Monday, May 31, 2010

Thread Bottle Spell

This is one of my all-time favorite spells and not because it's an especially potent way to generate protective energy (there are far more potent spells out there for this), but because when completed it looks just lovely. I know this sounds silly, and it really is silly to like a spell for the way it looks, but as an artist I can't help but find the tangle of colors in the finished product to be incredibly aesthetically pleasing. And as an occasional seamstress (honestly, who has time to sew?) the jumbled threads are, to me, also tantalizingly attractive. Put them all into an antique, hand-blown glass jar to boot, and you've got yourself something truly beautiful to look at. Too bad it's one of those things that works best when tucked away into the darkest recesses of a cabinet or attic, left to work its magick in all but forgotten peace.

And be forewarned: this is a very tedious spell to put together. Despite the beauty of the finished product, if mind-numbingly repetitive work is not your thing, you might wish to seek your protection elsewhere.

Take a large glass bottle with a stopper or tight-fitting lid and enough thread to fill it. Choose many colored threads, but do not use black. Each piece of thread should be no shorter than one inch and no longer than three inches and this is where it gets tedious: each thread must be placed within the bottle one at a time, so be prepared for this spell to take up to several weeks to complete. As you add each piece of thread say:

Tangle the bane up
and bring me no harm
with this bottle of threads
that I use as my charm.
Tangle the bane up!
Tangle the bane up!

When the bottle is full of colored threads, place it in a dark spot such as an attic or the back of a cupboard to keep your home safe. You can also place it on a windowsill and use it there for protection but it will fade there and lose its potency rather quickly. To re-energize your bottle, periodically hold it in your power hand and repeat the chant above.

Photo courtesy of chad m n on flickr.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full Planting Moon

Today's full moon is in Gemini and Sagittarius, which means that this is a period of learning and knowledge. Gemini, with virtually no filters, takes in any and all information with little regard for what is important and what is fluff, but Sagittarius is a seeker of greater understanding, keen focus and the desire to get to the truth of any matter. So be prepared to be bombarded with a lot of information right now and be sure to take a moment to weed out all that is unnecessary. This is a powerful moon for moving you closer to achieving your goals and dreams.

In Colonial America, this moon was known as the Milk Moon and the Chinese refer to it as the Dragon Moon. It is also known as the Bright Moon, the Hare Moon, and the Panther Moon. The very eloquent (and often wordy) Dakota Sioux had two names for this moon: the Moon to Plant and the Moon When Leaves are Green. Its neo-pagan name is the Grass Moon.

Enjoy the beauty of the last spring full moon of 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Magickal Garden

Do you have a witch's garden? A place to make offerings to the earth deities? Do you engage in any conscientious garden protection? Well, now is the perfect time to plant even a small garden (if you don't already have one), transform your already existing garden into a place to thank the Goddess and God, and do some simple spellwork to protect all your hard work from negative energies as well as annoying (and hungry) pests. If you're starting from scratch here, you can reference the term "garden" below for a few brief lists of basic plants, but for the sake of time and space, I'll assume you already have a garden to work with. Note that this doesn't have to be a full-sized garden in your backyard. City dwellers can modify some of these practices for a container garden on a terrace or even a kitchen windowsill (though I wouldn't recommend sprinkling vinegar and oils on your kitchen woodwork).

In the center of my witch garden I have an antique sundial that was given to us by a friend and on which I place offerings to the deities, burn incense, and even use as a table of sorts to complete fire spells that I have begun indoors but for obvious reasons don't want to finish in my living room, lest I accidentally burn down my house. But you need not use something so ornate. Two stones, one relatively rectangular shaped and placed standing vertically with a smaller flat round stone placed horizontally before it works just as well. They can be big or small depending on your space. Place your offerings or burn your incense on the flat horizontal stone. If you don't have the room for stones or just don't find the idea of looking at rocks particularly pleasing, you can simply push lit stick incense into the soil either in the center of, or around the perimeter of, your garden. You can even walk the perimeter of your garden while carrying incense and say a blessing to both your growing plants and the god or goddess of your choice.

Small garden statuary often gets a bad rap, and let's be honest, a great deal of it is pretty tacky, but don't rule all of it out. Why not find a small stone creature that speaks to you? Or even add an inanimate version of your power animal to a corner of your garden? If you choose a small enough statute you can face the quarters while holding it and call upon the powers of both the divine and the elements to bless your garden. Did you know that those big glass garden balls on pedestals that were so popular during the early and middle part of the last century are in fact exactly the same thing as a (smaller) witch ball hung in a home's window? Any glass ball that has been silvered on the inside is, in fact, a witch ball. One of these can be placed in the center of your garden in a color that is personal for you, and besides the protection it will offer, on a quiet day (and not in direct sunlight), you can sit and with soft eyes gaze into your garden ball and scry.

Moss agate is a powerful stone that vibrates to the element of earth and can be carried in your pocket while gardening. It ensures a rich crop and plant fertility. Charge your agate before use, and for an added boost of power, you can "plant" some agate directly into your garden. Four small agates can be placed either at the corners of your garden if it's square or rectangular, or at the quarters if your garden is round, buried into the earth to make your garden grow.

And to keep those hungry pests away from all your hard work you can mix a simple potion that can be sprinkled around the edge of your garden. In a small glass jar, mix 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of either olive or sesame oil, chop a clove of garlic and tear up or chop some fresh spearmint or peppermint. You can also sprinkle some black pepper into it as well. Shake vigorously and drizzle it around the perimeter of your garden, but take care to not get the vinegar on any grass or plants as it can burn them. You can also recite a spell as you do this:

Creatures of the air,
Creatures of the land,
This garden is protected
by my heart and my hand.
By the powers of three times three,
As I will it, so mote it be.

With these simple steps and the power of intention, you'll be sure to have a lush and very productive season ahead!

Photo of yarrow and bee balm courtesy of ben.tebbens on flickr.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Moons and Totems 1

Everybody knows their western astrological profile and most people also know their eastern, or Chinese, astrological sign as well, but few know their moon profile from the Native American culture and the totems for each moon. As with the two more mainstream belief systems, the moon totem profiles are not only a very accurate read of an individual's personality, but they also add a rich dimension to who we are and where our weaknesses and powers come from. From time to time I'll be writing about these moon totems, beginning with the first of the thirteen moons. Each moon goes by many names (see each full moon post to learn some of the different names) but for simplicity's sake, I will be using only one for each entry.

Fast Waterflow Moon
March 11-April 10

Those who are born between these dates are children of the Fast Waterflow Moon. They are sensitive and insightful, alert to new beginnings and tend to exude a sense of innocence and naivete and as such they like to be nurtured and taken care of by others. They are better at beginning things than seeing them to fruition and this includes relationships as well as projects.

The animal totem for this moon is the hawk, an animal that is very methodical, focused, and able to meet its own needs effectively and efficiently. The children of this moon would be wise to learn the lessons the hawk teaches. The fast Waterflow Moon's plant totem is red clover, one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. Red clover is a protective plant that keeps one safe from evil and danger. The mineral totem for this moon is quartz crystal, a clear and sparkling stone that reflects light (like the earth that is bright and newly reborn at this time of year). Quartz crystal enhances psychic ability, empowers magick, heals illness, and is one of the stones of the Great Goddess who, during this moon, is bringing forth new life across the earth. The color of this moon is yellow, the color of light and the returning sun.

Everyone is most compatible with those people born under the moon opposite to their own and the opposite moon of the Fast Waterflow Moon is the Ripening Moon (September 11-November 10) whose people are consistent, insistent and generously giving. They balance out the Fast Waterflow peoples' neediness and tendency to be overly dependent and often self-absorbed.

Photo courtesy of Steve aka Crispin Swan on flickr.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eclectic Spirituality

I've been giving some thought to the idea of eclectic spirituality and the fact that I have been for decades picking and choosing from the world's various belief systems that which I personally identify with and that feed my soul. In doing so I have tailor-made a spirituality that suits me to a tee, yet is constantly shifting a tiny bit in this or that direction as who I am changes through the years. I'm a pagan, a witch, and a woman who spent a full decade of her life studying Buddhism and who incorporates many of the Buddha's teachings into her present philosophy. I am a follower of ayurveda and a practitioner of yoga. As a direct descendant of a full-blooded Native American woman, I engage in many tribal rituals and honor Mother Earth every single day. And while it's well in the back of my mind these days, I also still carry with me the biblical theories pummeled into my brain during confirmation classes, growing up as a little girl in the stuffy and unpleasantly straight-laced Lutheran Church. I believe in the God and the Goddess, I believe in Mother Earth and the four elements. I honor and live by the years, the seasons, the days, the hours. I honor the moon. I believe in magick and intuition and divination. I am a very spiritual person, which (in my opinion, at any rate) is a very different thing from a religious person. A religious person I am not and never have been.

And the funny thing is, I would have thought that this movement towards the eclectic really began in the 60s when so many people were searching for something deeper, something more mystical than everyday life (and quite a bit of drugs) provided. I'm not so naive to think that there was no dabbling into other faiths and beliefs prior to that period, but it feels like that decade is when spiritual momentum shifted into high gear. The term "new age" (which I hate, by the way) was coined in the 80s to describe that decade's movement into the eclectic and many scholars still treat the 80s as though that period was the first real movement towards something broader than a single-based faith. Unfortunately though, that tag brings with it a whole lot of mental images best left back in the 80s, never to be seen or heard from again. And even today, the term "new age" is used rather derisively by most people, both in and out of the mainstream.

But surprisingly, following an eclectic path spiritually dates back to ancient Greece. The word eclectic comes from the Greek word eklektikos which means "selective, or the act of picking out." One of the first to ever take from the world's existing religions and philosophies and blend them into a truly personal spirituality was Ammonius Saccas, a philosopher who left no writings of his own but was referred to by many other Greek philosophers in theirs, namely Plotinus and Porphyry. Ultimately, Saccas wanted to fuse all religions together into one that honored the Divine Being who made everything possible, as all faiths ultimately originate from this same source, and by returning to it one could end a lot of hatred. His studies gave rise to the term "eclectic" and although his beliefs were accepted by many, ultimately he was driven out of his homeland and silenced by the early Christians.

And despite a couple of millennia passing, life doesn't change all that much does it? And regardless of what others think of me, or my belief system, I'm going to continue on the path laid before me. It feels right in my heart and soul and ultimately, that's the only thing that truly matters. It's taken a lifetime of searching for me to feel as peaceful as I feel today and that's a beautiful thing. Happiness and sorrow are both fleeting, but being able to find peace in who you are and what you adhere to is the perfect foundation on which to build everything else. Go where your heart leads you and fear nothing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Outdoor Home Protection

Today I accidentally stumbled upon a few very old and rather unique traditions to ensure your home's protection from the outside rather than the inside. Some may be familiar, some may not.

Carving protective symbols into the wood of your door jamb, especially of a pentagram, is a primitive and pretty way to keep your home safe from evil. However, if you rent your home, your landlord might not take too kindly to having your spiritual beliefs artistically gouged into the frame of their front door. Instead you could paint and/or carve a small rectangle of wood that could be gently attached to the jamb above the doorknob, or paint your doors in protective color combinations, thus keeping your house safe from negativity without damaging the actual door or angering the owner.

Ornamental roof finials (think gargoyles) can be attached to the corners of your home to erect a boundary of protection in all four cardinal directions. The finials need not be actual gargoyles (because man are those things ugly!), but can be any creature or symbol you find appealing or potent, perhaps even small versions of your power animal that only you and the birds that perch on your roofline would know are there. Even little decorative pieces of iron can be used (purchased at a garden shop or a salvage yard), as iron has long been considered the metal of the gods.

If climbing up onto a ladder and attaching things to your roof doesn't appeal to you, driving an iron spike into the ground in front of your house will keep the entire dwelling and all its inhabitants safe from evil spirits and intruders of the physical kind as well. Most people are familiar with hanging an iron horseshoe over the door for luck and protection and doing this will also keep your house and family safe.

And if you're building a new home, you can always place broken iron tools within your walls to keep your home protected, though you might want to avoid another ancient tradition for keeping a home safe from the outside in: burying dead horses' heads beneath your floorboards to ensure night after night of restful sleep and protection against the "Night Mare", the mythical horse that carries evil dreams to haunt the living while they sleep. Just a suggestion.

Photo of antique iron finial courtesy of Ontheway2it on flickr.
Photo of antique painted door jamb courtesy of jwoodphoto on flickr.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Banishing Ritual

Banishment is one of those tricky gray-area rituals that gets a conscientious witch to thinking. Is it okay to banish someone? Does this cross over that rather sketchy line of acting harmfully towards another? But if done with kindness and grace, banishing someone from your life or even some unwanted thing from your life, can actually be a very positive act.

I personally have someone who has been a very unpleasant presence in my life for many, many years and while I have been as tolerant as humanly possible with them, I can no longer endure their painfully negative energy; energy that is routinely directed at me. And so the time has come to sever the ties between us and send them away as powerfully- and as gently- as I am able. Here is a fairly simple ritual for getting rid of that which no longer serves its purpose in your life, for whatever reason.

You'll want to perform this ritual when the moon is waning. A Saturday is the best day of the week for this, and if you're lucky enough for the new moon to land on a Saturday night, you'll find yourself with an additional boost of power in your corner. However, any time during the dark of the moon will work just fine so don't feel you have to do your banishment ritual on a specific day. Choose an object that represents what it is you want to banish: a photograph or personal belonging of someone you no longer want in your life, something that represents a bad habit you wish to break, a failed endeavor (a business, a personal relationship) that you no longer want your heart to pine over, or anything negative that you just can't stop dwelling on and want permanently gone! Place the object on your altar surrounded by four white candles. Also use white candles for the four quarters in your circle as well. Cleanse the perimeter of your circle with the four elements: sprinkle it with salt water for earth and water and burn sage for fire and air. Cast your circle and call upon those deities that are known for being powerful custodians of the cosmos: Hecate, Anubis, Cerridwen or anyone else that will aid you with their strength and ability to weed out that which is negative.

State clearly what it is you want banished and then sprinkle your object with the salt water and pass it through the sage smoke. Now, instead of continuing to focus on the negative in regards to this person or situation, express the positive energy you wish to draw to you in its place. You want to turn the negative into a positive. You can say that you wish to turn your broken heart into one filled with perfect love. Or if you're banishing a bad habit, express the good that will come of ridding yourself of it rather than focusing on what it's doing to you now. Move widdershins around your circle and chant

"I release you, negative energy from my past,
No pain nor sorrow ever lasts,
I heal my spirit, I heal my soul,
As I release you from my life
I am again made whole."

At first you may feel rather tired or slow, but as you continue to chant and release the negative from your life you'll feel your energy building and growing stronger. Continue to raise this energy by moving and chanting faster and faster. As you feel the spell coming to its climax, stop moving in the circle, stand before your altar and direct your energy into the object. Say

"I cast this spell now three times three
As I will it, so mote it be"

and either tear, break or somehow dramatically destroy this object (it can also be burned in a cauldron with a fire already lit in it). Ground yourself, thank the spirits for their help, close your circle and then permanently dispose of your object by throwing it in the trash, flushing it down the toilet, burying it in the ground or tossing it into moving water. Be sure to give thanks to Mother Earth for her recycling powers and if you can, open your doors and windows and with a broom sweep out the negative energies from this ritual. Likewise, you can smudge your home with sage to re-cleanse your environment.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trees 101: The Beech

Beech trees have a long magickal and medicinal history. Used for centuries in Druidic rituals, forked beech branches are also a great choice to use as a divining or dowsing rod. Associated with rebirth, reincarnation, transformation, and ancestors, beech trees are used as protection against lightning strikes as they are a good conductor of electricity.

Beech is known as the "mother of the woods" and is the Beech Queen to the Oak King, providing shelter to shorter, smaller trees and food for humans and animals. Beechnuts are believed to bring wisdom to those who eat them and are used as protective amulets. They can also be carried or worn as lucky charms. The beech tree is associated with time, wisdom and knowledge. Scratching your name or wish on the bark of a beech tree- either on the tree itself or a piece torn off, written on and then buried- will ensure that your wishes will come true. This simple wishing spell dates back millennia.

Likewise, the bark, leaves, roots and sap all have medicinal properties. Beech is said to cure burns, ulcers and liver problems, as well as tuberculosis. Beech bark and leaves can be used as an astringent and can even be found in many modern skin care products. Beech brings relaxation to those who use it.

Using beech wood in your spellwork will bring stability to your life, will help you bring your intentions to fruition, can be used in cleansing and protection rituals, is a perfect offering for the Goddess(es) you may worship and can be used to contact ancestors in ritual as well. Beech vibrates to a feminine energy as well as to the elements of fire and water and is ruled by the planet Saturn.

Photo courtesy of Kornelis on flickr.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Worshipping Earth's Gifts

O our mother the Earth, O our father the Sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts that you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness...
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.

-A Tewa Pueblo Prayer

Photo courtesy of alfaseen on flickr.