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Ishtarfest – to the Kur and back!

May 21, 2019

You may be asking yourself, “Why do I want to go to a festival that has a theme of going to the Underworld? That doesn’t seem very cheery.” But we all go to that dark place from time to time. When we do it with intention and then RETURN to the land of the living, we go through a personal transformation that we can translate into our daily lives.

This alchemy can be found in festivals as diverse as Fires Rising at Four Quarters Farm and Burning Man. We fully embrace our dark side so that we can integrate it, accept it, and release all the stuff around it.ishtar 1

Not to say that Ishtarfest won’t be cheery this year. We have all kinds of fun stuff in store for participants in our 4th consecutive celebration of the Fertile Crescent and the Elder Gods:

  • Learn about Ishtar/Inanna in ritual and classes
  • Celebrate Summer Solstice on Saturday at the height of the power of the sun as we charge the Gods’ Eye and our own Household Guardians in our Litha tradition
  • All day vendor & psychic fair
  • Hands of Change’s own brand of the Fire/Drum/Bardic circle
  • The Wiccan sweat lodge
  • Community sharing of potluck food

We invite you to come out and play with us. Dress up like your favorite Sumerian god/dess (or anything you like) and frolic. Bring the kids to play on our playground and do some self-directed crafts.

We believe that what we are building is truly a special thing:

  • A celebration of Sumerian mythology and religion that to our knowledge no one else is doing
  • Healing the Mother Earth – especially the climate change issue of water scarcity so prevalent in
  • Sumerian clothes what used to be the Fertile Crescent
  • Sending peace and light to a part of the world that seems to always be war-torn
  • Celebrating the amazing civilization that gave us so much of our modern day technology, from our system of numbers to astronomy to writing

So please come join us at Ishtarfest. You can look back and say, I was there when…

And be sure to check out all the videos on our handsofchangenj FaceBook page to learn more about what we’re doing with the festival.

Register today at

We’ll see you there!


Happy Spring!

April 3, 2019

Happy Spring, Everyone! The cold winter is past, and Mother Earth is waking up. Birds are singing to declare theirterritories and attract mates, crocus and daffodils are blooming, and the warm Sun is calling all of us to come outdoors. It’s time to start working in the garden to prepare for the new growing season. As you may have heard, bees and Monarch butterfly populations have been plummeting in the last few years, and desperately need our help. These insects are not only beautiful in their own right, but are essential pollinators for native plants, and most of our food plants. So, what can we, as individuals, do to help reverse this trend?

Monarchs (Danaus plexippu)}, those beautiful orange and black butterflies we’ve all seen as children, eat only milkweed as caterpillars. Unfortunately, with the human penchant for tidiness,and our spread in population, vast amounts of former milkweed growinghabitats have been cut down and converted to suburban gardens, monoculturefarms, or townshipwide beautification projects with vast acres of mown lawnsrather than wildflower meadows. So, plant milkweed in your gardens and invacant land near you, and encourage your townships to allow it to grow onany wild strips of land. Milkweed prefers sun and the orange butterfly weed,the common name for Asclepias Tuberosa, is a bright orange perennial, easyto grow in sunny, dry soil, is deer resistant, and native to most of the US. Itgrows only about 15” high and spreads easily, requiring little care. For thosewith more room, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is a tall (5-6’) easilygrown American native perennial with purple flowers that tolerates wet soil and areas withpoor drainage. It, too, prefers sun, at least 6 hrs a day. Both these plants are beautiful, andattract many types of butterflies while being essential food plants for the monarchs. They canbe purchased online, or in many nurseries, and can be grown easily from seed or by pottedplants for those of us who want instant gratification. More information on Monarchs, the onlybutterflies I’m aware of that migrate every fall to Mexico, can be found at

As for bees, it’s not an exaggeration to say that without bees, we starve. Wikipedia lists 105 plants – everything from Apples for your snacks, to Coffee and Tea for your breakfast, to Cotton for your clothes, to Roses for your Valentine’s Day, to Cucumbers for your salad, and of course Honey for your Mead! and so much more – that dependupon bees for pollination. The honey bee population is in serious trouble, as are many of our native bees. Again, quoting Wikipedia, “Pollinators, which are necessary for 75% of food crops, are declining globally in both abundance and diversity. Bees, in particular, are thought to be necessary for the fertilization of up to 90% of the world’s 107 most important human food crops”. I urge you to check out for insight into just how important this issue is. There are several proposed reasons for this worldwide decline. Habitat loss, pesticide use, pests and diseases, climate change, air pollution, all contribute to the challenges bees face.

So, what can we do? Fill your gardens with native plants, convert some of your lawn to wild flower gardens, encourage your townships to stop mowing strips along roadways and let them revert to wild plants, write your representatives to insist on keeping government land wild and address climate change, write the chemical companies and insist they stop using such toxic chemicals on our food plants, stop using toxic pesticides in your own gardens – do the research to find more environmentally safe ways to grow. Istrongly advocate organic gardening, I’ve been doing so for 40 years. No poisons are used on the plants at G3 and everything is doing fine!The best thing you can do for Mother Earth, is educate yourself. Do the research on Climate Change – see what the scientists, not the politicians, have to say. We are the Children of the Mother, lets take care of Her and all Her creatures! Have a fabulous Spring~

Gaia Greenwood

Psychic Book Fair

January 30, 2019

Hands of Change invites you out to the Brunswick Square Mall for a Psychic Book Fair at Barnes and Noble, March 2nd, from 1-8pm! A handful of readers will be on hand for free readings, and Pagan authors and podcasters Tara-Love Maguire and Chris Orapello will be there for book signings!

Hands of Change will be using the money raised from this fundraiser for repairs and updates at G3 (including, but not limited to a weather/animal proof shelter for the sweat lodge mats, boardwalk thru the back lot, fance and parking lot work, etc).

Please print out the vouchers! Hand them out, email them, etc! The sale made during that time will only count towards the fundraiser if you have the voucher – so please have these ready to go!

Bring your friends/family, sit down for a reading or 2, and chat with other like minded people. Open to all open minded seekers! Hope to see you there!

Click here for facebook and meet-up events!

A New Kind of Advent Calendar

December 8, 2018

We’d like to propose a new tradition for Yule this year – a two week advent calendar of kindness! Each day between now and Yule, pick one good deed to do for someone you like, or love, or can’t really stand, and just do it!

For example, one of my colleagues wanted my cornbread recipe when I mentioned making cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving. I sent her the recipe and then decided to make it for myself again. When I was finished making it, I was inspired to put some in a container to share with her. She was surprised and delighted!

You can also be someone’s ding dong Santa – wrap up a gift or a plate of cookies, drop it at their door, ring the bell and hide! I do this with my kids when handing out cookies around the neighborhood. The look on some of the faces when they open the door is priceless!

What this time of year is really about is the spirit of giving. Bring some joy into your life this holiday season thru random acts of kindness! Spread the love out loud! Have a blessed holiday season!





Mental Health Awareness & Witches

May 3, 2018

Greetings Hands of Change Friends,

Today I wanted to talk about something a little bit different then the typical sabbatt or magic post. As some of you may be aware, May is typically the month reserved for spreading around Mental Health Awareness. This act was started in 1949 by the Mental Health America Organization in order to raise awareness, signs and treatment options while spreading support and understanding of mental illnesses and defeating the stigma surrounding them. Health is important, but we often find the talk about health concerning our physical bodies, such as diet and exercise. The talk about mental health is still under the stigma of “something is wrong with them” or “they’re crazy and shouldn’t be allowed to care for themselves”.

”One in 5 Americans are affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it” (

Do these sound familiar?
– I don’t need to talk to a therapist, I have everything under control.
– I don’t want to take medication for something so simple.
– I can’t afford medication or therapy with my health insurance.


Under health insurance companies, many of them offer little to no coverage for mental health, leaving those who really could benefit from these services and treatments without. With my personal experience, since I suffer from depression and minor anxiety, I have found finding coverage for these things difficult and have had to go without. I am sure there are several other instances as to why mental health awareness month is important to be talking about, but since this is a pagan coven blog, I’m going to get straight to the point.

What does Mental Health Awareness Month have to do with paganism and witchcraft?

Oh, glad you asked my friend. As witches and pagans, our craft relies heavily on our mental health believe it or not. There’s a popular belief that if you’re not in the healthy mental state, your spells, rituals and workings will not be as powerful or work as well. For example, if you wanted to run a marathon but you are out of shape, you could either train for the marathon and finish at a decent time or not train for it and finish closer to the last few individuals. It’s the same thing with workings and your mental health.

Did you just have a fight? Find out some bad news? If these responses from you will fuel your energetic workings correctly, then go for it. However, if you’re trying to send some healing energy and you’re feeling ready to punch something, you should hold off. Sending this angry energy to someone in need of healing could result in your healing not working or hurting them instead.


How To Help Yourself:
– Meditate once a day
– Recite positive mantras
– Clean your house (seriously, cleaning out negativity helps!)
– Exercise (raise those happy hormones)
– Talk to your doctor!
– Learn more about mental illnesses.
– Connect with others and share experiences.

How To Help Others:
– Ask if others are ok when they’re displaying concerning signs in person. If they don’t want to talk, don’t push it. Let them know you’re there for them.
– If someone makes an upsetting comment online, reach out to them. Again, if they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push.
– If you know someone with a mental health disorder, reach out to them prior to a triggering event and see what they would prefer you doing. When the time comes, you’re prepared.
– Show support or donate to a worthy cause in your loved ones honor/memory.

Quick Witchy Aid:
– Depression Crystals: lepidolite, tigers eye, smoky quartz, amethyst, unikite, sunstone, rose quartz.
– Repeat This Mantra: I am worthy of the love and life I so desire. I am worthy of living here in the now. I am loved. I am protected. I am beautiful.
– Drink Some Tea: chamomile, green tea, lemon balm, lavender and peppermint
– Light Some Incense: lavender, jasmine, ylang ylang, lemongrass and sandalwood.
– Reconnect with Nature (and get out of your own head!)


For More Statistics and Information, visit:

Ishtarfest 2018

May 3, 2018

The warmer weather is moving in, and you know what that means! The very essence of the Goddess is in the air, and with it, this year’s Ishtarfest is on the horizon! This year, we return to the Fertile Crescent to acknowledge and celebrate all that was birthed from there – and this year we’ll also be celebrating Goddesses from all over the map as we journey thru the Goddess chant during the Festival!

Hands of Change welcomes Grandmother (Elder) Elspeth, Enheduinanna (presenting the Inanna ritual)  James Jacob Pierri (the Iseum of the Sacred Lotus – presenting Isis), Robin Power (presenting Demeter) the Iron Garden (presenting Kali), Red Oak Grove (presenting/channeling Hecate) , and more! We are so honored to be able to host such a variety of groups! And I think I speak for the whole group when I say we are so thankful to have crossed paths with all of you!

And yes, bring the kids! Grandmother Elspeth is bringing back her stories, Jack Morrowin will be teaching impromptu magic (and there will be a show to follow!), I hear there will be crafts and games… and we’ll be surrounded by nature!

Don’t forget to dress up! Sumerian/Babylonian, God or Goddess of your choice – get creative! We’ll have members scouting out the best costume and there will be a Goddess Gift Basket for the winner! Not to mention, we’ll have a unique selection of vendors offering their wares and services for purchase!

And last, but not least, we’ll be ending the night with a bardic circle at 8:30pm… come with a song to sing, instrument to play, story to  tell, jokes, poems, or just be willing to listen! Drumming and dancing strongly encouraged!

We hope to be able to celebrate with you – because the community is what makes these events amazing! Click the Ishtarfest link to learn more, and we’ll see you in Uruk!

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.