Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kitchen Witchery

My kitchen smells like Autumn! There are apples cooking on the stove and baking in the oven; pumpkin bread just above the baking apples, and pumpkin butter cooling on the counter; molasses cookies in a bowl waiting to be dropped on the cookie sheet...all with the heavenly scent of  nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and cloves ( The Five Sisters).

The last of the garden produce sits on a tray nearby: eggplant, green and banana peppers, grape tomatoes, a few stray okra and an onion. It begs to become a soulful mixture of tampanade with the addition of a salt, olive oil and a little gentle cooking. There are potatoes, cabbage and turnips to accompany the porchetta to be served as Samhain Eve Dumb Supper. With all this harvest abundance, you'd think I'd be cooking for days-and you'd be right. When the nights become longer, I cook heavier, more extravagant meals. The chill in the air signals the need for food to 'stick to your ribs', as the old folks used to say. I suspect somewhere in my place of Deep Indwelling there is a need to keep the pots boiling, something harkening back to the days when an abundant harvest meant surviving through the cold winter months. My Celtic spirit honors that.

The aroma of the Five Sisters wafts up from the pan of apples. When cooled a bit, they'll be drizzled with a bit of maple syrup and wear a crown of vanilla ice cream. They reach up through the steam with beckoning fingers and whisper, " Come closer!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Samhain is seven days away; the Veil has been opening little by little for nearly six weeks now, the vibratory thrumming from the Other has been constantly in the background. It is the thrumming, along with the tree frogs and crickets, that I notice the most as I sit in the screen porch in the dark silently sipping British Blend tea from an old, cracked cup. There are other cups, but the tea tastes best front his one, it seems to have a history about it. I'm certain it was bought at  a flea market for just a few pennies. No one other than Jane would have bothered buying it, but it was probably cheap. Dishes and cups seem to be disposable in this house, as do clothing, and at times, people.

The backyard is pitch black. There are still a heavy umbrella of leaves to block the moonlight. Tall hedges block the neighbors on both sides. All I can see are the edge of the steps and the hanging bird feeder in the ambient light from the kitchen. The tea is good and comforting. The darkness- the Unknown- is disquieting. Somewhere a mournful train whistle is blowing. It is the only sound besides the crickets and the thrumming.

I should not be on the computer at all right now: my bed is full of Halloween decorations that need to find a spot on the shelves. I have been telling myself this for nearly six weeks. I love Halloween, it's my favorite holiday, and I look forward to it with Christmas-like anticipation each year...but to be honest, I have been depressed for weeks and don't want to do much more than I am doing right at this moment...except that I need another cup of tea to ward off the chill.

I did manage to take some things out to the recycle bin this afternoon and to cut a piece of wooden trim to fit into the casement window so I can wind the purple icicle lights around and hang them, and sit the 40+ year old blow mold ghost-holding-a-jack-o-lantern on the sill. Although it may not sound very productive, pushing through the depression/apathy makes this an actual accomplishment. Later I sat on the rolling chair in my room and unloaded all the Halloween things onto my bed in the hope that it would inspire me to start decorating. Instead, all I really want to do is ramble and drink tea.

Sitting on the porch as I type in the dark does neither. In the darkness just a few feet away, on the other side of the screen, lurks the Unknown. The other side of the screen doesn't feel threatening, just cold. Not being one who has ever been afraid of the dark, I am not eager to check whatever has just made footfalls out in the Unknown...probably just a cat or a fox...Maybe something else. I'm not certain I really care, I just want more tea.

I wonder if my ancestors ever gave in to this type of lethargy. I wonder if any of them ever had more pressing things to do, but stayed close and safe drinking tea instead while the great Unknown lurked just beyond the door.

It's Pumpkin Time!

I adore pumpkin pie, and to be truthful, I like a good, flaky pie crust, too...but it's all about the filling, so I went hunting for a good pumpkin custard recipe and found one on Taste of Home. Go ahead, use more spice if you want...I did.
Pumpkin Custard Recipe

Pumpkin Custard Recipe Pumpkin Custard Recipe photo by Taste of Home Rating 5

THIS DESSERT is a refreshing departure from pumpkin pie, but it has the same good old-fashioned flavor. I like to make custard. It's a cinch to prepare even on your busiest days and especially good after a hearty holiday meal, when just a touch for the sweet tooth is all you need. -Andrea Holcomb, Torrington, Connecticut

  • Prep: 10 min. Bake: 50 min.
  • Yield: 4 Servings
Ingredients10 50 60
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Whipped cream and ground cinnamon, optional


  • In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; beat until smooth. Pour into four greased 10-oz. custard cups.
  • Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan; pour hot water around cups to a depth of 1 in. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes.
  • For topping, combine the brown sugar, pecans and butter. Sprinkle over custard. Bake 30-35 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled; top with whipped cream and cinnamon if desired. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 4 servings.
Nutritional Facts 1 serving (1 each) equals 422 calories, 17 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 144 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 61 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tree Lore

Buddha beneath the Bodhi Tree
" Tis wise to listen to the voices of trees, for they tell  us much that we might otherwise forget.", wrote the second century philosopher Tacitus. The ever expanding rings of trees tick off the years, decades, generations, centuries. They have long bee viewed as the keepers of memories and the gateways to the Otherworld in folklore. The Saxon word for tree-treow- means truth or trust. The tree, the oldest of living things in many cultures, held the ancient wisdom and knowledge. The Oak in particular, is a tree of mystery and magick,sacred to the mighty Greek god Zeus and the Nordic god Thor.The Oak and it's evergreen parasite, mistletoe, are both revered for their magickal properties by the Druids.

Trees play a part in many diverse religious traditions. Those in the Buddhist heaven known as Khunlun eat fruit from a divine peach tree, as do souls in the Empire of Jade in the Taoist faith. It is said  the fruit allows those who partake of it's sweetness to remain vibrant and young in order to enjoy the splendor of the afterlife. In the Islamic legend of the El-Mounteha, a magickal tree grows in the garden of Djanna which has branches of gold and emeralds, each leaf bearing the name of a living person. During the month of Ramadan the leaves with the names of those who will die during the year fall to the ground at this time. As this happens, new leaves with the names of those who are to be born emerge during the year. A similar tale exists in Africa.

The Norse god Odin hung on Yggdrasil, the "World Tree" for nine long days as an act of sacrifice, and while doing so took up the Runes. The Norns (whose Greek counterparts are the Fates) watered the Yggdrasil with water from a scared well  and coated it with clay so it's branches would not rot, ensuring the immortality of the tree. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Judeo-Christian myth of Adam and Eve is well known.

Tree worship cuts across cultures throughout the world, as evidenced in the custom of suspending or tying items such as ribbons, strings or strips of torn cloth to enlist the favor of local deities. A notable example is the Irish "clootie tree", usually found in close proximity to a sacred well. The items are affixed to the branches of the tree as a tangible reminder of a prayer to the god/ess of the area for a special favor, such as a healing or for a good harvest. The Glastonbury Thorn, a small Hawthorn, is said to have sprouted from he staff of Joseph of Arimathea. The Buddha is said to have gained his enlightenment while lying beneath a Bodhi Tree (believed to be a fig tree).

There is a surreal connection between humans and trees;  try meditating under the vast canopy of a tree, with your back against the trunk sometime. The result is a melding oneness as you seem to be absorbed into the heartwood. This is a particularly good opportunity to try a pathworking or trance journey if you have never experience this before. Simply ask for the tree's help in taking you deep into the place of Indwelling. You will never feel more grounded, more rooted to earth than when sitting beneath a tree.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Uriel, the Flame of God

I will admit to you that I learned more about the angelic realm through ceremonial magic than in seminary. We talked about them a lot- we just didn't learn much about them. The reasoning was ( and still is in most mainstream religious teaching colleges) that there is very little concrete empirical  information  about angels other than they are messengers of G-d. The majority of them seem to appear out of  nowhere, deliver the goods, then just as miraculously disappear. Jewish tradition refers to them as 'ministers', with their names being their specific ministry or mission.[ ]

The sacred Hebrew texts mention several angels (or archangels) who have had notable missions. Sepharadic or Chassidic Jews do not pronounce the names of these angels aloud in readings and prayers, recognizing them for their tasks, but not giving them credence that could be mistaken for worship.While not mentioned in Christian cannon, Uriel is a significant presence in apocryphal texts.

The Archangel Uriel (aka  Auriel, and other names) is among these ( along with fellow archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel). His name translates roughly to" G-d is my light". He is often portrayed with a flame and sword, sometimes the two being combined due to a Biblical reference where he is believed to be the angel armed the flaming sword who kept Adam and Eve from returning to Eden.[,] This is based on a variety of folklore which associates him with illumination through fire, heat, light and traditionally names him as the angel who oversees Sheol according to the Book of Enoch.( It has been postulated in recent years that this angel guardian was actually Michael, who is often portrayed with a flaming sword. My personal feeling is that Michale has recently been used to supplant Uriel in myths due to the current resurgence of the cult of St. Michael that has infiltrated the occult.)  Uriel is also sometimes referred to as a Cherubim.http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Flaming_sword_%28mythology%29]
Sigil of Uriel

Uriel is also known as the Angel of Wisdom, because of his association with illumination. Doreen Virtue, PhD recommends that Uriel be called upon for "...problem solving, brainstorming, or important conversations".[] Those in some mainstream religions such as Catholosism and the Eastern Orthodoc traditions invoke his  help with decisions or to solve problems through prayer. In this role, he is depicted as carrying a book or scroll, or with the Flame of Truth burning on the palm of his hand. Because of this he has been adopted as the patrol of those being confirmed in the Anglican tradition, where he is given additional guardianship over the arts and sciences. John Milton's Paradise Lost features Uriel as "...the sharpest sighted spirit in all of Heaven"; he is also mentioned in Hideaway by Dean Koontz as the protector of a survivor of a near death experience to fight off the evil that continues to clamor after his soul.

Pagans are likely more familiar with Uriel as he is portrayed in the fantasy series Chronicles of the Dervni by Katherine Kurtz, where he is the Angel of Death who escorts souls to the Veil. He is a popular figure for conjuration by those who practice Ceremonial Magic and Kabbalah. Aleister Crowley and S.L. MacGregror Mathers mentions him frequently in their texts on Enochian ceremonial magick as one of the Watchtowers. ( Watchtowers being another version of  'The Watchers', spiritual beings each assigned a direction and element in some magickal traditions.) An invocation to Uriel, from the Grimorium Verum, which I first became acquainted with through The Book of Ceremonial Magic by A.E.Waite, features a lengthy invocation to Uriel. I have just recently found it online through the excellent resource site Sacred Texts []. As with all magick, Uriel can be evoked in the positive or negative, and I leave you with my usual caution to not call up anything you are not absolutely certain you can control and bind if necessary.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Soul Retrieval

Soul Retrieval is a shamanic practice used by indigenous people to attempt healing through the reclamation of parts of the psyche that have become lost due to trauma. The basic theory is that when an individual harbors internal feelings of the self not being complete or whole, a part of the person detaches from the psyche and becomes lost or otherwise disconnected. A shaman maybe called in to explore the situation through 'journeying', astral travel or ritual, much in the same way as a counselor would use cognitive therapy to delve into the hidden areas of  the client's mind.

I became interested soul retrieval a few years back when I was exploring different methods of trace to connect with past lives. Soul retrieval is a shamanic practice that aims to re-integrate 'lost' parts of the psyche.  I was fortunate to be able to attend some workshops on the subject Michael Harner and his associate Sandra Ingerman.[ Sandra Ingerman, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self (2006); ISBN 978-0-06-122786-8]

Having attended these workshops and read a number of books on the subject, I can honestly state that I prefer the Harner/Ingerman methods because they they address 'soul loss' from a psychological as well as spiritual one. I am aware of various theories, including the recapitulation technique of Carlos Casteneda, and I personally do not believe that the problem is singularly psychoanalytical and kept in the deep memory of the individual as he suggests, but psycho-spiritual in nature. From my perspective you cannot have one without the other, as both areas need to be addressed to make the retrieval effective.

There is a variety of reasons for soul loss: a wish to escape an abusive situation where upon a part of the soul leaves to escape harm, to avoid a traumatic event suck as an accident. Theoretically a part of the soul can be taken by a lover, or a departed loved one.A mother may give away part of herself to her child. These are all procedures which lead to a type of protection which in psychology would be termed a form of disassociation.In many cases this is temporary and the missing portion returns on its own. Other times it becomes necessary to assist the individual in becoming whole again, usually through the employment of shamanic techniques.

Our language reflects this subconscious depletion. We speak of "giving my heart" or "giving myself away" or "giving a situation my all", when in reality what has taken place is a loss of a piece of the self. This type of exchange may at first seem to be reasonable and noble, but rationally unwise because you cannot give away a "piece" of your self  (psyche) to another person and remain a healthy and fully integrated individual.

You cannot empower another person by giving them a 'piece' of yourself, as each of us are unique. To do so causes the individual with the missing piece  not to be fully present within themselves. How often have you heard it said that someone feels like they have a hole or a void inside them? This is unconscious acknowledgement of that which  is missing.Even if you love someone madly and deeply, you cannot-you must not-"give yourself away". The reason is simple: you need all of who you are, all of what you have become, to be the very best individual you can be. Giving a part of yourself away to someone, even if you love them, means you are no longer the same person they fell in love with. The result is often expressed in statements such as, " I lost a piece of myself" Or " I feel my heart was stolen."...which are truer statements than we realize.

We have lost legitimate  understanding of what it is to loose a piece of ourselves because we are so often out of touch with our inner selves. We are no longer readily able to communicate with that which resides in our deep and shadowy places: the relationship between the mundane and spiritual is not just a gap, it's a chasm. That's why the issue of soul loss has been relegated to the psychologists and shaman to act as intermediaries.

Soul stealing is another version of soul loss, one where the piece of the individuals psyche is taken by force. A good example is the domination of an abuser over his/her victim. Another is being afraid of loosing someone, so you unintentionally take a piece of that person so you will always have them with you. While it is at a glance rationally reasonable to do such a thing, the one who "takes" or  "borrows" is in effect weakening the other individual, leaving them with a wounded psyche.

"Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, oh, have a!
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it if it makes you feel good."
~ Janis Joplin

It may make for cool lyrics in a rock song, but the fact is that taking another little piece of some one's heart (soul) strikes a devastating blow to their psychological integrity. Soul loss is a form of disassociation which can cause depression and loss of interest in things that normally gives the individual pleasure. It leaves you with the feeling that something is missing in your life...and it is.The void left crumbles away at the edges, leaving you feeling incomplete,helpless and ultimately worthless.

I find it interesting that the individual who has lost a piece of his or her soul to another person or situation often wishes to return physically to the place where the loss occurred. How often have you read of someone returning to their hometown after many years to 'face' their fears or to reconcile themselves with a particular personal event? I believe this is done by the individual in the hope that the lost part of themselves can be found there. The physiological event known as 'shock' is the loss of balance within the systems of the body: this also includes the regaining of equilibrium when the 'self' or 'soul' fully reenters the body. Until then, the person may feel disoriented.

Consultation with a shamanic practitioner concerning soul loss would result in that individual performing various techniques and rituals which would include astrally journeying  through trance in search of the client's lost soul fragments. Once located, it could possibly require another session in which to retrieve them, where upon the individual pieces would need to be ritually returned to the body until the soul's essence is once again felt to be in balance. It is a rare occurrence that the individual would be able to do this for themselves. This is where the objectivity of a skilled practitioner comes into play. The interpersonal exchange of being comforted by another during the process of  healing is a key element in this ritual, because the act is usually energetically and psychically exhausting. This is why I personally recommend the event take place in a ritual performed in sacred space.

I am not saying you cannot be active in your own healing; my point is that the process of journeying and the actual retrieval are very intense, and you will most certainly be energetically drained, perhaps so much so that you would be weakened to the point of being unable to complete the process properly. Engaging an experienced, knowledgeable practitioner who is aware of this and can reliably monitor the proceedings is paramount to a successful soul retrieval. 

For more information on methods of soul retrieval, visit:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why We Write What We Do

Teo Bishop often serves up an inspirational slice of  home made wisdom in his Bishop in the Grove blog Today's post asked what Pagans wanted to read in their magazines, blogs and books.I was particularly struck by this suggestion because it's Banned Book Week. The fact is that just five years ago a  blog for Pagans would have been rare; ten years ago, and it would have been unheard of. Any time I find someone who writes eloquently and mindfully within our community, that calls for recognition and sharing in my opinion. Our spiritual and personal growth depend on it.

I read BITG because I believe it's possibly the most well crafted and thought through blog online...certainly worth my time, and may I suggest, yours as well if you don't already indulge. Because to me, it often seems like an intellectual indulgence: something like pouring rich melted chocolate over a decadent piece of literary cake...and no one is fighting over fucking pancakes.

Today's Bishop in the Grove poised the question asking what Pagans wanted to read in their magazine, books and blogs,and more to the point, examined why those of who write do so. As a regular reader-and a writer- I was moved to mull this over and respond with my own thoughts. After I finished, I realized that I had written the foundation of the post you're now reading...

" I read other blogs (and write my own) for the occasional " A-ha" moment...I like my books to be a little more enduring. I may not go back to the blog that momentarily enlightened me, but I will always go back to a book on my shelf to refresh my memory or look for a deeper meaning in the words.

The truth is that I started writing my own blog because it was therapeutic; it was for me and just a few others who might have been interested in my occasional ramble or rant. The fact is, however, that now I also write for others because I have gained a bit of readership. I feel I owe it to the people who take time out of their day to make the effort to actually read my blog, and I appreciate and am grateful they care. They spur me on to be better at it, to go deeper, to pay attention to things I might not otherwise and to sometimes address those issues with my own unique voice.

The thing that keeps me personally humble, and the thing I like most about your style of writing, is that we both realize that we are only one voice out of many. I honor the voice inside of you as I honor my own -in a vast sea of others-as it should be.

Keep doing it just the way you're lead, because it makes for a fabulous journey."

And so it does make for a fabulous journey,one we can make together- fearlessly- whether all of us are 'out of the broom closet' or not. Each of us have a distinctly unique voice that should be heard.
And so it must be, by the gods. And so it must be.