[This issue, we sit down with Lora Gaddis, founder, editor, and contributing writer of Pooka Pages. Here, she discusses her work on that long-running site; her poems, short stories, and music; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual path? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive or eclectic?
Lora Gaddis: Over the years I’ve studied and taught wicca, druidry, hoodoo, and ceremonial magic, and explored other traditions, as well. However, my own personal path has always been more instinctive and intuitive. When I was a kid, I called it “Listening to my tummy.” When I heard or read something, I learned that if I paid attention to my stomach area, I’d know if it was right or wrong for me. Not everybody … just me. One of my favorite quotes is: “There are as many Paths to God (or Spirit) as there are people and there is only One Path and we are All on it.”
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers are honored in your tradition?
LG: I don’t have a specific tradition. I believe in One Spirit or Force that is dual in nature: male/female, yin/yang, god/goddess. I also believe in a Spirit of the land — the specific locale and bit of earth you’re standing on — and in the Spirits of the elements. Beyond that, when I need to focus on a specific aspect of the god or goddess, being of Celtic heritage, I usually choose from that pantheon.
ev0ke: You are the creator of Pooka Pages, a website specifically for Pagan children. First, how did Pooka Pages get their start? What was the impetus beyond the site’s creation?
LG: About twenty years ago, my husband gave me a graphic tablet and pen. I began drawing a picture of a little witch and her cat. As I did, they suddenly had names. I imagined where they lived, what they did, who their neighbors and friends were, et cetera. The next thing I knew, I was writing a story about them purely for my own entertainment. More drawings and stories followed. As a lark, I put them on my Gruenwold website. People liked them and a friend suggested we collaborate on an e-zine for pagan children. Since there was absolutely nothing for pagan kids out there at the time, I was all in. She dropped out after a year or so, but I continued.
ev0ke: What is the target audience for Pooka Pages? Is there an age-range? Young kids? Middle grades?
LG: When writing, we imagine that we’re talking to a kid between the ages of five to twelve, but it seems to have a much broader appeal. Besides the coloring pages, we have our Wee Witchling’s stories in which pictures are substituted for certain words so a pre-reader can “read” the story along with their grownup. We also have many readers in their early teens that also enjoy the stories, herb articles, and crafts. I’ve also received lots of letters from adults who follow the magazine because they like the way the stories and articles explain holidays and various magical principles.
ev0ke: How long does it take to put an issue together? How do you decide what to include in each issue in terms of artwork, articles, recipes, and so on?
LG: The deadline for articles and artwork is about two weeks before an issue is due out. I start working on my own stories and articles before that, but it generally takes about two weeks of intense focus to pull it all together after everyone has sent theirs in.
The issues usually revolve around the upcoming holiday. Our Team members each have a regular section or column that they’re responsible for and they decide for themselves the content of their specific article or artwork.
ev0ke: You have also published four collections of Elsie and Pooka stories. Congratulations! How did you go about compiling and publishing the books?
LG: The Pooka Pages magazine has been in continuous publication for nearly twenty years. Since each issue is removed from the website when it’s replaced by the next one, I had plenty of material to select from for the books. At first I went through conventional publishers, but later found I preferred self-publishing through Kindle. That way I had more control over the layout and general appearance of the books. I found I could also lower the cost for young families on a tight budget.
ev0ke: You also manage Gruenwold Cottage, a site grown-up Pagans and Witches. I am totally jealous of your herb room! How long did it take you to put together, and what is your favorite thing about having an herb room?
LG: I worked, apprenticed, and taught in an herb and hermetics store for about ten years before moving and opening my own shop. So I’ve always had an abundance of herbs and oils in my home. My Herb Room is my sanctuary. Besides gardening, there’s little I love more than spending time there … creating incenses, bath formulas and teas, crafting wreaths and potpourris or gathering and hanging herbs from the garden to dry and jar for future use. I also use it for meditation and certain magical workings.
ev0ke: Gruenwold Cottage also includes a music room, which features songs created by you and your sister. How did that collaboration come about, and what was your favorite piece that you created together?
LG: I moved from the beach to the mountains to be closer to my younger sister and brought with me a bunch of poems I’d written. Then, while living there, I wrote more poems. My sister is a talented musician and composer who plays keyboards, drums, and guitar. She set them to music and we recorded them one winter in the living room of her mountain cabin.
Each song is so personal that it’s hard to pick a favorite. My best memory though is of probably the worst song on the album, “Pan’s Block Party”. We wrote that one together while drinking margaritas, munching on nachos, and rapid-shooting lyrics back and forth across her kitchen table. We were giggling the whole time. She then invited some musician friends up to the cabin to help record it. The recording session literally was a party. So, it may not be my favorite song, but it was definitely the silliest and most fun!
“The Witch” is a song that reflects a disturbing experience when I first moved up to the mountains. I’d unwittingly rented a house on a lake from a Christian couple who lived next door. My stained-glass pentagram in the window alerted them to my beliefs and my house was surrounded one night by a circle of the male members of their congregation. The women, meanwhile, gathered inside the landlady’s house and prayed for my soul. Being a single mother with a small child to protect, I quickly found another residence.
ev0ke: What advice can you offer to others who are considering launching their own ezine? Things they should do? Mistakes to avoid?
LG: First, I’d suggest having a clear vision of what it is that will make your publication unique and set it apart from other publications already available.
Second, assemble a group of dedicated, reliable, and talented writers and artists whom you can work with and rely on. Communicate with them regularly, reminding them ahead of time when a deadline is approaching and always give plenty of positive, constructive feedback on their work — especially if this is a labor of love and they’re doing it for free.
The only reason Pooka Pages has been so long-running and successful is because of our amazing Team. Seriously, I couldn’t do this without them. Even more than our wonderful readers, the commitment and enthusiasm of our Team members is what has kept the magazine going through the years.
ev0ke: What other resources would you recommend to Pagan parents and educators who are looking for material for children? Books? Magazines? Comics?
LG: The Pagan Family by Ceiswr Serith. When my older daughter was growing up, there was very little in the way of pagan literature for adults and nothing at all for kids. Thirteen years later, when my second daughter was born, his was the first book to provide rituals for families that included young children. In my opinion, it’s still the best book out there! It’s out of print, but a full copy of the book is free online at the author’s website. I can’t recommend it enough.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
LG: Having finished my Wheel of the Year series, I’m now working on a fifth book and possibly my favorite: Pooka’s Book of Moonlight and Magic. It contains Pooka stories about moon phases and magic, various forms of divination, dream pillows, runes, and even touches on ethics in spell casting. And, of course, it will contain the usual recipes for lunar celebrations, spells, herbal lore, and moon rituals for kids.