Saturday, November 24, 2018

World Wide Solstice Sun Wreath Ceremony

My friend Beth Owl's Daughter has graciously hosted this ceremony for the last 14 years. and each year it's been growing. It's now pretty much world wide. Please follow the link for more information on this event which begins TOMORROW night at dusk and continues through the holiday season.

I'll be back soon with a new post.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Not Just Some Old Cat

My beloved feline companion and familiar Kitty Boo passed away at the local vet hospital sometime during the night of September 21st from kidney disease. She was approximately nine years old; I'm not exactly sure how old she was because she was adopted as a rescue. Her first human Mum had drug and alcohol abuse related  issues and she was suddenly found dead two apartments down from me. Her daughter lived thousands of miles away and was allergic to cats; she was willing to take Boo, then named Muffin, but said the poor little creature would have to live outside-something she'd never done in her life. Ragamuffins are simply not outdoor cats. So together- and with Boo's permission- we made the decision that she should come to live with me.

I had been living a cat-less life for over twelve years after the death of my first familiar, Tinker. And frankly, as much as I loved and missed Tinker, I was enjoying not having the responsibility of caring for another and only myself. I was just coming out of a very rough period of my life. My emotional energy was limited at best. Gathering myself together and evolving into the person I have become took a lot of effort...and then this wonderful creature came along. We both needed each other. I think Boo rescued me and brought me home as much as I did it for her.

I often said that if Boo could talk she would have some fabulous stories to tell; even though she was never physically abused ( to my knowledge), she'd been emotionally neglected as her first Mum struggled with her addictions.The drugs had made her Mum neurologically sensitive, and she'd push Boo out of her lap. Boo lived the first five years of her life cowering in the bath tub or crouched on the bedroom window sill.  When she did come out to eat, she'd quickly scurry from the kitchen and hide to stay away from the constant stream of drug addicts, police and paramedics and all the other traffic that rambled through the apartment.

I was sure that I really didn't want another cat. For ten days after her Mum's death, while the apartment manager feed and cared for her, Boo spent her time crouched in the window between the blinds and the glass, her head bowed, curled into a ball of fluff. I approached her one day and asked through the window if she'd like to come home with me, and she looked straight into my eyes and cried out. The next day, as the manager continued to clean out the apartment, she was brought to me wrapped in a bath towel and put into my arms. She didn't struggle to get free- but she did cry...really, actually cried, vocalizing repeatedly with tears running from her eyes. We cried together. She became known my many affectionate names: Madam Muffin von Wigglebutt, Boo Boo, Kitty Boo, and I made up silly songs to sing to her.

A little over two years ago, when I had emergency heart surgery, I had to spend three months in rehabilitation recovering and the thing that kept up my desire to come home was knowing Boo was there being cared for by a neighbor. The night I returned, Boo sat on the back of my chair with deep concern in her eyes, connecting with me. She climbed down into my arms and touched my face with her paw. My neighbor took a photo of us. It is now one of my treasures. From then on, Boo would climb up into my arms several times a day to be held and talked to; when I returned home from shopping, she leaped into my arms from the floor. She'd often sit on my shoulder when I sat down to a meal. She liked to sleep alone in the living room in her kitty bed, but when she heard my alarm clock, she'd come into the bedroom, hop up on the bed and " make biscuits" on me to make sure I was getting up to feed her. She had the odd habit of dipping her paw into her water bowl ( and any glass of water I had) to drink from it. No glass of water was safe from this ritual. She even drank from my water offering bowl placed before the Buddha.

Kitty Boo showed no signs of her final illness. Cats are notorious at hiding sickness and pain. She simply stopped eating one day and by the next day I took her to the vet, even though she'd ate a few bites and drank some water that morning. She seemed to be rallying and followed me around the apartment. Dr. Wallace made a lot of tests, took x-rays, and came back with the news that Kitty Boo was gravely ill, but that she could recover. She did have hope that a weekend of IVs and medication would improve my furbaby's condition, but cautiously told me it could go either way. Had I known Boo was going to die, I would have taken her home with me until the end came so we could have been together. It was not meant to be. The tech on duty assured me she'd been in no pain, that she'd even eaten a few bites of food...but that she'd gone to sleep and simply never woke up. The best way, I think for both of us...a simple crossing to the next world. I am relieved it did not come to the point of euthanasia, which was my biggest fear.Still, I feel as if I deserted her to the kindness of strangers and bare a degree of guilt in that regard. I am grieving her loss deeply.

The evening she died, several odd things happened- things that reaffirm my belief in the afterlife. Around 10:30 P.M. I hear a cat meow. I am sure it was Kitty Boo, who had a soft, distinctive voice. It was only one meow, just enough to get my attention away from the book I was reading. I'd lit a prayer candle earlier for her, a candle of hope that the call I got from the vet in the morning was good news. There was no movement in the room and the windows were closed; no breezes stirred. I'd looked up from my reading when I heard that single soft meow, and the flame of the half burned candle got smaller and smaller until it went out. From the corner of my eye I saw Boo's long fluffy tail go around the corner into the kitchen. I got up to investigate and found nothing. The apartment was still. I went around turning on lights to examine every little place, including all of Boo's favorites. I honestly didn't expect to find anything, but felt I had to look anyway. Later that night I went to bed with no further incident. The next morning around 9:30 A.M. I received the sad news. Dr. Wallace relayed the details, assured me that we'd all done the very best we could have given the situation. We agreed upon a private cremation so I would have her ashes returned to me.

It is said that the mind plays tricks under times of severe stress, and because of my psychological training I do believe that happens in some circumstances. I don't think that was the case that night; I think my faithful, loving companion  let me know she was crossing the Veil and came back for a last goodbye. It was not a sad parting, but bittersweet. Death, after all, is a part of Life. Two years earlier my kitty loved me back from a near death experience; if it weren't for her fierce devotion and constant love, I would have given up and withered away. I believe this was the reason she came to me, and that when her mission was over, her short life ended and she returned to the place we all come from. I do not believe in the theology that states that animals have no souls. I believe exactly the opposite, that animals are completely integrated beings and have sentience accordingly. I believe they are much more evolved than humans in regard to spiritual beings. I think that's why they have limited lifespans- because they have less to work out than humans in their spiritual growth. They come into the world knowing much more than we do, and leave when they have taught us the lessons we need.

That was certainly the case with Boo, who shared everything with me : the joys of the first buds on the trees just outside our favorite window, of the sound of birds and rain and feeling gentle breezes that lightly caressed us. The pleasure of sharing her favorite snack of a bit of tuna when I opened a can to make a sandwich, and all those messy drinks of water I cleaned up. The unexpected leaps into my arms and wanting to be held, which were not so much demands for attention on her part as her wanting to love me. I will miss all of that and will continue to in the coming days.

In the meantime, as the Wheel turns, the Veil is thinning and Samhain approaches. I am currently planning my annual ancestor altar and ritual. There will be a new photo added to the collection of loved ones and those who have touched my life. It appears at the top of this story. Good Journey, Beloved Friend...wait for me.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sacred Uses Of Salt

We put it in our food; it's used as a cleaning agent. In many faith traditions,it holds mystical qualities.It repels and protects. Truly, salt is one of the Earth's most useful  substances.

Known as NaCl on the periodic table, salt is a natural substance formed by the combination of sodium and chlorine. Salt forms in crystals and in it's natural state is known as 'rock salt' or halite. Halite, along with other trace minerals, is a substance formed by the evaporation  of water found both underground and on the Earth's surface. Vast amounts of the mineral are found throughout the world, many found near petroleum  deposits. Salt has a lower freeze point than water, which is why it melts ice. Rock salt is found in a variety of colors: white, pink, blue, purple, grey and green. Sea salt is ground fine and used in cooking and as a condiment. Salt is also used as a curing agent to preserve food. However, comparatively, little of the salt taken from Nature is used in food: it's used in processes such as water conditioning and manufacturing of other materials.

My main focus in this post is the use of salt as a metaphysical tool, because it seems that salt has been used for spiritual purposes since the beginning of recorded history. It is frequently combined with water and sanctified ritualistically in countless religions as a spiritual tool used for blessing and protection. This sanctification is usually a type of exorcism performed to cast out any absorbed negativity. Salt is also an ingredient of holy incense, as stated in the Christian Bible ( Exodus 30:35 "And thou shalt make of it incense, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy..."). The process used in the Jewish tradition of koshering meat is a rather complicated series of actions which ensures the product adheres to strict religious dietary laws known as kashrut. The meat is washed and coated in koshering salt to draw out the blood during this preparation (consuming blood is prohibited by most forms of Judaism). Kosher salt is certified through vetting by the proper religious authority; not all sea salt is kosher because it is 'natural'. Just because this particular variety is kosher, that does not mean it has been blessed by a Rabbi.

It is widely known by occult practitioners that salt alone can neutralize and disperse malevolent energies. As a cleanser, it removes what is toxic and transforms what is corrupt through purification. Numerous cultures use salt as a talisman for warding off undesirable spirits. Charms using salt are created by placing a pinch in a pouch or small bottle to be carried or worn around the neck. A bit of fabric can be rubbed with salt or sprinkled with holy water containing salt and used as a prayer cloth ( the modern version used by various Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian sects). An old world tradition of Roman Catholicism is to carry a saints' medal or scapular that has been blessed with salt and water. A ritual popularized by the Hebrew tradition with roots in the Old Testament known as a Covenant of Salt is the act of combining individual grains of salt into a bowl or jar during the wedding ceremony to be kept in the home thereafter because it represents a perpetual vow to both keep God in the home and to be kept by Him based on the knowledge of salt as a preservative.

If you've been watching  the TV series Supernatural for any length of time, then you've seen primary characters Sam and Dean Winchester salt and burn a body in a grave ( or less frequently, another location). The grave is opened, a few appropriate prayers are said, and the body is purified by pouring copious amounts of salt over the bones and the corpse set on fire to destroy a hostile spirit. That ritual follows the custom of salting the ground of a conquered city so nothing would grow there. ( The Romans, I believe, did this with Carthage.)

For centuries, salt has been used as a talisman to ward off undesirable spirits, pieces being worn around the neck. Modern day believers in the occult draw a line of salt across window ledges and thresholds to keep away nativity and to keep spirits from entering.

Himalayan salt lamps have become popular for deflecting negativity. Users swear that they also cleanse the space they're used in and aides in promoting a good nights rest. I've had one for years. Does it work? I can't say that I've noticed a difference other than it does wick moisture from the surrounding air; so much, in fact, that I've poured off the accumulated fluid from the dish it sits in and dried it, then used the remaining salt in ritual. I've also poured it into my bath water. I'm frugal that way. Also, it's growing some very nice crystals around the bottom. It gives off a lovely pink/yellow light when the candle inside is lit,which is very calming. I've used salt alone and combined with herbs in ritual baths for a long time, and I do believe salt alone or in combination does remove negativity. Himalayan salt (color really doesn't matter unless you want to ascribe a color correspondence to it) is best because it's processed the least. Common table salt would work, too, but I like the Himalayan salt because of it's purity and esthetics. In my experience, it seems to work better with aromatherapy oils and herbs.

But what about black salt? Hawaiian black salt, or black lava salt is simply common sea salt which is combined with activated charcoal as a coloring agent. It's main use in cooking is as a garnish. In occult terms, because it is black, it is said to absorb negativity. A segment of the magical community prefers to use it in their spell work. As always, it's about intention, adaptation and preferences.

How to Make and Use a Salt JarAny jar or bowl with a lid can be used, just make certain it's clean and dry. It can be as plain (like a mason jar), or ornate as you wish. The traditional color vessel used for this tool is either red or blue, but you may choose any color you like, or correspond the color to your intention. I recommend using course salt; kosher or pickling salt is fine. If you want something different, you can use colored Himalayan, which comes in white, pink, red, grey, blue and green of varying intensities depending on the trace minerals left in the salt after evaporation.. If you're searching at the grocery store, these are also known as  finishing salts because they're used mainly for garnish.

On a small piece of paper, write out your intention or petition.fold the paper away from you into quarters or thirds and place it in the jar you're using. Pour enough salt into the jar to cover the paper completely, leaving a bit of headspace between the top of the jar and the lid. Holding the jar in both hands, breathe into the jar to fill it with your essence and seal it. You may place any herbs ( onion/garlic for protection or to absorb negativity;sugar to keep things sweet or favorable; rosemary for blessing/ peace are a few) you wish into the jar along with the salt to boost the vibration. Other things, such as a bit of precious metal ( gold, silver, copper) or a stone/crystal ( your choice) may also be added. Salt jars are used primarily for blessing and cleansing. They work by sympathetic magic, just as a sugar or honey jar would. There is a lovely Jewish tradition of keeping a salt jar in the home in a place of honor to bless the home and its inhabitants.

Salt jars are worked in much the same way as a sugar jar [  see my earlier post, Sweetness and Light  ]. If you use a jar with a metal lid, you can add a candle to burn on the top. If you use a secure lid you can use the jar as a shaker (without the candle!) as a meditation aid. I know practitioners who fill their jars with salt and edible herbs and use the contents in cooking to take the blessing into their bodies. Personally, I don't recommend this, because even though salt is a preservative, there is still a change of something growing in the jar which will taint the contents and render it inedible. You can, of course, do as you wish, but I'm not comfortable with the idea.

Other ways you can use your salt jar:

In a sick room instead of burning sage

Sprinkling  some of the salt in the corners of a room to cleanse and raise vibration

Give one as a house warming or wedding gift

Have any other ideas? Leave them in the comments section of this post or email me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

High Summer

I have said before in this blog that I am not a Summer person; heat and humidity makes it my least favorite season. But I will admit to a special affinity for High Summer at the point of Lughnasadh when the corn has tasseled and stands waiting to be harvested. There is something that speaks to the spark of life at this time of year. There is an accomplishment that is both glorious and bittersweet that reaches back through the ages and loves us into life.

First Harvest, the traditional gathering time for grains, has a golden aura about it that embodies the Sun. It also gives witness to the beauty of selfless sacrifice for the continuation of Life through dying. It makes death purposeful and reminds us of endings. Without endings, there would be no reason for beginnings.  The end of things gives opportunity to rebirth and regeneration. Without the end, we would never have the chance to become new. Becoming new is messy-disrupted fields where once  proud heads of grain bobbed gently in the rain and wind, trees shedding their leaves be carried away by a sudden warm wind; the scattering of seeds for tomorrows crops.

It is a time of romantic stories written in the past to tell the truths of life and death. One of my favorites is the story/song of John Barleycorn. The original concept of the character has been around in one form or another for centuries, but my favorite is Steve Winwood's arrangement of the British traditional classic which he created in the 1970s. Winwood recorded John Barleycorn Must Die while a member of the English folk/rock group Traffic, and re-recorded it as an acoustic solo the video which I am including here because it is told so beautifully:

A blessed First Harvest to you, may you grow from this place and reach the place you desire.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Coexistence: Spirituality, Science and My Way

Simple spirituality was formed out of our human need to connect with Mystery. I believe that even those who profess to be atheist are still hard wired to have questions about the deep Universal truths and Mystery. Everyone wonders where we came from, how we arrived where we are, and why we're here: those questions are etched in our very souls. Humans have had those questions for thousands of years and have not, despite developing countless means of doing so, managed to answer them- at least not satisfactorily. And we may never do so. That is the Nature of Mystery.

I am trained in both Religion and Science and hold post graduate degrees in Comparative Religion and Psychology. I never thought of the two to be at odds with each other, so I suppose that's the reason I find answers in both with little conflict. At one point in our human history, the two were yolked together, both sides of a single coin. One did not exist without the other: The Church, that bastion of belief and superstition, slowly begat Science through the evolution of its Colleges and Universities, until the two finally branched off into the individual disciplines we know today. But it wasn't always so, much to the chagrin of the practitioners of each.

Those who cleaved to the Spiritual side became the keepers of  the non physical part of being: soul seekers, sorcerers, wizards,witches, and initiates of various theologies. They were priests and priestesses, and interpreters of the occult. Likewise, Science begat scientists, explorers of the natural order who looked to the stars and culled the study of intellect and practical reason. They eschewed the pneuma in favor of bodies of knowledge and processes.

It remains my humble opinion that the two can coexist logically and to the benefit of all. There will still be parts that will be with odds of one another, but those parts will eventually be explained, as they are being explored continuously and new theories formed everyday. The Craft is, after all, the place where belief is suspended- spiritual and scientific. The Craft is an experiential entity. It is different and unique for every individual who has ever tuned into the vibration of a crystal or combined herbs in spell work, or cast a circle or simply stood in silence with the gods.

Laurie Cabot, the 'Official Witch of Salem' explains this wonderfully: the Craft is a system that combines religion, art and science to utilize the magickal forces of the Universe and nature. There is nothing demonic, nothing supernatural about it. Anyone can use magick with work and practice, and in fact, that which is loosely defined as Occult is not hidden when brought out of the shadows. More on Laurie's thoughts can be found here: .

Many years have gone by, and I still practice a Craft which is fully immersed in Nature and the Mysteries. At times I use the example of archetypal gods and goddesses that allow me to clarify the intention behind my work. I have patrons across several pantheons who speak clearly to me and to whom I connect spiritually, and my rituals are highly personalized. This is what works for me and what I depend on to shape my spirituality. You may do things differently- as it should be. I will admit that there are elements of practice which make me cringe, but if they work for others? All is right for them. I will keep my way as you keep yours.

May you be blessed by your journey and discovery!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Incantations And Other Things At Which I Sucketh

Magic Circle,  John Waterhouse,1886
When I was a pre-teen, my cousin Roger and I used to write poetry and ( for lack of a real audience) read it to one another . I used to think we were pretty good. Roger was- and still is-a poet. I, alas, was not. I will be the first to admit I'm a lousy poet. What can I say? Rhyming words just isn't my thing. It's not that I haven't tried- I have, in fact, tried very hard.  Probably too hard, particularly when I was new to the Craft and had fallen for the 'unwritten rule ' that everything you said in circle or mumbled over a cauldron had to rhyme because, well, they had to sound witchy.

When I was younger I was very much mindful ( and self-conscious) of being a proper witch - and 'real witches' spoke incantations in rhyme. Well, didn't they? Okay, let's just say that I bought into a lot of things early on that turned out to be utter nonsense  or at least no longer served me when I was older, more experienced, and confident in who I was. It took awhile for me to figure things out. Meanwhile, I had to face the fact that I was never going to write the Wiccan ritual version of American Pie, no matter how I tried. Bye, bye Big Ole Moon in the sky... See, I warned you.

Not that I'm sour on rhyming- not at all. It helps to train the brain to remember key elements in liturgy and ritual. That's why many spiritual traditions, and some Christian churches in particular 'sing' the Psalms and prayers. It's why you can recite prayers in Latin without actually any real knowledge of the language. It's all about sonic resonance. In the Pagan community, authors like Dorothy Morrison and Gernia Dunwich excel at writing poetry, and their spell work is notable. The Celtic inspired work of Caitlin Matthews is profoundly striking in both content and wording.

I, on the other hand, suck at rhyming ( which means I will never be much of a songwriter) even though I am a trained liturgist. I am fine with the content part of it liturgy- I know what I want to say and am actually quite good at condensing and editing prose. Metrical structure, not so much. The result of this are incantations that are direct and to the point and not overly flowery. I have become very good at addressing the issue and stating my intention clearly. I have dropped the tendency we have all fallen into sometime or another of being unintentionally pretentious, resorting to murky murmurings that we believe impress whatever entity or energy we're currently working with.

Thankfully, the gods are more sympathetic to intention than how we ask.

Not that I've given up. I still make a valiant attempt in the hope that one day I'll come up with something that is just left of brilliant and not sound too lame.

Did I mention that I also suck at dancing? My two left feet go in different directions. I have been known to fall down on level ground while not moving. Ecstatic dance dedicated to the Goddess is rather embarrassing on my part. My best attempt has come off looking like a wounded goose. Thankfully, She loves me anyway. I've probably given her a good laugh a time or two.

I am also rather bad at holding things ( like books), pouring liquids ( as in filling a chalice ) and lighting candles. Dramatic, sweeping gestures have resulted in knocking over statuary, vases of flowers and sending other things tumbling off the altar. Various pieces of jewelry have come off in the middle of preparing the Simple Feast ( I once had to fish a ring out of the cup, and lost a necklace that dropped off in my cleavage.)  How I have not yet set myself on fire is a mystery, but I suspect the opportunity still awaits me.

I have a sneaking suspicion all of this may have something to do with my preference for working solitary. I can bang, clank, and limp around the circle to my heart's contentment. No one sees me but Herself... and the cat.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Midsummer Musings

photo via Google search
After divorcing my mother, my father married a Creole woman named Roxie Anne, who was a mixture of African American, French and Choctaw heritage. I thought her exotic features made her beautiful, although she was shunned as much for the color of her skin as for being a second wife in a time ( the 1960s) when such things just weren't done in very white Roman Catholic families. She was a good woman, a quiet soul who introduced me to Creole cuisine, and the wonderful traditions of St. John's Eve in her native New Orleans.

A strict Roman Catholic, Roxie kept as many saints' feasts as she could, attended mass when she was able, and never forgot her cultural roots, even when she and my father frequently moved around the East Coast. No matter where she made her home, her Louisiana customs went with her. Though she never claimed or admitted to practicing Voodoo, I can sit back now and sort through some of the things I observed when I spent time with her, and those elements of her personal spiritual practice stand out. She always wore white on the Feast of St. John, lit a candle-she was always lighting candles and poured her own- and said prayers throughout the day. One year I spent a few weeks during early Summer with Roxie and my Daddy at their cottage rental in Rehoboth, Delaware, and she introduced me to her version of  a St. John's Eve head washing. After the sun set we went to a remote area of the beach beyond the boardwalk and walked out into the ocean, holding hands. Roxie sang a chant in French as the water lapped up against us. Both of us were wearing head scarves, and when we got out into the water a little more than waste high, she removed her scarf and let her long black hair tumble down into the waves. She stood there for several minutes combing her fingers through her hair in the water before gathering it up again in the scarf; then she pulled off my scarf, took my hair  down, and 'washed' my hair in the salty seawater. I remembered how she handled my hair; it was an act of reverence. She hummed throughout it all, which seemed like a long time but couldn't have been more than a few minutes. When finished we walked to shore, the ocean at our backs.

We stopped just short of the waterline and sat on the sand, where she told me the story of the Lost Acre, the place between the sea and the shore. It is a liminal place, she explained, a place in the Otherworld that belongs to the spirits of the sea. I found a holey stone on the beach that day. I still have it; it sits on my desk in the living room and when I pick it up, it reminds me of that day on the beach, my hair still wet with salt water, where my step-mother baptized me in the mysteries of the sea. It makes me hungry for steamed clams and all the good things about time at the shore, for the briny scent of the ocean, and the sound of gulls flying overhead.

I am a Pisces child, born on my father's birthday. I love bodies of water- lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans, and yet I have never learned to swim ( I have an inkling that a past life was spent as an Irish third class passenger on the Titanic, where I drowned). I am enchanted by the sound of rain, waterfalls and ocean waves, which lifts my vibration and increases my energies. A portal opens for me when I'm in running water ( My Pisces intuition also connects me solidly to the earth, mountains and stones of all kinds. I'm an empath still learning to manage my emotional insights and how I'm affected by what I pick up from others. I am still learning a lot of things about my spiritual choices and practice...that is the joy of this journey.

This morning I went wort cutting, which sounds very mysterious and witchy, but is actually just a stroll around town to see what's growing in the wild places that are available for collecting. I use common plants ( some which you might call weeds) and adapt their correspondences for simple spell craft. I rarely do any really involved high magick because simple seems to work best for me. I keep a jar of pennies by the door for offerings and take along a bottle of water for both me and thanking the spirits. Today I came home with some catnip, mugwort, wild sweet pea blossoms, red clover, white clover,  blue anemone,creeping bluet, and dandelions. I also found a chunk of broken vintage red brick,and three crow feathers. Not a bad haul, and all I had to do was keep my eyes open!