Helping humankind live with the earth not against it

Category: pagan (Page 1 of 4)

Borealis Meditation – S04E12 IAmA Scientist and Witch AMA

Listen to the episode here:

In this episode I answer questions from both the reddit /r/SASSWitches and from submitted from listeners. The episode starts with a bit of an overview of working in academic research to give a bit more context to why my job is. I hope you enjoy and I am always open to answer any questions.

I brought up one of my favorite historical geologists Nicholas Steno

My husband also sent me this comic called “How people in science see each other” I have excerpted it here but it links to the full version.

Just replace technician with research staff….

The book I recommended for getting into witchcraft is Paganism for Beginners: The Complete Guide to Nature-Based Spirituality for Every New Seeker by Althaea Sebastiani. I highly recommend this book and this author for everyone especially those new to this path.

The other book I mentioned was Venus and Aphrodite by Bettany Hughes which I listened to on Audible.

Music in this episode is used by permission of the artists

Borealis Meditation – S04E10 What is the difference between a crystal, mineral, rock and gemstone?

List to the episode here:

Show notes: 

Music included in episode
Fold of Evening by Aazav
Iron from Stone by Damh the Bard

Here are some of the definitions we discussed and links to the quotes I used for each section.

Elements are atoms, the smallest piece that we can split matter into (except for subatomic particles and other things that we’ll leave to the physicists). Different elements have different properties. Take two different elements: iron and helium. Iron is very different than helium. You wouldn’t fill a balloon with iron any more than you would try to build a bridge out of helium. (ASU)

A solid can be made of a single element, and as we will see that is not a mineral. The elements that are known are all listed in the Periodic table. They have different properties and are defined based on the number of protons and electrons. Periodic Table

Minerals are materials that meet five requirements. They are:
1. naturally occurring,
2. inorganic,
3. solids,
4. with a definite chemical composition, and,
5. an ordered internal structure


or from an “informal but practical definition”
A mineral is a chemical element or compound that:
1. has a more-or-less constant composition.
2. is usually a solid with an ordered three dimensional array of ions and molecules in its crystal structure.
3. is formed by natural geologic processes and without human or other biologic intervention.
4. is not a mixture of two or more blended substances.


The ordered internal structure is also called the “Crystal Structure”

Crystal structure is a continuous ordered arrangement of one or more elements. This is simply a fancy way of saying that minerals are composed of elements that are stacked in an orderly and neat fashion. You can think of elements as different sized marbles (except, in this case, the marbles are all very, very tiny!). Based on the relative sizes of the marbles, they can be stacked in different ways […].

A good example of a simple mineral is table salt (Yes, salt is a mineral.). The proper mineral name for table salt is halite, and a geologist will often identify it by tasting it. Salt is composed of two elements; Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl). Sodium and chlorine are strongly attracted to each other and stack together into a cubic crystal structure (see figure). Individual salt (halite) crystals have a cubic shape to them, which is mimicking the way that the individual elements are stacking together. Even though the elements are much too small to be able to see with your eyes (or even most microscopes), you can tell how they are stacking together by looking at the shape of the salt crystals

“Most importantly, [a mineral is something that] has been exhaustively studied and characterized by mineralogists, declared unique in its composition and structure, and the original specimen(s) that was studied deposited for preservation in a professionally curated museum.” (


“A mineraloid meets almost all of the criteria of a mineral except the organized structure. Some can also lack the definite chemical composition. Minerals as we talked about are “crystalline” meaning they have an organized structure. Because mineraloids are “amorphis” they do not have an order structure.  I think this is better explained with examples. Opal, obsidian, pele’s hair, and tektites are all mineraloids. Now the last few are types of natural glasses where because of the heat and the quick cooling no crystals are able to form.” (

There is some controversy if organic materials can also be included. Remember that part of the definition of a mineral was that it was non-organic. This means some people include things like amber and jet as a mineraloid and others don’t. Jet is a type of coal which is made from plant material like leaves and amber is from plant resin. Also there are materials that are made in the deep ocean from the “ooze” made up of tiny organisms like diatoms and radiolarians shells called diatomite and radiolarite. For our sake I think we should also consider these mineraloids since they also lack an organized structure. 

So in that case a mineraloid is a solid, naturally occurring material without a defined interior structure and may or may not have a defined chemical composition, generally inorganic but some organic materials can also be included.

Anthropogenic substances:
“Anthropogenic substances are those produced by humans. They are not minerals. Crystals grown in a laboratory (or someone’s basement) or in laboratory or industrial furnace or retort are not minerals. Any crystals that are found on or in any man-made object are not a mineral.” (

“A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the way in which it is formed. Rocks are usually grouped into three main groups: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks.” (wikipedia)

“A rock is not a mineral, nor is a mineral a rock. However, the components of a rock are minerals. Most types of rock have multiple minerals, a few have only one. Single mineral rocks are termed monomineralic rock.” (mindat)

Igneous Rocks:
An igneous rock starts out purely as a melt. Everything is liquid and all the elements are there swimming around. Then it starts to nucleate minerals, some start growing before others and use up all the elements they want. It can either cool slowly and all the crystals will grow into an interlocking solid material like a granite, or can be brought to the surface and erupt and cool quicker with some small crystals and the melt freezing not having totally formed crystals. Obsidian is the extreme of this where basically no crystals have had time to form and the melt is just frozen. Of course it is a little more complicated but we can go into that another time.

Sedimentary Rocks:
Sedimentary rocks are formed when the rocks at the surface break down either physically by breaking apart into smaller pieces or chemically. These small bits can be redeposited and smoshed and get cemented together and this forms our sedimentary rocks. Generally speaking when a rock physically breaks apart you can end up with either pieces with several minerals, or a single crystal and anywhere in between.

Metamorphic Rocks:
Metamorphic rocks can be formed from either sedimentary or igneous rocks. These are rocks where the original rock is subjected to higher levels of pressure and temperature and the minerals can start to change into other minerals. This can happen to a small or large degree and rocks can also start to flow and make cool patterns. Then this smooshed and heated rock is brought back to the surface for us to marvel at. The minerals in the original rock can change their composition and/or structure at these different conditions so one rock can be turned into multiple different types depending on how much pressure and temperature it experienced. Some minerals are only formed through this process.

Safety information: gem society

“A crystal is a regular polyhedral form, bounded by planes, which is assumed by a chemical element or compound, under the action of its intermolecular forces, which passing, under suitable conditions, from the state of a liquid or gas to that of a solid. A crystal is characterized first by its definite internal molecular structure and second, by its external form.” (mindat)

From merriam-webster:
1. a clear, transparent mineral or glass resembling ice.
2. the transparent form of crystallized quartz.

“A crystal consists of matter that is formed from an ordered arrangement of atoms, molecules, or ions. The lattice that forms extends out in three dimensions. Because there are repeated units, crystals have recognizable structures. Large crystals display flat regions (faces) and well-defined angles. Crystals with obvious flat faces are called euhedral crystals, while those lacking defined faces are called anhedral crystals. Crystals consisting of ordered arrays of atoms that aren’t always periodic are called quasicrystals. The word “crystal” comes from the Ancient Greek word krustallos, which means both “rock crystal” and “ice.” The scientific study of crystals is called crystallography. “ (thought co)

So then what is a gem? 
“A gem is a rare mineral that is prized and used in jewelry.” (

“difference between gem and crystal is that gem is a precious stone, usually of substantial monetary value or prized for its beauty or shine while crystal is (countable) a solid composed of an array of atoms or molecules possessing long-range order and arranged in a pattern which is periodic in three dimensions.” (WikiDiff)

“A gemstone is a crystalline mineral that can be cut and polished to make jewelry and other ornaments. The ancient Greeks made a distinction between precious and semiprecious gems, which is still used. Precious stones were hard, rare, and valuable. The only “precious” gemstones are diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. All other quality stones are called “semiprecious,” even though they may not be any less valuable or beautiful.” (ThoughtCo)

I will be making a formatted reference post shortly as a quick guide. Let me know if you have any questions!

How to pick a price?

One of the things I have always been a little uncomfortable with is the exchange of money for my work. Not that I am against the exchange of money for my work, but what to charge. I don’t want to undervalue practitioners who do it for a living, but I also don’t want to charge too much. See I have a full time job, and I am big on gifting. When I make things I like to share, and I have never been able to find the Goldilocks price range.

But I also find making small batches isn’t as easy as a medium size batch of spray, soap… etc. So how to price what I have been making recently? Some are my own recipes and some are based on recipes I found in New Orleans, and if I charge too little it devalues it, but if I charge too much that feels like taking advantage.

So I was stuck until the other day I had an idea. What if I convert the prices on the notebook from the Pharmacy Museum into modern day prices! I wonder what that would be.

My thinking is this: the formulations are in a notebook from a early half of the last century. They are written in pharmacist shorthand. Documentary evidence exists that hoodoo formulations were sold by white male pharmacists, who may or may not have worked with hoodoo practitioners. But this is the actual physical ingredients with a price so it is possible that the pharmacist was just mixing them and selling them on his own. So if you consider the price of the item to be physical object + intangible value added we can think of these prices as the physical object +/- intangible. So, this was considered a fair price at the time so let’s see how this all works out with the numbers! Math time!

The price listed range from $0.1/oz to $ 0.25/oz

Now the actual date of the artifact but the displays on the ground floor of the museum that opened in 1950 are referred to as “mid 19th century” but there is also a sign in that section that mentioned someone who was convicted for selling hoodoo wares in the 1930’s. Googling around it and looking at old pharmacist notebook pictures the sheets look on the early side and not 1930’s maybe closer to 1900. (finding the actual date range will require more research) So we have a range from 1850 – 1930 a pretty wide range, so I went wit 1910.

  • What cost $1 in 1913 (earliest year in the inflation calculator) would cost $25.90 (I like rounding so lets make it $26) in 2019 so $0.10 becomes $2.60 per oz. and $0.25 becomes $6.50 per oz
  • Everything is in metric where I am now so lets round to 30mL per oz (glass bottles are sold as 30mL or 1 ounce)
  • so the price per mL would be $0.09 per mL – $0.21 so lets be nice and change it to $0.10 /mL and $0.20/mL
  • Now we have the price in adjusted for inflation as $0.10 /mL – $0.20/mL Doesn’t that work out nice?
  • This is based on the prices being from ~1913 (but we don’t know if they are earlier or late). Also we don’t know if the original prices I found were sold with or without the “intangible value added” so 3 to 6 dollars for a 30 mL bottle of my sprays would be the range.
  • Essential oils here are on the expensive side here and mine come with the intangible value added part, so I think I am comfortable with the $6 price. But is this reasonable?
  • Lucky Mojo sells Fast Luck oil for $7.50 USD and my Lucky Mojo bottles look like they are 1/2 ounce. This sounds like around the same range as what I got other oils in New Orleans when I was there for, so for someone who uses a different cheaper base (sprays not oils) I think I am in the right range.
  • If I add on a $1.5 bottle charge then I also get $7.50 USD or ~ $10 SGD.

I hope that was an interesting discussion for you. It’s a little bit into my brain and how I use tools from my research work in science in my practice. I also think this type of research/thought experiment can help decisions like “how much should I charge for this” be based in historical precedent.

We should never devalue our work, even if money makes you uncomfortable. But we also shouldn’t take financial advantage of customers by over charging. I think that having a range like $3-6 in mind allows for a range of different price teirs from gifts (close friends and family) to a lower price (friends and lower income) and average customers, that doesn’t devalue the effort I put in. Also I think it shows that the current range of prices out there from whole sellers like Lucky Mojo who know what they are doing, and small individuals like Candle Smoke Chapel (they are awesome check them out), are actually very reasonable based on historic price data we have.

So if you are in Singapore right now you will soon be able to get my sprays for $10 in the bottle or 0.30 SGD/mL with your own bottle. I am also a big fan of making things yourself so when I have a formulation I am happy with feel free to ask.

Also remember the difference is in the “intangible value added” of each maker and how much that is worth to you should be considered when you are assessing the reasonableness of a price.

Make things! Support each other!

Borealis Meditation S04E03 – Foundations

Foundations – “You don’t understand something until you have to teach someone else”

Welcome to something new. Unscripted Kathleen!

In this episode we cover some concepts I started going over with a friend of mine I am currently teaching. This is a very personal episode because it dives into my thinking. Please let me know what you think.

Get ready to welcome into your life:
Sparkle Body!
Conservation of Sparkle!

Photo: Kaimera Studio

Listen to the episode: Here

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Podsafe Music included:
David Miles Huber – Oceanis
Podcast Troubadour – Science Nature Space 23

Borealis Meditation S04E03 Personal Calendars

Show Notes:

Hello Everyone! In this episode I talk about calendars, holidays, festivals and localizing you wheel of the year to where you live. This was a last minute change of topic so we can always revisit it later. I also have created a worksheet for you to use if you want to jump right in and work on customizing your wheel of the year.


Listen to the episode here:

Or on itunes (trying to figure out getting it other places….)

Follow me on twitter and instagram @katborealis
Like the facebook page for updates related to the podcast

Or just drop me an email borealis (dot) meditation (at) gmail (dot) com

And I made a discord chat channel you are free to join here

Hope everyone is surviving 2018 and if I don’t get anything else out before then happy Yule and New Year! Much love!

~ Kat

Living one foot in the broom closet

So, I moved again, and this time into someone else’s space. That right it’s a care-taking house-sitting gig. Having witchy stuff all over the place in this situation is not advised. So while I was packing my witchy things up I did some thinking about what needs to go in the box-of-secrets, and what doesn’t. I thought I would share my results as a guide to living with a foot in the closet. (Totally 100% opinion and mine at that, and we all know… I am crazy.)

I have a box of witchy things now. My box is one of those nondescript plastic bins. I had to do some looking to get one that wasn’t see-through (ok the second store had them…). The following is a list of things that should and shouldn’t go in a nice box ‘o’ witchy secrets.

1. Books

If you have EXPLICITLY witchy books but them in the box! Your natural healing, and nature guides and normal/ generically new age enough to stay out. Also if you have fairy books and things like that, those are fun and secular enough to stay out. But the “witchy life” “witchcraft 101” “tarot reading” might want to be in the box. Tarot is one of those marginal things just because it is so popular. Home remedies and herbal use and care books can stay out too, just put the herb magic ones away.

2. Candles

Most normally colored candles are just fine. Everyone likes candles right? Who doesn’t have some candles around the house? But candles with symbols carved into them? Or decked out? Those should go in the box, but think of them on a case by case basis.

3. Oils

 Essential oils are A-OK for out in the open but witchy oils? Those should go in the box. I have a set of hoodoo oils and those are stored in my box but my essential oils I store in my bathroom (I use them for baths). Also bath salts, I use bath salts a lot for calming and cleansing, those are also in my bathroom.

4. Herbs (and curios)

If you have curios and herbs that are not normally used in cooking (small wasps nest maybe?) those should be packed away. However, I would say the majority of your herbs can be kept with your kitchen. I have a nice rack for my herbs, with labeled containers. In contrast the herbs my husband uses for cooking… well those are normally in what I call “dangerously unlabeled mystery containers”. I am serious, I labeled one “NOT PAPRIKA”… only have to make that mistake once! On that note, dried herbs are fine to have hanging around too. My mom likes to hang herbs around the kitchen (they are never used for cooking just for… who knows… decoration… smell… its a mystery to me!).

5. Incense

LEAVE IT OUT! As long as it doesn’t have crazy names.. just leave it out. Like candles it’s not something that is “unusual” so feel free to burn away, and keep it out.

 6. Miscellaneous accessories

Have some seriously witchy items? Alter cloths covered in pentacles, very witchy statues, carved knives, runes…? Those are going in the box. Remember that a lot of items you use can be dual purpose. You can have a simple alter cloth that can be stored with other linens and your ceremonial knife can be stored in your kitchen if its plane looking. You don’t have to use the items for anything else, but they can live among your normal everyday things.

I think this is a good spot to talk about your alter. Now, my family has always had a fireplace and a mantelpiece. On that mantle my family has always put trinkets and candles, and photos. Remember this sort of thing, is totally “normal” so feel free to have some things out. I would caution against anything overtly witchy. Most of us I think have items we have on our alters that are not overtly witchy. I have several things I have picked up over the years because they caught my eye. Remember that there is a reason it caught YOUR eye and is likely to catch someone else’s eye too. Expect anything you leave out to attract some attention and interest, and be ok with others touching it.

I googled mantelpiece and here are three of the top results that I think illustrate my point. None of these are tagged “Alter” but you can see how mantelpiece’s can become an alter easily.

candles, photos, trinkets… something like this could easily be an ancestor alter! 
candles, flowers, trinkets… again something simple that could be an alter in disguise
Look at this beautiful  mantelpiece! Family photos, and meaningful items, and candles. To be honest, this is what my alter ends up looking like…. things and photos that only have meaning to me anyways! 

On the topic of duel use items, think back into the mythology and lore of witches. Often the classic witches used things from around their witchy cabin, and the women we would now call witches, the wise women of the village always used items from around the house. Don’t feel like you have to have a “special broom” or a “special knife” that “look witchy”. If you are at a shop and a broom catches your eye and you LOVE it that is perfect fine. That broom can have special witchy meaning to you, and to everyone else be just a nice broom. You can always have a special witchy broom that is very witchy, but if you are living one foot in the closet, a simple one can be just as powerful. Also several places sell things like “decorative cinnamon brooms” that can easily be duel use as decor and witchy broom. Witches and wise-people are resourceful!

I am a firm believer that we can all be surrounded by our witchy things, and still be living one foot in the closet. Get creative in the book store and get reference books that are not overtly witchy, you never know if you might find some amazing information. Get items that catch your eye but are from more mundane sources. Keep everything else in a box that you use when you need. Anther fun thing you can do is, make secret hollow books! I have one that I keep my tarot cards in. It is always fun to be able to look at your bookshelf and know you have secrets hidden in the books.

Also one more thing… if you are worried about people going through your box…. WHO GOES THROUGH BOXES IN OTHER PEOPLES HOUSE!? Seriously… If someone in your life is THAT nosy you might have a different problem, a boundaries problem… and you should talk to them about that.

 I hope this post helps! Any questions, tips, comments feel free to hop in there!


 P.S. my “witchy box” sorry for the shitty photos….

an important box masquerading as any old box

Full of my witchy goodness and yes that is my hollow book on the lower left… bookshelves are not 100% loaded yet so its still in the box.

Pagan Island, getting to know you….

There was no activity reported for Pagan Volcano this week, so we are going to look at the island itself this week. I think Its an excellent example of an island arc volcano. 
This is a diagram of an island volcanic arc. See? We are back to the structure of the earth, like I said its always important. In order to produce an island volcanic arc, you will have an oceanic/oceanic subduction zone. The oceanic crust that is subducted is the older thicker and denser of the two oceanic plates. 
Once the older oceanic crust is subducted to around 100km the water will be driven out of the rocks and lower the melting temperature of the surrounding mantle. That is the 101 explanation of what is going on and is pretty accurate. This produces melt that becomes buoyant and rises. When this magma breaks through to the ocean floor it starts to build volcanoes. 
Once these volcanoes start to build they produce underwater eruptions until they have built up enough mass to break the ocean surface. Then it starts to build islands. These islands are volcanic arcs. 
That is how Pagan Volcano was built. 

As you can see Pagan Island is part of a chain of volcanic arc islands that sit above the subducting Pacific plate as it dives under the Philippine Sea Plate. The Mariana trench is also home to the deepest point on the earth the Challenger Deep. It is 10,898 m (35,755 ft) to 10,916 m (35,814 ft) below sea level. 
Here is Pagan Island rising from the seafloor with a vertical exaggeration of 3
Next time we will talk about the island itself and how it formed! 

References, more reading and image sources
Pagan Island Wikipedia page
Mariana Trench Wikipedia page
Volcanic Arc Wikipedia page 

Borealis Meditation Podcast S02E04 The one about food, and interview, and new things to come!

Listen to the show here

Meat Week: NPR 

Freakonomics Radio: You eat what you are 1 and

Seafood Watch

Listen to my interview

Taoism argues that there is a natural order in the world that determines the behavior of all things in existence. Early Taoist thinkers believed in the “oneness” of things the unity of everything in the universe and hoped that by studying the world of nature they would discover essential laws.
This attention to the spirit of things particularly naturally occurring phenomena like water or wind lend Taoists into a systematic investigation that became the beginning of science in China. Later on Taoism operated on a more popular level the belief that inanimate objects had their own spirit or god gave rise to a system of warship designed to appease these power which was far removed from the early Taoist principles. 
– From Ancient cultures: Chinese gods and myths

A volcano named Pagan

Pagan Volcano! How cool of a name is that!?

Pagan Island is one of the islands in the in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (US) and it is actually the 4th largest of the Northern Marianas. The island is comprised of two stratovolcanoes (Think Mt Fuji and Mt St Helens, cones and tend to erupt more violently then shield volcanoes like the ones that make up the Hawaiian Islands). The volcanoes are named North and South Pagan. (Guess which one is the northern one and the southern one….)

While both Northern and Southern Pagan have been active, the majority of historic eruptions (since 17th century) have come from North Pagan Volcano. Thanks to the numerous eruptions from North Pagan Volcano, Pagan Island is one of the most active of the Mariana islands. The largest historical eruption from North Pagan occurred in 1981 and led to the evacuation of the island.

North Pagan Volcano is currently at aviation color code yellow and is monitored by the USGS.
(Yellow: Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has decreased significantly but continues to be closely monitored for possible renewed increase.)

According to the most recent weekly report there was a small low altitude ash cloud on the 10th of July, and drifted around 50Km NW and reached a high of around 1.5km or 5,000 ft above sea level.

References used and other useful links
1) Pagan (Island) wikipedia page
2) Pagan (volcano) page from Global Volcanism Program
3) Current volcanic activity report from Global Volcanism Program
4) USGS monitoring page on Pagan (and current report on activity)

dual purpose everything.

Now, I have no citations for this post, this is all opinion. Disclaimer over, here I go!

Dual purpose tools. It is my opinion that the modern witchcrafting tools are derived from common everyday tools, herbs, and supplies. Things that were common to the area the witch lived, and common around the house. Everyone had a cauldron or some sort of large vesicle in the hearth, because that is how things were cooked. Mortar and pestle and knives were common place objects in the kitchen. Even the herbs and curios were plants, animals and things found in the environment. Witches were not rich, they were thrifty! They used the tools already around them! That is how I choose to view things, and how I run my practice. Use what you have, find what you need, no need to break the bank.
I would like to then talk to you about my latest project. Coconut bowls. I have been updating on twitter about the progress of my beauties but I wanted to run through some of the rational and uses for them.
I am currently finishing the inside with a food safe butcher block oil and finish. Why? Because it is important to me that they be dual purpose! These bowls can be used as, bowls, cups (as is done at the Kava bar), decor for the house, and offering bowls for my alter (their original purpose). So while I did not need to make them food safe to use them as offering bowls, since I would also like them to be water safe and food safe I took a few extra steps in finishing them.
My alter in fact is more of the garden window. My God and Goddess candles moonlight as either decor for the mantle or for the dining room table. My mortar and pestle while used for craft workings live in my kitchen, and my incense burner moves around the house. As a geologists I always have rocks out so they just sort of rotate through. My garden window is my favorite nook in my place, and yes I do move things around and pull out some special items when I do any workings… but, it is dual purpose. I currently have herbs and vegetable starts in the window soaking up the sun.
I would love to hear your thoughts on dual purpose tools!
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