Vision Quest: Seeking the Spirit the Old-Fashioned Way
Author: Sunny Dawn
Daily Archives: July 18, 2011
Vision Quest: Seeking the Spirit the Old-Fashioned Way
A vision quest is a challenge. The verb in Lakota literally means, “to cry out for a vision”. This means you have to suffer in exchange for a gift. The words “cry out” may also refer to songs or chants sung by the person undertaking the suffering. In my first coven, it was highly desirable, if not precisely required, for third-degree initiation, although I did not attempt a vision quest or receive third-degree initiation from my first coven.
On Fluffy Bunnies…
As our religion becomes more prominent in the mainstream media, I find myself feeling more and more getting a feeling of competition within the Pagan community. Given that my exposure to the community of Paganism in general is relatively little, consisting of the Pagan community in my backyard, what is in books and on the Internet from sites like Witchvox.com and Rendingtheveil.com, I don’t entirely know if this is rippling through the Pagan community at large or not.
However, as I see it, there are well written but somewhat short-tempered, self-righteous or outright assertive posts and essays being written about ‘what makes a Pagan a Pagan’ and what a Pagan ‘should and should not be’. Some of these are to be found on Witchvox and Rending the Veil, some are to be found on personal websites and yet more in the pages of books from authors of all stripes.
It would seem that some in the community, whether they are in a prominent position such as that of author, editor or any other seemingly ‘big’ role in our community, are wishing to define exactly down-to-the-letter what makes our religion, our religion.
Mind you, I am in the Georgian Tradition of Wicca as an Initiate, but I still work with Gods and Goddesses that I did as a Solitary, so I understand that tradition and values of a ‘lineage-based’ coven structure can be as important to a person as a ‘free-form experiential based’ spirituality. I know that traditions and codes of practice can make or break a person’s spirituality, both from my time as a Catholic and as a Georgian. I also know from my experience as a Solitaire, that sometimes the complete defining of rules and regulations as to ‘how the world works’ and ‘what Paganism is’ is not only spiritual caging, its spiritually debilitating.
Yet, this view of spoon-fed spirituality and/or religion seems to be what some in the community want, a Codes of Behavior and a ‘This is What We Do as Pagan’ manual. I’ve been there, done that with the Papal, Canonical and Scriptural law of Catholic Christianity. Maybe this is my own bias, but after many of us in the community come from a spirituality and religion of strictly defined relationships with God, Goddess, Spirits of all types, our fellow humans and Nature Itself, why would you build up another faith that embraces the same kind of rules that inspired you to move away from, or not accept?
As an example, recently codes of dress have been examined as to what a Witch should and should not wear. Sometimes the opinions therein were based upon what would and would not offend others, which, to a point I can concede is important that you be mindful of others. However, why would we go to a religion that celebrates life, traditions and paths in its myriad of forms, and then shut up those who celebrate their particular form, tradition or path, self-made or no?
The many ‘anti-fluffy bunny’ websites out there that made extensive use of examples of ‘what not to do’ or ‘what makes a fluffy bunny’ are another example of what I see as community self-hate. Rather than ask what these people believe, and try to see their point of view so even if their information is historically or practically (i.e. rooted in this physical, mundane reality) our community, it seems, has taken to name-calling and elitism.
Yes, I know that some viewpoints cannot be argued with, changed or sometimes understood because they are believed in so fervently. I also know that some individuals should not be tolerated, such as those that seek to harm children or those who exist in our religion for the sole purpose of fattening their wallet. Despite this, many ‘fluffy bunnies’ are picked on, ostracized and in general, swept under the rug or pointedly hushed down by those who do not agree with their views. While I am not asking those who do not agree with what is called ‘White Lighter’ or ‘Fluffy bunny’ views to spontaneously accept or begin dialogue with them, I would ask you this: think upon what impact you have on them.
Let’s do a few what-ifs down this line of thinking, with three differing scenarios with three possible results afterward.
Scenario 1: The person is new to the Craft and Paganism and has a near-to-no understanding of either. They are looking for information on these subjects and things related to them. They read a book or a series of them and look at it/them as canon as to ‘how the Pagan world works’ (whether by cosmology or magick) and so, embrace the book and its author as their religious and magickal foundations.
If you approach this person in a manner that is demeaning or hurtful (i.e. judgment calls, jabs at their inexperience or lack of understanding) then you could do a number of things to them. First and foremost, you could drive them from ever fully embracing Paganism and learning the subjects you would prefer they learn. Second, if you don’t outright drive them off, you could make it so they will have a precedent of what a person ‘who knows what they are talking about’ acts like; would you care for someone to treat you like that and represent your religion as you just did?
Third, if they do not leave Paganism and do/do not adopt your ‘views’ as you gave them to them in your demeaning/hurtful stances, they may yet go further into what might be the very practice you feel is incorrect. Worse, they may get into other forms of the same practice that are much more dangerous or forms that might reflect poorly on the Pagan community.
Scenario 2: The person is one who has been in the Craft a year or so with a little experience of Paganism under their belt and is starting to foment relationships with Goddesses, Gods, Spirits and the like. They tell you that (as an extreme example that I have seen cited elsewhere) the Celtic Triple Goddess, The Morrigan, has tapped them for a special partnership and it involves something like making war on anger with hugs and practicing Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
While this might make you laugh, think of how your dismissal of their spirituality and personal relationship with Deity affects them. Not only this, but who are we, as people to dictate to others how God/dess relates and shows itself to other people? While we do have precedents of how most of our Deities act, react and go through the cycles of the year (i.e. the general nature, demeanor, etc. of The Morrigan) , who are we to tell them that that particular Deity ‘just doesn’t do that’ or ‘never acts like that’. I would feel for so many peoples’ criticisms of absolutist faith and/or spirituality (this I feel can occur in any faith) in the Pagan community that such thoughts, while they may be true for our realm of experience, may not be true for theirs and so, should not be dismissed out of hand.
Approaching a person with such an attitude can have little effect on them, especially if their faith in their God/dess, path, etc. is strong. However, for those who have just began or are strengthening their relationship with their Deity, I find that this is a particularly vulnerable time for new Pagans or Pagans developing in their faith; one which needs care and gentleness to be heeded when people of the same faith speak with them or work to ‘correct’ (i.e. historical precedent of The Morrigan in this case vs. the person’s personal experience) their perceptions of the Deity in question. An approach that is too strong in terms of confrontation, or too harsh in terms of the ‘correction’ can produce long-lasting harmful effects.
First, among these effects could be a sense of not knowing what Deity is like for them. If they have approached Deity, I would believe most have had a certain list of things that is associated with the ‘presence of’ or interactions with of Deity. When people are then are told such things are wrong and given a differing list, one that feels alien or perhaps even exclusionary to their feelings on Deity Itself, they can be turned off to working with Deity entirely and either focusing solely on magick or other Pagan pursuits, or simply dropping Paganism altogether.
Second, I have seen people whom go through a bout of the possibility listed above, only to come out of it always questioning if they have really perceived the ‘presence’ of Deity, or second-guess conversations and interactions with Deity. This is not to say, ‘get rid of your critical thinking when Deity tells you to do something’ or something similar, it merely means that the entire belief in the Deity, or It’s ‘presence’, faith in It’s existence as the Pagan has experienced it, etc., suffers. Faith that is blossoming can suffer a little or a great deal, and I find this is dependant on the person, their convictions and perhaps how much support they have from their community. Though I have seen a Solitaire friend of mine endure the two examples I listed above, I do not find in my speaking with Pagans (like those I find/listen to in bookstores or in chatrooms or message boards) that this is usually the case. People need a support network, and it serves no good to take the Goddesses and Gods they work with in the way they work with them, out from under their feet via their budding faith.
Third, if they do weather the first two outcomes, it could be entirely possible that they emulate the behavior of snap decisions, judgment calls and judging others’ relationship with Deity by their own experiences or by history’s standards. To reverse the situation: would you want a person who has worked with The Morrigan for twenty years tell you that you are working with/worshipping/etc. Her all wrong, and that the She now and always has wanted Her priestesses/priests to make war on anger with Perfect Love and Perfect Trust?
Let’s say in this hypothetical that the history books and records of The Morrigan’s followers are in line with what this person claims, and that you feel completely different, that Morrigan is (as She is described to us in actual Celtic lore) is a War Goddess, but not just of War, but also Death and Fertility?
Scenario 3: The person is part of a group/coven/order/etc. that espouses what could be considered to be ‘fluffy bunny’ beliefs, doctrines, relationships with Deity, etc. They are devoted to these beliefs, and so on, and fervently believe them, but they make claims that are, for instance, historically inaccurate about The Morrigan and Her followers, priests and priestesses when the Celts as a culture still thrived. They follow these teachings with a deep attachment, despite whatever historical or practical errors there may be in them.
As I have asked before, who are we to dictate how people relate to Deity, or practice said Deity’s teachings in a modern context? Are we to begin the practice of ‘proper way to honor’ such-and-such a God/dess? Are we to eliminate Unverified Personal Gnosis (a sudden spiritual awakening that can be brought about by ritual, possession by God/dess or other methods, with results, such as messages from Deity, internal enlightenments, ah-ha moments, etc.) from our religion?
What if you were told something by your God/dess that It wished to change a practice, ritual or your relationship to It, immediately, contra to history’s record? Would you tell you God/dess no, that’s not how we’ve done things, so you aren’t this or that God/dess? If someone made the move to ‘correct’ you on your beliefs, your coven’s teachings, etc., how would you feel?
From the perspective of the person whose group vision you’d be trying to ‘correct’…
First: they could react to your news in either evaluating their religious, spiritual, magickal, etc. conclusions or otherwise absorb the information you present, or put up resistance of some magnitude. At its worst, this would probably escalate to a screaming contest, whether or not you participate. Putting in the way the Chris Rock as the character Rufus does from Dogma, (directed by Kevin Smith) : “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.“ It may not, however, be your responsibility to be a catalyst for this growth; it may need to come from within the group.
Second, whether or not they absorb your ideas is moot if they shut themselves off to the ideas of others, replacing their ideas and beliefs with just as much zeal as they previously had, maybe more. So, rather than enlighten, inform or otherwise aid your fellow would-be Pagan, you may just trigger them to shard off from the community at large even further. Teaching them an open mind, much more than the ‘correctness’ of their faith, I feel, is the way to go. You cannot absorb new information if your mind is closed only to what you are told or believe. How are we to expect our children or fellow Pagans to be open to others if we expect them to adhere to hard-and-fast rules about how they ‘are to be like’ or what is ‘officially Pagan.’
Third, they could take everything you try to instill in them the way that you desire, and either assimilate or otherwise consider the application of the knowledge, teachings, what-have-you that you wish to bestow upon them. They could also take everything you’ve said wrong way, become incredibly embarrassed and/or angry, or worse yet, hostile and retaliate.
This is how Witch Wars start, by absolutist thinking.
Absolutism, by its nature, allows no other viewpoints other than the one in control, and so long as two sides disagree and cannot peaceable communicate, there is conflict. This is part of my issue with the Pagan community in general; we bill ourselves so often in public life as being the compassionate, tolerant ones that don’t mind other peoples’ faiths, or beliefs and then we turn on our own people who ‘might make us look bad’. For what?
Why do we even persecute the ‘fluffy bunnies’ real or no? Is it for us to hold up a sign saying ‘We aren’t those flakes! Look at us, we’re Pagans and have as much right to be part of the mainstream! We don’t have weird, counter-culture beliefs or relationships with God/dess, Spirits or any of that crazy stuff!’?
Is it so somehow we feel we get a smidgen of superiority for pointing out that ‘this is only a subgroup’ to people who question us about the attitudes and beliefs we actually normally hold, which are then attributed to ‘fluffy bunnies because we don’t want to explain them, they are controversial or are contra to the mainstream religions?
Look at the Great Rite or Heiros Gamos, for instance; how many of us have explained to others, that though this started off, for instance in Wicca, as a fertility rite between a High Priestess and High Priest of a coven only symbolically? It was performed for real at one point, we’ve only recently stopped doing it, and it’s not some fringe thing.
Pagan rituals are abundantly about fertility, sex and the two colluding between the High Priestess and High Priest and the land for a bountiful harvest. Yet I have seen this practice of the physical copulation referred to by authors and people of the Pagan community as something ‘the fringe’ which, generally, will include fluffy bunnies does, and it The Great Rite is now largely symbolic
In short, it is time to stop using the ‘fluffy bunnies’, ‘goths’ ‘Renaissance Festival freaks’ and all the other straw man labels as scapegoats for the parts of our religion that we don’t want to talk about, that do not jive with the mainstream faiths, or to one-up each other. It is time to stop competing and it is more than time to start coming together and working as a whole for a better future.
If we do not open up our ears and our minds to other people, how can we expect others, i.e. Congress, to do the same for us when we want a bill passed? If we are waging war on people of our faith, regardless of how we express it, then you are doing no one any good, save those who wish for our faith to disappear.
I am not saying capitulate to those whose view you do not believe, but I firmly believe that clinging to dogma, or beliefs for the sake of doing so is not wisdom nor is it courage. It is stubbornness and self-destruction that drive us to doing this, and it is time we stopped arguing with each other, and started conversing.
As much as you may not like it, I feel it is high time we listened to these voices of our community, who may, if we listen, teach us more than our books and personal knowledge can.
A Year and a Day – Origins and Applications
Author: del Luna la Madre’ Temple
I have seen the following in many, many posts. Competently trained Priests and Priestesses look at these words, and say to themselves – “Oh, You Truly Have No Idea”. The Phrase that I am referring to is:
“I have been studying for a Year and a Day and so I am now close to being ready for Initiation.” or “I am half way through my Year and a Day and so I now have questions about where do I find a group to Initiate into?”, There are other varying forms of this, and if you read through the many thousands of posts, you will surely come across that variety.
The Truth of the matter is that training in the Crafte does NOT take a Year and A Day. It sometimes takes much longer. Wikipedia lists the following information under a year and a day:
The year and a day rule was a principle of English law holding that a death was conclusively presumed not to be murder (or any other homicide) if it occurred more than a year and one day since the act (or omission) that was alleged to have been its cause. The rule also applied to the offence of assisting with a suicide.
• The period of a year and a day was a convenient period to represent a significant amount of time. Its use was generally as a jubilee or permanence.
• Historically (England) the period that a couple must be married for a spouse to have claim to a share of inheritable property.
• In mediaeval Europe, a runaway serf became free after a year and a day.
• When a judgment has been reversed a fresh action may be lodged within a year and a day, regardless of the statute of limitations. U.S.
• Note: a lunar year (13 lunar months of 28 days) plus a day is a solar year (365 days) . Also those 366 days would be a full year even if a leap day were included.
Magickally speaking- the Year and a Day rule is a hold over from the Masons. Their training period for an Apprentice was a year and a day of service and hard work. Gerald Gardner – the father of the modern day Crafte movement derived much of his early work on the Crafte from his Masonic roots, using the model of the Co-Masonic Lodge and its training as a basis for some of the early rules of the Crafte. It is known that in the early texts that Gardner wrote, that there were EXTREME similarities to Masonry, OTO and Golden Dawn.
As I stated before, A Year and A Day is quite misleading when it comes to serious study within the Crafte. It is a guide that is used by most of the Traditions to indicate that this is the MINIMUM amount of time that can be spent working toward a degree. In some cases, it is the minimum amount of time that one is allowed to spend working on one area of training within the Crafte itself.
So before you embark on telling the world that you have spent the last Year and a Day working on your studies of the Crafte, think, will those who I tell this to take me seriously. Can I really hold my own when questioned about what I have learned? Am I still unsure about the names and purposes of Deity within the Crafte? Do I understand that there is much more to learn and that I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg? Have I investigated books and other learning tools that are not just mainstream Crafte?
These are some serious questions that you need to ask yourself. Why? Because, if you do find others who are serious about their Crafte, be prepared to be asked some serious questions in conversation. Remember, they have studied long, and hard for the information they possess, their Oaths in many cases restrict them from passing on the intricacies of their Faith. Many of them feel that it is NOT their job to school the masses about the simplicities of the Crafte and its terminology.
If you want to be taken seriously, then learn the proper terminology, understand the terminology, and by all means – don’t act like a KNOW IT ALL. No One Knows It All. And a Good Teacher, High Priest or High Priestess will never be ashamed to tell you that they don’t know it all, but by their years of practice, not just studying or reading, have given them sufficient knowledge that they know that there is so much more out there to learn, that they will always be a student and practitioner.
So think before you infer that you have been studying for a year and a day, and that now you are properly prepared in the Crafte and therefore you should be granted all sorts of privileges, because of your studying for that year and a day. You now deserve to be taken as a serious authority on some level.
If you think this, say this, write this, be prepared for a good deal of laughter. But also be aware that there may also be some that are not laughing, and those are the ones that you need to be cautious of, for they are the ones that may see you as their next target of humiliation or degradation.
To ere on the side of humility in this case is a good thing…
Something to also consider is that even after you have studied long and hard, that is no guarantee that the information that you have studied is even correct and can withstand closer scrutiny, that, you are certain to receive if you spout off about ‘studying for a year and a day.’ You may have only read all the information published by one author or one publishing company. There is so much more to the Crafte that is not found in any book.
Nothing can replace pure and sincere experience and practice. So think about your Year and a Day, and ask: How far have I come and how far do I want to go? Have I experienced all that I can or do I need to experience more? Your answers might surprise you!
Wishing you Blessings Upon Your Path!
The Sacred Symbology of Trees
It is difficult to imagine a more perfect symbol than the tree. This may seem a bit odd at first glance, especially in comparison with other such powerful symbols as the pentacle, the cross, Thor’s hammer, etc. On both a physical and spiritual level, however, the tree provides a symbol that speaks to any and all earth-based religions in a powerful and meaningful way. The best way to begin is by noticing the appearance of the tree in various world religions and mythologies.
Trees have been sacred for as long as we have had the written word and probably long before that. The sorcerer of Trois Ferrois was depicted next to a tree and is one of the oldest known glyphs of in mythico-religious iconography.
The Hebrew Goddess, Asherah, who was later known as Ishtar, Astarte, or Inanna, had as her sacred symbol the tree groves. The druids long held trees, especially the oak, ash, and yew, to be sacred and divine symbols and their bardic schools were located within the heart of the forests.
In the dying/resurrecting God myths, the tree plays a prominent role. Christ was sacrificed on a cross made from a tree, Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil to gain the secret of the runes, and Osiris’ maimed body was recovered by Isis from the root of a tree and later resurrected. The most ancient cross-cultural symbolic representation of the universe’s construction is the world tree.
For instance, the Norse considered Yggdrasil, a giant Ash, to be the central structure of their various worlds and, in essence, it contained all of the worlds within it. Other examples of trees featured in mythology are the Bodhi tree in Buddhism and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Judaism.
In folk religion and folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits. The tree plays a central role in world mythology and religious iconography, but why would its inclusion be of such importance to religions with such widely different belief systems?
The tree is powerful for human beings because it mirrors, symbolically, the way we should be living our own lives. First of all, the tree is rooted to the earth; it is grounded. Just as the Muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, grounds all of our spiritual energy, so the tree is grounded to the earth.
Grounding is as important as reach enlightenment. If we are always trying to spiritual and focused on the heavens, we will not be able to care for our physical needs. As pagans, we celebrate our physical life so grounding is especially important and almost sacred to us.
The tree is rooted in the earth, but it grows upward and its branches constantly stretch out and reach towards the heavens (for sunlight) . Just as it is important for us to be grounded, it is equally important to strive towards something greater than our physical selves, or at least to have recognition of it.
Pagans meditate, pray, celebrate the sabbats and commune with their Gods. All of these actions move away from the strictly physical and open us up to the spiritual. Thus the tree is grounded in the earth, but reaches towards heaven. Like the trees, we should be rooted in reality, but striving towards the spiritual until we unite the two in the dance of life, symbolically represented by Shiva’s dancing form.
The tree, like the pentacle, also represents the elements of the world in which we live. The pentacle has four points representing earth, air, fire, and water while the fifth point represents the spirit that binds them all. The tree also symbolizes these qualities. The roots of the tree draw up the water from the deep earth for nourishment. The tree is rooted in the earth and the soil provides nutrients for its continued development and growth.
The tree takes the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and uses it to assist with its energy requirements. It is interesting to note that the tree exhales, as it were, oxygen. Thus we live with the trees in a symbiotic relationship proving the tree with the carbon dioxide it needs, while they provide us with the oxygen we need. Finally, the tree uses the sunlight for photosynthesis to create its own food via internal chemical reactions (fire) . As discusses earlier, the model of the tree being grounded, but reaching for the heavens is a symbol of spirit. Thus, the tree shares the major symbologies of the pentacle.
The tree is also symbolic of the cycle of death and rebirth. Some trees follow the natural cycles of the seasons. They blossom in spring and thrive in the summer. The light of the God brings them renewal and life. The leaves begin to change and the trees symbolically begin to die in the fall and meet their death in the winter when the light of the God resides in the womb of the mother. This cycle repeats itself every year and we can see in the trees the truth of our being. On the other hand, some trees are deciduous and thrive the entire year and this, too, is symbolic. Our true selves, the essence or soul, never dies, but lives on after death in a different form. So while certain trees provide a reminder of physical death and rebirth, other trees serve as a reminder of the eternity of our spirit. In many of the world mythologies, the tree is central to the dying/resurrecting myth of the Gods, such as Odin, Osiris, and Christ.
In summary, the tree provides a near perfect symbol for the pagan. It is a reminder to be both earthly and spiritual, it is reflective of the elements that created and sustain life, and it is a symbol of death and rebirth. While the pentacle and other such symbols may be as equally powerful in their own way, the tree is something we see every day and they as diverse as the people who see them. We have fat, skinny, tall, short, green, and variegated trees reflecting the diversity inherent in our world.
The next time you see a tree, stop and spend a moment with it. Look at its roots and its mighty branches. Sit beneath its canopy and listen to its story for it is a story of magick and hope.
Beyond the Smudge Stick
Do you find the smoke of smudge sticks to be, well, wimpy? Is what you need a truly cleansing smudge? Then try some Hibachi Herbal Magic. Tossing loose herbs on hot charcoal is style of smudge favored by the Mesoamerican indigenous for a few thousand years, like this recent experience of mine in the Mayan Yucatan:
A red glow danced across Paloma’s dark skin as she leaned toward the modest bonfire, using a small stone rake to draw steaming embers to the edge. She deftly a large terra cotta chalice with one hand to scoop up hot charcoal and tossed on copal granules from a bowl with the other, quickly rising up and walking toward me in a cloud of thick white smoke. With a few swift motions up my body, she enveloped me in swirling copal fumes.
To become immersed in smoke is a baptism, a complete submission to another world. The animated smoke feels alive with strong aromas that can transport the mind and liberate the spirit. If you have herbs, a fire container and charcoal, you can do this, too.
More Than Sage
In making a smudge stick you’re limited to herbs still on their stems. But with loose herbs on hot charcoal, the possibilities are boundless, with not only leafy herbs but resins such frankincense, sandalwood and other woods, plus seeds, flowers, berries and a plethora of essential oils.
Ooomph up a sage smudge with super purifiers like blue vervain. Add in protective herbs so that the vigorous cleansing doesn’t leave you vulnerable. Tailor the smudge for your event, using a rich, sweet myrrh and mugwort-based blend for the emotional openness of Moon ceremonies. Salute the Sun with a mix emphasizing rosemary and bay laurel for a sharp aroma that will quicken the mind.
A smudge can be fashioned for any sabbat, with Beltane and Summer Solstice bonfires having strong herbal traditions. A male-honoring smudge might be musky with highly spiced overtones. One for women could reflect their complexity, with sweet and warm aromas brightened with elements of green herbs and grounded with earthiness.
Here’s an example of a woman-honoring smudge:
Aroma: resinous – sweetly musky with spicy overtones
Ceremonial Use: purifications; Venus, Moon and women’s ceremonies
Significant Days: New and Full Moons; goddess and divine feminine days
Preparation Notes: Crush the cardamon pods, myrrh, sandalwood and valerian root, if necessary, and grind into a rough powder. Add thyme and blue vervain and blend.
cardamon (or cardamom) pods1/2 cup 1 part
myrrh resin 1 cup 2 parts
sandalwood 1/2 cup 1 part
thyme 1/4 cup 1/2 part
valerian root 1/2 cup 1 part
vervain, blue 1/2 cup 1 part
The warm aroma and purifying qualities of the lunar myrrh and sandalwood are paired with purification punch of blue vervain and thyme. Valerian provides relaxed grounding, while cardamon adds spice and pays tribute to Venus, the goddess of love. (See note about balancing with solar blends in Lunar Purification, below.)
More Than Smudge
You can push smudges a step further with adult-only blends that I call immersents. The smudges are done naked or lightly clothed. Active ingredients in the smoke are absorbed through bare skin and inhaled into the lungs. They should only be done with lung-buffering herbs like coltsfoot and great mullein to counter the stress of inhaling smoke.
Immersents are ideal for situations when you want to create a mind-altering effect in participants in a mild and gradual way so the gathering doesn’t go all wacko. Hibachi Herbal Magic is not for parties, but can be used to take your mind to new places.
Psychotropic herbs can be used to foster passion and induce trances, deepen divination and cause prophetic dreams. Some facilitate deep meditation. None should be used if driving within three hours of partaking.
Even if mind altering is not what you seek, you can guide your gatherings with non-ceremonial inhalants for sharpening the mind when folks have gotten too loose or chilling out when overly revved up.
It’s Better Together
One of the cool things about Hibachi Herbal Magic is the way it puts the herbs and their power at center stage. When being blessed with a smudge stick, I’m always aware of the person who’s doing the smudging. But with loose herbs on a hibachi of hot charcoal, it’s just the smoke and the smudgee.
Everyone’s been through the interminable wait while the circle is smudged with a stick. But with Hibachi Herbal Magic, to smudge a group of people they just have them stand downwind, or use large hand fans to direct the smoke. Using the Mesoamerican chalice technique you can still smudge people individually, while doing it quicker and with a more potent smoke.
Hibachi Herbal Magic can also sub for a Beltane or Summer Solstice bonfire in places where open fires are not allowed. A leap through the smoke of special seasonal herbs can be a perfect conclusion to a ceremony. It’s very tactile and memorable!
But the technique also excels for individuals and small groups. It’s an awesome experience to do Hibachi Herbal Magic alone; it’s like a dance with the smoke. Either way, you can even straddle the hibachi and smudge the goods!
The whole igniting-charcoal-in-the-hibachi thing can be intimidating for the barbeque-impaired. It all depends on the charcoal you use. Self-lighting charcoal briquettes are a breeze; one flick of a Bic will get them started.
Natural charcoal or regular briquettes are by far the more environmental option. Both use waste from lumber processing, with pre-charred wood scraps making natural charcoal and sawdust mixed with binder for briquettes. Or look for treeless briquettes made from coconut shells, which have a great aroma.
Use ethanol a plant-derived lighter gel, which is essentially liquefied Sterno, for the complete green approach. Using a charcoal chimney can will help the lighting process immensely.
Charcoal fires can a bit of an art, and a messy one at that, but worth it. The poised glowing fire of the hot embers provides a powerful focus point for any gathering. The clouds of smoke redolent with complex aromas can focus and entrance a crowd, quickly transporting them out of the ordinary in a very whole-bodied way.
Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?
Author: Autumn Heartsong
Like many of you, I didn’t have the experience of being raised Pagan. My baby feet never toddled on a Pagan path and I was well into my middle adult years before I stepped out on that road. I’ve not looked back, save for an occasional glance over my shoulder to compare the road I’m on to those I traveled before. As you might expect, there are vast differences between them, but it is a similarity that has been top of mind lately, one that touches what is, to me, the very heart of a Witch’s walk.
I was raised in a Christian faith that put a great deal of value on reasoning, study, and careful thought. Services were quiet, orderly, and structured. Even the music was quiet. There were no choirs, no soloists. Most of the time it seemed as though everyone in the congregation was trying to under-sing everyone else, as if actually being heard would somehow lessen the holiness of the moment. I always felt, no matter how much knowledge we acquired, our worship was cold and empty. There was no joy, no bliss, no celebration. It was all head and no heart.
As a young adult, I ventured away from that branch of Christianity into more charismatic churches. Ah, I thought, here were people who knew what bliss was! They really understood and felt their faith! They sang lustily, prayed loudly, even danced in the aisles. Yes! I loved it! But when I began to ask questions about the basis for their faith, I found very few answers.
“It’s all a mystery, ” they said. “We’re not meant to understand.”
Not meant to understand? You mean my eternal salvation or damnation depends on some mystery I’m not meant to grasp, on a book I’m not really meant to study, and on questions I can’t know the answers to? That didn’t sit well with me, either. Empty ecstatic celebration might as well have been a rave as a religious experience. It was all heart, no head.
I became a spiritual wanderer, looking in every book, under every rock, and up every tree for answers, listening for the ring of truth. When I found it, more in the rocks and trees than in the books, the ring of truth sang out from inside me where it had been all along. And in that beautiful realization I found the balance I had sought, a path that used both my heart and my head. The more I learned, the more I had to celebrate, and the more I had to celebrate. I was so filled with wonder and joy and happiness at finally finding my place in the Universe, my role in the great scheme, how could it not overflow into my every thought and word?
Imagine, then, my confusion when I look around and see so little expression of that ecstatic experience in my pagan community. There is a hole in the happiness landscape of our everyday life. Where have all the happy Witches gone? Where is the joy?
How is it that people who are deeply connected to the rhythm and flow of nature, who commune with Deity without shame, guilt, or intercessor are not beacons of happy light in the world? Why aren’t more people spontaneously dancing in the moonlight and singing with the stars? Why aren’t we so caught up in the rapture of our connection to the Universe that we find ourselves unable to keep words like “happiness, ” “bliss, ” “joy, ” and “Yes!” out of our everyday vocabulary?
Yes, I’m aware those last few lines were a bit over the top, and I know how difficult it is to be ecstatic when your back hurts, your car payment is late, and your 401K balance is plummeting. I am aware of the state of the world we live in and know intimately the press of the “real world” from all sides. And I’m respectful of the seriousness of my path, the personal responsibility and accountability I take on when I choose to work with the fundamental energetic building blocks of the Universe. I know those things, and I’m still filled with joy and wonder, still dancing in the moonlight at every opportunity.
I have heard the naysayers among my Pagan brothers and sisters, the ones who cast knowing glances at each other and mutter “newbie” (though I’m hardly a neophyte) or, my personal favorite, “fluffy bunny.” They equate my ecstatic expression of my faith with naiveté, my joy with the zeal of the newly converted or a lack of respect for the serious nature of my path. On the other hand, there are those who welcome my celebratory enthusiasm but turn away when the conversation moves toward deeper topics. They’re content with mysteries they aren’t meant to understand.
It seems that some in the Pagan community are squaring off into two camps, head versus heart, much like the churches of my youth. I’m not willing to join either camp. My “church” is in the dance of both perspectives, where head meets heart and knowledge spawns celebration.
My enthusiastic embrace of a more charismatic Pagan path is neither naïve nor fluffy. It is a conscious choice – the choice to allow reason and emotion to overlap, to be aware of the less-than-perfect nature of the world without letting it become my focus, to grow in knowledge and experience without allowing myself to become jaded, cynical, or too sophisticated to feel wonder. From where I stand, every new bit of knowledge I gain only increases my sense of wonder and awe. I choose to embrace both head and heart in my walk – to know and to feel, to think and to dance, to see the shadow and still walk in the light.
As a Witch, I believe embracing a life of awe with will and intent is my birthright and my responsibility. It is a conscious act of creation wherein I take the gifts and insights offered to me and transform them into a life that is both grounded and ecstatic. I would wish for each of you a life filled with wonder and joyful expression. May your learning open doors in both mind and heart.
Whether you choose to physically dance in the moonlight or dance privately in your heart – dance, Witch…dance!
|Jade Runes are most commonly used for questions about love, friendship, and relationships. Hagalaz is the rune of hail. Hail is a destructive and elemental force, so one can expect this rune to represent the disruption of one’s life. In the harsh northern winter there is a halt to activity, and so delay or hindrance is frequently associated with this rune. The opposite of chaos is yet more chaos, as illustrated by the fact that this rune cannot be reversed.|