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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

The Cimaruta Charm

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

RueRue (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

Cimaruta

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

Serpent: wisdom

Key: knowledge

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

A very magical place indeed…

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The Magic of Tidying Up

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.

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image:

unsplash-logoArno Smit

The Golden Shadow

Your playing small

Does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightening about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

                                                                                                  Marianne Williamson

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.

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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.

                                                                                         Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

photo credits:

unsplash-logoJohannes Plenio

unsplash-logoRob Potter

Urban Witchery

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.charm

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.”

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Used with permission from Pam Wishbow

These etched brass shield pins are also from the same shop.  These are great for shielding you from big city life.

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Used with permission from Pam Wishbow

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.

 

 

Giving Up Hope

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

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Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

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!

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Photo by Petra Rose

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.

 

 

 

 

Picture credits:

Featured Image

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

 

 

 

Mother Nature is Not Vegetarian

But nature is a stranger yet;

The ones that cite her most

Have never passed her haunted house,

Nor simplified her ghost.

                                           Emily Dickinson


 

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.

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Photo by Stas Ovsky on Unsplash

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.

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Photo by Roberto Arias on Unsplash

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.

Paper Magic

 

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. 


Sources:

Art Trading Card

Bamboo note fold

Flower

Owl

Dragon

Whale

DIY Divination Decks

“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.

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clockwise from top left: The Bonefire Tarot, The Victorian Fairy Tarot and the Everyday Witch Tarot

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

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UFace Unique Face Maker

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.

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“Reflect” from The Winterscape Oracle

 

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!

 

The Magic of Star Wars

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.

                                           -Yoda

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.star wars2

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.