“The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on this planet is the virus.”
Molecular biologist and Nobel award winner Joshua Lederberg knew that microorganisms can be far worse than any human planned attack. They are insidious and have the potential to have far reaching consequences in their invisibility. Humans understand a threat that is seen. They are likely to dismiss a threat which is microscopic. Being months into this pestilence, we can definitely see the havoc the unseen can wreak.
Covid-19 is named for the novel (new) coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China. (Co) for corona, (vi) for virus and (d) for disease. The 19 marks the year of its emergence into the human population. The name brings to mind the words covert, coven, and corvid. Words that conjure up secrecy, furtiveness, and dark birds associated with death. We westerners spend an inordinate amount of time dismissing and ignoring our own mortality, yet Covid-19 is dredging all of that right up and plopping it at our doorstep. As if it was saying, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” It is placing our mortality and frailness right in our face. It beckons us to ask tough questions about our population, and our relationships with nonhuman species and the earth itself.
Corvids are birds in the crow family (Corvidae). Over 120 birds are described in the family, from magpies and ravens to crows and jays. They are commonly associated with the underworld in mythology, folklore and magic. Others have associated them with war, misfortune and death due to their carrion diet. Whichever way you view them, their cunning and wisdom is never debated. They are clever and ingenious beings. Aesop’s fable The Crow and the Pitcher describes a very thirsty crow in a desert who happens upon a pitcher of water. Unfortunately for the crow, the water is at the bottom of the pitcher, much too far down for his short beak. He has the idea to place pebbles into the pitcher thereby raising the water level. The moral of the story is, use your intelligence in a difficult situation. I think we have come to our difficult situation.
Folklore in North America depicts the raven as a trickster. In many tales, the raven changes creation into a less “cushy” place for humans. The ensuing struggle for humans to navigate this harsher world is great amusement for the raven. Again, a parallel between Covid-19 and the tales of the Corvid. It may be a long shot to compare these two similar sounding words but I think we can reap some lessons from this “winged wisdom.”
Corvid wisdom will make us come face to face with our own mortality, an uncomfortable but necessary descent into the underworld, an initiation of sorts. It will confront us with questions about deadly pathogens. Some of these questions are scientific in nature but they all lead back to humans and their lack of understanding of how we affect the natural world and the patterns we have ultimately set in motion. David Quammen writes in his book Spillover,
“We should appreciate that these recent outbreaks of new zoonotic diseases, as well as the recurrence and spread of old ones, are part of a larger pattern, and that humanity is responsible for generating that pattern. We should recognize that they reflect things we’re doing, not just things that are happening to us.”
We need to recognize how our huge population is a driving force for these sorts of pathogens, and how what we choose to eat and where we are getting it can give rise to these types of pandemics. We need to become aware how our meddling with mother nature is going to ultimately result in a feast of the crow. We humans are indeed inseparable from the natural world. I will conclude with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost. This poem shows the corvid (crow), traditionally a harbinger of doom, as a catalyst of positive change.
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of the day I rued
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,
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.
Medium oranges (I used 3)
½ inch ribbon (optional)
Toothpicks or skewers for making holes for the cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground cloves
1 T ground nutmeg
1 T allspice
¼ cup orris root (I order mine on Amazon)
Uses for Pomanders
And forget not that the earth
delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair
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.
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:
Grounding is one of the most important magical tools in your arsenal. It can thwart anxiety and bring back happiness. Use it liberally!
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
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
Vintage Maypole image
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)
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.
The trees along this city street,
Save for traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet,
As trees in country lanes.
City Trees by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I am happiest when I am far from the city with its crush of traffic, people and noise. I like hiking in Sedona on some hidden paths I know in the Secret Mountain Wilderness area, and my dream would be to live and work far away from urban life and its struggles. Unfortunately, I have a few years at the least until I can move from the big city. What is a witch to do?
I practice a sort of urban witchery as a resident of a large city. Here are a few of my favorite ways to practice witchcraft in an urban setting.
1. Clip important things to Evernote: Evernote is an app which allows you to clip articles, links, handwritten notes, voice, text and photo notes and syncs automatically across all of your devices. There are even some people who use it as their book of shadows or grimoire. You can also collaborate with others in a shared notebook or save articles to read later. I use the web clipper on my laptop which allows me to save things that I find by clicking a little button. I can look at these immediately on all my devices.
2. Use a tarot app: I use Galaxy Tarot on my phone. It is a great app with different spreads and a journal where you can save your readings. This is probably the best free tarot app out there. If divination with runes is more your thing there is also a Galaxy Runes app.
3. Make and carry and amulet, talisman or good luck charm: I carry a four leaf clover charm most days. It’s a smooth little piece that easily slips into a pocket and it nice to hold during the day. An amulet or talisman is also a great idea for an urban witch on the go.
4. Embroider protective or other sigils onto clothing: If you’re good with needle and thread, or even if you aren’t, stitching a sigil or symbol into your clothing can be a great source of magic.
5. Give regular offerings to the spirits of the land: This is probably the most regular ritual I do. I basically go out to my yard near my rose bushes and take a stick or cone of incense with me and offer it to the spirits of the land. When I first started this practice I was surprised how the incense filled the space of my side yard. It is beautiful. It also takes about 10 minutes, and if you light your incense in a rocky area it will burn out safely. This can be easily practiced in any outdoor space in your city and you can make it as simple or complex a ritual as you would like.
6. Find and use unique urban witch products: Here is some amazing urban witchery that I love. Professor Pam’s Urban Divination Deck is a gold on black oracle deck that uses common urban symbols and happenings to guide your readings. This is a wonderful deck for the urban witch. It has city oriented cards like “The Suspicious Puddle,” and “Free Newspaper.”
These etched brass shield pins are also from the same shop. These are great for shielding you from big city life.
However entrenched you are in urban life, know that at some stage to recharge yourself you will have to get away into the natural world. Cities tend to weigh us down eventually, so make time to drive far away from the hustle and bustle and soak up some solitude.
Where is the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow.
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
How did it come to this?
The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien
I think everyone has a breaking point. Everyone. Some people can deal with many things going berserk before they get to the point of losing their shit. Most can’t. Unfortunately, the world has turned into a ridiculous mess in my opinion, and I have come to the conclusion that it is edging toward hopelessness with a dash of shear crazy. Apparently, my life is reflecting this on a whole new level lately. The owls who stalk me in my yard have hinted at it for ages. “When will you transform yourself and get out of this place,” they ask.
When did it come to this? I know exactly when. It started the day my brother died and
continued ever after. I’ve been locked in a pool of dread and heartache that has been compounded by the absolute bedlam that has been going on in the US lately. I am up to my eyeballs in a kind of hopeless muck, and I don’t foresee getting out of it any time soon. I have resigned myself to reveling in my current state and throwing hope to the wind. Yep, just giving up hope entirely.
If you don’t know we humans are screwed, you haven’t been paying attention. To save time, I won’t go into all the ways we are screwing ourselves on a daily basis. If you want, you can go google it after you read this. Sadly, we are in a sharp decline, almost like a free fall at this point. There is really not much more to say about it. Civilization at some point becomes fragile and transient. My best rally to this is to stop being hopeful about a better future, or a future at all for that matter. As a teacher I have found that we push this hope crap on children all day long. It is nauseating. We used to make students say this little hopeful, lovely every morning:
“I am a kid at hope. I am talented, smart, and capable of success…blah, blah, blah.”
Throw that crap out! Why? Because it continually looks to the future without being mindful of the present. It is a stupid idea that traps the mind into constantly planning for some future that is always that, “the future!” Instead, be mindful of the “now.” Do and think in the present. Go for a nature hike, cook a great meal, or learn to meditate. If you have a cause that you think is important, give your energy to it! Don’t just “hope” for a better future.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in dreams. I love dreams. Dreams are little alternate universes that give us insight into ourselves and our gifts. I think we definitely dream too small and need to rectify that. I use a planner called the Passion Planner. In it, there is a weekly schedule that has an area called “space of infinite possibility.” This is how our dreams should be, an infinite possibility! Please don’t give up your dreams. Write them down, draw them, hell get a Passion Planner and have a space of infinite possibility to record them!
Finally, I like to look to the wild for the best way to live. The owls in my yard do not hope nor are they hopeless, for both of those ideas pertain to the future. Owls are unconcerned about the future but intentional about the present. As we should be if we are to truly live in this crazy world.
But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.
I usually get a couple of questions right off when people figure out I am vegetarian. “Why?” followed closely by “What do you eat?”
The answer to the latter question is simple. Everything else. The former has a little more complex answer. My reasons for never eating meat again have a lot to do with my deteriorating health before I switched, my love for the environment, and the idea that large herbivores who know pain and fear should be treated with some level of respect. I do know people who treat their animals well. My uncle, a cattle rancher in Nebraska, is one. I was there in June when he was worried about getting them out of the hot sun and into a pasture with trees and shade. He stays up all night with his cows during calving season which happens to be in the dead of winter in Nebraska and makes sure they have a nice bed of straw and heat when they are born. Sadly, most of our animals don’t have this level of care, and all of them come to the same miserable end. So I took myself out of this food chain, and I never looked back. Until I realized I couldn’t quite take myself totally out of the web of life and death because Mother Nature doesn’t at all resemble a vegetarian.
Mother Nature taught me this lesson in my garden. I grow amazing roses and herbs straight through the year due to our mild winter. I grow witchy herbs like rue and thyme, culinary herbs like oregano and basil. I have an uber green thumb like my farmer ancestors I guess. Everything was growing quite well for me until one day when I noticed some caterpillars eating my basil and crawling toward the thyme. I tried taking them off and putting them elsewhere, and by elsewhere I mean on the shrubs in our common area. They just came right back in a couple days. So, as a vegetarian, what do you do? You could try something to discourage them or you could spray some garden soap to kill them. If you don’t get rid of them, they will eventually kill your plants, however. These plants were important to me as they are also living things.
It dawned on me that Mother Nature doesn’t care about your ethical dilemmas. To save your living plants you will probably have to kill other living things much to your dismay. Mother Nature is not vegetarian, she will weave the web of life and create the green shoots of new growth and at the same time crumble the living to dust and rot. You can see it in a garden on a daily basis. The nest of a pigeon nestled in the roof today and the baby pigeon snatched by owls the next. Beautiful flowers and leaves one day, crumpled brown leaves and petals smashed in the mud and muck tomorrow. Nature is relentless, unforgiving and cruel. Mother nature devours, recycles, and regrows. She feeds off of life itself in merciless ways.
The best I could do is draw some sort of line that I would not cross and respect that line. Sometimes I found that I had to redraw the line. I used the soap on the caterpillars eating my basil and thyme. I crushed the bark scorpion with a shoe to protect my children and myself. I didn’t feel good about it. I carefully scooped up the wolf spider my cats were playing with and carried it to safety outside. Interestingly enough, I found that wolf spiders play dead to avoid extermination (smart little critters). I realized that to grow living things sometimes you have to destroy other living things in the process. That I had to draw a line disturbed me, but we are always drawing lines. Mother nature is a consuming entity not bothered by ethics or morals. She eventually destroys all that lives, and then miraculously out of death comes something new. This is the way of the earth and anyone who lives here, vegetarian or not. Clearly, I am not one to argue with Mother Nature.
What gentle art to confine
By plane of paper, folded line
What magic here to capture me
In infinite variety…
To Origami by John Smith
To write something down gives it power. To write something down with intention and fold it into an object, decorate it with intricate patterns and designs and breathe life into it is a greater power indeed. Many times we are caught up with the fabulous tools of the craft…and why not? There are wonderful, magical items in our collections. Every now and then why not try a simple tool, like paper? You may find it isn’t so simple after all…
Try a rune or two intertwined. Decorate them and weave your own energy into your work. Put them someplace quaint. In a purse or compartment where they can work their magic.
A paper folding project may be nice. With small pockets to hide an herb or flower. A spell hiding inside waiting to come to fruition. Perfect for a pocket or hidden in a fold of cloth.
Why not create a small alter that could fit inside an envelope? Earth, air, fire, and water are there in tiny folded forms.
Turn a plain box into art by using colored pencils or other media to sketch sigils or runes. This could hold anything you can dream of.
How about an artist trading card with a spell concealed inside. Or maybe a devotional, invocation, or magical recipe hidden between two pretty papers and decorated with intent. Here is one for the ocean and one of my favorite marine mammals, the dolphin.
These are some simple ways that I have used paper in magic recently. Remember, putting energy into a project like this is only part of the real magic. Make sure you charge it with intent to manifest your dreams.
“Divination is turning out to be more
trouble than I could have foreseen….”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
A major dilemma for me is the search for the perfect oracle or tarot deck. I actually have dreams about finding a truly amazing set of cards but of course I wake up to find that I am stuck with other people’s ideas and artwork. There are a few decks that meet my requirements pretty well. The Earthbound Oracle (found here) has wonderful pithy artwork and illuminating words. It is a small, poker sized deck, which I prefer over the larger cards that are harder to shuffle.
My go to tarot cards are the Victorian Fairy Tarot which has amazingly rich art which looks fluffy initially and pure enchantment the more you work with it, and the Bonefire Tarot, a vintage tattoo art deck inspired by the symbolism of the “bone” fire which is where our word bonfire comes from. Lastly, I really like the Everyday Witch Tarot with its quirky witches in striped stockings. But alas, if you want a deck to your specifications and vision you have to make it yourself.
You could always use crowdfunding to get your work started but you have to really promote yourself through social media to have a successful campaign. If that is your strength, go for it! However, if you want to make your own deck and have the option to sell it later printerstudio.com is a great option. You have the option of different sized cards including poker, bridge, square, and standard tarot dimensions. There are paper choices as well. I really like the linen, but there is also a smooth card stock and a plastic as well. You can also change the orientation of the cards into a landscape format.
In a perfect world you would have time to work on you own artwork, scan it and make your own amazing deck. I do much of my own artwork but I would really have to schedule time to complete the artwork for a 78 card tarot deck or even an oracle deck. It would be basically a part time job for a long while. At some point I would love to do it, but it is a future project. Your vision can still come through using drawing apps and other photo editors. One fun app is called Uface. You can create your own faces and
subsequently use them on your own cards. Another place to find nice artwork which is old enough not to be a copyright issue is Old Book Art. There is an amazing array of images to be found here if you have time to dig a little. They can be used for anything you want to use them for, but I am partial to using them for divination decks! I am in the middle of an Arthurian oracle deck using artwork from this site. There are also a plethora of free high resolution photos out there which are also equally useful.
The Winterscape Oracle was created using these types of photos.
Printerstudio has the great option of selling your work to others after you publish it. This is a great way to share different decks which are a little different than the norm. I really love looking at what other designers have done. It is motivating and inspiring. You can of course just keep your decks for your own personal use or give to others as gifts, it is totally up to you. Be mindful if you are selling your work that your vision may be different than your audience. Try to understand who may be purchasing your work and design accordingly. In any case, it is very rewarding to see your ideas played out in a deck of cards and also a great self discovery process as well. Happy creating!
For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
I meant to get this post done for Star Wars Day; May the forth be with you and all that, but sadly I had to resign myself to Revenge of the Fifth er … Sixth. I am a
closet geek. I have a degree in a science and have always loved science fiction and space travel, Han Solo, and “pew pew” laser guns. I was 8 years old when Star Wars: A New Hope came out in theaters. Although everyone at that time just called it Star Wars, and it was beyond cool. It had a certain something about it that made for an exciting and meaningful story. I think it had a lot to do with magic. In fact, I think Star Wars at its core is a story about magic and that’s why it has such wide appeal.
Star Wars itself has a very eastern mystique about it. The Jedi look a bit like samurai warriors and many costumes and names have sort of the same kind of far east quality. Aside from this, The Force permeates all the films, and those who have the ability to control it have a powerful ally. Sounds a lot like magic to me. In fact, many a witch and magician have defined magic in this way:
“Magic is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”
– Aleister Crowley
“Magic is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will”
– Dion Fortune
“A magical act may be defined as causing reality to conform to will” – Phil Hine
“Causing change by directing energy with one’s will.” -Kerr Cuhulain
“The Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
Yeah, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a magician of sorts. I think he was actually patterned after Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. At this point in the story he is also an elder and on the verge of training young Luke Skywalker (who has a very magical name). Which brings me to yet another parallel between the Star Wars story and magic. Magical training is taught to beginning students by an experienced magician. Obi-Wan and Yoda are elders in the magical order of the Jedi. They train the younglings and the inexperienced Luke Skywalker who have been identified as having some natural ability to use magic. Hmmm, yep, sounds like a magical tradition to me.
In addition, the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead is an idea rooted in ancient religions and witchcraft. Some of my favorite scenes in Star Wars are those where characters talk with the dead or see the spirits of those who have died. Practicing pagans often converse, make offerings, venerate, or even work with the dead. The characters in Star Wars seem content on just talking to them. However, these benevolent spirits do make conversation, give advice and dire warnings, and generally try to help the living. They seem to embody this idea of eternal consciousness in the universe.
A Jedi, like any good magician, is taught that The Force can be used for many purposes. It can be used for protection, persuasion (these are not the droids you are looking for), wisdom, to see the future, and old friends long gone. Although the Jedi harness the power of the force to do their bidding, people unfamiliar with The Force doubt its very existence. Doesn’t this sound a bit like the muggles we all know? Something like, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid!” or how about, “There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny!” Those who have no experience with magic, always discredit its validity. Apparently, this is also the same in a galaxy far, far away.
Finally, the idea that this magical Force can be used for good or ill is one of my favorite ideas put forth in the Start Wars universe. The Force isn’t good or bad, it just is. It is up to the Jedi or Sith Lord to figure out how they will wield it.
For the most part, Star Wars has always been a story about the dark side of The Force versus the light side. However, there is much talk of late about the Gray Jedi. Jedi that follow the will of the force but travel a path between light and dark. Sort of like a gray witch. In fact, some have speculated that Rey, of The Force Awakens, may become one of these Gray Jedi following her own path… Perhaps then we will at last fulfill the prophecy and finally bring balance to The Force.
There was three kings into the east,
three kings both great and high,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn must die.
They took a plough and plough’d him down,
put clods upon his head,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
The domestication and cultivation of wheat began approximately 12,000 years ago, and archaeologists believe wheat originated in a mountainous region of what is now southeastern Turkey. The Egyptians were the first people to use wheat to bake raised (leavened) bread. They created the first ovens that could bake multiple loaves at a time. The practice and art of wheat weaving also started thousands of years ago. It is linked to the preservation of the spirit that was believed to dwell within the wheat itself. Created from the last sheaf of wheat in the field, wheat weaving was a way to house the spirit of the wheat over the winter in a decorative work of art. Starting at a time when survival depended on a good grain harvest, the wheat within the weaving could be sown back into the ground come spring and served as a blessing or promise of prosperity to the community.
This magical aspect of wheat weaving sparked my interest in this art lost to time. Designs vary by location but they are always tied to this idea of the spirit of the grain and the fertility of the earth. Many early beliefs about wheat in Egypt and Greece tied this grain to a female deity, mainly Isis and Demeter. Demeter actually means “wheat giver,” and she was revered as a goddess of agriculture. Rituals and symbolism surrounding the Isis earth-mother cult were tied to grain. Even Ceres, the Roman goddess of the fields, follows this pattern. We have even derived our word “Cereal” from her name. At that time, accounts point to extravagant woven centerpieces displayed on harvest tables made in tribute to her. The addition of red ribbons to wheat may have also come from these early decorations, a tradition that continues to this day.
In Europe the wheat spirit was revered. More personal than an agricultural goddess of the grain, this spirit was believed to jump from sheaf to sheaf as it was cut. This cutting angered the spirit and the last section was cut by a group so the spirit could not single any one person out. This final cut of wheat was fashioned into a weaving that trapped the spirit until it could be replanted in the spring.
Eventually, other reasons for weaving wheat became popular. Not only was wheat associated with the harvest but also as a courting favor. Young women would wear simple plaited designs woven by their sweetheart. Many courting favor designs were developed so the weaver could be identified by the plaited wheat. Interestingly, some of the older forms of wheat have been preserved to this day in these intricate braids.
Today, the main functions of wheat weaving beyond artistry are house blessings, love knots, and harvest decorations. Many pagans do house blessings anyway so weaving a blessing into a wheat decoration seems appropriate. Spells associated with love could be woven much like the courting favors of old with fine heart shaped plaited sheaths. I have mostly used wheat for blessing my home, and a Welsh fan hangs from my front door. A great online resource for just starting out with wheat weaving from The Woodland Elf can be found here. She also has other videos on how to make the faery harp and Welsh fan pictured in this post. A fantastic book on this subject is The Book of Wheat Weaving and Straw Craft by Morgyn Geoffry Owens-Celli. This can be found on Amazon and is also sometimes found on Etsy. This is a gorgeous book with amazing wheat and straw projects. This craft is relatively easy and very rewarding. Happy weaving!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Any type of activism is hard. It is made harder by the shear number of issues in the world today. At its best activism will be uncomfortable and at its worst it can leave you with real emotional scars.
I don’t know the exact moment it happened but I can remember scrolling through my animal rights groups on Facebook and not being able to watch or look at half of what was there. I had reached a point where I was scared to death of what I may find in the dark world many of our animals live in every day. I was consumed by a sort of anxious dread and became hopeless and unfocused. Many people who deal with daily trauma of living beings can become “compassion fatigued,” which is a type of traumatic stress disorder not unlike PTSD. This can leave one feeling hopeless, depressed, and unable to make decisions let alone create real change in the world. Here are my top ways to get out of that funk.
Above all, never, never, never give up. The saying “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” should be your motto. If you light a candle someone will see it and light their own. There seems to be a real awakening in the world and just a few people can have a huge impact. Never underestimate the change you can make. You are a powerful and positive force in the world!
“Faery is a world of illusions,
of inconstant shapes.
But then, the same may be said about the world of mortal men.”
Robin Artisson The Resurrection of the Meadow
When I received this book, I thought it was very short indeed and a bit small. I soon realized that it was small like a precious gem is small, a tiny jewel of a book with beauty all its own. If you are lucky enough to have a wild place or meadow near your home, you have a very special place where the magic in this book can smolder and grow over time in a strange and wonderful way. Robin Artisson has crafted a delightful book of thirteen rituals that are based in the faery faith of ages past and told in an arcane language that seems very fitting for a book of this sort. In addition, the illustrations by Lee Morgan are hauntingly enchanting and very fitting for a more traditional path.
This book is described by the author as thirteen occult formulas and charms of art. It is definitely a book with charm as it reveals these rituals that interact with the unseen world of the fae. Artisson has created a wondrous grimoire of this forgotten faith complete with instructions of how to perform the ritual and a purport, or significance for doing the ritual. Artisson claims that traditional witchcraft is by and large a path that seeks hidden realities. By accessing these realities, a witch can come back to the mundane world with powers that were encountered on the “other side.”
Some of the strange and wondrous rituals in this book are, The Petition of the Verbena Weird, a praise to the spirit of the Vervain herb upon the taking of a potion of the plant, and A Charm That Shall Protect the Meadow, a honey spell that can protect an important outdoor space. Other rituals in this book are, A Feery Feast, a rite from which all other meals shared with the unseen world are derived, and the Feast for the Convocation of the Meadow, where a sacred cairn is constructed to create a space to interact with the Powers of the Land. It also contains some powerful crossing charms and the creation of The White Mommet, which gives detailed instructions for creating a poppet for performing sympathetic magic be it good or ill.
Honestly, I loved this book and look forward to buying the hard cover version, as well as, performing some of the rituals. The author’s enthusiasm for the topic is obvious throughout which adds to its appeal…enjoy!
From winter’s chill
In verdant hue
From soft slumber
You rouse me
And place feathers
In my hair
by Elisa from Flower Face
I have been stalked by owls for a long time now. The first time I stumbled upon one was about four years ago. I was investigating a community garden near my home and it happened that there was a male and female burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) near it. This type of owl lives and raises their young in abandoned mammal burrows. I watched these owls and photographed them for many years. Then miraculously, in a crack in the ground right across from my house, another one made an appearance. Somehow this bird widened the crack into a hole and raise a brood of young owls last spring.
I have watched these animals and found that they are resourceful, passionate, and despised by other birds. They are avid night hunters who sometimes bring birds half the size of themselves back to their burrow. They have elaborate mating rituals with unique calls, dances and displays. I have also seen other birds pester and annoy burrowing owls. Once I even observed a hummingbird flying wildly around an owls face and chattering. The owl remained unruffled and stared past the hummingbird seemingly unaffected.
I had to ask myself, what do all these owls mean? What am I supposed to do with owls? Do they have a message for me or are they calling me to work with some deity related to owls? There happens to be a wonderful Welsh goddess Blodeuwedd who seems to fit the bill. On the surface, her story is one of an adulterous wife, but look further and she echos freedom, sovereignty, and liberation.
In the Welsh legend, Blodeuwedd’s story is told in rich detail. This legend is as much about Blodeuwedd’s freedom as it is about her husband Llew’s struggle for kingship. The Goddess Arianrhod, Llew’s mother, tried to prevent Llew becoming king by cursing him to be unable to receive his name, and his arms unless she gave them to him. In addition, he could not marry a mortal woman. This rendered him powerless to become king. Fortunately for him, the magicians Math and Gwydion took pity on him and fashioned a bride for him out of Oak, Broom, and Meadowsweet. She was called Blodeuwedd or Flower Face. This may be the ancient name for owl as the feathers of the owl make a flower type pattern around the eyes. In any case, she fulfills his requirement for marrying the land as she is made out of the flowers of the earth.
Unfortunately, however, Blodeuwedd does not have a say in any of this and is never asked if she wants to marry Llew or even if she loves him. As it happens, Blodeuwedd is left in the castle one day and meets Gronw Pebr as he is out hunting and falls madly in love with him. They conspire to murder Llew in order to remain together. Llew has a bit of magic protecting him, however. He can only be killed under certain conditions. Blodeuwedd tricks him into divulging the unlikely circumstances and Gronw throws the prescribed spear. Llew doesn’t die but he turns into an eagle and flies away. He is later nursed back to health by Math and Gwydion. The two lovers are ultimately tracked down. Gronw is killed by Llew and Blodeuwedd is turned into an owl by Gwydion, cursed to live a solitary life.
Given the circumstances surrounding her creation, Blodeuwedd was only fashioned to fulfill a requirement for Llew. Her thoughts and wants were not even considered. Some see her betrayal of her husband as a way that Llew could experience death, healing and rebirth, common requirements of kingship in Celtic legend. Still others see her betrayal as a decision that ultimately leads to her liberation and freedom. In the book Flower Face, published by Ninth Wave Press, Blodeuwedd is seen as a Sovereignty Goddess empowering us to find our own freedom. She also embodies the light half of the year in her flower aspect and the dark half of the year as an owl. I personally love this portrayal of Blodeuwedd and highly recommend this book. It also contains songs, poems, prayers, and artwork dedicated to Flower Face.
My relationship with the owls and Blodeuwedd is just beginning. I envision a twisted path of self discovery and liberation that will undoubtedly lead to wisdom.
Here are some wonderful links to everything Flower Face.
You ask deep questions,
Mr. Potter. Wandlore is a
complex and mysterious
branch of magic.
Mr. Olivander in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling
Wandlore has a five star rating on Amazon for a reason. It is the ultimate book for crafting a very ancient tool. Easily one of my favorite magical books of all time, and that is saying something as I have quite a few! Complete with lore from many traditions but told effortlessly from a Druid’s perspective. That being said, anyone from any tradition can use this book and the rituals therein.
Obviously, Alferian Mac Lir has created countless wands and while doing so discovered magical things about the woods he was using. Central to this book is the belief in waking up and working with the dryads of the tree from which the wand is shaped, as well as, the spirits of stones, crystals and metals. All these can combine to create a wand with the characteristics of each, woven into a powerful tool.
Wandlore covers the magical attributes of many trees, as well as, the magical properties of stones, and metals. He goes into depth about the process involved in making a wand complete with directions for taking the bark off (or leaving it on), sanding, shaping, and carving, and the tools one would use to do this. I really liked the fact that he divides the wand up into 4 parts; the tip, the shaft, the handle, and the pommel or reservoir. He also explains how to set a stone or crystal into the tip or the pommel, which is helpful, as well as, discusses many types of symbols and runes you could carve into the wand. In fact, this book is so complete in everything “wandish” that you probably don’t need any other literature on the subject.
I was so inspired by this book that I went out into the woods shortly after finishing and collected a nice sturdy branch. I spent countless hours peeling the bark off and sanding it to a shiny gloss. I ended up staining mine and painting it into a serpent wand complete with eyes and scales. I would have never thought to set a stone in the pommel but I ended up fixing a rough garnet crystal into the end. It turned out absolutely beautiful. I also used the rituals in the book to wake up my wand and enchant it. This is also a major section in the book and a very important part of wand creation.
The aesthetics of the book are also amazing. There are many close-ups of woodcarving in progress and beautiful full color images of finished wands, as well as, wonderful sketches. It will truly take your wand making abilities to the next level.