Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When the World Tilts

Once in awhile my world tilts; it usually happens when I have a serious WTF moment. Yesterday was like that when I opened up Facebook to find a message that simply said " We've lost Heather." When I read those words the world wobbled and shifted. She was gone from this mortal plane at the age of 36.  I tried to remember what I was doing at that age.

She was one of the original group I fell in with from CovenSpace. It seems so long ago now. They say time speeds up as you get older. It feels like those people have been in my life forever. We don't communicate as much as we used to, but we are still a part of the tapestry of each others lives. We still care. Occasionally we post comments on the vast time-suck that is Facebook to one another. It's good to be a part of something larger than yourself. It's good to know we have those silver threads to anchor us, even as Life has it's way.

Over the years Heather and I messaged back and forth over mundane and magickal things. Most of it bat-related as of late. She loved bats and so do I. She loved them for their relationship to Nightkind;
I love them for their part in Nature as pollinators. Besides, they're seriously furry and cute and their huge eyes make them irresistible. I am hooked on bats. Heather and I shared a love of vampires and the culture surrounding The Craft. We exchanged ideas for artsy-fartsy things. She was also a talented amateur  photographer and had a genuine eye for detail. Photography was something I dabbled in years ago; I still have my Nikon SLR camera tucked away in the back of a closet. I'd been thinking about digging it out at Heather's urging. Now I feel like I owe it to her to try.

Her half-crazed familiar Fury was one of her ( and my) favorite subjects.He's sleek and expressive. One of my favorite photos from Heather is Fury fast asleep on top of a door. Last week, right after Heather died her husband posted that Fury was sitting in the window waiting for her to come home.
I would have been disappointed to hear anything less.

Over this past week I put up a memorial (group) page for Heather on Facebook, and all of her friends-online and real time-pulled into a cohesive community. Everyone is still in shock at her bright light being extinguished so suddenly and we'd all like to have that one chance to tell her how much we cared. Instead, we're telling each other how much it hurts to have her missing in our lives. We make posts to her on the page, telling her how much we love her and what we will miss about having her in our lives. Sharing in this way helps to take the edge off the pain because we know we aren't alone in our confusion, anger and pain. We hurt as a whole and grieve deeply as individuals. We post memes we know she would squealed with delight at seeing and poetry/essays/songs she would have loved. And quietly, we sit behind our computer screens and shed a tear or smile and nod in agreement. Welcome to mourning in the digital age.

Those of us who share Heather's magickal and faith tradition know she's just across The Veil with the beloved dead and ancestors, and that she's begun an incredible journey of rebirth. So we continue to talk to her and look for little signs from her-white feathers,especially-and share a good cup of coffee.
We light candles to guide her and urge her to transcend to the next level of existence. We send flowers to her loved ones and words of comfort and encouragement. Other than that we are still broken-hearted and lost with too many questions. To be quite truthful, the answers might supply a momentarily satisfaction, but don't really matter in the larger picture. They never do, but it doesn't stop us from asking. There are no answers to some of Life's questions, like why Fate takes the turn it does sometimes.

Farewell and Godspeed, my little Witchling! Let love light your way to the stars!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Everyday Herbal Magick

Red Clover
When I was flushed by the discovery that what I had been doing on my own since I was a teen actually had a name, I joined a Goddess-centric group of women because it was a way to identify my spirituality to myself and others. Friends of alike mind in my UU fellowship convinced me that I needed a few of the tangible trappings, so I walked over  to the conveniently local metaphysical store in my then hometown and picked up a few of those things- a lovely pottery chalice, a little iron cauldron, a few bags of herbs and some smudge sticks. Made me feel witchy and all that. The herbs were good quality...but they were expensive.

And you know, I soon learned a valuable lesson: they didn't seem to work in my spells any better than the ones I found around the community and in my own kitchen cabinet. Now, to be quite honest, I didn't have any of the more popular herbs- cinquefoil, mugwort, devil's shoestring just lying around the house, so those did have to be purchased from a reputable source. And I wasn't really very good at plant identification or correspondences at that time, and I wasn't especially good at finding substitutes, so my magick was limited. Or so I thought.

Walking around the college town I lived in, I would take photos and samples (with permission) of the plants around me. Then I set out to identify and classify them according to magickal use, which was easier than I thought it would be since I lived within walking distance of the university. Lo and behold the joy of discovery! Not only did I quickly find that I had a rapidly growing apothecary, I had expanded my magical knowledge as well...and it cost me nary a dime.

>>>Here's where I make the obligatory disclaimer that I am not personally recommending any herb or other plant as a medicinal cure. Be aware of the potentially poisonous properties of some plants and handle them with caution. Do not ingest or inhale any plant you are unfamiliar with and always wash your hands thoroughly after use. Severe allergic reactions to some plants is possible <<<

Another thing: this list is from my notes/grimorie and is in no way complete list as to the uses, names or magickal correspondences. You may find others elsewhere in your study.

Red clover is wild in most places; it's often considered a weed, so it's plentiful. I saw it growing in a neighbor's carefully designed flowerbed and offered to 'weed' it for her to return a favor and got all the red clover I could use for free. I tied it in bunches and hung it from hooks on my kitchen rack to dry. The 'green' scent reminded me of newly cut hay, and it's used for this very reason in in perfumes. It's uses in alternative medicine (according to the iconic Way of Herbs by Dr. Michael Tierra) are alleged to include curing colds, coughs and fevers, and it contains a naturally occurring form of coumarin (benzopyrone ), which is a blood thinner. In high concentrations it's toxic to the liver and kidneys. It's magickal correspondence is Mercury and Air; it is protective and used for wish fulfillment and in healing spells, among other things.

Dandelion is also considered a weed, but it is popularly used as a bitter salad green; it's roots are roasted and brewed much like coffee.Be sure dandelion is untainted by pesticides if you do use it for these purposes. Also known as Lion's Tooth and Puffball in some areas. It is used in folk magic to call spirits, foreseeing the future and to increase psychic powers.

is a popular addition to any garden, but beware that it puts out underground runners and is evasive if not carefully pruned. It it safe to use as a tea and is commercially prepared and found in your local grocery store. It is a widely approved to sooth stomach upset and nausea, like ginger. Be aware that peppermint oil can cause burning and localized allergic reaction on the skin and mucus membranes in some individuals. Magically it is used in protection spells, for astral travel and purification. Rub it on the inside corners of your home for protection from evil.

Other plants found in the home and yard and spices found in your kitchen cupboard with magickal uses that can be used instead of expensive ingredients include:

African Violet-ruled by Venus/Water
Allspice-ruled by Mars/Fire
Almond-rules by Mercury/ Air and associated with Attis and Hermes;Divination, Clairvoyance, Wisdom, Money
Basil-ruled by Mars/Fire and associated with Vishnu and Eszuli
Black Pepper-ruled by Mars/Fire
Chrysanthemum-ruled by Sun/Fire
Cinnamon-ruled by Sun/Fire and associated with Venus and Aphrodite
Cloves- ruled by Jupiter/Fire
Coconut-ruled by Venus/Water; Purity, Chasity, Healing
Cucumber-ruled by the Moon/Waters
Dill-ruled by Mercury/Fire
Garlic-ruled by Mars/Fire
Holly-ruled by Mars/Fire
Honeysuckle-ruled by Jupiter/Earth
Ivy-ruled by Saturn/Water and associated with Bacchus and Dionysus
Lemon- ruled by Sun/Water; Divination, Healing, Chasity, NeutralityLime- ruled by Sun/Water; Divination, Healing, Chasity, Neutrality
Morning glory-ruled by Saturn/Water
Oak-ruled by Sun/Fire and associated with all male gods. AKA "Jove's Nuts"; Healing, Strength, Money, LongevityOlive- ruled by Sun/Air; Peace, Fruitfulness
Onion-ruled by Mars/Fire and associated with Isis
Parsley-ruled by Mercury/Air and associated with Persephone
Pine-ruled by Mars/Fire
Rose-ruled by Venus/Water
Rosemary- ruled by Sun/Fire
Sunflower-ruled by Sol/Fire or Air

Additional easy everyday substitutions:

Use thread in appropriate colors when out of ribbon or cord.

White candles take the place of any other color; a tea light takes less time to burn.

Store herbs in small zip-lock bags to keep them dry.

Recycle pill bottles for spells or to store herbs.

Inexpensive felt in appropriate colors replaces any fabric for spell bags, etc.

**I'd appreciate any ideas you'd like to share!**

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Water, Water Everywhere !

The water spirits need to head out West to California and stop splashing around my little town. It has rained nearly every evening around 4 p.m. for the last two weeks, and I don't mean just a sprinkle. I'm beginning to think I live in Hawaii because it rains so often. This is Southwestern Virginia and not a tropical paradise.

While I'm up for a good healthy rainstorm, we've had more than our share: the water table is full. The aquifers throughout the mountains are weeping and there are mini waterfalls everywhere there are rocks. While this makes for a picturesque landscape, the Kodak moment we had during the rain on Sunday evening gave us more than our money's worth. Not only did the creek rise up several feet in a couple of hours, it spilled over the top of the canal and flooded the main roads through town. Some of our more fragile older buildings were threatened with the possibility of being washed off their foundations, while others sustained water damage. There were mudslides and falling rocks, trees downed by swiftly running water, flooded basements and living rooms. Our meagerly staffed volunteer fire departments were out until dawn the next morning pumping out flooded buildings and otherwise trying to control what Nature wrought.

Good luck with that, guys. Controlling Nature is like sewing Jello; it can be done, but it's a specialized technique. I am not a weather worker. Ive known others who claim to be, but they say it's dicey business to do this type of spell because of the sheer scale of the working. Changing weather patterns don't just affect the area you are in because most workings simply shift the storms and send them elsewhere. In effect, what you are doing is the weather magic version of NIMBY (Not in my back yard). Weather working is a grey area in the magickal community, and I admit that I'm on the fence about doing this because if the spell should happen to work, you could be causing a lot of problems for others.

Personally, I would try a protection spell instead of trying to stop the storm. In my own mind that would be a more ethical thing to do: let the storms come, but keep me and mine safe and out of harms way. Protecting my home from danger is not changing the course of the weather and I am comfortable with that.

I would also suggest attempting connection to the devas or genuis loci of the area. If you live in that particular area and have already bonded with the nature spirits, this should not be difficult. Asking for protection should not entail anything more than a simple request and payment with a favorite offering. Notice I said request; it is quite foolish to make a demand of any elemental being. They are somewhat unpredictable- and often mischievous. I wholly recommend staying on the good side of any spirit of place where you live...or you may live to regret trying to impress them with your witchy self...because you won't. Just trust me on this one, okay?

One theory about genuis loci are that they were created by the Universal Source shortly after the formation of a particular place and assigned guardianship over that area. They are earth spirits which imbue an area with their character and visa versa. One does not exist without the other, and if an earth spirit leaves the area or is driven out, the blessings of the area are withdrawn and the essence of the place dies. The desertion of a place by its individual earth spirit may potentially open it up to occupation to sinister, negative forces. There are many legends of this type, especially in the South, courtesy of the superstitious Scots and Irish who immigrated to the Appalachians.

But I digress. Earth spirits are best contacted through meditation: sitting quietly and feeling their presence. You may also try a gentle conversation. Most earth spirits are sentient beings. Leave a small token offering when you go. Coins always seem to work; whatever is left, let it be something of value. A tried and true standard is a bit of milk and honey; there is a possibility that the 'earth spirit' you encounter is a member of the Fae Folk. When you have gained the trust of the entity, it will reveal it's identity to you and thus identified, you will know how to proceed ( cautiously) with further contact. Keep in mind that most, but not all earth spirits are benevolent, positive beings. You should ward yourself prior to contact, and if you have any doubt as to what or whom you will be dealing with, secure yourself inside a cast circle ( and stay there!). A benevolent entity will be appreciative of your preparation and established boundary, but always have a plan 'B' (As in binding and banishing. Remember, never call up what you cannot absolutely put down, and don't be over-confident of your abilities). Don not follow any entity that beckons you. Do not be lured out of the circle. Other than these few suggestions, things should go well and you can discern how to go about asking the earth spirit for its assistance in your goal.

ManannĂ¡n mac Lir

Saturday, July 4, 2015

When The Teacher Comes

Image from Medicine Cards by
Jamie Sams, David Carson, Angela C. Werneke
In the late night stillness, a deer quietly grazes on red clover in the abandoned lot across the street from my apartment.

They say when the student is ready the teacher will come.
I have been ready for a new teacher. The deer has made it's way down from the mountains to this same place to feed for several nights in a row, so I'm taking this as a sign that I ought to pay attention to it's presence in my life right now.

My deck of Medicine Cards are over 25 years old now, the edges softened and worn from use. The images are spotted and dulled with the oils from my hands, but the vibration, and most importantly, the knowledge I have gained about animals from using this deck of symbol cards is still relevant and still developing. The Deer card shows a fawn with soft eyes. It is still innocent and openly trusting. The fawn's erect ears, however, show it's alertness to its surroundings, it's ability to hear the sounds unheard by human ears. The deer-like most animals-has a better ability to see in the darkness around it than we humans. Therefore it perceives what is unknown and unseen before our human senses detect subtle movement and things out of our range of perception.

It has rained every night this week.The deer has appeared around the same time, right after the moon has come up and the rain has had enough time to soak into the ground. It is serene and graceful, but if it hears any noise it intuitively raises it's head and flicks its ears. When it is satisfied with the  safety of its surroundings, it moves a bit and continues to seeks out the tender red clover covering the ground. Watching this deer is a perfect moment captured in time for me; everything else falls away and I am brought into it's peace. The medicine of the deer reminds me to be gentle with myself and others, to be sensitive and in touch with my surroundings, and to move through obstacles gracefully.

I am often unintentionally hard on others, and harder on myself. The intensity of my own upkeep these days makes life more difficult than it normally would be. I am good at being loving toward others but much less so toward myself. I know perfection is an impossible achievement, and yet I still beat myself up. I do not enter into life with a spirit of communion as I should; that is why I count the appearance of the deer now as significant. It is a reminder to quiet the urgency of living in order to have life: things will fall into place as they should if I approach things with less emotion. There are times I need to step back and just allow things to be.