This is our holy place
As it was for those who came before
A threshold between both Sky and Land
A threshold between Land and Sea
And between Life and Death
This is our sacred place
by Brian Terry
If there is a theme present in modern witchcraft, it can be summarized as liminality. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning “a threshold.” In modern witchcraft, this applies to the importance of a threshold in rituals, bewitchment, spellwork, and holding sacred space between worlds.
Witches themselves have always been considered liminal figures. In fact, many stories of witches portray them as living on a “threshold” of sorts. In the Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, the so called witch lives on the bank of a pond which frequently floods her small cottage. The transition between land and water is seen as a liminal place. In other stories the witch lives on the outskirts of town, or near the boundary of a wood. This depiction symbolizes the liminal state that a modern witch may enter during trancework, an altered state of consciousness. It also parallels the in-betweeness that is a common theme or practice in modern witchcraft.
Some of these practices may include, initiatory rites, walking through symbolic
doors, invoking spirits to aid the practitioner, cross-roads magic, and walking between worlds. Even the eight Sabbats contain transitory energy as the sun appears to wax and wane in the Earth’s journey through the year, and the door to the Otherworld is left ajar at specific times; Samhain, Beltane, and Midsummer. Other liminal places include, fences or hedges which create a boundary, the ford in a river, entering a fog, the beach where the water meets the shore, dawn or dusk, or even that transitory state between sleeping and waking. In all of these a change occurs and a threshold crossed.
The magic circle can also be considered a liminal space. It serves as a protective space against malevolent spirits, a space where magic can build and be focused, as well as, a space between realms; a space betwixt worlds where there is no time. It also acts as a psychological aid which puts one in the right mindset for the ritual. Whichever way you perceive the magic circle, it is definitely a shift from everyday conscientiousness. This shift can be subtle or a very profound one. In any case, the circle allows for much creativity and freedom from the ordinary within the confines of its magical space.
Liminal spaces and places are borders of the mind and of magical realms. They are neither here nor there but powerful inbetween places betwixt time and space. They are boundaries and edges, and thresholds of magic and enlightenment.
featured photo: Massimiliano Morosinotto
supporting photos:Annie Spratt
To save her from the serpent’s little eye
I set a stone of blue Chalcedony
Within a cunning loop–so it shall be
Aware and mindful when her lashes lie
Untaught of danger nigh.
To keep her from the dragon’s hungry tooth
In seven laps the quorls were subtly twined;
From seven rivers seven grains of gold were mined,
Hammered by black elves’ mauls, and tempered sooth
In hissing brews uncouth.
The Amulet by Donald Davidson
What is a Charm?
A charm is a common word used to describe a small ornament worn on a necklace or bracelet. There is also a less common definition which indicates that a charm is controlling or achieving something by magic specifically relating to an object which is “charmed.”
Talismans and Amulets
Talismans and amulets are both types of charms, in that they are both objects that control or achieve something using magic. The difference between a talisman and an amulet is the energy used to charge them. A talisman is charged with energy to attract positive energy to enhance health or positive goals, increase wealth and abundance or any other positive purpose. Some common talismans are objects like crystals or stones or a piece of jewelry worn by the person it is charged for.
Conversely, an amulet has the opposite energy effect. It is charged to deflect negative energy and create a defense around an individual or place thereby sending away danger, misfortune or any other negative event or energy. Some common amulets today are eyes to ward against the “evil eye” and the pentacle which has been used for centuries as a protective charm. Many other objects can function as amulets as well, such as, crystals, coins, or words inscribed on parchment.
Before charging an amulet or talisman you should start with a good cleansing of the object you have chosen for this purpose. Start with your intention of cleansing unwanted or negative energy fixed in your mind or spoken aloud. Some ways to cleanse an object are:
After cleansing, hold the object in your hands and visualize energy building in you for the intention of the charm, whether it be an amulet which protects the wearer and deflects negativity or a talisman which draws positive energy and positive goals. Visualize the energy streaming into the talisman or amulet as a bright white or gold light. I usually visualize a gold, glittery light flowing into the charm. Alternatively, I have also held the charm to my forehead to charge it. Hold this visualization for a few minutes until you are satisfied that it is fully charged. Your charm is ready to use! If you aren’t going to use it right away, wrap it in a dark cloth and put it away where no one else will touch it. Periodically, repeat these steps of cleansing and charging as unwanted energy will tend to bog down your magic.
This land is my home
where the naked mountains caress
and the veins of hills run to the sea.
This land is my home
where I’ll live alone until
my hair grows white
and my bones grow old
then I’ll hang my spirit on tree tops
to provide a cushion of coolness
for children who gather round
Spirit of the Land – Makiutii Tongia
My earliest memory of encountering the spirits of the land, genius loci or the pervading spirit of a place, was my childhood adventures in Canyonlands, Utah. Canyonlands is a wild country of sheer sedimentary rock walls, 4-wheel drive roads, and natural arches. On this day, my family was having lunch in a favorite picnic spot, I looked up to see petroglyphs high above us. We had never seen them before and had been there several times. A feeling of a presence surrounded me that day which was mysterious but not altogether unpleasant. In fact, I enjoyed the overall feel of this place so much, that it influenced my choice of anthropology and geology as majors in college many years later. I wanted to study places which had a strong spirit of place. This experience happened many times to me in Canyonlands.
On another visit, my father was reading an old topo map which said, “Thirteen Faces” in small print along the contour lines of a canyon. None of the forest rangers would tell us what it was so it became a mysterious adventure for my family that year. I can remember pushing through thorny brush and close growing trees whose limbs would smack the person behind you if you weren’t careful. It was like the entire place was keeping us from finding it. We finally came to an overhanging rock wall with the painting of ten warriors painted underneath with the faint remnants of three more. We had stumbled upon a sacred space. It was a profound experience with a real feeling of being watched by the spirits of those who walked those desolate landscapes and were depicted on that rock face. Even now I can still connect to that feeling of discovering “thirteen faces” although it has faded somewhat since I was a child.
If there is one take away from my years developing my own practice, it is to start with connecting to the spirits where you live. The spirits who reside in the open air places, and liminal environments right outside your door. If you are lucky enough to visit a place like Canyonlands, Utah, you will definitely feel the energy of the spirits of the land. Connect with these powers of place and the animals and plants who hold that ecosystem together. Many people want to start with communing with the Gods. While this is a great goal, it is easiest to start with your local environment first. A great way to begin is to make an offering to the spirits of the land first thing in the morning. I begin with a simple incense offering out in my garden. I might say a blessing or just offer the incense and take some time outside. The incense turns my garden into a wonderful smelling place and puts me into a mood of veneration.
Another way to connect to the spirits of the land is to sit quietly in a natural environment and connect to the living and non living things that are a part of that spot. We are normally moving through nature but do not commonly reside for any length in nature. Developing the habit of sitting in nature is a good way to receive messages and connect to that environment. It is common that I come away with thoughts about what my plants need as I sit there. Your garden tends to flourish when you pay attention to it this way.
In my own yard, I like to leave a spot which is a bit wild as well. I don’t pull weeds or do any kind of upkeep in that area. While this sounds a bit on the messy side, it is an amazing area that seems to grow strange new plants, as well as, the seedlings from existing plants. This was a common practice in Europe, hundreds of years ago as people set aside a small plot of land dedicated solely to the faery or earth spirits. It was not permitted to be cultivated, weeded or touched in any way. This practice seems to embody the spirit of the land as these untended tracts seem to have a mind of their own. You’ll be surprised by what appears there.
Keep the downy dittany and storms will bring you calm,
Fill a vervain pillow for a thought-grieved head;
Cherish balm whene’er you can, there’s none too much of balm,
And never stop for rosemary, ’twill follow where you tread.
Taste the scarlet love-apple, if youth will drive you to,
But leave alone the rue—-
Fair lass, fine lad,
Leave alone the rue!
The Herb of Grace by Elsie Cole
Herb of Grace
Rue (Ruta graveolens) is an herb which has a long association with witches and magical rituals. The Romans called it Ruta which was shortened in English to Rue. Historically, rue is a protection herb and is routinely used in protection magic. Cats find the smell of rue to be offensive, and as such, the idea of rue used to ward off witches was born. It would seem that a talisman using rue may also be a sort of anti-witch charm. There is one charm, rooted in old Italy which may actually be a very magical talisman worn by witches themselves. This is the Cimaruta charm, an Italian folk charm which has changed little through time.
The Cimaruta Charm
The Cimaruta Charm (sprig of rue), also known as the witch’s charm, is typically a silver charm of the rue plant with its lobed leaves attached to specific symbols. This is the typical charm pictured at the right, and can be purchased here. Although there are
various symbols attached to the sprig of rue some of the more common symbols and their meanings are:
Rooster: dispels darkness much like the rooster calls in the dawn
Dagger: related to the arrow of Diana, the queen of witches
Crescent moon: related to the occult and occult forces
Vervain blossom: protection, much like the pentagram, and connection to the faery realm
Other symbols such as the heart, the hand and the horn, as well as cornucopia, and angel can also be found although the flaming heart and angel are probably newer Christian symbols.
The Cimaruta charm was commonly used as a charm to protect babies and was routinely hung on the crib of an infant for protection from envy and the evil eye up until the 19th century. Rue itself is protective so it has been speculated that the symbols on the sprig of rue are either there to increase these protective forces or for some other reason entirely. Raven Grimassi, in his book, The Cimaruta: And Other Magical Charms From Old Italy suggests that his research reveals that the Cimaruta is connected to Diana, the triformis goddess. In this way, the charm represents Hecate (key), Diana (Moon), and Porserpina or Persephone (serpent). He goes on to state that the Cimaruta Charm is not an anti-witch or anti-witchcraft charm at all but a charm worn by witches symbolizing their beliefs. It is a charm which has not changed much through time or become tainted with modern religious symbols for the most part.
I decided to make my own Cimaruta charm out of a sprig of Rue instead of casting it in silver. I used the symbols of rooster, moon, key, dagger, and vervain blossom. These symbols are used in a magical alignment in Raven Grimassi’s book. I attached the symbols with ribbon, added a nice rose for color and did the alignment. This Cimaruta now hangs in my garden.
A very magical place indeed…
Sweep, sweep, sweep the ground.
All negativity shall be bound.
I banish all that is profane.
Only positive shall remain.
My mother, the queen of clean, could compete with Martha Stewart herself in keeping a tidy home. I think she would agree that tidying up has a sort of magic all its own. In fact, I believe that one reason I always have a great time at her house is that it is neat and clean and negativity has been swept away with her various cleaning products. Although my mom is pretty extreme in her cleaning, I do think most of us could agree that clutter and mess can seem very overwhelming and increases stress and anxiety for many people. It is not uncommon in this modern world to live under the stressful burden of too many material things which becomes an unmanageable mess. Most of us could stand a bit of cleaning and purging! From a magical standpoint, cleaning has great benefit for the energy of the home and our own mental state.
In the book Magickal Self Defense, Kerr Cuhulain advises,
“Negative thought-forms accumulate in messy environments. An organized household fosters an organized mind. An organized mind is much more capable of defense than a disorganized mind. You do more than just emptying the garbage pail when you take out the trash.”
Do cluttered environments lower our defenses? I think they do. In fact, I think they weigh us down and cause needless anxiety. I have found that tidying the home releases these negative thought-forms and wards our home against negativity. If the benefits of being tidy are so great, then the only question should be how to achieve a neat, organized home that stays that way.
I have read many books on organizing everything from socks to tools but few really stand up to close scrutiny. Most home organizing books really rely on moving “stuff” from one place to another which isn’t really very tidy in the end. Along comes the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo which promises if you follow her method, you will never have to organize your home again. Kondo’s clients are in Tokyo primarily and have limited space to work with but the lessons are sound advice to the “stuff” loving culture of the West as well. Some of the best lessons from her book are as follows:
1. Ask yourself if your belongings “spark joy” in your life. If they don’t, you need to donate, gift, or trash them. I often wonder if this also goes for husbands (or wives)? If it doesn’t, I definitely think it should, but I digress…All the items in your home with some limitations, like tax returns, should bring joy to you. If you surround yourself with joy, your life changes.
2. Organize by category not room. Clothing is the first thing to organize in this book. All your clothing, in the entire house. Get done with the first category before going on to the second, which is books by the way.
3. Fold don’t hang when possible. Folding takes up less space anyway. Also, the correct way to put folded clothing in a drawer is vertically. Clothing stacked in drawers gets crushed an wrinkled and you can’t see all your clothing at once and have to resort to digging through your clothes.
4. Organizers are for hoarders. Complex organizing systems for closets, under beds, etc. are used to put away more stuff that you really don’t need anyway.
The magic of this book is that you become able to part with things that don’t make you happy and surround yourself with things you love. The book treats your clothing as entities which have feelings. This seems strange at first until you start looking at the state of your drawers. My clothes were dreadfully unhappy! The magic of tidying your home with a ruthless purging is bound to be life-changing. Which reminds me, I am barely on the category of books…
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
What is the Shadow?
To understand the Golden Shadow we must first comprehend the Shadow itself. The Shadow is a Jungian term which describes that part of us that we vehemently deny. It is the unconscious aspects of our personality which often inadvertently come out of hiding periodically. These aspects, are perceived negative traits in our personality which over time become relegated to our unconscious. This is a sort of self preservation process, as humans do not normally want to identify with their more immoral, selfish and self destructive traits. Jung adhered to the idea that unless the shadow was brought into the conscious, it would appear in our lives anyway as “fate.” This fate would be controlled by these negative traits that seem to have power over our behavior and subsequent lives. Some people will show their shadow when they argue with others. The things we cannot stand about someone else may be some of our worst shadow traits.
The Golden Shadow
As it turns out, not all of the shadow is composed of undesirable traits. In fact, there are little gold nuggets of greatness hidden in there as well. These are your hidden talents, beauty, creative genius, and cleverness, basically your gold. These we also hide away from others. We may shine too bright or seem too outrageous if we let these gifts be known. Again, we may find traits from our Golden Shadow in others. You may admire someone for their beauty or confidence when it is really a projection of your Golden Shadow.
Why hide the Gold?
Now I can understand the reasoning behind hiding our dark shadow from ourselves and others. It is quite apparent why we hide our selfish thoughts, our immorality, and our dirty little secrets from consciousness. However, why would we hide our gold? Marianne Williamson sums up the reason nicely in her poem Our Deepest Fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It’s our light, not our darkness,
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
So it’s the Golden Shadow that is most feared, but therein lies your power. For within this Golden Shadow the divine resides! What if all the things you wish for yourself were true already? You would be creative, wealthy, gorgeous, smart, powerful, talented, and desirable and would have nothing to yearn for or dislike about yourself. Wow! No drama or complaining! Now that is scary! We are secretly masochists, and seek to sabotage our greatness and stay in our world of dissatisfaction and lack. Our best bet is to recognize our Shadow and bring the darkness to our conscious mind and try to work through some of that muck. At the same time embrace our genius and imagine ourselves already possessing the amazing traits we are searching for in our lives. Chances are, we already possess those traits within ourselves.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.