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.