Iyar- The Month of Love & Light

  • Constellation/Mazal- Taurus
  • Element- Air
  • Ruling Planets- Venus
  • Tribe- Issachar
  • Stone- Sapphire
  • Color- blackish
  • Symbol- sun and moon
  • Letters- Vav (ו)
  • Direction- East

This week we once again celebrated the new moon and with it, we celebrated the new month of Iyar. The history of this word is unknown, but it is generally accepted to mean “light”. The letter vav (ו) is representative of light as it connects to the light of Creator bestowed upon creation.  Vav (ו) is also known as a link or connection letter. In this respect, it represents Iyar in that Iyar links the months of Nisan (when we celebrate Passover) and Sivan (when we commemorate the giving of Torah at Shavuot). 

In addition to light, Iyar is also representative of love. Taurus, the corresponding constellation for Iyar, is ruled by Venus. Venus was named for the goddess of love, beauty, and sensuality and, Taureans are definitely all of these traits!  

Issachar, the scholar of the Tribes, is represented by the stone Sapphire. This stone represents Issachar because of the tribe’s knowledge and renown for Torah study. This is why Sapphire is not the stone Leshem as I mentioned in a previous blog post

As with Nisan, Iyar’s direction is East as Issachar camped to the east of the tabernacle. As we saw last month, the Eagle rules the East.  The eagle soars high and is, therefore, closer to the light of the Creator. 

At first, I found it ironic that the very time when my direction is turning towards darkness and the shadows we come to a month so infused and represented by love and light. But, then, I remembered that the shadows are not, indeed, fully dark. In order for there to be a shadow, there must be light. And, if we focus solely on the light, and ignore our shadows we are living in toxic positivity which hurts not only ourselves but those around us as well. As with everything, light and dark must be in balance. The shadows are a perfect place for that.  

Counting the Days

Anyone following me on social media will know that during Spring, immediately following the first night of Passover, I begin posting daily counting posts. This is my way of sharing my daily Omer counting with you. In Judaism, the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot are known as the Omer, and we count these days to mark the passage of time from one holiday to the other. 

We don’t, however, count the days between every holiday. This counting is specific to these two holidays. As with all of Judaism, it has a literal ancient meaning, as well as a spiritual one. Omer literally means a unit of measure equal to a tenth of an ephah. In biblical times, on the second day of Passover the grain offering (an omer of grain) was to be given at the Temple. Beginning that day and continuing for seven weeks, Israelities were to count each day. The day after the seven weeks was Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah and the birth of the Israelites as a nation. The seven weeks were to be a time of introspection and preparation for remembering receiving Torah. 

In the Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, each of the 49 days as well as each of the seven weeks of this period corresponds to one of the lower divine emanations (sephirot) of the Tree of Life. The lower sephirot represent the conscious emotions of humanity. Each week represents one sephira (lovingkindness, discipline, harmony, endurance, humility, bonding, and leadership) that is in need of correction and each day within that week represents a sephira used to correct the one of the week. I have included a chart below to show how this works out. 

This seven week correction of our emotions helps to prepare us for remembering the giving of Torah and our transition from slavery into peoplehood. Passover marks our freedom from slavery, but just because we are no longer bound doesn’t immediatly mean we are free. Freedom is a mentality and that isn’t developed overnight. I wrote about this in  some depth last year, and you can read that here

Counting the Omer can and should be an alchemical transformation of self. The actual counting, when done with purpose and passion, becomes a meditative practice. When you take the practice beyond the actual count and apply the soul correction of each day and week, it becomes a deep dive of shadow work. It’s a seven week period of embracing the dark aspects of our soul and bringing them into the light. 

Make your days count as you count your days. 


DAY 1
Loving kindness in Loving Kindness
DAY 2 Discipline in Loving KindnessDAY 3
Harmony in Loving kindness
DAY 4
Endurance in Loving Kindness
DAY 5
Humility in Loving Kindness
DAY 6
Bonding in Loving Kindness
DAY 7
Leadership in Loving Kindness
DAY 8
Loving Kindness in Discipline
DAY 9
Discipline in Discipline
DAY 10
Harmony in Discipline
DAY 11
Endurance in Discipline
DAY 12
Humility in Discipline
DAY 13
Bonding in Discipline
DAY 14
Leadership in Discipline
DAY 15
Loving Kindness in Harmony
DAY 16
Discipline in Harmony
DAY 17
Harmony in Harmony
DAY 18 Endurance in HarmonyDAY 19
Humility in Harmony
DAY 20
Bonding in Harmony
DAY 21
Leadership in Harmony
DAY 22
Loving Kindness in Endurance
DAY 23
Discipline in Endurance
DAY 24
Harmony in Endurance
DAY 25
Endurance in Endurance
DAY 26
Humility in Endurance
DAY 27
Bonding in Endurance
DAY 28
Leadership in Endurance
DAY 29
Loving Kindness in Humility
DAY 30
Discipline in Humility
DAY 31
Harmony in Humility
DAY 32
Endurance in Humility
DAY 33
Humility in Humility
DAY 34
Bonding in Humility
DAY 35
Leadership in Humility
DAY 36
Loving Kindness in Bonding
DAY 37
Discipline in Bonding
DAY 38
Harmony in Bonding
DAY 39
Endurance in Bonding
DAY 40
Humility in Bonding
DAY 41
Bonding in Bonding
DAY 42
Leadership in Bonding
DAY 43
Loving Kindness in Leadership
DAY 44
Discipline in Leadership
DAY 45
Harmony in Leadership
DAY 46
Endurance in Leadership
DAY 47
Humility in Leadership
DAY 48
Bonding in Leadership
DAY 49
Leadership in Leadership

Personal Reflections on the Passover Seder

I was not raised in Judaism. I came to it in my early 30s. I was not accustomed to the traditions of Passover. I attended my first seder in 2012. Since then, I’ve participated in my share of them- at least one, usually more, each year. I have accumulated several observations and thoughts over the past 8 years of seders.

The Importance of Candles & Wine

All Jewish celebrations include wine as a symbol of our joy. The Passover seder offers us four opportunities to fill our cup and drink. We begin with sanctification of wine. 

Like the lighting of candles, the sanctification of wine marks a sacred moment in time, and time is a central component to the Passover theme of freedom. When in bondage, a slave has no time of her own. She does not control her day or when she accomplishes things. A slave is bound to the time of her master. 

In preparation for liberation, the Israelites were  given a new calendar. Why? As a newly freed people the Divine no longer wanted them to mark time as the Egyptians did. We were given a new calendar with this month marking the beginning of the year. Once freed, time would be ours. We would no longer serve a master who would have command of our time. When we have control of our time we have control of our destiny. 

No Moses?

When thinking of the Exodus, it is natural to think of Moses. We are all familiar with the story of Moses standing before Pharoah saying, “Let my people go!” But the Haggadah barely mentions Moses. Why? By doing so we focus on the human aspects of our liberation and forget the Divine element. Today it’s all too easy to forget the aspect that the Divine plays in our lives. We all come to Judaism with a variety of beliefs. No matter what our specific beliefs are regarding G-d, we all hold the common belief that we are created in the image of the Divine- no matter what that means. If we are created in the image of the Divine then we have a spark of the Divine within us. By remembering our liberation through the lens of the Divine we are able to better see that no matter what bondage we experience, we have a supernatural spark within us that will help us integrate our total selves. 

The Four Questions

The Passover story takes the form of questions and answers instead of a straightforward story. By asking questions we are able to involve everyone in the telling. We are also able to make sure that everyone understands. 

Traditionally the youngest person present asks the four questions. Alternatively, the guest with the least Passover knowledge can ask. Or, everyone can take turns asking questions!

Why is this night different from all other nights?

  1. On all other nights we eat both bread and matzah. Why do we only eat matzah on this night?
  2. On all other nights we eat all vegetables. Why do we only eat bitter herbs on this night?
  3. On all other nights we don’t dip our vegetables. Why do we dip twice on this night?
  4. On all other nights we sit up or recline. Why do we only recline on this night?

The Four Aspects of Self

In telling the story and answering the questions, we remember that there are four aspects of ourselves. Each one has a different ability to grasp the meaning of the story. It is our job to ensure that we help each other to fully comprehend the story of bondage and liberation. 

The first aspect of self is wise. This aspect seeks to understand the laws and rules for observing the Passover holiday. 

The second aspect of self is wicked. This aspect seeks to understand what Passover means to the other. This aspect of self does not see herself as part of the community and has thus missed the whole moral of the remembering. 

The third aspect of self is simple. This aspect of self seeks to understand the very basic meaning of Passover. 

The fourth aspect of self doesn’t know how to ask. This aspect of self is content to observe the Seder without interaction or understanding. 

Miriam the Water Witch

The Prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses, is closely associated with water. Like the life giving liquid, Miriam was fluid and able to shapeshift into whatever state was necessary. She defied Pharoah and saved her baby brother’s life by placing him in a basket and setting him into the Nile. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Miriam led the women in song and dance to praise The Divine for her goodness.

Miriam was also practiced in divining for water. The biblical account states that a well followed Miriam throughout the forty years when the Israelites wandered in the Desert and that when she died, the well dried up and disappeared. In reality, Miriam dowsed for water along their travels. Unlike her brother Moses, Miriam was astute at using the rod to locate water necessary for survival in the Desert.

When she died, there was no one left who had the malleable character that defined Miriam’s life. But water is necessary for survival, and the Israelites needed it. The Divine told Moses to speak to a rock, but he struck it instead. This disobedience led to his death prior to entering the Promised Land.

What was so wrong with Moses’ action? The rock that The Divine instructed Moses to speak to was not just any rock. It was the rock that covered Miriam’s grave. Moses was instructed to speak to his sister’s spirit and honor her for all she had done. By doing so her powers of water dowsing would have transferred to him. In striking the rock, Moses showed his frustration at having to ask for his sister’s help yet again. His patriarchal outlook cost him his life. Even though Moses did not do as he had been instructed, water came forth from the rock anyway, His disobedience did not cause the rest of the nation to suffer, but led to his death.

Modern feminists often place a cup of water by the Seder plate at Passover. It is known as Miriam’s cup and honors the great water witch of our ancestry. With the cup of water we remember and honor Miriam for all she contributed to the liberation of our people. 

Nisan- The Month of Leadership and Redemption

  • Constellation/Mazal- Aries
  • Element- Fire
  • Ruling Planets- Mars
  • Tribe- Judah
  • Stone- Turquoise
  • Color- Sky Blue
  • Symbol- Lion
  • Letters- Hei (ה)
  • Direction- East

This past week marked Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the month of Nisan Nisan is a Babylonian term meaning setting out or putting to sleep. Both of these meanings are appropriate for the month. Nisan is the first month of Spring. It is a time of putting the old agricultural year to bed and bringing in the new. Nisan is also the month in which the Exodus from Egypt occurred. In this sense, the Hebrews literally set out for the Promised Land during the month of Nisan. 

Judah is representative of Nisan. Judah is the ruler or leader of his siblings. Although he was the fourth born son, he was the one blessed to be king. Judah’s leadership is represented by the fiery symbolism of Aries and Mars. Numbers Rabbah tells us that Judah’s color is that of the sky and that this tribe is represented by a lion. Judah’s stone, nofech, isn’t a stone that we are aware of today by that name. We do know from the midrash that it must be the sky blue of the tribe. My belief is that nofech is what we know now as turquoise. Pure turquoise is the sky blue color required, and it represents leadership and power. Turquoise is known to traditionally have been a stone of kings and queens, so it makes sense that it would be Judah’s stone. 

The letter hei (ה) is representative of Nisan in that it is the sound of the breath of creation. When G-d created the world it was done by breath, as was the breath of life that brought Adam into living form. Whisper the letter hei (ה) and you have the sound of breath- the sound of life. 

East is represented by the eagle in Shamanism. Eagle is regal and majestic. Eagle comes to us on the rays of the rising sun. Eagle medicine is the connection to the divine. Eagle represents strength and power. It is easy to see the association between Eagle medicine and the kingly rulership of Judah. 

Nisan is a month of leadership and redemption. It is the month that begins the kingly and agricultural year. The Jewish holiday cycle begins in Nisan with the redemption of Passover. It is a time of leaving behind the bonds of our past for the unknown of our future. Nisan is a time of transition. 

 

Finding Joy in Times of Fear

We are living in an unprecedented time of fear. I struggled with writing a post about the current fear climate surrounding COVID-19 and the world being under quarantine. It isn’t like there’s not a plethora of talk about it on every other blog and website. So, at first, I planned specifically not to write about it. However, as time has gone on and more and more businesses are closed and most people are safely tucked away at home, I have noticed that the fear isn’t slowing. It’s not even flatlined. No, fear is continually rising. Fear. Anxiety. Panic. So, I decided I would write about it. But, I’m not going to write about the fear itself, because we all know that it’s out there. What I am going to write about is the deliberate cultivation of joy during times of fear. 

Hermeticism teaches that everything is mental. Every aspect of life, death, existence, non-existence- everything- exists in our mind. Whatever we have is the result of a thought we have had at some previous point, if not a thought we are still having. We create our reality with our mind. If we think about what we fear we are pulling that very thing into our lives. This is what some people refer to as the Law of Attraction. There are many names for it, and it is woven through all of the Hermetic Principles. (If you’re interested in learning more about the Hermetic Principles, request your FREE copy of my ebook here.)

Instead of focusing on what we fear, we should instead focus on things that bring us joy. Doing so will draw more joy into our lives. The Jewish world celebrated the holiday of Purim earlier this month. It is a holiday dedicated to joy and folly. Joy, however, doesn’t have to be relegated to one day. We can find joy in everything we do. We need it now more than ever. 

It’s easy to say we need to find joy in our lives, but it can be difficult to actually put it into practice in our everyday lives. For those who have a natural tendency toward fear, it can seem virtually impossible. But, it’s not. I know because I am one of those people. My natural reaction to negative things is to fear or become anxious. I have a lifelong struggle with anxiety. But, I make a conscious effort each day to push the fear away and look for things that bring me happiness. It does become easier over time, but there are days when I struggle. 

My best advice is to keep a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, write down a list of things you are grateful for that day. Even if you only have one thing, that’s better than nothing. And, if you cultivate this into a daily practice you will notice that your list will start growing longer. If you’re struggling to come up with anything to find joy from, start with your breath. It’s always the best place to start in any situation. Find joy in the breath you have that gives you life. Did you see a flower today? That’s something that brings joy. You can take joy in the fact that you have a roof over your head and food to eat. It doesn’t matter what it is. Anything you are thankful for is something in which to find joy. 

No matter how small, find something each day to be thankful for, something that brings a little bit of happiness into your life, something that puts a smile on your face. When you find yourself in the midst of fear, stop and find something to be thankful for. If this isn’t something you are used to doing you will find that you fail at it. That’s ok. Keep going. Keep doing it. Work through the struggle. It will get easier. You will find that in time you are thankful more often than you are fearful. That’s when you’ll start noticing things changing in your life. You attract what you think about.

Jewitch Wheel of the Year

Most witchy types are familiar with the Celtic and/or pagan wheel of the year that includes the Quarter and Cross Quarter days of the year. I have been looking for a Jewitch specific wheel of the year, and haven’t really found anything that includes what I was looking for. So, I decided to make my own and I wanted to share it with you. This is my first wheel that I’ve made myself. I have included the Celtic days as they represent a part of my heritage/background. Other than those, I haven’t included any specific holidays. I do have the Hebrew months with how they line up with the Gregorian months. I see this as a starting point, and I already know I”m going to be making changes to it. But, this is a good place to start with the seasons and months as the flow one into the other. Let me know what you think below.

Jewitch Wheel of the Year

Adar- The Month of Good Fortune

  • Constellation/Mazal- Pisces
  • Ruling Planets- Jupiter
  • Tribe- Joseph (Ephraim & Menashe)
  • Stone- Onyx
  • Color- black
  • Symbol- Egypt, Ox, Unicorn
  • Letters- Kof ק and Gimmel ג
  • Direction- West

Rosh Chodesh Adar (head or beginning of the month) begins on the evening of February 24, 2020. The word Adar comes from ancient Babylonian and Hebrew. It means “to be darkened” or “eclipsed” and also, “majestic” and “wide”.  Joseph, who was made a ruler in Egypt, and his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, represent Adar. During leap years, Ephram and Menashe represent Adar A and Adar B. The constellation Pisces, which rules Adar, is said to represent luck and repel the evil eye. Joseph is represented by the color black and the stone onyx. 

Adar is the month of luck and fortune (mazal). The letters kof ק and gimmel ג correspond to Adar. Gimmel represents abundance, prosperity, and good luck. Kof represents darkness. The letter kof also represents laughter, joy, and the masquerade, which is acceptable at Purim. 

Ephraim and Menashe are tribes of the West. In Shamanism, the west is represented by the jaguar. Jaguar represents prophecy, shapeshifting, and secrecy. These are key components of the Purim story. Ephraim and Menashe, while not sons of Israel, represent their father, Joseph, who is. The three together represent Adar, (and in leap years Adar A and B). Just as in the story of Purim, they represent things not always being as they appear.  

Adar is a time to revel in our good fortune. It is a time to reveal the secrets we have been keeping and rejoice in the new directions our lives are taking. Adar is a good time to shake off the seriousness of life and laugh at the face of darkness and evil that tries to thwart our path. Maybe we need to embody the characteristics of the jaguar and shapeshift our way into a positive future. No matter what life holds in store for us, there will always be shifting from darkness to light. 

The Racism and Hatred of Jews Behind the K in Magic(k)

Back in 2018, I wrote a blog post called Magical Mindset in which I spoke briefly about why I don’t use the letter “k” that so many witches do in regards to magic. I said that it doesn’t matter because magic is a mindset and that these days we all know what is meant when someone says magic. This is still true, but my refrain from the k has become more of a political statement since then, and while I don’t dislike those who do use the k, I think it does matter whether or not you do. 

The history of the word magick (with the k) dates back to Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a celebrated and well-known occultist of his time and was the founder of Thelema, an esoteric philosophy/religion that rests on the will of the person. While the spelling of magick did not originate with Crowley, (it’s a much older and archaic spelling) it is one that he embraced and promoted with his ceremonial magic and writings. 

Crowley began using the archaic spelling of magic in order to differentiate the occult and ceremonial usage from stage magic which was highly popular at the time. I don’t have a problem with the reason he chose, as many magical practitioners still choose to use this spelling for that reason. However, I don’t think it is necessary, and I often wonder how many people choose to use it without knowing about the connection with Crowley. 

Aleister Crowley has often been called the most evil man on earth. His personal lifestyle was certainly considered evil at the time, although not so much today. He also enjoyed controversy very much and would go out of his way to sound and appear more controversial than he may have otherwise been viewed. However, one thing that is not questionable is his racism and hatred of Jews. I find this anti-semitic approach quite ironic considering he studied and embraced Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and incorporated it into Thelema. 

I’m not going to go in-depth into Crowley’s racism and anti-Semitism. You can find evidence of it quite easily online in his writings and various articles about him. I have, for your convenience, linked four such articles below. There are many more. 

Do I think that Aleister Crowley was the most evil man on earth? That’s not for me to say. Do I dismiss anything associated with him because of his beliefs and teachings? No. So why do I refuse to add the k to magic? Because the use of the arcane spelling of magic today is directly related to Aleister Crowley and his teachings. If it was necessary to differentiate spiritual magic from stage magic I could possibly see it. I don’t think it is necessary now, and I don’t think it was necessary for Crowley’s time. I choose to believe that people are smart enough to know the difference when we are speaking of magic. Because it isn’t necessary to use a special spelling for people to know what we are talking about, I think it matters which spelling we do use. I personally choose not to use the k in magic. By not using it I’m showing that I don’t agree with Aleister Crowley’s racist beliefs and standing against his teachings. 

Aleister Crowley: A Legacy of Nationalism and Racism

Was Aleister Crowley a Racist? It Depends. 

Aleister Crowley- The Slaves Shall Serve

Why Whitewashing Crowley is a Bad Idea

 

Celebrating Trees and the Environment

Environmentalism plays a large role in modern Judaism. While it is a year round focus, one day of the year is devoted to trees and the environment- Tu B’Shevat. The name literally means fifteenth of Shevat, and falls at the full moon of Shevat. Falling in either January or February, it is one of several new year days on the Hebrew calendar. I wrote a post last year that gives a brief overview of the holiday, which you can read here. There are many different ways to mark Tu B’Shevat. Here are a few that vary in levels of observance and time. 

Plant a tree. Tu B’Shevat is the new year of trees. In Israel the holiday is marked by planting trees. You can plant a tree yourself at home. If it’s not the appropriate climate to do so where you live, consider planting a tree indoors and transplanting it later. Alternatively, you can have a tree planted in Israel on your behalf. There are many organizations that do this. One such organization can be found here. 

Plan Your Garden. Tu B’Shevat is a great time to plan your vegetable garden for the upcoming planting season. If you haven’t done so already, break out the seeds you saved from last year or the seed catalogs you order from and start planning!

Do something for the environment. Tu B’Shevat is like a Jewish Earth Day. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Host a community educational event. Reduce your waste. There are numerous ways to celebrate Earth Day. Tu B’Shevat is another day to honor and remember our planet. 

Host a Tu B’Shevat Seder. You are probably familiar with the Passover Seder (or if you aren’t Jewish you may have at least heard of it). Well, some people mark Tu B’Shevat with a seder as well. Seder simply means order and it refers to the order of the ritualized meal for the holiday. A Tu B’Shevat seder includes learning about the importance of the holiday and eating seven different species of fruits. You can find the order of a beautiful Tu B’Shevat Seder here

Learn about Asherah. Back in the days when the Hebrews first entered Canaan, they came into contact with the Canaanite deities. Asherah was the mother Goddess, and she was represented by a tree. Many Israelites began to honor Asherah, and even planted trees in their sacred sites next to the representation of El. You can even find traces of Asherah in modern Judaism and Kabbalah with the Tree of Life and even with the Torah being referred to as a tree. You can read more about Asherah here. You can also read my poem about the current return of Asherah. It’s found here.  

No matter what you do, you can find a way to commemorate Tu B’Shevat. What are your favorite ways to celebrate our mother Earth and take care of the environment? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what your traditions are.