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.

shield
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.

 

The Ancient Art of Wheat Weaving

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.

                                              Robert Burns

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 thWheate 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.

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Faery Harp

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!