Posts Tagged With: New Orleans

Marie Laveau, Voodoo Priestess

Marie Laveau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marie Catherine Laveau (September 10, 1801 ? – June 16, 1881) was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo renowned in New Orleans. (As for the date of her birth, while popular sources often say 1794, the records indicate 1801.)  Her daughter, Marie Laveau II, (1827 — c. 1895) also practiced Voudoun, as well as Voodoo. (historical accounts often confuse the two). She and her mother had great influence over their multiracial following. “In 1874 as many as twelve thousand spectators, both black and white, swarmed to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to catch a glimpse of Marie Laveau II performing her legendary rites on St. John’s Eve (June 23–24).”

 

Early life

Historical records surmise that Marie Laveau was born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, about 1801. She was the natural daughter of two free persons of color, both biracial, one of whom was Creole. On August 4, 1819, she married Jacques, (or Santiago, in other records) Paris, a free person of color who had emigrated from Haiti. Their marriage certificate is preserved in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The wedding Mass was performed by Father Antonio de Sedella, the Capuchin priest known as Pere Antoine.

Jacques Paris died in 1820 under unexplained circumstances.He was part of a large Haitian immigration to New Orleans in 1809 after the Haitian Revolution of 1804. New immigrants consisted of French-speaking white planters and thousands of slaves as well as free people of color. Those with African ancestry helped revive Voodoo and other African-based cultural practices in the New Orleans community, and the Creole of color community increased markedly.

Career

According to VoodooMuseum.com, “The only evidence that exist(s) of any sort of occupation she had was (as) a liquor importer (in 1832) on Dauphine Street in the Faubourg Marigny (in New Orleans). (The warehouse still exits at the intersection of Dauphine and Kerlérec Streets.)” Folklore says at one time she also became a hairdresser. She took a lover, Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, with whom she lived until his death in 1835. They were reported to have had 15 children including Marie Laveau II, born c. 1827, who sometimes used the surname “Paris” after her mother’s first husband.

Very little is known with any certainty about the life of Marie Laveau. It is believed Laveau had Her surviving daughter had the same name and is called Marie Laveau II by some historians.Scholars believe that the mother was more powerful while the daughter arranged more elaborate public events (including inviting attendees to St. John’s Eve rituals on Bayou St. John). They received varying amounts of financial support. It is not known which (if either) had done more to establish the voodoo queen reputation. Marie Laveau ll was believed to gave three children whom she shipped off to the Dominican Republic after threats were made to burn them alive. Marie’s husband, Jose Huerta had raised the children on his own to keep the vodoun tradition within his family. The last recorded descendents of this family is Victor Delgado-Huerta (born 1999) and Melenie Delgado-Huerta (born 2003). Both still practice vodoun but have not been given higher titles by the International Voodoo Society.

Of Laveau’s magical career, there is little that can be substantiated, including whether she had a snake she named Zombi after an African god, whether the occult part of her magic mixed Roman Catholic saints with African spirits, or whether her divinations were supported by a network of informants she developed while working as a hairdresser in prominent white households and in a brothel she ran. She appeared to excel at obtaining inside information on her wealthy patrons by instilling fear in their servants whom she either paid or cured of mysterious ailments.

Death

On June 16, 1881, the New Orleans newspapers, the Daily Picayune for one, according to “Voodoo in New Orleans” by Robert Tallant, announced that Marie Laveau had died peacefully in her home. This is noteworthy if only because people claimed to have seen her in town after her supposed demise. Again, some claimed that one of her daughters also named Marie (many of the daughters had Marie within their names due to Catholic naming practices) assumed her name and carried on her magical practice, taking over as the queen soon before or after the first Marie’s death.

According to official New Orleans vital records, a certain Marie Glapion Lavau died on June 15, 1881, aged 98. The different spellings of her surname may result from a casual approach to spelling, and her age at death from conflicting accounts of her birthdate.

Legacy

Marie Laveau is generally believed to have been buried in plot 347, the Glapion family crypt, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, but this has been disputed by at least Robert Tallant, a journalist who used her as a character in historical novels. Tourists continue to visit and some draw “X” marks in accordance with a decades-old rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an “X” on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their “X,” and leave Laveau an offering. The tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 was vandalized on December 17, 2013, by being painted over with pink latex paint, likely in an attempt by a “homeless, mentally unstable kid” to cover up the “X” mark graffiti.  The paint must be removed because the structure is made of old plaster and the latex paint would seal in moisture that would destroy the plaster, but some historical preservation experts have criticized the decision by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who maintain the cemetery, for their decision to use pressure washing rather than paint stripper to remove it.

Although some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a “witch”, she is properly described as a ‘Voodoo priestess’.

Because of her prominence within the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, Laveau has inspired a number of artistic renditions.

In visual art, the African American artist Renee Stout often uses Laveau as a visual motif.

Numerous songs about Marie Laveau have been recorded, including “Marie La Veau” by Papa Celestin, “Marie Laveau” by Shel Silverstein, “Witch Queen of New Orleans” (1971) by Redbone, “Dixie Drug Store” by Grant Lee Buffalo, “X Marks the Spot (Marie Laveau)” by Joe Sample, “Marie Laveau” by Dr. John, and “The Widow Paris” by The Get Up Kids.

Laveau has offered inspiration for a number of fictional characters as well. She is the protagonist of Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau (1993). Laveau appears as a supporting character in the Night Huntress novels by Jeaniene Frost, as a powerful ghoul still living in New Orleans in the 21st century. Marie Laveau appears in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods, under her married name, Marie Paris. Most prominently in comics, a character named Marie Laveau, based loosely on the real Marie Laveau, appears in Marvel Comics. She first appears in Dracula Lives #2 in 1973.  She is depicted as a powerful sorceress and Voodoo priestess with great magical powers and knowledge of arcane lore, including the creation of a potion made from vampire’s blood that keeps her eternally youthful and beautiful. Also, a character named Marie Laveau, based loosely on the real Marie Laveau, appears in the Italian comic book Zagor. In TV, Marie Laveau (portrayed by Angela Bassett) appears as a character in American Horror Story: Coven and in appears the Canadian television series Lost Girl in episode 11 of season 4.

HMarie Laveau’s tomb is the site of a secret, underground voodoo workshop in The Caster Chronicles novel Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Laveau’s grave site, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, is the setting of a pivotal scene in Robert J. Randisi’s short story, “Cold As The Gun”, from Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero.

She inspired a Total Nonstop Action Wrestling gimmick, “The Voodoo Queen” Roxxi Laveaux.

The mother of Hazel Levesque, one of the characters from Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus book series, was known as “Queen Marie,” a famous fortune teller who lived in New Orleans.

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Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Author: Jason Miller (Inominandum)

The Greeks made a distinction between theurgy and thaumaturgy. Theurgy literally means “God working” and refers to spiritual work that leads one into illumination or gnosis. Thaumaturgy means, “wonder working” and refers to the conjuration of spirits, casting of spells, blessing, cursing, curing and harming through practical magick. The balance between these two aspects of the craft has been an issue since the emergence of Wicca in the 1950’s. Does spell casting overshadow religion? This debate has been heating up in online groups and blogs recently due to a story on beliefnet.com by Carl McColman entitled Is Wicca Under a Spell, which deals with both sides of the issue. Many people in the Pagan community that I have spoken with feel that magick and sorcery do the religious aspects of Wicca no good and should be downplayed. Some I have spoken to have no interest in spell-casting at all, or perhaps don’t even believe in practical magick, and thus see this aspect of the craft as an obstacle to Wicca taking its place as a major Western religion. I would like to take this opportunity to present the opposing argument.

What often gets overlooked is that Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. The terms are often used interchangeably but Witchcraft is a craft that can be, but isn’t necessarily, part of a religion. Wicca is most definitely a religion. While not all Wiccan traditions stem by lineage from Gerald Gardner, by and large they use a constellation of terms and beliefs that were first put in place by him and those that came after, thus we can say that we can trace Wicca more or less back to him. Witchcraft is a larger area than this. Isaac Bonewits once provided a breakdown of the types of Witches in America, which can help put this into perspective:

10% Neo-Pagan – Revivalist traditions, including Wicca.
70% Neo-Classical – Those who practice folk magick with mixed Christian and Pagan roots without regard to Witchcraft as a religion.
1-2% Classical village healers who practice completely non-religious folk magick.
1-2% Neo-Gothic – Practitioners of Satanism which is based on the Gothic Witchcraft of the Witch Hysteria Era.
1-2% Family Trads.
1-2% Immigrant Traditions: Pow-wow etc.
10% Practitioners of Vodou, Santeria, etc.

For example one of my ancestors was allegedly a “water witch” who told people where to dig wells. While in Venice I was offered a charm to obtain by a Witch. In both of these cases the Witch in question was a devout Christian. According to this breakdown Neo-Paganism and Wicca account for only %10 of American Witches but even within that scope there are many Witchcraft traditions that make it very clear that they are not Wiccan: The Feri Tradition, The Clan of Tubal Cain and the Cultus Sabbati all represent traditions of the craft that have non-Gardnerian roots, and do not fall under the umbrella of Wicca.

I have an enormous respect for Wicca but I am a Witch, not a Wiccan. I object when the terms are used interchangeably and when Wicca attempts to speak for all Witchcraft. I got involved with the craft during the mid 80’s in North Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, Herman Slater’s Magickal Formularies, and the little spell books from Original Publications had much more of an influence on my Witchcraft than Scott Cunningham or Ray Buckland. This is not to say that I am not religious: I am. But I learned to use practical magick at an early age and was successful at it. I have traveled all over the world to learn traditional magickal techniques: from New Orleans, to Europe, to Nepal. Today I do magick professionally and consider traditional techniques of spell-working to be just as important as religious and spiritual traditions.

I would argue spell-casting is just as sacred as Wicca and Neo-Paganism and far more ancient and widespread a tradition. So where McColman asks the question: “As publishers produce more books about casting spells, is the spiritual message of Witchcraft getting lost?” I ask the opposite: Is the popular influence of Wicca and Neo-Paganism negatively impacting the tradition of spell casting, or if you will, the Witches’ Craft?

I think it is, on a number of levels. I will give just three examples:

Ethics:

The Wiccan Rede provides a very strong ethical principle for Witches to follow. As such, any mention of curses, jinxes, or harmful magick is frowned upon by the Pagan press. Some take this even further and extend it to spells that influence another’s will or reverse a curse back upon its sender. Very often in modern books I read “A REAL WITCH would never do harmful or coercive magick…” While I can applaud the good intent of these writers, and understand that authors are trying to paint a picture of Wicca that is acceptable to mainstream America, the fact is that this type of magick IS part of a “REAL” Witch’s repertoire. From the lead curse tablets of Greece, to the Gospel of Aradia, to more modern Witches like Sibyl Leek and Andrew Chumbley, cursing and coercion have always been a part of the Craft.

When my teacher taught me my first pieces of harmful magick, I was surprised. I had no interest in harming anyone but she told me, “You have to learn how to harm, in order to learn how to heal. The power comes hand-in-hand.” Apart from that lesson, life has taught me that a curse can be justified, and that in rare instances it can be down right compassionate. It is the use of knowledge that determines whether it is good or evil, not the knowledge itself.

To my mind allowing Wicca’s religious stance to determine what gets printed about traditional Witchcraft is wrong and pollutes the baraka of an ancient art. For instance Paul Huson’s book Mastering Witchcraft is one of the only early books of the craft that deals with the subject of vengeance and attack, and was given a horrible reputation in the Pagan community because of it. I have been to stores that refused to even carry it. One that did felt the need to put disclaimers all over it stating that it was “Not Real Witchcraft.” The book didn’t endorse vengeance and attack. It merely tried to present the full scope of the art it claimed to teach. In doing so, it put the preceding chapter on counter-magic and protection into great context. If anything, the craft teaches personal responsibility. Why then can we not trust readers to make their own ethical decisions about the craft?

Materia:

In the aforementioned article on beliefnet.com, Gardnerian Priestess Judy Harrow, author of Spiritual Mentoring, was quoted as saying:

“I remember once a man solemnly informing me that if a spell calls for, say, blue candles, and the candles are whi

te candles dipped in blue instead of being blue all the way through, the spell will fail or maybe even backfire… People who believe that (magic) power is in ‘the stuff’ will not be able to access the power if ‘the stuff’ is not handy.”

A proficient Witch learns to substitute items that can’t be gotten in time. We also learn the magics of breath, gaze, gesture and incantation that can be cast without materials of any type whatsoever. While I agree that not all the power is in “the stuff, ” there certainly is quite a bit more than many modern writers would have you think. Many modern books make the case that “it’s all in your mind” and that the materials are just props with no real power of their own. This to me is disrespectful to the Witches and sorcerers that painstakingly wrote down formularies and philtres over the centuries. If this was really the case, why bother getting the ingredients right at all? Why not just write down “Devils Shoe Strings” on nine pieces of paper and use them instead of the herb? Try it and see what kind of results you get. Having lived in Nepal and worked with various Ngakpas (sorcerers) and Jankris (shaman) , I can tell you that they take their ingredients very seriously. I can say the same about the Bokors and Root Doctors of New Orleans.

Flying ointment made from mugwort in a carrier oil may be safer, but it is not just as good as one made from hemlock, belladonna, and other baneful herbs carefully mixed and applied. A stone with a hole drilled in it will not work as well as a real hagstone formed by running water. A twig from the backyard will not provide as good a basis for an influence charm as a whole High John root. These things have a tradition that goes back hundred of years and should not be cast aside so easily.

Psychological Reductionism:

Australian sociologist Douglas Ezzy was quoted in the beliefnet.com article regarding the effect of spells themselves:

“In his paper ‘New Age Witchcraft? Popular spell books and the re-enchantment of everyday life, Ezzy notes that spell books ‘encourage individuals to take control of their lives through self-exploration and self-affirmation. Furthermore, ‘performing magical spells functions as a way of re-discovering the enchanted and mysterious aspects of life.’”

McColman further interprets this:

“In other words, spells are more than just magical recipes for getting your own way; they are miniature rituals designed to foster a sense of mystery and wonder (what Ezzy calls ‘enchantment’) in everyday life, and to evoke a positive sense of power and hope in the spell-caster’s life. Even if casting a spell doesn’t make you rich or win you love, it could give you hope that such blessings really are possible in your life.

There are many Pagans and Wiccans that have no interest, belief in, or talent for spell-casting. That’s okay. I don’t believe that Witchcraft was ever meant to be a widespread practice. It may be elitist of me to suggest it, but I don’t think that everyone can cast an effective spell. Some can, some can’t. What we have today however are people drawn to the purely religious and spiritual aspects of Neo-Paganism and mistaking it for Witchcraft. They need to find a way to explain the place of spell-casting in a modern world, so its gets explained away in psycho-babble.

Many teachers today will explain that spells don’t actually offer outer change, only inner change. A spell to help you get a job will perhaps build your confidence but not affect the mind of the interviewer. The claim is that the magick is providing mystery, wonder, and self-affirmation. These are all good things, but it is clear that Witches throughout history did not feel this way about their craft, and neither do I!

I and many others know from experience that a well placed and executed spell can alter future events, affect the mind and spirit of a target or a client, and generally deliver the goods that are traditionally attributed to the craft. The effectiveness of this depends on the ability of the practitioner, knowledge of the art, and skillful application of that power and knowledge. Some people have a talent for practical magic. Some do not. Not so long ago, if you didn’t have a gift or calling for Witchcraft, you would not have been drawn to it. Now that it has become a popular subculture and religion, I wonder if people that don’t have much talent for spell work feel the need to write it off? To be clear I don’t think that you need to practice spellcraft to be a Pagan, or even a Wiccan, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce the classical art of Witchcraft to therapeutic drama.

McColman quotes writer Laura LaVoie as saying: “One of my fears with the spell books is that they send the wrong message to those looking for answers on how to be Pagan.” I have heard her fear echoed often in the Pagan community but very few consider the other side of the coin: Neo-Pagans can sometimes send the wrong message to those that just want to practice Witchcraft.

It’s pretty easy to tell whether a book is religious or is a collection of spells. I find it difficult to believe that someone looking to get a start in a new religion would pick up an Encyclopedia of Spells. On the other hand I do know of many people who came to a spiritual path, Wiccan or otherwise, through a desire to cast spells that opened up deeper questions.

I have what I consider to be a very rigorous and serious spiritual practice. I also am a professional Occultist who does readings and magick for pay. If Wicca doesn’t want to be confused with spell-casting, then they should stop using the term Witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably. Wicca represents one tradition of Witchcraft, not the whole practice.

There is room for both spells and Spirit. Keep the spell books coming! Keep the Pagan books coming! Keep the Wiccan books coming! Let them all get better researched and lead people deeper into the mysteries, from whatever angle of approach they choose.

May the Blessing, Cursing, and Cunning Be!

_______________________________________

Footnotes:
McColman, Carl, , beliefnet.com, 2005.

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Calendar of the Sun for November 17th

Calendar of the Sun

17 Blutmonath
Holda’s Blot

Colors: Brown and white
Element: Earth
Altar: On cloth of white and brown lay a spindle full of spun wool, a basket of white goose-feathers, two white candles, a needle and thread, a horn of mead, and a dish of honey-cakes.
Lean a broom against the altar.
Offerings: Cakes buried under the earth. Organize and clean the house.
Daily Meal: Hearty stew with root vegetables. Wholegrain bread.

Invocation to Holda

Frau Holle, good Lady
Of the Land Under The Earth,
Who we reach through
The well into the deep places,
You who reward each
As to the temper of the work
They accomplish each day,
You who have eternal patience
And yet no patience at all
With lazy fools who will not
Lift their hands in another’s need.
Lady of the hearth, the loom,
The spindle and the wheel,
The needle and the cooking pot,
These things that so many
Take simply for granted,
They are your kingdom
And your warm domain,
And if they should be removed,
We would sorely miss them,
Much more than we could guess.

Chant: Snow is coming
Feathers on the wind
Mother Holda
Winter will begin…

(All approach the altar, seize handfuls of the goose feathers, and fling them into the air so that they fall like snow. Each then takes a turn with the broom, sweeping them up. The mead is shared and then poured as a libation.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

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The Witches Spell for Nov. 6th – Power of the Earth Spell

sam7

Power of the Earth Spell

From Malaysia, a power spell that harnesses the power of the earth. This spell can be used to empower yourself in any situation.

You will need:
A small stone
A small amount of soil or sand
A piece of cloth
A bowl of spring water

This spell can only be begun two nights prior to a full moon.

Put the soil or sand into the bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with spring water. Place the stone in the bowl of water. Place the bowl, with the stone in it, in a place where it will be exposed to the light of the moon. Leave it there for two nights prior to the full moon.

On the night of the full moon, remove the stone at midnight. Wrap the stone in the cloth and place it under your pillow as you sleep.

In the morning, you must be up before sunrise. Place the stone in a place where it will receive the light of the rising sun. When the sun has fully risen, the spell is worked.

Carry the stone with you whenever you need to be empowered.

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Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Author: Jason Miller (Inominandum)

The Greeks made a distinction between theurgy and thaumaturgy. Theurgy literally means “God working” and refers to spiritual work that leads one into illumination or gnosis. Thaumaturgy means, “wonder working” and refers to the conjuration of spirits, casting of spells, blessing, cursing, curing and harming through practical magick. The balance between these two aspects of the craft has been an issue since the emergence of Wicca in the 1950’s. Does spell casting overshadow religion? This debate has been heating up in online groups and blogs recently due to a story on beliefnet.com by Carl McColman entitled Is Wicca Under a Spell, which deals with both sides of the issue. Many people in the Pagan community that I have spoken with feel that magick and sorcery do the religious aspects of Wicca no good and should be downplayed. Some I have spoken to have no interest in spell-casting at all, or perhaps don’t even believe in practical magick, and thus see this aspect of the craft as an obstacle to Wicca taking its place as a major Western religion. I would like to take this opportunity to present the opposing argument.

What often gets overlooked is that Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. The terms are often used interchangeably but Witchcraft is a craft that can be, but isn’t necessarily, part of a religion. Wicca is most definitely a religion. While not all Wiccan traditions stem by lineage from Gerald Gardner, by and large they use a constellation of terms and beliefs that were first put in place by him and those that came after, thus we can say that we can trace Wicca more or less back to him. Witchcraft is a larger area than this. Isaac Bonewits once provided a breakdown of the types of Witches in America, which can help put this into perspective:

10% Neo-Pagan – Revivalist traditions, including Wicca.
70% Neo-Classical – Those who practice folk magick with mixed Christian and Pagan roots without regard to Witchcraft as a religion.
1-2% Classical village healers who practice completely non-religious folk magick.
1-2% Neo-Gothic – Practitioners of Satanism which is based on the Gothic Witchcraft of the Witch Hysteria Era.
1-2% Family Trads.
1-2% Immigrant Traditions: Pow-wow etc.
10% Practitioners of Vodou, Santeria, etc.

For example one of my ancestors was allegedly a “water witch” who told people where to dig wells. While in Venice I was offered a charm to obtain by a Witch. In both of these cases the Witch in question was a devout Christian. According to this breakdown Neo-Paganism and Wicca account for only %10 of American Witches but even within that scope there are many Witchcraft traditions that make it very clear that they are not Wiccan: The Feri Tradition, The Clan of Tubal Cain and the Cultus Sabbati all represent traditions of the craft that have non-Gardnerian roots, and do not fall under the umbrella of Wicca.

I have an enormous respect for Wicca but I am a Witch, not a Wiccan. I object when the terms are used interchangeably and when Wicca attempts to speak for all Witchcraft. I got involved with the craft during the mid 80’s in North Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, Herman Slater’s Magickal Formularies, and the little spell books from Original Publications had much more of an influence on my Witchcraft than Scott Cunningham or Ray Buckland. This is not to say that I am not religious: I am. But I learned to use practical magick at an early age and was successful at it. I have traveled all over the world to learn traditional magickal techniques: from New Orleans, to Europe, to Nepal. Today I do magick professionally and consider traditional techniques of spell-working to be just as important as religious and spiritual traditions.

I would argue spell-casting is just as sacred as Wicca and Neo-Paganism and far more ancient and widespread a tradition. So where McColman asks the question: “As publishers produce more books about casting spells, is the spiritual message of Witchcraft getting lost?” I ask the opposite: Is the popular influence of Wicca and Neo-Paganism negatively impacting the tradition of spell casting, or if you will, the Witches’ Craft?

I think it is, on a number of levels. I will give just three examples:

Ethics:

The Wiccan Rede provides a very strong ethical principle for Witches to follow. As such, any mention of curses, jinxes, or harmful magick is frowned upon by the Pagan press. Some take this even further and extend it to spells that influence another’s will or reverse a curse back upon its sender. Very often in modern books I read “A REAL WITCH would never do harmful or coercive magick…” While I can applaud the good intent of these writers, and understand that authors are trying to paint a picture of Wicca that is acceptable to mainstream America, the fact is that this type of magick IS part of a “REAL” Witch’s repertoire. From the lead curse tablets of Greece, to the Gospel of Aradia, to more modern Witches like Sibyl Leek and Andrew Chumbley, cursing and coercion have always been a part of the Craft.

When my teacher taught me my first pieces of harmful magick, I was surprised. I had no interest in harming anyone but she told me, “You have to learn how to harm, in order to learn how to heal. The power comes hand-in-hand.” Apart from that lesson, life has taught me that a curse can be justified, and that in rare instances it can be down right compassionate. It is the use of knowledge that determines whether it is good or evil, not the knowledge itself.

To my mind allowing Wicca’s religious stance to determine what gets printed about traditional Witchcraft is wrong and pollutes the baraka of an ancient art. For instance Paul Huson’s book Mastering Witchcraft is one of the only early books of the craft that deals with the subject of vengeance and attack, and was given a horrible reputation in the Pagan community because of it. I have been to stores that refused to even carry it. One that did felt the need to put disclaimers all over it stating that it was “Not Real Witchcraft.” The book didn’t endorse vengeance and attack. It merely tried to present the full scope of the art it claimed to teach. In doing so, it put the preceding chapter on counter-magic and protection into great context. If anything, the craft teaches personal responsibility. Why then can we not trust readers to make their own ethical decisions about the craft?

Materia:

In the aforementioned article on beliefnet.com, Gardnerian Priestess Judy Harrow, author of Spiritual Mentoring, was quoted as saying:

“I remember once a man solemnly informing me that if a spell calls for, say, blue candles, and the candles are whi

te candles dipped in blue instead of being blue all the way through, the spell will fail or maybe even backfire… People who believe that (magic) power is in ‘the stuff’ will not be able to access the power if ‘the stuff’ is not handy.”

A proficient Witch learns to substitute items that can’t be gotten in time. We also learn the magics of breath, gaze, gesture and incantation that can be cast without materials of any type whatsoever. While I agree that not all the power is in “the stuff, ” there certainly is quite a bit more than many modern writers would have you think. Many modern books make the case that “it’s all in your mind” and that the materials are just props with no real power of their own. This to me is disrespectful to the Witches and sorcerers that painstakingly wrote down formularies and philtres over the centuries. If this was really the case, why bother getting the ingredients right at all? Why not just write down “Devils Shoe Strings” on nine pieces of paper and use them instead of the herb? Try it and see what kind of results you get. Having lived in Nepal and worked with various Ngakpas (sorcerers) and Jankris (shaman) , I can tell you that they take their ingredients very seriously. I can say the same about the Bokors and Root Doctors of New Orleans.

Flying ointment made from mugwort in a carrier oil may be safer, but it is not just as good as one made from hemlock, belladonna, and other baneful herbs carefully mixed and applied. A stone with a hole drilled in it will not work as well as a real hagstone formed by running water. A twig from the backyard will not provide as good a basis for an influence charm as a whole High John root. These things have a tradition that goes back hundred of years and should not be cast aside so easily.

Psychological Reductionism:

Australian sociologist Douglas Ezzy was quoted in the beliefnet.com article regarding the effect of spells themselves:

“In his paper ‘New Age Witchcraft? Popular spell books and the re-enchantment of everyday life, Ezzy notes that spell books ‘encourage individuals to take control of their lives through self-exploration and self-affirmation. Furthermore, ‘performing magical spells functions as a way of re-discovering the enchanted and mysterious aspects of life.’”

McColman further interprets this:

“In other words, spells are more than just magical recipes for getting your own way; they are miniature rituals designed to foster a sense of mystery and wonder (what Ezzy calls ‘enchantment’) in everyday life, and to evoke a positive sense of power and hope in the spell-caster’s life. Even if casting a spell doesn’t make you rich or win you love, it could give you hope that such blessings really are possible in your life.

There are many Pagans and Wiccans that have no interest, belief in, or talent for spell-casting. That’s okay. I don’t believe that Witchcraft was ever meant to be a widespread practice. It may be elitist of me to suggest it, but I don’t think that everyone can cast an effective spell. Some can, some can’t. What we have today however are people drawn to the purely religious and spiritual aspects of Neo-Paganism and mistaking it for Witchcraft. They need to find a way to explain the place of spell-casting in a modern world, so its gets explained away in psycho-babble.

Many teachers today will explain that spells don’t actually offer outer change, only inner change. A spell to help you get a job will perhaps build your confidence but not affect the mind of the interviewer. The claim is that the magick is providing mystery, wonder, and self-affirmation. These are all good things, but it is clear that Witches throughout history did not feel this way about their craft, and neither do I!

I and many others know from experience that a well placed and executed spell can alter future events, affect the mind and spirit of a target or a client, and generally deliver the goods that are traditionally attributed to the craft. The effectiveness of this depends on the ability of the practitioner, knowledge of the art, and skillful application of that power and knowledge. Some people have a talent for practical magic. Some do not. Not so long ago, if you didn’t have a gift or calling for Witchcraft, you would not have been drawn to it. Now that it has become a popular subculture and religion, I wonder if people that don’t have much talent for spell work feel the need to write it off? To be clear I don’t think that you need to practice spellcraft to be a Pagan, or even a Wiccan, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce the classical art of Witchcraft to therapeutic drama.

McColman quotes writer Laura LaVoie as saying: “One of my fears with the spell books is that they send the wrong message to those looking for answers on how to be Pagan.” I have heard her fear echoed often in the Pagan community but very few consider the other side of the coin: Neo-Pagans can sometimes send the wrong message to those that just want to practice Witchcraft.

It’s pretty easy to tell whether a book is religious or is a collection of spells. I find it difficult to believe that someone looking to get a start in a new religion would pick up an Encyclopedia of Spells. On the other hand I do know of many people who came to a spiritual path, Wiccan or otherwise, through a desire to cast spells that opened up deeper questions.

I have what I consider to be a very rigorous and serious spiritual practice. I also am a professional Occultist who does readings and magick for pay. If Wicca doesn’t want to be confused with spell-casting, then they should stop using the term Witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably. Wicca represents one tradition of Witchcraft, not the whole practice.

There is room for both spells and Spirit. Keep the spell books coming! Keep the Pagan books coming! Keep the Wiccan books coming! Let them all get better researched and lead people deeper into the mysteries, from whatever angle of approach they choose.

May the Blessing, Cursing, and Cunning Be!


Footnotes: McColman, Carl, Is Wicca Under A Spell?”, beliefnet.com, 2005.

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Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Author: Jason Miller (Inominandum) 

The Greeks made a distinction between theurgy and thaumaturgy. Theurgy literally means “God working” and refers to spiritual work that leads one into illumination or gnosis. Thaumaturgy means, “wonder working” and refers to the conjuration of spirits, casting of spells, blessing, cursing, curing and harming through practical magick. The balance between these two aspects of the craft has been an issue since the emergence of Wicca in the 1950’s. Does spell casting overshadow religion? This debate has been heating up in online groups and blogs recently due to a story on beliefnet.com by Carl McColman entitled Is Wicca Under a Spell, which deals with both sides of the issue. Many people in the Pagan community that I have spoken with feel that magick and sorcery do the religious aspects of Wicca no good and should be downplayed. Some I have spoken to have no interest in spell-casting at all, or perhaps don’t even believe in practical magick, and thus see this aspect of the craft as an obstacle to Wicca taking its place as a major Western religion. I would like to take this opportunity to present the opposing argument.

What often gets overlooked is that Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. The terms are often used interchangeably but Witchcraft is a craft that can be, but isn’t necessarily, part of a religion. Wicca is most definitely a religion. While not all Wiccan traditions stem by lineage from Gerald Gardner, by and large they use a constellation of terms and beliefs that were first put in place by him and those that came after, thus we can say that we can trace Wicca more or less back to him. Witchcraft is a larger area than this. Isaac Bonewits once provided a breakdown of the types of Witches in America, which can help put this into perspective:

10% Neo-Pagan – Revivalist traditions, including Wicca.
70% Neo-Classical – Those who practice folk magick with mixed Christian and Pagan roots without regard to Witchcraft as a religion.
1-2% Classical village healers who practice completely non-religious folk magick.
1-2% Neo-Gothic – Practitioners of Satanism which is based on the Gothic Witchcraft of the Witch Hysteria Era.
1-2% Family Trads.
1-2% Immigrant Traditions: Pow-wow etc.
10% Practitioners of Vodou, Santeria, etc.

For example one of my ancestors was allegedly a “water witch” who told people where to dig wells. While in Venice I was offered a charm to obtain by a Witch. In both of these cases the Witch in question was a devout Christian. According to this breakdown Neo-Paganism and Wicca account for only %10 of American Witches but even within that scope there are many Witchcraft traditions that make it very clear that they are not Wiccan: The Feri Tradition, The Clan of Tubal Cain and the Cultus Sabbati all represent traditions of the craft that have non-Gardnerian roots, and do not fall under the umbrella of Wicca.

I have an enormous respect for Wicca but I am a Witch, not a Wiccan. I object when the terms are used interchangeably and when Wicca attempts to speak for all Witchcraft. I got involved with the craft during the mid 80’s in North Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, Herman Slater’s Magickal Formularies, and the little spell books from Original Publications had much more of an influence on my Witchcraft than Scott Cunningham or Ray Buckland. This is not to say that I am not religious: I am. But I learned to use practical magick at an early age and was successful at it. I have traveled all over the world to learn traditional magickal techniques: from New Orleans, to Europe, to Nepal. Today I do magick professionally and consider traditional techniques of spell-working to be just as important as religious and spiritual traditions.

I would argue spell-casting is just as sacred as Wicca and Neo-Paganism and far more ancient and widespread a tradition. So where McColman asks the question: “As publishers produce more books about casting spells, is the spiritual message of Witchcraft getting lost?” I ask the opposite: Is the popular influence of Wicca and Neo-Paganism negatively impacting the tradition of spell casting, or if you will, the Witches’ Craft?

I think it is, on a number of levels. I will give just three examples:

Ethics:

The Wiccan Rede provides a very strong ethical principle for Witches to follow. As such, any mention of curses, jinxes, or harmful magick is frowned upon by the Pagan press. Some take this even further and extend it to spells that influence another’s will or reverse a curse back upon its sender. Very often in modern books I read “A REAL WITCH would never do harmful or coercive magick…” While I can applaud the good intent of these writers, and understand that authors are trying to paint a picture of Wicca that is acceptable to mainstream America, the fact is that this type of magick IS part of a “REAL” Witch’s repertoire. From the lead curse tablets of Greece, to the Gospel of Aradia, to more modern Witches like Sibyl Leek and Andrew Chumbley, cursing and coercion have always been a part of the Craft.

When my teacher taught me my first pieces of harmful magick, I was surprised. I had no interest in harming anyone but she told me, “You have to learn how to harm, in order to learn how to heal. The power comes hand-in-hand.” Apart from that lesson, life has taught me that a curse can be justified, and that in rare instances it can be down right compassionate. It is the use of knowledge that determines whether it is good or evil, not the knowledge itself.

To my mind allowing Wicca’s religious stance to determine what gets printed about traditional Witchcraft is wrong and pollutes the baraka of an ancient art. For instance Paul Huson’s book Mastering Witchcraft is one of the only early books of the craft that deals with the subject of vengeance and attack, and was given a horrible reputation in the Pagan community because of it. I have been to stores that refused to even carry it. One that did felt the need to put disclaimers all over it stating that it was “Not Real Witchcraft.” The book didn’t endorse vengeance and attack. It merely tried to present the full scope of the art it claimed to teach. In doing so, it put the preceding chapter on counter-magic and protection into great context. If anything, the craft teaches personal responsibility. Why then can we not trust readers to make their own ethical decisions about the craft?

Materia:

In the aforementioned article on beliefnet.com, Gardnerian Priestess Judy Harrow, author of Spiritual Mentoring, was quoted as saying:

“I remember once a man solemnly informing me that if a spell calls for, say, blue candles, and the candles are whi

te candles dipped in blue instead of being blue all the way through, the spell will fail or maybe even backfire… People who believe that (magic) power is in ‘the stuff’ will not be able to access the power if ‘the stuff’ is not handy.”

A proficient Witch learns to substitute items that can’t be gotten in time. We also learn the magics of breath, gaze, gesture and incantation that can be cast without materials of any type whatsoever. While I agree that not all the power is in “the stuff, ” there certainly is quite a bit more than many modern writers would have you think. Many modern books make the case that “it’s all in your mind” and that the materials are just props with no real power of their own. This to me is disrespectful to the Witches and sorcerers that painstakingly wrote down formularies and philtres over the centuries. If this was really the case, why bother getting the ingredients right at all? Why not just write down “Devils Shoe Strings” on nine pieces of paper and use them instead of the herb? Try it and see what kind of results you get. Having lived in Nepal and worked with various Ngakpas (sorcerers) and Jankris (shaman) , I can tell you that they take their ingredients very seriously. I can say the same about the Bokors and Root Doctors of New Orleans.

Flying ointment made from mugwort in a carrier oil may be safer, but it is not just as good as one made from hemlock, belladonna, and other baneful herbs carefully mixed and applied. A stone with a hole drilled in it will not work as well as a real hagstone formed by running water. A twig from the backyard will not provide as good a basis for an influence charm as a whole High John root. These things have a tradition that goes back hundred of years and should not be cast aside so easily.

Psychological Reductionism:

Australian sociologist Douglas Ezzy was quoted in the beliefnet.com article regarding the effect of spells themselves:

“In his paper ‘New Age Witchcraft? Popular spell books and the re-enchantment of everyday life, Ezzy notes that spell books ‘encourage individuals to take control of their lives through self-exploration and self-affirmation. Furthermore, ‘performing magical spells functions as a way of re-discovering the enchanted and mysterious aspects of life.’”

McColman further interprets this:

“In other words, spells are more than just magical recipes for getting your own way; they are miniature rituals designed to foster a sense of mystery and wonder (what Ezzy calls ‘enchantment’) in everyday life, and to evoke a positive sense of power and hope in the spell-caster’s life. Even if casting a spell doesn’t make you rich or win you love, it could give you hope that such blessings really are possible in your life.

There are many Pagans and Wiccans that have no interest, belief in, or talent for spell-casting. That’s okay. I don’t believe that Witchcraft was ever meant to be a widespread practice. It may be elitist of me to suggest it, but I don’t think that everyone can cast an effective spell. Some can, some can’t. What we have today however are people drawn to the purely religious and spiritual aspects of Neo-Paganism and mistaking it for Witchcraft. They need to find a way to explain the place of spell-casting in a modern world, so its gets explained away in psycho-babble.

Many teachers today will explain that spells don’t actually offer outer change, only inner change. A spell to help you get a job will perhaps build your confidence but not affect the mind of the interviewer. The claim is that the magick is providing mystery, wonder, and self-affirmation. These are all good things, but it is clear that Witches throughout history did not feel this way about their craft, and neither do I!

I and many others know from experience that a well placed and executed spell can alter future events, affect the mind and spirit of a target or a client, and generally deliver the goods that are traditionally attributed to the craft. The effectiveness of this depends on the ability of the practitioner, knowledge of the art, and skillful application of that power and knowledge. Some people have a talent for practical magic. Some do not. Not so long ago, if you didn’t have a gift or calling for Witchcraft, you would not have been drawn to it. Now that it has become a popular subculture and religion, I wonder if people that don’t have much talent for spell work feel the need to write it off? To be clear I don’t think that you need to practice spellcraft to be a Pagan, or even a Wiccan, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce the classical art of Witchcraft to therapeutic drama.

McColman quotes writer Laura LaVoie as saying: “One of my fears with the spell books is that they send the wrong message to those looking for answers on how to be Pagan.” I have heard her fear echoed often in the Pagan community but very few consider the other side of the coin: Neo-Pagans can sometimes send the wrong message to those that just want to practice Witchcraft.

It’s pretty easy to tell whether a book is religious or is a collection of spells. I find it difficult to believe that someone looking to get a start in a new religion would pick up an Encyclopedia of Spells. On the other hand I do know of many people who came to a spiritual path, Wiccan or otherwise, through a desire to cast spells that opened up deeper questions.

I have what I consider to be a very rigorous and serious spiritual practice. I also am a professional Occultist who does readings and magick for pay. If Wicca doesn’t want to be confused with spell-casting, then they should stop using the term Witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably. Wicca represents one tradition of Witchcraft, not the whole practice.

There is room for both spells and Spirit. Keep the spell books coming! Keep the Pagan books coming! Keep the Wiccan books coming! Let them all get better researched and lead people deeper into the mysteries, from whatever angle of approach they choose.

May the Blessing, Cursing, and Cunning Be!


Footnotes: McColman, Carl, Is Wicca Under A Spell?”, beliefnet.com, 2005.

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SPELL FOR A GAMBLING MOJO HAND(HooDoo)

SPELL FOR A GAMBLING MOJO HAND

Reputed to be “The Best Gambling Hand” in the work attributed to Marie Laveau — it is made by taking a 3.5 x 3.5 inch piece of chamois and fashioning it into a bag.

Inside, you must place a small lodestone, a black cat bone, a swallow’s heart, a pinch of five finger grass, a small John the Conqueror root, and some devil’s shoestring root. Then on top of all this you must place a prepared nutmeg, which is made by hollowing out a large whole nutmeg and filling it with liquid mercury, then sealing it in place with wax. (Be careful if you actually try this — mercury is poisonous.) With the bag filled, sew it all shut. To activate the mojo hand, apply 3 drops of Jockey Club perfume, and dress it with another 3 drops every week thereafter

Categories: Articles, HooDoo/Vodoun, Luck Spells, Miscellaneous Spells, Money Spells | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hoodoo Still Practiced After 100 Years

Hoodoo Still Practiced After 100 Years

By Mark Hoerrner

Witch doctors and their mojo spells aren’t just products of Hollywood imagination—for over a century, the practice of Hoodoo has been an integral part of the culture in countries all around the world, including the United States.

Stemming from African tribal magic, Hoodoo is currently practiced primarily in the Southern U.S., Haiti and West Africa. Brought to America during the African Diaspora fueled by American slave trade, the “white magic” of Hoodoo was a welcome counter to the Voodoo practitioners who also originated from Africa and spilled onto Haiti and other Southern Atlantic islands. Much like Voodoo, the quasi-religion was a mix of nature magic and spirit calling that would eventually mingle with the predominantly Catholic religions of the busy city of New Orleans and subsequent Catholic expatriates have propagated the mixture of Hoodoo and Christianity in Haiti as well.

It should be noted that practitioners will quickly tell you that the practice of Hoodoo is spiritual in nature but it is not a religion. There is no established formal practice other than spells and incantations passed down in written form and no clergy to speak of. Nor does there exist a hierarchy among practitioners. Each Hoodoo “witch” or “witch doctor” is completely autonomous, as is common among many of the botano-spiritual offshoots from Africa.
Common terms like “mojo,” “mojo bag” and similar terms are often used interchangeably with Voodoo practitioners and refer to material goods supposedly ensorcelled to give the user a specific benefit. Hoodoo, in fact, is meant to empower the individual, granting fiscal and physical prosperity, luck in love and gambling and similar self-interests

.
Hoodoo derives, however, from a complex system of magic, according to spiritualist Mama Zgobe.
“For example, in the West African & Diaspora Mami Wata Vodoun tradition,” she says in a web interview on Hoodoo, “the forest spirits, known as ‘Azzizas,’ were the most evolved guardians of the forest, who first presented themselves to the African hunters, and planters. They taught them the esoteric, medicinal (ahame) use and alchemical properties inherent in the abundance of herbs, trees, roots, minerals and life forms thriving in their mists.

“It was the Azzizas who also taught the African how to make poisons, potions, medicines, and Gbo, ‘ebo’ and ‘boicho/bo.’ Joined with the Azzizas, was the divinity later to be identified as “Legba,” the great messenger of the gods, who also taught the Africans the use of Gbo and transported their prepared requests to the respective divinities.
“The first practical and most extensive use of herbs, amulets and talismans in the forest was for protection from accidents & tropical disease, dangerous animals, repairing injuries, as well as to assure success in their hunt. However, their esoteric use was mainly for protection from jealously, envy, and death by other hunters, as well as protection from the angry spirits of those animals which were killed for food, or by accident during the course of the hunt. From these primary ancestors, eventually evolved a group of specialized priests and priestess known in Dahomey as Bokonons, (geomancers), Azondoto, Zokas, Garbara, Akpases (socerers), and Botonons.”

Other practitioners come from less of an African influence but still promote the strength of the practice. Martha White – yes, like the baked goods – says that she was indoctrinated into the world of Hoodoo by her great grandmother and subsequently by her grandmother.
“At first, it was something to tell friends about,” she says, a rolling creole accent carrying every word. “But later, I began to notice that other people had faith in what my grandmother was doing. They altered their lives based on her charms and spells. It was not long after that the spirits came to me.”
Spirits, she says, of wild areas, of deceased persons, of wild animals, all assisting her in her practice of magic. Through her enchanting, she claims to have made couples fall in love, to have made cheating spouses fidelity and children do better in school.
“Some people call me a witch,” she says, fitting the part in a long flowing green gown. “But I’m not a witch. I’m not sure what you’d call me, but I’m not a witch. My broom is just for sweeping.”

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