Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Hare In The Moon

Manitou,the Great Spirit to the Algonquin tribe manifested himself as a hare. Great Hare, also known as White Hare, was thought to live on the Moon ( another version says he lived with his Grandmother, and that she was the moon). Great Hare was visible to his people from earth on the face of the moon and as he looked down over all, he was considered to be the Provider of All Life - water,wind,fire and soil and all that came from them.

Yet in other traditions, Hare was a Trickster figure,wiley,quick and mystical. He is credited with the creation of the Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society of the Northeastern native tribes, a secret magical lodge. Their gathering places are in open spaces beneath the moon, or in domed structures which mimic the shape of the moon [].
The hare is associated by most tribal peoples with birth and rebirth (partly due to its relatively short gestational period of 30 days), an auspicious creature sacred to their culture because of its fertility and abundance.
However, not every ancient culture thought so highly of them: the Biblical book of Leviticus called the hare or rabbit "unclean". Others thought the creature so taboo that it was  unlucky to even speak its name. The Greeks of antiquity protected the hare " ...for the sake of Artemis" because it was one of her symbols and therefore refused to hunt it. Superstitions were frequently associated with the hare or rabbit because they were believed to be a common disguise for witches and commonly witches' familiars ( a close second to the black cat). It was purported that the only way to kill a witch who had shape shifted into a hare or rabbit was with a bullet made of silver-the moon's metal. ( Much like the werewolf myth.)
The hare was lucky or unlucky at various times in history, as folk lore associated with them morphed and changed in  public opinion.  During World War I, it became the fashion for loved ones to give a soldier going off to war "a lucky rabbit's foot" ( But not so lucky for the rabbit, eh?) Mothers hung the amulet above their children's beds for protection throughout the night. With this new positive association came the habit of saying " White Rabbits, White Rabbits, a pinch and a punch for the first of the month" ( or variations such as " Rabbit, Rabbit") to wish others good fortune throughout the month.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Spiritual Meaning of the Blue Porch Ceiling

Haints are the malevolent spirits of the dead trapped between this world and the next.The word haint is a variation of another word-haunt- and comes from the Geechee Gullah language/culture of the South Carolina-Georgia coasts and barrier islands. It's primarily used throughout the old South, although I have heard it occasionally used in New England also. Despite it's muddied origins, it's still understood that a haint is defined as meaning a ghost - but  a type of ghost unlike any other... haints are vengeful, violent... the undisputed mischief makers of the Shadowlands.

Haints are right up there at the top of ghostly entities in the Southern US, and like all apparitions and superstitions, they have an Achilles Heel: they cannot cross water. Short of building a moat around the old homestead, citizens of the Old South  have a much more practical and stylish solution...they paint their doors, window sashes and porch ceilings blue. Not just any blue, but a particular shade that reflects the hue of the sky and water that has become known specifically as Haint Blue. The original paint was made with lime and milk and whatever blue pigment was available, adjusting it until it was a shade they thought matched the sky and water in their area. The idea was to trick the haints into thinking they had come upon water, which they could not cross. A blue porch ceiling served a similar purpose, where the haints would be confused into believing they were flying into the open sky. Therefore, on either account, they did not enter the dwelling and vex the residents with their mischief.

Using the color blue  is a universal  method of deflecting spirits. It's not only used by the Gullah descendants of freed African slaves in the coastal South, but by some Scot Irish in the Appalachians as well. For the mountain dwellers, woad, used in their homelands as a blue dye, was mixed into milk paint and applied to porch ceilings to not only keep out ghosts and malevolent spirits, but the lye added to the paint had an added bonus of keeping out insects as well. Sometimes the ingredients would ferment, which also acted as a natural insecticide.

Nowadays any variation of sky blue, aqua, baby blue, light teal blue or green, or a color representative of  water/sky can be used. The major paint manufacturers all have their own version of haint or porch ceiling blue. It's now up to the tastes of the individual which shade to use to complement the color scheme of their home. It's interesting to note that the shade will darken in the light during the day, following the path of the sun. Sometimes it looks like the sky, and other times a body of water.

Notably, the belief that the color blue repels evil is not limited to the Southern US: in the Western US, turquoise painted doors serves the same purpose, while across the ocean, a stripe of  azure blue was often seen painted across the top of doorways in ancient civilizations. Evidence of this can be seen in Greece and Italy today.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Wash Me Clean

I like to start the New Year by physically cleaning my apartment followed by a spiritual cleansing. I feel that there is residual stale energy left after the holidays ( and then there is always that one elusive strand of tinsel that you missed when taking down the decorations!) Tiny  crumbs of this and that find their way into places you'd least expect, under the furniture where you cannot readily see...

A little vinegar and baking soda with a squirt of Dawn detergent takes care of nearly everything except wood finishes, on which I use lemon oil.
The spiritual cleansing comes after, usually a warm floor wash made with Florida Water or Rose Water. I finish by going around the room with sage and what other herbs I feel appropriate at the moment. If there is a heavy vibration or energy still present, I make another pass with a spiritual spray made with citrus oil and distilled water.

I also  recharge my stones or crystals, and clean their bowls ( I use large shells as holders ) in salt water and dry them with a soft cloth. The crystals themselves are either left in distilled water overnight ( no salt or herbs, which may damage them), or buried in a pot of fresh earth then wiped off, or in sunlight, or moonlight. It's wise to note here that some stones or crystals are reactive to sunlight and may fade. If you place them in a windowsill to take advantage of the light, be mindful of the temperature: some crystals crack in variation of  heat or cold.

Water is a wonderful purifier alone or combined with herbs and oils for yourself as well as the household. Lavender or rose, either in herb or oil form, are lovely for a spiritual bath. Toss in a couple handfuls of Epsom Salts for added health benefit and purification. Visualize what is detrimental or negative from your day melting off you as you pour handfuls of the water over you.
( Don't worry about sitting in the water, the negative vibration/energy will be neutralized by the water, salt and herbs.) If you use an essential oil ( or oil of any kind) in the bath, be sure to wash down the tub afterward so it's not slick or sticky.

I found some lovely Himalayan salt and Rose oil soap made locally to be used in the shower. The same supplier also makes a wonderful teatree and mint soap which is healing to dry skin.

Florida Water diluted with water makes a fine finish to a bath or shower. It's a great toner for the skin, and a terrific body spray. It's spiritual benefits are that it repels negativity and attracts good spirits. It also releases anxiety and tension from the body, and the scent is relaxing.

A word here about candles: as always, be careful with open flames. Shower curtains and towels are highly flammable, as are some liquids such as oils. Use Florida Water with extreme caution where there is a source of fire and because it will ignite even if the vapor comes near a flame. Be aware of your surroundings.

Another word of caution: mind what herbs  or oils you inhale or put on your body. Allergic reactions are always a possibility, particularly when your pores are open, making your skin extra sensitive. Inhaling something your are potentially allergic to can cause severe respiratory distress ( even death).

You can end your home or personal cleansing with a blessing or ritual. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or wordy, just something simple and heartfelt to seal the work you've done.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Magickal Ice and Snow

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

Oops. Sorry.

In the midst of the worst polar vortex in recent memory, it probably will not a popular thing to admit that I like snow...but I do like snow, and collaterally, cold weather. It is, after all Winter.

I don't mean the kind of snow that socks you in for weeks at a time, but the subtle storm that leaves the ground covered a few days. I like the stark beauty of bare, clattering branches in a brisk micro-burst of wind.

A brief trip outside in Winter (appropriately dressed in layers of warm clothing) is invigorating. It clears the mind, too.

Incorporating ice and snow into spiritual/magickal practice is easy (and essentially free!) because the majority of us already have the few materials used  lying around: scraps of paper, something to write with on the paper, a bowl, herbs of choice, ziplock bags...and of course, that freshly fallen snow just outside the door.

The only hard and fast rule here is to use clean ice and snow, and be clear in your intention.

To "put a situation on ice": You'll need a small scrap of paper, a pen, a small ziplock bag and some snow for this spell. Write the name of the person or thing you wish to "cool off" or "put on ice". Fold the paper away from you three times. If you wish, you may wrap a length of thread around the paper three times to bind it, but normally it's not necessary. Fill a small resealable plastic bag with snow and make an indent in the snow big enough to tuck the paper inside. Close the bag and place in the freezer. ( After you achieve your result, let the snow melt and dispose of the other contents. This spell is also useful for gossips or those speaking ill of you.

Ritual water : Collect a bowl of fresh, clean snow and bring it inside to melt. Use the resulting water in ritual or on a personal altar.

To watch a problem "melt away": Make a snowball and place it in a bowl. Bring it inside and place it on your altar. Project the situation/ intention into the snowball. Imagine it glowing or sparking, and sit quietly until the snowball melts. When it is totally melted, pour the water away outside.

To "hammer home" an intention : Find a substantial icicle and carefully break it off. Send your intention into the icicle. You will need a rock or hammer to drive the icicle into the ground to earth it, which will neutralize the intention by absorbing the negativity.

To "cool down" anger or negativity: Send your anger or intention into a bowl of snow, then rub your hands in the snow or rub it on your body.

Using fog on a cold day : I you need clarity of mind, go outside and breathe in the cold air for a few minutes ( obviously don't do this if you have a physical condition that will be aggravated by breathing cold air!) Focus your intention into the fog and scry for an answer. An alternative to this is to find a small stone, send your intention into it, and toss it away into the fog far enough it will be lost.

Snow, ice and cold fog are essentially water, which is most often used for cleansing, healing and purification. The correspondence for water is the West, also associated with emotion. A bowl of new snow can be worked into any spell for peace and tranquility. Symbols and sigils can be traced into the snow and allowed to work as the snow melts. A temporary poppet can be made from snow molded into the shape of a person with a few key ingredients tucked inside. Ice candles can be made to use to light your ritual space outside, or for spellwork. Think about  other ways to use these water-related elements in your practice ( and feel free to share them in the comments below! )

And remember...if it's sunny and warmer on Imbolc, the Cailleach is out collecting firewood to keep warm because there will be a few more weeks of cold weather. However, if Imbolc is cold and dusky, the Cailleach is still sleeping because she knows the winter will end soon.

Bright Blessings to you!

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.