most insulted if you make the mistake thinking that they are. Many don’t believe in angels, demons, or even ghosts. So how can they do what they do? They are experimenting with energy, they use terms and techniques more on a scientific level, often in the name of research and detective work.

After writing this, I realize this all still seems confusing, and I may have convoluted it all with my personal testimony. So, dear reader, before I leave you to your thoughts, I will lastly differentiate all the types of mediumship in this world I slipped into I call Supra-Oracledom:

Valentina’s Guide on How to Read Psychic Readers
Part 2: Identifying Spirit Mediums & Psychic Senses

  • Mental Mediumship: A practice where thoughts are exchanged with spirits as a form of communication. These thoughts are “heard” just like thinking to yourself, they are subtle, almost a type of whisper, and can be intermixed with the medium’s own thoughts. Messages come like dream interpretations — it can be tricky to make sense of what is real or delusion, hence why the margin of error.
  • Trance Mediumship: Partial consciousness shared with spirits where communication takes place as an exchange of dream images or ideas. A variant of Trance is a deeper form where the medium is fully inducted into trance, letting a spirit(s) take over their consciousness in order to communicate with the living. Such individuals require assistance. The practice of Channeling is a variant of Trance — where a medium goes “out-of-body” temporarily to let an entity (such as an angel, or some one-thousand year old monk) take over their body to relay messages.
  • Physical Mediumship: The medium is used by spirits as a sort of battery to plug into so they can manifest in the physical world, producing all sorts of noisy and possibly sudden, violent effects that are quite electrical-feeling. This is the rarest form of mediumship, and the most hoaxed.
    The Senses & Abilities Psychics Claim to Have:

  • Clairaudience: hearing the thought-like voices of spirits
  • Clairvoyance: seeing spirits
  • Clairsentinence: feeling the presence of spirits, taking on their ailments, sharing physical sensations
  • Clairsentience: sensing the presence, or impression, of spirits
  • Claircognizance: knowing something without being conscious of it
  • Clairalience: smelling the presence of a spirit(s)
  • Clairgustance: actually tasting the impression of a nearby spirit!
  • Quick note: All the prefixes clair mean clear

As a parting message, I leave you with words from the great goddess Fortuna, or Fortune, whom I consider a patron goddess of fortune-tellers (for do we not participate in her games of chance and destiny?):

“I turn the cycles of life, and I am happy to bring down those on their high horse, and lift up those who are down on their luck. You’re welcome to step up and spin the wheel of fate! Provided that you remember everything is left to chance, and change. I am not changeable, I stay the same, it is life that changes with my touch. It is said I favor no one, except those who make their own luck, but I am not about luck. I am fate. You’ll never know me. I’ll only give you peeks.  I was there at your birth and will be there at your death, and though you may blame me for the results of your choices, know that I owe you nothing save what I give everyone, my namesake: fortune.”

The Love the Mirror Predicted, or Sometimes True Love isn’t a Lover, it’s What We Love Doing


Sometimes the spells we cast, break, especially the ones we cast upon ourselves, and perhaps righteously so because what we want to happen isn’t meant to be.  Or so I thought.  As an experiment, the very last love divination spell I cast was on Samhain 2012, it required the use of a mirror, and behind me a blurry image of my true love was to appear. The image I thought I saw was that of a creepy comedy mask, like that of a Venetian carnival mask or the Greek comedy mask associated with the muse Thalia.  I interpreted this as a sign of something funny, or representing an actor in a costume, or just a spirit making fun of me.  The simplest answer to my quest for love was: someone’s smiling at me, I’m making them laugh, or happiness comes my way!

I considered the spell a success, but then on February 14th, Valentine’s Day 2013, the mirror BROKE.  It didn’t shatter, however, it just broke within the frame into the shape of a crow’s foot, the rune Algiz, also known as the “z-rune”, that popularly means, when pointed downward, an omen of warning. I didn’t pay attention to it as a bad omen, until my cat took ill in the summer and died August 30th. I was blocked from writing and feeling anything for a long while after that.

What I did not mention were all the feelings I held back the entire year, and what was really going on in my life, I could only let some poetry out of me. What I did write last year I censored a great deal, and I was very self-conscious about sounding too sad. I felt shame over being shunned by two friends who exited my life just before I cast the mirror spell. I think one of those people thought perhaps I cast it because I wanted to see him, but my infatuation over him was long gone. He misunderstood that when I reconnected with him in 2011, I was attempting to let go of the past and be a better friend no longer bound by pesky crushes, but I tried too hard to impress that upon him. Desperate to make a friendly connection with him, one like I felt we didn’t get to have before, my behavior came off as the desperate kind that came off as me wanting a romantic relationship. My other friend, and several others concerned, all felt I had lost my mind, I was accused of not being able to let him go. It was all very poisonous. No matter what I did to defend myself, it just further sabotaged myself, and the more frustrated I was, the more of a mess it made me look. I was even told by one friend that she would stop talking to me if I were to mention the subject to her again. I stopped talking about it entirely and kept my tears to myself. I bet even now bringing it up I’ll be accused of changing the story to further my ends whatever they are because, you know, I’m such a manipulative cow, right?

What was unhealthy was I was ashamed of my own words, of expressing myself the way I do, of how I talk, which is who I am, what I am about. Despite being told, in a sense, to shut-up and not speak my truth, I’m breaking out. In reality, does anyone really care what I say? If you don’t like me, you don’t have to read me.

But I beat myself up. I am a kind creature, I want to get along with people, and I love my friends, and what they say to me matters, their words go to bed with me.  At night it’s what they say that repeats over and over in my mind, and I give that power over me.  The disgust I felt coming from them for me, had me believing I was the ugliest woman alive.  I did not shower for over a year, and it wasn’t until the very next Samhain that I made the most wonderful new friends…  yes, despite even the power of my shame working a poison throughout my body.

A month after my cat’s death I was contemplating suicide, but not in the physical sense, more in the giving up completely sense, yet still praying for something to happen to give me more to look forward to, and I created goals, nothing stuck, and I kept quitting things. I’ve always said that the worst thing manic depression does to you is it robs you of your self-preservation, you lose care, and even when you have support, you do not have the ability to know it’s there, you sink and drown, especially when weighted down by loss — I just can’t see past it at times, so I hermit myself away to get rid of that. The only thing keeping me alive was hugging the blanket my cat last slept in and staring at pictures of my friends. When I got invited to a haunted house, I almost turned it down…

“No, I don’t think I can do it,” I said, “I just want to be alone.” But did I really? I all but forgot about the mirror spell, too comfortable in misery, not even recognizing the cool, new friends I just made who were not quitting on me.

It all started in a hospital elevator. My new friend Lisa was coming in from physical therapy and I just got done with a routine annual eye exam. When we hopped in, the elevator got stuck for a few seconds and kept flashing the floor number “6” to look like “666” and we laughed.

“Looks like the elevator’s haunted!”

Lisa then winked at me and remarked rather quickly, “Yeah, well, I just bought a haunted house.”

“Really?” I did not take her seriously until I looked into her eyes. “Really.” It sank in. True. The elevator started to run again as we got to talking and thereafter we were new best friends, especially after I told her I was a spirit medium, oracle, psychic, um, Witch… Yes, I’m all kinds of useful in a haunted house.

Flash forward to the weekend of Samhain and I’m in Lisa and her sister Chris’ lovely haunted house, one of the most haunted historic places in Wisconsin, known as The Cottage Cafe, also known as the Old Sherman House, it’s got a long documented history of paranormal activity, but more interesting, is its natural history of all the lives who have come and gone from there. Located at a crossroads, it is yet another place I find like home for me.

Some people desire a paranormal experience. They want ghosts to come out of the walls and touch them, to hear voices and disembodied footsteps, or even witness a possession, or get possessed themselves as some kind of thrill ride, like going to a haunted Disney Land. Most people want to check out a haunted place cautiously, experience the activity from a safe distance, yet also make contact and see if life after death is real. All people want proof, or some assurance, and often they come bounding into the house with many, many questions. The more people you get coming through a haunted place, the more excited energy builds up, and something’s bound to happen. Things sure did.

Never before have I ever experienced more spirit activity in one place so close to home. Not once was I afraid. I was making many spirit friends! Too many stories to share with you. I can say that I fell in love with a house.  I do that.  I fall in love with houses.  With places.  Especially old places filled with memories and echoes.  I was in love with the spirits. I wanted to take care of them and make sure the people coming and going respected them. I began to understand what was going on there, but the funniest thing was…


Next to me in the hallway, while I was giving customers readings, a big smiley face balloon ghost silently watched the gathering during the Halloween festivities and late night paranormal investigations. It was the happy symbol of True Love I asked for!

Sometimes it’s not a person, but what we love to do that is a true love.

It took me a long while to write about this subject because it was too close to my heart. I didn’t know how to form it into one story. As usual, I’m long-winded and don’t even know how to end this post, but I can report now that I’m happy “talking to dead people” and also happily debunking things, too. I want to travel to other haunted places, but this one no longer has such an angry energy to it, the spirits are happy, there’s no breaking of plates or windows. We get along. Why not? The bakery is delicious.

And, did I mention I’m taking showers again?  You can smell me.  I’m clean and perfumed.  I’m obsessed with perfume!  I allow you to send me all kinds of pretty-smelling things because a Spring is happening inside me.

I Am My Cat’s Familiar

skinnyblackcatChanges, upheavals, under-heavals, transformations… We are undergoing, over-going, going-through them at my home right now. All I want to do is finish this cycle and ease out towards a future, one right now I cannot see, but wish to hope for. Wish to hope for? It’s too dark in here to see over the hump just yet. I feel like I’m being carried, cradled? I am certainly cradling my cat, focusing all my healing energy on him, singing to him, my own body completely in sync with his, sharing breath, listening to his beating heart, and doing everything I can, including letting him be alone.  I miss sleeping with him the most.  He curls up into the comfort of shadow a lot lately, this skinny-little-fur-heart-wrecking-ball bombarding me whenever I dig him out of my closet in the morning. He likes to convalesce on a laundry basket of my old clothes, a place where everything must all smell like me. It must be like a big womb of me in there.

I once agreed with a friend that the only magician’s familiars are spirits, but now, my doubts are gone and I no longer give credence to that because of this special relationship I have — in fact I’m going to go as far as saying there are no such things as familiars, spirits whom we conjure and command, sometimes form kindly bonds with, existing separate from the rest of living things, or may not be alive at all and only existing because we think them up. What I am going to say with pure conviction is that every living thing IS a familiar because every thing that lives has a spirit, and because spirit is life force, and all that soul-energy-life-forming-stuff connects us to each other because it simply makes us who and what we are: alive

The illusion is we mentally block each other from a spiritual connection. We create rites to re-connect ourselves to spirit(s) we think are on a separate plane of existence than we are. The relationship to spirit is always there for us to tap into.  When we choose to be open, there is no closing the door, and the only thing to fear is, well, things that are bigger than you just like anything else when you decide to go walking through a dense wilderness. There are animals everywhere!  All of that I just mentioned is the subject for a conversation for another time. I don’t want to runaway from the tenderness of how I feel in this moment…

How this all relates to me and Mr. Snuggles and all of you is this: what we all have in common is we have life, we are living, and it’s that life stuff that glues my cat and I together, permits us to communicate with pure emotion, allows us to take away each other’s pain, and take part in each other’s lives as if we were destined to take care of each other. I struggle with him to stay alive as do all alive things who wish to continue living and to keep their young living. And yet being alive can be illusory, too, right? So can death? I am finding the boundaries between being and un-being soft lately.

If anyone’s a spirit familiar, I am my cat’s Familiar. He uses me to help himself survive. He charms me to do everything for him. I’m at his meow.

And you know what? It was magic the way we met, the way we carry on, the way we live, the everyday we operate…

All of life, and death, and the continuing of all of it, is magic, and I’m so in love with it, you will never see me, ever, failing to fall out of it.

It goes on… with or without me being able to see what’s ahead.

Why You Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Paganism

Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

If you are insecure about what you believe, much less what you practice, chances are you are losing your religion. Or perhaps the faith was not yours to keep to begin with? If you become embarrassed by the way your fellows worship, could it be a sign that you are simply prejudiced against your own kind, or that you really don’t belong? If you cannot join them, why are you there? Why complain and judge and spend so much time debating how they should change, when perhaps it is you who needs to make the change? If you are not dancing with your friends, the joy gets knocked out of you, and you cannot experience the joy the others are sharing. The only way to find your true way is to take a cue from your heart, step back, do not judge, and move towards that different beat calling you away…

If you find yourself ashamed of what you once loved, take it as yet another “ordinary” omen; you are growing into and beyond faith, moving past the surface you clung to, and soon you’ll prove to yourself what it is you truly believe. At some point we have to separate ourselves from the community we once identified with, and it is very healthy to become disillusioned with the behavior of our peers, especially when we decide it is time for us to create our own practices.  But it is also just as important to remember our roots, to honor where we have come from, and thank the people who fostered us during those early days when we first set foot on our path.

There are a great many young Pagans today who are ashamed of being associated with other Pagans and who are embarrassed by public performances of Pagan communities at Pagan Pride celebrations. This used to anger and upset me to tears. I took this as a terrible rejection, especially when close friends decided to no longer worship with me, or after many years apart I would find out they were not Pagan any more.  We would get into arguments over whose way of thinking and believing was more correct, or needed improvement, and we’d compare religious thought like who has more money in the bank.  I would tell myself that this is how we were showing each other we cared, yet we did was hurt each other and waste our time, time we could have spent building each other up instead of putting each other down.  With time, I’ve come to accept my friends’ choices to quit Paganism, not as a rejection, but as part of the personal spiritual journey they are going through. Who am I to judge them? And why should I care when they judge Paganism an embarrassment?  For I am certainly proud of it.

It reminds me of a time when some lesbians and gays would get embarrassed by all the flamboyant drag kings and queens on the floats at Gay Pride parades. “I don’t want people thinking that’s what we’re all about,” they would say, worried about the images of gays presented to mainstream America in the media.  It still pervades today among different subcultures across the world — we all get our panties in a bundle over stereotypes! So worried other people will lump us all in with the louder, weirder, crazier, fluffier, campy members of our little tribes that it keeps us from truly enjoying who we are and what we do.

The problem with letting this embarrassment get to you is the shame of it all. At the heart of being ashamed is humiliation and guilt: both are tell-tale signs that we make ourselves feel inferior to the point where we remain restrained by the anticipation of shame brought upon us by another culture we deem more powerful, all because we are guilty of belonging to a group we believe is without power. When we believe our community does not have power, we in turn believe we have no power when we stand with them, and we cease to believe our religion has no validity compared to other religions with less embarrassing behavior and practices.  When we are ashamed, we support powerlessness.  We cave in.

I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

The other danger of letting embarrassment rule your judgment is the way in which you come to treat other people — will you let yourself fall into the Hall of Assholedom?  Or love, respect, and wisdom?  The people we are embarrassed of, are people we make invisible.  We stop validating their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and rights.  We start to judge them, not for the friends they are, but as strangers you deem them to be.  Even if you know them, you stop seeing them.  You don’t know what level they are standing at, or what they’re going through, and they have no more importance.  Even if you claim to live by a code of honor and be the best human being you can be; if you hold any prejudice against a group for being different (that includes flaky), you best check yourself.  It is not righteous or heroic to bully a group’s right to worship as they see fit, and they will worship and behave as they will, with or without your approval because it makes them happy.  The same goes for any individual who is different than you, too.  Let them be different.

When in a group, it is good etiquette to practice as the group does, improvise when the time is right, share ideas, and speak up! If you do not like working with a group, don’t work with a group. To get along with others it is essential to let people be who they are. Let them tell you what they are all about. Don’t assume you know all about them just based on how they look or even what they say. They might be deeper individuals than you think. People always surprise me once I get past that first impression. Judge a book by the cover? Covers lie, my friend. Ask any best-selling pop fiction author, they usually never get to pick what art will grace the cover of their books, but the content may blow your mind every time.

If you judge people you have no time to love them. ~Mother Teresa

I tend to fall in love with people no matter who they are, regardless of age or sex, and want to adopt them all as my family. Perhaps I am unique in that sense. I have never really been ashamed of the silly, fringe, New Age-y members of our community, however at one point I was greatly annoyed to the point of irritation. I was in my mid-twenties then, found myself surrounded by adults older than myself who talked about Witchcraft like teenagers giggling about boys, as if it all were the latest fashion, and I immediately assumed these women were definitely not going to stick with “the program”. Then I realized what a waste of time it was that I spent complaining about them. As I whiled away the time groaning over their girlish behavior, anxiety ate at my gut and I could not relax. They were really having fun and I was rotting like a big poop.

Focusing instead on being more productive, plus cutting loose and letting my (to *gulp!* quote one of those New Age phrases!) “inner child” out to play, was so much better. I often liken our rituals to getting outside to play! When you feel ashamed, you won’t dance or laugh, you can’t do anything but stand there feeling the fool. When you are free from shame, you’ll not feel like a fool, in fact you will be far from caring whether or not someone else thinks you are one. This is when being part of a group helps loosen the inhibitions. You’re not alone at play! You’re among your own kind and we will not judge you… at least that is the way it is supposed to be.

Why else do you think we swear perfect love and perfect trust? That was not made up to procure fantasy.

You do not have to change an entire religion in order for one person, or a new generation, to feel comfortable and respected by the rest of the world. There are reasons why neo-Paganism is the way it is and why it will remain so. There are no rules other than:

  • Everyone has the right to follow their own Path
  • We believe in a Higher Power(s) — God/desses
  • Nature is to be venerated

So why worry about what other people think? When confronted with co-workers, family, strangers on the bus, or other silly persons who snicker at the religion I identify with, I adopt an attitude of being Un-Spookable, because ultimately my religion is a personal issue that is left out of their business (they can say whatever they want, but they can’t take it away from me and I shall not be bothered!). When I’m at a job, I’m there as an employee. I leave my private life at home. If someone brings up my beliefs, or anything else that is private, I do not discuss those things at a job. It’s not professional to get friendly like that. If a boss Googles me, they are sticking their nose in my personal business. It does not matter if I have made my blog public and that I call myself Valentina the Witch, that is my persona separate from any other job I’m hired to do. Yet. I have it easy. I’m freelance, it does not matter if I advertise myself as a Witch or not, it goes along with my illustration.

It’s weird that nowadays folks find it easy to make fun of Pagans and Witches then be afraid of them! There are still some parts of the world where announcing your religion of choice could get you killed, yet at least here we can express our spirituality as we see fit. In the late 1980′s/early 90’s when I first discovered Witchcraft, I saw a few Goddess-centered public rituals that were pretty damn intense that included nudity, fire, mud, and large statuary representing giant genitalia. Back then more people were spooked by Paganism not scoffing at it!  A lot of people liked the tenets of belief and practice, yet weren’t as brave or wild to invent such crazy performances, so even then there were people embarrassed by that. Thus began movements to tame down ritual into simple, child-like, easy-to-swallow forms for personal and public use.

Pagan religion, movements, traditions… they are always evolving, changing, rituals get rewritten, no one way is supposed to be the only way, you make your way of worship your own way.  This is not disorganization.  This is individualization.  It is the way all of religion is flowing into the future.

Most Pagans today find an introduction to our religion by books, or by websites, much of which filled with half-truths and myths written mainly to lead an individual to further study.  In our age with the instant gratification of information and popular spirituality, we have a multitude of authors (some posers, some true authorities) out there to test young minds.  Yet I find that part of being Pagan is discovering the truth behind the fictions we are given.

I once had a teacher who was a terrible drug addict and dealer! I did not know it at the time, but there was something about him that did not feel right to me, some of the things he said and did were off, and after finding out how messed up he was, I still walked away with mighty lessons. He taught me what NOT to do, but even though he was delusional, he was a powerful magician with years of herbal medicine experience and introduced me to other Witches who weren’t addicts who taught me more than he could. His behavior was appalling, and perhaps someone else may have walked away in disgust, never again to dabble in the Craft, but not me.  Even the worst guide can still be a guide.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. ~Richard Cowper

I find that often Paganism is a gateway religion for many seeking another path that is out there for them to discover and experience. Yet I would advise you all not to abandon Paganism for a passing fad, or continue to treat Pagans with harsh criticism because you have come to the conclusion that it does not work for you, or you find you do not fit in with the crowd. If any of you grew up in a strict religious family, or have ever been confronted with ultra-right-wing religious conservative people,  you would do well to remember how having their doctrine forced upon you felt. And the more someone argued with you, attempted numerous times to convince you how wrong you are, and policed your behavior with phrases like “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” while you were simply just being different, the less you stayed within the church of your upbringing, and the less their words had any effect on you. Pagans are against that practice. Why?  Because we are not a religion that hates or inhibits anyone’s freedom.  We do not force people to stay in a religion that they are embarrassed of, or have out grown. If you must move on, please go in peace. We will not try to change you.  We ask nothing from you.  Just be yourself.

So, please, with all due respect, do not try to change us. Because we’re happy with ourselves. We’re not ashamed like you are. Don’t shape us into what you think we are. You might someday discover we never fit that mold to begin with. But we’ll forgive you just the same.

As for me, this Witch always has room in her heart for you, who ever and where ever you are, no matter what religion or subculture you belong to, and even if you think me silly and want nothing to do with me, I’ll miss you while I dance with the whole wide world under the pale moonlight!

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)