The Origins of the Star, Pentacle, Pentagram


The star , known as a Pentagram or Pentacle, has come to have great meaning and power over the decades to both Pagan and others. It has remained, regardless of religion, in some way or form.

But where did it surface from? What does it mean? And what does it continue to stand for?


The star itself can be traced back to Ancient times as nearly every culture laid claim to it. The Goddess Kore, who was worshipped by the Pythagorean mystics knew that if you cut an apple crosswise, it revealed the star in its center marked by her sacred seeds.

Some ancients called it the star of Ishtar, of Isis, of Nephthys. While in some cultures it meant life and health, in Egypt, it came to represent the underground womb. And even still, from there it’s uses and purposes grew. In Babylon, they were famous for drawing the star on pots and pottery invoking its power to help preserve what was in them. Even those of biblical times, adapted the power of the star as being the first holy sign of their seven seals. Why even King Solomon’s legendary magic ring was made of a star.

While the upright star also symbolized the Goddess, it  brought protection and knowledge. While Christians today will make the sign of a cross over their chest, Ancient Pagans would make the sign of the pentagram over theirs.

Start at the left breast, then to forehead, then right breast, then left shoulder, right shoulder, then end it at the left breast.  This symbolized not only protection but completion.

Pretty neat, hu?

Over time, though, the meaning of the star changed, and even today, many Pagans and non-Pagans forgot it’s origins. We have been taught to fear the star, especially when we see it represented in this way.

Pentacle 2 But in Ancient times, the upside down star simply represented the God. It especially became popular when a man was placed in the center, calling him “He of the five shapes.” Also known as the horned God, representing four horned and sacred animals: the bull, ram, goat, and stag. The fifth shape was that of a man.

This was adapted by Satanists sometime later, and then the stereotypes and fear grew from there for whatever reason. (Usually misrepresentation, lack of knowledge, or speculation.) But back in the day, the Horned god nor the upside down star ever represented anything evil or frightening.

Sadly, though, even today, many Pagans do not know the origins of the upside down star. A perfect example– I did a newsletter some odd years ago, using a piece of Royo art to set it off. The warrior woman had on a necklace with an upside down star on it. To me, the woman represented the Goddess and the star, the God. But sure enough I was slammed with angry and offended emails wondering why I would shatter the image of Paganism by using something so evil as the upside down star.

However, focused on what our Ancient Ancestors would do…and On a more positive note…when the two stars are intertwined like so…

Pentacle 3 They represented the union of the God and the Goddess joining. This symbol was often used in marriages between Pagans, as in some cultures, the woman represented the Goddess, and the man, the God…so by bringing them together, they each represented the sacred union and joining of both.

This, nine pointed star has also come to mean the Tree of Life, or the moon inside the tree of life. It represents balance, guidance and inspiration. It symbolizes completion, eternity, as well as nine being a popular number in Ancient times.

From the Ancient Egyptians, to the Celts, the star was held high and kept close. from story to legend, to family crest, the star made its mark. Gawain was said to carry the pentacle as it was painted on his shield–representing Morgan. Hermetic Magicians used the star within their model of man because from Ancient to previous times, the star meant, among other things,….knowledge.

Those of law enforcement move behind that of a star. Many flags– American, Iraq, Australia, and more show stars. Why, one of the most popular decorations right now happens to be the Primitive Star. I can’t drive through a neighborhood without seeing a gazillion of them hanging on people’s homes. From Barns, to weather vanes…the star has survived the test of time…and for those who make note of them in your life, maybe they will give you a deeper meaning, now that you know some of their grand origins.


39 Days of Prayer – Day 3

Day 3 – For Friends and Loved Ones

I pray for my friends
For those who have loved and supported me through
My times of joy and my times of pain
I honor them in your name Goddess,
And ask that they be blessed by your hand.
Stand  with them, as they have stood with me,
Defend them when they cannot defend themselves.
Allow me to be strong and compassionate when I am needed.
Blessed be.

Once Upon a Midnight Moon

Hi folks!  Since this is Free for All day, I decided to upload a story I created for Halloween last year for a blog I participate in.  I hope you enjoy it!

Maya Delgado Santiago rubbed bleary eyes and sat back from a laptop on her cluttered desk. A thesis paper hung in computer monitor purgatory waiting to become hard copy. She saved her latest entry to it and shut the system down.

A chill wind blew from the ocean, sauntered through the picture window of her bedroom. It was cold and damp forcing her to skim her hands up and down mocha colored skin prickled by the breeze. She stood to close the sliding glass pane, but the briny scent of the water and the distant crash of the surf made her hesitate. She loved that smell, the sounds of the sea. Within a moment, it lulled her active thoughts, led her to the surreal.

The dream started once again. Filled with the promise of distant shores, her mind wandered. In the solitude of her room, she stepped away from her comfortable world and into that other place, that other time. A vague recollection of a life beckoned to her. If she attempted deliberate recall, it would dart away and close a door in her memory. When she allowed it free rein, then she could gather herself, attempt to make sense of these events when they came upon her. If only she could remember enough to provide detail to her journal, something she started years ago when the dream first began. Writing helped her understand and work through a problem, but there was still no solution in sight for this, whatever it was happening to her.

A spirit sighed. Where are you?

Maya dared not move, lest she lose the fragile grip she had on her psyche when in this state. It was a voice she recognized but couldn’t place in her current memory. A frustrating thought of something left undone would follow. She prepared for it, determined a calm, rational approach could help her where former emotional reactions could not.

You are missed, Daughter of the Moon.

There was such sorrow in the lament. Her heart lurched in sympathetic ache, as if it was breaking. This reaction made no sense in the context of her life. She was happy and healthy, came from a good family. Her father and mother were wonderful, giving her everything, she could possibly want, loving her without reserve.

Accepted to the university of her choice, Maya set about pursuing her psychology degree. While she had no siblings, Maya had two best friends, both young women she grew up with, both of whom were attending the same college along with Maya. They shared a three bedroom apartment overlooking the coast and fairly close to campus. They couldn’t believe their luck when they found the place, even the rent was reasonable, the neighborhood decent. When shown the bedroom with the sea view, neither Deidre nor Nina desired the space because of its western location.

“It may be wonderful now,” Deidre stated when Maya admired it. “Just wait until summer, though.”

Nina agreed.

“I don’t care,” Maya replied. “It’s perfect for me.”

Maya could feel a desire building within her. She wanted to run, to feel the wind in her hair, the water chasing her as she teased the waves to follow her along the shore. It was so cold, but that did not dampen her desire. A thought stopped her, halted her reverie.

Why do I feel so alone?

A lilting soprano, comforting, sure and strong, responded. One does not run without the others.

Maya’s knees gave way and she dropped to the floor. Never before had she heard that voice. It filled her, surrounded her, lifted her to a place where moonlight expanded throughout her mind. She lay down as the dream moved forward, taking her to a new space, a new experience. She must remember. She pleaded with the unseen woman to allow her to remember.

A soft hand reached to her, the arm of which ascended into a lush cloak. Maya could not see a face hidden deep within the wrap’s hood. The voice held such promise of beauty, so much love. Silken fingers of alabaster stroked her brow.

Shh, my daughter, your time comes. For now, know that we miss you and welcome your return with open arms.

Maya could not contain the welling of energy racing through her body from the woman’s touch. The skin shined silver in the moonlight, but the power of the caress radiated the sun. Unable to bear it any longer, Maya fainted.


“Maya, Maya!” A gentle shaking of her right shoulder roused Maya to consciousness. Deidre was staring at her, still shaking her while Nina stood overhead in silence, a look of concern etched on her face.

“Are you okay? I heard you drop something. I knocked to see if you were all right. When you didn’t respond I got scared and opened your door. Good thing I did.” Deidre stated. She helped Maya stand while Nina grabbed an afghan from the bed to wrap around Maya’s shoulders.

Maya regained her senses. The other life, the whispers, the unidentified woman were gone. The dreams were always vivid but never before did they occur in her waking state. She thought for a moment. Had she been awake? Maya looked to her computer. It was off and folded closed. She noted her comforter, blanket and sheets turned down, but her pillow carried no impression from her head. An unnerving chill flowed through her. She held back tears threatening to spill. Was she losing her mind or was she just hallucinating because she’d been pushing herself so hard? Either way as a student pursuing a Masters in Psychology, seeing things and hearing voices did not bode well for a career in her chosen field of study.

Think, Maya, think! The last thing she remembered was the overwhelming desire to run. It was a frustrating position to be in. She knew she had, once again, a strange almost otherworldly experience, but couldn’t remember exactly what happened afterward. As usual, the bits of her dream formed a puzzle of sorts, but it was fragmentary, pieces were missing. Should she tell her two best friends about the voices she heard, the dreams she had since she was a girl? How could she do that though, when she couldn’t recall what was said to her or the fleeting images that escaped her? Her psychology trained mind decided against it. That’s all she needed was for her friends to think she was nuts. In this day and age, any sign of mental illness on a university campus was taken very seriously. Maya was in her senior year of her Bachelor’s degree and had applied to the Master’s program. She wasn’t about to ruin her chances for her long sought after goal. She’d figure out what was happening to her one way or another.

“Yeah, no kidding,” Maya concurred. “I’m sorry, I must have fallen asleep at my desk and fell off my chair. I’m such a nerd.” She laughed and both of her roommates chuckled.

Nina shook her blond head. “I know you’re working hard on your thesis and semester testing is coming up, but you still gotta sleep, My!”

My was the nickname Nina graced her with when they were nine years old. My, My Maya was a cheer the girls use to shout whenever Maya got into trouble. My, my Maya, lookin’ for a fight, My, My, Maya, always thinks she’s right, if you dare to mess with her, she will take you on, My, My Maya will chase you ’til the dawn. A goofy little chant that somehow made her reputation precede her. It caused the neighborhood bullies to leave her and anyone she befriended alone because Maya tended to be everyone’s knight in shining armor. If she wasn’t defending the downtrodden, she was the neighborhood counselor. Everyone, including some adults would come to her with their problems. Somehow Maya always seemed to have the answer.

Maya walked toward her bed and sat down on the comfortable mattress. The girls followed. “You’re right, I should, huh?”

Nina stepped to Maya’s window and closed the sliding glass panel. “It’s cold in here.” She stopped and stared out of the glass, squinting at something outside. “Halloween’s starting early.”

“What?” Deidre and Maya asked in unison.

“What other time of the year can you wear a cloak in California and get away with it?”

“What are you talking about?” Maya responded and joined Nina, Deidre following.

An irrational bout of fear ran through Maya as her gaze followed Nina’s line of sight. Maya’s bedroom window overlooked an open courtyard. At the end of well tended foliage and lawn surrounding the front of the apartment complex, a sidewalk extended to street parking then two vehicular travel lanes, one for each traffic direction. Across the street, more lawn reached to a boardwalk lining a sandy beach. The loose sand stretched several dozen yards to the west. Beyond that border, the Pacific Ocean lay in the distance. When the weather was sunny and clear, Maya loved to watch the shining waves spilling their contents onto the dun colored sands.

Maya saw a figure in a dark cloak, the hood drawn, the face hidden because a street lamp backlit the person, offering only a silhouette. It was obvious to her the individual was looking up at the three girls now crowded around the window. A memory butted its way into her consciousness. Daughter of the Moon, She said. Maya was struck with the strong urge to leave and go to Her. Her? There’s no way to tell from here. Yet, somehow, Maya knew it was true.

Nina turned to her roommates. “See what I mean?” They nodded in confirmation. When the girls looked back to the figure, it was gone.

Deidre shrugged. “Probably a homeless person who sleeps in one of the beach bathrooms at night. It’s really sad.” Maya smiled at Deidre’s sympathetic nature. That’s why her friend was studying to become a social worker. Maya disagreed with Deidre’s assessment, but kept her opinions to herself.

A minute later, Deidre yawned and Nina rubbed at her eyes. It was late and the trio commiserated with each other on their sleep deprivation. Both girls said their goodnights and left the room only after assured by Maya she was fine. Alone in her room, Maya prepared for bed. Before she lay down, she dared return to the window. Nothing. She sighed then moved to her mattress and pulled the bed coverings up. Wiggling into the downy softness, Maya closed her eyes and wished to any guardian spirit watching over her she could find an answer to what was happening. She was becoming more and more concerned over this matter. Maya closed her eyes, exhaustion taking her rapidly down into the REM state. A dream began. In it her abuela called to her and she ran to the diminutive, pudgy woman whom Maya adored. Her grandmother’s arms gathered the girl in and held her so tight. Maya inhaled. Her grandmother always smelled of lavendar soap and baking flour. Maya started to sob.

“Mija, why are you crying?”

“I’m scared, Grandma. It’s getting worse. I’m hearing the voices when I’m awake now. Am I crazy?”

“No, Gordita, you are not.”

Maya smiled. Her abuela always called her little fat girl because when Maya was very young she was short and chubby, just like her grandma. Even when Maya’s height finally caught up with her weight and she had become a curvy young woman with a healthy, athletic figure, abuela still called her by that name. Maya allowed it because it was said with love.

“What’s happening to me?” Maya sniffled and took the handkerchief her grandmother offered her. She was surprised to find laughter in her abuela’s dark, almond shaped eyes.

“The truth, Gordita. It is time to know of your birthright for She is calling to you.”

Maya didn’t know how to respond. A chill of foreboding mixed with an odd feeling of excitement warred within and she began to shiver, unsure of which sensation was winning. “M-my what?”

Abuela laughed merrily. “It is time to find out who you really are, Daughter of the Moon.”

Maya pulled away with sudden surprise and watched in disbelief as her abuela transformed.


Maya was hypnotized. Where her grandmother stood, a delicate, white coated doe now existed. An ethereal glow emanated from the hind. Light, almost blue-white in luminosity, ebbed and flowed around her. There were no words forming in Maya’s mind at the beauty of the creature. She could feel her spirit straining to burst free from her body. An overwhelming wave of love and empathy surrounded her.

“Time to run, Daughter. The Others are waiting.”

“I-I don’t know how…” Maya gestured to the deer, indicating her inability to transform. A sorrow claimed her, she was frustrated at her lack of understanding.

“Yes, you do. Remember?”

Maya could swear a smile appeared on the animal’s slender muzzle.

“I don’t…” Maya’s voice trailed away. She could feel an internal welling of energy building within. It engulfed her feet and moved its way up through her muscled calves, thighs and hips as it spiraled its way to her center. Maya’s solar plexus convulsed and she was forced down on her hands and knees. She gasped at the strength of the experience. There was no pain, only a great building of electricity so intense she couldn’t draw breath. There was pleasure, but the sensation came from her soul shouting its triumph as its efforts to escape were succeeding. In a final dynamic burst of power, Maya changed. There was a moment of understanding. Who she was and what she became collided in a symphony of harmonic awareness. Sight, sound, scent expanded and coalesced into sharp clarity. Maya knew everything. The remaining question was why. Why her?

“Follow, Daughter. You will soon learn all you need to know. Then, you will have a choice to make.” With that, the hind leaped across the lawn of Maya’s apartment complex. She dashed after her. The pair hit the beach in tandem at a full gallop. Maya shrieked with euphoria. One final push and her soul burst forth. In full stride, she ran and ran, doing what her heart had desired all along. She bounded through the cold waves crashing on the shore, the shock of the water spurring her forward as her companion urged her to greater speed, smiling at her enthusiasm.

The scent of the sea claimed Maya first. Never before had she smelled so many different odors. There was a variety of fauna. She laughed at the abundance, thrilled by their survival in such a damaged world. There was flora, earthbound and ocean living, in various stages of growth and decay. It was perfume to her, an intoxicating confirmation life thrived no matter what. Large ears didn’t miss a single sound. Vehicles, human lovemaking, babies fussing, dogs barking, it was endless.

Maya realized the scenery was changing. They were no longer on the shoreline of California. They were moving into the rolling desert hills of her home state. They had been running for hours. She was surprised at her stamina, not tired in the least. Different scents came to her and she inhaled. The air was dry, as other species of plants and animals were captured by her extraordinary sense of smell. They moved farther and deeper into hills that became greater, larger, higher. Her curiosity was piqued. They were now in the mountains for sure. Pine trees and snow resonated clean and crisp within her nostrils. She noted she wasn’t cold. Her thick pelt protected her well. Her guide led her through an abundant forest. They jumped and moved in synchronicity, Maya enraptured by her grandmother’s grace. In time, they slowed to a walk, stopped as they entered a clearing. Once again, she was startled by what she viewed. Even though Maya knew she was still in California, the scene before her looked as though she were in some ancient Celtic forest.

Eight other white hinds stood in the center of the opening in the dense woods. Each deer stood next to a stone monolith, each of which encircled a large shining rounded crystal, shaped like a pomegranate, two feet high. Within its center were protrusions of crystal looking like seeds. One stone monolith remained unoccupied. Maya stood in front of it. The energy pulsing from it and the crystal was palpable.

“You may change, Daughters.” This was the first time her grandmother spoke during their strange, exhilarating journey. Bright, intense light blasted the dell. Within moments, Maya was her human self and looking at eight other women. Some were older than she, some were younger, barely out of their teens. Instinct told her they were not American but from different parts of the world. One looked Middle Eastern, another African. A lovely red haired woman had a distinctly Irish appeal while an Asian woman with short black hair stood in silent contemplation. It was as if they were plucked from the tree of the world to represent their homelands. It was very clear all were here for a purpose. She turned to her abuela and realized she was no longer her mother’s mother, but the cloaked woman of her earlier encounters that evening.

The figure pulled back her hood. Maya drew in a sharp breath. Beautiful was a poor description of her. Long, golden blonde hair flowed down the woman’s back to her hips. Large eyes, a rich, sparkling brown framed by thick, dark lashes gleamed from a fair skinned face. Tall and lithe, dressed in clothing Maya could imagine would only be found in Arthurian legend, the lady moved easily to each woman within the circle, embraced every one in tender care. When she came upon Maya, she reached out and drew her in, holding, comforting her. Memories of her mother and grandmother’s love flooded through her. Maya knew she was home and finally comprehended the being before her.

The Goddess stepped back to the crystal in the center of the ring. “It is time, Daughters of the Moon. Our Earth Mother needs you. She can no longer endure the pain inflicted upon her by an uncaring humanity bent on its self-destruction. Each of you has been called as you are in or will be in distinct positions of power and influence to do your part to save Her. However, my Children, this will not be forced on you, as you do have choice.” She leaned down and removed nine small crystals from the interior of its parent.

The Lady moved toward every woman and presented her with a glowing gem. When she reached Maya, she extended her palm. Maya noted the clear stone beaming golden light and hesitated. Her field of study was psychology. She wanted to work in a clinic setting with adults afflicted with multiple personality disorder, but somehow she knew change would come, if she agreed.

“Daughter, your purpose is noble and true. I would ask you to consider reorienting your field of study to work children. Help them before their path twists beyond their ability to make wise decisions. Will you consider this?”

“I will.” Maya’s response was immediate. She realized though she had time to consider the request because each of the women in the circle was asked to consider a new path, to make a choice between what they knew and the potential of the unknown. All understood they must come to the decision on their own. To Maya their faces revealed their deepest thoughts as each considered the importance of this meeting tonight.

Raising her hands, the Goddess’s gaze looked to the heavens and she smiled. “Blessed be,” She whispered. A light converged in the dark sky. Milky and golden, a full moon moved over the glen. In a sudden burst of energy it cast its glow down on the group. The crystalline stone at the center of the ring caught the luminescence and refracted it, sending rainbow colors outward, catching Goddess and all.

“Blessed be,” all of the women responded in unison, arms uplifted. The intensity increased and the energy expanded.

“It is time to return to your lives, Daughters of the Moon.”

The hinds reappeared, Maya among them. To her delight, they darted and ran into the forest, stretching long slender legs, laughing and singing in their freedom, in the magic of the night. Maya felt herself returning, dashing back towards the desert, to her favorite place, the ocean, where once again she teased the waves. Stepping to the courtyard of her apartment building, Maya raised her delicate head. Her world spun and an irresistible urge to sleep pulled at her mind.


Maya woke with a start as her alarm clock blared. She slapped at the sentinel to shut it off and lay back in her bed. A feeling of disorientation filled her. I was dreaming again. Saddened by the fact she was able to remember the dream with perfect recall, but thinking it was only a dream, she rolled over, stared at the morning sky, wishing it had been real. As she did so, a sharp poking in her hip forced her to sit up. “Ouch,” she exclaimed.

As she pulled her blankets back, Maya gasped. A crystal approximately one inch long and wide, twinkled in the sunlight. It was mounted in silver filigree on a long silver chain, its sharp end standing at attention.

You are loved, Daughter of the Moon, she heard the Goddess whisper.

Maya started to cry, her heart welling with joy. It was real! In slow motion, she grasped the jewel, held it to her chest. It was warm and comforting and in its presence, her night with the Goddess returned in full force. Maya opened her eyes and put the necklace on.


Trick-or-treaters bombarded Maya’s apartment in a frenzy. The girls couldn’t believe how many children came to their door. The costumes were adorable and the kids’ enthusiasm for the night unending. Deidre and Nina took a moment in the lull to run to the local convenience store a block away. They were picking up more treats for the crowds as Maya continued to dole out their remaining candy.

When the last batch of children trickled down, Maya sat in tired happiness on her sofa. A few minutes later a timid knock caused her to stand and grab her half empty bowl of sweets. When she opened the door, a little girl with long, golden hair and chocolate eyes dressed as a princess stood before her, crying. “I’m lost. I don’t know where my Daddy is.”

Maya’s heart lurched. “Oh no, it’s okay, querida. Let me put on my shoes and I’ll help you find him, all right?”

The little girl snuffled and nodded her head, rubbing her tears on her sleeve. Maya returned within seconds and offered her hand to the child. “What’s your name?”

“Guinevere.” The child hiccupped.

“Wow, that’s pretty.”

“My daddy named me after my grandma.” She responded still sniffling while attempting to suck her thumb. The little girl told her all about her father, what he looked like and where she last saw him.

Maya’s whole body began to vibrate. Something was building. She was being called. They rode the elevator to the first floor of the complex then moved toward the lobby when the front double doors flew open. A frantic looking man was talking on his cell phone. She could hear him describing his child, this child. Maya breathed out a sigh of relief.

“Sir, I think I’ve found her,” she stated as she picked Guinevere up and presented her to him.

“Oh my God, Guin!” He yelled as he dropped his phone and reached for his daughter. He covered her in kisses, holding her tight, asked if she was scared, apologizing over and over. Turning to Maya, his face colored as if he were embarrassed. “She let go of my hand for only a second and got caught in a crowd of kids when the elevator doors closed. I was caught in the crowd on the elevator and couldn’t reach her!”

Maya smiled. “She’s okay. She knocked on my door and asked for help right away. She told me all about you. Guinevere is one smart little girl.”

He pulled Maya to him, hugged her and laughed. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Guinevere hugged his neck tight. The pair said goodbye to Maya once again and turned to leave the building. As she headed toward the elevator, she heard the man call the police department again to advise his daughter was found.

“Thank you, nice lady.” Guinevere smiled through her thumb, waving with remaining fingers.

Maya turned and returned the gesture. “You’re welcome. Hold on to your daddy’s hand and don’t let go from now on, alright?”

“I will,” she replied, leaning her head against her father’s.

A tear slicked Maya’s cheek. She experienced a profound relief and happiness. It was as if her own child had been rescued. As she watched the pair leave, Maya knew beyond a shadow of doubt she made her choice and she knew the Goddess smiled.


Phil Rickman

I’ve mentioned Phil Rickman in a couple of blogs now, because he’s an author I enjoy and admire. However, he’s not yet anything like as famous as he should be, so it occurred to me that I should devote a blog to saying a bit more about who he is, what he does, and why he has a significant pagan following.

 I first encountered Phil Rickman some years ago when he was interviewed by Pagan Dawn magazine. In that piece he talked about his interest in the occult, and his not being a pagan. Even though I’d never heard of him before, it was a sufficiently interesting article that I still remember it, many years later.

I used to review fiction for White Dragon – a pagan magazine based in the UK. Rowan, the editor, offered me a Phil Rickman novel, so I said yes. It was ‘The Fabric of Sin’ and brought me in a fair distance into his Merrily Watkins series. It stood alone perfectly well. I sometimes had the sense that there currents in the background and developments that might seem more important were I following the entire series, but the story itself made sense. I was impressed. A while later I picked up two stories from earlier in the series – “Midwinter of the Soul” and “A Crown of Lights” these too stood alone, and I filled in more character detail. I eventually got round to the first one – “The Wine of Angels” and now some of the larger story arcs make more sense.

The Merrily Watkins series follow the adventures of said character. She’s a widow, and single parent to a teenage girl, Jane. Merrily is a vicar, starting out when female vicars in the UK were unfamiliar and radical. Then she gets into exorcism – Deliverance Ministry, which puts her in an odd place in relation to the Anglican church. Her daughter dabbles in paganism. The stories are mysteries, although murder is not always the focal point – one centred around a suicide. The first one is heavy on the body count, but I suspect the author of not imagining he’d get to do a whole series. Rickman has an engaging writing style, good plots, interesting twists and a large cast of very strong and compelling characters, many of whom appear in more than one story.

His appeal to pagan readers stems partly from the character of Jane – he’s very much captured the teenage girl drawn to witchcraft, with all the challenges, pitfalls, mistakes and wonders that journey can involve. As a female vicar working with the supernatural, Merrily is easy to empathise with. I can’t help but feel she’d make a very good druid, in other circumstances. Frequently the occult elements of the story provide the tension and the bodies. Satanists feature as bad guys, but so do church figures, media folk, farmers, landed gentry… Rickman will keep you guessing. Witchy types are just as likely to be the good guys as the villains. So he’s very even handed in portraying occultism, and this is very appealing.

Rickman has done his homework. He knows his history, folklore, superstition, and plenty about occult practice, and natural magic. He might not be claiming to be pagan himself, but he has a great deal of insight into what might have been, and into what contemporary paganism is like. He reflects modern paganism (warts and all) in a way that is entirely recognisable, without relying on stereotypes, clichés, or too much melodrama. Reading his work as a pagan, I tend to feel that I am reading about people I recognise, lifestyles I know, and that’s rather pleasing.

The other great source of appeal to pagans is the degree to which his stories are rooted in landscape. Places, and their history, buildings and their connection to human activity, the wonder and danger of the wild, the magic in the apple tree… these things Rickman understands. Set along the Herefordshire border with Wales – an area rich in history, the Merrily Watkins stories have roots, and bring the landscape vividly to life. The sense of place, of season, of land and living close to it permeates his writing, and this will speak to any pagan soul.

His homepage is here – and I heartily recommend checking him out.