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Ostara: Lions, Tigers and Bears?

March 20, 2018

If ever a month came in like a lion, March roared this year. In fact, there is a lot of animal symbolism associated with the Spring, not truly surprising as Ostara, the second fertility festival of the year approaches.

Several theories exist about why lions are associated with March, including one implausible one that links the Sumerian goddess Ishtar, whose sacred animal is a lion, with the word Easter. (It’s much more likely that the word Easter refers to the germanic goddess Eostre, though the origin of that idea is Bede, and there is no historical evidence to back it up.) According to The Guardian, the reason that lions were first associated with March had to do with astronomy not mythology — the constellation of Leo (the lion) is on the eastern horizon at sunset in the beginning of March and the constellation of Aries (the ram) is on the western horizon by the end of the month. Hence, in like a lion, out like a lamb not only refers to weather, but also to the stars.

Rabbits are traditionally associated with the goddess Aphrodite, so how did they get the job of laying eggs in the spring? Sir Thomas More is credited with first connecting madness and March hares in his writings, but it’s likely that the idea predated him. Certainly rabbit antics in the spring can seem mad as they get ready to repopulate the earth with their fecundity. The association of Easter bunnies with eggs and the goddess Eostre is a Victorian era idea that may have come from folklorist Jacob Grimm. The story that seems to be widely accepted by non-Pagans has a couple of versions. One suggests that the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, of whom we know very little, in kindness turned a bird whose wings were frozen into a rabbit that laid eggs. Another version has Eostre, in a fit of pique, turning a bird with a hubris problem into a hare that was allowed to lay eggs once a year in honor of her festival. There is speculation that the Easter bunny is an ancient pagan idea that was co-opted as part of a pagan festival that became Easter as Christianity took hold (Source).

Snakes were also associated with this time of year, as a symbol of fertility. The legend of St. Patrick chasing the snakes out of Ireland is an unlikely tale from the Middle Ages. No fossil evidence exists that snakes have lived in Ireland in thousands of years. “Animals that reached Ireland before the sea became an impassable barrier included brown bears, wild boars, and lynx—but snakes never made it,” says Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. Scholars believe the tale is allegorical, referring to Christianity’s influence overwhelming local pagan traditions.

Some of the other animals that have been associated with Eostre, though the sources are vague, include the owl (wisdom), dove (victory), ram, eagle, tiger, leopard, and other cats. As to bears, no evidence seems to exist that they have anything to do with Ostara. But as a modern religion of reconstruction, current pagans can associate bears with Ostara if they can come up with a reason to do so. Why not?


2018 – The Best Year Ever!

January 9, 2018

New Year’s Day is well known as the time that people make resolutions about how they will change or what they will change in the coming year. Did you know the practice of making new year’s resolutions dates back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylon? That early civilization celebrated a 12-day festival called Akitu, which was held in mid-March, their new year. Babylonians made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return objects they had borrowed.

Most people who make New Year’s resolutions drop them almost immediately. It takes at least 21 days to change a habit (some people say up to 500 days!), and for a lot of people, that’s just too hard to maintain. At least the Babylonians had promised the gods, which might have caused them to take their resolutions a little more seriously.

New Year’s resolutions fit in well with Hands of Change’s theme for 2018: Manifesting Our Destinies. As a group, Hands of Change members have been working since Samhain (our new year) on making our dreams, wishes and desires a reality. We’ve been meeting monthly as a coven and using the book Eby Pam Grout as our primer to work on our magickal skills and to create our own reality. The book is a compilation of energy exercises that prove we create what we believe.

This week, at our business meeting, coven members unanimously decided to bring what we’ve been learning to our community at large, both in terms of manifesting our dreams and also by encouraging people to share their gifts and talents with each other. Sometimes we don’t even realize what our Path is, but as we move along it, others See us and Know what we were meant to do here on our beloved Earth. By working together in community on manifesting our destinies, we can support and encourage each other to be, do, and have all that we were always meant to.

I hear so many people not wanting to “jinx” themselves by saying what they want. Not “daring to hope” for the best outcome – thinking they don’t deserve happiness, love, money, you name it. The Universe is an abundant and strangely accommodating place, so sayeth Pam Grout. I say, let us all shout to the heavens and dare to be all we’ve always wanted to be. And so we will!


Our Yule Ritual & Feast Is Tonight!

December 8, 2017


Join us for Hands of Change’s annual Yule feast and ritual
Tonight, Friday December 8th 7PM at the USNB church in East Brunswick!

Cerridwen and Evergreen will be hosting a ritual Yule skit with the feast to follow!

Our Yule ritual is kid-friendly and we’ll have a potluck feast to follow!
We ask that everyone brings something to share – be it cookies, a favorite holiday dish, etc.! Vegan and gluten free dishes appreciated!

From those able, we ask a donation of $5 per adult in order to cover rental of the space and supplies. Children are free.

 If you have any questions, email us directly here!
 If for some reason you are unable to attend,
we wish you a Merry Yule and a Happy New Year!
Brightest Blessings, Hands of Change


November 22, 2017

Although for Pagans, the harvest is technically over with Samhain, the third harvest festival, we can’t help but think of gratitude as Thanksgiving rolls around. After all, this is a national spiritual non-sectarian holiday – we might as well adopt it.

I like to think that every day is a day to reflect on gratitude, not just the day that we eat turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Being thankful to Spirit for the abundance in our lives – for the riches of family, friends, experiences, kindness, and yes, for the prosperity that we as Americans often take for granted.

There are many reasons for practicing gratitude. It puts us in a better mood and keeps us healthier. Psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami found that people who write a few sentences each week on what they are grateful for are happier, exercised more, and have fewer trips to the doctor. Physically, gratitude has been shown to strengthen our immune system and to decrease stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate. Gratitude also positively impacts sleep quality, reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increasing the length of time people stay asleep.

According to the Law of Attraction, the more we focus on all of the good things in our lives, and on our good fortune, the more we draw that energy to us. In the Gratitude Diaries, journalist Janice Kaplan spent a year practicing daily gratitude. By the end of the year, her relationship to her husband was better, and she was happier and more satisfied with her life.

Instead of making a new year’s resolution this year, make this Thanksgiving the beginning of a year-long practice in finding ways to be grateful by keeping a gratitude journal, saying thank you more often, and appreciating all the goodness life holds.


The Importance Of Samhain

October 31, 2017

First and Foremost, I’d like to wish you all a Blessed Samhain and a Happy (Witchy) New Year!

For many witches, this time of year seems to be a favorite. Cooler weather, changing leaf colors, pumpkin and apple cider flavors, and dressing up in various costumes become popular and often celebrated. But what makes it so special to us witches? This time of year is a time where our differences become popular in modern society and the topic of modern witches often gets published. I find that more people ask me about my practice and witchcraft more during this time of year than any other, even though I widely celebrate all the sabbats. Why is that?

Witches are being portrayed in the media and have been for many years. From movies such as The Craft and Practical Magic to books such as Witches in America by Alex Mar; more people are curious about what it is that witches do and if we’re often portrayed like the roles they read and watch. And with that curiosity brings in the ability to have the discussion of what Wicca, Paganism, Witchcraft, etc. is to you. It opens the door to others and brings more tolerance and understanding to people who would not have the chance before.

Aside from that importance, Samhain is a way to keep alive those who have passed within the last 12 months. Being able to say the name of a loved one who passed helps to keep their energy and their story alive. The veil between our world and the spirit world is thinnest at Samhain; by using this timing with honoring those who have passed (or our ancestors) we can remember where we came from, what they did in their life that inspired you and what you could learn from their life or their actions. There’s a reason you loved them so. Remember to light a candle for them, reflect on your time together (if you wish), or even talk to them. You might just get an answer.

I want to share what happened to me this past weekend in hopes that it would inspire someone who is reading this. Hands of Change had a Semi Private Samhain Ritual at G3 this Saturday (for more information on Semi Private status, click here) where we went into the underworld and connected with our loved ones. It often is an emotional ritual and I have never been disappointed by what takes place at the event. I had a relative who passed away November last year and was specifically looking out for him. I felt he was there and received some messages, leaving me a bit emotional but cleansed afterwards. Then last night at a friend’s house, a group of friends and I gathered (this was not a HoC event) and used an Ouija Board (click here if you’re not familiar with this object). We asked if anyone wanted to talk with us and after receiving a few tricksters, who came through? My grandfather. The message I received?

You judge yourself too much. I’m at peace with no more pain and with my lovely wife.

This to me is the main reason why I love this holiday and this time of year. Of course, the spooky scary skeletons are fun and the thrill of the holiday along with the atmosphere of this time of year makes it magical, but this holiday always reminds me of what I have lost and in turn, what I have gained.

With that said, I hope you have a wonderful holiday with those you cherish.
Communications Coordinator for Hands of Change


We have events coming up! Don’t miss out!

Full Moon Ritual @ G3 – Friday, November 3rd @ 7PM
Please join us on Fri, Nov 3rd at G3 for an adult-focused Full Moon ritual with cocurrent kids’ class. After ritual, we’ll enjoy potluck snacks & goodies. Please feel inspired to bring food or drink to share! Chiron and Glowchylde will be in service. From those able, we ask a donation of $5 per adult in order to cover rental of the space and supplies. Children are free.

NFP Class 7 @ G3 – Tuesday, November 14th @ 7PM
HOC Principals and Practices (Required to take before applying to HoC)
Join us for Class 7, HoC Principles and Practices – this class is required for those seeking membership. This class will enumerate HOC Principles, Practices, and Tradition. It includes a discussion on magical ethics and the origin of HOC’s charter in The Book of the Law. A brief historical perspective on Wicca will also be included. Class Fee $10.

Please email to register our attendance!

South Jersey Pagan Pride Day

October 2, 2017

Join Hands of Change at the 14th annual South Jersey Pagan Pride Day in Cooper River Park, Pennsauken, NJ on October 7th!  Free to attend and all are welcome!

There will be workshops, rituals, entertainment, local vendors and crafters, kids activities, and like-minded company.

Hands of Change will be hosting the main ritual at 3pm – and we hope you can join us!

They will be collecting nonperishable food items for the Food Bank of South Jersey … and also collecting spiritual items and/or toiletries for the Pagan Troop Donation Drive!


HoC Celebrates 20th Anniversary!

June 24, 2017

20It’s time again, for the Pagan Picnic! If you have been to our picnic before we look forward to seeing you again! If not, we look forward to meeting you! Come on down and meet like-minded folks and make some new friends. This year’s theme is

OLD TRADITIONS, FRESH PERSPECTIVES – as well as our 20th anniversary since our coven formed in 1997!

We will have classes with common themes, varying from *you guessed it* Pagan traditions with new perspectives to reach out even further to those in the community who want to learn and develop on their spiritual path. The Pagan Picnic brings together folks from different backgrounds to perform and participate in rituals, classes, and community sharing. Vendors will be on hand, offering a range of products and services. We will have a Kid’s Track for fun for the little ones. If you bring children, we ask that you stay at the picnic while your children are here.

And this year, our main ritual will be hosted by the founders of Hands of Change!

Please bring a dish to share for Potluck!

If you are not sure what to bring this may help.
If your first name begins with:
A—G – bring dessert
H—M – bring drinks
N—S – bring a salad
T—Z – bring main course

PLEASE mark your dish “Veggie, ” “Vegan, ” or “Meat, ” and make sure you LABEL & LIST all ingredients in your dish so that people who have allergies know what they’re eating.

Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes are greatly appreciated.


Event Location: Johnson Park in Piscataway Township
Event TIME Details: 10am – 8pm

Hope to see you then!