Saturday, December 17, 2016

Child of Wonder

This time of year the early setting of the sun brings darkness at a time when we're just getting comfortable for the day. It's a time for candles, a hot cup of something, and maybe a good book. I use this time of year to study, to re-evaluate and discern my spiritual path in the hope of forwarding my journey authentically, with sincere gratitude.

Since I am a 'night person', the darkness is comforting. It is also the time that I'm my most productive and can take advantage of being uninterrupted by the busyness of others during daylight. I connect well with Midwinter.

By my own admission, I am a festival junkie. I love all the holidays throughout the year (although I have my favorites). I enjoy decorating because I love the special feeling in the air. Most of all, I love the celebrations that express our humanness and interconnection with each other and the world around us. For me, there is an archetypal energy that comes to the forefront, particularly in the festivals of the latter half of the calendar year. They feel like a doorway to other dimensions that we only feel at a distance at other times. There is a deep soul-level alignment from Samhain to Yule that awakens within us which I believe correlates with the myth of the Divine Child.

The birth of that Divine Child of Many Names holds eternal hope in our hearts: we continue in the mundane physical world as the earth receives returning light and warmth with every new day and nature around us slowly awaken from a cold sleep. Spiritually, we see the sacredness of life renewed in the birth of a child of potential which represents our future. We go innocently into the newness of Life mindfully, with the feeling of being surrounded by something undeniably holy. Perhaps for just a time, our communities are united and optimistic. Whatever we call our holidays and festivals, the energy is joyously the same and we are caught up in the wonder and love of it all.

Each year at this time the story of the birth of a vulnerable infant who survives despite being born in an unwelcoming environment with the odds against him echoes throughout many cultures and religious traditions. The motif of the Divine Child is a global one.

The noted psychologist Carl Jung created a list of archetypes which includes "the Child" and had some rather profound things to say about it. Jung's Child appears in our consciousness when we are at our most vulnerable. At a time when we are too emotionally weak and feel powerless, when there is seemingly no way to survive against personal challenge, the birth of potential and possibility takes place within our psyche. It survives and grows in that moment of deep despair when we are overwhelmed and ready to give up. If we are open and receptive to nurturing this newness, it becomes our reality, and that reality becomes a driving force to survive. Jung, who was well acquainted with the metaphysical, understood how to create thoughtforms.

Within everyone of us lies a spark of the Divine represented by this Child of Wonder. The birth of every child is holy. The knowledge of the ages are reflected back to us in the eyes of children, something we have lost as we become older and jaded by society and culture. We come into this world from Spirit bathed in light but soon forget who we are and where we came from. This is what I love about my Pagan spirituality-we have so many ways to remember we too are filled with the essence of divinity. We are god/dess in our own right, created in the image of the Universal Source.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why Mary Matters

We are all familiar with the Biblical story of Mary and her husband Joseph, and the particulars of the birth of Jesus. It is a tale that's been told over and over ( more or less) in the same way for thousands of years by millions of people: how the couple made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay taxes and found themselves without a place to stay upon arrival; how a benevolent inn keeper allowed them to stay where the animals were kept; how Mary gave birth to a child supposedly conceived by the Holy Spirit-the Son of God-destined to become the Savior of a world fallen to sin. And so on and so forth.

Not meaning any disrespect, but if you found yourself yawning just now...well...let's just say you're not alone. We've heard the story so often for so long that it's become rather pedestrian and routine. Time for a cup of coffee and a cookie to keep the eyes from glazing over.

For all the holy hoopla surrounding Christmas, every account of Jesus' birth is astounding in it's lack of details. It takes several sketchy predictions from the Old Testament and all four of the New Testament Gospel writers to corroborate the linage and meaning of His birth. There is even less factual information about Mary: other than being the daughter of the elderly Joachim and Anne, being betrothed to the carpenter Joseph, the Nativity narrative, a fleeting mention of being a guest at the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine and the Crucifixion, there is scant else said about her in the Bible. This is pretty skimpy, considering the  extensive body of Mariology and Marian devotion in Christian and Eastern Orthodox churches worldwide. While the Christian core of Marian devotion in the West is centered in the Roman Catholic Church and has found its way into dogmatic teaching, the Eastern Church bases its devotion in liturgical rites. Meanwhile the majority of Protestant Christians believe Mary's divine mission was over when she gave birth to the Divine Child. She was,  in effect, historically cast aside and devalued as all women have literally and figuratively been after providing a male heir to continue a linage.

In fact, there is more written about Mary in the Quran, where she is mentioned throughout from beginning to end. She is the only woman specifically mentioned by name in Muslim scripture, where she is considered one of the most righteous persons in the Islamic religion. These texts not only speak to her divinity, but to the sanctity of her humanness. The nineteenth chapter of the Quran (Maryam) is named for her and talks extensively about her life. Her importance in Islamic culture and spiritual tradition is evidenced by the inscription of verses from the Quran relating to her on the walls of prayer rooms in mosques. According to Muslim sacred text, after her birth, Mary was dedicated to service in the Temple under the guidance of the prophet Zechariah, who was her uncle. She had her own special place in the temple for prayer, and was set apart as virtuous prior to the birth of Jesus.  (An interesting aside: the alternate meaning for the word virgin is a woman who devotes herself wholly to divine practice and is unimpeded by the preoccupation of husband, family and home life.  As a single woman she was owned by no man and was not any man's property. She was "of her own" by choice although fully capable of assuming the role of wife and mother if she desired.)

Through an otherworldly gentleness and spiritual nature, virtue, and personal resolve, Mary is the archetype of the All-Mother and is The Creator Mother personified. She is known by an endless variety of names- "Virgin Mother of God","Queen of Heaven","Holy Rose"," Immaculate","Rose of Sharon"- the list is exhaustive. She shares characteristics with nearly every mother goddess throughout history and transcends specific cultures as creatrix and nurturer. (Compare the births of Mithra, Osiris, Krishna, Horus and even the Buddha.) As such, she is the rightful "Queen of Heaven" in a more modern mythos.

I believe there is an ancient memory of the Great Mother in our collective psyche which accounts for  apparitions of Mary world wide. For every individual sighting approved as legitimate by the Church, there hundreds and perhaps thousands that are rejected or go unreported. Although there are some appearances of her that are seemingly incredulous, who's to really say what is and is not real? Entity manifestations often begin in the subconscious as thought forms. It's been psychologically proven  that someone desiring union with a divine entity can invoke the desired result (even if that manifestation is due to hysterical psychosis). To this reasoning, any appearance is valid. Belief in a religious context does not always require evidence other than individual experience; faith is the trust in that experience. In my humble opinion, it's motivation and intention that matters most. I think the Feminine Divine is alive in this world, and it doesn't matter what name we call her. It's how I, as a Pagan, can stand behind the Christmas narrative and the importance of Mary- by putting it in perspective along side the many other Great Mother/Divine Child myths in history. It isn't a form of appropriation from one culture to another as much as a need for the story to continue for all of us no matter who we are.

I rather like the image of Mary as Rosa Mystica, as found in the writings of Saint Brigid, in which Mary herself tells the saint ( I'm paraphrasing here for clarity): "... The rose gives a fragrant odor; it is beautiful to the sight and tender to the touch, and yet it grows among thorns, unaware of its beauty and tenderness. So may those who are mild-tempered, patient, and beautiful in virtue be put to the test in the world. As the thorn guards the beauty of the rose, so does adversity keep us from wrong- doing by the example of its destructive nature." It fits with my definition of the Feminine Divine which equally shares strength and power.

In Pagan theology, we are all God/dess, co-creators who share in the Divine Mysteries of Birth, Living and Dying and everything that lays between them with the gods. As a woman and priestess, I can connect deeply to this, more deeply than when I was a part of a faith tradition founded by men where I was stripped of my inherent worth and dignity and considered second best as a human being. I say these words without anger, because I also believe that to get to the place of spiritual confidence I have today, I had to have gone through that experience. I believe it's true that everything is a lesson. You have to start and leave somewhere in order to make a journey. It is a journey I make guided by the Mystical Rose along a path of my choosing. Here we are joined, and I, too, am Mary. I carry within me the Divine Child of possibility and wonder which is in constant renewal. And I'll tell you a secret: I'm not always enraptured by knowing this, especially when I realize the responsibility it carries. Being a priestess of the Mystery of the Holy Rose has both its exultant glory and its unfathomable burdens. And while I'm being candid, both scare the hell out of me for a lot of reasons.

So in this period of personal discernment in the weeks of waiting before Winter Solstice and Yule, I'm going to work on being a little less scared and less doubtful of my abilities. I'm going to try to be less pessimistic about my fellow human beings, a little more hopeful about the world, and more grateful about all of it. I'm going to remember I have the Divine spark in me, too, and see magick and wonder at every turn. And maybe, just maybe, the Mystery of the Holy Rose will bloom in me.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Season of Stillness and Waiting

In contrast to the hysterical blowout of Black Friday, the following Sunday is the first day of the Season of Advent, days of quiet reflection and waiting leading up to the Nativity of the Son of God. The Latin word adventus stems from the ancient Greek root parousia, meaning presence or arrival.Usually it's associated with the birth of Christ at Christmas, but I have purposely left this definition vague for reasons explained later. Right now, let's just frame this period of time as 'weeks of waiting'.

Beth Owl's Daughter begun a lovely interfaith tradition for this time of year which is emotionally uplifting. It's a cyber event that I've been participating in for several years now; I find it transformative. It's an excellent alternative to the traditional Christian Advent, and everyone is invited to participate:

I look forward to this time of year because it feels like a little otherworldly-a magickal time outside of time. The waiting for the birth of the Divine Child is a space set aside for deep introspection and connection with the sacred. There are a few things I have adapted from the Christian tradition of Advent  and made a bit more universal. It's easy to apply Pagan terms and tradition for these Weeks of Waiting. Allow me to share a past post on the subject with you:;postID=5457978819530187517;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=5;src=postname

I believe that building toward Yule and the coming of Sol Invictus makes the holiday holy in the best definition of the word; it adds layers upon layers of richness and meaning to The Longest Night of the Year.Within all of these layers of meaning,I still immerse my spirit  in the words of the Anglican Hymn O Come,O Come Emmanuel. It is a translation of a much older Latin hymn Veni,Veni Emannuel, part of the 8th century 'O Antiphons' related to the Magnificat sung during the weeks proceeding the Nativity of Christ. The age of the English text of the hymn is up for debate because there are various versions, but the music dates to much earlier, to 15th century France. The number of verses is also up for discussion and even the order in which they are sung and on which particular Sunday in Advent. (I must admit, when you are walking in procession garbed in heavy liturgical vestments, the 5-7 most popular verses feel like there are hundreds and physical discomfort can become distracting).  But all the same, it does not feel like Advent has begun until I sing this particular hymn.

Thank you, Anglican tradition for instilling in me a love of liturgy and ritual. I truly wish something similar to this music existed within the Neo-Pagan traditions other than the appropriated 'Pagan Carols' we've all heard. While well meaning, many of them are...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh,yeah...corny.  The majority of them lack meter and sound a bit shallow to my ear. That's just me; maybe you like them, and if you do, that's fine. But I still would love to see someone come up with some original lyrics and music that are Pagan-centric and don't sound like hashed-over Christmas carols. ( One standout-the Unitarian Universalist Within the Shining of a Star, which relates the birth of a Divine Child to all children ).

Until then, I'll stick with the Christianized versions that are vaguely celebratory of the Birth of the Divine Child, whomever he or she may be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Devil Made 'Em Do It

According to recent Catholic news sources, exorcisms are once again on the rise in the United States. According to two popular exorcists, Fr. Gary Thomas and Fr. Vincent Lampert, they can "hardy keep up with the demand".

The two priests claim that the rise in demon possessions are influenced by things like pornography, drug addiction and the lack of competent mental health care in the US. They also have stated that an increase in public interest in Atheism and Paganism are " a doorway to many possessions".

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and 'scientific' consultant to the Vatican endorsed International Association of Exorcists is quoted saying," It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the Devil, but also by a decline in faith and values." He also went on to qualify his observation by saying it was important not to confuse diabolical possession with psychiatric illness. Only one percent of people claiming to have problems with demons have real need of an exorcist", citing that they had "violent reactions to prayer of liberation and to holy water."

Reading this article from the Telegraph brought out the counselor in me, because what Dr.Cascioli didn't mention in his assessment is the fact that some psychotic individuals are extremely sensitive and reactive to sound, tactile sensations, and the power of suggestion. Imagine what is going through the mind of someone who is experiencing a mental disorder where thought, reason and rational perception are distorted. Add to that the disturbing and frightening elements of being surrounded
(and possibly restrained) by several individuals engaged in a ritual frenzy which features hysterically shouting epaulets about evil beings and demons and anointing them with holy water and oil against their will. For someone with that level of mental illness, it's an emotional train wreck that borders on the abusive. More likely than not it would cause them to admit to anything suggested just to make the others leave them alone.

Those in the field have also pointed to the rise in popularity of interest in the Occult ( which they label as 'pagan activity') such as using talking boards 'to summon the dead', failure of the mental health care system, a spiritual void in the lives of Americans, and the diminishing authority of the Church. They blame popular culture for being a gateway that lets Satan into society through sin.

But the hardcore, conservative clergy backpedal their comments when pressed for further explanation of how these things actually work in regard to demonic possession. They rely not on scientific or spiritual research, but regurgitate what the Church has been habitually saying since medieval times- "The Devil made them do it". What a nice little piece of scapegoating by a clergy who have failed to retain membership and control over the members who remain in recent years. Sounds to me like a denial of responsibility by an outdated religious hierarchy being rejected by enlightened people of the modern age.

The reformed edition of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications is a document of litany and ritual used by the Roman Catholic Church regarding demonic possession. The new edition actually warns not to confuse mental illness with possession by evil entities. It removed descriptions of Satan that conflicted with Church dogma ( and sounded down right silly to modern society). Vatican guidelines state several supposed signs of a person being possessed after the elimination of medical explanation have been exhausted: Speaking in an unknown language, revealing things that are far away or hidden, and demonstrating physical strength beyond the norm for the age or health of the individual in question. Included again is a warning  that "these signs are only an indication" and may not be the work of the Devil.
At this point, may I interject that this sounds exactly like what  Pentecostals and Evangelicals refer to as "being of the Spirit of God", a spiritual practise which includes 'speaking in tongues (glossolalia),prophesying, and other spiritual feats-all of which are hallmarks of their faith tradition. I have witnessed charismatic Pentecostals stopping mid-service to engage in a 'deliverance'. The most rabid of the lot find Satan hiding behind every tree and attribute even the slightest misfortune to him.To their minds, nothing happens by chance;everything is either the Lord's doing or Satan's.There is no middle ground. Satan influence Eve to manipulate Adam into from the Tree of Knowledge and thus doomed mankind. Personally, I don't think this illustration speaks very well about God's first human, who looks pretty gullible,weak-minded and reflects poorly on Himself as a Creator. Their literal belief in this event has been comprehensively examined by both Jewish and Christian scholars who agree that it's a moral story meant to underscore the superiority of God oven Man.

It's also a mindset which rather conveniently excuses Christians of any responsibility for their behavior because,"God's in control".

While there are things that are beyond our control, those things are not necessarily caused by the Devil and his minions. Electricity go out while you're reading Scripture? It's a breech of the electrical grid and not cause by a nefarious entity. Sleep through weekly Bible class? Your body needed rest or you ate something that jacked up your glucose level. Car won't start and you miss Sunday worship service. It's more realistically a mechanical issue that requires the attention of a mechanic rather than a priest because you think a demon kept you from worshiping Jesus at your favorite church.

Sadly, this is a world view forged from the fear of the unknown and the "Other", a view which does not joyously embrace the randomness of Life. It is grounded in an obfuscated myth created by those confused by the conflicting attributes of their deity.

As for a 'decline in faith and values', this is nothing new. Numbers in all mainstream denominations have been in a downward spiral through at least the last several decades. Out of all of them, the Roman Catholic Church in particular has had significant losses. According to a 2015 Pew Forum report, the total number of Roman Catholics in the United States dropped by 3 million since 2007 and now comprises about 20% or one fifth of the total population. Much of that is due to dissatisfaction with a church it's members have determined is out of step with the times, and because its leadership stubbornly clings to the belief that they hold sway over parishioners rather than be in ministry together. The stark truth is that many modern Catholics have evolved spiritually and moved on from antiquated dogma. Some in the priesthood stand with their enlightened view, while others still uphold doctrine that is for all intents and purposes obsolete.

What I have cited in this post is verifiable fact regarding the Church's fascination with a phenomenon become obsession, a level matched only by their counterparts in the Middle Ages. Our belief systems have changed so much that it necessary for those practicing extreme Charismatic  theology to come to terms with the fact that the evil in our world is the fault of humans and not supernatural entities. Nor should we finger-point at mental illness which has risen due to lack of available treatment. Collectively, we do bad things to others and ourselves-often in the name of religion. Humans have wrought ruin of every nature upon one another, and it's time we acknowledge that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanks Giving

We usually have gorgeously colored leaves in the Autumn, but this year the colors weren't bright: the leaves shriveled and dropped early. We need rain and everything is dry. All the same, I am thankful for the Autumn and it's wonders-crisp evenings, frosty mornings and the deer that come into town to forage. And yes, even the turkey buzzards by the side of the road, for they have their place in the natural cycle. I am thankful to be in a place so close to nature, even though the everyday atmosphere and surrounding attitude of the majority of the population is consistently negative and depressing. Still, I am thankful for the twilight of mornings and the dusk of evening, when it is quiet because in those times I am closer to my own humanity and the Divine.

I am thankful for a few close friends and even more acquaintances, even though most of them are scattered across the US, Canada and as far away as  England the Manx countryside. I appreciate their diverse opinions of what is going on in their part of the world, and mine. We don't always agree, but I learn from their views.

My Pagan community both near and far gives me comfort and support, and again, I am thankful. Social media, as much a bane as a blessing, keeps us in touch and up to date. We celebrate and complain daily and they are wonderful and inspiring when my self esteem needs plumping up, and even when we are at each others throats and embroiled in a passionate argument.

This year especially, I am thankful for the knowledge and skill of  surgeons, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. With out them I would not be here to give thanks.

Although I am not currently taking students in the Craft, I do have this platform at AmethJera's Broom With A View where I can teach and communicate with others. I thank all of you who come across this blog for whatever reason, because it has encouraged me to share these past six years and I have gained some wonderful friendships. I treasure you with the utmost gratitude and it humbles me that you read what I write. ( If there is anything you'd like me to write about, post it in the comments.)

I use this recipe for the following mixture as dry to sprinkle or as incense, steeped in water as a wash, and in oil. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons in a pot of boiling water on the stove for the aroma-which is earthy with a hint of spice- to clear the air. The choice is yours.

NOTE: Although all of the ingredients listed here are edible, I strongly recommend against consuming this blend. Blackberries often grow along with poisoned oak, and red clover is scientifically proved to be detrimental to those taking hormonal treatments, contraceptives, anticoagulants, and aspirin. Do not directly inhale smoke if you use it as an incense as it may cause irritation to mucous membranes. It is fine to burn in a properly ventilated area.

Equal parts of each; increase to make more.

bay leaves
blackberry leaves- dried
red clover buds and leaves-dried
dill seeds- use dried dill weed if unavailable
flax seed

Crush all with mortar and pestle until a fine powder and use as desired.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have Faith, Stand Firm

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
—John Adams

I look upon the result of the recent US election as an opportunity to examine my faith and beliefs to further define exactly who I am. In the coming months, I might just have to use that definition to express the foundation of my spirituality to others when they are looking for a boogeyman. I believe the next administration will call into question our Constitutional right to be Pagans and Witches. Those challenges to our spiritual traditions will require from us deep understanding, commitment, and perspective. For me, and many others, it will be a journey to greater wisdom from within and an unprecedented closeness to understanding what we stand for as members of a minority spiritual tradition. God/dess help us because we're going to need all the help we can get.

In a climate of  portended persecution our personal beliefs must be solidly identified by us  to fight any opposition or oppression we may encounter. Our beliefs will most certainly be questioned and vilified because we don't fit the image of extremist Dominionist theology. In their short-sighted world, Pagans, Muslims, Buddhists and many other non-Christians are not only "the Other", but an enemy to be vanquished. Their theology mandate that they occupy all secular institutions, which has become a unifying ideology for extremists in the Christian Right. The extremist Dominionist theocracy espouses a warped view of Christian duty to take control of what they believe to be a sinful secular society and eradicate all other forms of belief  through bureaucratic and political means. It has been my experience that they seek to do this because they are more concerned with their own selfishness and personal gain, at the expense of common sense and decency. In other words, humanity be damned-along with the Constitutional rights of everyone else. Within the Evangelistic movement, they are a sick, hateful cult.

In an article posted in 2011 by Salon, journalist Sarah Posner  argues that there are "iterations of Dominionism that call on (extremist) Christians to enter...government, law, media and so that they are controlled by Christians." According to Posner, Christian Right leadership promoted Dominionism, and the most conservative and intolerant in the GOP courted their religious leaders for the votes of their followers. She added: "If people really understood Dominionism, they’d worry about it between election cycles." Worry, indeed: these where the same people who want to take over our government and rename Washington, DC the "District of Christ", who have articulated that the figure of Columbia atop our Capitol building should be replaced with a cross.

Dominionist extremism is religious nationalism in it's most derivative and deplorable form. They are a specifically motivated group outside of the traditional Evangelistic Church which is so threatened and frightened of the diversity of the world at large that they hide behind their version of Biblical teachings (which incidentally conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ on how to treat others) and a petulant, vengeful God of their own creation who suits their agenda. I think it's very telling and of interest that their obsession with power has lead them to sell out that god for the favor of a provocative demagogue bent on the destruction of the established order of our country.  

The time is now for those of us considered "The Other" to stand firmly against the extremist Dominionist faction and show them we will not be marginalized and abused by their insane desire to grab for the Brass Ring of Power in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. It is now more important than ever to not only reassess who we are as a spiritual people by lending support to one another because we are all fighting the same evil in regard to our religious freedoms and the right to practice as we choose.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Attention Magickal Practitioners: Working For The Common Good-What You Can Do Right Now

Image via Google
I have been sitting here for the last few days trying to take it all in and rationally process just exactly happened in this country on November 8th. Like many of you, I also need to take a personal inventory and make a realistic plan of what I'm going to do after January 20th and for the future.

But for right now, I think we all need to just take a deep cleansing breath and get grounded. What could well happen to dismantle the rights of women, people of color, LGBT individuals and those of us who hold non-Christian Fundamentalist views is looming large as a reality in our future. The tactics that will be used will be subtle and not-so-subtle a form of perverted nationalism dressed in the guise of patriotism that is counter to the worldview of the majority of American citizens as proven by the popular vote.

Following the example set by our ancestors, who gathered in times of crisis, we should gather now. Those who have gone before us looked to their healers and elders for solutions and aligned themselves accordingly looking to their wisdom traditions. In the face of adversity, they stood tall and courageous and we can too. It will not be easy-but it is not impossible or hopeless.

Many of us are by self-proclamation, practitioners of magick of one form or another. Magick, rightly approached, is the ability to harness the powers of Nature to be used to used toward a desired effect or outcome.

(Note: I am using a white pill bottle with a screw on lid. I am planning on inscribing binding runes on the outside of the bottle after it is sealed and placing it far in the back of my freezer.If you use this method, you should choose your runes so they are personalized and carry more of your energy.)

Share freely any way you choose. Your participation is appreciated!

1 - Light a white candle.
2 - Write the following: "I neutralize Donald Trump and Mike Pence from doing any and all harm to women and their health, the L G B T community and their marriage, the animals and our financial stability in the United States as well as globally. Protect the immigrants, people of color and the disabled."
3 - Fold the paper up away from you (symbolizing pushing the energy away from you) and put it in a sealable jar or container.
4 - Concentrate on the intention of protection and neutralization 5 - Seal the container and pour the white wax on the jar to seal it further.
6 - Place the jar in your freezer.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Pagans and witches talk a lot about power: power over self and how to bend things to our will. We use visualization and mind over matter, meditation and focusing. Some of us also talk a lot about using the power of the Elements or Nature to satisfy our desires and create change. But do we ever actually focus on seeking and accepting grace? Occultists don't talk about grace too often, but I feel it's an important part of our magickal development.

A few dictionary definitions of grace is to dignify, honor, favor, enhance, ennoble, glorify, elevate, improve. Do you have any more to add? I do.

Sitting in silence is grace. Listening to rain. Hearing crickets singing in the grass. The changing colors of Autumn, animals at home and in the wild. Laughing and mirth. Being of one accord within the Circle. Finding your tribe. Good conversation. Just being alive and being appreciative you are.

Recognizing grace is a form of gratitude, and one of the things that empowers us to speak gratitude.
From what I am seeing in the community, it seems to me that we are loosing our ability to humble ourselves. There is way too much bragging about our magickal abilities, especially when it concerns "being messed with". It sounds to me very much like a child taking a tantrum. Is it really necessary to seek retribution for every perceived slight? I don't think so. Real strength is letting most of it to slid off and not being knocked off course. There are other mundane ways of settling a score-ways that don't include magick. Running for our BOS for every little thing is being lazy. (I'm not talking about when your are actually harmed or threatened, then a working for protection is not unreasonable.) Being humble is not belittling ourselves, rather, it is knowing who we are and being open to learning more-because we don't know it all, and we never will. Knowledge of the Craft is infinite.

Being open and yearning to know the lessons of the Universe, elevating your personal vibration, connecting with the gods is a state of grace. We don't often think of it that way...but it is. Grace is not specific to one religious tradition and it is not church- speak; it is recognizing a gift and expressing thanks for that gift.

True power does not involve influencing the behavior of others or the course of events (once again, not when actually threatened with harm). It is not about control or authority. It is not an ego boost. It is not mastery over others. It is about using your abilities to benefit and heal. It's about acting with discernment. It about  self-mastery, asking for and accepting needed change in yourself....and being open to grace when it appears in our lives.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Magickal Fall Food

Porchetta Sandwich
Image via Google
One of the many reasons I love this time of year is the food, which is often savory and substantial. There is nothing like a big pot of soup, chili, or a casserole on a cool Fall day!

Of my favorites in particular is Porketta (various spellings, according to region),a rich, fragrant version of pulled pork cooked in it's own juices with the addition of garlic, onion, black pepper,dill and rosemary. It can be slow roasted or cooked in a crock pot (my choice) Because it's  the au jus is heavenly when done in a crock pot, I skim the fat(put it in the fridge overnight and just lift the fatty layer off) and use the broth for soup later. If there is any left, it can be changed up by the addition of BBQ sauce, vinegar and spices, or made into chili- and of course, there is the aforementioned soup: add tomatoes and other vegetables, and noodles for a hearty Autumn treat. Serving pork around Samhain takes on the quality of abundance and agriculture of the pig. Pigs were associated with Ceridwen and Phaedra, who were both moon goddesses. The pig is also representative of the Mother Goddess. The addition of onions, garlic and herbs imparts the corresponding vibrations of these to the dish.

And speaking of can tailor your magickal intentions through the adjustment of  whatever vegetables, herbs and spices are put into the pot. It's important to make your intention as specific as possible when making soup as part of a spell. Speak your intention as you add ingredients to the soup, and when it is done your can 'take in' the energies of the ingredients. As an added bonus, the aroma of the open kettle sends the intention to the gods you are petitioning for assistance. Soup is magick at it's finest,which can also be said of stews.

I also a lot of apples during the season. They are delicious when baked with cinnamon and allspice (protection and psychic awareness). A little sugar adds sweetness ( think honey jar). Apples themselves are a food of mystics: they are known as the Fruit of the Underworld, Fruit of the Gods,Fruit of Love-and when used near Samhain, they are a part of the Feast of the Dead. I love apples baked with raisins, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar, either whole or cut up.

Seasonal vegetables such as squash and pumpkins are associated with lunar magick (because of their round shapes). Squash are representative of plenty because they grow in multiples. The subtle flavors of these vegetables combine well with other ingredients and amplify their vibrations. Baked squash with sausage or cheese is delicious. I usually bake a small hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with venison, wild rice, onions, garlic and seasonings this time of year.

Many delicious teas can be made from dried herbal ingredients and edible flowers (check to be absolutely sure they are not poisonous before using!) Sweeten with agave or honey for a lovely evening treat.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention bread at this point. Please refer to these two posts for further reading:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Death Becomes Us

I save my new, shiny pennies to take along when I visit the local cemetery. As I walk among the graves, if I happen to notice a presence or hear something, I push a penny down deep into the ground near the headstone as an acknowledgement of the communication. Some people leave coins on the headstone, some leave pebbles and it's not unusual,especially in the South, to leave small figurines,notes,pinwheels and all manner of decoration at the grave site. And of course there are always flowers and flags. There are endless superstitions and taboos concerning death and burial practices, and I'd like to share a few in this post since we're entering a season when the subject is on everyone's mind.

Often we leave tokens of our affection because we're still grieving, or as a way to show our love and how much the deceased are missed. It's a world wide phenomenon which crosses the boundaries of societies, cultures and religions. Individual graves are enhanced by the addition of memorial lights-hanging candle holders lit by candles, small solar-powered crosses or lights placed by the headstone for various reasons: to hold eternal vigil is the most popular reason.

At the approach of death, all the windows and doors of the house were thrown open so as not to impede the fleeing spirit on it journey to the afterlife. Bells were rung nine times as someone actively died, and tolled the same number of times as they lived. Family members sometimes attempted to inhale the last breath of the dying or catch it in a bottle to preserve his/her essence. Candles were lit so the deceased was not frightened by the dark, clocks were stopped at the moment of death in respect, and mirrors were turned toward the wall so the spirit would not become confused and trapped in them. Tables were set one last time to include the deceased. Their clothes were washed separately, Speaking ill of the dead was ill will. Animals are believed to have precognition; interestingly, President Lincoln's dog ran wildly around the White House howling shortly before his assassination. Animals have also been known to grieve the loss of a master or mistress, refusing to leave the grave.

Most coffins are placed with the head in an easterly direction, a tradition originating from the Christian belief that Jesus will return in the East to call his followers to him. Many cemeteries do so now out of habit. The sunny South side of any church yard is preferred over the colder North, which in bygone days was reserved for criminals and suicides. The landscaping and development of huge memorial parks has made this a moot point. There is an old belief that a newly dig grave should never be left open over a Sunday, or someone else will die to fill it. Modern day burial practices have remedied this by the grave being covered as part of the procedure of digging. Walking or stepping over a grave was unlucky (and disrespectful). Using headstones for anything other than its intended purpose, especially in building, is believed to cause the building to collapse. Roads and walkways made from purloined headstones will wash out. Accidents will happen repeatedly in that place until the stones are removed.

In an earlier time, it was believed that the most recently buried person was assigned to watch over the grave yard until another burial took place: this spirit was known as a church yard watcher. Other superstitious beliefs included one in which the soul of the first person buried in a new cemetery belonged to the Devil, and because of this often an animal was substituted to become the first burial. In other instances, fake funerals took place in the hope of curing diseases (particularly in cases of children during the 19th century). Especially in the British Isles, a death was often foretold by the appearance of a animal such as a crow, cat or dog. Spirits of the dead were seen to portend a death, and the dying often sees a deceased loved one whom they believe to be welcoming them to the afterlife. It was a matter of custom that when a death took place the person was buried with their Bible, prayer book or other sacred belongings.

There is an old German superstition that if the death of a person was mistakenly announced it added an extra 10 years were added to their life. Coal miners refuse to return to work after the death of a colleague during an accident until he has been buried. Sailors are particularly uncomfortable when a dead body is present aboard ship. As an unusual contradiction of logic, it is said that touching a corpse brings good luck and relieves nightmares. And the corpse of a murder victim will bleed if touched by the murderer at a funeral.

Bodies should be buried intact and whole,because it is believed that the dead individual would not be accepted into Heaven. Because of this, people were known to save any teeth they had pulled to add to the box when they were buried. In a previous era bodies were buried from the home by family and friends and this lead to the custom of keeping vigil with the corpse until it was laid to rest. The keeping of a 'wake' is legendary in Irish lore, and those attending usually had a final tribute drink (or more likely several) with the deceased. The body was buried feet first, the reverse of entering life, so the ghost would not return.

In my great-grandparents' time there was a belief that no farmer should plough near the edge of a graveyard, lest the crops die or the act bring bad luck. Likewise, there was no digging near a grave for fear of unleashing a vengeful spirit or disturbing the dead. Exhuming or moving a grave was also risky business.

Thanatology- the scientific study of death and practices surrounding it-is a fascinating subject. Every culture, ethnic group and religious tradition has its own customs and taboos. The transition from Life to Dead is not only a rite of passage, but a subject I feel is vitally important for everyone to explore...after all, we all depart this common life when we die.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

It's a Little Early,But Let's Talk About Halloween and Samhain...

It's a little early, but let's talk about Halloween...mainly what it is and isn't.

When I was growing up Halloween was a night of wonder and magic. For one thing,we kids were allowed to go around the neighborhood collecting treats without an adult if someone's older brother or sister was along.We felt special and the night had a slightly dangerous edge to it; the danger was all in our imaginations-at least that's how it used to be. No one dressed up like a serial killer, or politician, and if we managed to score a Collegeville costume of a nurse, police officer or G.I Joe, well...let's just say we ruled in the cool department.

Somewhere along the mid 70s things began to change. Costumes with the hard plastic mask disappeared and the characters got bloody: gore became a thing. Decorations changed, too with the introduction of vinyl severed body parts and plastic window clings. The inexpensive paper euphemial hang-up skeletons disappeared in favor of more realistic-and expensive-fare.

My childhood Halloween included homemade cookies, slices of cake, and mini cups of cider. A candy apple or popcorn ball was a major score. Much of the candy and gum we got was loose and some of it wasn't even wrapped. We went inside people's houses to see their decorations and if our parents were along, they chatted amicably with neighbors. It was all pretty much over in and hour or so and then everyone in the neighborhood went to the firehouse for a community Halloween party.  Afterward we went home, emptied our loot bags and went to bed because more than likely it was a school night even if it were Halloween.We were home snug in bed before the Witching Hour. No one was afraid of getting tainted candy or poisoned apples. There were no weird clowns lurking by the roadside or other nefarious characters up to no good. It was all good, clean fun-there were no extremist Christians bellowing about it being Satan's Day and no one got possessed by evil spirits just for dressing up and collecting candy on a day made for innocent fun and frolic.

Because I am now a practicing witch (and don't just dress up like one as I did as a kid), I celebrate Samhain as well as the half octave of days made up as Mischief Night, All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls, this time of year has a new and deeper meaning. Samhain, as Summer's end, is the final harvest of Autumn and the time when the Veil is fully open between this world and the Afterlife. I welcome my beloved friends and relatives who have made their transition at my home Dumb Supper and by meditating to bring them closer. I decorate my ancestor altar with as many photos of them as possible and a few of the things that hold their memory dear to me. This includes photos of the many pets I've had throughout my life and my much loved familiar Tinker. I write regrets from the previous year and burn them, then bury the ashes. I make a batch of Samhain oil to use for spirit communication in the year that lies ahead, and a special incense blend to use over the next few days because I also celebrate astrological Samhain on November 7th (which just happens to be my late grandparent's wedding anniversary,too). Every year is different because I always find something else to add to the ritual. At the end of the night, after I have cast a protective circle, I sit in silence and listen for the voices of my ancestor's and the Mighty Dead. I ask to communicate with them in my dreams,too, or if I can stay awake until morning, I bid those who have crossed over for a visit farewell and godspeed.

While the two holidays are intertwined and difficult to separate, each has its own distinctive character. I love them both!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What The Pagan Public Will Allow

Pagans are generally a tolerant bunch. My personal interaction within the community overall has been positive. I suspect this is because I consider myself to be a freethinker-but I have my limits.

Having said that, I draw a line just short of Gavin and Yvonne Frost and their version of Wicca, which includes ritual sex with minors. If by chance you are unaware of the fact that sex with a minor is against the law, not only is a crime, it also has corruption of a minor as an accompanying charge in most cases, and a few others as well, depending on the jurisdiction. Not only do we not need this sort of thing in Paganism from a public relations standpoint,it's legally and ethically wrong.

Minors cannot give legal consent to have sex, period. There is no valid argument in favor of this sort of activity, despite adjurations that it's just ancient history. While historical accounts of sex with minors do indeed exist, and it was considered morally acceptable in that period, it is a part of the past which is socially unacceptable in our present time. No amount of backpedaling or psychobabble paints this activity as acceptable in modern Pagan culture. More of us should be speaking out about and against it.

I personally believe placing it in the context of ritual is deplorable and heinous as well. We cannot and should not condone or tolerate this, even in a culture of freethinking or in the name of religious belief.

I disagree with those who think that Paganism means "Anything goes". There are ethical boundaries in every culture and religion. I think we should stand for something and not fall for anything that comes along without discernment. "Live and let live" stops here. Reprehensible behavior of any kind should not be tolerated in our community because what we allow defines who we are.

Gavin Frost made his transition recently, and while I wish him well in the next life, I think he may have a few things to explain about his beliefs to the God/ess of his understanding. I extend my sincere condolences to his loved ones...but I cannot and will not condone his behavior and will not support those who continue the reprehensible abuse of children and teenagers.

For further reading, I suggest you read this spot on blog post by Shauna Aura Knight at Pagan Activist which pretty much says it all for me:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hello Newbies!

So you want to be a Witch. Well, that's just fine...But are you sure?

Because this isn't going to be easy. It's going to take a lot of study and practice. It's going to be a lot of trial and error and things are going to go slowly at the beginning, because you're going to have to establish a personal rapport with the Natural world. It takes time and effort. Things that work for others may not work for you, and I will guarantee that they will not work for you in the same way as they work for others...because we all have different energy. We all vibrate on an individually unique level. Establishing that relationship with the forces of Nature is crucial to your success in using magick. This isn't Charmed or Practical Magic where you throw a fireball at an opponent to disable them. It doesn't work that way; being a Witch doesn't employ Hollywood special effects.

One does not simply sit down one day and decide to be a Witch. Calling yourself a Witch, plopping a pointy hat on your head, donning a flowing cape and carrying a broom doesn't make you a Witch
(although those things are all fun outward signs of such). Reading one-or fifty- books on Witchcraft doesn't make you a Witch. Knowledge and use of those things unseen is what makes you a Witch.
That's why Witchcraft is called the Craft of the Wise. .You must acquire knowledge and skill, which only comes with practice and putting what you have learned to use in everyday life. There are no shortcuts; I've been a practitioner for nearly 45 years now, and I'm still learning because Witchcraft is an art and process. I didn't learn everything I know straight away, and in fact when I began I didn't even have a name for what I was doing. I certainly never dreamed that it was Witchcraft. And because I had no mentor back in those years, I never dreamed that the little things I was doing were actually spell casting or ritual. I did things intuitively, in a place that felt safe, secluded away from others, where I felt close to Nature, and where Nature returned my efforts with the gift of powers to perfect and use. I always felt different from others in that way: not special, just different. And my inherent feeling turned out to be true: I had the ability to use the energy and forces of Nature in ways that were beyond the mundane. Nothing spectacular and flashy, mind you...but they were there. My ability grew as I studied on my own and finally with a group of like minded individuals who had their own unique set of abilities.

Finding the power in the forces of the natural world requires concentration and attunement in order to become sensitive to the vibrations around you. Some of us are better than others at this, but I believe that all humans are born with their own level of sensitivity, and that the majority of us loose this as we age due to the outside influences of society and culture. It's much like childhood imagination which simply goes away in some individuals...and thrives in others.

Back to those books...A book, any book, is not ever the 'end-all' because books should be used for a reference. I have a few books I favor because I like the author's style of writing and the way they disseminate information, but none of those books or authors are the final word or authority on any one given subject on magick or Witchcraft. And while those authors can be considered as teachers when no other is available even one-on-one teachers are merely guides. The power begins with you and comes from inside; books and teachers are vessels that help release the power within. Books are the spark of imagination that make you think; but the power has been yours all along. That's why you should never become so attached to a book ( or author) in a way that limits your practice. Like using a map or GPS when driving, you use other things when making the journey: your eyes and intuition and what is around you. Maps are used for reference. Sometimes the GPS takes you off course. It's the same with books.

While I have a deep and abiding regard for tradition, I am not a student of the "stand here and do this" school of magick. You can do things your own way (within reason), and to be honest, none of the really good authors or actual teachers I have studied with have demanded rigid compliance to instruction. Nearly all of them allow 'wiggle room' for individuality, and in fact most encourage it. Doing things rigidly 'by the book is', in my humble opinion, only a poor imitation of what someone else has done. I believe that not only does the power lie within you, I believe that the energy comes from the essence of what you are doing. I am a firm believer in putting yourself into your work and personalizing it-re-write a spell  to suit your intention, make substitutions, use tools you are comfortable with, dress comfortably. The knowledge of correspondences and herbs, etc., are all still necessary, but so is learning to use them in new and unique ways. The magick doesn't come from these things. The magick is you. ( There are many schools of thought on the subject of magick and this is only mine. You may like someone else's, or develop your own.) My own thoughts on the subject are if the information you are using has no real resonance with you, then it's essentially useless. Others believe differently. I think it goes back to that respect for tradition I spoke about earlier. For me, Witchcraft, like everything in our world, has evolved and changed over the years. What was useful back in an age when occult knowledge was hidden from the general population was like that for a reason which may still hold value, but our world is not the same, and we develop new understanding all the time.

In the beginning, Witches and cunning folk used what was available to them. They wrote their own words and conjured spells in a way that was personal and meaningful to themselves. The energies available to them came from the vibration and essence of those things. That's why their magick worked. That's how they used the Universal forces of Nature to their benefit. That's what made them who they were. And so can you!

Before I end this little pep talk, I do want to say something about negative elements. You may have heard about the Law of Return, that "whatever you put out come back to you three times". Phyllis Currot, a respected Wiccan High Priestess and author, charmingly calls it the "Boomerang Whammy Rule". It has to do more with the Hindu belief in karma than anything to do with magick. Nature is neither good nor evil. Dark and light need one another (Stars still shine in the daylight but are only seen at night). Universal energy is neither positive or negative but is receptive to the manner in which it is used. Why? Because through magick we experience immanent divinity. We literally touch God/dess and become one with the Divine and that gives us an experience of the interconnections of, well, everything. Even that nasty jackass down the street you'd like to turn into a toad. It changes your perspective. I'm not saying that witches never hex and curses are never laid-but they have their place and are used with caution because usually there is another way of handling the situation resulting in a beneficial outcome for all. No, it's not all sweetness and light, but it's too easy to get caught up by negative emotions which eat at you and will surely influence your practice in ways you'd probably regret. We don't not use negative energy because we're afraid of the repercussions, we learn ways of turning it around by finding something more effective that makes our work in tune with the holiness of the Sacred Divine. That's a lot for a beginner to think about, but everyone of us needs to do this at some point for our abilities to develop usefully.

And so...It's not about calling yourself a Witch...It's about what you want to do with the inherent birthright that is the use of personal power and the elevation of your unique vibration. Do you want to go about like the characterization of a fictional Witch, or do you want to genuinely practice the Craft of the Wise? The next move is yours... 

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Clean Sweep With A New Broom

Can you feel it? Even though we're a few weeks away from the  Equinox that designates the Autumn season, there is a vibration growing closer. It's coming from that place where the Veil is thinnest, heralding the sabbat of Samhain.

But before Samhain, there will be Fall. While most of use will be in the mindset that Fall is the end, many Pagan folk believe it's a beginning-our version of New Year according to the ancient Celtic calendar. It's true the leaves will soon be turning color and dying (actually, they have already begun to turn here), a parallel  to the mythic story of the Dying God. Either the year ends with a spectacular blaze of orange, yellow and red glory, or it begins with one...depending on your personal belief. Some traditions celebrate Pagan New Year on October 31 and some at Yule (December 21); others wait to celebrate with the rest of the world and have a Happy New Year on January 1, when Janus looks back at the old year and forward into the new. Personally, it doesn't matter- as long as I get a nice, long period of cool nights, morning frost and a million colored leaves.

For me, Autumn is the time to make a clean sweep with a new broom-literally and figuratively. I start cleaning a few days prior to the Equinox because that's when I  begin to put out the seasonal decorations. I wash windows, clean the cobwebs out of the unseen corners, and give all the floors a good solid scrubbing. There are some cleaning agents I am particularly fond of, but for magickal purposes I use either white vinegar or Florida Water. Both clear out negative vibrations. I follow that by smudging my whole living area with white sage, being sure to get the smoke into all the little nooks and crevices by gently fanning  it with a feather or blowing. Afterward I move all the furniture back into place and tidy up. Clutter blocks energy by trapping it. Cleaning and de-cluttering opens up the energy of a space.

At this time of year I try to have a few folks over for a quiet Harvest celebration consisting of finger foods and mulled wine or cider. Of course apple and pumpkin based recipes are traditional, but anything fruity or earthy will do. I love making a spread for nut bread out of creamed cheese and dates; simply blend the two together, adding a little white wine or apple juice if it's too thick. A bit of nutmeg, and it's ready to spread. I especially like to make apple cake for this kind of evening event, it's wholesome and expresses the Autumn theme ( I add black walnuts and a little rum glaze to mine).
The celebration itself is more of a gratitude circle than a harvest festival: in a cast circle we give thanks for friendship and each other and share light refreshments. We talks about our lives, and about all the new people in them....and we aren't afraid to laugh and tell stories about those who have gone across the Veil before us. In fact, we call them in as a part of the circle casting, leaving a gate for them to enter and leave at will. Sometimes we sing, or use this time as an introduction to a potluck dinner. We keep the lights low after we close the circle, drink more wine, and talk about our plans for the rest of the year. It's truly a celebration of friendship.

Because Autumn is an ending and a beginning, I try to purge my life of things that no longer serve me, especially material items I've outgrown and bad memories. I take in that which is new and different and makes me happy and incorporate it into my everyday. If this includes new items, they can be blessed and/or dedicated. I like to bless and anoint new altar tools at this time. In these days- because when I am alone I stretch this celebration out as long as I can-I do card readings for myself,skry and use my pendulum as a presage of what is to come. I write out what I get from these mediums and analyze it into what my Jungian training calls, " The best story", that is, what is the most positive outcome. This is also a good time to cast runes or bones.

I love to collect dew from the morning frost because it's a natural form of water; I use it to wash my house crystals. Afterward I take them to my personal altar and dedicate them to their specific work for the season ( I do this after every sabbat, but you can dedicate them for the year or however long you like). I also collect fallen acorns and oak leaves to decorate and use in later spellcasting. This is the time of year when I find the most feathers when out for walks in the woods around my home. I also collect seeds and pods ( even if I'm not familiar with them-I identify them later. Be careful of collecting potentially poisonous specimens and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them).

And do burn some wood! There is nothing like the smell of burning wood; pine and hardwoods are my favorite. (Again-know what you're collecting and do not include any woody parts of poisoned ivy or sumac, which can also spread their poisonous properties through smoke.) By burning wood you are combining all of the elements" earth, air, fire and water (even dry woods has some moisture in it contained in any remaining sap deposit that will liquefy in the heat). Remember to be mindful with fire tending and have some way to extinguish the flames on hand such as a bucket of fine earth or water. You may also collect the ashes and find a use for them later ( I am not a wasteful Witch!)

You may even try your hand at creating the physical representation of that 'new broom' by cutting some little twigs and binding them to a small branch with inexpensive twine. I have use the bush parts of marigold plants; the broom is temporary and can be burned in a larger fire at Samhain. Use your imagination!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sweetness and Light

image via internet search
Life is not all sweetness and light, bad things happen to good people, and sometimes life really does suck and then you die. ( I think I've exhausted all the sarcastically corny sayings about the conditions of life-let's move on.)

The phrase sweetness and light is often used to describe an irony or something saccharine and superficial. The Victorian poet Matthew Arnold used it to describe beauty and intelligence in the broader Greek sense of classical culture in reference to the effect and benefits of positivism in society and self.

In a more magical, occult sense it means favorable outcome and wisdom associated with a situation or influencing another person to have those qualities in regard to your relationship to them. A common way to achieve this is by the use of a honey jar (aka a sweetening jar) to "sweeten" the circumstances. This comes from the Hoodoo Tradition, a form of folk magic. The following instructions are for a very basic jar and a simple way to use it. I encourage you to personalize the spell for your own use and specific situation.

Use a clean jar with a tight fitting lid ( so the sweetening agent won't leak out or draw insects). Some practitioners use locally sourced honey because they believe it is more potent than store bought, but to be quite honest, as with all magick, I personally believe that that the outcome depends more on your intention than the tools. While honey is the traditional medium, golden syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup- in short, any type of syrup-can and has been used as well as brown sugar or regular table sugar. The sweetening agent is a matter of personal preference and what you have available to you. The same goes for the candle you will place on top of the jar to 'heat' it: white candles work just fine, but if you'd like to use a candle in a color corresponding to your intention, that's fine, too.( Dress the candle appropriately before using it, or simply hold it in your hands and dedicate it to the task at hand) Fill the jar with the sweetening agent part of the way and add any corresponding herbs you choose to raise the vibration of the tool. Instead of adding these things to the jar, you may wish to place them beneath the jar if using a photo or paper, and draw a ring around the jar with the herbs. In some cases you may want to also add a photograph, or a slip of paper with the subject's name written out in full. Do the best you can to narrow the focus of the intention in as few words as possible.  When you have placed any additional objects in the jar, fill it up and attach the lid tightly. Shake the jar three times while reciting an incantation or prayer suitable to your need ( one you have composed will most certainly be more effective, in my opinion, because you have imbued it with your personal power and vibration). The wording need only describe your need or desire, but some practitioners like to write their wording to rhyme because they believe that rhyming is more magically effective. After shaking the jar, place the prepared candle on top to activate it, light the candle, and meditate on your target. As always, be sure to place your jar and candle in a safe place away from potential fire hazards, have plenty of clearance around it, and never leave it unattended when the candle is lit. Use the jar once a day, repeating your need-but don't be needy. The point is to petition but not beg. While deities  and spirits do respond to desperate situations, they don't respect groveling and whining!

Sweetening jars are used to "sweeten" a situation, to make a person nicer to you ( such as that nasty boss or teacher) or situation ( a court case, that test you're dreading, or to get a new job).

Another way to 'sweeten' your life is to simply change the energy around you. What is required from you is a combination of mind and magick. First the mind: let go of as much negative thinking as you can through self examination and meditation. Why do you feel the way you do? What is influencing your thinking? Once you have the reason narrowed down you can take steps to deal with it more effectively. It may require a change of attitude on your part, meaning you refocus your thoughts in a more positive manner. You can still be annoyed, angry or afraid of something, but you cannot think things through if your thoughts are not focused. Write things down to help sort them out, so you can see the situation more clearly. Keeping writing and condensing until you have it down to it's basic elements and thoughts are concrete. Then write out what you have in a statement, further condensing if necessary to keep it sharp. When you feel you are ready, take a ritual bath using Epsom salts  (Substitute: sea salt ) to draw the negative vibration from your energy field, then rinse off. Follow by a second a soak in a tub of water containing a bit of Florida Water, or lavender or rose. If using the herbs, steep them into a tea before hand and use the tea only in the bath. A quarter cup of tea should do it; if you're using essential oil, use only a few drops. ( Beware of allergic reactions and test anything you bathe in before hand to be sure you won't have a reaction to it. If you develop redness or a rash or other symptoms, don't use the herbals or solution. Commercially purchased Florida Water is usually in cologne form and is safe for most people to use, just don't over do it.) Allow the bath water to dry on your skin. You may wish to do this several days in a row until you feel better.

A third way to 'sweeten' to improve or change a situation is to dedicate a basic quartz crystal to the work needed and place it on your personal altar or carry it with you. Cleanse a crystal by any means you like, hold it in your hands and "tell" it your need. If you think that's simple, it is. Sometimes simple is best. We don't a lot of tools-remember that words have a power all their own. The crystal does have a particular energy that can be programmed, and it's a great reminder, but it's your heartful, thoughtful words that are the true magick.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Image/Heather Gleason
I began my sixth decade in mid-March with emergency heart surgery that sidelined me for the last few months while I went to rehab and physical therapy. Through that time, I have lived in the shadows: not quite fully in this world, but not in the next ( for now, thankfully). Now I'm anxious to reclaim my life and routine, yet I have one more task- I need to move to be near my doctors and to keep the insurance that will pay for medications, continuing medical care. There are few resources where I currently live. It's a very mundane thing, but it affects everything-physical, mental and spiritual. To be honest, I've been considering making a move for over a year before this happened. I love the countryside-but I am too far away from everything for my own comfort. I want to be able to walk to the store and around the block for a cup of coffee and to read a magazine, something that is impossible to do where I currently reside. I guess I really am a Vestal Virgin, as my friend Joe used to say.

I wish I could say that I'm sorry to be leaving the little mountain town I've called home for nearly four years, but the fact is that with the infrastructure crumbling as quickly as it is (and the townsfolk being in denial of this), it's no longer a desirable or viable place to live.   If I miss anything about it, it will be the countryside; I've learned a lot, first hand, about Appalachian folkways, and particularly about the magic and rootwork of the area. The place I'm thinking of moving to  will be a little farther North, to West Virginia...I'll still be living in the mountains, but in an urban area (as far west as I have ever permanently lived) in a town with considerably more and better infrastructure- and a better attitude. I have been here long enough to know that everything that goes with living in the South will still prevail, but it will be tempered by liberal thinking and reason, due mainly to the diversity of population.

Life right now is certainly Zen-light and dark. I've seen both sides dramatically illustrated most recently, and happily, I am able to move between them with little discomfort, although I'm still trying to figure out the details of moving at a time when I am mentally but not financially ready. I can totally freak out and say things are falling apart, but to be honest, I think it's more like they're falling into place, so that keeps panic in check. And...I'm still a witch. Nothing has changed that, other than right now I have had to pull a little more from Universal energy than I normally do.

But with renewed vigor, I am ready to reclaim my power. Using the gifts of magick, I'm putting together a spell for the best outcome. Magickal needs often have roots in the mundane, so I have a lot to consider- finances, housing, moral support; finding a way to get my belongings, my cat and myself to the new location. And afterwards. I don't like the process of moving or being uprooted. I know some of that comes from the fact that I am a creature of habit-I like my routine. I don't like change, even though I am resigned to the inevitability of it. I like being in control of things as much as possible.

I've put a lot of consideration into this situation, and just to check myself ( because we all have doubts) I've discussed it with quite a few people over the last few months...all of whom have weighed the facts, and whom have come to the same conclusion I have: It will be difficult, but it will be for the best. It will be hard, but the pros outweigh the cons, and is necessary. So much for being in control. Beyond the advise of mortals, I've sought the counsel of my patron deities and Ancestors. They too have presented similar must be. And so, I shall.

Sigh...They say that Life is an adventure. To quote Bear Grylls,Author and  Host of the BBC TV series Man vs. Wild :" To me, adventure has always been the connections and bounds you create with people when you're there. And you can have that anywhere." 

My part in this, as far as I can tell, is to be up to the challenge and keep the fire burning. I am as good at tending fires as putting them out ( being a devotee of Brigid, A Scouter, and an EMT/firefighter has come in handy, it seems!) So as I gather the proverbial wood with which to build my new home, I'm making a lot of offerings and prayers, too. If nothing else, I have learned over the course of my years to be persistent. And I am a stalwart believer in the promise and love of the Immanent Divine.Meanwhile, I'm going through everything in the apartment, decluttering,packing up what I want and need while I continue to apartment hunt. wish me luck. It's never easy to move.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Magick Of The First Harvest

Here we are at Lughnasadh, the First Harvest, also known as the Grain Harvest. Unless you live in an area like the US mid-west, where barley, wheat, oats and corn are grown-I suspect like me you take these foods for granted when you pass by them at the grocery store. Not only are they nutritional powerhouses packed with dietary fiber and vitamins, they are magickal  powerhouses as well. Some of the most well-known festivals were dedicated to the grain goddesses Ceres and Demeter.

Barley is a member of the grass family and one of the first grains cultivated in the world. It is grown in temperate climates globally and is one of the most popular grains fermented in the process of making distilled alcohol. It is also particularly good as a cooked breakfast cereal, or cooked and combined with fruits for a side dish. Barley flour is popular in Scotland; it's lighter in weight than wheat flour ( but darker in color, which is why most barley-based malts used in ale are dark).It is also used to make a roasted cafe drink similar to coffee, and for animal feed. The magickal correspondences of barley include protection: sprinkle barley in your windowsills to keep evil and negativity out. It can also be used as a perimeter barrier as a substitution for salt. Barley water is the base for several tried and true protection washes for both the individual and home. Libations made from distilled barley are and appropriate offering to the Norse god Frey, and to most Sun gods.

Wheat is ground and used not only for flour, but as a cereal as well. It is full of fiber and popularly consumed as bread-heavy, dense wheat bread is wonderful hot from the oven! It is used magically for protection and prosperity and is a conduit for psychic energy and all spiritual needs. Add ground wheat ( or coarse flour) to spirit bags to call up the energy of the Earth.

Corn has a long history not only as a food, but as a spiritual tool. Cornmeal, sprinkled on the heal of an individual, is used to open the Third Eye and as a dedication to the Corn Maiden of The First Nations. As masa, it can be used to thicken soups and stews, and to bless the food at the same time. A few kernels of corn can be carried in your pocket to curb negativity, or to raise your own personal vibration ( the difference is in the intention). Corn is also used in healing ceremonies. It is a plant sacred to most Native Peoples. Sprinkle cornmeal or add it to mojo bags for prosperity.

All grains are linked to prosperity and fertility (sexual and otherwise). when you use food as magick, always cook with the intention clearly in mind throughout the preparation. Imbue the food with your own personal energy as you cook it, and it will be that much more powerful toward reaching your goal. Remember to stir clockwise to 'build up' the positive and counter-clockwise to decrease or banish.

Bread, cakes and cookies are all particularly popular in pagan culture at the First Harvest. You might like to try the following recipe. I use them as ritual cakes, but they're a good, quick snack for a hike, too.

Scottish Style Oat Cakes
2 C Oatmeal
1 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C vegetable oil or butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 brown sugar
1/4 C boiling water

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water (add a little more water if needed).
  3. Combine dry ingredients with butter, then add dissolved baking soda.
  4. Mold dough into a  ball, then press it out onto a baking sheet. You can roll it out with a rolling pin to make it thin as you want it to be about ¼ inch thick.
  5. Cover and chill for 10-15 minutes to firm up the dough, then remove and score down the middle and across to make 8-10 squares (you'll use these lines for clean cuts after it's done baking).
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown. They should be crisp and crunchy, not chewy.
  7. Separate the cakes along the score lines with a thin knife and  allow them to cool.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Blessing Of Bread

The point cannot be argued that this is the prettiest place I've ever lived. I have always wanted to live in the lush, rich soil of the countryside. I hoped one day to call the mountains home-and I got my wish. In  Appalachia we have four distinguishable seasons. And I am thrilled by that. I am also thrilled by the abiding culture of bygone days; it is easy to find the roots of this place if you know what to look for and where to look for it. Right now we are on the cusp of the season of harvest: the tractors are in the fields mowing hay and the tops of the corn have gone to tassel and are turning to tan husks. Morning air is crisp, and there is a haze of fog that lingers long into the day.

This part of the country was settled by Eastern European immigrants, most notably of Scot-Irish decent. It's good to live in the place your ancestors settled, and knowledge of  that was a bonus when I moved here. I love the history of this place... but not the feel of the back-woods politics, or the inherent intolerance of the fundamentalist/evangelical religious community in the surrounding area.

As I write this, we are about six weeks away from the Autumnal Equinox, the official start of the Fall season, but Nature is no respecter of calendars and planetary shifts. I suspect we are yet to have some rather warm days, but right now it is cool at night... and perfect for bread baking.

Bread is wonderful and earthy. When it's made at home using natural ingredients its infused with your personal energy as you knead the loaves. You can pour any intention you choose into it, thus making it a tool for magick. By varying the ingredients and adding herbs, you can manipulate the correspondences batch by batch. In this way, bread is truly useful in spell casting.

The addition of nuts, in particular, represent manifestation because they are literally the seeds of the tree. Dried fruits such as raisins or apricots bring in the energy of the whole fruit, depending on what is used. Consecrating the ingredients before adding them to the mix activates their energetic vibration to a higher level. Corn is a particularly good all-purpose ingredient, and it which can be used as corn flour, corn meal, or whole. If you are making a loaf for protection, use chopped garlic or onion, a pinch of crushed red pepper, or sprinkle the finished loaf with sea salt. Sweet dough makes a loaf to use when asking for companionship or love to come into your life and is appropriate to use during the Great Rite or sharing the Grand Communion in a public setting.

In the previous post I included my favorite wheat bread recipe[ ], but there are an unlimited variety of recipes available, and you can use any of them successfully. Most of the batches can be broken down into several small loaves or rolls if you don't want to make one large loaf. It stores simply if kept cool and dry and keeps a week or more.

Happy baking!


Friday, July 22, 2016

John Barleycorn And Other Legends For Lughnasadh

Traditionally the first day of the First Harvest  is known on the ancient Celtic calendar as Lughnasadh. The Feast of Lugh, or more accurately, the feast in remembrance of his foster mother Tailtu, who died from exhaustion after clearing a field after she and her people were defeated by the Tuatha De Dannan in Ireland. Her death coincided with the yearly grain/cereal harvest. Lugh made a solemn vow that her selfless sacrifice would never be forgotten. At least for me, the real meaning of Lughnasadh is giving thanks for personal harvests, the sacrifices of ourselves and others that made that bounty possible. We sing and dance, light bonfires and share seasonal food as a way to acknowledge the promise of the continuation of life. In another age it was one of the times popular for trial handfastings for a year and a day. Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest cycle in the Northern Hemisphere, and is the first of the harvest-themed sabbats celebrated by witches and neo-Pagans. It is also one of the cross-quarter days of the Wheel of the Year, days positioned half way between the Solstices and Equinoxes. ( It is mid-point between the Summer Solstice, or Litha, and the Autumnal Equinox, or Mabon.)

Lugh himself was a Sun god in the Celtic pantheon, often referred to as Lugh of the Long Spear (remember that Ancient Celtic stories are a part of an oral tradition, so that the myths and attributes of the main characters are often tailored to the specific area and audience to which the story is being told). Olympic-type games are featured at celebrations honoring Lugh-as well as the brewing of beer, mead and malt products. The stories of Lugh have changed and morphed over the years, and by the 17th century we see a secularized version of the myth featuring John Barley Corn as the personification of the grain deity. Scottish Poet Robert Burns immortalized him in 1782. The character of John Barley Corn has been remembered in countless songs (and many versions of those songs) until modern times. In the troubadour tradition, Steve Winwood, then the lead singer of the rock band Traffic, recounts the life and death of the hero in the song "John Barley Corn Must Die"(1970), one of the most familiar known versions of the story.

Many of the earlier versions have the protagonist being murdered by three kings of unspecified identity; later ones identify the assailants as mere mortal men reduced to the foul deed by drink.
The main concept of the story in all versions remains that the mysterious John Barley Corn was willingly killed, shedding his blood for the good of all in the manner of a dying god, and then being triumphantly resurrected.

In some places a kinder, gentler form of the corn/grain deity exists in the Corn Dolly. Variations of the spirit of the crop lived in the Corn Mother, or goddess of European origin. Effigies of her were woven out of straw and hung in the home as a talisman. (The most common version seen in the US today is the corn husk doll in Autumn.) Other times stylized fetishes were made out of shocks of corn still standing in the fields and often plowed under as an offering to the land.

Much later the pagan festivals were superseded by a Christian feast day in both the Roman and Orthodox Churches known as Lammas ("Loaf Mass", from the Saxon hlaf mas). On August 1st, tradition held that a loaf of bread freshly baked from the recently harvested crop was brought to the Church for blessing, then bits of the bread were distributed to the four corners of the keeping place where the grain was stored to protect it. Another custom says the bread must be given as an offering to the Church as an annual tribute to the Pope in Rome (" Pope Pence"). As with the ancient pagan oral traditions, many versions of customs related to Lammas exists; some are still in existence today, but most are long forgotten. Beginning in August and lasting until late November, countless harvest festivals abound in numerous forms, the prominent activity being a display of baked goods, apple cider pressing,and crafts.

At home my personal altar is laid with a few pieces of  wheat, an ear of corn and a dish of barley. Late summer flowers are included. The Great Offering is made with corn cakes and mead or apple cider. I have also used barley water sweetened with honey. I use corresponding colors of yellow, red, orange and greens. My invocations are addressed to corn goddesses such as Demeter and Ceres, and include Sun gods such as Lugh of the Long Arm. I especially love to include the Song of Lughnasadh by Caitlin Matthews from the Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayer and Blessings. One year we built a ritual around the legend of John Barley Corn, using stanzas of the song to help tell the story of sacrifice and renewal of the land. I often make simple corn husk dolls or straw braids tied with red ribbons to hang around the house or give to friends.

Something else I like to do is bread bread to give away. This is my favorite wheat bread recipe. It is one I learned about 30 years ago and still stands the test of time. Delicious right out of the oven with fresh butter ( I recommend Kerry Gold if you don't have anything local ):

2 Tbs. dry yeast
¾ C . warm water
1- 12 oz can evaporated milk
¾ tsp salt
½ C.  honey
1 ½ C. boiling water
7-8 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. unbleached white flour

> Put yeast in warm water to activate 10 minutes
>In large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, salt, honey, boiling water; mix in activated yeast
>Whisk in one cup at a time whole wheat flour. Knead in 1 ½ cups flour until dough is no longer sticky. On a well-floured surface, knead in more flour until smooth and elastic. Let rest 10 minutes. While allowing dough to rest butter two pans for bread.
>Cut dough in half, work half at a time. Knead five minutes more and cut into three 18 inches strips to braid bread. Braid dough and shape into ring.
> Place each braided ring into buttered pan or cookie sheet and let rise 30 minutes.
> Bake in moderate oven until loaf sounds hollow, or 2-3 hours in solar cooker.

How ever you choose to celebrate Lughnasadh, be bountifully and  joyously blessed!

[ Lyrics and audio version of John Barley Corn is Dead can be found here:]