Lionheart

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What’s in a name, one might ask? My name, Cat, like the animal, was first a happy accident and then a deliberate choice. I tried out Kate, Cathy and Katie, all perfectly fine derivatives of Catherine, but none felt quite right. As a girl, I was always uncomfortable so I tried to make everyone else feel comfortable — except in ballet class. There was something about losing myself in dance that made me find my confidence. My ballet teacher, Miss Kim, was a Leo and one day at the barre starting calling me Cat, first by mistake and then she said, “I like that name for you.” Immediately something shifted. Cats always felt sassy, bold and glamorous; as a Batman nerd I worshiped Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt’s versions of Catwoman, so the moniker stuck. Miss Kim was the classic embodiment of Leo the lioness in her highest vibration.

As a working, professional ballet dancer, Miss Kim famously chose to decline a small role in Cats, instead furthering her already growing ballet school empire with numerous students, many who went on to successful careers. My memory of her is so vivid, from her dedication to proper technique, her bubbly laugh and of course her long luxurious locks. Like most performer Leos, when she took center stage you were in for a treat. From dancing sequences from Swan Lake with her perfect chignon, not a hair out of place, to transforming into a whirling dervish where she let her black hair down, Miss Kim was full of fire, life and love, groomed to perfection, yet wild with abandonment. A lioness queen, I too, could be.

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Anahata, also known as the heart chakra, is green in color and translates from Sanskrit as meaning “unhurt, unstruck and unbeaten.” Despite being different systems from East and West, it’s no surprise that Leo, ruled by the Sun, also represents the heart in Western astrology. Anahata is all about compassion, loving openly and learning how to forgive others rather than holding on to resentment, fear and jealousy. Anahata radiates self-love and respect for oneself and therefore others. Leos are naturally lovers, passionate about protecting their partners and cubs. One of their life lessons is to avoid getting “green with envy.” Cats, of the large and small variety, all have undeniable presence, and now that we’ve entered Leo season along with a New Moon and Mars (all in the big cat’s sign), it’s time for bold behavior, big hair, and taking chances in confident fashion.

Miss Kim was in a horrifying car crash before opening up her ballet school and had a significant scar on her cheek, faded by plastic surgery and make-up, and she proudly told her students about the importance of overcoming our fears whether it be dancing on pointe or making friends. She often spoke about how before the accident her sole desire in life was to become a principal ballet dancer and many of her daily rituals involved altering her appearance severely so she could fit into the expectations of what a ballerina should look like. This woman, of course, was in peak physical condition, yet I remember her stopping herself when she started to complain about her “large” muscular calves. She was so candid with her students in these moments saying things like, “girls look how silly I am even though I know better.” Miss Kim made every size feel graceful and powerful, but by being honest about her own struggles with beauty she felt like a relatable big sister while remaining a tough instructor.

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With this Leo season, challenge yourself to overcome a fear and commit to working on it through August 21nd which brings a second New Moon in Leo which also happens to be a Solar Eclipse. What an opportune moment in time we have to focus our energies of whatever is plaguing our heart chakra. This doesn’t have to be your all time biggest fear but something significant enough that it currently makes you doubt your own talents, intelligence or self-image. In my ballet studies I was one of the last girls in my class to dance “en pointe,” where a dancer is quite literally dancing on the top of their toes. I had weak ankles and Miss Kim patiently worked on building up my muscles, reassuring me that it was wiser to build up the physical strength because it takes a leap of faith and ultimate self-confidence to perform such an intricate and challenging style of dance. That day, lacing on satin dance slippers and going up en pointe was among one of my bravest and proudest moments.

Find those specific moments of courage in your own personal history and use them as matches to light the fire in your heart this Leo season and dance forward with unbeatable strength.

Images: NYCB Firebird Ballet; Slutist Tarot by Morgan Claire Sirene

Originally published here

Midsummer Magic

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The longest day is approaching, Midsummer, and like the missing girls from Picnic at Hanging Rock, I feel entranced by the seductive and mysterious formations of nature, day-dreaming of nothing more than wanting to escape, escape, escape. Along with the solstice, we enter the mothering, all-encompassing water sign of Cancer ending the week with a New Moon on Friday. Mercury and Mars will also be in Cancer, brave sailors navigating the soothing and turbulent waves of blue. With all this palpable lunar energy swirling around, I’ve been finding myself listening to Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that Brian Wilson, who penned the emotional classic exploring the contemplative nature of summertime, is a Cancer born right around the Summer Solstice. For the rest of the month, be prepared to surrender to the lessons found in waves and let yourself be engulfed, nourished and healed by the element of water.

Midsummer is not a high holiday in traditional Wicca, yet it is universally regarded as one of the most potent times for all kinds of magic; love spells, manifestation, fertility and abundance. Everything is fecund and alive, with flora and fauna at its peak expression of beauty and bounty as Midsummer yields the second harvest. Children, and many adults alike, take a break from the mundane world of work and responsibilities to play, explore and live. Summer is a time of adventure and reflection, whether through traveling to new places, meeting new lovers or deepening the bonds among current partners. Midsummer is a time to cast spells of manifestation as well as to thank the earth for what she has already provided. The heat forces us to feel everything whether it is a pleasing sensation or not, which cannot be avoided even with modern luxuries like air conditioning. I love feeling the heat on my skin, like Maggie the Cat, I am alive in summer and enjoy the opportunity to release toxins and pheromones, my body restoring all its levels.

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At Midsummer, the Oak King, who is the king of the Waxing Year, battles and loses to the Holly King, God of the Waning Year, who changes the season and reigns supreme until Midwinter when he will die and be reborn as the Oak King. The cycles continue, and seasons are to be treasured for they last only for a few fleeting moments. If you live in a northern clime, this arrival of sunshine is much needed after months of perpetual darkness. The mythology of the Oak and Holly King has been synchronized over the years with the story of John the Baptist as the Oak King, whose death and legacy is remembered on June 24th, St. John’s Day, which along with earlier Midsummer pagan practices has become a universal time of bonfires and celebration across Europe, Scandinavia as well as in New Orleans where Voodoo practitioners also celebrate this as a peak time for magic. (The Holly King is of course Jesus who succeeds John and has his celebration in wintertime.)

Midsummer is both a fire and water festival, fire representing the God in all his powerful light and deep waters representative of the Goddess, as she is fully ripe, having given birth and now dances among the flowers with her lover.  A longstanding tradition is to have two bonfires or twin flames at Midsummer and either dance through them or jump over them.  As a modern witch, I’m not a purist and what I cherish about pagan practices is what we all collectively honor and celebrate. This is the beauty of spirituality at its highest good. Midsummer combines various folklore, mythology and history throughout the years. This has resulted in some fun universal practices, such as the aforementioned bonfires, rolling in a field of dew naked to attract a loved one and collecting eight different flowers and putting them under a pillow to see your future lover in dreams. St. John’s Wort, an herb used for protection, is best collected around Midsummer and should be tossed into the bonfire along with other herbs such as mugwort, lavender, yarrow, verbena, roses, male fern, cinquefoil, chamomile, mistletoe and of course any other flowers or herbs that resonate with you.

MIDSUMMER IS UNIVERSALLY REGARDED AS ONE OF THE MOST POTENT TIMES FOR ALL KINDS OF MAGIC; LOVE SPELLS, MANIFESTATION, FERTILITY AND ABUNDANCE.

Janet Farrar, co-author of The Witches Bible, wrote, “Everything flows, nothing is static. Life is a process, not a state; and the witches’ Sabbats are essentially a means of putting oneself in tune with that process.” Over the next few days, take the time to slow down and feel the air, earth, fire and water all within and around you. What elements feel out of balance and need the most attention? Spend time by a body of water or take a cool summer bath with any of the herbs and flowers mentioned. Light an orange, yellow or red candle to celebrate the power of the Sun and give thanks to its radiant light, and as you jump over the candle remember that this is a brief moment in your life and like the sun it too will wane and fade. Hold this sense memory in your heart as well as all the tales you will collect during this Midsummer season.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger: The Quicksilver Truth of Gemini

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In Renaissance magic, aeromancy, the act of divining the future by studying cloud formations, wind currents, and all things air, was classified as one of the seven “forbidden arts.” In the sky today, a New Moon is in Gemini and I find myself experimenting with this ancient practice by watching the gray clouds morph as they release what looks like tears from heaven. It’s funny how we try to control and plan our lives around the weather, something we can forecast yet not entirely predict — much like the elusive and multi-faceted nature of Gemini. I think about recent good fortune as bombs simultaneously detonate around the globe. I feel a mixture of shame, helplessness, yet am optimistic and hopeful that the tides will turn. How can these opposing energies coexist? During Gemini season we are shown the full range of possibilities that lie between all extremes.

Gemini’s glyph shows two pillars, light and dark, masculine and feminine, and various polarities that exist in nature and within us. Along with earthy Virgo, Gemini is ruled by Mercury, whose Roman mythology originates from earlier Greek myths of Hermes. The word mercurial is commonly used to refer to something or someone whom you can’t quite pin down; an energy that can be impulsive, changeable and erratic. Mercury, like all the Geminis that blow my mind, are always in some kind of motion be it physical or mental, wearing winged shoes, a messenger’s hat, and armed with a caduceus — a staff with two entwined snakes. Not only do they deliver the goods, but do it with style. As messenger to the gods, and ruler of communication, commerce, eloquence, timing and trickery, we derive the expression, “don’t shoot the messenger.” Known for his speed and swiftness, Mercury the planet was named for its quick 88 day orbit around the sun. Like Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” No wonder Gemini often gets a bad reputation since one of its core roles is to carry and convey sometimes uncomfortable yet pertinent news.

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Gemini also represents the twins, Castor and Pollux, born in springtime from the full belly of the Empress archetype of Taurus. Like many parent-child relationships, Gemini possesses the curious nature to question authority and challenge, with the innate ability to mirror our similarities and reveal stark differences all at once. With their quicksilver tongue they can sometimes appear to be contrarian or totally blunt, but they’re simply trying to get to the bottom of it. I’m eternally grateful for the Castor to my Pollux, a warm and witty Gemini who sat me down and helped me deal with my sexuality, without shame or judgment, instead using humor and frank honesty. The quintessential “wild child,” of the Zodiac, at least in my experience, freaky genius Gemini wants to taste each flavor of the rainbow before making up their mind as part of a quest for intellectual stimulation, discovery, and truth. In this Gemini season we have to examine our truths and get radically real about the myths we’ve perpetuated and any other white lies we’ve been telling ourselves or other people. Think of Truman Capote’s character Holly Golightly in the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her lithe frame, ability to exist in two worlds and maintain her social butterfly charms are all examples of the Gemini vibration. Holly insists that she cannot be trapped down by love or social norms yet her supposed free-spirited lifestyle is simply another type of trap.

DIVINATION, LIKE AIR ITSELF, IS TRANSITORY AND CAN OFFER MESSAGES BUT IT’S UP TO YOU TO RECEIVE THEM OR LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

In the next few days, find a spot in nature where you can observe the clouds and peer into the big sky. Think about the space between you and the heavens, its vast expansiveness holds many lessons. Ruminate on duality. Divination, like air itself, is transitory and can offer messages but it’s up to you to receive them or look the other way. As you take in these clouds, how do they appear to you?  Remember being a child looking up at the sky with a friend, both gazing at the same cloud yet viewing entirely different things? Keep this in mind during our variable Gemini season and stay receptive to whatever messages the clouds may hold for you in their feathery tufts.

Photo Credit: “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967” by Diane Arbus

The Teaching New Moon in Taurus

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Admiring the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is an old NYC pastime that brings everyone out of their apartments and into the fields marveling at the fleeting pink beauties. Yet all I could think about were my allergies, broken sunglasses, and the one too many layers I wore on this otherwise picturesque outing. It took me almost an hour before I could finally be still. While spring has most definitely sprung and we’ve entered the Venusian season of Taurus, I’m feeling less sensual seduction vibes and more like a bull in a china shop. A New Moon in Taurus approaches us on Wednesday, April 26th at 8:16am EST. My initial thoughts were action-oriented and excitedly I wrote down one too many intentions: “I will use this energy to find a new day job, finish writing a screenplay, lose 10 pounds and why not organize my shoe closet.” While Taurus energy can be deeply productive, its attitude is slow and steady wins the race.

Like most New Yorkers, my work-life balance encompasses many places and faces. The common threads involve the art of witchcraft, social work, and performance, when lucky. Having spent much of my adult life championing witchcraft as a healing path, it can throw a witch off her broomstick when she becomes less than enchanted with the tools she’s come to rely upon for divine guidance. As we enter Taurus I find myself feeling totally lost about what projects to pursue and which ones to leave behind. Like a little kid yelling, “Are we there yet?” I want the answers and I want them now. What does a witch do when the signs seem vague, the astrological forecast is cloudy, and at the end of the day the common denominator is you? The wise words of my friend and astrologer, T.C. Eisele pop into my mind: “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Taurus can sometimes be the sign of what I like to call “stagnation nation.” Taurus craves security and material status because it suggests that they have it all together — the empire is impenetrable and therefore safe from any unknown variable. How do you know when it’s time to change ships and set off towards a new horizon? Are you selling yourself short by staying in a certain rut because it’s comfortable and easy with no surprises? Aries enjoys sport, yet Taurus enjoys the fruits of hard labor. Once a Taurus gets in their working groove, they are utterly reliable, trustworthy, and single-minded in their approach to getting the job done. When they go in, they go ALL in. Because they are Venus manifested in an earthy fashion, unlike airy counterpart Libra, Taureans are a tactile bunch who enjoy working hard in order to play hard, reveling in good food, wine, and sex.

One of the lessons of Taurus is in their stubborn resistance to change and their cautious approach to the big decisions we all face in life. I get this, now more than ever. Maybe it’s because I have a Moon in Capricorn, so I innately understand the need for security. Or maybe it’s because I’m a grown-ass, grown-up woman now with responsibilities. I operate in a world where I believe in the possibilities of magic but am practical with my application of it and see the danger of illusionary thinking. There are times when magic shouldn’t be used, and will not solve your problem no matter how many candles you light. No amount of chanting mantras will stop schizophrenia, pay your bills, or break up your relationship for you. Magic is energy and you are the conduit. The systems of divination are revelatory and magic always happens when you’re firing on all cylinders. But sometimes, when your magic seems to have run out, the lesson is all about “sitting in the vacuum of self.”

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Pain, disillusionment and change are teachers, and as stern and baffling as the lessons may be, they are all necessary parts of our spiritual journey. In many ways I recognize that I am living many of my dreams; married life is oh so sweet, I have a tight-knit group of friends and I get to pursue many of my life’s passions. With Taurus time, instead of relaxing among the blossoms, I’m not feeling myself and have been pining over others with their successful lives and bank accounts, something I hate to admit. What have I done wrong, why can’t I save money, why don’t I feel confident like some of my peers? The questions kept coming and finally one of the lessons stuck. Perhaps the challenge is to stop thinking, continue working and let the earth energy stabilize my frantic nerves. I thought of Nina Simone singing “Ain’t Got No-I Got Life,” and immediately remembered what I do have, my smile, my freedom, my limbs, my boobs and most importantly my life. I may not have figured out the next step but with this New Moon I’m going to be in my body and celebrate every sensual delight it can offer, blessing and thanking the earth for letting me walk among its many blossoms.

Fleeting Beauties of Spring

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“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now.” – A.E. Housman

As we welcome the season of springtime this Monday, March 20th with the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, I find myself craving moments of quiet beauty. The Spring Equinox, also referred to as Ostara, is a time of balance between night and day where we celebrate the promise of beginnings, sweet romances unfurling, and blossoms opening their tender petals. We have also been tangled up in the midst of a very funny Venus retrograde in Aries, the most un-Venetian placement possible. Dear Aries often learns the hard way, leaping first without looking and only when they’ve hit rock bottom can they gather perspective and have an “a-ha” moment. In matters of the heart and all relationships, Aries blazes trails and speaks their passions loudly, yet doesn’t always think about how their catharsis can be someone else’s burden. Until April 15th, Venus retrograding in Aries forces us to slow down and analyze our actions while reviewing our modalities of self-care. We will all be April’s fools within this time frame, all of our behaviors being called out for re-examination. How does our level of self-care affect our relationships? Are we obsessed with our own state of perfect equilibrium that we fail to see those in strife right around us? Or is our lack of self-care something we find noble; we are brave, strong warriors with bigger battles to fight. Aries loves to go, go, go and with the slow reveal of spring this year, our impatience for change and all things new will be tested. The magic of this season calls for initiations but the bigger lesson can be found in the quiet details of savoring the moment.

Hanami is the Japanese art of appreciating the fleeting beauty of flowers, particularly the cherry and plum blossoms. Starting at the end of March through May, the Japanese have paused to appreciate a moment in nature for centuries. I have been practicing this custom in my own way with the most exquisite batch of roses collected from my partner. Every night I have been cultivating them; watching their full expression and then carefully drying the petals for use in future perfumes, baths and incenses. For me, these roses hold not only the promise of commitment and appreciation, but also a warm memory of a romantic moment in time that will be transformed into something lasting. The language of flowers is silent but speaks volumes as we watch their process and apply it to our own desires. Springtime is a transitory, like flowers, it will only last for a brief moment. Use the week to participate in some customs of Ostara. Here are five of my favorites:

  • Spring Cleaning: Open up your closets without fear and use the Aries confidence to face old mementos, clothing or any items that may remind you of a past lover or painful event and throw it out or give it away. To attract something new you must have space to usher it in.
  • Collecting and Drying Flowers: Buy your favorite bouquet and enjoy watching them bloom. Once the flowers start to wilt, separate the petals and lay them on a towel to dry for approximately two days. Re-use them in baths, sachets, oils, and countlessways.rosepetals
    • Letter writing and Putting to Rest the Pain of Unrequited Love: Retrogrades, especially in Venus, bring up memories of past lovers and friendships that have soured. Take the time to write out everything you wanted to say but never could, write out your tears, disappointments and then ceremoniously burn the letter. If possible bury the ashes in the park or a place where the ground is fertile and energy can transform. Take back your power by truly putting painful events to rest.
    • Candle Magic: Firstly this week, burn a large white candle for cleansing, equilibrium and healing. On March 27th we have a New Moon in Aries, which is an opportune time to burn a fiery red or orange candle for confidence, bravery and strength. Stand in a Superwoman pose as you watch the burning flame and trust that when the time is right, you will emerge bold and bright.
    • See Old Friends and Listen to their Wisdom: Use this time to reconnect with “oldies but goodies” and learn from their experiences. Celebrate all the hurdles you’ve overcome together and toast to the beauty of the moment in your friendship.

    Someone recently said to me, “even small wounds need to be healed.” This Ostara, as the cherry blossoms, peonies and roses begin to bloom, remind yourself that you will too, transform and emerge, in due time.

    Ostara_by_Johannes_Gehrts

Magic for the Heart

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Working in an occult shop as Valentine’s Day approached always brought out the romantic and amateur sociologist in me. I never grew tired of hearing people’s tales of broken hearts, sweet kisses, and the courage of commitment. For a secular holiday with murky and not so romantic origins, Valentine’s Day holds such a sense of power over us, producing anxiety around relationships or the lack of them. What unites us is our desire to give and receive love. What keeps love so elusive for many, is the tendency to neglect the most important relationship we have, the one with ourselves.

Our modern Valentine’s Day is really a product of American consumerism with a few traces of antiquity. The Catholic Church recognizes a few different saints named Valentine all of whom were martyred. One Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine disobeyed Claudius and performed clandestine marriages. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Lupercalia is an ancient Roman festival, which doesn’t have direct ties to modern Valentines Day, but being a fertility festival in mid-February, along with the rise of romantic sonnets and love letters during Victorian England, a modern holiday was born.

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Love magic is most appropriate to work beginning with Ostara, the Spring Equinox, all through Midsummer with an emphasis on Beltane or May Day, the high holiday of fertility, lust and love. But now as we are in the stretch between the last snowflakes and first buds of spring, there is much time to meditate on how we can better show love for ourselves in order for it to manifest once spring arrives. bell hooks, author and feminist visionary writes that “true love sheds light on those aspects of ourselves we may wish to deny or hide, enabling us to see clearly and without shame, it is not surprising that so many individuals who say they want to know love turn away when such love beckons.” What aspect of yourself is hardest to love and in your mind could never be embraced? Why is it that we shy away when others see us in our most vulnerable and naked states? When love is presented to us, why do we feel not worthy of it?  And most importantly, why do we have the desire to throw it into the fire and walk out the door rather than work it out? Our shadow side is buried deep when it should, in fact, be tended to like a delicate rose garden, nurtured, watered and spoken to on a daily basis.

Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to meditate on the wounded parts of yourself that feel far removed from the thought of human touch, care and connection. Take a salted bath to cleanse and if possible use a green candle to represent the heart chakra and Venus in her earthly, grounded state. Carve the classic symbol of Venus into the candle with a pen or small carving tool. Dress it with scented oils of rose, geranium, lavender or any favorite floral scent that represents harmony. Light the candle and meditate on your beauty, strengths and what sets you apart. Write a love letter directly addressing the shadow side of you that feels incomplete and promise to make self-care and self-esteem a priority. More importantly write down three things you accept about yourself, no matter how difficult these truths may be. The more willing you are to be honest about your fears, desires and intimate goals, the easier it will be to share with future lovers. Reclaim this Valentine’s Day and treat yourself to a moment of loving self-reflection with honesty, commitment and caresses.

Image Credit: Trung Nguyen

Originally published at Slutist

In Goddess We Trust

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I’m still glowing with the energetic waves of protest from the Women’s March here in NYC and collectively all over the world. One goddess and asteroid in particular came to me this week in meditations on activism. Pallas Athene, born out of Jupiter’s head, is the virgin goddess of wisdom. She represents creative intelligence, strategy and justice carried out with thoughtful and careful approaches rather than violent action. With the New Moon in Aquarius on Friday January 27th at 7:07pm EST, revolutionary feelings are amongst us and as witches we must be inspired by the call to action not just globally but personally.

Uranus, all funny jokes aside, rules Aquarius; it is an explosive, unpredictable and groundbreaking energy that can be harnessed in constructive and destructive ways. How are your actions affecting your community? What can you do to best express your true self with integrity? Aquarius time asks all of life’s “big questions” out loud so all can hear. How can one live confidently as themselves when the act of being yourself seems dangerous? The personal, now more than ever, is truly political. Now is the time to act as Pallas Athene would, as wise warriors listening to others and weaving a web of united problem-solvers and active participants. We’ve got to have each other’s backs.

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Pallas Athene is the embodiment of the Queen of Swords in the Tarot, full of precision, bestowed with gifts of critical thinking and the gift of gab, which all Air signs possess. Her astute mind is symbolized by her sharp sword of clarity, able to envision the future and slice through delusional cobwebs clogging up our thought processes. Her animal guides include the serpent full of knowledge and magical prowess as well as the owl that knows what secrets are spoken within the trees.

The mythology of Pallas Athene always reminds me of my brave and beautiful partner. A fearless and proud member of the queer community, she always uses strategy and compassion in her arguments, never losing sight of the bigger picture of social inclusion for all, even when a crazy person shouts obscenities and follows her home. My heart broke this week thinking how terrifying this is and yet how many people of all colors, orientations or of different opinions are being targeted as the enemy. What a perfect Goddess to channel as we enter Aquarius, symbolized by the “water-bearer,” an image of flowing waves, dispensing truths and egalitarian concepts. Aquarians famously walk to the beat of their own drum and now is the time to listen closely to psychic beats for they will guide us through the last stages of winter’s darkness and keep us focused on our important missions. The New Moon in Aquarius beckons us to be ourselves, boldly, and to take a shot in the dark because it’s filled with stars, isn’t it? And aren’t we all made up of the same cosmic matter?

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Originally published on Slutist