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.