Saturday, January 30, 2010

Full Wolf Moon

Today is the Full Wolf Moon, so named by our Native American forebears for the wolves that howled beneath the moonlight on these cold, bright winter nights. And tonight will be the brightest of all the full moon nights for the whole year yet to come, for tonight's moon is going to be 14% wider and 30% brighter than all the lesser moons of 2010. This is because the moon is in perigee, which is when the moon is physically closest in its orbit to us here on earth, and when that coincides with a full moon it gives the impression of being far bigger and brighter to the naked eye. Not only does this cause higher tides in our oceans, but tides within the earth's crust as well, thus shaking up our energy fields a bit.

Tonight's moon is also known as the Winter Moon, the Quiet Moon, and in China it's called the Holiday Moon for Lunar New Year. Native American tribes had several different names for it, such as the Cold Moon, the Cooking Moon, and the especially unpleasant Moon of the Terrible. Its neo-pagan name is the Ice Moon, which is more than apt in many locations right now.

Like last month's rare Blue Moon, tonight's moon is powerful and special (Mars will also be visible just to the left of her) making this a wonderful time to both honor the Goddess and draw potent energy from this moon for whatever ritual you may have planned.

Friday, January 29, 2010


A witch's familiar is defined as an animal, usually a cat, toad, bird, mouse or dog that serves its witch as a loyal domestic servant, spy, companion or muse in witchery. I'm not sure I believe in the idea of the familiar as an acting agent for a witch, but I certainly do agree with them being companions and even muses. While not much of a cat person, I am very much a dog person and have always since childhood been drawn most strongly to black dogs, which may be my own personal version of the "witch's black cat."

My two dogs are my constant companions and we have a keen sense of communication between us that amazes most people who relate to their animals only as lowly animals, rather than as the uniquely sensitive and responsive creatures they really are. My dogs (and occasionally my cat) join me in circle quite frequently, sometimes getting cozy within its boundary for the duration of my ritual and sometimes coming and going quietly throughout. The interesting thing is that their normally silly, hyper behavior is instantly turned calm and respectful when they are within my sacred circle, even when my own energy is charged up in spellwork. And as to being my muses, I couldn't work without them. They are always on the floor at my feet as I paint in my studio or sit at my computer writing, and nothing calms my restless soul at the end of the day more than curling up with the two of them under the blankets as the night grows old (much to my husband's frequent chagrin).

I draw energy and inspiration from them. They make me feel alive, whether we're sitting indoors hard at work or romping through nature and feeling the beauty of Mother Earth. They speak to my inner child and the one that sits in perfect view for all to see. So while I may not call them my familiars, in reality that it what they are: the perfect unconditionally supportive and endlessly loyal companions who bear witness to all I am and all I do, both the magickal and the mundane, as I travel this path of my life. And it doesn't get more "familiar" than that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Incense & Oil for Imbolc

With Imbolc just a week away, it's time to make some preparations for observing this sabbat. I tend to keep things quiet for this one, and usually I don't even decorate my altar for it. Lots of people find this odd as given that I am an artist by trade, this one should be a slam-dunk for me when it comes to observing the sabbat with art or poetry, which are traditional for Imbolc. But maybe that's exactly why I don't go to the lengths I do for some of the other sabbats: because I live with and honor my creativity every single day. Regardless, I do enjoy a quiet circle that night and it's nice to have some oils and incense made especially for it.

Imbolc Incense
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon's Blood
1 part Red Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
1 part Rosemary

Grind all herbs one at a time and then combine together. Burn over a charcoal in a censer during ritual.

Sun Oil
4 drops Frankincense
2 drops Cinnamon
1 drop Petitgrain
1 drop Rosemary

Combine all essential oils in a base of 1/8 cup of sunflower oil or jojoba oil and use to anoint the candles used during ritual.

Sun Oil recipe is courtesy of Scott Cunningham, The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, & Brews, Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
Photo of Dragon's Blood courtesy of Treasach on flickr.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Circle, Part II

"The medicine wheel is the nucleus of an atom; it is the universe, and it is everything in between. It offers a series of circles within circles which correspond to a day, a year, a life and so on. It is a philosophy, a way of thought and a learning tool. It is both a physical solid and pure energy...this naturally shaped structure can be used to explain and understand all the complexities of existence...We begin simply but add the layers slowly to build and develop our knowledge."

The Native American medicine or earth wheel is not so different from the basic circle cast by a witch. The circle represents the universe, the Goddess and God, the elements of nature, the sacred space between that which is seen and unseen. It is reflective of the phases of the moon and the orbital rotation of the planets; the days, weeks, months, years, and seasons. It is a microcosm of energy, a cone of power, and as stated above, it is a learning tool by which we learn about the Craft, our own personal power within that faith, and even ourselves as mere humans. The circle teaches us lessons within lessons as we channel our beliefs into something potent and tangible, and within its boundaries we continue to grow each time our circle is cast.

I find it endlessly amazing how many old religions, beliefs, and cultures shared the tools used to honor the divine and utilize that power. So much of the mainstream world no longer sees nor feels this infinite wisdom and instead prefers to mock or vilify those to whom the ancients call today. It's a powerful universe out there at our fingertips, and it all begins with a circle.

Photo and text courtesy of Grey Wolf, Earth Signs: How to Connect With the Natural Spirits of the Earth, The Ivy Press Limited, 1998.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Circle, Part I

Circle is something that is very personal to each witch. Granted, there are generalities we all adhere to, but everyone brings their own personal stamp to their ritual. I tend to keep mine on the simpler side of things, preferring the plain over the extravagant. I mark the quarters with candles of the appropriate colors for their cardinal directions, though I do occasionally change them to a single color for various observances and sabbats. I use plain white candles to represent the Goddess and the God, and the elements represented on my north-facing altar (that direction speaks to me far more deeply than the east) are also very plain and simple. But recently I have been giving this a bit more thought.

While circle shouldn't become a busy little one-ring circus with so much going on that you lose the true meaning of its spirituality, it also needn't be static and dull. After all, changing things up a bit keeps things dynamic and can even alter your focus just enough to help you see things you might otherwise never have seen. Or felt. So it occurred to me, given that I've brought Native American ritual into my circle when honoring my ancestors, that I could also use Native American beliefs in the building of my sacred space.

In the past I've built small personal medicine wheels and earth wheels using the energies of the various stones to represent the directions and the winds of Mother Earth. So, for me, the next logical step would be to build a circle using the stones of an earth wheel in place of (or placed around) the candles for each quarter, and choosing stones to represent the Goddess and the God. By carefully choosing these stones for their properties and charged powers, the energy of my circle will be vastly different. And as the needs of myself or my circle change depending on the purpose for casting it, my choice of stones can change depending on that need. The combinations are virtually endless.

And with Imbolc just around the corner, the tiny seeds of this idea I've planted are growing stronger every day. What better time to bring something new and fresh to circle than on the sabbat that honors creativity, growth and the birth of new life and ideas?

Monday, January 18, 2010

And So Thinks the Witch

"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity...and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."

-William Blake

Photo of the oak tree near Ashdown House courtesy (once again) of the amazing Giles C. Watson on flickr.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ginger Spell for Travel

It's always nice to know there's someone or something that's got your back while you're out and about in the world. The original version of this spell was intended for a long trip and all the dangers inherent in that: bandits and robbers, disease, wars between lands etc. But given the potential for danger today just walking out of our front doors, why not be able to use a spell such as this to ensure safe passage on our commutes, visits to relatives in another town or state, or even a short hop to the grocery store at rush hour?

This spell should be worked on a Thursday as this day was named for Thor, the god of thunder and protection and is also the day ruled by Jupiter, king of the Roman gods and defender of boundaries. Call upon either of them as you work this spell and ask for their protection as you go about your daily travels.

What you'll need:
A ginger root shaped as close to a human form as possible (this is easier than you'd think!)
Three yellow ribbons
One small wooden box, large enough to hold your ginger root person

What you'll need to do with these things:
If you don't think your ginger root looks enough like a person, you can carve more details into it with your working knife. Do what feels right to you and when you're satisfied with it move on to the next step. Take your little ginger root person and tie the yellow ribbons on it in three separate places, such as the waist, arms or legs and knot them three times. Anywhere you wish is fine, just so long as you don't tie one around the doll's neck. As you tie each ribbon, kiss the knots and call upon the gods to bestow upon you protection and safe passage as you travel in the world. Visualize yourself being safe from danger and arriving at all your destinations safely. As you do this, chant the following incantation three times over each knot in your ribbons:

"In all the journeys of my life
Protect and keep me safe from strife.
As I travel door to door,
I'm free from danger evermore."

As you place your ginger figure into the box and close the lid, end your spell with the words:

"By the power of three times three,
As I will it, so mote it be."

Keep your little ginger person and its box in a safe place and make contact with your figure before each trip. Just a touch and a quick shot of positive energy and you're all set to go. Repeat this rite every six months to be sure your ginger and your spell are fresh and potent.

Photo of ginger root courtesy of Omsc7 on flickr.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stress Reduction Spell

Everyone knows that the holidays are stressful as hell, but personally I find the days immediately after the new year to be almost as bad. With holiday bills arriving in the mail daily, my high ideals of the shiny new year already struggling to be maintained, and even a bit of the mid-winter-darkness-blues settling in for an intimate little visit, this can be a very challenging time of year. Normally, I would take myself outside and recharge my batteries by connecting with the earth's potent energy, but the bitterly cold temperatures here where I live make it nearly impossible to spend any quality time out there. This little spell is a great way to recharge your core and eliminate the emotional flotsam caused by life. It can be used year round, but it's especially wonderful when it's better to be indoors all warm and toasty rather than outdoors in the deep freeze.

What you'll need:
A handmade cloth bag with a drawstring
A cup of dry earth*
A small bunch of healing flowers

What you'll need to do with these things:
Make a small bag out of a cloth you find pleasing to look at and touch. It's important that this little bag be sewn entirely by hand so that you are putting your essence into its creation. No sewing machines allowed! It should be large enough for you to put both your hands into it with room to move them around a bit and should have a drawstring at the top to close it securely. While you make your little bag, focus on your intentions: to be calm, relaxed and connected with the earth's power.

On a sunny day, collect a cup or so of clean earth. Feel the sun on your face (even if the rest of you is freezing to death!) and remember how you feel as you do this: the earth beneath your feet, the sun on your face, the air you breathe, the power of earth energy and nature. Bring the earth indoors and let it warm.

The original of this old spell, hailing from the Mediterranean region, called for fresh borage to be picked and dried but I much prefer flowers to herbs whenever possible. Besides, borage isn't an herb that everyone has growing on their windowsills, nor is it always readily available. Roses or gardenias are both easily found in flower shops and even supermarkets at this time of year and both are potent healers of personal stress by inducing peaceful vibrations. The flowers should be dried, but that's one thing this time of year has working in its favor: hanging a bunch of blooms over a furnace will dry them in a matter of hours, unlike in the warmer months when that process takes much more time. Of course, in warm weather you can pick your own fresh flowers and not have to rely on a store. There's always a trade-off, isn't there?

Place the soil and the dried flowers, stems removed, into your bag as you state your intentions clearly. Pull the drawstring closed. Keep your little bag of calm energy in a safe place and when things are going badly and you need to recharge yourself, take a moment or two to connect with the earth. Place your hands in the bag and run your fingers through the soil and the flowers, remembering the day you were outside preparing your spell and thinking about the power of Mother Earth's healing abilities.

*Granted, it's not the easiest time of the year to gather earth, but it can be done. After you've chipped up a bit of the frozen ground, bring it indoors to warm up and then break it up into proper soil once again. When you refill your bag in the warmer months (or if you're lucky enough to live somewhere fairly warm most of the year) this step will be much easier!

Note: This bag will remain potent for about six months and then will need to be refilled with fresh earth and newly dried flowers. Be sure to scatter the old soil and flowers to allow the earth to reclaim them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In or Out of the Broom Closet?

This dilemma is something that has always fascinated me, probably because for me it has never really been an issue. Not because my self-assurance is higher than anyone else's nor that I never worry about how my personal belief system will be perceived by strangers, but because my chosen career and the people I interact with within that occupation makes it, for the most part, a non-issue. As an artist I spend a great deal of my time alone in my studio with no one to question me, and as the art world is a pretty forgiving place where oddity, eccentricity and uniqueness are the norm, no one has ever so much as batted an eye at my pagan earth witch path. To me it may be nothing unusual, but to many (outside of art at any rate) this path is pretty strange.

Family, however, is another story. While most of my relatives are open-minded and respect my choices, there are a few who, as uber-christians, simply cannot see me as anything other than a devil-worshipping, baby eating, demon lover and no amount of attempts to explain the truth of my gentle, compassionate and earth-based faith would or could ever change their minds. And even some of those loved ones who honor the person I am can't seem to help the occasional eye roll or smirk if the topic turns to sabbats and witchcraft. It just comes with the territory, I guess.

Still, there are so many people out there who practice The Craft but have to keep it to themselves because of the region they live in, or the people they work with or for, or even family who would disown them for their beliefs. Like any misunderstood and frequently maligned minority, for some witches it's just easier to hide who they are than to face the potentially devastating consequences of "coming out." And being forced by circumstance to deny who you are is a very sad thing.

And then of course there is the flip side: those witches I have met for whom it is an in-your-face challenge of sorts to tell everyone they pass on the street that they are a practicing witch. I'm not sure if this is a defense mechanism, like if they tell you first before you somehow find out on your own they'll somehow maintain all the power, or if it's more about the current "fad factor" and less about the spiritual side of the path that has them broadcasting their beliefs to the world at large simply because it's quirky and cool.

At any rate, the choice is a personal one whether to remain in the broom closet or fling that door wide open and step on out, spell book in hand. I prefer to walk a comfortable middle ground where I am neither hiding who I am nor ramming it down anyone's throats. And I will always be intrigued by the choices that other witches make and why they make them. As with everything in this life, this is one more thing that makes us interesting and unusual in our own individual ways.

Vintage 1940s witch photo courtesy of Judibird on flickr.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Personal Tarot Cards

In addition to doing my annual New Year's tarot spread for the coming year (see Tarot, 2-20-08), I also check to see what my year card is and usually that one-card reading for the coming year is spot on. The full spread gives me greater depth and detail for what to expect for the next twelve months, but my year card is quick and to the point. If you'd like to know what your year card is, take your birth month and day and the current year, add the three together and reduce any double digit numbers to their lowest possible single digit and you have your year card. It's that simple! For example, to determine my tarot card for this year, this is what I did:



This is then reduced to 2 + 3 + 2= 7, which means my year card for 2010 is The Chariot.

You can also determine your personality and soul cards, or those tarot cards that most closely reflect the person you show to the world as well as that inner part of you that's in your soul. This is done in the same manner as your year card, but in place of the current year, you would substitute your birth year. If the number is a double digit number, the first number represents your personality card and its reduction to a single digit, your soul card. If the reduced number is still greater than 22, reduce it once again. If your number is larger than 22 and must be reduced, or is a single digit from the get-go, then your personality and soul cards are one and the same. One number will reduce two times: 19, which reduces to 10 which in turn reduces to 1.

For me, having been born in 1963, my personality and soul card is The Hierophant, a card that is exactly who I am: an artist, a perpetual seeker of the spiritual truth, and one who follows her own path in everything undertaken. This is both what the world sees and who I am in the depths of my soul when it's just me alone.



1 + 9 + 8 + 5 = 23, 2 + 3 = 5.

Have some fun with this and enjoy your results. I suspect you'll be pleasantly surprised by its accuracy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Trees 101: The Holly

Holly is one of those rare plants that remains green and thrives this time of year when all is sleeping or dead, and as such deserves its reputation (along with oak) as one of the two most magickally powerful trees. It is the power in these two woods that spawned the legend of the Oak King and the Holly King as oak thrives during the warmer, lighter half of the year and holly in the darker months of cold. But holly is in fact symbolic of the Goddess, with its red berries representing the blood of life she bestows on us. It is one of the nine sacred woods of the sabbat fire and represents, through the Goddess, justice.

Holly is used for protection against witchcraft, evil spirits, mischievous sorcerers, poison and lightning and having holly in your home, especially at the new year, is guaranteed to bring luck and safety to your house and all who dwell within. Keep a small sprig of it in your home throughout the year to manifest its protective properties continually. It's lucky for a man to carry a bit of holly on his person as holly is a "male" plant in contrast to ivy which is "female." Holly berries can be used to predict winter weather. If you see holly bushes with an abundance of berries, it's sure to be a harsh winter as the Goddess is guaranteeing an ample food supply for our wild friends, both furry and feathered. If you are startled by a wild animal while out walking in the woods, throw a sprig of holly at it and it will lie down quietly and leave you alone, even if you don't actually hit the animal!

Holly can be used medicinally to fight fevers and to stop jaundice and it is used to enhance dream work. Dreaming of holly means that you must attend to that which troubles you, but picking holly leaves in a dream means you will live a long life. On a Friday after midnight, and in total silence, gather nine holly leaves, wrap them in a small white cloth using nine knots to tie it closed and place it beneath your pillow. Your dreams will be sure to come true.

Holly is ruled by both Mars and Earth and vibrates with a masculine energy to the elements of earth, air and fire.

Photo courtesy of Tollen on flickr.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Past Life Regression

For Christmas I was given a CD meditation to induce past life regressions, something I have always wanted to do given my absolute belief in multiple lives (see Reincarnation Dilemma, 4-26-09). I was thrilled with the idea of spending a quiet evening being hypnotized by this thing and seeing who I was and where I'd been before I was the me I am right now. Thrilled, that is, until I foolishly decided to mention it to someone who burst that bubble of mine in short order with, and I hate to admit this, some very valid points.

Being hypnotized and brought back to one's past lives is a tricky thing as you never know exactly what you're going to encounter, including the possibility of reliving your death in those various incarnations, which might be a bit unsettling for some. It was suggested to me that this might not be something I'd want to undertake alone. Having a trained professional in the room with you, guiding you and bringing you out of your trance quickly and carefully if need be, is probably a very good thing. After all, who wants to relive a previous death of theirs all by their lonesome, even if it is just a mental exercise and even if the meditator has no fears about death?

Like just about everyone, I do have other fears and neuroses and I was asked, "What if you have this particular fear in this life because of a very traumatic, violent death in a another life? Are you really prepared to live through that ordeal again alone in your living room?" Hmmm. What if you have this fear as you were the one who inflicted this pain on another and your karmic debt is to suffer from the oftentimes debilitating fear of it this time around? Frankly, I'm not sure how well I would deal with the knowledge of having been someone who was violent and evil in another lifetime, a fact that however awful, is just as possible as my having been a decent person too.

And these two innocent questions were just the beginning. All sorts of "what if" scenarios popped into my overly active, highly imaginative mind. And they all boiled down to whether or not I should do this by myself and the answer is "probably not." I still desperately want to do this and I am still in love with my little gift, but maybe the first time I undertake this journey it should be done with someone who has both a sound reputation and a great deal of experience in this field. Then when I have gotten my feet wet with someone who can help me digest whatever information I might learn about myself, then and only then should I do it on my own. And when I do, I'll be sure to keep my mouth shut about it until afterwards!