Friday, June 13, 2014

Full Moon, Friday 13th...

It's a Full Moon on Friday the 13th and Mercury is retrograde...and if Nature plays a wild card, we may also get a solar shock wave. This is either a rare occurrence- or not- depending on the source; the next Friday the 13th in June will be 2049.

Of course, for witches, the Full Moon is always something to celebrate: the lunar cycle is at it's peak and the Moon (and all goddesses and a few gods) are at their full power. We look to the night sky, and that wondrous orb bursts through the clouds and shines down on earth, and instantly, everything illuminated by its light seems extraordinary and magickal. It's as if there's a crack in the heavens and the light of the Goddess can no longer be contained. As we draw Her down into ourselves, our union with her is its most complete; we are subject to oneness with Luna, Diana, Selene, Artemis, Hecate and many many more. The moment of communion with the Goddess of the Moon is all at once heady, exhilarating, spiritually expanding and humbling.

The Full Moon is considered by some to be the best day for magickal endeavor. Many Pagan traditions and solitaries perform rituals at the Full Moon for a wide range of results: increased prosperity, healing, peace and spiritual matters. For groups, it's a time to socialize and combine their personal power toward the common good. Historically, there are thousands of tales about the Full Moon which criss-cross as many cultures.

 Likewise, Friday the 13th is a day of power for a different reason: the date mostly has a negative association. While credible history about this negative association is sketchy, folklore abounds: the number 13 is unlucky because with the addition of Judas there were 13 guests at the Seder (aka the Last Supper) Jesus hosted just before his betrayal and crucifixion on the following Friday; the downfall of Adam and Eve, the day Abel slayed his brother Cain, and the day the Great Flood began all supposedly took place on a Friday; persecution of the Knights Templar began on a Friday the 13th; many beliefs from the Medieval period linked witches and their covens and the Devil with the number 13 and or Friday. An ancient Norse myth about 12 gods having a feast disrupted by the mischievous god Loki ( the 13th,uninvited guest) resulted in the death of Balder the god of joyfulness, which caused a pall of darkness to fall over the earth-hence the connection to the day being ominous. Many of the superstitions concerning the number 13 have their roots in the fact that the number 12 was supposed to be the 'perfect' or most sacred number-adding one more upset the balance. ( Taking this into consideration, you would think that a 'baker's dozen', which is 13 doughnuts instead of 12, would be a good thing,right? Wrong! That 'extra' doughnut might just be the way the baker gets rid of stale doughnuts!)

The truth is that we make Friday the 13th into a 'bad' day because of what we choose to believe about the day. It is the negativity we cast onto the day which makes it foreboding. In reality, it is no better or worse than any other day. Humans love to create stories to justify things we don't understand or when we want and explanation for our fears. It is habitually our nature to support and lend credence to our feelings in this way. We trip over the cat on a Tuesday, and suddenly Tuesday is a bad day to leave the house or the cat is out to get us.

Donald Dossey,PhD, a folklorist and author of "Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun" [Outcome Unlimited Press,1992], is the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. He believes that the negative psychological associations of the number 13 and Friday were combined into one single superstition over the years.[]

The psychological term for a fear of Friday the 13th - 
friggatriskaidekaphobia-originating from a combination of the name of the goddess Frigga (for whom Friday was named) and the Greek term for fear of the number 13. In some individuals, this fear is so strong that it causes everything from avoidance measures to panic attacks. Dr. Dossey has also observed that more than 80 % of buildings lack a 13th floor, and that other building have no room numbered 13. As a practicing psychologist, Dossey observes that the fear associated with the day is irrational and avoidable...he also offers a couple others (new to me) from the annals of folk lore: climbing to a height and burning all the socks you own that have holes in them; or standing on your head and eating a piece of gristle. ( I guess the lucky part of the last one is not choking to death!) 
As Witches and Pagans we have no fear of these  tales: they are simply interesting old stories. and as much as it is fun to make light of these things, our true magickal power comes from within ourselves and the connection with the Divine source in Nature. We overcome external influences which truly are the things of superstition through the application of this power to change consciousness at will, and therefore change out outlook from a negative to a positive one. Doing this can make a Full Moon on a Friday the 13th-even one during which Mercury retrograde takes place-into one of the most beautiful and meaningful of the year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kything-The Loving Presence

Madeleine L'Engle

Originally posted to the Pagan Blog Project 2014,Week K

"My heart is a kything place where we ever meet."

                                                                - Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional

Kything is commonly defined as an act of spiritual presence or contacting another through telepathic means. My first experience with kything came through reading Madeleine L'Engle's books A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. She explained that she found the word kythe in an ancient Scottish dictionary belonging to her grandfather, and that the word meant " to make visible". L'Engle was a stoic Episcopalian who promoted Universalism; in the liberal Anglican Communion, she is considered as a modern mystic.  The ultra conservative branch of the Church attempted to have her branded as a heretic.  I met Madeleine L'Engle on a red eye flight to Denver, Colorado in September of 1979; we were both on our way to volunteer at the Episcopal Church's General Convention. In the wee hours of a cold Wednesday morning,we had to change flights and found ourselves walking the entire length of the Kansas City airport concourse in search of an unlocked ladies room. By the time we'd used the facilities and found  a cup of hot coffee, we were engaged in an animated, thoroughly enjoyable conversation and had solved most of the world's ills. I was 23 and clueless that I'd just spent two hours in a private audience with one of the world's most famous authors. We had lunch a couple of times over the course of the convention ( by that time I realized who she was) and before we parted company she personalized a copy of A Wrinkle in Time for me and included her mailing address, so we could keep in touch.

One of those things we talked about was the communication of one person with another on the astral plane by kything. L'Engle believed it was possible to "know the mind and emotions of someone with whom you have an existing close bond", such as a sibling or a lover or a special friend...all you had to do was quite your mind and visualize that person in your third eye. It helped if you had something that you had received from the other to hold because it made the connection stronger. It was also easier if the person you were attempting communicating with was also thinking of you at the same time-the connection was quicker and more vivid. A few years later when I began to study the Craft, I realized that kything is a form of sympathetic magick.

Caitlin Matthews presents a lovely, simplified version of kything a loved one in her inspiring book Celtic Devotional. The method she uses is a visualization ritual sent out as a heart-level prayer. during the process you envision little things about your loved one: the crinkly smile lines around their eyes, the roundness of their lips and brightness of the eye. It is a wonderfully lyrical experience.

I learned another version of kything during a discussion of the book "Kything,the Art of Spiritual Presence" by Louis M. Savary and Patricia H. Berne [Paulist Press, 1989] at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, NC. Although Savary, a former Catholic pries,t and Berne, a clinical psychologist, use L'Engle's work as a foundation to teach  meditation and contemplative thought as a way to open the individuals insight through a conversation with the higher spiritual self, I found the writing and cumbersome language stereotypical to that of the 1980's New Age Movement. There are also several things that bother me about their approach, even though empirical information from various controlled experiments dot the pages of this book. Specifically, the wordy psychobabble and clinical feel- even though the book is presented under the genre of spirituality; contradictions concerning techniques (first the authors attempt to explain the technique of "grounding" as being "present to the self", then a paragraph or two away saying that grounding  prior to kything is not key to making successful contact. I think the thing that disturbs me most is the statement that if you don't know what the person looks like that you're kything you should visualize an image that represents them. It begs me to pose the question of why you would be kything someone you don't really know...and  feels slightly like an invasion of privacy- more of it being like remote viewing that connecting at a spiritual level.
[] Personally, I prefer the original concept by Madeleine 'LEngle and the technique suggested by Caitlin Matthews because they keep the feeling of kything being a sacred spiritual act in balance, making it more than just ESP/mental telepathy. The former is an invitation to spiritual union, the latter sounds more like generalized mind reading wrapped in New Age contrivance.

For further reading:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Low Magick

Image via Google Search
(Originally posted to the Pagan Blog Project 2014 as Week L)

>Because I have an ethical obligation by law, I'm including a disclaimer that any of the material in this post which alludes to folk magic/medicine should not be used as a substitute for medical care or in the treatment of any type of illness, and make no claims as to its effectiveness.The reader bares sole responsibility as to the use any material contained in this post at will.<

I was excited to make the move to Southwestern Virginia last year because I knew I would be living in Appalachia, and I grew up reading the Foxfire Series of books. Foxfire, if you're not familiar, originated as a project for English teacher Eliott Wiggington's high school English class in Raburn Gap, Georgia in the 1970s. The project sent students out into the community to interview their elders about life in Southern Appalachia, and what resulted was a wonderful collection of personal recollections about the culture,crafts, skills and lifestyle; the information also included narratives about religion, faith healing,planting by the signs (moon cycles), ghost stories, folk lore, folk medicine and subjects covering a wide variety of 'cunning folk' knowledge woven through the pages. While I can wax poetic about the beauty and natural wonder of these mountains, the hard reality is that there is a lot of poverty here, and has been for decades. For every verdant valley and rolling hill crest, there are dozens of dilapidated and decaying buildings leftover from the period when coal was king and the next boom town was just over the ridge. Around every curve of the two lane highway into the next largest town there are the bones of ancient houses and trailers, and some pretty creative architecture which include lean-tos, and old buildings nailed together with sheets of plywood. There is beauty where Nature has taken over the dying man made structures of a bygone era, but a lingering sadness, too.

In these places, the 'cunning folk' and 'granny women' still reside; they tend their gardens and guard their secrets with an admirable tenacity from outsiders like you and me. They don't trust us, and with good reason. For the most part, outsiders mean trouble: there is always someone from Social Services or the County Government on the doorstep telling these gentle folk that their way of life-the only one they've known for the most part-is unacceptable by today's standard. Either their yard is overgrown and unkempt or the house considered uninhabitable by current standards: conform or loose your land, your roots and your family history. There are instances where generations of a particular family has lived and died in the same place for generations, and the land has become saturated with their living essence, along with the spirit of those who came before. Appalachia may be financially poor, but it is historically rich beyond our wildest dreams for those who seek out "the old ways". The Craft is threaded through the fabric woven by the Scots, Irish, English, Italians, Hungarians, Polish and other Eastern Europeans who made their way her to work in the coal fields in the mid 1800's. If you look even deeper, you can glimpse a bit of  Native American and African influence. []

Low Magic is very practical. Unlike Ceremonial or High Magic ( The spelling of magick is rumored to be first used by Aliester Crowley to differentiate between slight of hand and occult ritual. It's a tradition that I occasionally use out of habit because it was used by my teachers. Auto correct hates it.  Popular author and Witch Elder Laurie Cabot spells it majick. I use both of the well-know spellings interchangeably because I think the intention is more important than the window dressing.) The specifically prescribed tools of Ceremonial Magick are not found in Low Magic: whatever is available is used by the practitioner. It is not uncommon for these people to be practicing Christians as they see their magic as a spiritual gift and to them "gifts of the spirit" are all the same. There are particular methods employed by these healers, such as "stopping blood"," blowing thrash", which are in effect forms of faith healing. These methods are not exclusive to Appalachia,and are often taught across generations to those who have the gift. (The first Foxfire book explored these phenomena  extensively, and you can read more about it here:[ ] The practitioner's gifts are used to benefit themselves and others to survive in the common life. Spells are cast for healing and prosperity, to put food on the table and as an expression of spirituality. Folk magic/ medicine is highly individualized and adaptable. Some practitioners work by invoking the name of Jesus or Christian saints such as St. Michael, and some do not. The single constant in their practice is that they are all herbalists who use whatever is available in their area. They have a deep connection and faith in the healing vibration of what is grown locally.

It has taken nearly a year for me to gain the trust of some of these workers, and I am not only honored to have earned that trust, but am humbled by their collective storehouse of knowledge. I now have several journals filled with what I have learned from them just through casual conversation. The majority of them are not prone to the affectations of the current Pagan/Witch community and do not claim any title for their Craft. Likewise, their wisdom is simply referred to as a spiritual gift, or " Just what I learned". I use the terms 'granny women' and 'cunning folk' for the sake of identification and folk magic/folk medicine for clarification of actions. The fact is that anyone who has lived for a period of time in these mountains has become privy to more than a few 'home remedies'. Some of them work because they are common sense or have a legitimate chemical application, some by the power of suggestion, or through trust and faith. And some...are just historically interesting in an off beat way.

*One of the most popular remedies is a bit of rock candy in whiskey or moonshine, which is used to tame a cough, body aches or anything else you can think of. Take a bit of the mixture several times a day. (My grandfather swore on the effectiveness of this one and drank it in hot tea. Personally, I think it's a great way to indulge in Rock and Rye.)

*Baking soda mixed with water is a well known (and medically proved) digestive aid. Mint or wintergreen tea, or blackberry juice are also used.

*Arcacia steeped in water or, marigold blossoms steeped in cider vinegar and applied to a compress are used to treat bruises. Cider vinegar alone can be massaged on sore muscles.

*Chapped lips can be treated by applying olive oil, or making an ointment of clarified lard and the strained water from white willow bark. Add a bit of mint for flavor.

*Rub a half a lemon over a clean face to help with oiliness or acne. Lemon juice or cider vinegar vinegar can be rubbed on the scalp to help with dandruff. Add a drop or two of olive oil for dryness.

* Soak a dozen clove buds in vegetable oil, or ground cloves in oil for several days and strain. Use the oil to rub on sore gums or for a toothache. A warm compress held against the face will speed the action of the oil by increasing circulation to the area.

*Soak a cup of steel cut oats in two cups of water and strain to make a soothing wash for sunburn or a rash. Using a cup of crushed almonds instead of the oatmeal and adding a few drops of olive oil will do the same. A poultice of baking soda applied liberally to a sunburn will
"cut the fire". Leave on until it dries, then rinse off and reapply if necessary.

*If you have arthritis, place a sharp knife under your bed to "cut the pain". You can also tie the pain up in a knot of sweetgrass (bury it afterward).

*During a thunderstorm, tie knots in twine to harness the energy. Tie nine knots in a row and store for use later to add strength to any spell. Snip off a knot to add to a liquid, or untie a knot to release the energy.

I'm also including this wonderful interview from Mother Earth News that I think you"ll enjoy: