This week, we’re sitting down with Michaela from Penniless Pagan, who graciously agreed to answer questions about becoming a pagan, retreating to nature and her favorite herbs.
What brought you to paganism? Was is it a particular moment of revelation, or a slow progression?
Like many people, I didn’t have the most stable childhood. Right around thirteen things were particularly heinous, and I began searching for something—anything—outside my house to keep me from having to go home. I came upon a really cool metaphysical shop several miles from my house and was immediately enamored with all the beautiful crystals and spell books inside. The owner was super friendly and welcoming, something I wasn’t experiencing at home, so it was nice to just spend a few minutes in a place that wasn’t seeped in negativity. He was so generous he actually approached me one day and said I could borrow any books in the store free of charge! Of course I read anything I could get my hands on!
As I said, thirteen was one of the worst years of my life, and I yearned for some stability and hope. When I discovered Paganism could be practiced alone, I dove in with every ounce of energy I had! Interestingly, this actually caused more strife in my home life, but ultimately gave me the strength to carry on. It showed me there was a reason to keep living, that bad things end and there was a purpose for my existence.
Did you come from another faith or spiritual background?
I was raised Catholic, but beyond bedtime prayers and celebrating the major holidays (basically Easter and Christmas), my family didn’t PRACTICE religion. Sure, they said they were Catholics, but they never went to church. EVER. The sole time I went to church for a Sunday mass was when I slept over a friend’s house the Saturday night prior! Of course, once I proclaimed in a very teenager angsty way that I was Pagan, crap really hit the fan! My mother’s husband even tried to throw me out…at thirteen!Sadly, this attitude wasn’t at all unusual for him. He was extremely abusive.
Ironically, because life is so wonderfully humorous that way, my father was very accepting of my new spirituality and even purchased books to learn more about it. Very interesting considering he was once a catechism teacher and heavily involved with the church! (Before I was born) Nowadays he’s of no particular faith, but he does remember to send me a text on every Sabbat. He’s thoughtful that way.
Fortunately, my family eventually got their heads out of their rears, into some fresh air, and realized I was not worshiping the devil! (For a spirituality that doesn’t even believe in the devil, we sure do get accused of that a lot, hm?!)My mom even transitioned to a blend of Christianity and Wicca years later. As I said, life is funny.
You seem like a practical lady who knows how to throw together a ritual on the go. What’s your favorite “in a pinch” ritual idea?
Why thank you! =D My first go-to when time is tight is to simply BE! I think the biggest thing we all forget when trying to be “good” Pagans is that there isn’t a rule book! Life is a gift. The Goddess and God (Universe, Divine, etc) want us to enjoy it! So when a Sabbat creeps up on me and I haven’t planned an involved ritual, I simply go outside or to a park or for a hike and just take in the moment. I listen to the wind in the trees. I feel the breeze on my skin. I inhale the scent of the season. I marvel at the beauty around me. As I often say on my blog, the best way to honor nature is to be in nature! There’s no better way to celebrate a Sabbat than appreciating the nature around you!
What do find most challenging about being a pagan blogger? Do your friends and family know about this side of your life, or are you a quiet witch?
As cliché as it is, I don’t want to disappoint readers.If they’re taking the time to read something I wrote, I need to make sure it’s worth it! It TRULY makes my day if someone leaves a thoughtful comment! It’s not unusual for me to text a photo of a reader’s comment to my husband or best friend with nothing but exclamation points as my message. It’s just SUCH an incredible feeling to know this tiny little post did something for someone. The world is a tough place; we have to help each other out!
My family and friends know I’m Pagan (it’s kind of hard to hide it with a pentacle tattooed on your ankle!). But only my husband and best friend know about PennilessPagan.com. I want to be able to connect with readers without feeling censored, and I just can’t do that if I know family is reading it. It’s kind of odd to say you can be honest with strangers and not your family, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. It comes back to creating healthy boundaries. It took me many years, but I now know who I can bare my soul to and who I need to meter. My family are decent people, we just mirror Arrested Development a little more than I care for!
When you retreat into nature, where do you find yourself?
The woods. Always the woods!
Herbalism is clearly one of your specialties. If you were trapped on a desert island, what five herbs would you have with you and why?
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to answer this question!!! I LOVE herbalism. Like, if herbs were a movie, I’d be that weirdo that spends two weeks in a tent waiting for tickets to go on sale.
Without question, goldenseal and plantain leaf. Both are amazing anti-infectives, internally and topically! Peppermint for stomachaches and headaches.Slippery elm, which is super nutritious and can be eaten like oatmeal. And chamomile, because if you’re stuck on a desert island I’d imagine you’re a tad stressed! =P
I imagine you probably do some wildcrafting. What are your favorite items to look for on a nature walk?
Due to his job, my husband and I currently live in a very rural part of New Mexico. This part of the desert receives less than 10 inches of precipitation on year! (You’ll hear me complain talk about this on the blog from time to time.) Therefore, wildcrafting isn’t as plentiful as I would like, but it’s something I eagerly await once we return to grass and trees.
But the desert isn’t entirely without its perks. One of the gems of the Southwest is the prickly pear cactus. It has this BEAUTIFUL fruit that yields the most gorgeous, vibrant pink juice. The juice is very beneficial for inflammation, which is fantastic because the dust and high winds produce tons of respiratory issues. Of course, it is a cactus so you have to harvest the fruit with thick gloves and pull the spines out with pliers. There’s very little in the desert that isn’t pokey and spiney. That’s why no one calls nature enthusiastscactus-huggers.
Anything else random you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I will knock over small children and the elderly to get to baby goats! Just love ‘em!
Penniless Pagan is a blogger, novel writer, and enthusiastic proponent of affordable, natural living.