Monday, July 23, 2018

Incantations And Other Things At Which I Sucketh

Magic Circle,  John Waterhouse,1886
When I was a pre-teen, my cousin Roger and I used to write poetry and ( for lack of a real audience) read it to one another . I used to think we were pretty good. Roger was- and still is-a poet. I, alas, was not. I will be the first to admit I'm a lousy poet. What can I say? Rhyming words just isn't my thing. It's not that I haven't tried- I have, in fact, tried very hard.  Probably too hard, particularly when I was new to the Craft and had fallen for the 'unwritten rule ' that everything you said in circle or mumbled over a cauldron had to rhyme because, well, they had to sound witchy.

When I was younger I was very much mindful ( and self-conscious) of being a proper witch - and 'real witches' spoke incantations in rhyme. Well, didn't they? Okay, let's just say that I bought into a lot of things early on that turned out to be utter nonsense  or at least no longer served me when I was older, more experienced, and confident in who I was. It took awhile for me to figure things out. Meanwhile, I had to face the fact that I was never going to write the Wiccan ritual version of American Pie, no matter how I tried. Bye, bye Big Ole Moon in the sky... See, I warned you.

Not that I'm sour on rhyming- not at all. It helps to train the brain to remember key elements in liturgy and ritual. That's why many spiritual traditions, and some Christian churches in particular 'sing' the Psalms and prayers. It's why you can recite prayers in Latin without actually any real knowledge of the language. It's all about sonic resonance. In the Pagan community, authors like Dorothy Morrison and Gernia Dunwich excel at writing poetry, and their spell work is notable. The Celtic inspired work of Caitlin Matthews is profoundly striking in both content and wording.

I, on the other hand, suck at rhyming ( which means I will never be much of a songwriter) even though I am a trained liturgist. I am fine with the content part of it liturgy- I know what I want to say and am actually quite good at condensing and editing prose. Metrical structure, not so much. The result of this are incantations that are direct and to the point and not overly flowery. I have become very good at addressing the issue and stating my intention clearly. I have dropped the tendency we have all fallen into sometime or another of being unintentionally pretentious, resorting to murky murmurings that we believe impress whatever entity or energy we're currently working with.

Thankfully, the gods are more sympathetic to intention than how we ask.

Not that I've given up. I still make a valiant attempt in the hope that one day I'll come up with something that is just left of brilliant and not sound too lame.

Did I mention that I also suck at dancing? My two left feet go in different directions. I have been known to fall down on level ground while not moving. Ecstatic dance dedicated to the Goddess is rather embarrassing on my part. My best attempt has come off looking like a wounded goose. Thankfully, She loves me anyway. I've probably given her a good laugh a time or two.

I am also rather bad at holding things ( like books), pouring liquids ( as in filling a chalice ) and lighting candles. Dramatic, sweeping gestures have resulted in knocking over statuary, vases of flowers and sending other things tumbling off the altar. Various pieces of jewelry have come off in the middle of preparing the Simple Feast ( I once had to fish a ring out of the cup, and lost a necklace that dropped off in my cleavage.)  How I have not yet set myself on fire is a mystery, but I suspect the opportunity still awaits me.

I have a sneaking suspicion all of this may have something to do with my preference for working solitary. I can bang, clank, and limp around the circle to my heart's contentment. No one sees me but Herself... and the cat.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Midsummer Musings

photo via Google search
After divorcing my mother, my father married a Creole woman named Roxie Anne, who was a mixture of African American, French and Choctaw heritage. I thought her exotic features made her beautiful, although she was shunned as much for the color of her skin as for being a second wife in a time ( the 1960s) when such things just weren't done in very white Roman Catholic families. She was a good woman, a quiet soul who introduced me to Creole cuisine, and the wonderful traditions of St. John's Eve in her native New Orleans.

A strict Roman Catholic, Roxie kept as many saints' feasts as she could, attended mass when she was able, and never forgot her cultural roots, even when she and my father frequently moved around the East Coast. No matter where she made her home, her Louisiana customs went with her. Though she never claimed or admitted to practicing Voodoo, I can sit back now and sort through some of the things I observed when I spent time with her, and those elements of her personal spiritual practice stand out. She always wore white on the Feast of St. John, lit a candle-she was always lighting candles and poured her own- and said prayers throughout the day. One year I spent a few weeks during early Summer with Roxie and my Daddy at their cottage rental in Rehoboth, Delaware, and she introduced me to her version of  a St. John's Eve head washing. After the sun set we went to a remote area of the beach beyond the boardwalk and walked out into the ocean, holding hands. Roxie sang a chant in French as the water lapped up against us. Both of us were wearing head scarves, and when we got out into the water a little more than waste high, she removed her scarf and let her long black hair tumble down into the waves. She stood there for several minutes combing her fingers through her hair in the water before gathering it up again in the scarf; then she pulled off my scarf, took my hair  down, and 'washed' my hair in the salty seawater. I remembered how she handled my hair; it was an act of reverence. She hummed throughout it all, which seemed like a long time but couldn't have been more than a few minutes. When finished we walked to shore, the ocean at our backs.

We stopped just short of the waterline and sat on the sand, where she told me the story of the Lost Acre, the place between the sea and the shore. It is a liminal place, she explained, a place in the Otherworld that belongs to the spirits of the sea. I found a holey stone on the beach that day. I still have it; it sits on my desk in the living room and when I pick it up, it reminds me of that day on the beach, my hair still wet with salt water, where my step-mother baptized me in the mysteries of the sea. It makes me hungry for steamed clams and all the good things about time at the shore, for the briny scent of the ocean, and the sound of gulls flying overhead.

I am a Pisces child, born on my father's birthday. I love bodies of water- lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans, and yet I have never learned to swim ( I have an inkling that a past life was spent as an Irish third class passenger on the Titanic, where I drowned). I am enchanted by the sound of rain, waterfalls and ocean waves, which lifts my vibration and increases my energies. A portal opens for me when I'm in running water ( My Pisces intuition also connects me solidly to the earth, mountains and stones of all kinds. I'm an empath still learning to manage my emotional insights and how I'm affected by what I pick up from others. I am still learning a lot of things about my spiritual choices and practice...that is the joy of this journey.

This morning I went wort cutting, which sounds very mysterious and witchy, but is actually just a stroll around town to see what's growing in the wild places that are available for collecting. I use common plants ( some which you might call weeds) and adapt their correspondences for simple spell craft. I rarely do any really involved high magick because simple seems to work best for me. I keep a jar of pennies by the door for offerings and take along a bottle of water for both me and thanking the spirits. Today I came home with some catnip, mugwort, wild sweet pea blossoms, red clover, white clover,  blue anemone,creeping bluet, and dandelions. I also found a chunk of broken vintage red brick,and three crow feathers. Not a bad haul, and all I had to do was keep my eyes open!