Daily Archives: January 22, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Here Comes the Sun

by Michael Steward

Satirical, yet useful, home and garden article

The holidays are over. The festivities are ended. After the last decoration is alphabetically filed and boxed away for next year, and the last of the shreds of hand-stamped wrapping paper are finally in the color-coordinated recycle bin, a sense of emptiness ensues. No more extended weekends (except for those government employees who everyone else is jealous of). No more demiglace, gourmet eggnog, or cleverly decorated pagan ornaments.

Looking for that special way to shed light into your life during this dreary northwest post-holiday season weather? Here are some ideas to “Bring In The LightTM“.

Create a special illumination in your home to remind you that the sun is shining just above the clouds — and that you can reach up and pull down some of the much-needed solar warmth.

A Sun shaped talisman hanging from your window is always a good idea. Shavings of different colors of crayons make an excellent stained glass effect when ironed (on low heat) between two pieces of waxed paper. Mount this creation in a sun-shaped frame. Cut out two identical sun shapes from a piece of cardboard. Cover them in gold foil or gold leftover wrapping paper (that you made last season by hand in your basement). Add other crafty effects, such as beads, sparkling pipe cleaners, or tissue paper. Glue the stained glass in the center of the two frames, and hang in a window to remind you of those beautiful summer days not too far away.

You can also bring in the light with an easy painted effect on a boring white wall in your home. While it may seem intimidating at first, creating a feature wall in your home is actually quite easy, and the end result can freshen up any room! I think that yellow is an excellent way to brighten a boring old room. (Yes, YELLOW). Use a true bright lemon yellow. For a full wall you wont need more than a pint of paint. (You can, of course, use any color — but get the strongest version, as we will be watering down the paint in this process for a more subtle effect)

Move furniture away, and protect the baseboards and floor with masking tape and newspaper. In a roller pan mix a half-cup of yellow paint with 3 cups of warm (not hot) water. Mix it well. Keep the consistency opaque, but very viscous. Use a natural sponge with just a bit of paint on it and pat it on your wall, starting in the upper corner. Rotate the sponge continually so as not to leave identical marks on your wall. Spread the paint thin so that the

effect is subtle, yet refreshing. Work consistently from the corner in a fan shape, blending in each section as you go. Use a piece of cardboard to mask off adjacent walls.

In the garden — it’s time to get a start on spring annuals, and preparing for the seasons ahead! Here are the Monthly To-Do’s for the January Gardener:

  • Order seeds
  • Sow seeds of warm-season annuals indoors
  • Sow seeds for hardy spring-blooming annuals
  • Cut back on feeding houseplants (do not feed dormant houseplants)
  • Move living Christmas trees outdoors
  • Plant or transplant frost-tolerant perennials
  • Plant bare-root roses
  • Apply dormant spray to bare-root roses
  • Plant bare-root trees, shrubs, and vines
  • Prune winter-blooming shrubs and vines just after bloom
  • Apply dormant spray to trees, shrubs, and vines
  • Plant bare-root perennial vegetables
  • Sow seeds for cool-season vegetables
  • Protect tender plants from frost

Getting your hands in the dirt is one of the best ways to keep in touch with the earth `s cycle, and connect with the winter season in preparation for spring!

Good luck to you in the coming season! And remember, it’s a Blessed Thing.

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How a Suburban Mom Meditates

How a Suburban Mom Meditates

by L. Lisa Harris

The style in which I was taught to meditate or journey recommends that I find a “quiet place outdoors, facing east, and to perform the journey barefoot if possible.” The teacher who recommends this method obviously isn’t a mother living in the suburbs of Puyallup, Washington. When it isn’t raining, snowing or just plain cold, anyone trying to mediate in my backyard is likely to sit on a slug, which is not conducive to achieving a meditative state. If the weather is nice, the neighbors are out. I can tell you that listening to the CD player next door blasting the Back Street Boys at full volume and the obsessive-compulsive, gasoline-powered weed whacking emanating from the yard on the other side does nothing to relax me. Factor into the equation barking dogs, footballs flying over the fence, the neighbor kids asking, “Chelsea, what’s your Mom doing in the back yard? It looks weird” and the car alarm across the street going off, and it becomes painfully obvious that a quiet place outdoors exists somewhere far from my home.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I move my meditations inside the house, where I can look out the window and see the trees, berry vines and ferns in the woods out back and listen to the soothing sounds of my little stone fountain. The question is, “Where in the house?” Forget the family room, where my almost teenage daughter is listening to pop radio. The living room doesn’t work either, as my dear (and slightly deaf) hubby is watching reruns of Friends at full volume. The girl’s room is too messy and still smells like the hamster she had when she was 10. The office/guest room is out of the question, as hubby runs in and out to check on the music he’s downloading on our painfully slow 28.8 modem and occasionally howls, “Damn them, they terminated the connection.” I’ve tried our bedroom, but whenever I’m in there, hubby can’t resist coming in to “be with me.”

Finally, one night, in an exasperated attempt to find privacy in a small rambler with painfully thin walls, I sought the only refuge mothers have: the bathtub. I had visions of candlelight, incense and the pulsating rhythms of one of my drumming CDs blending with the steam rising from the warm water containing herbs, essential oils and sea salt, as I relaxed in the tub and drifted off into a trance state and had profound visions in my own little sacred cocoon. I was sure this was a brilliant idea.

The first challenge was to get the girl to “go now, or hold her peace.” The only bathroom we have with a bathtub in it is in the hallway, and if the girl uses the one in our room, it echoes through the pipes and heater vents (did I mention the thin walls?). Once my darling daughter spent 30 minutes doing whatever it is adolescent girls do in the bathroom, I started gathering my supplies. The first trick was getting my CD player back, “But Mom, I can’t do the dishes without music,” she whined, as I walked out of the kitchen with it. The next challenge, which took about 15 minutes, was finding my drumming CD, which had mysteriously disappeared from the player and had been replaced by some annoying girl-band album. I found an aromatherapy candle and scrounged up the last of the season’s mugwort to add to my lavender essential oil and sea salt. As soon as my surly adolescent saw me heading into the bathroom with my jar of mugwort, she gave me a look and said, “You’re not going to leave a bunch of green crap in my bathtub again, are you?”

Finally, I got everything I needed together and ran myself a bath. As soon as I settled in and started to become aware of my breathing, I heard something shaking and saw two black paws reaching under the door. As tempting as it was, I knew that telling Bad Kitty to get lost would not only be useless but would violate two major rules of our household that are strictly enforced: There is to be no magick, meditation or energy working in the house without direct supervision by the kitty, and humans are never allowed into a bathroom unescorted by the kitty. I got up out of the tub, dripping all over everything in sight and opened the door to let her in. While I stood shivering, she just sat and looked at me as if to say, “You know better.” Finally, when she was darn good and ready and I was sufficiently cold, she sauntered in and flicked the end of her tail at me as if to say, “That will teach you.”

I eased myself back into the bath, and kitty took her place on the side of the tub, face resting against mine, and fluffy tail dangling in the water. I began to establish the portals to start my journey in earnest. I was startled out of my almost meditative state by a loud knock and a whiny adolescent voice saying, “Mom.” I tried ignoring her, but she just kept at it.

“What are the rules about when I’m in the tub?” I snarled through the door.

“Don’t bug you unless I’m bleeding or something’s on fire,” she answered sullenly. “Can I get on the Internet to do homework?” she added quickly.

“Fine, but no loud music, I’m trying to meditate.” As I found the place in my mediation where I had been disrupted, I drifted back to the portals, reconnecting and resuming my journey. Not long after I stepped through the portal, I heard a sound that made me almost jump out of my skin. I think it originated from our paper shredder and a large object.

“What in the hell are you doing in there?” I shouted through the wall to the next room.

“Um, nothing,” she replied.

“Well, go do it in another room and quietly,” I ordered.

About that time, my dear husband came home from work and proceeded to fire up the computer in the next room. After listening to the Microsoft Windows introduction music at full volume, I asked him though our incredibly thin walls to wear earphones if he was going to play music files. He agreed and then proceeded to type with what have got to be the loudest keystrokes on Earth. He doesn’t do it on purpose; that’s just the way he types. I tried sticking my head under water, but all that did was get water up my nose. Eventually, he finished whatever he was doing, made some noise in the other bathroom for a while and headed out to the living room. “Finally,” I thought to myself, “peace and quiet.”

I drifted back to the land of faery and went to meet up with my animal guide. Raven had come to me that night and was circling my head playfully and swooping down to wrap me in a feathery embrace. This time I was jolted out of my meditation to find Bad Kitty attacking the shower curtain just above my head. I got her furry butt and wet tail out of my face and scolded her. Launching herself off of my shoulder, she took one more leap at the curtain, bound and determined to teach whatever she had seen there a serious lesson. I untangled her from the curtain and unceremoniously dropped her on the bathroom floor. She glared at me as only a cat can, very hurt and frustrated that I didn’t appreciate her attempt to save me from the intruder. I deposited the indignant kitty outside of the bathroom door and turned up the drumming CD to drown out the shaking of the door and her yowling.

As I walked back to the tub shivering, I slipped on the now very wet floor and cracked my shin against the toilet. I limped the rest of the way to the tub and found that my water had become cold. “I am not going to give up,” I told myself, and after running more hot water and settling back in, I counted my breath, backtracked and soon picked up where I had left off. I proceeded to follow my animal guide to the cave, where I anticipated a meeting with another guide. I could feel the gentle breezes, smell the green grass and flowers and hear my husband and daughter in the other room engaging in what sounded like a fight to the death over the remote control.

I proceeded to march out into the living room, draped in a towel, tracking water everywhere. My husband, who normally takes issue with anything dripping on the white carpet, took one look at the expression on my face and the crazed look in my eyes and stopped dead in his tracks. In the calmest, steadiest voice I could muster, I said, “Is it too much to ask to have a few moments of peace in the bathtub once in a while?”

He shook his head and answered, “No, honey.” The girl and the cat sat beside him on the couch, all of them trying not to make any sudden moves that might trigger a predatory response from the tall, wet, angry, redheaded woman, who at that moment resembled her warrior ancestors cloaked in a double-looped cotton towel. Satisfied that my point had been made, I returned to the bathroom, where now no one knocked, meowed or did strange things to the paper shredder in the next room.

I emptied the last of the hot water into the tub, refreshed the herbs and oils and finished my journey. As usual, I received answers to the questions I didn’t ask — and cryptic ones at that. But the answers, and perhaps even the journey itself, weren’t the most important thing I found that night. I found the “holy grail” of motherhood in the suburbs, 20 uninterrupted minutes of peace and quiet in the bathtub.

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Meditation Every Day? We Thought Not!

Meditation Every Day? We Thought Not!

An Expert Offers a Brush-Up on Meditation Basics

by Dianus Blackcat

Meditation is the foundation of pagan spiritual practice, and a basic method to improve our mental and physical state in today’s often stressful and chaotic world. For most pagans, the art of meditation is one of the first skills learned in spiritual practice. Yet for many, the value found in daily meditation exercises is sometimes left by the wayside during the course of our busy lives.

Why meditate every day? Because from pressure to complete tasks at work or school, to world politics, we are bombarded with stressful stimuli every day. That stress can negatively affect both our mental and physical health. Simple meditation exercises, practiced routinely, can counter the negative impact of overstimulation on our minds and bodies.

Mental and physical stresses are experienced together, joined like two sides of the same coin. For example, think of something pleasant, such as a loved one or a sunny afternoon. Immediately we experience the pleasant feelings associated with these images. After thinking of something good, we feel good. If we think of something unpleasant, we conversely experience a negative sensation. We grimace at the news. Pressures on the job give us tension headaches. We use this same mind-body connection in ritual when we take an action in the physical plane to activate the astral. By this principle, meditation can be approached as ritual and magick.

Meditation techniques vary from person to person. Often meditation is put into a religious context. It is not necessary to do so to achieve the benefits of reduced stress, but as pagans, we find that a spiritual dimension to life leads to increased happiness and health. Some practitioners burn incense and play New Age music. Others might sit in various yoga positions and fast or otherwise modify their diet as part of their meditation routine. Despite the variations, virtually all meditation practices do have some attributes in common: a state of deep relaxation, a quieting of mental chatter and a keen awareness of either our internal state or external surroundings.

Many people find it challenging to experience all three of these common attributes at the same time. They may try to silence mental chatter with a forceful effort, only to end up negating their attempt to remain relaxed. They may become so relaxed as to fall asleep, countering their attempt to remain aware. Meditation is not always easy, but the methods are quite straightforward and simple. Even if we have mastered the techniques, like any skill, meditation becomes easier and more rewarding with practice.

Stress is experienced in the body as tension. The origin of that tension can be a mental source, such as the memory of an argument, or a physical source, such as bad weather. What many people forget is that the mental-physical link works both directions. That is, just as our body responds to thoughts, our thoughts will respond to our body. Many people become grouchy when hungry or depressed when overtired. When we reduce the physical tension, we experience a relief of mental tension. Knowing this gives us our first step in successful meditation: deep relaxation.

Step 1: Deep Relaxation

Find a quiet place were you can comfortably sit upright and not be disturbed. It is helpful to have a small kitchen timer or other alarm to keep track of the time for you, so that you are not preoccupied with how long you have been meditating. Take a moment to tense up and then release each muscle group in your body, beginning with your feet, then legs, then gradually moving upward. Twist your torso, then lift and stretch your arms. Finish by moving the muscles in your face to make exaggerated facial expressions. Wrinkle your nose; stretch your mouth. Really let go, but do not strain yourself. Remember to continue breathing deeply. When you draw in a breath, push out from your belly to expand your lungs. Doing so will increase the amount of available oxygen in your lungs, aiding your relaxation. Be sure to exhale fully to prevent dizziness.

After you stretch out and relax, you are usually aware of internal thoughts and feelings more than anything else. We might hear a little voice inside our heads or have a constant internal dialogue going on. We rehash old discussions, worry about unpaid bills and criticize our hair or clothes. This is the mental chatter that we need to quiet from time to time, for it is often the most insidious cause of stress in our lives.

We cannot always control the external events that have an impact on us, but we can do something about our reaction to those events. Silencing the mental chatter can give us just the break we need to help us to view external events more objectively. I believe that an underlying motivation for overstimulation in today’s society is the desire to escape relentless self-dialogue. When we process input, we are distracted away from our egos.

Our egos tend to consume a lot of our energy by worrying about superficial, cultural matters. By adjusting our focus away from them, it helps us to connect to that divine part of ourselves that is a great source of spiritual connection and inspiration. Remembering this gives us our second step in successful meditation: silencing the mental chatter.

Step 2: Silencing Mental Chatter

After having stretched, still breathing deeply in a relaxed way, allow your gaze to fall upon some pleasant, yet emotionally neutral, focal point. I recommend you light a candle ahead of time that you can focus on, but anything pleasing to you is fine. It can be a religious object, a flower or some scenic view. Just look at the object. Do not think about it; just watch it. A candle is useful because it will flicker and change, making it easier to observe without boredom because it changes unexpectedly. Do not make mental notes or judgments. As thoughts come into your mind, simply allow them to pass. Do not attempt to force the thoughts out of your head. You are awake and alive, and thoughts will come to you. Rather, continue to pay attention to your focal object. Watch it as if it is about to jump out at you and you don’t want to miss a thing. By focusing your attention on this single object, time will pass and you will realize that the mental chatter has stopped.

When we calm down the voice of our ego by focusing our attention, we suddenly become aware of a great deal of information that we were missing due to our focus on internal dialogue. For many, that internal dialogue is of a criticizing nature. With that internal critic out of the way, it becomes much easier to face the challenges we may have been suppressing. Facing any hidden or suppressed emotions is the best way to release them from our lives and improve our mental and physical health. Knowing this gives us our third step in successful meditation: keen awareness of either our internal state or external surroundings.

Step 3: Keen Awareness

When observing the focal object of your meditation, allow yourself to also notice your surroundings. Notice the temperature of the air around you. If you are outside, is it calm or windy? Is it hot or cold? Listen for any sounds. Is there traffic on the road outside? Is there a bird singing somewhere? Do you hear some people having a conversation somewhere else in the house? Allow yourself to simply be the observer. You may begin to feel a deep connection with the world around you. You may also have sudden flashes of images from previous or current challenges in your life. Allow yourself to view any memories as if you were watching the events of a fictional character in a movie. Simply observe. The detachment from these images may be difficult at first, but concentrate on remaining relaxed and remembering to breathe deeply.

Meditation is a skill that improves with practice. Regular meditation practice will reduce stress and lead to a happier and healthier outlook on life. For positive results, meditation should be performed every day for at least 15 minutes. Each of us can afford to take 15 minutes out of our day to do something good for ourselves. After a while, you may find that troubles in the news and in life, although still troubling, can be dealt with. When we are relaxed and energized through these exercises, we are more able to face challenges. There may be times when we are particularly upset and might feel that we cannot meditate during a crisis. When we are most upset is precisely the time when we need meditation the most. It will help.

Meditation helps us to understand ourselves because it requires us to carefully pay attention to our inner thoughts as well as the world around us. When we pay attention to the world, we can more fully interact with it. When we can interact with the world, we can change the world and cease to be helpless and fearful. Often we approach the world by talking out our opinions and thoughts, projecting sometimes false ideas on others. Meditation is a way to stop the talking. Simple meditation exercises, when practiced routinely, can counter the negative impact of daily stress on our minds and bodies. When I stopped talking, I listened. When I listened, I heard. Listen, and you will hear a world within and around you, inviting you and loving you, divinely connected.

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Use Imbolc to Ask for Brighid’s Inspiration

Use Imbolc to Ask for Brighid’s Inspiration

by Melanie Fire Salamander

At a Northwest Imbolc, grey days pass under grey skies. The furor of the solstice holidays is over, and cold and rain face us for the next six weeks, or six months. Here, Imbolc lacks even the bracing snow of winter. Nor is it time for flowers and fresh breezes. A few crocuses may poke their heads above ground, but Imbolc, the first pagan holiday of spring, doesn’t speak of spring’s fulfillment, rather of spring’s promise.

Imbolc is the pregnancy of spring, the first stirring of seeds sown in autumn. One derivation of the holiday’s name, which is taken from the Irish, is “in the belly,” according to R.J. Stewart in Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses. Animal life also begins to stir. Around Imbolc, ewes begin to lactate, a time important to hungry traditional peoples. This association is reflected in medieval European writings. Cormac’s Glossary, composed around year 900, derives “Imbolc” from “sheep’s milk,” Ronald Hutton writes in The Stations of the Sun. In the tenth- or eleventh-century Irish tale “The Wooing of Emer,” this holiday is called “Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring’s beginning.”

At Imbolc, early Europeans also rendered fat for candles, having saved the fat from meat eaten through the winter. Hence the holiday’s alternate name Candlemas, from the Christianized version of the day. Christian Europe observes Candlemas with candlelight processions, parades that may hark back to ancient torchlight ceremonies for purifying and reviving the fields at spring sowing, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. The February ceremonies of the pagan Romans were also rites of cleansing and preparation for the coming year. Likewise, February 2 is the Aztec New Year, observed with early-spring agricultural rites and renewed fires. After other purifications, covens at Imbolc traditionally initiate new witches.

Around the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc is a time of beginnings, of hopes for success in the coming year. But hope is double-edged; the ancient Greeks put it into Pandora’s box with other human ills, a lying daemon. In this grey weather, it’s easy to see hope as a lie. Of all holidays, Imbolc is the most based on faith. If you don’t feel faith, if you lack inspiration, Imbolc is a good time to seek it.

Brighid’s Day

Imbolc comes strongly associated with a Celtic goddess who oversees inspiration. The Irish, Scots and Manx considered this holiday to belong to Brighid or Bride (pronounced breed), a patroness of smithcraft, healing and poetic inspiration whose name can be derived from the Gaelic “breo-aigit” or “fiery arrow.”

Brighid’s attributes are many. She was known as a smith and fighter, patroness of the armies of Irish Leinster. As a healer, she rules wells and streams. Worshippers in medieval times walked around her holy wells deosil (sunwise) on hands and knees and left valuable pins or buttons in the water, or hung rags in the trees nearby, asking for relief.

An Irish celebration of Brighid’s day reflects another healing aspect. In this observance, Hutton writes, a family would hold a formal supper, during which they would place food, usually cake or bread and butter, on the windowsill as a gift for Brighid. The family might also leave a cloth, garment or ribbon on the sill overnight, asking Brighid to bless it. Family members would wear it later in the year to prevent headaches.

Brighid also oversees childbirth. In the west Scottish Highlands as late as 100 years ago, midwives would bless newborns with fire and water in Brighid’s name, Caitlin Matthews reports in The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Fire and water come together also in Brighid’s water, which you make by plunging a burning coal into water while asking for the goddess’s blessing. The water, used to anoint and purify, combines Brighid’s natures of smith and healer.

Brighid’s midwife aspect perhaps conceals an earlier goddess of fertility, a corn-mother, as shown in the tradition of Bride’s bed. To create this bed, Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year has you decorate a grain maiden made at the autumn equinox or from the last harvest’s wheat or corn. You dress the maiden in white, lay her in a basket and set across her a priapic wand — an acorn-tipped wand of oak — twined with ribbon, so that wand and bride form an X. You then place lit candles to either side and hail the maiden with a chant, or incorporate her into a ritual saluting the fertility of the coming spring. After the ritual, you undress the maiden and at sunrise place her on your dwelling’s front door. There she forms an amulet of prosperity, fertility and protection, which can remain till the next Samhain.

The Celtic traditions behind this pagan practice are many and varied. In the Isle of Man, according to Hutton, followers of Brighid left her an empty bed in a corner of the house or barn, beside it bread, cheese, ale and a lighted candle. In the Scottish islands of the Hebrides, where householders made a figure of Bride from oats, families would leave her abed overnight and look for an impression of her wand in the hearth ashes the next morning. A mark meant a good crop and a prosperous year, and a footstep was held marvelous, but if nothing appeared the family took it as a bad omen. To avert misfortune, members would bury a cock at the junction of three streams or burn incense on their hearth fire.

Elsewhere in Ireland, people plaited a criosog Bridghe, St. Brighid’s cross, of rushes or straw, hanging it on Brighid’s Eve over a door or window or in the rafters to welcome her. Others set their crosses in stables to ask for blessings on the animals. The Irish left their criosogs up through the year, replacing them the next Brighid’s Eve.

Besides giving health and agricultural fertility, Brighid lends clear sight into the future and creative fertility. According to Matthews, she presided over a special type of Irish augury called a “frith,” performed on the first Monday after a cross-quarter day, such as Imbolc, to predict what the year’s next quarter would bring. Brighid was said also to inspire poetry, and many Irish poems hail her. Cormac’s Glossary calls her “a poetess… the female sage, woman of wisdom, or Brighid the goddess whom poets venerated because very great and famous for her protecting care.” Matthews attributes to her the “nine gifts of the cauldron” mentioned in the Irish poet Amergin’s “Song of the Three Cauldrons”: reflection, lore, research, great knowledge, intelligence, understanding, wisdom, meditation and poetry. If inspiration is what you seek at this grey Northwest Imbolc, Brighid is a good goddess to turn to.

A Ritual to Seek Inspiration

This ritual is to find hope and inspiration in a project or your life as a whole. Before you start the working, I’ll ask you to spend some time in journal work and meditation. For these and the magickal rite, give yourself at least one undisturbed hour (two is better). Turn off the phone, and put your pets in another room.

A good time for this ritual is first thing Imbolc morning. If that doesn’t work, try the night before, or during a waxing moon. It’s best done in spring, but don’t let the season prevent you from doing the ritual if you want.

Have on hand:

  • A white or pastel candle to meditate by, and a candleholder for it.
  • Paper and pen to create a journal entry and for use during meditation. (You can create the initial journal entry using a computer, but you’ll definitely want the old-fashioned tools later.)
  • A cauldron or earth-filled bowl large enough to contain a burning piece of paper safely.
  • Anointing oil or Brighid’s water.
  • A candle of a color that says inspiration to you, possibly rainbow-colored, silver, gold, lavender or
    green — use your own personal associations.
  • A candleholder for this inspiration candle.

Journal Work

First, create a journal entry looking at what you’re thinking and feeling. Whether or not you keep an ongoing journal, writing about your thoughts and emotions helps clear your head before a ritual and make sure that unconscious ambivalence doesn’t color your work. Even if you already know what’s in your head, getting your feelings out on paper may reveal new information or connections. And the simple act of formally acknowledging a thought or emotion by writing it down can help that energy move.

So ask yourself: How do I feel? Why?

Next, ask yourself: What do I want out of this ritual? Write the answer on a separate page as a single, formal statement; this will be the statement of your working.

Then ask yourself: What within me stands in my way? What benefits do I get from not succeeding here?

This ritual assumes you are already dealing with any practical roadblocks preventing your success. For me, it’s rarely the outer blockages that most hinder me — it’s the inner ones.

So look at the inner urges that block your desires. As they come up, don’t judge them, if you can avoid it. These shadows all exist for a reason. If you can honor these urges, understand them, talk to them, promise they will be met in some way other than preventing your success, you will clear the way for inspiration.

On a separate piece of paper, write out a list of your inner blockages for use in meditation, following.

Meditation

To meditate, start with relaxation. Light your white or pastel candle, and sitting in front of it relax your whole body. If this doesn’t come easily, try tensing each body part, then releasing it. (For more meditative techniques, see other articles in this issue.) Looking at the candle flame — if you don’t want spots before your eyes, look at the base of the wick — take 20 deep breaths, breathing into your belly, saying to yourself that each breath relaxes you further. Count each breath.

Once relaxed, ground and center. Make your grounding cord strong and deeply rooted, and center yourself in the middle of your head — your third eye, a neutral space. Neutrality is a good tool when looking at inner blocks. Next, create a protective energetic circle around yourself in whatever way you prefer.

For the following step, give yourself some latitude. Don’t force yourself to do work you’re not ready for; doing so will enforce rather than clear obstructions.

From your list of inner blocks, choose one. Let it be personified in a way that you can be neutral about — not a monster, simply a presence. Then ask the block in meditation: What do you want?

For me, the answers to this question always surprise me and usually simplify matters. What your blockage will usually want, first, is acknowledgement. Then it might have some specific request. Nine times out of ten, at least for me, such requests can be dealt with in ways that allow me to move forward with my desired goal.

On a separate piece of paper, write down what the block wants. If you can, promise to fulfill that need, but at very least write it down for your knowledge.

Thank the block, bless it and let it go.

Then choose the next block on your list (unless you have only one), and repeat the process, collecting all the blocks’ requests on one sheet.

When you’re done figuring out what your blockages want, briefly decide how to address the requests. Often the action required is something simple, such as recognizing and honoring a formerly hidden emotion. Sometimes addressing the blockages’ needs will take further practical or ritual work. The answer isn’t to do the work right now, but to make an honest commitment to do it over time. If you don’t feel you can do what your blocks request, at the very least promise to keep thinking about the issues raised till solutions can be found. However works best for you, make a commitment to do the work to satisfy and thus release these blocks.

Write that commitment down on the page with the blocks’ requests, fold the paper and, when you can, set it in some place you will see daily, such as on your altar.

Now ground and center once more. Connect with the energies of earth and sky, and from the sky draw down cleansing, healing energy. Let it meet healing earth energy within you, and fill yourself completely with healing and comfort. Wash any pain or negative emotion down your grounding into the earth. Take time to do this slowly and fully and come back to equilibrium.

The Rite Itself

Now that you’ve done your personal work in journal and meditation and cleansed yourself, it’s time to ask for inspiration from the goddess.

Connect again with your grounding, center yourself and renew the circle around you, this time so as to work magick. Call the elements, directions, fey or all three to your circle as you usually do.

Now call to your circle the Celtic goddess Brighid. Do so in a speech inspired in the moment; call to her from your heart. The description earlier should give you a feeling for her attributes and nature. Call her strongly; let her fill your circle.

Besides your original journal entry and the page listing your blocks’ requests and your commitment, you should have two slips of paper: the list of the blocks themselves and your formal statement of ritual intent. From that statement, read aloud what you want this ritual to do. Feel free to amend your statement based on what you learned from journal work and meditation.

Now take up the list of things obstructing you. Say aloud the following, or something like it:

“To do (my project), I have committed to satisfy these blocks. Having made that commitment, I release them.”

Focusing on letting go your inner blocks, fold the page and light it in the flame of your meditation candle. Let the flame burn up everything that stands in your way. Drop the burning page in your cauldron or earth-filled bowl, and watch till it flares out.

Now pick up the anointing oil or Brighid’s water. Hold it above your head, and call out the following or something similar:

“I dedicate this (oil or water) to the Goddess Brighid and her brilliant inspiration!”

With the dedicated oil or water, anoint the candle you’ve chosen to represent inspiration. Holding the candle above your head, stand and raise the energy of inspiration either by toning wordlessly or by chanting:

“As this candle flames and fires,

Let me be renewed, inspired.”

Pour energy into the candle, imagining yourself filled with inspiration and hope. Imagine too the goddess lending you her aid.

When you have sent the power you raised into the candle, touch the surface below you and ground out any excess energy. Set the candle in its holder, ready for use. Then thank and release the goddess and other entities (directions, elements, fey), and take down your circle.

Light the candle whenever you work on the project you created it for, or whenever you’re in need of inspiration or hope.

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Great Lady Brid, Goddess of Eire

Great Lady Brid, Goddess of Eire

by Darrion

Goddess of smith-craft, gift us with the joyful sound of the hammer and anvil as the craftsman hammers on the metal heated in the forge of Your hearth and heart, warm us in this cold and dark time period with Your love and creative spirit.

Goddess of healing, gift us with Your gentleness, wisdom and love for all who seek Your healing energy, allow us to tap that well of intuition, spirit and knowledge; as we open our hearts to assist others on their healing journeys, guide our hands and hearts.

Goddess of poetry, gift us with Your lightheartedness and playful spirit, grant us with that creative spark, open our vision so we may be aware of and use this energy to tap the wealth of our inner awareness, and allow me the strength to step aside and allow You
to guide my pen.

Goddess of fertility, gift us with the strength of the union of Goddess and God, take the firmness of the God and bury it deeply in the mound of the hill of Tara, fertilizing the earth and preparing her for the planting season to come.

Goddess of inner vision, prophecy and divination, gift us with that inner gaze and awareness, so that we may devote ourselves to unending service in joy and love to serve the Great Mother,
clan and tribe.

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Creating Magickal Amulets

Creating Magickal Amulets

by Rev. Paul V. Beyerl

 

Rev. Paul V. Beyerl has published several books, including The Master Book of Herbalism, and heads The Hermit’s Grove and The Rowan Tree Church, located in Bellevue. This article is an excerpt from A Compendium of Herbal Magick, a work in progress covering the documented historical uses of herbs in folklore, ritual and religions.

The making of an amulet could easily take up the space of a small book, but I will attempt to distill a seven-hour workshop into a few paragraphs.

The words “amulet” and “talisman” are frequently used as if interchangeable. Many years ago, in order to distinguish between them, we adopted the following definitions: An amulet is a container that may be filled with herbs, stones or other things to promote magick. A talisman may be a disk, pendant or solid item, upon which may be depicted sigils or images. These definitions are used in this context only within The Hermit’s Grove and The Rowan Tree Church. It is not suggested that other uses of these words are either wrong or inappropriate.

An amulet is a tool created to help bring about changes within your life. It is a small container that, when completed, has energy or power and is quite magickal. We believe that amulets may be among the oldest forms of herbal magick, when the village wise one, sensing that a plant or stone had power within it, placed it in a pocket or container to carry about.

A “traditional” amulet (traditional outside my community) is one that has a purpose. All aspects of its design and creation are oriented toward the attainment of that goal. The amulet is assembled and constructed within the context of ritual, made very carefully and considered every bit as powerful and sacred as any of your ritual tools. An amulet is given a specific blessing or consecration toward that purpose, just as a novice may be initiated and ever after be considered a priest or priestess.

One of the mysteries of an amulet is that it is a microcosm of yourself, of the person for whom it is made, or of the situation that is the focus of the goal. It is like a small energy cell or battery, containing physical ingredients and focused energies providing a steady flow of energy. An amulet can be designed so that it will continually provide access to the infinite power of the universe throughout its existence. To understand a traditional amulet, give thought to the concept of the cauldron of Cerridwen, that infinite womb of creativity that is the core of the universe. From another perspective, an amulet is somewhat like a black hole, drawing energy from throughout the universe but holding it within, focused, directed solely toward the image that encompasses all aspects of your goal.

Our custom is to begin with a circle cut of leather. It should be at least six or eight inches in diameter. This flat circle is symbolic of a pentacle, that flat, round ritual tool that represents earth, or manifestation within the physical world.

To the practitioner, leather represents a gift of the creatures of the earth, representing elements of sacrifice, touching the mysteries of life and death, and is the material we can find that most closely corresponds to your physical body, which is the temple of your soul. The use of leather should never be taken lightly but is a very sacred and profound choice.

Around the perimeter of the leather circle, a series of holes should be pierced using either a leather punch or, as we have often done, a simple paper punch. A cord (chosen so that the length, color and type of thread enhance your magickal desires) is then threaded through the holes, creating a small drawstring bag.

Choose your herbs carefully. Any herb, including those too dangerous to ingest, can be included. You may also select small gemstones, add a personal piece of jewelry or lock of hair and even scribe sigils, images or words that will focus your will to bring your magick into manifestation. We recommend assembling your ingredients over a period of time. When my leather is complete, I set up a small altar. I lay the leather upon my copper pentacle or upon my altar stone and upon it I set a hand-carved, round wooden container with a flat lid. On days I consider important, I add one herb, replace the lid and set a votive candle upon the top. Sometimes I might cast a formal circle, and at other times I go about my activities, the light from the candle a constant reminder that there is magick brewing and an amulet in the works.

The final day should be one with natural power, whether a Full Moon or a birthday. Your amulet will be more powerful if all aspects of the work have power. Within an intricate ritual both formal and playful, the leather is cleansed and all ingredients placed within it. All movement and sound within the ritual is designed to draw upon the natural forces and connect the amulet with their power. And then, with ritual poetry and song, the leather circle is drawn closed and special candles are used to drip wax upon the opening so it is sealed.

Once an amulet is sealed, it should never again be opened. It is not medicine pouch. When your goal has been accomplished or the patterns of time have reached completion, the amulet must be returned to the universe. My preference is to bury it as a gift to the Mother, but there have been times when one has been placed into a flaming cauldron until reduced to ash, the ash then strewn upon sacred soil. Amulets are a wonderful way to develop your magickal skill, but they should be made rarely. The more lightly you treat this magickal use of herbs, the less likely they are to assist you with their magick. I have an amulet hanging in my truck. We have a household amulet, and I can’t imagine magickal life without a few of these sources of change.

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Secret Visions from the Flame

Secret Visions from the Flame

by Andy

 

The old witch added a whitish powder to the fire and waited as the flames grew strangely green. “I see forms taking shape… visions… A tree! No, it is a wheel! A wagon wheel, on a wagon with horses!” She turned back to her guest and asked in a knowing voice: “Are ye planning a journey, perhaps?”

For as long as there has been fire, people have seen visions in it. Shamans would see visions of a good hunt in the campfire and then use its ashes to paint the visions on the cave walls to bring them about. Perhaps the oldest form of divination, fire scrying is one of the most primal (and beautiful) methods a witch has for “seeing the unseen”. It is not an easy form, to be sure, but it can produce clearer results than any other method if done well.

Basically you look into a fire and see the shapes there. Take the seeds of images that the fire gives you and apply all the visualization skills you ever learned to get a coherent vision out. If you are not a good visualizer, this method is not for you. Then you have to figure out what the vision means. Yes, you saw a wolf chasing down a cloud and eating it, but you were wondering if you should take that class at the community college. Finding an appropriate meaning is often the really hard part.

Those searching for visions should find a dark, quiet, and open area. Cast a circle to set up the ritual space. Then invoke the flames, lighting the scrying bowl at the end of the invocation. Detailed instructions on preparing and lighting the scrying bowl are in the side article. How you invoke depends on your relations to fire. Keep it simple if you are not a fire person, go all out if you are a closet pyromaniac.

I like to take a long candle (or long lighter), light it, and draw three invoking pentacles in the air with the flame. The chant of “Fire, Fire, Flames Grow Higher!” punctuates each pentacle, one word per point. Then I bring the fire to the center in front of me and say: “From the fires of the stars, to the fires of our souls, Fire be with us. As you burn in the sun, giving us all light and life, burn for us here and now. Burn through the veil that separates the worlds and let us see that which is unseen.” Then I focus my mind on what I want to know and light the bowl with the fire.

Use as little light as possible while casting and invoking. That will help set the mood and will make it easier to see the flames. Any colors you may see will be enhanced by the darkness. Fire is finicky. If the invoking flame keeps going out or the bowl just will not light, don’t force it. Let it go and try again some other time. You don’t want to see the visions that come from unwilling flames coerced into life with the repeated application of flammable liquids and mechanical aids.

Sit comfortably and stare into the fire. Watch the flames and see what shapes they make. Open and shut your eyes repeatedly. Try to make out the pattern the fire leaves behind your eyes. At first your mind will say it is just the shape of the fire, but put that aside. Picture the shape that it is most like. See the form it takes. This is not easy. It is the same process you use to see the shapes in the clouds (something we, here in Seattle, have a lot of experience with). When you get a vague image, go with it. Let the shapes change as your vision focuses. Open your eyes again and get a new form to help the vision continue to grow. Shapes can change and the vision can move. Just let the flames shape the images they will. With practice, you will move from an image to a movie in your mind.

For instance, I just did a bit of test scrying into the candles I’ve lit to write this by. I saw the flame which made a circle in my mind. Rays came out of the center of the circle and turned into clock hands. The circle turned into a clock face. As I realized what it was, the hands started turning backwards. It probably means I should have started writing this article earlier or something….

After you have your visions, thank the now departed fire, open the circle, and try to make sense of what you have seen. Think about what you saw and ask what it means to you. In my sample, I had a clock moving backwards. Clocks mean time to me. Backwards brings to mind the past or a while ago. Since what I wanted was something for my article, it probably meant I should have started writing this earlier. Or maybe I should rewrite what I did a while ago. Another interpretation occurs to me, the hands were going counterclockwise, or Widdershins. Anyway, that was my vision. I could go for another one for clarification, but that could also just confuse things more.

With practice, anyone can see the visions in the flames. It is interpreting the visions that separates the oracles from the players – with – entrails. Just as anyone with a book can do a tarot reading, it takes skill and work to figure out what it means. I find most symbols to be too personal to give a general meaning list. If you are doing a reading for yourself, whatever you think the symbols mean is probably what they mean. If you are reading for someone else talk to them and ask lots of questions. If they don’t know, suggest what you think, but their meanings are probably the best. If you have trouble coming up with meanings, a book on interpreting dreams will have most of the common symbols and their meanings listed.

The final thing you need is honesty with your vision. Many “life is a bowl of crystals” tarot readers often reinvert inverted tarot cards because “there are no bad things, just challenges.” This neuters the readings. Life has bad things in it, to believe otherwise denies the Dark Goddess. Sometimes you have to eat your own young, figuratively speaking, and it is not pleasant. If you see your yourself being burned at the stake, go with it. Mentally forcing it to be you, as May Queen, being tied to a maypole will invalidate the vision. Not everything you see will be happy. That is why Cassandra, the ancient Greek prophet, considered her visions a curse.

Puzzled, for she wasn’t planning a journey, the woman went home. The next day, at the supermarket, she hit another car in the parking lot. It was a Jeep Wagoneer. “Damned visions! Always right but never right enough!”, she muttered as looked about, hoping no one had seen her.

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Fire and You

Fire and You

by Andy

Standout Box

This is fire. Fire is dangerous. Keep that in mind when fire scrying. Light your fire in an open area, leave space around it. Indoors is okay, but leave a window open nearby for ventilation. Also be aware that your fire alarm will probably go off if you are indoors and don’t turn it off.

Take a large bowl, or cauldron, that won’t burn. I use one of those big silvery metal salad bowls. It has taken on a nice burnished, rainbowy look from all the fires. Put the bowl on the floor or on a low altar. Leave at least two feet of room all around it. Put a towel under it if you don’t want what is beneath it to be scorched. You can surround it with large rocks to keep it from being knocked over if you are going to have people moving or dancing around it or if your bowl has a round bottom. Make sure that any animals and small children are safely occupied elsewhere.

Pour in a cup of rubbing alcohol. Light it on fire with a long match or already lit long candle. The fire won’t roar up instantly, but it will do it quickly enough that you will be grateful for the length of the match. Lighters (the short ones) are a good way to get burnt. I use one of those long barbecue lighters both for safety and reliability in the often windy conditions of outdoor rituals.

One cup of rubbing alcohol will probably get you 10 minutes of flame. Plenty of time for a good vision. Let the flame burn out naturally. Do not refill the bowl while the flame is burning. I lit myself on fire once this way. I was careless and did not respect the flame. It reminded me of respect, completely destroying a Lughnasad ritual in the process.

The flame will probably be between two and two and a half feet high. The higher the alcohol content in the rubbing alcohol the hotter the flame will be. Ninety-nine percent fires will also leave more ash and be more likely to set off the smoke detector. Start with the seventy percent until you get comfortable with it. The first time, it will look much bigger than you expect. Practice before using it in ritual. Start with one half cup and work up.

In case of emergencies, probably a spill, don’t panic. Look at the fire to see if it will actually light anything else on fire. Unlike wax/oil fires, you can put rubbing alcohol fires out with water so keep a lot handy. The alcohol will float at first, but then go out. Smothering with a damp towel also works. Just drop the towel over fire. Ninety-nine percent alcohol will produce more interesting fires, but seventy percent will hurt less if you are burned. A bottle of burn cream or a fire extinguisher, even though you will probably never use them, will greatly reassure the pyrophobes around you.

When I first started doing scrying bowls, everyone told me I had to put Epsom salt in the alcohol, but no one knew why. Epsom salt makes the flames more even and less wild. When using ninety-nine percent, this can produce the occasional ring effect (a ring effect is like a smoke ring of fire), but overall, the effect of Epsom salt is minimal. Using sea or table salt produces random flashes of gold color late in the burn. Using boric acid, instead of a salt, will give a much more pronounced effect turning much of the fire bright green. Epsom salt and rubbing alcohol are both in the pharmacy part of a large grocery/drug store. Boric acid will be by the contact lens stuff (it is a cleaner). Sea salt is by the food.

For the salts, use as much salt as you do alcohol. For the boric acid, put in as much as you have alcohol, then add more until it gets thicker and souplike. Mix the stuff well and let it sit for a while before lighting. Additives usually decrease burning time. None of the additives are good after burning. They will be smelly, crusty, and you will actually have to scrape out some bit of the boric acid. Throw this stuff away after each use.

Here is a list of all the things you will need or may want for the fire scrying: A metal bowl, rubbing alcohol, a damp towel, a pitcher of water, a long candle, matches, or lighter, burn cream, fire extinguisher, Epsom or other salt, boric acid.

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