by Tim Titus

In April, scientists announced that they had discovered females with penises. The neotrogla is an insect that lives only in Brazilian caves and lives on bat guano. It reproduces in a painful case of sexual role reversal: the female mounts the male (rare in the animal kingdom) and sticks her long, barbed penis into her partner. Using her large penis, she sucks his sperm into her body in a process that can last up to 70 hours.

There seems to be no end to the variety of mating rituals in the animal world. Every species has developed its own way of passing on its genes. Each variation is an adaptation based on size, shape, predators, and social structure. It’s fascinating. Sex comes in a huge variety of packages all across the world. For this Beltane season, I thought it would be fun to see how our brothers and sisters in the animal world pass on their genes.

Let’s start with the honey bee. Bees have little use for males beyond fertilization. A queen bee chooses her favorite 12 or so drones and goes on a mating flight with them. The males who get to mate with the queen aren’t as lucky as they seem, though. When their genitals enter the queen, they explode and snap off inside her. At the end of the flight, you get one impregnated queen and up to 12 dead males with exploded genitals.

Flatworms and banana slugs are hermaphrodites. Every individual is both a male and a female, which means they have to decide who plays which role in reproduction. Flatworms duke it out. Each worm has a penis, so before they get to use it to mate, they use it to fight. The partners engage in a battle known as “penis fencing,” in which they use their penises to fight for the right to impregnate each other. The “loser” has to get fertilized and carry the babies.

Banana slugs, which are so abundant in northern California that they are the mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz, are less concerned about who plays which role and more concerned about size. Their Latin name is dolichophallus, which means “giant penis.” A banana slug’s penis can be as long as the slug itself, up to eight inches. To mate, the partners must carefully consider whether the prospective partner can handle their rather large genitalia. This is important, because if the slug playing the “female” role is too small, the penis can get stuck inside her. When this happens, the lady had no choice but to chew off her partner’s phallus. Choose wisely, men.


Banana Slugs

All whiptail lizards are female, which presents a predicament for reproduction. The lizards first have pretend sex – one female mounts another and simulates copulation. This apparently stimulates egg production. They switch roles so that both get properly stimulated. Then each lizard lays eggs which hatch as exact clones of their mothers.

Birds often build nests, but the male bowerbird takes special pride in his interior design. To attract a mate, the male birds build big, elaborate nests, known as “bowers,” out of all the objects they can find. They have been known to decorate with everything from flowers and berries to coins, plastic, and glass. The female chooses her partner based on his design skills. Watch this video of the process to really appreciate the bowerbird’s design prowess.

Clownfish (which you remember from Finding Nemo) can change their sex. Size matters. The largest clownfish in a group gets to be the female. The next largest is the lucky male who gets to breed with her. All the other fish in the relationship are just there to watch. When the female dies, the largest male assumes the role of breeding female while the next largest male becomes her new partner.

Anglerfish also appear in Finding Nemo. The big, dark, scary fish from the movie were all females. Male anglerfish are so small that they appear to be parasites hitching a ride on their female partners. When a male is born, it must find a female to feed off of or it will die. When they attach to a female, they are able to merge their circulatory systems in a way that is mutually advantageous. She gives him her food. He gives her his sperm.

Male giraffes are only interested in sex if they can make a baby. If he might be in the mood, a male giraffe will bend his neck down and stimulate a female’s rear end to produce urine. Once that’s accomplished, he will taste the lady’s excretions. If she is in estrus, he’ll know and pursue her further. If not, he’ll leave her alone.

Female hyenas have “pseudopenises,” which they can make erect whenever they want. Interested males have to insert their “real” penises into the female’s pseudopenis in order to accomplish mating. Ultimately, though, the female has to give birth through her pseudopenis.

The porcupine mating period lasts only a few hours a year. With such a short window, the male needs to know that his intended is in the mood. To do this, he approaches her on his hind legs and proceeds to saturate her with a giant stream of urine. If she’s in the mood, she’ll lie on her back (important for a porcupine) and allow him to mate with her. If not, she’ll complain and walk away.

Next time you see a snail in your yard, contemplate just how it hard it is for them to mate. While snails are classified as hermaphrodites, they are not able to impregnate themselves. Instead, they have genitals right behind their eyes. Before they get together, they shoot “love darts” into each other. The darts are covered in mucus, which seems to allow snails to retain more sperm in order to fertilize the next generation.

Water striders are those tiny insects that tread the top of lakes and pools of water, and their reproduction habits are dangerous. While mating, the male water strider taps his feet against the surface of the water in a way that attracts predators. Scientists seem to think that the purpose of this is to make the process go quickly. Neither one of them wants to stick around to become dinner, so they finish their business quickly and go their separate ways.

Perhaps the strangest animal mating ritual is that of the duck. These peaceful, swimming birds hide a rather violent, aggressive mating style. First of all, male ducks (drakes) are notorious for aggressively attacking their females in groups of up to three boys. Female ducks do choose their own partners, but males are so driven to pass on their genes that they often gang up to attack an unwilling female.

The male duck is one of a very few of bird species that has a penis. In fact, it has a gigantic one. A drake’s genitals can be up to 17 inches long and is twisted like a corkscrew. Since the boys are in competition with each other, their long organs have a brush on the end which is used to wipe away the sperm deposited by other men. So when you watch three drakes attacking a female, remember that only the last one really has a chance to reproduce.


Mallard Ducks

But the female has the last choice. It turns out that the inside of her sex organs is a twisted maze of canals. There are even dead ends. If an undesired partner deposits his sperm, she can hold it in one of these false pouches and get rid of it later. Only the desired father gets to fertilize his partner for real.

It’s easy to see all this in a very lighthearted way, but maybe it’s more important to realize that sex and fertility appear across the animal world in a never ending variety of forms. Just about every possible expression of sexuality that you can think of exists in the animal kingdom. Sexuality appears in all shapes and sizes across the animal kingdom, just as it does in humanity. The only rule seems to be: Are you doing what is right for you?

Tim is a graduate of Witchcraft IV. He writes at his own blog, Intersections, which focuses on the crossovers between science, art, and mainstream culture from a Pagan perspective. You can find him at

Daedalus Tells His Story

Author’s Note: This piece is a recreation of the invocation of Daedalus that I did during Christopher Penczak’s Witchcraft Five class. When I did a journey to ask Daedalus’ help with telling his story I was told, “Why don’t you just step aside and let me tell it myself?” All it took was mustering enough courage to surrender myself (just my body actually) to my first public invocation. I remember turning the lights down low, sitting in Christopher’s big black chair, rubbing my face a few times, taking a few deep breaths with my hands covering my face and then visualizing my spirit vacating my body to make room for Daedalus. I have no idea what was actually said in the classroom that night. I have had my wife and a couple of my closest classmates help me recreate what was best described as “a proud yet incredibly sorrow-filled spirit who only sought to do the best possible work in life.”

How do I begin to tell you about a life of service, a life that begins in the head, travels through the heart and lives on through the hands? A life always lived in that small perilous place between the realms of the gods and the courts of kings. I believe there is no way to do justice to the twists and turns and the many faces involved a story like that, so I will tell you my own instead. My name is Daedalus. I have come to this place and taken the storyteller’s seat so you may hear my story.

There are many stories told about me. When you catch the eye of a king, you also come under the scrutiny of his court. There are those who play some fast and deadly games in those courts, games where the only point of the game seems to be to topple as many pieces as you can in order to improve own your position. Yes, there are many different stories told about me. One of the stories you will hear is that I was “high borne” but I was not. Stories such as these are meant to steal the life, skills and history of someone like me and redirect it for personal gain. I was never a favorite of the gods or a child of royalty, nor was I ever a common man. I have always been something different and set apart. I am a craftsman, an artisan.

I had to advance my skills and hone my abilities the hard way. As a youth I cut and carried stone for men who knew how to turn the bones of the earth into works of art. Just as they turned that common rough material into objects of great value, so too did they turn a rough youth into a skilled craftsman. These men were many times very rough themselves, yet capable of being patient and generous. Many of them knew my skills would soon surpass their own, yet they taught me all they knew because they believed that was their path to immortality, for the master to live on through the apprentice. Sooner than anyone expected, I had reached the point where I had risen to the position of architect and had my own apprentice.

My nephew, my sister’s son, came to work side by side with me.He was an exceptionally fast learner and worker as he too had a quick, open and inquiring mind. I began to understand why my early mentors were so eager to challenge me and teach me all they knew, they wanted their skills and spirit to expand and continue through other’s efforts and actions. Unfortunately for me what they saw as a blessing became a curse for our family. My nephew fell from the edge of the Acropolis while we both were up there working. Some will tell you I pushed him to his death. They will say as he worked with me every day I saw his skills had the potential to eclipse my own. In their opinion, jealousy came to consume me on that fateful day.

When an inquiry was made, my accusers asked me, “Did you push him?” to which I replied that I pushed him every day he was with me. They then asked me, “Were you responsible for his death?” and I told the court that my work, words, and skills were what brought my nephew to be there, so close to the edge, when he fell, so I indeed felt responsible for his death. In the end the stories and influence that circulated through that court as well as the king`s court caused me to be convicted of killing my own nephew, my sister’s child.

There are many small and perilous places in each of our lives. Once you allow balance to slip away and enter that place that exists between the fall and the impact, you begin to understand whether the gods intend to support you or let you collide with the full gravity of what they believe is in your heart. It wasn’t until I was forced into exile and indentured to a new king that a different story emerged. There was no body for my sister to bury because her son was allowed to cheat death. As he fell, the gods intervened and transformed him into a bird. I and the others who witnessed his fall watched him fly away. Those men owned voices my accusers would not allow to be heard in court. My nephew’s last day by my side and the following days in court are days that will stay with me for eternity.

My new master, King Minos, was a great king. In his mind he was the greatest king who ever lived and deserved only the best of everything. He had a beautiful daughter named Ariadne who loved to dance, and it was my pleasure to construct a dancing ground that would match her beauty and grace. The celebrations that were held there were beyond measure, and the delight of the princess as she put what I had made to use brought great joy to her, her father and their people. During one of these ceremonies, King Minos asked the Sea God for a sacred bull so that he might use it as an offering to the gods. When the king beheld this magnificent animal, he knew he had to keep it for his own. So he sacrificed his best bull as an offering instead and hoped that would appease the gods. As a result of this fateful decision, Poseidon caused his wife, the queen, to lust after the same sacred bull her husband had sought to make his own. The queen came to me and asked for my help. I fashioned a cow made from wood that the queen could hide inside and finally become one with the source of her desire. As a result of these meetings, a child was born, a child that was both an abomination and the son of royalty. A Star Child that was half man and half bull – the Minotaur. As the beast grew it developed a taste for blood. The king suspected I had a hand in bringing the Minotaur into the world, so he summoned me. You do not lie to the gods or your king if you want to continue to make your way in this world. I told him the whys and hows of what I had brought about, and he ordered me to devise a way to keep the Minotaur safely away from him and the rest of his court. So I designed and built a labyrinth so clever that nobody could escape it, not even his Star Child. I built it so well even I couldn’t find my way out without help, but we’ll return to that later.

To feed the beast, Minos demanded a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens every seven years from the people of Athens. It wasn’t long before an Athenian hero came in disguise among the offerings. As soon as the princess Ariadne laid eyes on this hero, she fell in love with him. When she came to me and asked for my help in order to keep her hero from being consumed by her half brother, it was I who laid a ball of twine in her hands and told her how her beloved Theseus could defeat both my invention and the Minotaur. After the deed was done and Ariadne departed with her hero, the king was so enraged that he locked my son Icarus and me into the labyrinth and gave specific instructions to put to death anyone who aided our escape. He sealed all the ports on island of Crete, effectively sealing our fate, or so he thought.

I had hours beyond counting to devote to nothing but thought, and my mind kept returning to how my nephew had escaped death through the gift of a pair of wings. For many months, my son and I gathered feathers from all the birds that came to visit us while we were imprisoned. I fashioned two sets of frameworks from materials left over from other projects that the king  had demanded of me, and I fixed these feathers onto the framework and to each other with wax. When at last I felt everything was right and had proven my invention was sound with a test flight, I began training and instructing my son. I prepared him for flight and a new life beyond the walls, the labyrinth and the court of this tyrant king. When our last day as prisoners of Crete came, we stood on the wall together, wings outstretched in the early morning sun. Before we stepped off into freedom, I reminded him to fly the middle path – neither too low, so as not to weigh his wings down with spray from the sea, nor too high where the heat of the rising sun would melt the wax and cause his wings to be damaged. He smiled and told me I worried too much about him. “I’ll be all right. Please just see to yourself, Father” were his last words to me.

For days on end, Icarus and I watched the sun break free of the horizon, fly across the sky, and be swallowed by the sea at day’s end. Most days we thought nothing of it; it was just a way to mark the beginning and then the passing of another day. I should have paid closer attention to that simple everyday event.

I will share with you this simple truth now – until you have seen your own son rise into the sky on wings you provided, watched him take flight and taste freedom only to ignore your warnings, only after your warnings have become pleadings to remain true to the plan and the panic sets in, will you realize what you have missed. Before you witness your son’s fall and then his last moments of light before he is dragged down into the darkness, every sunrise and sunset will come and go as an everyday event. After you have seen your son fall from the sky as his first day of freedom is just beginning, you will realize just how cruel  and heartless the gods can be. On that day your heart will turn to stone, and you will trust the gods no more.

I honored his last words to me. I shut it all out, focused on my freedom, and saw to myself. Like my nephew, I flew from that place of death.

I reached the shores of Sicily, and the king there gave me refuge in return for my skills. It wasn’t long before Minos came looking for me. In his mind, I was his property and his alone. He went from kingdom to kingdom and posed a riddle before the courts there. He presented a spiral shell and offered great riches to whoever could pass a thread through the entire shell from beginning to end. When Minos was asked to leave the shell with my new patron, the king had one of his servants bring it to me. Remember how I instructed the princess to give her hero and love a simple ball of twine in order to descend into the heart of the labyrinth and return into the light defeating my clever invention? I used a variation of that trick to pass the thread through the shell. In this case, my hero was a simple ant. The reward for this common hero was not a beautiful princess, but a single drop of honey coaxing the ant to thread its way through and step back into the light.

When Minos saw the shell with the thread passed through it the next day, he knew who was responsible for solving his puzzle. He demanded that my new patron produce me. My new king reminded him that there was plenty of time for that. He recommended that later in the day, during the coming feast, would be a more appropriate and dramatic time to present his fugitive craftsman. Minos agreed, and when the king of Sicily suggested that Minos might want to bathe before the feast – and then offered his daughters to assist him with his bath – Minos was even more agreeable. My earlier-than-expected appearance came as a surprise to Minos. He didn’t recognize me at first as I was disguised as a servant. As the king’s daughters distracted him, I and several others advanced with vessels of scalding water which we poured over him once the princesses had stepped back. I looked into his eyes as that water hit him. He realized too late who was in the chamber with him and what his fate would be. He died bellowing his rage, just like his Star Child and all the bulls that were sacrificed in his name. After the death of Minos, I was free to travel and lived out the rest of my days in the courts of true and noble kings.

I had hoped to be remembered as someone whose skills and abilities could be relied upon when asked to take an unfocused vision and turn it into reality. Someone who could take a dream or desire, give it wings, and help that dream to fly. I came to understand that we never really know the true cost of our dreams and actions until it’s too late. When I finally left this earth, I was made to stand before someone I thought I’d never see again. After suffering that terrible death, King Minos was given the task of judging all the souls who pass into the Otherworld.

It matters little what stories they choose to tell about you in the world you’ve left behind when all you have to look forward to is serving a king like Minos and looking into those burning, hate-filled eyes for the rest of eternity.

After leading a nomadic life with his wife Raven, who owns and runs Ancient Star Herbals, Daedalus settled on the coast of Maine, where, as he says, “We have devoted our lives to magick. I personally specialize in Elemental Magick and working with my hands. I have several decades of experience making my living creating a wide variety of things in wood, metal, stone, and bone to include things like custom motorcycles and yachts. The current focus of my personal practice is on the history, creation and use of tools to include ritual and shamanic tools. Raven and I haver recently finished our fifth and final year with the Temple Mystery School.”

Earth Day Magick

by Christopher Penczak

Though some assume Earth Day is a Pagan Celebration, it really is a celebration of environmental action, started in 1970. It does almost coincide with the Roman festival of Parilia, the celebration of the pastoral deity Pales. Pales gender was unclear, so some see this figure as a goddess,  others a god.

Today, many places commemorate this day with environmental education and actions. Activism, from calling local and federal lawmakers to planting trees locally, can be a part of the celebration. As Witches, Magicians, and Shamans, magickal people often set their intentions through ritual, and then should follow them with real world action. We collectively harness the tides with ceremony, but we can’t think that is the only thing to do.

Here is a simple ritual to celebrate Earth Day and put intentions for environmental protection and renewal into action. You’ll need:

  • A bowl
  • Dirt from your Yard or Local Park
  • Water

Magicians often believe in the Principle of Contagion, stating that once two things have touched, they are always energetically connected, to do something to one, is to do something to the other. We also believe in the Principle of Correspondence, showing patterns exist on multiple scales, and the Principle of Sympathy, where when you perform an action on one of these scales, it can have a reciprocal response on another scale. These three principles together are the metaphysical reason behind such things as poppet spells, for healing or harming. The poppet is made from something the person has touched (contagion) and a small, seemingly inconsequential action on the doll corresponds with a result on the person it is made to embody (correspondence and sympathy). The same principle is at work here, but with the bowl of earth and corresponding to the planet Earth.

Take your bowl of soil and spend some time sitting with it, getting into a meditative state. Get into a place of peace and blessings and bless the Earth. Put your hands in it. Get dirty! Hold the soil. Touch it. Love it. Bless it. By your hands, you bless it with the element of Earth.

Do the same with the water. Bless it. Then pour the water into the Earth, blessing it as well, by the power of the element of Water. Breath on it. Blow on it. Bless it with your breath. Speak words of healing and love for the Earth. Bless it by the element of Air. Then hold it up to the light, by the Sun and stars, bless it by the light, by the element of Fire. Feel the powerful vibrations of the land you have blessed. Then return it to the Earth, so it can in turn bless the land all around it, and move throughout the world.  Ground yourself as necessary, taking some time to return to normal consciousness. Touch the ground/floor and feel yourself anchored to the world. Drink a little water or juice, or have a little something to eat if you are feeling at all light-headed.

When done, take a physical step to follow this up. Learn about how you can make your home more environmentally friendly and do so. Contact your local lawmakers encouraging renewal energy. Join an environmental rights group and make a donation.

For more information on Earth Day’s history, visit:

and for more information on Parilia, visit:

Earth Day blessings!

Community Child Protection

by Jacki Richardson, LCSW

Recently a pagan musician and author was arrested for possession of child pornography. According to most recent reports, he has admitted that he downloaded and shared this material. T. Thorn Coyle has written a blog about Predators in Paganism and initiated a conversation about abuse of power between adults. I wrote this piece in response to the information that this man has been a frequent visitor to pagan festivals, and my thoughts went to the children. Some of the information provided is for parents, as they are the first guardians of their children. However, we all have a responsibility to surround and protect children from predators. The following is an introduction, and by no means the final word on the subject. Blessed be.

Trigger Warning: Please take care of yourself as this is a frank and direct discussion of child sexual abuse prevention.

[continue reading…]

That “W” Word

One of our great joys here at The Temple Bell is gathering witchy wit and wisdom from around the web — like this bit of prose from blogger/artist/purveyor of glitter and gorgeousness Effy Wild, on claiming the word “witch.” You can read the entire post HERE:

“I’ve toyed with different labels over the years including ‘mystic’, ‘pagan’, ‘shamanic practitioner’, etc. but what I really am, at the end of all the waffling, is a witch. I use tarot as a mirror to my soul. I use herbs to amplify the qualities I want to grow within myself. I think in magical terms. I attune myself to the solar and lunar influences on our planet. I celebrate (very quietly and with very few outward trappings) the Wheel of The Year. I have three altars. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – yup. It’s probably a witch.”

effyEffy Wild has been studying and practicing paganism in many shiny forms since the late 1980’s. She is an artist and online art teacher whose classes always have a thread of magic running through them. She lives in Ontario, Canada. She blogs at

The Queer Mysteries: Ostara – Emergence

by Steve Kenson

“What is the strength of the plant splitting the seed, pushing up through the soil? The chick breaking out of the egg, the child emerging from the womb, the Goddess rising up from the Underworld…?”

This is what High Priestess Alix Wright asked us to contemplate during our Ostara ritual meditation. It was something immediately familiar to me, a Mystery that spoke to my own experiences: it was the strength to Come Out, the courage necessary to overcome fear, shame, and doubt and proudly declare who you are. A new dawning, to be sure! It was, to me, clearly a part of what we in the Temple have taken to calling “the Queer Mysteries”—part of my own Gemini ministry and part of a larger cycle of Mysteries, related to the journey around the Wheel of the Year.

What are the Queer Mysteries? All people have Mysteries, experiences that change you in ineffable ways, that leave their mark. They are rites of passage that can be described and explained, but only truly understood through experience. The experience of shared Mysteries is a powerful foundation for spiritual community. Some Mysteries we share by virtue of being human—birth, adulthood, love, loss—others are unique to particular people, like the Mystery of childbirth. Likewise, some Mysteries are particular to Queer People, although I feel they have wisdom and resonance for many, if not all.

And what about “Queer”? Well, in this case, “queer” is a great many things. In particular, it is both broader and simpler than “bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgendered, intersexed, questioning…etc.” (and the equally common “alphabet soup” of “GLBTIQ…”). It is a reclaiming of a word used to attack people, transforming it into one of pride (not unlike “Witch,” in fact) and it is a word that carries resonance of rebellion and defiance, such as used by activists like Queer Nation.

Come Out, Come Out…

What does “coming out” mean? It is a declaration of one’s own truth, and a profound moment of sharing, vulnerability, and courage. For queer people, it’s more than just the adoption of a label, or providing information (“Oh, by the way, did you know…?”); it’s also a willingness to live your life openly and honestly, to not give in to shame or fear, to refuse to hide, even if that might be the safest thing to do.

It’s also an ongoing process: one of the qualities of many queer people is our ability to “pass,” to hide who we are, if we choose to. Many of us know well the game of skirting around the truth we carry within us, but are not yet ready to share. Because of this, we have to come out many times, in many ways, and it’s never really over and done with. People make assumptions: “You’re wearing a wedding band, are you married?” A choice is offered: Do I just say “yes” or do I continue with a specific pronoun or name? Do I mention that I have two partners, both of them men (coming out as both gay and polyamorous)? When and how (and how much) to come out is an ongoing choice, as our esteemed editor Tina reminded me in going over an earlier draft of this very paragraph, noting that I had safely distanced myself from the examples herein by using the more generic second person.

Defying those assumptions, those expectations, takes courage, because you never know what you’re going to get in response. Those assumptions must be challenged, however; otherwise no one knows anything different. The power of coming out is the power of the seedling: breaking free from the seed and slowly, steadily, pushing up through the soil, out of the dark and reaching towards the light. Just one blade of grass from a single seed may not change the terrain much, but a thousand thousand shoots sprouting from countless seeds of diverse plants can transform a landscape. So it is with those who live their truth openly and honestly. It is a force that cracks ossified tradition and expectation, changing it for the better into rich soil so that new growth can flourish. It is a force that has transformed queer rights in little more than a generation.

Out of the Broom Closet

Coming out is a Mystery many Neopagans experience as well. After all, it’s called “coming out of the broom closet” with good reason: personal practices like Witchcraft and other Neopagan traditions can likewise be invisible, if we choose to keep them hidden, and we can “pass” in mainstream society until the question arises, the door opens, and the opportunity to come out arrives. “Are you religious?” “What does that star mean?” “What ‘Temple’ is this?” How do you answer, and how much? Is it the time and place for a conversation, or are you just planting a seed, an idea or experience outside someone’s norm, that can grow in its own time?

In some measure, coming out is a Mystery everyone who is challenged to live their truth experiences at one time or another. We all wear many masks in life, and trading or removing them, going against who we might be perceived to be in order to be who we feel we truly are, is a challenge, and takes courage.

Coming out is also about compassion, and not just confrontation. It is a willingness to educate, both by conversation and by example, to patiently answer questions and to forgive ignorance that seeks to correct itself. “I hope you don’t mind that I’m asking so many questions” people told me at our recent Temple Open House. “Of course not,” I said, “that’s how you find answers.” We want those questions, and we want to answer them well. We also want to challenge misconception, misunderstanding, and the roots of fear. Sometimes we have to do so forcefully, but it should be the determination of a wise healer treating sickness, a wise warrior confronting a threat — not answering fear or anger with the same, but pushing slowly, surely, up through the darkness and reaching towards the light, towards growth and change, for that is the strength of Emergence. With the passing of the equinox and the coming of Spring, let us honor this Mystery.

Steve Kenson is a Temple founder and Gemini lead minister, making the Queer Mysteries a part of his ministry work. See his Ministerial Profile for more information.

Glastonbury Journal

glastonbury blog

The Tor at Sunrise

You! Yes you! Have you ever been to Glastonbury? Glastonbury in the UK? You haven’t? Wow! It’s my most favourite place in the world, so why don’t you grab your coat and let me take you there? Come and see this most amazing place through my eyes, and just taste the magick. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you that, and you will feast like a King and Queen. This treat is all mine.

As we jump in the car, we’ve four hours to drive. Let’s hope the roads are clear, and to help our ride, let’s send a little instant magick ahead to ensure a great journey. Glasto-bound, we just have to have a little Damh the Bard to listen to, and with all of his albums to hand, he should serenade us right to the doorstop. We’re so nearly there now, and as we leave the M5 motorway, we only have twenty minutes to go. This part of the drive is so exciting, and I’m trying hard not to put my foot down on the country roads we’re driving on. I can’t wait to get there, and I also can’t stop grinning like a Cheshire cat. You’re no doubt thinking I’m crazy, but I love this place so much – and if anywhere does crazy, it’s Glastonbury! So who’s going to be the first to see the Tor? Will it be dark and broody, misty and mystical, or bright and magickal? Oh, how the energies of the town draw you in like a magnet. I swear I could let go of the wheel, and the car would take us there of its own accord. We drive past the tiny villages of Catcott and Ashcott, the word ‘cott’ being derived from Saxon meaning ‘small dwelling’. We drive past the town of Street, and there it is, The Tor; rising up, seen from so many miles away, standing tall, a beacon, beckoning us closer. Whoop! Now you’re getting it – now I can see you’re excited about this too!

Being a ‘companion’ of the Chalice Well has amazing benefits, and one of the perks is that I’ve been able to book us into The Chalice Well Lodge for the weekend. This tiny two-bedroomed red brick house is right at the bottom of the Tor, and even better still, it provides us with 24/7 access into the Chalice Well Gardens. Can you believe that? When the general public and the staff have gone home, it will all be ours. I can’t begin to tell you how magickal it is to wake before sunrise, make a pot of coffee and some toast, and head silently, still in your nightclothes, into the gardens to watch the sunrise over the Tor as the garden comes alive with the birdsong of many. Just as magickal too, a walk up to the Well Head as the clock strikes midnight – it makes any ritual all the more special. I don’t know about you, but I’m famished after that drive, so why don’t we park up in the Abbey Car Park and grab some food?

Did you know that the grave of King Arthur and Guinevere is in the Abbey grounds? I love sitting there a while and connecting with their energies. In my world, they were very real. I’ve often seen the proud knights on horseback in that wide open space, jousting, practicing their swordsmanship skills. Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin – who couldn’t get lost in the romance and the magick of the legend? Ooh now, where to go first? The Lazy Gecko Cafe make the most amazing breakfasts – full English, or a veggie option if you prefer. Mind you, their ‘Bubble and Squeak’ is to die for. Delicious earthy potatoes, crushed with sautéed cabbage and onions, topped with two eggs, sunny-side up. Yum! There are so many wonderful eating establishments in this town; you’ll find it hard to choose. So let’s do a Gecko breakfast, and I’ll take you somewhere very special for lunch too. Rainbow’s End perhaps, where the salads and pastries are a feast for the eyes, and their slices of cake are fit for giants! Or even the One Hundred Monkeys Cafe, where the coffee is delicious.

No sooner than we cross the road, we bump into Tim; Tim Raven, the town’s resident bard and harpist. I can’t wait for you to hear his stories of Taliesin and the songs he sings; you’ll love him for sure. He’s off to find a good spot in which to sit, entertain the passers-by and earn a pound or two. His music not only flows through the town, but throughout the Otherworlds too, and he’s so pleased to see us back. If you take to him too, he’ll do you a reading in The Wild Hunt down on Benedict Street and tell you what the runes have in store. The High Street is only small–curving around from the Abbey up the hill, towards the Chalice Well and the Tor. You could walk the entire length in fifteen minutes flat, but with near enough very shop selling magickal supplies of some sort, that’s a challenge only the most resistant human being could achieve! Me? Nope, I’m definitely not one of those! I’m guessing you’re not either, as you clearly want to take a quick peek at what’s in store for you before sitting down for breakfast.

Okay, I’ll take you for a whistle-stop tour in the lower part of the town and show you my most favourite shops of all. We can explore later when we’ve unpacked and planned our time, because with so many things to see and do, we really should plan a little. There’s the Abbey and Chalice Well to explore at length. The Abbey is fun as the guides dress up in period-costume and really live the part. The Chalice gardens hold my heart. I adore the peacefulness and the healing energies held close within those walls. We must also visit Wearyall Hill to see the Holy Thorn. Legend has it that, following the crucifixion of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury, fetching with him not only the Holy Grail, but twelve companions, two of which were Mary and Jesus. Of course back then, Glastonbury was an island – The Isle of Avalon. Joseph’s intention was to establish the first Christian church in England and, being tired and weary from his travels, he thrust his staff into the ground on Wearyall Hill, from which a Holy Thorn tree took root and flourished. After the English Civil War, Cromwell ordered the original tree to be destroyed on the grounds that it was a superstitious relic, but today there are many trees in and around Glastonbury said to have been grown from cuttings of the original tree. The one in the Chalice gardens now has mistletoe growing on it, and most interestingly, these trees flower not only in Spring, but also at Christmas. Oh, and the Holy Grail? That is said to be buried on Chalice Hill, so as you can see, there is plenty to find out about and experience firsthand for yourself. There’s never enough time to do everything in Glastonbury during just one visit, and this is why I so want to move here.

Can you imagine being able to stroll through the grounds of the Abbey or the Chalice gardens on any day of the week you choose? Climb the Tor at sunrise or sunset? From the top, it is said that you can see seven counties of England, and right out to the sea. On a clear day, with the wind blowing though your hair, it feels like Heaven meets Earth right there; it truly takes your breath away. But on a dark day, the energies can be quite eerie. Let’s face it – with the last Abbot of Glastonbury being executed on the orders of Henry VIII in St Michaels Tower, the only part of the church still standing at the very top, it’s hardly surprising.

Anyway – enough history for now. Take a look into this courtyard and see the beautiful ‘Stone Age’ crystal shop owned by Lui Krieg. There are crystals in the pathway and the walls leading up to the shop, which is packed with the most amazing gems you’ve ever seen. Lui designs and creates a lot of the jewellery he sells there – in fact he made our handfasting rings. He’s also a crystal sound activation healer too. Right next door is ‘Star Child’, an incredible Apothecary, selling organic herbs, oils, incenses and candles. If you can’t get what you need here, you can’t get it anywhere! I do grow a lot of my own herbs, but have a list of those I need to replenish, so I’ll drop my list in now and pick them up later. Right across from the courtyard is ‘The George and Pilgrim” pub and hotel. It’s the oldest pub in the South West of England, dating back to the 1400s. I love the old oak beams and the atmosphere in there. The ‘Speaking Tree’ bookshop next door is packed with magickal and occult books, so that’s worth a visit, and they have some great bargains too. One of my most favourite shops has to be ‘The Goddess and Green Man’. You can buy anything, from cards and books, to candles and jewellery, statues, chalices and cauldrons, along with Tarot decks, bags and spells, to herbal hearts to hang on the wall and besoms; with Damh the Bard on constant replay, you can be lost in there for hours. ‘Lilith of Avalon’ is directly across the road, selling the most fabulous Steampunk and gothic clothes, wands and head-dresses, and then ‘Haruka’, my favourite clothes shop of all, just a few minutes away, please don’t tell my bank manager where I am! There’s ‘Art of Africa’, ‘Yin and Yan’, the ‘Yoga’ Shop, ‘Natural Earthling’, and ‘Arnacadabra’ all further on up the hill – you’re totally spoilt for choice. But come on, enough for right now.

Let’s head back to The Lazy Gecko for breakfast. We’ll rest there awhile and meet up again another time to explore the mystical Isle of Avalon a little further … Blessed Be.

Karen Ainsworth has just completed her second degree training with The Temple of Witchcraft, having been on the path for around ten years. She is Reiki Master trained and has studied Crystal Therapy, Incense and Magical Oils, and Crystal Therapy with the British School of Yoga. Karen lives in the North West of England with her husband Chris and daughter Shirli.

"Not all those who wander are lost..."J.R.R. Tolkein

“Not all those who wander are lost…”
J.R.R. Tolkein

Ris Selchidh is a practicing polytheistic Pagan with close ties to Maine and the ocean. Soon to finish college with a degree in Cultural Anthropology, he is a pharmacy technician who volunteers as a research scientist with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in their NEFCS Ecosystems Surveys Branch. Ris enjoys nothing more than being outdoors, whether that’s just walking along the seashore or wandering in the woods with his camera.

Journey of Five Hallows


Colour Spiral by Deatant2, shared under a Creative Commons license

by Rachel Mueller

The veil was rent beyond any mending;
when sight, thought blind, began transcending.

Sacred fire seen dwelling within
Flora, Fauna, Lapis; and men.

Called to know, myself, my craft
applying knowledge with Wisdom at last.

See with Sight betwixt, between
Energy flows to weave the unseen

The veil was rent beyond any mending;
when body, thought separate, began transcending.

Sacred flesh and exalted bone;
the keep, the cauldron, the living tome.

Moving, attuning with cycles of Earth,
So words in good order perchance to birth.

The grail, the sword, the wand, the stone;
The journey of Four Hallows, will lead to a throne.

The veil was rent beyond any mending;
when shadow, thought buried, began transcending.

Dig deep into Fear, the Anger, the Shame;
Hear their voices, needing to blame.

Expose those parts, once hidden, tagged demonic;
Gently transformed, by Knowledge made pneumonic.

Oh, Heal the Soul and sing It back home,
when love is expanded, one’s never alone.

The veil was rent beyond any mending;
when mind, thought secure, began transcending.

Rise on the planes, perception clears;
Undulate through Paths; journey in Spheres.

Alchemy, Qabalah, Hexa’, Pentagram;
Work the process, to learn of your “I am.”

Contracting for balance, then expand to learn
Mapping our reality, to know what we yearn.

Once lauded veils, recessed and now shelved;
Purpose bids sacrifice, myself to myself.

Descend through gates, paying each toll,
Facing my Eriskigal, in my own rabbit hole.

Transcending my mind, my body, my heart;
My True Self, my Work becoming my part.

Who does this grail serve, if not the Kingdom;
Flowing aware now of Divine Love, Will and Wisdom.

Rachael is a recent graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School, currently serving as the Teaching Assistant for the Witchcraft Four class starting in May.  She also teaches an in-person Inner Temple Study Session in St Louis as well as several other classes at a local metaphysics store. This summer, she will be overseeing the Temple Booth for the St Louis Pagan Picnic.

Founder’s Corner: Out of Bags!

Working the Temple Store at Ostara this year I rang up the purchase of one of our Temple members. As I looked down into the box of paper bags I realized that we were on our last bag. I remember thinking when I first purchased them it seemed like we would never be able to use them all. I bought them for the store so long ago I had no idea what website I bought them from. It made me think about milestones.

I recently went through a milestone this year. I graduated from Witchcraft Five. This is the Mystery School first class that has gone all the way through all five years and all five levels with the support of the temple. Five years of doing the five hundred exercises required to graduate. Christopher said it was interesting how the graduates seemed to focus on the Temple and the Pagan communities they work with more than they focused on Christopher continuing to teach them (like the “secret witchcraft six” we joke about). Everyone in the circle of people sharing their projects and where they were going to go with their work and their paths made me proud to be among them!

This year’s Templefest will be the fifth that the Temple has put on. I didn’t realize it until Steve pointed it out this year. I love how the symbol for this year’s Templefest is a pentagram drawn by our very talented Leo lead minister Mark—a symbol with five points! This year we are doing things a bit differently for Templefest by moving it to Lammas instead of Litha—offering an early registration price and other changes that come with experience of doing this five years running.

This weekend we also finally have our Temple Open House here in Salem, NH. We will open our doors to the public for this free event. We went through a lot of work to raise money so we could build a parking lot. We had to deal with getting an occupancy permit and put in all the things the town required us to have to be a open to the public as a religious institution in our area. There was a lot of work behind the scenes to get us ready. We as a Temple have come so far!

So as we pass into the renewal of Spring I take a moment to honor the milestones of our past and those awaiting us in the future. I offer up a breath in prayer to the spirits of the Temple—both in body and beyond—in gratitude for all we have accomplished, and all that we will accomplish together. Thanks to a generous member of the Temple community, we’ve already got more bags!!

Blessings of the gods on you all.

Adam Sartwell is a Founder and Virgo lead minister of the Temple of Witchcraft. Adam’s psychic and intuitive gifts led him to study Witchcraft in his teens and he is a teacher, healer, and professional Tarot reader. He spends time hand-crafting products for the Temple store (which he manages) and has written essays for The Green Lovers and Ancestors of the Craft anthologies from Copper Cauldron Publishing. He can be reached at