Friday, March 15, 2013

Eden - A New Perspective For Pagans

(This was originally posted as a part of the Pagan Blog Project 2013, Week E-1)

The Biblical story of Eden comes to us as a Judeo-Christian legend that recounts the creation of  all of  Earthly Life, and sets the tone for the relationship between Yahweh and humankind. [] It is within this creation myth that for the very first time, the Diety refers as its self as "Us" and "Our" in the first person. Note this is not the proper pronoun " I". It is not the royal 'we' of majesty; it was not the literary  style of antiquity for monarchs in the East to refer to themselves in the third person during the time of this writing.

Genesis 1:26  uses the plural reference, regardless of the translation of scripture used [], and it is very clearly intended to describe the existence of more than one individual. The Biblical Commentary Barnes' Notes states:" Only a plurality of persons can justify the phrase. Hence, we are forced to conclude that the plural pronoun indicates a plurality of persons or hypostases in the Divine Being". [ ] It very quietly indicates the subtle reality that there was an Immanent Divine that was both male and female at work in the creation of humankind.

Traditionally, the authoring of the Book of Genesis-the first Book of the Hebrew Torah and containing the Pentateuch- has been attributed to Moses. Modern scholars from diverse backgrounds now agree this is not the case due to the distinct variations in writing style. It is now believed (and being taught in mainstream schools of theology) that Genesis is a theoretical compilation of sources, specifically Jahwist, Elohist, Priestly, Deuteronomy and (sometimes) Redactor.  []

The Book of Ezekiel give a slightly different version of the story. In it, Eden is not the locus amoenus of the first man and woman, but a garden built for God to walk in with the King of Tyre. The Persian term paradise (Hebrew, parades) translates loosely into meaning a 'royal garden' or 'hunting park'. Over time it became a synonym for Eden. Dr. Francesca Starvakopoulou,[], a professor of Religion and Theology at the University of Exeter, holds this view point with a twist: What if the Garden of Eden was a real place? Her powerfully fascinating ( and convincing) theory was explored by the BBC in a documentary, " The Bible's Buried Secrets: The Garden of Eden".

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

I'll Hex You Thursday; I'm Out Of Eye Of Newt...

via Google Search
Oh no! I'm in the middle of a spell...and I'm fresh out of eye of newt! What ever will I do?

Well...I  could calmly go to my neighborhood grocery store, scan the aisle where they keep the cooking herbs, and purchase a jar of mustard seed...Because that's what Shakespeare's witches were talking about, not the organ of sight of a lizard. Many ingredients used by magickal practitioners were cloaked in a kind of secret code...for more reasons than the obvious. If you were a cunning man or woman in the middle ages, you certainly didn't want just anyone-and certainly not a potential rival- to understand the formulary you used. This secrecy extended to midwives,wet nurses, root workers and much later...doctors of medicine.

Witches, you see, were the original pharmacists. In, say, 1300, you didn't just consult with the local
cunning or wise woman (wicce) for spiritual advice, you visited when you needed help with that pesky skin lesion or nagging cough. The practitioner would consider your symptoms, do a quick examination, and determine what ingredients to compound into a comforting balm or a soothing tincture. Every community had their root workers, cunning folk and witches, although the titles used were diverse and dependent upon the location. Communities outside of huge urban areas depended on their cunning folk implicitly. This was simply a part of pagan, country dwelling, agrarian culture.
Medical doctors were far and few in between and to be found only in the large universities, where many were strictly anatomists  or studied some other 'science'. Not many were general practitioners who saw (live) patients on a daily basis. Childbirth, a natural and frequent occurrence,  required the attention of a midwife or nurse, and those were-you guessed it- cunning folk. You went to the village witch for your treatments and cures...until doctors realized there was a fine line between between witchery and medicine...and money to be made. Upon close examination, the journal, grimorie or book of shadows of the local cunning woman closely resembled  the Medica Materna ( a encyclopedia of homeopathic ingredients, treatments and formulas) of the university educated doctors []. Latin pharmaceutical formularies over-flowed with the scientific names of common plants and minerals- the very same ingredients used by the witches of a bye gone era.

Back to your lack of eye of newt. Hopefully you've been to the market and picked up some mustard seed, but if not, then you could use an ingredient with a similar correspondence. Out of mustard seed?
Substitute curry, turmeric, red or black pepper,coriander,cumin,or all spice  all of which have spicy, hot characteristics and share similar energetic vibration; they are all associated with the element of fire and the planet Mercury, and their gender association is masculine. What is intention of your spellwork? What outcome do you expect to happen? If you're using mustard in a protection spell, you can just as easily substitute any of the above herbs, or plain garlic (or garlic powder/garlic salt). The vibratory correspondence to the intention of what your are conjuring is the key.

Exotic ingredients are not necessary for effective conjuration. Here in North Carolina, you often see the local folk magic/medicine charms that calls for "squaw mint", which is common pennyroyal, available in most grocery stores in the Spanish foods section. It's primarily used for strength and protection, to promote peace of mind or to boost the vibration of a spell. Because pennyroyal has a similar energy vibration, a substitution for the same intention (protection)could be salt and black pepper,mustard seed, garlic, or any of the above herbs. In the nearby Appalachian Mountians, as well as all over the world for centuries, the success of local folk magick practitioners and Native American Medicine has been the ability to adapt and substitute ingredients in their work.

It is fairly easy to look up the folk names of ingredients on the Internet; a few clicks, and you have the information at your fingertips. Three books I would recommend, however ( because I like the feel of using a book when I write out my work) are Herbal Magick by Gerina Dunwich, Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, and The Way of Herbs by Dr. Michael Terrea, N.D. The first two are written by well-known magickal practitioners and will give you information for occult practice, and the last one, authored by a legendary forerunner of the alternative medicine movement, will give you safe guidance for the use of herbs in naturopathic/vedic remedies.

I will leave you with the very first thing I tell my personal students:1-When using preparing any herbs, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and be sure to wash your hands before and after handling any herbs because many are irritants to mucus membranes and skin,and 2-Never, never, never eat any herb or add it to food unless you are absolutely sure it is safe to consume. Some herbs used in magic are not only irritants, but poisonous. Consult a reliable resource if you have questions!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Witchery On A Dime

When I was just starting out as a solitary practitioner, there were few Pagan/Witch goods shops around; the majority of the places that sold the materials I felt I needed were either musty old emporiums that had a slightly creepy vibe, or places that sold supplies for ceremonial magic. Most were at least a day trip out of town, and shipping charges usually curtailed any patronage of those that did take mail orders. I knew that none of the 'niceitieswere necessary, but still, I yearned for the trappings of Witchery.

I had been following a path that incorporated the teachings of Scott Cunningham and used things found in Nature- unpolished stones, mostly- which I would use with organic materials such as flowers, leaves, grasses, sand and wood. It was satisfying and basically no cost. I used white utility candles and tied colored ribbons around them for correspondences,(birthday candles when I could find nothing else, and I still use them today for much of my spell craft) and made my own essential oils and blessing oils out of flowers, fruits and grape seed oil. I anointed candles in olive oil and rolled them in cooking herbs. My magical herbs came from the grocery store. Shells and beach glass came from the nearby seashore, ferns, nettles,thistles and other plants came from the woods, marsh and roadside. My first wand was a small branch from an ancient pear tree that was gnarled and appropriately 'witchy' looking, which I topped with a sliver of quartz I found on a hike in the mountains.

Later, as my practice expanded, I used to make fantastic finds in antique and second hand stores-wooden and pottery bowls, silver spoons, candle holders, antique papers for written spell work, fancy containers to use on my altar, even clothing to re-purpose into ritual garb. Old colored bottles with stoppers became receptacles for herbs, oils and tinctures; some were used as spell bottles. Odd plates became candle holders. I found a beautiful green marble mortar and pestle at the Goodwill for $4.95.

I was overjoyed at the advent of the 'dollar' store! They carry a fabulous array of 'occult' supplies- colored candles, star and moon candle holders and plates, over-sized wine glasses for chalices,river rocks, oils ( check the ingredients, many inexpensive oils are made of chemicals and not essential oils, although I did find genuine lemon oil in the cleaning section, and lemon, orange,and vanilla in the food section and clove oil in with the first aid supplies). They carry the same herbs I used from the grocery store for much less. I found small cellophane and plastic zip-lock bags in the crafts section, and brass bells, oil burners,incense, and candle plates in with the decorating things. Some of my prettiest altar cloths are actually cloth napkins. They carry beads, thread, needles, glue and disposable butane lighters and even fire place matches. There are tall seven day and shrine candles in glass or plastic sleeves, and some dedicated saint's candles. My very realistic skull is in fact a plastic one from the Dollar Tree which I detailed with a little paint. I have bought ready-made corn husk dolls (corn dollies), and corn husks in bags from the food section. Take a little time and do a walk through, especially at Easter, Halloween and Christmas (especially good for stars and metallic gold and silver candles). You'll be surprised what you'll find. The more expensive art/craft/DIY/fabric stores like Michal's, Joann's and AC Moore carry a wider variety of most of these items, and also things like blank journal books, small metal charms and clay to sculpt things such as god/dess images, and tiny glass bottles and wooden boxes.

My first 'cauldron' was a round black glazed sugar bowl (half-filled with water for safety sake!), which I used to burn candles in before I purchased a small iron cauldron that I could actually burn things in. The bell on my altar was a chrome plated Christmas 'dinner' bell( I removed the red velvet bow). I made a set of runes out of decorative pebbles, and a pendulum from a small crystal drop on a thin chain (originally a child's necklace). The 'dollar' store was the only place where I could find Chinese almond crescent cookies that I used in ritual; I also bought individual bottles of real apple and grape juice for a fraction of the cost of the grocery store. In one place near the Hispanic part of town, I found the 'mother load'- Florida Water, Money Spray, Bay Rum, small mojo bags, glass charms,figure candles, anointing oils, holy water, saint's candles and packets of exotic 'medicinal' herbs such as rue and hibiscus, and Everclear.

Outside of  the old Magickal Childe store in NYC when I was in college, I'd never set foot in a metaphysical/occult/witch shop until many years later. I never had to, because I had learned the cardinal rule of good Witchery...learn to use what you have available and make do with what you have.