Return of the Sun

Cold and dark, this time of year,
the earth lies dormant, awaiting the return
of the sun, and with it, life.
Far beneath the frozen surface,
a heartbeat waits,
until the moment is right,
to spring

 

Winter solstice is the darkest day of the year, as my father put it.  I think he meant it to tease my mother, however, as it was her birthday.  It is the darkest, but with a glimmer of hope for the sun’s return.  After solstice the sun’s arc increases incrementally every day.  So solstice is indeed the return of the sun.

The gods of paganism are intimately tied to the sun, as the goddess is to the moon.   The return of the sun is the birth and return of the god in a never ending cycle of death and rebirth in many traditions.  This cycle illuminates the agricultural cycle of the rebirth of plants from seeds and their inevitable harvest or death by fall’s frost.  It is easy to see how early people, who were closer to nature,  watched these cycles closely, eventually revering them in their religion and practices. These cycles are ultimately tied to sustenance, and in turn, basic existence.

To celebrate the return of the sun at solstice, an orange pomander is a great winter craft. Orange pomanders were used since medieval times to ward off bad omens and bring prosperity.   Modern pomanders are basically oranges studded with cloves and rolled in spices.  They give off a wonderful scent, and if dried, can last for years.  Oranges are wonderful to use at Yule as they symbolize the return of the sun.   They also make great ornaments and decorations for your home.  In their simplest form they are just cloves pushed into fresh oranges.  You can make these simple pomanders last longer by refrigerating them at night.  To keep them for a longer time, even years, will require you to dry them using spices.  The recipe that follows is the drying method which will preserve them for years of enjoyment.Attachment-1

Materials

Medium oranges (I used 3)

Whole cloves

½ inch ribbon (optional)

Straight pins

Masking tape

Toothpicks or skewers for making holes for the cloves

Paper bags

1 t cinnamon

1 t ground cloves

1 T ground nutmeg

1 T allspice

¼ cup orris root (I order mine on Amazon)

 

  1. It is easiest to make holes in your orange for the cloves.  Depending on how tough the skin on your orange is, it could be difficult to just force them into the orange.
  2. Tie a ribbon around your orange if you want one. I usually crisscross mine like I am wrapping a gift. Make a loop at the top if you want to hang it up.  Make any design you want with your cloves keeping them about ¼ inch apart.  The pomander will shrink as it dries so you don’t want them too close.  Spirals and lines are nice.  Masking or electrical tape can be used to make perfect lines. You can stop here if you just want to keep them for a few days.  Make sure to refrigerate them at night.IMG_2199
  3. To dry pomanders the need to be rolled in a mixture of spices and orrisroot. Mix all spices and orrisroot together and roll pomander in these spices.  Leave the oranges in this mix for a week turning once a day.  Put pomanders in paper bags, one to a bag, to dry.  Leave them for two weeks.  Alternatively, you could put your spices in the paper bag and shake to bag to distribute the spices every day.

      Uses for Pomanders 

  • Use a few as a centerpiece for your table.
  • When dried, hang in a closet or place in a drawer for a great scent.
  • Use small oranges to make a lovely scented ornament for your tree.
  • These also make great gifts for Yule.

 

Photo by Damian Markutt on Unsplash and Petra Rose

 

Techniques for Grounding

And forget not that the earth

delights to feel your bare feet

and the winds long to play with your hair

                                                                                                                             Kahlil Gibran

 

Grounding is one of the beginning points of any magical art.  It is a connecting and realigning with the energies of the earth.  It focuses your mind and eliminates that anxious, over-thinking, distracted state of mind.  In our world of electronic screens and high stress, this state is ever present and quite a deterrent to a focused magical ability.

The modern world does not do anything for our ability to remain grounded. We routinely live in our heads and, one of the more interesting reasons for this is that we almost never come in contact with the Earth directly.  We are separated by the soles of our shoes most of the time.  In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that grounding (or earthing) has a profound effect on inflammation, immune response, wound healing and prevention of inflammatory illness and autoimmune disorders.kyle-ellefson-Y6T1a4gU4ss-unsplash

True grounding, in my opinion would be physically touching the Earth with bare feet or hands.  You will get the most bang for your buck grounding in this way.  However, you can still affect the body’s energy field with other techniques designed to reconnect you with the Earth.  Here is my list of grounding techniques that I like with some helpful videos:

 

  • Standing or walking on the Earth barefoot  Example: Walking on the beach or walking on dirt, grass or stone.
  •  Doing a meditation where roots grow from your body into the Earth:  Here is one to try. Her voice makes you feel like jelly, so don’t listen while driving!
  •  Using the back of a spoon on the bottom of your feet:  I swear I sleep better when I do this.  You can do figure 8’s or just move the spoon around the way you want.
  •  Be aware of your feet on the floor
  • Shuffling your feet on the floor or ground
  •  Follow your breath as you breathe:  Just concentrate on the breath coming in and leaving your body.  Here is a guided breathing meditation.
  •  Take a cold or cool shower:  Not recommended for people with heart problems or high blood pressure.
  •  Laughter: A good belly laugh is a good way to dispel excess energy.
  •  Exercising
  •  Gardening
  •  Eating

Grounding is one of the most important magical tools in your arsenal.  It can thwart anxiety and bring back happiness.  Use it liberally!

photo credits

featured : Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

A Candle Craft for Beltane

Beltane, Beltane, Flowers Bloom
Chase away the Winter’s Gloom
Weave Bright Fabric on the Loom
Stir the Cauldron ~ Banish Doom

Sacred Hawthorn used this Night
Feed the Fires ~ Start the Rite
Open up the Veil so Thin
Reap the Wisdom from Within

                                                                                      Kachina

 

I did this craft last year for Beltane and just wanted to share it because it is simple and quite pretty when complete.

 

Beltane Candle Craft

Materials:

Novena Candle

Vintage Maypole image

Trim stickers

Small paper flowers or other decorations

Ribbons in several colors (I used ¼ and 1/8 inch)

Dried flowers (I used poppies and violet rose petals from my garden)

Glitter (optional)

Mod Podge

Paint brush

E6000

  1. Mod Podge your image to the candle. Do this by brushing Mod Podge on the back of the image and then positioning it on the candle.  Smooth out any air bubbles.  When dry, brush more Mod Podge over the image.  This will give it a nice finish.  I used satin Mod Podge. The image I used for this project is from Etsy and can be found here.
  1. Use border trim stickers to decorate the top and bottom of the candle.

 

  1. Use Mod Podge or a glue like E6000 to glue paper flowers to the top of the candle or anywhere else you would like.

 

  1. Tie a group of ribbons around the top. Let them fall down the side like a Maypole.

 

  1. Decorate the wax around the wick with dried flowers of the season and glitter (optional). I like to light the candle and let the wax melt, then blow out the flame and while the wax is cooling, add the dried flowers.Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

 

  1. Place on your Beltane altar and enjoy.

 

Liminality

This is our holy place
As it was for those who came before
A threshold between both Sky and Land
Liminal
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 symbolicviktor-mogilat-12728-unsplash

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 annie-spratt-195899-unsplashthe 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

Viktor Mogilat

Amulets, Talismans, and Charms, Oh My!

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.”

charm

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.

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Cleansing

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:

  1.  Moon Bath: Leaving the object under the full moon’s light.  Retrieve the object just before dawn.
  2.  Solar Bath:  Leaving the object in the sun all day.  Retrieve as the sun is setting.
  3.  Sage:  Passing the object through sage smoke.
  4.  Palo Santo:  Passing object through smoke from Palo Santo wood.
  5.  Water:  Cleansing object with spring water, lake water, river water, blessed water, silvered water, holy water, etc.  Object must not be soluble in water.
  6.  Fire:  Only use for noncombustible objects.  Pass object quickly through flame.
  7.  Salt:  Burying object in salt for a one day minimum.
  8.  Earth:  Giving object a nice dirt or sand bath for a few days.
  9.  Incense:  Pass object through incense smoke.
  10.  Visualization:  Visualize all negativity flowing out of the object like a dark gray mist or smoke.  Hold this visualization for 1-3 minutes.b789b-fehu

Charging 

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.

 

Photo credits:

Photo by Artsy Vibes on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

Juniper Shortbread Crescent Moons

I have succeeded in getting this post finished just in time for the waning crescent moon.  I should preface this recipe with the fact that I am not a roll out cookie girl.  I am more of a drop from a spoon girl, so this is a bit of a stretch.  On to some kitchen witchery!  First, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the very magical ingredient in these cookies, juniper berries.  Juniper berries are not a berry at all, but part of the cone of a female juniper tree.  They have a spicy, woodsy taste and is used quite frequently in incense. My favorite personal incense is juniper berry based and it is quite amazing. It is also the main component in gin and gives it a distinctive taste. Juniper has been used magically for protection and purification.  Medicinally, the berries have many attributes.  They are good for heart health and a natural diuretic.  They have been known to cure insomnia and have astringent type properties as well.  There is even some suggestion that they may be protective from some types of viruses and cancer.  Makes you want to eat some right now doesn’t it?  Juniper berries can be found anywhere bulk spices can be purchased.

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Juniper Sugar

Grind 2-3 Tablespoons of juniper berries to a fine powder using a coffee bean grinder.  Mix this with 1/2 cup of Turbinado sugar.  Place in a container and let sit at least overnight so the flavor has time to mingle with the sugar.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

You can use any simple three ingredient shortbread for the base of these cookies.  I have seen simple recipes only using butter powdered sugar and flour.  This is what I used:

Ingredients

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purposed flour

2 teaspoons ground juniper berries

1/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons milk or cream

gel food coloring (I used yellow)

 

Instructions for cookies

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure your rack is in the middle position in the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment or other liner.

2.  Beat softened butter until fluffy and then add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

3.  Combine flour, salt and juniper berries.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

4.  Shape dough into a ball and place into plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

5.  Roll out to about a quarter inch using powdered sugar to decrease stickiness.  I added some sugar to the dough as well and kneaded it slightly.  Cut into shaped using your favorite cookie cutter dipped in flour or powdered sugar.  I just bought this nice crescent moon that I wanted to try out.DSCN0946-01

DSCN0947-01

6.  Place on baking sheet and place back in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so your cookies will hold their shape when baked.

7.  Bake for about 15 minutes or just until the edges are a golden brown.

8.  Cool on cookie sheet.  This recipe makes about 2 dozen crescent moons.

Instructions for glaze

  1.  Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and  three tablespoons of the milk or cream and mix until smooth.  Add the last tablespoon milk or cream a little at a time until the glaze is thick but can be drizzled.
  2. Put this into a shallow bowl. Add any color gel food coloring to the glaze but don’t mix it in unless you want a solid color.  This will give you a pretty pattern when they are dipped.
  3. Dip cooled cookies into glaze and lift out.  Place back on cookie sheet and add a sprinkle of juniper sugar.  Let the glaze dry before serving.

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Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

I keep these cookies in the refrigerator.  They are wonderful and spicy and a great addition to any ritual.

 

 

 

 

 

Juniper tree photo by Alina Miroshnichenko on Unsplash

Spirits of the Land

This land is my home
where the naked mountains caress
the sky
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
evening fires.

                                                                                    Spirit of the Land – Makiutii Tongia

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

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.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y
Thirteen Faces (taken when I was 11 years old)

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.