Monday, October 9, 2017

Goodbye, Uncle Ray

Much has been written on the recent passing of Raymond Buckland. Love him or hate him, he did introduce an organized tradition of Witchcraft in the United States at a time when things like that just simply wasn't done. He never tried to hide the Craft by dressing it up like something else, and he was the closest thing to Gerald Gardner we had in this country.

To say he was a prolific writer is, understatement. He held a vast knowledge of varying subjects, from the Craft to Spiritualism, divination,liturgy and ritual...and magick. He wrote a wide array of fiction novels, and played jazz music professionally.

I chuckled along with everyone else at his ritual micro-management, " Stand here...Do this....Say these words...". Give him props for being so serious about is spiritual path that he wanted to get it right- his way, of course- just like the rest of us. While others found his continual reference to another of his books in the middle of a passage annoying, I would dutifully jot down the title of that book and look it up after finishing the one I was currently reading.

It's not that I was 100% sold on doing things his way, because I'm not...but I have the utmost respect for his place in the history of the Craft.  I found him most approachable; over the years I would shoot him a personal message on Facebook about something, and within a day I'd have an answer. His tone was always that of the gentle teacher. He was most gracious with his answers, and always humble.

Yes, in the early days after the Craft went public, he did come off a tad bit homophobic sounding about male/ female polarity in magickal work, but I think this was because he was so adamant about keeping things balanced. His opinion softened and changed, as he admitted,when he realized it had less to do with actual gender than sacred sexuality.

He was vibrant and active until the end, and I like to think that a gentle breeze stirred the Veil and he simply stepped through to the other side when it was his time. Just a little diversion from his routine, and he went off to explore the Great Unknown, with the full knowledge that he'd be back someday.
I believe he will- not that he ever really left. I think he's going to live on for decades to come. In fact we'll hardly realize he's gone unless we stop to remember his quiet crossing.

Goodbye for now, Uncle Ray. See you around.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Was That A Banshee I Saw You With Last Night ?

One of the things I love most about Celtic/Irish mythology is its deliciously endless array of maleficent creatures. Culturally, the traditional Celtic lands are the main contributor to our Halloween lore and traditions.

Many of our iconic monsters sprung from the mind of Irish authors such as Bram Stoker (Dracula) and Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (Mr.Hyde).
Others came directly out of the stories of the common people, such as the wailing Banshee,  the Kelpie , Balor the Demon God of Death, and varieties of Sidhe (fairy folk).

Some legendary creatures specific to Celtic lore have their American counterparts, such as the Dullahan (dark man), the Irish headless horseman whose equivalent in the US is the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. While the motif of headless horsemen is pretty universal, owing to the numbers of stories world wide, it is the character created by Washington Irving that stands out.

The most readily recognizable creature owing to Celtic lore is the Banshee. Always a female spirit, hearing her wail turns the blood cold because it forewarns of a death. Sometimes she arrives in a ghostly death coach ( or the coach rides by alone without her-another legend). Her appearance varies from beautiful and youthful to being a terrifying old hag depending on the source. She is sometimes accompanied by a black dog. Her screams are particularly piercing in the lonesome countryside.

Equally famous as the Banshee is the Kelpie, a shapshifting monster most often seen as a horse. The Kelpie inhabits the area around bodies of water and the sea, where it entices unsuspecting victims to hop on it's back for an innocent ride that always ends with the creature running into the water, where they are drowned. Kelpie have also been seen to shapeshift into the form of a handsome man, identified as the monster in disguise because of the wet seaweed in his hair.

Descriptions of Balor, King of Demons, also vary by source. His most infamous personification  is that of a giant with one leg and one eye. Balor is able to kill by fixing his victims with his 'evil eye'. By legend, Balor is King of the Formorians, a race of supernaturals. Balor is eventually killed by Lugh of the Long Spear after Lugh becomes King of the Tuatha de Danann. It is thought that Balor is the inspiration of Lord Samhain, a fictitious character in Ray Bradberry's classic children's book The Halloween Tree.Not all faries are friendly toward humans. There are a multitude in Celtic mythology that are not, too many for discussion here other than in general terms. Scottish folklore divides them into The Seelie Court (good) and Unseelie Court (maleficent). A well known method of honoring faries or quelling their wrath is to leave them a bit of milk and honey. In his widely known classic Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, W.B. Yeats further divides them into Trooping Fairies, groups which travel in elaborate processions, and Solitary Faries, which appear spontaneously alone with mischievous intentions. The latter are the creatures which often lure unsuspecting humans to the Underworld through invitations to dance and share a meal. Those who partake of fairy food , it is said, never leave. A third type, familiar to anyone who has been a member of the Girl Scout movement in the United States, are Brownies-household spirits who favor children and perform domestic duties.

If you have seen the outstanding 1990 movie Ghost (starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopie Goldberg) then you are familiar with the Sluagh-the malicious spirits that  about like flocks of birds, seeking out the dying and dead. In the scene where Demi Moore's character is attacked, her ghost lover causes a window to shatter and kill the attacker with shards of glass. As he is seen dying, an eager group of screeching shadowy figures suddenly swoop down and carry him screaming away with them to Hell. These figures, which many who have seen the movie  believe are demons, are more accurately a group of  Sluagh, who are the spirits of unrepentant sinners. Folklore belief is they come from the West ( the traditional place of the Dead), and in many Irish households, the western facing windows of a house were kept closed at all times to keep the Sluagh from carrying away the dead.

If you enjoyed reading about these mythical Celtic creatures, you may want to explore more on your own. There are many books on the subject, but I suggest you start with A Treasury of Irish Fairies and Folk Tales (an anthology by various authors) and W.B Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Still Standing

cartoon by Alex Gregory
Well, hello... I see we're still here, seeing how the latest Big Rapture was-as predicted by nearly everyone with a brain- a big, fat, nothing burger.

But wait! The statement that the world would end on September 23,2017 was a...misunderstanding. According to David Meade, the self proclaimed Doomsday prophet," Saturday will only mark the beginning of a series of catastrophic events to occur over several weeks." Which sounds suspiciously like so much 80s New Age psychobabble. “The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending. A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”


This sort of sounds like the vague prediction that next week at this very moment, there is a likelihood that the weekend will occur and that Sunday will follow Saturday in 24 hours. Only that prediction will come to fruition in our lifetime, barring an accident or other fatal event in the meantime. The actual end of the world may or may not. If Mr. Meade wants to use Biblical platitudes to prove is theory, he should specifically check out the one found in the book of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 36,"However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows."

Notice that according to the spiritual text of Mr. Meade's faith tradition, the time when the world ends is even hidden from Jesus himself. This should be enough to not only humble folks like David Meade, but silence them....yet it doesn't. It doesn't shut them up because these people- most of them hailing from the evangelical Christian Dominionist cult-are so incredibly self- important  they even eclipse the importance of the very god they claim to serve. Let that sink in a minute, and you'll come to the realization, as I have, that these types are insufferably, narcissistic. The God of the priests of Yahweh, the god of the ancient favored Jews, the father of  the Christian Savior Jesus is not their god. Despite their loud bellowing to the contrary, the god they worship is the one created in their own grandiose image.

In this way they join with the inflated, egotistical Big Name New Age Teachers; there is little difference between them. Want examples? Go watch The Secret .

The world as we know it is constantly changing. I suspect every sentient being on the planet knows this to some degree. It doesn't take a Christian numerologist/talking head to give us the message. Any creature with even a thin shred of self awareness intrinsically knows the world-their world-changes second by second in an assortment of diverse ways. In my opinion, this is the greatest lesson of Nature. I don't need some annoying 
folie de grandeur to tell me what Nature whispered in my ear decades ago.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Beware The Doom (Again!)

photo via Google
If you are as entertained by the tabloids as I am, you have no doubt come across the sensational claim by a"Christian numerologist"
(more about him later) and a legitimate sounding source that the world is about to yet end-again. Sigh. This time the date is September 23,2017. Mark your calendars!

According to News4 KTLA, in an article published in March of this year, NASA issued a doomsday advisory that the Earth would be struck and obliterated by Planet X, or Nibriu because the orbits of both planets cross.

They cited Caltech researchers, who described "Planet X" as being 10 times the mass of Earth, supposedly speeding unabated toward our Blue Boat Home. The article states, " NASA continues to tiptoe around the subject" and dramatically concludes, " We all deserve to know our days are numbered".

Huh. Well, I would certainly want to know if that were possible, wouldn't you? Or not.

There are several problems with this declaration of apocalyptic devastation:

News4KTLA is a fake news site. Appropriating and inserting the call letters of the legitimate television station KTLA (Los Angles) and its local channel designation 4 and adding the word 'news' makes this designed as click-bait atrocity look impressive. The first report posted on the web by this fake news site about the "rogue planet" was dated March 10, 2016. The current articles are just re-hashes.

In keeping with previous doomsday missives, the report is a total fabrication. NASA has repeatedly stated that planet Nibriu does not exist. There has never been any warning issued by the agency. They stand firm on their research that no such even planet exists. Scientists at Caltech did find evidence of a hypothetical planet situated deep in space that could possibly fit the bill for Planet X, but according to Jim Green,director of NASA's Planetary Science Division "This is not... the detection or discovery of a new planet. It's too early to say with certainty there's a so-called Planet X. What we're seeing is an early prediction based on modeling from limited observations. It's the start of a process that could lead to an exciting result."

In layman's terms, 'a definite maybe'.

( If the name 'Nibriu' is at all familiar and you have read any of Zecharia Sitchin's works on the Anunnaki creation of the Sumarian culture, you will recall that this is the planet that hosted that particular race of extraterrestrials. Interesting reading even though Sitchin's theories are dismissed as pseudoscience and pseudo history in academic circles.)

In keeping with their love of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, Fox News (aka Faux News) put forth a statement from 'Christian numerologist' David Meade who cited verses from the Bible as 'proof' that Nibriu was tied in with the solar eclipse in August, and the newest spate of hurricanes (see Luke 21:25-26). Like most Biblical apocalyptic prophesy, Meade's  'dire warnings' are vague, misleading, and applicable  to whatever situation you care to tweak them to fit. He even threw in mysterious codes from scripture and a "date marker" from the Egyptian pyramids of Giza. This set Christian  Dominionist's zealotry aflame, with hopes of the Rapture eminently emerging from forthcoming tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters; if you haven't already figured this out, the Dominionist cult keeps moving the date of the Apocalypse around to suit their agenda ( e.g. so they can gloat about being right later, since only they will be 'Left Behind'). In fact, members of the Dominionist cult ( including the American 'Christian Right') want these world wide afflictions to be see as harbingers of the the End Times so desperately that they will go to any length to shamelessly make their case. Excuse me...I just rolled my eyes so far back in my head that I nearly hurt myself.

Enter the Rev.Ed Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, who not only took umbrage to this nonsense, he courageously tore the Dominionist fruit loops "a new one" in Christianity Today magazine,"First, there is no such thing as a legitimate ‘Christian numerologist.’
Sure, the writers of Scripture do, indeed, use numbers to point to a few things—that’s first-year seminary. But, it stops at first-year seminary because there are not secret numerical codes that require a profession called “Christian numerology.” Seminaries don’t offer this as a formal degree nor do any professional, accredited institutions." ( May I also add the observation that many, if not most conservative mainstream Christians would  turn several lovely shades of purple at the suggestion of a 'Christian' numerologist, as numerology in its common form is considered a part of the occult and lumped in with divination and witchcraft in the Old Testament. Their heads would explode.)

Oh, and by the way, David Meade, the Fox News expert, doesn't have any formal training in numerology or academic credentialing to back up his theory. In other words, it's simply his opinion, which, like all opinions,and  combined with a dime, will fail to buy you a cup of coffee. If this so-called 'Christian numerologist' has actually ever read the Bible, he would have come across the proclamation found in Matthew 24:36"  "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."( New International Version)
 As if this weren't enough, as Rev. Stetzer points out ,Meade doesn't seem to exhibit any real evidence of training in Christian scripture for him to speak empirically to these matters with any legitimate authority. Plainly put, he is talking out of his ass.

Please do read Rev. Stetzer's article found at the following link. It puts everything into perspective concerning false End Time claims and false prophets. And it takes a hearty jab at religious news outlets and Christian news 'sharing', for good measure.
And so, despite all the boo hoo and hoo hoo of the latest Dominionist cult heralds, I'll be back AFTER September 23...presumably unscathed. In the meantime, may you reap the blessings of Mabon, and the comfort of Harvest Home.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Never Ending Witch Wars

I am going to begin this post with a big old Charlie Brown sigh...
Are you as tired of the so-called witch wars on social media as I am? You know what I mean so-and-so perceives a slight or insult and posts their outrage on FB or elsewhere, and 50 people immediately jump in to comment. In other instances, it's someone boasting about their witchy abilities, or throwing shade at someone else because of something they said about them...again for an audience.

Occasionally, this type of scorched earth sniping is warranted, but by and far it's simply a battle of egos or a juvenile popularity contest that has gotten out of control.

More often than not, they begin as a disagreement between two BNP (Big Name Pagan, in case you don't know. The term has evolved to mean anyone with any kind of following, which degrades it. Just my thoughts on the subject.) Other times the kerfuffle starts as an argument between shop owners or two people of diverse paths who will give no currency to the other and galvanize  other members of the community into factions for support by openly challenging," If you like A or B, or attend their event, or belong to their FB page, you can't be my friend!" Therein loyalties must be formed for the sake of  ego stroking and numbers. author Patti Wiggington has a well written and thought out article on Witch Wars here:
I have been around long enough to know these altercations are a natural part of any community because it is human nature. Sabers often rattle in groups where people are passionate about a subject. We all have an intrinsic need to feel valued and important and there is nothing wrong with that. There is certainly nothing wrong with giving someone credit which is due for notable warranted actions. The problem is when overly inflated  high self-opinions enter the picture.

Really, folks, there is plenty of room for everyone. Everyone can carve out their own little niche and rule their domain without kicking sand in anyone elses face. So as long as no one actually gets hurt and there is no genuine damage done, let's play nice.  If it simply a matter of not doing things they way you do them, suck it up, grit your teeth and love on. After all, we all draw our power from the same source, no matter what we call it. As a community, because we are still technically a minority entity and we need to be as cohesive as possible in order to be taken seriously and to survive.

On the other hand, there are very real instances where someone needs to stand their ground, or call out a verified  charlatan, or someone causing emotional or physical damage to someone or something ( such as children or animals) making claims to belong to our community. We should and must be bold and vocal in these instances, because many of our vows ( even for solitaries) cite trust or truthfulness as a tie that binds. Hunting out a pedophile and justly casting them from the fold is something that must be done. An individual who flagrantly uses the Craft  for unmistakable ill-gotten gain or wrong doing should be shunned after serious discernment. Obvious fakes should be called out before they do any irreparable harm to the image and character of the community.

This can be done in many creative ways other than insufferable ranting and scorched earth. It can be done without the histrionics of junior high school in a calm and deliberate manner. It can be done with calm and the deliberate focusing of energies of the group dynamic. It can be done with limited drama, if we will it.

September Siren Calling...

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh
September is a rather seductive month, at first warm and sunny; at night the windows can still be thrown wide open in most parts of the US, and the sounds of the night creatures-crickets, katydids, owls, an occasional barking coyote or bob cat are soothing to  us Nightkind ( meaning those who function better at night, no woo woo stuff implied). As the month progresses, the evenings lengthen and cool, and leaves turn and begin to fall, the flannel PJs come out, and the windows are closed down a bit ( I am hard core about this, because I love open windows and have been known to crack them a bit even in January!)

Around here, we have both a Pumpkin Festival and an Autumn Jamboree. As you can guess, I'm all about Fall Festivals, and I spend a lot of time going to them to get in the mood for the season. Fortunately, most of Appalachia still celebrate its agrarian roots, so we are awash in apple cider, apple and pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie and cake, apple pies and other seasonal treats. The scarecrows and chrysanthemums begin to appear, sunflowers not given up to seed are tucked here and there, and even an occasional early pumpkin makes its appearance.

Ah, Autumn!

And then...There is the sound of the Veil opening. If you are attuned to it, it's a unique sound that begins as a nearly undecipherable thrum increasing in intensity and pitch and is lost in the late October/early November winds. The signs of it are subtle: unexplained gusts of frosty air which clatter the bare bones of tree branches, whirling dervishes of dried leaves around your feet. The is the 
cognizant feeling of not only the end of Summer, but The End, the Great Step we will all face one day...welcome Death. The eternal circle of Life that is the seed coming into fruition, blossoming, and dying. Autumn is the time of gradual winding down to the Great Sleep of Earth and Men. Even animals know this a prepare for the change in seasons with increased eating and thickening coats of fur. Boo the Cat, a ragdoll variety who is already fat and fluffy, becomes gloriously lush this time of year; she grooms for hours, stopping to fix me with wise eyes that seem to say, " We need to cuddle more, the nights are growing long and  cold."

With the windows open less, my space needs refreshing more often, and the way I do this is to make a heavenly potpourri of apple peels, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves boiled in water. I leave a pot on the back of the stove, and find that adding a bit of rum or vodka to the mix preserves it well enough to be saved in a glass jar and stored in the back of the refrigerator for multiple uses. Keep adding water and refreshing the peel, which may mold ( you don't want those spores in the air!), and it will keep throughout the season.

Another thing I do is gather fallen acorns for spell crafts and decorating. I have also made acorn flour from them, but it is very time consuming, and if not done exactly right, is a waste of effort. If you really want acorn flour for yourself, purchase it online from a reliable source such as Amazon-it is very expensive, but the unique nutty flavor should be experienced at least once.Use it in Native American and Korean recipes. My adventures with acorns is limited to using them in magical preparations where the protective properties of oak are needed, and for decorating. Acorns painted with metallic paints are especially attractive ( gently pry the caps off, pain the nut, then glue the natural colored cap back in  place). Or, spraying them with sealer such as Krylon brings out their natural color and gives them shine. Use these nuggets scattered on your altar during the Autumn months, but especially during Mabon and Samhain, to take advantage of the divine energies of Cernunnos and Diana. Acorns are considered a a sacred food in the Otherworld, so leave them in a bowl as an offering.

The unique colors or this time of year can be had by preserving fallen leaves by dipping them in hot liquid wax ( be very careful as burns are common and wax is flammable at high temperatures!) or in a glycerine mixture which can be found here:
The preserved leaves/branches can be used to decorate through the Autumn season up to Thanksgiving in November; some work them together with evergreens during the Yule season, too. Leaves can be strung as garlands to hang around your altar, or placed on the altar itself  to represent the dying God and Summer.

I love the scent of burning leaves, but more and more there are burning bans against this practice, so I have found several varieties and brands of candles that make a satisfying substitute, such as Autumn Leaves or Fireside by Yankee Candle, and  Feu du bois  by Diptyque (which smells like burning wood); Goose Creek Candles also has one called Under the Oaks that is slightly sweet. I've found that sandalwood and pine candles burned together give a wonderful vibe.

This is also a great time of the year to start collecting those elusive black candles: Walmart carries them in votive size and eight packs of tea lights for Halloween. Since I use black candles throughout the year, I start buying them as soon as they hit the shelves in September ( don't wait for them to go on sale after Halloween, they're usually gone!) The same goes for any really nice black fabric you may want for decorating or clothing. I actually found a rather nice small, black table runner last year at Dollar Tree, and with the addition of black and dark rainbow beads, it made an outstanding altar cloth for Samhain and my Ancestor Altar.

And so now I will leave you, with September's siren voice calling, to back to my workroom and get on those things to make the season beautiful...remember to listen to the wind. The Veil, too, calls...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Quiet and Comfort

This week has been emotionally exhausting, and I an all but out of energy. Times like these, I fall back to music.

This music. Of the many songs I find healing, this is one I'd forgotten. I've  always loved it. Still do.

I need this now, to rest and restore my being.

Take a moment to sit and let it wash over you.