Thursday, November 4, 2010

Timing is powerful stuff.

There was a full-moon on New Year's this past year. I had dinner with a group of mostly witchy friends and went to a party hosted by a friend of a friend. The party was mostly not magical type folk. In fact, there were several beefy fireman at the party (the host was a firefighter).

My friend C., because she has this kind of effect on people, led us all through a simple candle burning where we lit candles and made a wish for the new year and let them burn out. I didn't really need to magic, but watching C. round up all these fire man and get them to candle magic was very cute and I wasn't going to break her momentum.

So what I did I light a candle on? I decided to travel. And boy, I have traveled this year. I'm just back from Dallas and ending for another weekend away. I will be going to Kansas City in a few weeks and then Boston and New York in few months. It's amazing the power of timing. Sometimes the possibilities are listening!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Honoring my queer ancestors...

I know that many of us honor our ancestors around this time of year. Some of us may honor those who were close family or those who were friends in life. Some of us may honor the Craft leaders or the Mighty Dead, whose contributions in life supported and grow the Craft and who may be supporting us still from the other side of the veil.

As a queer person, I also want to member those heroes of spirit that have supported me in my life now. I think we queer folks often do not remember our history, lacking family lines to one another to pass down these stories orally. This Samhain, I would like to remember Sylvia Rivera, Ruth Ellis and Harvey Milk, all of whom loved courageously and lived with dignity. They were activists whose work changed the world, bit by bit, for the better. What follows is small tribute to these powerful people.

In the early morning ours of June 28, 1969 the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar frequented by black and latino gay men, often drag queens. Just few years earlier, it was illegal for a bar to serve 3 or more queer people and a bar could lose its liquor license. Although gay bars were technically legal, police harassment was still common, and transgendered folks or people cross-dressing were often targeted. Queer people were often beaten and arrested simply for the crime of coming together in community.

Angry and unwilling to accept this treatment, the patrons of Stonewall rioted. There are many different reports on what exactly was the spark. Some say it was a lesbian, others say it was Syliva Rivera who threw a beer bottle. Whatever the cause, the crowd turned and attacked the police. Word quickly spread through the neighborhood and the police were forced to barricade themselves in the bar. According to Wikipeida, throughout “the night the police singled out many transgender people and gender nonconformists, including butch women and effeminate men, among others, often beating them.” A crowd gathered, estimated at over 2000, throwing bottles and stones and chanting “gay power.” While a gay rights movement existed before Stonewall, this event is credited as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement in the US.

Prior to Stonewall Sylvia Rivera was peace activist, protesting Vietnam. She was also a feminist, working for full and equal treatment of women. Both before and after Stonewall, she struggled with substance abuse, often homeless. Even through this, she was an activist for transgender rights and worked to feed queer homeless youth.

Another advocate for queer youth, a bit closer to my home, was Ruth Ellis. Born in 1899, Ruth lived to be 100. A pioneer throughout her life, she graduated from high school in 1919 in time where less than 7% of black Americans graduated from secondary school. She met her partner in the 1920s and moved the Detroit area in 1937. She became the first woman to own a printing business in Detroit, selling stationery, fliers and other printed goods from her home. Supporting the gay community, Ruth and her partner open up their home for the gay and lesbian community to gather as early as the 1940s. A tireless advocate, she manifested her activism through an open door and by living a life with her head unbowed.

Another queer ancestor that I would like to honor is Harvey Milk. The first time I heard of Harvey Milk was in gay and lesbian studies group I was participating in college. He was the first openly (depending on the source quoted) gay person to serve in political office. One writer, John Cloud remarked that "[a]fter he defied the governing class of San Francisco in 1977 to become a member of its board of supervisors, many people—straight and gay—had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed." One of the things that he did was put in placed one of the most comprehensive city ordinances protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. Sadly, his political career was cut short. He gave is life in his pursuit of gay liberation. He was killed by a former city supervisor and his killer was acquitted of murder on the now infamous “Twinkie defense” – where the jury (from which gays and other minorities were excluded) accepted the argument that his killer was out of his mind due to eating too much junk food. (His killer was convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter.) Harvey Milk continues to be a venerated figure in San Francisco politics and an important ancestors for queers everywhere.

Here is a link to one of his speeches:

Last night, I invited Sylvia, Ruth and Harvey into my home, remembered their activism and thank them for daring to love and for refusing to be anything less than a full human being. May Sylvia bless me with the pure grit never to stop fighting, may Ruth bless me the willingness to open my home and heart to others and may Harvey bless me with the ability to weave connection between all people.

I will thank them, and thank all the queer folk whose names I do know, but who fought for the freedom and tolerance that I now enjoy. May we all dare to love and to live with passion. May we never accept anything less for ourselves, for each other and for our descendents.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dreams of the Ancestors

This is skipping ahead of bit in the series I had planned, but it is the season for this kind of work!

Now, I wouldn’t try this kind of magic if you are new to working with the ancestors or spirits generally. I am suggesting this for folks who already have a relationship with their ancestors or other spirits and are looking at working with them in another way.

Ancestor Work 101:

I’ll assume there are folks who will dive right in regardless of my little warning. So I do want to give a few reasons why you don’t want to start here. Across many kinds of spirit lore, there are warnings of “trickster” spirits or spirits who are willing to pretend or in personate (so to speak) other spirits in order to receive attention from the witch, magician or other magical type person. For example, a spirit may enjoy the offerings you’re leaving out for your dear Aunt Sally and so will basically tell you what you want to hear in order to keep those offerings coming. So when working with spirits, it’s encouraged to be a bit skeptical and “test” the spirit for who they are.

Generally, if you’ve been working with your ancestors for a long time or have other spirit allies in your life, often their presence is enough to dissuade tricksters (or even less friendly spirits) from messing with you. It’s one of the fringe benefits from having good relationships with other kinds of spirits. They look out for you on those realms. In hoodoo, one of the ways to get started in ancestral work is to get some grave yard dirt from someone you love and who cared for you.

The grave yard dirt acts like a link to their specific spirit, so there is less likelihood that you’re getting a different spirit. If you’re planning to do this work, go to the grave of a beloved ancestor that you wish to speak to in your dreams. Ask them if they would be willing to talk to you about your concern. Listen quietly for an answer. If you’re not skilled at that, bring a pendulum and use that for to get a yes or no.

If yes, leave an offering. A silver dime is tradition, but, for beloved dead, I find leaving flowers and tending the grave is potent enough as an offering on its own. Take some grave yard dirt how with you and place it in beautiful bottle or box.

In the end, take spirit work seriously. I have never (nor do I know anyone) who as been possessed by spirit in the sense as it looks in movies or horror fiction. Spirit can and do influence people to act more like them. That can be a good thing with the right spirit. However, trickster spirits often will lead you in to trouble and counsel you poorly. When letting spiritual forces and beings into your life, be cautious.

Set the Stage:

Make sacred space and put up your protections around your home as you know how. (If you don’t know how, don’t do this until you do.) Build an altar for your ancestors. If you’re not sure how to make an altar, start with a small table. Cover it with a white cloth. Place pictures of the ancestor you’re wishing to make contact with. Place flowers, favorite foods (unsalted) or other items as gifts to that spirit. At the very least, have a glass of water on the altar of him or her. Place the box with the dirt from the grave if you have it. I follow the lore of not putting ancestor altars in the bedroom (as it is disrespectful to be naked or have sex in front of your ancestors). Burn some incense (3 teaspoons powdered wormwood and 1 teaspoon powdered Solomon’s seal is good one).

Incubate the dream:

Call out your ancestor’s name and ask for their help and verbally describe question or help you need. Look the photos of them. Write a letter addressed to them explaining your question or help you need. Fold it up and leave under their picture. Go to bed. Be sure to have a dream journal handy. As you fall asleep, remember your ancestor and imagine you are speaking to them and ask your question or request the help (third time is the charm). In morning, write down your dreams. It may be clear, with the ancestor in the dream giving you counsel. Or the dream may require interpretation. Or you may not remember the dream at all. Regardless, go the altar and that the ancestor for their help and aide. If you don’t remember the dream or are lost, attempting this procedure again and letting them know that you’re confused is fine. You’re working with a spirit of someone who loves and cares for you. I think they’ll be patient with you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inner work V. Spirit Work…

One of the things that prompted be take the plunge into public blogging recently, was stumbling on several really interesting blogs on magic. One of the things that I really appreciated about the blogs I was reading was that there were written by thoughtful practitioners, people who are doing magic and who do so critically.

And by critically, I don’t mean fault finding. I mean, I enjoy folks who take time to unpack their practices. Who practice honesty and are willing to evaluate results. Anyone who hangs out with magical folk knows that one of the dangers and traps of magic is that people can use it as a fantasy outlet. It’s not about gaining wisdom, experience the mysteries of life or deepening a relationship with the spirits (gods included in that). It’s about feeling good or affirming one’s own specialness. It’s easy because magic deals with the ineffable. There isn’t anything that can be really tested by the senses. If there were, it would be science. It is difficult and requires a lot of self-knowledge and honesty to parse the voice of the ancestors (for example) for the voice of a fear (for example).

Critical practitioners do their best to make sure their filter (as one teacher of mine put it) is as clean as possible. I don’t think it is possible to be perfectly clean, if for no other reason that the spirits communicate generally can only use what’s in us. I work with some Norse deities who all speak impeccable modern English. I haven’t had one yet speak to me in old Norse (or even modern German). Until that happen, my working theory is that they communicate by using what is in me already – what is there to be unlocked.

There reason I bring this up as part of my dream discussion is that I made a comment in yesterday’s post that this dream unlock information I was already carrying. I want to underscore the importance of this. A lot of magical folks want to skip over this kind of work and dive right into dealing with spirits, fey, angels or gods. And there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it is very powerful and helpful work. At the same time, I have heard folks put down certain kinds of trance work (and dream work) as purely internal. That attitude is short sighted.

If I had a cauldron, a magic one out of a fairy talk, that gives me images of my past, that could show me more about myself than I ever knew or that could give image to help me solve a problem – people would think that was pretty bad ass. And yet, if that cauldron is a dream or trance, folks think that isn’t useful or even particularly magical – it’s just psychodrama or self-help in occult trappings.

But over the Oracle of Delphi and important wisdom of ancient, pagan Greece was the phrase “Know Thyself” and that is something I believe is really important. Whether we are talking about dreams or trance work, learning our strengths and weakness, reducing our blind spots and acquiring wisdom seems so important. I’m not a natural channeller or psychic. My intuitive skills are hard won and come from practice and studying good technique with skilled teachers. I’m grateful that I’m not a wide open channel.

When I first started, my trance to Athena was most likely a trance to the wisest part of myself. And how powerful is that? Being able to bring back into my consciousness wisdom I didn’t know I had and have access to that before I make decision – or before I start contact the Otherwords – was a huge gift in my practice. Not only that, but traveling the hidden roads is of much use if we don’t know how to come back from those experience and integrate the learning, wisdom or power in our lives.

Inner work, and the wisdom that arises out of self-knowledge, is not something that ought to be skipped. It gives us access to great part of our own power and knowledge. It prepares us for work in the Otherworlds. It’s a powerful tool and not won that should not ignored or glossed over. I view it as foundational. The deep waters of my unconscious are a constant source of knowledge and inspiration. I’m glad I learned to swim their depths.

By all means, be critical. Understand if that figure in a trance is a part of your or something outside of yourself. But still learn to work those challenges. Develop relationships with those parts. Learn from – and speak to – those pieces of your soul. It’s powerful work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Recalling Your Dreams

You will need:

1) Journal and pen or tape recorder
2) Time in the morning to write down your dream immediately after waking.


Upon waking in the morning, spend some time jotting down your first thoughts, any images or dream fragments. Give yourself enough time to make to jot things down as they come to you.

Repeat daily.


Simple, right? But that doesn’t mean it is easy. I have found that my biggest obstacle to dream recall are my habits. Chiefly, the habit of dismissing the information I retain from my dreams. My habits to sleep in as long as I can and jump into the shower and start my day in rush.
Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had some success. I did, this past weekend. I was able to recall and jot down a dream fragment.

At first I was little disappointed with my result. It was nothing that long and was clearly “day residue” (meaning the dream incorporated images from my day). I felt disappointed. I wanted excitement and drama and it was fairly basic.

Still, working with the theory of dream work that all dreams have several levels and even a fragment or day residue can communicate something deeper, I realized that the dream was communicating unconscious assessment of a friend of mine – namely that I don’t think he was being forthright. A day later, he opened up and my dream’s information was confirmed.

I don’t think the dream was psychic in the sense of it being prescient. Instead, I think that the dream reflected back to me on level unaware of. It was psychic in the way that it connected me to my instincts and the deeper feelings that exist below my waking consciousness. Powerful stuff!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So why dreams?

I’m currently blowing off the dust on my dream books and revisiting technique. And it occurs to me – why is the study of dreams important all? Don’t get me wrong, I started this based on a start of active dreaming, but I think it is a fair question. After all, I could just ignore the dreams and do other kinds of work.

In my understanding of the Craft, it is about acquiring personal power in various ways. Certainly, that includes developing relationships with spirits and moving energy. In my Trad, it also certainly means learning “mundane” skills, being political and by creating (art, events, culture, you know the usual).

Taking a little further, the practices of witchcraft are practices that allow me to access my full potential as a human being. One of the key things that drew me magic and the occult was a sense of more than just the rational. There was mystery and other ways of gathering a processing information beyond logic. Not that I’m against logic as much as I am interested in expanding my consciousness to include other things.

I see the elemental circle as a mandala of a sort. When we call in air, we’re calling in (or perhaps acknowledging) our own words and intellect. When we call in fire, we call in our will and ability to act. When we call in water, we call in our deep emotions and unconscious. When calling in earth, we are calling in our body and our stillness. I hold that as a map of holistic thought. All my parts, mind and emotions, body and spirit are of equal importance and so very necessary to make not only magic, but my whole life really.

So yes, logic is important and part of our human heritage, but we have access more than that. Dreams are a gateways to or messengers from (depending on how you look at it) our hidden depths that our intellect cannot reach into by itself. Our dreams put in touch with parts of ourselves that are deep and nonrational. Throughout history, cultures have seen dreams as holding deep wisdom.

In the faith tradition I was raised in (I'm a former Catholic), dreams (and dream interpretation) were a part of prophecy (I thinking Joseph and the Pharaoh, as well as other references). The chapter of the book that I’m looking at has a series of scientists that found innovation solutions to problems in their dreams. Musicians first heard music that they would later compose in their dreams. Writers have found help with sticky plot points in dreams. In hoodoo, there is a specific gift of dream true. Witches and magicians of all sorts have paid attention do dreams, with or without a steady dreamwork practice. Throughout history, dreams provided insight led scholars, mystics and kings. Dream lore is rich.

Who wouldn’t want a piece of that? And dreams are a birthright. We all have them and every night too. We don’t need a deck of Tarot cards or a bag of runes to help illuminate those hidden paths. Granted, like those forms of divination, dreaming takes skill – recall and interpretation chiefly. But the skills are dreamwork as skills worth acquiring.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


For most of my life, I haven't remembered most of my dreams. Here and there, but I was never one of those people who could recount their dreams every morning. I spent some time, back when I was first exploring, cultivating a dream practice. It was more or less part of a larger process of trying various exercises to cultivate my intuition and connection to unconscious forces represented by the Moon card in the Tarot.

I had some success when I was actively working with my dreams. Using the techniques I found, I started to be able to recall my dreams almost every night. I also had some success at incubating a dream, a term for the act of inducing (or perhaps asking for) a dream to provide insight. Before I moved on to the next practice I was trying out.

When I studied traditional hoodoo lore, I learned of a specific magical gift in this area called dreaming true. When dreaming true, the rootworker gets information about the past, present and/or future. Often this information comes from an ancestor or another spirit.

I am currently planning another round of dreamwork. This has been impacted by recent, sporadic dreams I've had over the last few months. These dreams have been different enough from my regular dreams that I recognize a special effort at communicating something to me. Some of those dreams, the meaning has been clear and others less so.

I like that magic can be unpredictable sometimes. I don't know why my dreams have started to be more active now than in the past. Perhaps after working with meditation and trance for so long, this is a natural outgrowth of those practices? Or perhaps, as a friend once said, that different talents come apparent as we get older. Regardless of the source, I'm excited to start up a dream practice for the first time in a long time. I will be summarizing some technique and goals here as part of that process.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Letting magic inform all aspects of your life

If you don't read The Alchemist's Garden, please start with this post.

I want to quote him a bit:
Any magical practitioner should at least attempt to integrate their magical practice, politics, religious beliefs (if any), and everyday life. Compartmentalizing those things is, clearly, a great way to end up being a hypocrite and perhaps even a fraud. It’s one thing if you can’t express your magic openly in your everyday life because to do so would result in the loss of your job or the burning down of your house (perhaps with you in it). It’s quite another to have the advantage of Western freedom and yet insist that magic and politics and everyday life must remain separate in order for “real” magic to happen, as if real magic is a soap bubble destroyed by the slightest draft of the mundane. Is your magic that fragile?
I couldn't agree more. I belief the Earth is sacred and my body is sacred and thus I should act like that is true. Meaning, that means the way I cook, the way I treat others, they way I do my "mundane" job should all be informed by my magic and beliefs. More over, if everything is both material and spiritual, then it is only reasonable to address my challenges both spiritually and with action in the physical realm. Doing both magic (or prayer) and doing physical work together help us be the most successful. In large part this is why the idea that you should do magic as a last resort is bad one. Start with a blessings. Draw on your magic and your relationship to the gods or spirits to help you get through the process. Give thanks in the end. Let yourself engage with the whole process on all levels. Don't limit yourself.

And while I'm ranting, I want to add a quote by Eliphas Levi regarding the defination of the "Great Work" of Western magic: "[It] is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will." Given that people generally have things like bodies, have to eat and pay bills and all that stuff - it seems like a reasonable proposition that the emancipation of our individual wills occurs in the here and the now. We take the magic and wisdom we learn from our of spirit work and meditation and use those lessons in our everyday lives.

This links to the domestic craft I've been posting about it. Every action has a spiritual dimension to it. Both because the world is also sacred and because we are spiritual and physical beings at once. And if every action has a spiritual dimension, then any action can be done with intention and symbolism enough to make it magical. Everything you do can be an act of spiritual devotion or spell, if you approach it in a certain way.

Acts of self-care and care of one's friends and family are a powerful act of magical practice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just because...

...I think being able to take some string and some sticks and make something useful is a form of magic all on its own:


The first sweater I've knit. (My apologies for the crappy photography.)

Sometimes the gods just have a sense of humor

This year, I started running and I've really been enjoying it.* I'm basically only running outside. I've done a few hotel gyms when I've been traveling and I have found that running through my older, urban neighborhood is a lot more fun. I love the old growth trees, the fun and funky stuff people do with their yards (orginal sculpture, native plant gardens, etc). I run by a park where SCA folks have practiced hitting themselves with padded swords. I love the fresh air, sunshine and getting to know my neighborhood.

I also try to weave spirituality and magic into my running by doing a few small things. First, I do a couple of basic practice I frequently and where I ever I am. I ground and center and (in my tradition) open to the life force that runs through all things. Through that connection, I think the running itself is a little easier and I feel closer to the spirit of place. The second basic practice is acknowledging the elements of life and drawing themselves into my aura. (I have this thing where I view the aura as essentially a sacred circle we all bring with us where ever we go and so I invoke the elemental energies into my aura like I might do a circle, but closer to my skin and it feel a bit more intimate.)

As I said above, the above is a basic practice that I do more than once during my day as a way of staying connected the Earth. Not that I think we are ever NOT connected to the Earth, but sometimes we forget that we are and certainly that connection can become cloudy. The only thing that I do in addition is to invoke Hermes. Hermes and I go way back. See, some folks talke about patrons or being tapped or adopted by some gods. That has never really happened to me. As a babyWitch I looked around for a god that I was interested in. Hermes handles communication (which is important in my work) and magic (also an interest of mine), so I though hey, I can start venerating him. We are not BFFs and he never stops by for tea. Still, after 10 years of fairly consistent veneration, we're on good terms. In fact, as a trickster, he's really helped find some clever solutions to problems I've had. Also, I credit him with helping avoid speeding tickets.

Hermes is also the god of running and gyms. (I know a Greek gym was a bit different that what we have now, but still.) As part of my practices I do a small invocation to him and invite for a run with me. I think he, like many Mysterious Ones, delight in the physical as much as they are able to partake in it through us.

Now, you might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the title of this post? Good question. See, my runs generally loop, so that during my cool down walk I pass the same intersection. When ever I invoke Hermes in my run and I reach that light during my cool down walk when I'm all ran out. Almost without fail, the light turns so that if I were to jog through the light I could make it, otherwise I have wait for the full light. It happens too often for it to be coincident. I've decided that it most be his idea of a joke. But hey, I can take a joke. And I don't mind waiting a bit to cross the street.

*Ok, I didn't enjoy the running so much at first. It took a lot of training, aches and pains before running became enjoyable. But I'm really glad I stuck it out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Home as Talisman

This is just a quickie, but it sometimes amazes me that people spend a lot of time creating a charm or a talisman, but don't do house magic.

Seriously, make your house into the talisman. Draw runes of happiness and joy in secret places. Bury charms in your back yard to draw luck, love and money to you. Slip herbs under your welcome mat to bar entrance of crooks, liars or wee beasties. Chant protection spells over your doors and windows. Imbue everything you eat and drink with healing, beauty and comfort. Call in your ancestors and other spiritual allies for their help in all that you do. It takes time, but living inside of a talisman that is constantly working for your success and well-being is pretty awesome. It's way better than just carrying one around (although that is good too and doing both is better yet).

Of course, it's a lot of work. I've gotten away for from it, but fall is in the air and magic is afoot and some of my plans for this weekend is get the house straightened up and humming with magic.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm back!

As I mentioned in my last post, late summer was a really busy time for me. So I'm hoping to do more blogging.

I did want to share one quick thing. Part of my personal practice is altar work. I have several spirit allies that I work with, including my ancestors of blood and spirit. I leave offerings on my altars for them, without necessarily asking for anything in return. For me, it is about tending those relationships. It also helps me so that I can call on their help when in need and not have to wait and give an offering.

Case in point, I left my wallet on the bus. As soon as I realized it, I freaked. Then I did some magic on the fly. Basically just started petitioning those spirit allies and asked for their help for the safe return of the wallet. The next day I called the bus system's lost and found (which was closed that night as I tried as soon as I realized it was gone) and my wallet was turned in. Not only did it have my ID, credit cards and bus passes in it, it also has all the cash.

After I received the wallet, I gave offerings to them in gratitude. This is a recent example, but it's not the only one I have. It is nice to have spirits I can work with on the fly and not have to rely on specific ritual offerings. A simple basic practice like building a relationship spirits via offerings can pack a punch.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A quick apology and little about Lammas...

I want to thank everyone who commented on my blog and apologize to those whose comments where caught up in moderation and for not responding to the thoughtful feedback I received. I have been traveling more than usual for work lately (and will continue to do so throughout August) and so I haven't been working that spell at all and haven't been in a position (with the travel) for the spell to even manifest properly. I may resume it in the fall and will keep you posted. Future posts may be limited too. But I will be back in the fall, I'm sure.

Until then, this is more religious than magical, but here are few comments on Lammas I wrote up on Lammas I wrote up as part of my process of making the Wheel of the Year holidays more my own.

On Lammas...

The typical view of Lammas is "first harvest" and is associated with bread. Based on my research into the history of this holiday, this is because this part of the Wheel of the Year tends to follow the growth cycle of wheat and this is generally the time of year that the first harvest of wheat is done. So folks are harvesting grain and baking bread with it.

Given that so much food comes in at different times in the growth cycle (from spring asparagus to the fall squash and root veggies), this helped me understand that "first harvest" aspect, although I still think it is a bit of a misnomer. I also get why people were baking bread as I imagine bread baked with fresh wheat is fantastic (from a foodie perspective) and also grain stores may have been low (possibly gone) or perhaps stale by this time

Some other historical research I did also said that Lammas festivals are the precursors to the county fair. This was a time when people would gather and trade. Farmers would bring their craps and artisans would bring their best items for sale this time of year as well.

While celebrating Lammas can certainly be celebrating wheat and bread. I personally see it as a feasting celebration. It is a time to gather with friends, enjoy all the abundance of summer (and this green good Earth) and perhaps celebrating our own human craftsmanship.

This Lammas, I hosted company from out of town. I did the Maker Fair (a DYI festival), ate too much and drank local mead. I hope you all had a fabulous Lammas. I hope you enjoyed good company, good food and the Earth's beauty this weekend.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fine tuning spell work...

Awhile back, Gordon suggested that people do some frivolous magic. I thought that sounded like fun and, despite my earlier lack of luck with sigils, I decided to try them again and did so for fun. My goal was to do a little magical work to run across a casual acquaintance. (Ok, so he's hot and eye candy on my commute. Don't judge me!)

I created a sigil and charged it up with energy. No luck. So I tried again and spent more time on the sigil, making and investing it with power with some light hand-drumming. So far, I'm batting about zero.

This has prompted me to write about how to fine tune spell work.

First, I'm getting some success with this. While my working is specific to riding the same bus, I do see him around the downtown area that I work in (each time was the a day or two after do the sigil). I take this as a sign the magic is sort of working, but lacking juice. It's also a confirmation that he is still making the same commute.

I also noticed about my approached is my lack of any personal concerns. Not a hair, not a picture, heck I don't even know this guy's full name. Just that he takes bus on my commute sometimes. There is no solid magical link. And honestly, this is why I went the sigil route in the first place as opposed to my normal practice. My link with this guy is pretty non-existant by folk magic standards.

So I did some divination on this spell working. The reading mostly just confirmed what I already knew. Things are stuck where they are and my attempts so far are lacking in the juice to switch things up (but are having a water-downed effect). I also asked about different attempts and got a green light. Basically, I'm going to try to overcome the weak link by doing more work. Because the link is weak, I'm going to have to raise more mojo.

I know the whole thing is pretty silly, but it has become an issue of pride with me. It's so simple and basic, I should be able to make this happen. I will keep you informed!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Candle Spell for Protection, hoodoo style

Here is an example of a candle spell for protection. I know this is the second example of protective magic, it's sort of my default teaching example. At the end I have some ideas on adapting this format for other uses.

1) Get "personal concern" of the person you wish to protect. A lock of hair will work great.

2) Get herbs that your research says are protective (I would use devil's shoe strings to tie up evil influence, high john for success and strength, angelica for a divine helping hand, rue to repel bad fortune and a mercury dime for protection while traveling).

3) Take a piece of paper. Write a petition/prayer/spell/intention on it. Put the rue and hair onto the paper. Fold it toward you speaking your intention. Ideally you’d end up with something fairly flat.

4) Place the items into a small jar with the roots.

5) Pick a candle out, white or a color that matches your intent. Red if you're wishing the person the strength to vanquish all enemies (I might include something iron in the packet to amp up the Mars energy if that were the case) or blue to wish him peace/avoid problems. Purple is the color I tend to with for general protection. Anoint with a protection oil or simple olive oil if that's all you have. Dust with some of the left over protection herbs. You can also inscribe the candle with the name of the person and your intetion (protection) and feel free to add other magical symbols that work well for you.

6) Place the candle on the bottle and light the candle while saying your petition/prayer/spell/intention. Let the candle burn as long as you are able to.

7) Continue to burn that candle as often as you can for the duration of of the time period while the person needs protection. When the first candle burns out, get another candle, repeat from 5. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are good times to make time to burn it for strength and success type working particularly.

8) Read the shape of the wax, like you'd read tea leaves or the shapes of clouds, as well as the way the flame burns. This is a way of divining how the spell is working and if you need to step it up or if it is succeeding.

You can do this for yourself too. I work a few candle spells in this structure . Depending on your herb blend, you can use the basic spell pattern for just about anything. For a love example, mix in your own personal concern with your desired lover's personal concern and use herbs designed to encourage love. (Google honey jar for really solid variation of this.) Candle work is one of my most common form of spellwork. I just light them on my altar, as well as put out fresh offerings for spirit allies.

I mix this up with knitting actually. After lighting the candles, I sit and knit a project that I'm working on, as long as it is simple and mindless. The knitting helps me stay in a light trancey state for good period while letting the candles burn. I prefer this over the "light and leave" method. Both for safety and I like that I stay focused on the magic. Knitting and praying is pretty easy.

Plus the knitting while working magic adds a certain element of atmosphere to it actually. I totally want a rocking chair and plan to mix in the occasional cackle. I imagine doing any kind of simple, repetitive craft, like needle point, whittling, carving would have a similar effect (both in terms of atmosphere and helping you hold attention).

I've also maintained a light trance state/consistent prayer by drumming and that's good too. But the knitting is my favorite.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Candle burns sigil*

As part of me stumbling across some of these occult blog cabal, I've heard a lot about sigils. I prefer to use candles in my practice. It doesn't seem to be particularly in vogue among many practitioners, at least I don't hear about people talking about in anyway way.

I think that is too bad for the most part. Frankly, I think they're a lot like a sigil, only better. Everything you do to a sigil (charge and burn) you do to a candle. Candles also tap into the power of fire and light to radiate your spell, in addition to any power you can raise yourself to charge them with. Further, you can coat a candle in herbs and oils that also help to empower your working. In fact, since inscribing names and symbols is part of the process of using candles, you can create a sigil and carve that into the candle and take advantage of that sigil process along rest of preparing the candle.

Now, I'm probably biased here. I've always been drawn to more folk types of magic. My experience with sigils is also much more limited. I've tried a handful of sigils - so my sample is pretty limited - and they've never seemed particularly effective. I'm sure they work for some people (knowledgable people get results with them). I may simply not have the knack for them or perhaps I had already imprinted on other forms of magic (I've tried them only in the last few years). Or I could simply need to practice them more to get the hang of them.

Part of the reason I have not experimented with them is that they just too difficult to use on the fly and lack the "oomph" to use as part ritual work. For example, you need a pen and paper to get started, so they are relatively convenient, but they're not even the most convenient form of magic out there. If I'm looking to bend the world in a small way (find my keys, manifest something simple), I'll do a simple fetch. Creating a fetch a technique I was taught that involves shaping a bit of your life force into a small spirit and sending it off on an errand on your behalf. Raise some energy, shape it, imbue it with your intent and send it off. I can be done with the whole fetch process in less time than it takes me to scratch out vowels in sentence. Both the fetch and sigil depend on my own ability or "energy" and nothing else.

Now, if I'm looking to bend the world a bit in my favor in any big way I'll take all the support I can get by burning prepared candles (by themselves or as part of a ritual or series of magic). Since sigils seem like they rest solely on the power of the magician casting them (and it is a big world out there), I'd rather make changes in conjunction with my spiritual allies and raise power via the use of herbs and candles as well as the other ways I raise power.

So sigils just don't seem that useful to me. Again, I hate to put a technique down that so many seems to get a lot of. It's just that I honestly don't see what the fuss is about.

*magical version of rock, paper, scissors

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Conjuring the Genius Loci

As part of my practice, I developed relationships with the land I live on by contacting the spirit of place. Contacting a spirit of place is perhaps better than conjuring to describe my practice, but conjuring has more of a magical feel to it.

Anyway, developing a relationship with the over-arching spirits of where I live, work and play is a way of developing spiritual allies who can help with a variety of problems. Not only do I think they are protective, but they also help with finding resources and help that you need - from parking spots to friends to jobs.

So how do you go about developing these relationships? Well, there are as many ways as there are witches and magicians mostly likely. But for you, dear reader, I will share my personal recipe. First, get to know the city you live in. Walk around and open to your intuition. Get a taste of the energy and feel of the spiritual atmosphere. Once you know the spiritual feel of the place, look for a place of power. Again, some folks use their intuitions for this, which is a good plan. Personally, I use my knowledge of history and mix in a little witchy lore.

I live and most often play in the City of Ferndale. For Ferndale, the place of power that I used to develop my relationship with the spirit of Ferndale is the crossroads at the heart of the city. There has been a monument built to the history of the place.

9 mile and Woodward in the 1920s:


9 Mile and Woodward today:

Artwork and a crossroads celebrating the history of my hometown? Jackpot! And the statement of "drive safely, walk right" with the police uniform - definitely a protective spirit.

It's a very busy intersection, so I never felt very comfortable doing any major ceremonial work there. So I left offerings that I could drop easily like coins or small bits of food I introduced myself and asked to be in relationship with powers and spirits of Ferndale. Over time, I began to get a feel for it. I don't have conversations with spirits so much as receive impressions or insight (when I'm lucky). The physical offerings helped to start that process as did the walking and feeling out the city itself.

Like many relationships with spirits, if you take care of them then they'll take care of you. For me, taking care of the spirit of Ferndale means taking care of Ferndale. I take care of it in a few ways. I try to be a good neighbor and keep my home in good order. I support the local businesses that keep the downtown vibrant by shopping and eating there. I walk the land: I walk, ride my bike and run for exercise through the neighborhoods. I clean up litter when I see it. I support my local library. I vote in my city elections.

It's a host of (on the surface) non-magical actions. But honestly, it cements my relationship with the genus loci as much as leaving offerings ever did. I said earlier, that if I take care of my city then it takes care of me. So what does being taken care of by the city look like? Like a lot of the magic I do, it's subtle. I believe the spirit takes care of me by generally protecting my family and my home. I also think it works by synchronicity and helps be find opportunities and good circumstances my way. I also think it helps me get a read on my community in more intuitive way.

I have similarly started a relationship with spirit of Detroit. I similarly chose a statue in a historical place - the aptly named Spirit of Detroit. Helped, I believe, by success with the work I did with the spirit of Ferndale. I started here by leaving offerings as well. I don't do as much for Detroit as I do for Ferndale and I don't feel like the relationship is as strong. Still, it exists and I do believe that Detroit looks after me a bit too.

After a relationship is started, I don't think tending the place of power itself is critical. My connection with the spirit of Ferndale has led me to believe that the spirit is ominpresent in the city (which makes sense). The place of power is a good place to start and if I had a major petition, I make do some work there as well. But the important thing is to tend your community. Making offerings of your time, money and energy in any part of the city is just as valuable on doing it at place of power you found. Finally, I firmly believe that if you're dialed into the spirit of place, one of the things it will ask you to do is to be a good neighbor and active community member. If it is asking for crazy or antisocial stuff, you may want to banish and start over. (That's true of any spirit that you might be working with.)

So there is my simple and straight forward way to work with the spirits of where you live. Get a feel of it. Determine a place of power. Invoke the spirit of place. Leave some offerings. Be open to hear what it is saying. Tend that relationship (by tending the community itself most likely). Ask for help when you need it. Repeat as needed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Of Hearth and Home III

Magic of purification and cleansing is a foundational skill for may magical workers. Ceremonials may use the LBRP to purify their selves and physical area. Others may use a simple incense or sprinkle blessed salt water into an area to clear it out.

Hoodoo has very simple and straight forward way to cleanse. A rootworker may use a bath with herbs as a form of cleansing work, as well as an herbal infusion in the mop water to cleanse the home. In fact, I've heard at least one rootwork said that clear blockages or to start fresh, just cleaning and freshening your house is a good start. As I've said, I'm a generalist and enjoy learning different techniques. I've used singing bowls, the LBRP, smudge with sage and the sprinkled salt water. They all work, even if each technique behaves a little differently.

Having said all that, the rootworker was right, hands down. Based on my own senses and experiences, I can get a physically clean space more energetically or spiritually clean than a place that is messy. A physically clean home with a hint of herbal scents is more pleasant physically and energetically than a trashed home with a bad smell coming from the unwashed dishes or the cat boxes, no matter how much I banish. Frankly, I willing to say this is true no matter how powerfully the archangels manifest for you.

Dirt and clutter in the home affects its spirit and energy. Certainly magical practitioners can shift those energies and affect the spiritual aspects of their home. But it doesn't last in the way it does for a clean home. And for gods' sake, open a window and let some fresh air and sunlight in!

Cleaning can be ritualized in the same way the Jen spoke about in her soup making I posted about previously. While this is likely more like cubicle magic than hearth magic, I took some time and got though a back log of shredding at work. As I shredded old forms, notes and paper work that accrued during a difficult period in my working life, I felt lighter to have physically cleared out the items that were physically and symbolically connected to that period. It was a potent way of banishing and clearing past obstacles and let me move forward in my life. The act of cleaning, with intention, was an act of magic.

In addition, I've talked a bit about the sympathy that exists between the hearth witch and his or her home. If you are attuned to the place, then straightening out your living room can help your straighten out, well, if not your life, that it might help you straighten out you thoughts on a particular issue. At the very least can use the cleaning as spell work to banish disorder and confusion and invite order and comfort into you life.

Devil Hand: A mojo bag for protection

I'm going to switch gears here and post a traditional hoodoo spell for protection, generally from a specific person who is doing you harm. Not everything I post here is (or will be) related to hoodoo or even traditionally hoodoo. This charm happens to be. It's adapted from post I made in another venue. Enjoy!

There are a series of roots and herbs in hoodoo that are named after the devil. Not because they cause harm, but because they are said to protect from the devil or evil. This is a traditional hand and the recipe can be found in Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by Cat Yronwode. For those who may not be familiar, a hand (mojo bag, toby, etc) is a name for specific kind of charm that is a cross between a prayer in a bag and created spirit.

For the basic hand, you need the following roots/herbs:
1) Devil’s Dung – a leafy herb said to stink so bad, it makes the devil run away. Fortunately for us, all you need is a pinch. It's also called asafetida and used in European style magic for banishment.

2) Devil’s Pod- also know as bat nut, it is used like a gargoyle – it's an ugly little thing that scares away evil spirits.

3) Devil's Shoe String – string-like roots. It is said that these can bind up evil as if you were tying the devil's shoe strings together.

4) Devil's bit – With a variety of uses (not just protection), it is an all around helpful plant, it was said that the devil hated it so much he bit the root off. And the plant continued to thrive, just to spite Ol' Scratch.

Now those who study hoodoo know that this kind of a wrong number of items to have. A mojo hand always has an odd number of items in it. So you can take an item out or add one of your own. Keep in mind that you just don't want to go around adding (or substituting) willy-nilly. For example protective roots like Angel Root (aka Holy Ghost Root or angelica) and Blessed Thistle would be out of place in this hand. Now a pinch of sulfur (also used for banishing evil) would fit in just fine, on its own or as a substitute for the devil's dung. One last comment on substituting, the herbs and roots, the name paper are all designed to bind and ward off evil. Angelica root helps and protects a person, like an angel. The reason you don't want to substitute it is more than just style, it's how the magic of the root works.

You will also need some Run Devil Run Oil. You can make your own, but that's a much longer post. And making your own condition oil is a pain the ass (I've done it a couple of times and it is messy and hard to do in small batches). This oil will be used to dress (or anoint) each item as well as used to feed the hand.

Next, we put the hand together. The first thing you want to do is to make a name paper. Take some paper (some lore says it shouldn't be cut, so I just rip off a circular piece of plain white paper) and write down the name of the person you want to be protected from. You can also write something like all those that do me harm. Then rotate the paper and over this write your name three times. The lines of you name should be crossing the name you wrote now (so you name looks horizontal and their name looks vertical).

In a circle around the crossed names, write a short petition in cursive, like "evil be gone" or "run devil run." Don't lift your pen off the paper and connect each world and kept writing so until you have a full, unbroken circle around the names.* Take some of the Run Devil Run oil and dot the four corners of the name paper and the center (so it looks like a five on a die). Take a pinch of the devil's dung and put in the name paper (with a hair or other personal concern of the person you want to be protect from, if you have it). Fold the paper a few times (always folding away from you, to represent banishing) to make a little packet. State you intention as you do it – evil is gone from my life.

This is called a name paper is this whole thing is your ingredient #1. Put in your bag. Next add your next ingredients. I would add the devil's pod, dressing in the oil and state my attention "all evil must run from me" and place it in the bag. Do the same with nine pieces of the devil's shoe string "to tie the feet of those who would harm me" and place it in the bag. I would stop here probably, but you could add the other items. Keep in mind, that herbs are alive have spirit of their own. This isn't just throwing crap in a bag; it is using the sacred power that flows through nature. Just say'n.

Now, you may be asking yourself- "what bag?" That's a good question, since I haven't mentioned anything about it. Commonly, these ingredients are placed in a bag, sometimes sewn or in small flannel bag with a draw string (often red). The traditional version of this is this Devil hand is sewn black leather. I would use a draw string black bag myself, as I can't sew at all.

If you use a flannel bag, tie the two ends of the draw string together. This is the power of knots to hold and fix your spell into place. So this is also a magical moment (same thing if you're sewing, you are fixing the spell or intention into place). Then once you have all the ingredients in the bag, the next step is to wake it up. You can do that in couple of ways. You can spit into it (waters of life) or breathe into it (breath of life). There are a lot of ways to do it, but I always breathe into mine.

Then tie the string around the mouth of the bag and seal is shut. There is lore that opening the bag "kills the hand," which I follow. Others even say that if someone else sees the bag, it gets killed (which I don't follow). Some believe that no one else should even touch the bag. I'll leave it to you to decide what makes sense for you.

Check out the picture on cat's site for a way to do it. It's the red bag at the top.

Next, you pray over it and feed it. Most rootworkers are Christian and psalms are popular and traditional. Psalm 37 is often prayed for protection. Or you can pray as you feel called. A mojo hand is "alive" and needs care. You feed it by giving it offerings of incense (called smoking a hand) or dressing/anointing it with oil (which is what I do). You can also feed it whiskey. You can also name your toby, if you feel called to.

Wear your hand close to your skin when feel you need protection, other wise leave it on your altar. Feed it regularly, as you are called to do, but at least once a week if you want to keep the bag strong.

*My understanding is that this is not necessarily traditional, but it is how Cat Y teaches it and so that's how I do it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Of Hearth and Home II

This is brief, but I wanted to follow yesterday's post on spirituality, spell work and food. A spiritual gathering I regularly attend, Winter Witch Camp, has a strong component of hearth magic. A few years ago, hearth magic was offered as a specific Path (a morning class on magic and spirituality). Out of that work, a blog on magical eating was born. While that blog is mostly fallow at this time, I want to point you, dear reader, at two posts that make my points better than I probably can myself.

First, is a post by my friend Jen who uses intention and magic to unlock the power of making soup and tap into the magic of integration. It's a little different than placing a specific spell in a food item. Instead, it was an act of aligning oneself with the season and the land and treating preparation of the soup as a ritual. I have no doubt that her soup had the power to console and heal. At the same time, this post suggests to me that any magic that resided in the soup was almost incidental to transformative power of the preparation.

Second, is a post by my partner Matt who writes about the magic of pie. A couple of things strike me about this post. He speaks about hearth magic as ancestor work. Our family traditions can help us remain connected with those who have passed on in our lives. In addition, I like his use of runes to bless the pie. It's a great way to use the canvass of the pie crust and a way of adding a little magic to your cooking. Stir runes or other magical symbols into your soups or simply draw them over your food as a blessing to infuse it with the magic you're looking to make. I think the blessing he used is wonderful to use for a pie shared with friends. And indeed, his pie is delicious.

Simple, effective hearth magic to feed the body and as well as the spirit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Of Hearth and Home I

I recently read a post on hearth witchcraft, over at Charmed, I'm Sure. While I'm more of a generalist than specializing in any one area of magic, one way to describe my magical style is hearth, kitchen or cottage witch.

I would tend to separate hearth magic into two general types of practices. One is the idea of working specific magic via the herbs in your garden or spice cabinet into mojo bags or cooking with specific herbs in order to cast a spell. The other type is the magicospiritual effects of living well. While both of these are often intertwined, it's the latter aspect of hearth craft that I'd like to spend some time with.

Every budding magic practitioner is (hopefully) taught the basics of protection and psychic hygiene. Those skills are critical and can be seen as the basic survival tool kit. I, however, do not want to merely survive. I want to thrive. I want a life full of beauty and comfort.

More than any other kind of magic out there, hearth craft makes this the specific focus of the work: crafting the good life. Hearth witches work hard to build and maintain a space that is clean, restful and full of joy. Hearth witches live well and connect their whole lives to their magic and spirituality.

I'll give you an example. Eating locally is a surprising potent act of hearth magic and one that works on several levels. On a purely physical level, local food tends to be fresher and taste better. My partner was at a private wine tasting in France for students who were studying there from the same university. The vintner suggest that you go home and sample your local wines. He said that things taste better where they are made. The humidity, the pollen and the acidity of the soil - all subtle factors, but ones that add up and enhance the flavors of local food. While I still enjoy a good bottle of wine imported from afar, exploring the local wines and foods of my area has been pure pleasure. I also enjoy purchasing closer to home to reduce my carbon foot print.

Beyond the simply physical effects of eating higher quality food (freshness and taste), from a magical perspective - eating locally better connects me with the land that I live on. By eating of the land itself, I believe that I'm more energetically attuned to it. Just like I can put a lock of hair into a poppet to create sympathy with the owner of the hair, so too can I take in the fruits of the earth, placing myself in sympathy with the land itself. This connection helps me work with the spirits of the land, the local fey and various spirits of place and even the ancestors. Along with spending time outside generally and gardening, I firmly believe that eating local is a foundational step for witches and shamans who work with the powers and spirits of the living Earth.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So what's with the "without a cause" bit?*

Right now, I'm in my early 30s. I'm a pretty lucky guy. I found love and a career early in life. I spent my 20s mostly deepening that, with a bit of a detour through law school. I also have spent some studying with and being mentored by witches, root doctors and other assorted practitioners of the magical arts.

As I look at my life, I feel grateful for what I have. Based on the blogs, forums and books that I read, it often seems that people are working magic for love or a better job. But I'm content with those areas of my life. I'm not claiming to be perfect in either arena, but those are pretty solid.

And yet, I also feel restless. What is next in my life professionally and personally? Creatively? Where am I taking my magic? I have an unscratched itch and worse yet, I don't know even know where to scratch.

So I'm going to try to answer those questions and try to find a cause. Expect some posts here about magical theory (if I may be so bold to call my ideas and observations), Paganism, relationships, personal finance, health and my creative pursuits (such as they are).

My friend Donald once asked "are you willing to be willing?" Right now, I'm not sure where I'm going, but I'm willing to be open to new directions.

(*besided the pun on Rebel Without a Cause)