Daily Archives: January 20, 2012

Have a Super-Fantastic Weekend, Sweeties! Oh, one more thing….

Days of the Week Comments= It just hit me that you might be wondering why the site has the “Stop Censorship” Ribbon on it. It is part of yesterday, when I blacked out the blog. I told you why I had done it and then gave you a link to an article about what the blackout on the internet had accomplished. But like I said at the end, we just won a battle, not the war. The bill still has to do through the Senate and get rejected there before we can celebrate. The Senate is suppose to vote on the bill sometime between now and January 27th. So all the blogs that took part in the blackout, now have the ribbons on them. Maybe we will get lucky and the Senators will surf the net and see how many people are against them meddling in our business and kill the bill too. We can only hope. 

 

But I thought I would tell you real quick, why the ribbon was there. I didn’t want you to think they were trying to censor us, lol! 

Have a great weekend, dearies! 

Lady A 


~Magickal Graphics~

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Does Spirit Go with Body? A Look at Reincarnation

Does Spirit Go with Body? A Look at Reincarnation

by Janice Van Cleve

Reincarnation is a subject that keeps coming back (ouch). Seriously, the topic of reincarnation keeps showing up in magazines and books cloaked in mystery or psychobabble. Among New Age and neo-pagan believers, there is often talk of “past lives,” working out karmic justice over a series of lives and transmigration of souls. Hindus hold that we reincarnate many times until we achieve enlightenment or perfection and thus are able to escape the wheel of life, death and rebirth. Rabbi Shagra Simmons says that Jews sometimes get three shots at terrestrial life. Tibetan monks search for babies born at the moment of their lama’s death in the belief that his soul migrated into the newborn. Resurrection of the body is such a strong tenet of Catholic orthodoxy that the Vatican for centuries preached against cremation, supposedly because ashes are harder to resurrect than rotten remains in a coffin.

Not everyone believes in reincarnation. Many people believe that death is the end, finis, kaput. They do not believe in any afterlife or return to life in any form. Others believe that the body may die but some kind of spiritual essence or “soul” lives on and goes someplace, like heaven or hell. Plato was a great proponent of the theory of “essences” that exist beyond or outside of the physical body. Christians and Muslims believe in a paradise where the souls go and don’t come back. Ancient Sumerians thought spirits descended into a pit where they ate dirt, and the Greeks held that souls crossed the River Styx to linger in a dim underworld. The idea of spirits dwelling in a Great Beyond is advantageous if you want call on them in prayers or séances. If, on the other hand, souls do come back in new bodies, who will be left on the invitation list to your next Dumb Supper?

Modern technology and psychology have pushed the envelope in our understanding of death and rebirth. For example, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has documented some amazing cases of apparent conscious existence outside of the body and/or after the body’s clinical death. Cryogenics labs are experimenting with freezing bodies to resuscitate them later. Cloning is a bit different in that a new body is generated, but the jury is still out on whether any conscious memory is transferred along with the genetic material. While these are interesting avenues of research that may someday prove or disprove some mechanical aspect of reincarnation, they are generally understood to be outside the discussion of reincarnation per se.

So what’s inside the discussion? One way to look at reincarnation is to examine its parts. The “carn” refers to a body and the “re” is a something that returns into a body. That got me to wondering: which body? Is it only humans who reincarnate? Do dogs reincarnate into new dogs, or trees into new trees? What about cross-species reincarnation? Can a fern reincarnate into a frog or a cow into a liverwort? There are some dire warnings in the literature about “coming back as a toad,” but for the most part we see the focus on humans returning as new humans. (Certainly most cat lovers will agree that cats believe that they don’t participate in reincarnation because no other living being could aspire to their level.)

People as far back as the Stone Age have understood that the body decays after death. They may have held many theories about where the soft tissue went, but they could see that soon all they had left was bones. Eventually, as in the case of the dinosaurs, even the bones break down and are replaced by minerals leaching through the soil. Occasionally nature has delayed decay, as in the prehistoric bodies found in an glacier in the Italian Alps or in a bog in Denmark. Children sacrificed by the Incas on Andean peaks still have hair and skin preserved by the cold, while Egyptians first learned mummification from bodies buried and desiccated in the hot Saharan desert. Yet even the most carefully preserved remains of a Pharaoh in Cairo or a Lenin in Moscow would be reduced to molecules if exposed to the normal processes of decay.

Scientists exploring biology, chemistry, genetics, forensics and the like have shown that as things decay after death, they break down into simpler and simpler components, eventually reducing into basic compounds or molecules that can be used by other living organisms. Gardeners practice this principle by composting. Dead plants and other organic materials are stacked in bins where, over time, they reduce to rich soil and are plowed back into the garden to provide nutrients for new plants. So a dead tulip may break down in the compost bin and its molecules eventually become incorporated into a turnip. Not all of its molecules may end up in the turnip, however. Some of them may wind up in the carrots, and others may become potatoes. Certainly a large number of the former tulip molecules will stay as dirt and may even become incorporated into stone, if said gardener happens to have a volcano in her pea patch!

So at least some of the material that was the physical body of the tulip may find itself after death reincorporated into other physical bodies, and therefore the tulip continues to participate in the phenomenon called life. In a way, I suppose that can be called reincarnation — at least of body material. Perhaps when we refer to a dead relative “pushing up daisies,” we’re closer to the mark than we think.

But if the remains of living things decompose and are scattered to be used by many other living things, or not used at all, is the identity of the original plant or animal or human forever lost? When do tulip molecules cease to be tulip and become turnip? And what about the turnip? If it got some material from a tulip and other material from a spider, where does its unique identity as a turnip come from? This is where the “soul” or “essence” comes into the reincarnation picture.

There have been times even in the historical past when the birth rate of new babies worldwide did not match the death rate. So according to the theory of reincarnation, did some souls get put on hold for awhile in a spiritual wait zone until there were enough babies to go around? Or did they hang out in the turnips? Conversely, our current population explosion clearly demonstrates way more births than deaths. So does that mean that some babies are born with half-souls or no souls? There can’t be that many souls waiting in turnips to fill the current demands!

Buddhists may help us out here. Buddhists seek to skip the Hindu wheel of birth, death and reincarnation altogether through discipline and meditation. They believe that they can reach a point at which independent identity is no longer relevant. The “soul” loses itself by merging with a universal mass of spiritual energy called Nirvana, something analogous to the universal mass of living energy that scientists call biomass. For the sake of discussion, let’s call this “spiritmass.”

That solves the mathematical problem, because math in the spirit world may not add up the same as it does here in the mundane world. If there is spiritmass, then some babies could inherit old souls directly and some may get new ones from the reservoir of spiritmass. Whatever the case, nature and nurture inevitably work to individualize the baby’s identity, just like they individualize his or her body into a unique new person. Old souls are either absorbed into spiritmass or changed in their new incarnation and new souls are sprung from spiritmass. In either case, the old identity is lost. Tulip becomes turnip, and essence of Uncle Frank becomes Little Carol.

Which brings us back to the two parts of reincarnation. If the body and the spirit both disintegrate and become reabsorbed into biomass and spiritmass respectively, then one could say they were reincarnated. However, such a reabsorbtion automatically means that the unique personal identity of the dead being ceases to exist. Reincarnation therefore implies that individual identity is temporary.

Humans don’t like that. Humans would like to believe that their identities will live forever. Since the body could not be counted on, humans proposed underworlds and paradises to maintain some manner of unique identity after death. Not content with just a spiritual existence, some humans attempt to preserve their existence in the physical world with statues and monuments, trust funds, artistic creations or by making a name for themselves in history books. Ultimately, however, we do not live forever in body or spirit or stone. We do know that we live beyond our death — at least for a little while — in the hearts of those who loved us, and probably in the memories of those who hated us.

So I can buy reincarnation if the most that is meant by it is recycling the body and the spirit. I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over what kind of identity, if any, I will have after I die. I just hope that if reincarnation does pass identity along that John Ashcroft comes back as a gay, homeless black woman.

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Make Beeswax Votives to Manifest Your Desires

Make Beeswax Votives to Manifest Your Desires

by Sylvana

When I first began in the Craft, you couldn’t just go down to Larry’s Market or Fred Meyer’s and buy spell candles, as you can now. Neither could you find witchy stores like Edge of the Circle, Travelers or Odyssey Books. In those days, we made our own spell candles, oils, incenses and tools, or we had things handed down to us and given to us as gifts by our high priest and priestess or coven mates. We also sometimes converted everyday items to our magickal purpose, like the silver dinner bell I still use in ritual today and my antique trivets that serve as wards for our covenstead.

Sometimes, I am glad to have the luxury of purchasing ready-made seven-day candles, like the green “Money Drawing” or “Protection” or the blue and white “Harmonious Home.” But I fondly remember the days when all of us witches made our own candles. This time of year is traditional for the making and blessing of candles, and my coven still gets together at Imbolc for celebration, feasting and to make and bless candles for our coven and personal use. Making them yourself imbues them with your own energy and purpose, as well as making them a more powerful tool for your magick — besides, it’s fun!

If you’d like to create your very own spell candles and don’t have a coven or group to make candles with, this article will tell you how, with a little effort, you can construct and bless your very own magickal spell candles. The instructions following discuss making short spell votives, but you can easily adapt the approach for bigger candles.

You will need:

* A sharp knife or craft knife

* A metal-edged ruler or straight edge

* Small pieces of paper in various colors

* Pens, colored pencils or crayons

* Beeswax sheets in various colors

* Wicking

* Herbs and flowers

* Oils

* Small tokens, coins or stones

* Wax paper

* Cutting board

* Scissors

You can purchase the beeswax in craft stores or candle supply shops; it generally comes in 6-x-9-inch sheets. Look for colors that correspond to your magickal purpose:

* Red: Lust, passion, health, animal vitality, courage, strength

* Pink: Love, affection, friendship, kindness

* Orange: Sexual energy, earth energy, adaptability, stimulation

* Brown: Earth energy, animals

* Yellow: Intellect, mental energy, concentration

* Green: Finances, money, prosperity, fertility, growth

* Blue: Calm, healing, patience, peace, clairvoyance

* Purple: Spirituality, the fey, meditation, divination

* Black: Waning moon, release, banishing, absorbing and destroying negativity, healing

* White: Waxing or full moon, protection, purification, peace, awareness; good for most workings

One sheet of each color wax that you want to use should be enough to begin with, as it will make about four votive-size candles. Fresh beeswax should have a distinctive scent and be soft and pliable, not brittle. Fairly thick cotton (not lead) wick is preferable as beeswax burns fairly fast. Ask the store for recommendations if you’re unsure what exactly to get.

Assemble all of your ingredients and tools, with plenty of room to work. Choose a sheet of beeswax and some herbs or flowers and maybe an oil that are all in accordance with your purpose. To learn more about the associations for herbs, flowers and oils, check tables of correspondence such as are found in many basic books on the Craft. You’ll need only tiny amounts of the herbs and flowers, because if you add too much, your candle will turn into a torch! Also, if you like select an appropriate token or write the candle’s purpose on a tiny piece of paper to add to the candle.

To create a candle, lay a sheet of beeswax onto a sheet of slightly larger wax paper on top of your cutting board. Measure in 2-inch increments down from the top of the beeswax sheet along the edge of the long side, and make a mark on both sides of the wax (see Figure 1). Lay the straight edge along both marks, and cut so that you have about four wax pieces, each about 2 by 6 inches. This will be enough to create at least four votives per sheet of wax, depending on how large the sheet is and how small you cut the pieces. Next, cut a piece of wick about 2&fraq12; inches long, and lay it onto the beeswax along the edge of one side (see figure 2) so that the wick is flush with what will be the bottom of the candle and is protruding from the top by a bit.

Begin rolling the candle by folding the very edge of the wax over the wick and pressing down gently to stick the wax in place (see figure 3)

Then begin to roll the wax firmly around the wick so that it creates a tight roll; once you have one layer of wax around the wick, stop. Sprinkle a tiny amount of herbs or flowers evenly down the length of wax next to the wick roll (figure 4). Place your paper or token inside the candle, near the bottom. Then roll some more, sprinkle some more, brush a tiny bit of oil on at about the middle of the roll and continue until the candle is completely rolled and is about the size of a regular votive candle (figure 5). Seal the wax edge by pressing it down firmly against the candle, while not smashing the candle.

Once you have finished all of your spell candles, do a ritual and raise energy to bless and consecrate them to your purpose. I like the simple blessing following.

A Candle Blessing

Set up an altar with your usual tools, where you can easily move around it. Place your candles on the altar, along with a small amount of wine or juice and a few cookies or pieces of bread. Cast your circle in your customary way. Call whatever elements, gods, quarters and so on that you normally call. When you are ready, raise your athamé or wand to the eastern sky, draw it down in an arc to point toward your pile of candles and say the following:

“Element of air, imbue these candles with magick! Let them carry my intention on the winds and back to me. Infuse them with inspiration and the strength of my will. Thank you for your presence! So mote it be!”

Draw the athamé to the southern sky and down toward the candles, saying:

“Element of fire, energize these candles to my purpose! Bring your warmth and light to me. Let your heat turn reality to my will. Thank you for your presence! So mote it be!”

Turn now to the western sky, and draw the athamé down toward your candles, saying:

“Element of sacred waters, heal my magick. Make my purpose clean, and let my magick flow free. Cleanse all for the best; heal all I touch. Let your healing power flow. Thank you for your presence! So mote it be!”

Turn finally to the northern sky, and draw the athamé toward your candles, saying:

“Element of earth, bring my magick into being. Bless these candles, and let them burn true. Bring grounding and practicality to me. With your deep power please imbue them. Thank you for your presence! So mote it be!”

Ask the god and goddess of your choice (and any other beings that you work with) for their blessings.

Then chant the following, slowly and softly at first, then picking up energy as you go:

“Candles burn oh so bright, bring my desires every night and day. Candles light my magick spell, now draw success my way.”

When the energy has reached its peak, direct it into the candles. Ground out any excess energy. Have cakes and wine, and offer a libation to the elements and gods for their participation. Then close your circle.

Now your magickal spell votives are ready for you to use for your spells or whenever you need them. Have fun, and may all of your magick be wondrous!

Caution: When burning candles, make sure to always place them on something nonflammable and do not ever leave one of these candles burning alone, even for a second, as they sometimes flare up or fall over and can easily ignite anything in range. Be careful also of wearing flammable clothing around these candles!

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Shine a Light into the Darkness

Shine a Light into the Darkness

by Freya Ray

What does it mean, to shine a light into the darkness? If we’re going to talk about candle magick, what more powerful candle is there than the human spirit? In the face of a wide array of conflicting information, it seems worthy to explore the idea of how best to make a difference in the world.

What conflicting information? As you’re reading this paper, you identify as some form of witchy pagan, or are at least curious about such. That’s great, but it does not automatically liberate you from the Judeo-Christian heritage of our culture. That heritage says that to be a good person, to do good for others, you suffer. You give up yourself to take care of those in need. On the other hand, there is a streak of self-indulgent hedonism running through much of today’s Wiccan culture. “Do what you will and harm none.” What’s the harm in doing this little love or money spell, to create what I want in my life? A third opinion about how to be in relationship with the world that affects many of us is the metaphysical hive mind. That cosmic-consciousness PC-police brain hums out, “It’s all good. Everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to. We have all chosen our own destiny, and can all choose perfect abundance and love if we just, well, choose it.”

Before you get all up in arms about my brattily simplistic summaries, I’m just making a point here. Which is: Most of us feel an instinctive urge to give back, to make a difference, and it can be hard to figure out how best to do that. Following are my musings on the question, “How can I up the wattage on this little light of mine, and shine it where it can do the most good?”

Rest Your Spirit

It’s hard to do anyone any good when you’re run down, crabby or emotionally overwhelmed. Somehow, some way, find the time to restore yourself when you need to. I could run through all the cliché remedies: Take a nap, soak in the bath, be in nature and so on, but you already know how best to take care of yourself. This is your monthly scheduled reminder from the universe to actually do it.

Have Cosmic Sex

Talk about upping your wattage! Great, chakra-blowing, mind-altering sex is better than any drug for opening you up to the beauty of others, increasing the generosity of your spirit and making you more patient with everything. Not only does it benefit your partner (we hope), but the energy of divinely inspired sexual congress overflows to benefit everyone. If you have a partner, seek to actively bring God/Spirit/Goddess/whatever into your lovemaking. Call circle before you begin. Focus every scrap of your attention on the energy between you and your partner, on elevating what you’re doing to the level of art. Take hours and hours. If you’re alone, do all of those same things. Be aware of your energy, of every subtle nuance of your reactions. Get a book on Tantra (The Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margo Anand is a good one), and practice elevating your energy as you pleasure yourself. Some of the best sex I ever had was just me, my hands and my breathing.

Have you ever considered sending a shot out as you come? As you reach orgasm, take that juicy energy and send it to AIDS orphans in Africa, or the women of Afghanistan, or your ex-boyfriend, or whatever. It can’t hurt, right?

Make Yourself Available

It’s all fine and good to talk about reciprocity and balance in our relationships, but the truth is that sometimes I give a friend apples and get back kiwis. Common metaphysical lore holds that everyone in our life is a teacher for us in some way. But some of my friends just teach me about my ability to be there for someone learning stuff I already know. These “unequal” relationships are not only okay, they’re necessary. I know I never would have made it through the last 10 years without my older (or just wiser) friends who knew the things I was learning. They freely taught, gave advice or just let me cry on them. I do the same thing for a few people younger or less experienced than I.

I believe it’s good to have a list of people who are allowed to make outrageous demands on you from time to time. For some reason, a particular friend’s emotional crisis touches you, and you give them permission to call at any hour, and you’ll be a friendly ear. Conversation after conversation ends up being mostly about them, and their struggles, and you don’t mind or feel “owed.” When energy work, ritual or a Tarot reading happens, it’s for them, not you. Call them projects, call them puppies, call them friends having a hard time. Just have some people you personally care for.

Be a Relentless,
Irrepressible Optimist

Think of it as a meditation, as a spiritual practice: Find the upside in everything that happens in your life. I can talk for five minutes about the good things I learned from being in an abusive relationship. Talk about impulse control! I’m not condoning all the ugliness of life, and certainly I’m not saying we should perpetuate it to help others learn hard lessons, but I do believe that any situation can be interpreted any number of ways. I feel more empowered if, instead of going to the “poor me” place, I answer these questions: What am I learning here, and how is it benefiting me?

For example, I recently fell completely, utterly in love with someone who I am not currently able to talk with. My friends who have heard every blow-by-blow think he’s a jerk and offer all kinds of sympathy. But I know what I’m learning from the situation. I finally found that place in myself that was unwilling to give up on someone, just because of something they said. I found the place in me that can be mad as hell and not walk away. I’m learning some measure of patience. I have a mantra, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, you can’t make me stop loving you.” It’s my process, I own it, I refuse to feel victimized by life.

If you’re at all prone to martyr or victim thinking, I can’t begin to tell you how much psychic energy will be liberated by running your thoughts along more positive lines. Giving away your power is a huge drain on the psyche, on your ability to feel positive about your own life and on your ability to have anything to offer to others. Try keeping your own power instead. You’ll like it!

Follow Your Impulses

Between the opposites lies the path. Sometimes we need to be selfish, sometimes we need to be selfless. The best way to navigate life between the poles is to listen to Spirit, to the voice of your own intuition, in every moment. If you’re in doubt about how to proceed, sit still (or nap) until clarity comes. Trust yourself.

Find the Connections

Alienation and separation do not help us help each other. The false sense that we are all alone, that we are different from others, leads to thoughts like, “Why would I want to help those ones. They’re nothing to me.” Seek to find the connections. Do some past-life work, so you can remember for yourself how a life could lead one to be dirty and poor. Meditate, finding the dark impulses inside yourself, so you don’t feel yourself better than the one who succumbed. There is no separation. What is done to the least of us, is done to us, we do. It’s all one.

We don’t all have to be bodhisattvas in order to care. Some glimmer of the kinship between all of us will open up remarkable compassionate vistas.

Reach Out

Ask yourself, “How does service best manifest in my life?” As a professional psychic, shaman and healer, I find most years that much of my time serving others is done in that way. I have a collection of friends I give my professional services to, without expectation of return. From time to time, I offer my services free to a stranger. For a while, I tithed. Sometimes I do shamanic work for strangers in my dreams. Sometimes I pray or do ritual for a person or family or part of the world in crisis. Sometimes I drive my mother to the dentist.

Not everyone is cut out to volunteer at the hospice. But everyone is capable of some kind of service. Your professional expertise might lend itself to occasional gifts of time and knowledge. Your body might like to express itself in some good physical barn-raisin’ activity from time to time. You might be a fundamentally lazy person, who can still feel like a good contributing citizen by gifting 10 percent of your income every month to someone deserving. Give it some thought, and find your own way.

Everyone needs to know that their flame helped light the way for someone.

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When Darkness Falls: Cooking and Heating in Winter as Our Forebears Did

When Darkness Falls: Cooking and Heating in Winter as Our Forebears Did

by Catherine Harper

As I write this, we are in the midst of the false spring that is so often January’s mercurial gift to the Pacific Northwest coast. Around the borders of the garden daffodil bulbs are sending up small green teeth. The days are sunny and mild, and my over-wintering broccoli has started to form heads. Is it just coincidence that just as the season tries to so mislead us the seed catalogs begin to arrive? The sunset through the trees beyond my study window has painted the sky the color of salmon, and it is not yet wholly dark, though it would have been at this time only a few weeks before. It’s an easy time to think of Imbolc ahead.

Imbolc is a celebration of first stirrings, new beginnings, gradual lengthening of days and return of the light. In this green country by the sea, where winter’s sleep is never much more than a nap, it might almost be redundant, the transition from grey, rain and green to more of the same with swelling buds. We prune the apple orchards and light a candle (the more faithfully because Imbolc is also my brother’s birthday). It is a restless season, a gradually accelerating rising toward the lighter portion of the year, and as such it can be a difficult time for reflection. And yet reflection sometimes finds us, though we did not look for it.

Recently, our house was without power for several days, and many of our plans were put on hold for that stretch. I was given ample opportunity to think of the passing of the darkest time — even as winter is still with us — and time to think of the small ways in which the light returns to us. Now, we are well set up for such occurrences, and it is not uncommon for us to heat the house and cook our dinner with the wood-burning brick oven. Similarly, we often eat by candlelight. But to fire the oven every day, banking the coals each night and then stirring them to light the fire the next morning, is something else, as it is to read and work out and clean the garage only by the light of candles and oil lamps or the short hours of daylight. What has been at most ritual, and at least conceit, becomes both drudgery and discipline.

By the third day, the eyestrain from the dimmer light even of many candles was feeling ingrained. I had learned to take a hot water bottle to bed with me every night because, while the oven could heat most of the house, the master bedroom is too far, and the bed itself bitterly cold when I first entered it. We swept and washed dishes as much as possible while we still had daylight to see our work by, and brought in wood before going to bed so that it would be there to start the morning fire. Beyond the work itself, which wasn’t excessive, the routine was exhausting — some combination of the cold and the dark and the tedium of normally simple tasks leaving me stumbling with fatigue each night. And yet, in its way, it was deeply satisfying.

In my magical work in and beyond the kitchen, much of what I do is creating a web of connections. I buy the food that is in season to make another link between myself and the turning of the year. I buy from local farmers to strengthen my connection to the land, and from people I know to strengthen my connection with the community. But we all live in and amongst many such webs, if not all of them so deliberately chosen. The pieces of our world — every aspect of our lives — is vastly interdependent, and the electrical networks are one such tangible example of the ways in which we are connected.

If there is something to be learned from building and choosing to put our energy into certain connections and so reinforce them, so is there something very basic and primal about stepping aside from some of the default connections in our lives. The break from my routine, the rhythm of tending the house and heating and lighting it by our own labors, became an opportunity to step back and consider the interconnections of our lives and the routines we had taken for granted. And, of course, a chance to consider a little the lives we might be living had we been given fewer technological blessings. I think for those who are plunged into darkness less frequently by the vagaries of the weather and the electric companies, spending the occasional stretch of time without power, perhaps the length of a meal, can still be a useful exercise.

It is generally assumed that those who are in the magickal community are well equipped with candles, but our uses of them do not necessarily emphasize the efficiency of lighting, so here are a few suggestions:

Most people know that a candle backed by a mirror or other reflector will shed more light. A candle near a white wall will also reflect its light better than one near a dark surface.

Candles much more than two inches in diameter will tend to use up the wax at the center of the candle without melting the wax on the outside, so gradually the wick and flame will drop down below the level of the outer rim of wax. This is pretty and atmospheric, but does not provide especially efficient light. On the other hand, candles of much less than one inch in diameter will burn down quite quickly, which can be useful in spell work, but is annoying for lighting purposes.

Most grocery stores carry large boxes (usually of 72 candles) of Shabbos candles in their Kosher food section. These are plain white four-inch candles that are usually quite cheap, and they are less likely to be sold out during power outages.

I have often seen candle jars used in outdoor rituals, but seldom seen them used indoors in the manner in which we employ them. These are versatile lanterns that can be comfortably carried or set down, provide light in all directions and are fairly kid and cat safe because they can be tipped over without ill effect. To make one, wash and remove the label from a large spaghetti sauce jar or other large glass jar. (Hot water will soften the glue that holds on the label.) Find two candles that are not taller than the jar. Light one candle, pour a few drops of its hot wax into the jar and then quickly stick the bottom of the other candle to the jar bottom with the hot wax. The jar, being glass, allows light to shine all around, and is far enough from the flame that it doesn’t get hot enough to burn your hands when carried.

Oil lamps are a convenient light source, but only the lamps with properly ventilated chimneys are able to provide especially bright light. In my experience the lamps burn best when the wick is at least occasionally trimmed, and the end of the wick is roughened or frayed a bit by rubbing a knife-edge across it. Oil lamps also provide much better light when their reservoirs are full than when they are near empty.

Cooking

I should have known when we bought a house already equipped with a fireplace, woodstove and the built-in barbeque that was later converted into my brick oven that we lived in an area where power supply could be a bit uncertain. Instead, to my surprise, six weeks later we were treated to three days in the dark with a woodstove I hadn’t entirely made friends with and a foot of icy slush on the roads. But the corollary to our frequent outages is that we are well set up to deal with them, with wood stove and brick ovens, lamps, sconces and chandeliers. Most houses, and apartments even more so, are not so well prepared.

Now, I assume people who already have woodstoves, brick ovens, grills, barbeques, masonry cookers and other such relatively expensive fixtures are already fairly well acquainted with their use, but a few tips anyway: If you haven’t cooked over your woodstove, it’s good to keep in mind that most of them that are not built specifically for cooking will provide only the equivalent of low heat from a standard burner unless you fire them very hot. You’ll have better luck simmering a stew than frying an egg on them, and you might want to put a pot of water on top right off so you don’t have to wait later on for it to warm. Barbeques and grills can be used year round in our mild climate, but they should be used outside if you are fond of breathing. (Though one can often use a hibachi or other small grill in one’s fireplace, assuming that the fireplace is large enough to accommodate it and that the draw is strong enough.)

Luckily, the lack of such amenities doesn’t put you out of the running. If you would like to cook over flame, don’t have wood-burning appliances and don’t want to invest in expensive equipment, there are a number of low-cost options. The simplest is the tried-and-true can of Sterno or similar canned heat product. These are readily available at grocery stores and fairly safe for indoor use, unlike most camping stoves, which need a lot of ventilation and should only be used outside. For a few bucks more you can buy a collapsible Sterno “stove” from your local army surplus or camping supplies store, which will shelter the flame and support a cooking pot.

The collapsible Sterno “stoves” or other similar trivets can also be used above tea lights (which are good for warming tinned soup, if less good for more serious cooking, though you can do a bit when you use more than one at a time), alcohol burners or other simple flames. We have been using our fondue burner, which is essentially a small adjustable alcohol burner with a heavy iron trivet, as a general-purpose stove, and it boils water quite readily. Fondue burners can be found at culinary stores, and other types of alcohol burners can be purchased through chemistry supply companies.

Most of these improvised burners will not give you as evenly distributed heat as will most stoves, so you must either use them with thick-bottomed pots that distribute heat well on their own or make soups, sauces and other largely liquid things that will not mind the uneven heat so much. Another good standby is couscous. You can add one part couscous to two parts boiling water and then cover it and let it cook away from the flame entirely (this also makes for fairly fuel-efficient food, which is why couscous is a backpacking favorite).

If you are fortunate enough to have a fireplace, more options are available to you (though if you have attempted to cook over a fireplace without appropriate equipment you already know that other than hotdogs and marshmallows, your options can be rather limited). An open fire is romantic, but to cook over it effectively requires some preparation. First of all, for most things it is much more effective to cook over hot coals than open flame. So you’re often best off building a fairly large, hot fire and letting it burn down before you attempt to cook over it. (For a similar effect you can use charcoal briquettes in your fireplace or add them to your wood fire.)

Next, of course, you need some way of supporting your food over the fire. A spit can be improvised, but is often fairly difficult to manage, especially in modern fireplaces. For the least expensive route, one can rely on the camper’s favorite of wrapping food in tinfoil and setting it among the coals and ashes (not directly in the hottest part of the fire) to cook. “Hobo stew” is a combination of meat and vegetables cooked by this method, a bit of a chancy proposition, but fun, simple, and potentially tasty. Or, most camping supplies stores sell inexpensive lightweight collapsible grills that can fit in your fireplace. These can hold pots and pans as well as grill meat and vegetables.

Of course, if you want to get at all serious about cooking in your fireplace, you should at least look at what is often considered the most flexible of fireside cooking tools, the Dutch oven. It has been claimed, and to a great extent demonstrated, that pretty much any dish from the Western European tradition, and a great many others from elsewhere, can be made in a Dutch oven. The Dutch oven is a heavy cast iron pot with feet that will hold it above burning coals and a rimmed lid that will allow you to place additional coals on top of it. They come in a variety of sizes, and can be used to make anything from wedding cakes to stews to omlettes. Dutch oven cooking is a subject one could write a book about, and indeed many people have. A good place to start if you’re interested in exploring it further is http//www.idos.com, the home page of the international Dutch oven society. (For a more witchy-looking alternative, http://www.actionafrica.com/castironpots.html offers a large variety of cast iron cauldrons that can be used in a similar manner.)

In the end, there is the eating. Almost by definition it is a dinner by candlelight, but it need not be a formal one. We hand out one bowl, spoon, and fork apiece, because bowls are harder to spill food from and more amenable to being held in one’s lap while you sit in front of the fire or curl up with a blanket in the living room. Fewer dishes are a blessing when light and hot water are limited, too. Like the food we make camping, a meal cooked at home over fire is fully realized in its simplicity. Even tinned soup and crackers becomes delicious as our labors give us a more intimate connection to the food and its preparation. Fire, food and hunger are primal things.

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About Imbolc

About Imbolc

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: February 1 or 2.

Alternative names: Imbolg, Candlemas, Oimelc, Brighid’s Day, Lupercus, the Feast of Lights, Groundhog’s Day

Primary meanings: The name “Imbolc” derives from the word “oimelc,” meaning sheep’s milk. It is considered a time of purification, preparation and celebration for new life stirring, anticipating spring. The holiday is also known as Candlemas; the custom of blessing candles at this time signifies awakening of life and honors the Celtic goddess Brighid, to whom fire is sacred. This Sabbat also celebrates banishing winter.

Symbols: Candle wheels, grain dollies and Sun wheels, a besom (witch’s broom), a sprig of evergreen, a bowl of snow and small Goddess statues representing her in the maiden aspect.

Colors: White, yellow, pink, light blue, light green; also, red and brown.

Gemstones: Amethyst, aquamarine, turquoise, garnet and onyx.

Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, clover, dill, evergreens, heather, myrrh, rosemary, willows and all yellow flowers.

Gods and goddesses: Brighid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft; all virgin and maiden goddesses; all fire and flame gods, connected with the newborn Sun.

Customs and myths: In Irish legends of the Tuatha De Danaan, Brighid is the name of three daughters of Dagda who over time were combined into one goddess. She was venerated in Scotland, Wales, on the Isle of Man and in the Hebrides. When celebrating Candlemas or Imbolc, spellwork for fertility, inspiration and protection are appropriate, defining and focusing on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to bring in the new and clearing out the old. Make and bless candles; light one in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Carry out rites of self-purification. Burn mistletoe, holly and ivy decorations from Yule to signify the end of harsh weather and old ways.

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Mind/Body/Spirit Cleansing for Imbolc

Mind/Body/Spirit Cleansing for Imbolc
By: Lotus Moonwise
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Although Samhain is commonly considered to be the Witch’s New Year, Imbolc has always felt more like New Year to me. After going through winter “hibernation” mode, this is the perfect time to start clearing everything out, moving some energy around and making way for new things to come in Spring. Ever since I started practicing the Craft, this has been my favorite Sabbat of all because it brings Change, which I am so very fond of. Stagnation blocks creative power, so I usually do some kind of total cleansing at least twice a year, but preferably every quarter.
 
I like to set aside one or two weeks before Imbolc for this cleansing process, so that by the time the Sabbat rolls around, I’m fresh and new and ready to invite the new energies in. Here are some ways to cleanse yourself and your space:
 
Your Home:
· Do a total house cleanse, dedicating at least one day to each room.
· Go through each room and move everything. Create a system of organizing. Divide things into categories of what you know you want to keep, what you know you can let go of, and what you’re not sure about. Also, as you go through the rooms, if there is anything that is not where it belongs or anything that doesn’t have it’s own place, set that aside for now.
· Be honest with yourself and let go of things you no longer need. If there are clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn in a year, chances are you can let them go. As time goes on and our energy changes, our styles change, too. Make sure that everything in your home matches who you are NOW, not 5 years ago.
· If you come across anything that is broken, either repair it or replace it. Broken items in the house bring down the vibration. Remember that your house is a mirror of your soul.
· Once you’re sure of what you want to keep, start arranging those items in a way that is pleasing to you. Take time to sit in the room and meditate. If you pay attention, the room will tell you want it needs. Often it is something much simpler than you might expect.
· A good way of increasing abundance in your life is to create an altar somewhere in a direct line from your front door. When energy comes into your life/home, it comes in through the front door. In my home, the front door and the back door are in a direct line. As I did rituals to increase abundance, I noticed that the abundance was coming in, but it was also going out very fast. Extra expenses would just keep coming up. It was “easy come, easy go”. An altar situated between those two doors would magnetize the energy and anchor it into the house.
· Clean and re-dedicate your altars. Also cleanse and re-consecrate any ritual tools that you use.
· Placing a piece of rose quartz near your bathroom mirror is a good way of helping increase your self love and self esteem. You can also write some affirmations on an index card and post them here, since this is a place you’re likely to see them everyday.
· To keep the abundance coming in, you need to complete the cycle by giving. Take the items and clothing that you no longer use to a donation center or a shelter. A continues outflow of energy insures a continuous inflow.
 
Your Computer:
· This is also a good time to go through your computer and get rid of some clutter. Go through your email files, internet bookmarks, files saved on your hard drives and see what you truly need and what can be deleted. Organize the stuff you do keep into folders so you can easily find them when you need them. Many times I have done this and found useful things that had gotten lost in the mass of clutter. Clearing everything out also means your computer will work quicker and this is a metaphor for your mind working more efficiently. Once everything is clear, it’s a good time to back everything up to prevent it from being lost forever if something happens to your computer.
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Your Body:
· This is a great time to get a makeover. Maybe you want to try a new hairstyle or try out a new style of clothing. Making changes can be very uplifting and that energy will carry over into all your creative projects.
· Address any medical concerns you have. Get a checkup, maybe do a spring “fast” or undergo a detox program.
· Meditate on what you need to do to nurture wellness in your body. Talk to your body – it knows what it needs to heal itself and if you listen, it will tell you. Sometimes what your body truly needs goes counter to the generally accepted ideal of what is healthy. Trust yourself. Each person and each body is unique, and the best source for answers about you… is YOU.
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Your Emotional/Mental Self:
· This is a very important part of a total cleanse. If you don’t already, start keeping a journal. Start to observe the thoughts you have. Do this without judgment or analyzing yourself – just observe. Notice if your self talk is nurturing or hurtful. If you notice negative thought patterns, write some affirmations to counteract these and say them daily.
· Write all your fears, concerns, hopes, dreams. Get clear about what you want this year, what you don’t want this year, and what steps you can take to achieve your desires.
· This is a great time for divination focusing on the coming year.
· Create a visual representation of your goals for the coming year. I love to make collages, or what some call “treasure maps”. It’s a collection of images and phrases that becomes a powerful focal point for your energy. Put these up in places you’re likely to see them often.
· You can also do a collage as a way to release your fears. Do that same thing, gathering images and phrases that represent your fears. Then you can either bury this or burn it.
· Another technique that is helpful in clearing out emotional clutter is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EMT)
The “Personal Peace Procedure” is a very thorough way of getting to the core of your fears and blocks, and releasing them in a pain free way.
· Write a “Statement of Intent” that outlines your personal philosophy on life and spirituality and your intention of how you will embody that philosophy in the coming year. This is a commitment you make to your self, your Spirit, and the Universe as a whole. Re-write this statement annually, since we are constantly changing, learning, and growing. Keep this statement in your Book of Shadows.
 
Doing all or some of these things will create a “clean slate” feeling. Then when you invite Brigid into your space on Imbolc, you will feel empty enough to be filled with Divine inspiration and creative fire.
 
About The Author: Lotus Moonwise is a Priestess of the Order of the White Moon, and is currently studying to receive ordination as High Priestess. She leads a small family coven. Lotus is a Shambhala Reiki Master/Teacher and offers online classes and attunements. In addition, she is studying to become a licensed massage therapist and lives in Oregon with her husband, three children, and two cats. Contact her via email at lotus@…
Categories: Articles, The Sabbats | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the Goddess

Finding the Goddess
By: GrannyMoon
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“How did you find the Goddess”? I have asked this of many people and usually the answer
I receive, “She found me”. Now how is that possible you ask?
 
I have studied witchcraft and the occult since a teen. My lessons came from the late
great Dr. Leo Martello himself. I did not join the feminist movement in the 70’s,
as I was up to my ears in dirty diapers and dirty dishes.
 
However, I did order my herbs and other supplies from a tiny shop out in California,
calling itself, “The Feminist Wicca”, it was run by a rather unknown witch by the name
of Z. Budapest. You could buy all the best herbs there in those days!
 
However, I did not follow the Goddess in those days, I thought of her as consort
to the God. The God and Goddess were so important to me, how warm, beautiful and sexy
they made me feel! My husband and I were young, two wild horses, we could run and play
with the best of them! Youthful, fresh and full of life. Giving love to our children
and loving life in general, so beautiful and health abounded! They were not sick a day
in their life and I thanked the God and Goddess for this.
 
The years passed with the birthday’s of the children marking time. We grew older
as did our parents, friends and relatives. I didn’t notice the silver in my mother’s
hair or the gray in my own. But it was there. Waiting.
 
Grandparents passed away, then our fathers. While we mourned their deaths, we coped.
We had new life, new careers,new hope, in our children and in ourselves.
 
Somewhere in the midst of marking time with my children, grandchildren appeared.
I hadn’t noticed that my children had grown, my girls had become myself.
The Maidens into the Mother. How was this possible?
 
As I was analyzing that fact, I lost my mother to a horrific disease. How in MY perfect
world could this happen? This was MY mother! What a bad joke, it couldn’t be true.
But it was true. The warning signs were there, but I had chosen to ignore them.
 
I felt that I had let her down, how could I let this happen to her? I was an orphan,
I was parent-less, thrown to the wind like chaff from wheat. Cast into the sea,
without a life boat.
 
As I was beseeching the Gods, the Crone slipped in unannounced. I did not recognize her.
Gone was the youth, the fresh beauty was replaced by aged beauty and kindness.
Who was this divine woman?
 
The Goddess, the Crone, offered herself. We had become one, when I wasn’t looking.
She offered me love and compassion, understanding and wisdom. She helped me to realize
that all things must pass. That death and dying was just as important as birth and
re-birth. We all must be prepared for the end, for it will surely come.
 
The Goddess filled my heart and my very being to the core. I felt oneness with all
Women, I now know that we are all connected. My heart overflows love and compassion
for my sisters of the universe and for myself. They are my Mother and I am theirs.
We Are One… We Are Goddess.
Categories: Articles, The Goddesses | 1 Comment

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