Posts Tagged With: Seattle

And Our $50.00 Gift Certificate Winner is……..

Congratulations Images
Congratulations

To

Randy Paschall!

Randy is the proud owner of that brand new gift certificate awarded for the month of January. Randy will have the opportunity to purchase anything he would like in our online store.

One thing before the spending begins…..

Randy, please email us with your email associated with this site. That way we can verify you are you, lol! After we hear from you, let the shopping begin!

Congratulations again,

Randy Paschall!

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WOTC Cartoon of the Day – ‘Oh, What Fun A Potato Can be, lol_

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A Little Humor for Your Day – Dog Property Rules

Dog Property Rules

1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If its in my mouth, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If I’m chewing something up, all the pieces are mine.
6. If its mine, it must never appear to be yours anyway.
7. If it just looks like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If its broken, it’s yours.

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Sage Incense

Sage Incense

Sage clumps are fairly common stuff for lots of new-agey, natural
and other holistic or magical supply places.

In a pinch, you can even make it yourself witout too much hassle, if you
have a patch of fresh-growing sage.  Pick a few leafy stalks, and kinda
stick ‘em together so the stalks join together, parallel to each other,
and tie ‘em nice and snug with some string or heavy thread.  Hang it
upside down to dry, and in a few days, you should have a nice little
bundle of sage, ready to burn for whatever purpose you choose (cleansing and purification is most common, but they have other uses, too).  Or just dry a single stalk, light the topmost leaves, and when it starts to burn on its own, blow out the flame.  The ignited leaves should burn down, and might even go on down the stalk to burn away other parts of it, if it’s really dry.  Play around with it a little, and see what you
get.

One harvesting tip, though–never take more than 1/4 of the plant’s
total growth!  More than that will send the plant into shock, and could
kill it, especially if it’s a younger, smaller plant!  Prune carefully–
remember, plants are living beings, too, and you wouldn’t enjoy
sacrificing big chunks of you to something you didn’t understand, now
would you?

Two to three bucks a bundle is the going rate for most “smudge sticks”,
ranging in size from about 5-9″ long and usually about 1-2″ wide.  Some
unscrupulous dealers will try to charge you upwards of $6 for a rod this
size, so don’t get so eager to try it that you pay an exorbitant fee for
the stuff.  Sage grows pretty readily, and comes in different varieties,
so don’t be afraid to shop around.  If there’s no stores in your area
that carry the stuff, ask again and see if anybody can give you a good
mail-order source.  There’s plenty of shops here in Seattle that carry
‘em ready-made, so i don’t know where to suggest you write to for
mail-order.

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Solitary Misconceptions

Solitary Misconceptions

by Sylvana SilverWitch

I used to be a solitary many, many years ago now. After I moved to  Seattle — away from my first priestess and  coven — I looked for a new coven, thinking it would be easy to find one. In the  early 70’s, there was not much pagan activity in Seattle. As I became familiar with  the area and got settled, I ran into a number of people who claimed to be  practicing the Craft but were not into anything  like what I had been taught.

One guy I met ended up getting arrested a few years later for  luring young girls into a “coven,” only to  ply them with drugs and take advantage of them. I was very happy that I wasn’t  taken in by his charm and promises of third degree initiation into his  made-up tradition.

I read the submissions for this issue with interest because I always  wonder why one would choose to be a solitary, foregoing the rich tapestry of  learning and practicing with a group. I feel truly blessed to be a part of my coven,  Sylvan Grove, and I wouldn’t trade the last 16 years with the evolving group  for anything. As I read, I noticed a theme of misconceptions about working in  a group and/or being part of a coven. Misconceptions, that is, from my  point of view. Having been in a couple covens for a number of years each as well  as having been a solitary for over 10 years, I feel well-equipped to address  some of these issues.

Seemingly common misconceptions I have come across, and my  perceptions about them are:

1. That you can just find and join a coven.

Finding covens is not easy. It’s not like we advertise in the phone book  and you can simply call us up and come on over. In most cases, you cannot just  join the coven the next day, week or month. It takes training, discipline  and elementary knowledge to begin working with an existing group. Not to  mention social skills, responsibility and basic compatibility with the tradition and  the people.

2. That working alone is somehow better than working in a group.

There is a limit to how much you can learn and grow on your  own. Whether it’s getting a new perspective or opinion or having support in  times of need, We all need other people.

I have found value in working alone, but I can do that and still be part of  a coven. We get together on the new and full moons and the Sabbats,  and sometimes socially. But we don’t all live together. We have separate lives.

Also, I have found nothing to be as wonderfully challenging, stimulating  and rewarding as working magick with a group of intelligent, inquisitive, bold  and progressive people. The coven I am now HPS of has some of the brightest  and most amazing people I have ever come across in the Craft. The energy  we generate when we do magick is palpable. We are a focused and powerful  entity and our magick works well because of that.

3. That groups follow some “Sacred Book of Shadows” that was  passed down from Old Gerald, and that they duplicate the rituals  absolutely religiously.

This is true in very few covens I have been exposed to. More often,  when a written tradition hands down a book of shadows, it is passed from the HP  or HPS to the initiate. Initiates then expand on or change what they do to  suit themselves. Very few covens, in my experience, go by the letter of the  book for every ritual. In fact, most of the people I have done ritual with are  artistic, creative witches and have written and performed some remarkable  rituals. Maybe that’s a comment on who I tend to gravitate to, but it can’t be only  that after all these years.

4. That groups don’t allow for individual personal creativity.

If my coven is any indication, this cannot be true. Andy recently wrote  a paper for the Sylvan Outer Grove class and in it he mentioned the Sylvan  Grove Random Moon Generatorä in which we look at what astrological sign the  sun and moon are in and what that means. With this information and  group consensus about what we want or need at the time, we decide what magick  to do. I know other covens invent rituals as they go — during several years  as the New and Full Moon coordinator for a Northwest pagan organization,  I watched it in action.

5. That they somehow won’t “fit in” to a group.

This is one of the most obvious fallacies I have heard expressed.  Anyone can fit in if they find the right group or coven. It does take some social  skills to work with others successfully, but a coven is a lot like a family.  Everyone does not get along all the time, everyone does not always agree. There  are conflicts from time to time, but we are committed to working things out.

It is important to find common ground in philosophies and styles  of working, but you don’t have to agree with everything or like all things  about someone to work magick successfully with them. If you find people you  like and are compatible with, and you like the tradition, a year should be  long enough to figure out whether you can commit to a long term  working relationship.

Also, people come and go as part of the natural order of things.  Everyone grows at their own rate. You don’t have to dedicate the rest of your life to  a coven. If it doesn’t work for you in the long term, you can always ask to  be released from your obligations.

6. That people are “solitaries” when they aren’t a formal part of a coven,  even  though they work with some group or even just one other person on a  regular basis.

Solitary implies alone. My personal definition of a solitary is a person  who does not work with, or belong to, a group. If you are working  magick regularly with a coven or group, whether or not you are formally dedicated  to the group, in my opinion you are not a solitary.

To find an appropriate coven or group, you must be persistent. Keep  your eyes and ears open. Go to whatever public rituals you can attend.  Take classes on different traditions if they are available in your area; if not,  read books on different traditions to find what you most resonate with. My coven only advertises  the Outer Grove class in one issue of the paper per year and there is a  deadline to get into the class.

When you do find a group you are interested in, ask if you may  attend something that might be appropriate. If you get invited to a ritual, ask what  you can bring or contribute. Make yourself useful, help out where and when  you can. Be on time. Be good listener. Keep an open mind. Remember, you are  asking to become a student — don’t come across as if you already know it all.  Be open to letting others get to know you and let your interest be known. If  in doubt, ask!

In the Sylvan tradition, you must ask many times before you are invited to  be part of the inner circle. This assures us that you are serious and  committed; that’s what we are looking for.

Good luck finding a coven, if you want to be a part of one. If you do  join one, you will find the group magickal experience to be profoundly  rewarding, fascinating and an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth  beyond compare. Blessed be.

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Lammas – Fulfillment of Promise

Lammas – Fulfillment of Promise

by Gemini Star Child

Lammas is a rare celebration for  Seattle pagans. It is sometimes the  only outdoor ritual we can perform  without sweaters! The circle to which  I belong tries to celebrate the  Sabbats outdoors as often as possible, but even our tough little group  enjoys the warm bliss of summer’s  high sun at Lammas. While Litha is  the longest day and the pride of the  Sun Goddess, here, in Seattle, real  warmth and sunny skies are often  only an August thing.

So how do we celebrate  Lammas – this “ripening in the sun”?  We gather in a pleasant place where  air and light can play and we bless  the first fruits of harvest. In wheels  past, we looked forward to the coming dark and the shortening of days.  However, we decided that this year,  having finally arrived at our one sunny  Sabbat, we shouldn’t rain on the parade! Let’s live in the present and enjoy it.

Lammas is the fulfillment of the  promise of light and seed. At Yule, we  emptied ourselves completely to the  void, embracing the fullness of fallowness and surrendering all to the Dark  Mother. Light came from darkness and  we recognized it at Candlemas. We  presented our seeds to the light at  Oestara and the Two were blessed in  Beltane’s love. Light Mother gloried at  Litha in the growing life of earth and  ocean. Now, at Lammas, She shares  with us the first fruits of the seeds we  entrusted to Her.

Lammas has, sometimes, been  depicted as a time of hope, for the  full harvest could still fail. I prefer the  optimistic “cup half full” view, however, that sees Lammas as the promise of harvest fulfilled. The vegetables are on the table, the  cornbread is in the oven, and the  apples are turning red. As deeply as  we surrendered to the Dark Mother  in the fallow time, so now we take  joyful satisfaction with the Light  Mother in the fruitful time. Lammas  is the season to bask in bounty and  acknowledge that “Life Is Good”.

Mabon will come and the full harvest, but then we will not bask, for  there is much work to do. Later will  come Samhain when we will store the  seeds and release our bonds to this  life and this cycle. That is then, but  this is now. Be happy and rejoice!  Dance, sing, and eat your fill! Life indeed is good! Happy Lammas and Blessed Be!

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Start Making Scents

How to Make Incense for Magickal and Spiritual Intents

by Miriam Harline

Smell is the sense most hot-wired  into our animal past. According to  Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History  of the Senses,we smell by means of  olfactory bulbs at our nostrils’ upper  tips that, when triggered directly, signal  the limbic system — a brain region  inherited from our mammalian  ancestors, a player in lust and creativity.  Smell is also our most permanent  sense. Research says scents go  straight into long-term memory, later  to be retriggered with all the emotion  of the time that laid the memories  down. As Ackerman writes, “A smell  can be overwhelmingly nostalgic be-cause  it triggers powerful images and  emotions before we have time to edit  them.”

Smell thus proves one of our bodies’  best gifts to the magician, ritualist  and spiritual seeker. To speak to  the emotions, to the animal spirit, to  the part of us that believes in and  works magick, use scent. Burn incense.

If ease is a priority, you can buy  your magickal incenses. I’d recommend  Wortcunning and Nu Essence brands.  You can find Wortcunning incenses, by  local incense master Leon Reed, at  Travelers (501 E. Pine in Seattle) or directly  through Wortcunning (P. O. Box  9785, Seattle, WA 98109). Wortcunning  incense is one of the reasons I moved  to Seattle. On a visit here, I picked up  some Pan incense, which when I ran  out of self-igniting charcoal in mid-Missouri  I burned on the stove: great before  going out dancing. I figured any  place with incense so magickal had to  be worth returning to.

However, if you want incense imbued  with your specific magickal or  spiritual purpose and your energy,  make it from scratch. Once you have  supplies, it needn’t take a long time,  maybe an hour per scent. It’s fun. And  there’s something special about burning  a mixture that smells heavenly (or  noxious, as the intention may be) and saying, “Hey, I made that.”

Following I’ve set down wisdom  from my teachers and my forays into  the craft and recommended books to  take you further. But, as with cooking,  you learn incense making by doing.  Find a recipe you like, study it till you  understand how it works, then improvise  based on your tastes and ingredients.  As with any practice, trust your  instincts. If you want to reproduce the  exact incense in a seventeenth century  grimoire or Egyptian papyrus, you’ll  follow that recipe to the letter (if you  can find the ingredients). Otherwise,  experiment. Play.

I describe here how to make loose  incense, to be burned on self-igniting  charcoal briquettes. You can buy such  charcoal most any place that sells incense  herbs. You can also make stick  and cone incenses, which the books I  recommend describe. Stick and cone  incenses look more impressive for  presents and are easier to burn. But  they’re more complicated to make,  and the different forms don’t make  your intentions’ results more sure.

Getting Started

To make incense, you’ll first gather  some ingredients and tools:

  • Herbs and oils
  • Eyedropper (preferably several)
  • Base oil
  • Mortar and pestle (preferably two)
  • Coffee grinder (optional)
  • Ziplock baggies, in gallon and sandwich size
  • Small bottles or tins (optional)
  • Small spoon or spoons (optional)
  • Astrological calendar
  • Book or books of recipes

If you want to make just one incense,  get just the herbs and oils you  need. However, if you plan to make  incense as an ongoing hobby, round  up some basic incense makings. Some  elementary herbs and resins, arranged  by how often I use them:

  • Sandalwood
  • Myrrh
  • Frankincense
  • Benzoin
  • Pine resin
  • Orris root
  • Lavender
  • Rose petals
  • Cedar
  • Cinnamon
  • Copal
  • Rosemary
  • Mace
  • Nutmeg
  • Bay
  • Lemongrass  Some of the above list will look  pretty familiar. Rosemary? Nutmeg?  Got it, in the spice cabinet. If you want  to start cheap, you can make many  incenses from common kitchen spices.Of the nonspices listed above,  orris root (iris root) deserves special  mention. It’s a good idea to add one  part orris root as a preservative and  fixative to most incense recipes, especially  those that don’t include resins.  (Resins are gums formed by solidifying  plant juices, for example frankincense,  myrrh and amber.) Get your  orris root preground if you don’t feel  like spending an afternoon worrying a  tuber.

    In general, you’ll want to get woods  and tough roots in powdered form.  For anything grindable, however, get  leaves or chunks, and grind the ingredient  when you need it. That way, it  will stay fresher.

    For oils, I tend to buy those specific  to the recipe I’m doing. After  making a few incenses, you’ll have a  large library. These are the ones I use  most:

    • Patchouli
    • Jasmine
    • Cypress
    • Eucalyptus
    • Peppermint
    • Rose

    Use essential oils, rather than perfume  oils. An essential oil will generally  announce itself on the bottle. And  watch out for patchouli oil. It’s intense;  a few drops will do.

    You can locate herbs and oils at  pagan and herbal supply shops. To buy  herbs, I tend to go to Travelers or  Tenzing Momo (93 Pike Street in Seattle).  You can order from Tenzing  Momo by phone, at (206) 623-9837. I  wouldn’t recommend a phone order  for a novice incense maker, though;  you’ll want to see what you’re buying.  Many herbs and resins are very light,  ounces not pounds. Some are very  expensive, though most are not. The  fresher you get something the better —  beware a very dusty herb bottle.

    Herbs originate in gardens and the  wild, of course, and if you have access,  jump at the chance to harvest  when the herb’s ready. Don’t wildcraft  too much; take no more than a quarter  of what you find, and never take  more than you can use. Pagans will  want to ask the plant’s permission  before clipping; a gift in exchange, such  as water, returns energy to the herb.

    There is such a thing as too fresh,  though. If you just cut your herb, you  can’t use it today. I’ve tried quick-drying  herbs at 200 degrees in the oven,  and it doesn’t work. Ideally, you should  harvest herbs on a dry day at the peak  of their maturity, when active ingredients  have reached the highest concentration —  an herbal will tell you when.  Hang the plants upside down in a dry,  airy place between 70 and 90 degrees  Fahrenheit; they should take about a  week to dry. Don’t store them still  damp; they’ll mold. Store herbs in air-tight  containers, ideally glass or pottery.  This process should occur beforeyou try making incense.

    When working with oils, an eye-dropper  proves useful. If you don’t  employ one, at some point I guarantee  you’ll screw up an incense recipe  by, say, pouring in a half-ounce of  patchouli. Get several to avoid cleaning  droppers between oils. Look for  eyedroppers at your local drugstore.  In addition to scent oils, you’ll add  a base oil to incense to activate some  of the esters (scent chemicals) in dried  herbs, to make the incense mixture  hang together better and to help preserve  it. I tend to use safflower oil  because it has a very light scent, but  I’ve been told it goes rancid more  quickly than others. People I trust have  recommended jojoba oil and sesame  oil. The strong scent of sesame oil  disappears as the mixture dries.

    To grind your herbs and resins,  you’ll want at least one mortar and  pestle. It’s a good idea to get two and  powder herbs in one, resins in another —  this because resins tend to  stick and stain and may never come  out of a coarse mortar and pestle.  Mortars and pestles can be found at  kitchen supply stores. If you do a lot  of grinding, you’ll want a coffee grinder.  Buy one secondhand, and devote it to  incense only — you don’t want  mugwort-flavored coffee.

    Ziplock baggies are good for incense  mixing and for temporary and  less pretty incense storage. More  pretty incense storage is the domain  of cute, colored, cork-topped glass  bottles and cunning little tins. The  Soap Box used to carry such bottles,  and I’ve seen them at kitchen supply  stores. You can also store incense in  film canisters or pill containers, anything  airtight. Small spoons prove helpful  when doling out incense samples  to burn, something you’ll do a lot while  concocting scents.

    An astrological calendar aids in  making incense just as it does in any  magickal or ritual activity, to align with  the energies of the universe. The subject  of associations is endless and  personal, and I’ll only touch on it here.  In general, create incenses under a  waxing or full moon for intentions involving  growth and waxing energy, under  a waning moon for intentions involving  shrinking or ending. If you’re  making an incense for Aphrodite or  to draw love, Venus should probably  be favorably aspected; to get a job,  Jupiter should probably be favorably  aspected. You get the idea.

    You’ll want recipe books. I list  some recipes at the end of the article;  chances are none of them will suit your  exact magickal or spiritual purpose.  The books I rely on are Scott  Cunningham’s The Complete Book of  Incense, Oils and Brews and Wylundt’s  Book of Incense. The latter includes  many recipes based on kitchen spices,  if you can’t afford much in the way of  supplies. Both also explain how to  make stick and cone incenses.

    Substitutions

    Suppose you have a recipe you  like, for an intention you’re interested  in. It calls for peppermint, bay, frankincense  and gum bdellium. The first  three the herb shop has. On the last  one, the cashier shakes her head.  “Never heard of it.” You try pronouncing  it again — same effect. Even if an  herb, gum or oil is theoretically obtainable,  you may run into a situation  when you want the incense now and  can’t find the odd ingredient.

    Don’t give up. Substitute.

    You can substitute in several ways.  First, if the recipe calls for the herb or  resin and you can only find the oil, use  the oil, or vice versa. For example, oak  moss itself is hard to find, but you  can locate oak moss oil fairly easily.

    If you can’t track something down  in solid or liquid form, The Complete  Book of Incense, Oils and Brews has a  lovely table suggesting one-for-one  substitutions for many ingredients.  You can also substitute according to  intention or elemental or planetary  rulership. Both The Complete Book and  Wylundt’s list ingredients aligned to  different intentions, elements and  planets. For example, “love” has a list  of suggested ingredients, as do “water” and “Venus.” Many Wicca and Magick  101 books offer similar tables of  correspondence. If you poke through  the tables, you’ll find a substitute for  your herb or oil, often a whole list to  choose from. In a pinch, as  Cunningham writes, rosemary can  safely be substituted for any other  herb, rose for any flower and frankincense  or copal for any gum resin.

    Substitutions are essential for  many obscure and poisonous ingredients  recommended by old magickal  tomes. In case you need to be told,  do not use aconite (wolfsbane), belladonna,  hemlock, henbane, mistletoe,  nightshade or other poisonous substances  in your incense! It’s not worth  the hassle. Some substances are sufficiently  toxic that merely handling  them is dangerous. You can replace  any poisonous herb in incense with  tobacco, as Cunningham suggests.

    Likewise, be careful with ingredients  that cause smoke that’s very foul-smelling  or liable to produce an allergic  reaction, such as asafoetida, mace,  pepper and rue. Some incenses are  best burned outdoors.

    Making Incense

    Ingredients, tools, moon phase  and aspects all lined up, it’s time to  start. I generally lay out everything on  a clean, smooth surface, then put up  a circle and call the elements, deities  and fey to witness. You can be as formal  or informal as you like about your  working, but stating and concentrat-ing  on your intention as you assemble  ingredients will help imbue the incense  with that intention.

    Now dig out your gallon Ziplock  baggie. This will be your mixing bowl.

    Reread your recipe. Incense recipes  are often listed in terms of “parts.”  What constitutes a part is your decision.  I often use for a part as much as  I can hold in the palm of my hand. You  can also use a teaspoon or a half-cup  or any other measure as a part, as  long as you keep the part measure  consistent through the recipe. If your  incense recipe is listed in terms of  weight (ounces, grams), however, use  weight measurements throughout —  don’t mix parts, which are measure-ments  by volume, with measurements  by weight, or the result will make no  sense. Whatever the form of measurement,  measure any ingredient that requires  grinding in its final, powdered  state.

    I often find I have a limited quantity  of one ingredient. In this case, I  usually grind that first and let the resulting  measurement dictate how  much incense to make. For example,  if the recipe calls for two parts lavender,  and I only have two teaspoons of  it, my part will be one teaspoon.

    Another factor in pulverization  order is your tools. If you have two  mortars, you can grind herbs and  gums separately. If not, start with  herbs as they’ll stick up the mortar  less.

    If your ingredients and tools are  sufficient to the task, grind herbs and  resins in order of smell. Incense, like  perfume, is considered to have top,  middle and base notes. Top notes are  the lightest and generally what you  smell first. Floral scents are often top  notes, for example neroli (orange flowers).  Base notes are the bottom of the  spectrum, the strongest, darkest  scents. Animal odors, such as musk,  and heavy woods, such as patchouli,  usually form base notes. Some strong  herbs, such as lavender, are also  bases. Vanilla and rose are examples  of middle notes — strong, but not as  overpowering as patchouli. Use less  of the base and middle notes when  creating an incense, more of the top  notes, to create a balance. In the absence  of other concerns, start creating  your incense with the base note.  This rule especially applies if you’re  creating or revising a recipe.

    To get to know each ingredient,  burn a small ground sample. Your own  associations and emotions for each  scent are important. For me, benzoin  smells fey; eucalyptus is cool and sensual.  Everyone senses subtly different  affinities. If you find your nose burning  out, sniff coffee beans to clear your  sense of smell.

    Grinding takes a while. Have faith.  Some herbs are surprisingly tough to  work with — lemongrass, for example,  grinds away to nothing, so you’ll be  working a long time. Bay doesn’t pulverize  well; use scissors to cut it as  fine as possible. Your final powder  grains need not be infinitesimally small;  however, the smaller you grind, the  more thoroughly your ingredients can  mix to create the unique smell of the  final incense.

    As you finish each ingredient, add  it to the gallon Ziplock baggie, close it  and shake thoroughly.

    Once you have all the dry ingredients  in, add scent oils. If you’re adding  an oil where the recipe calls for an  herb, or vice versa, keep in mind that  an oil comes across much more  strongly than the matching herb. A few  drops of most oils will suffice, unless  you’re making mountains of incense.  Again, with your oils, start with the  base note and use little, then move  on to the middle and top. Mix your  oils with the dry ingredients thoroughly,  rubbing out dark spots and balls.

    Herbs, resins and scent oils mixed,  burn the result. What do you think?

    You’re wrinkling your nose. That’s  okay — you can fix it.

    Suppose your incense smells like  just one of your ingredients — cinnamon  and nothing else. There’s a couple  of ways of dealing with this. You can  add a little more of everything else.  Or you can decide which of the other  ingredients would help balance the  strong scent. Cinnamon’s a middle to  base note — another middle to base  note would balance it, for example lavender,  assuming your recipe includes  lavender. Oil is the easiest way to add  balance because it’s so strong.

    Sometimes incense will come out  smelling like next to nothing. Too much  balance! Here, you’ll want to emphasize  one or two ingredients, whichever  seem most appropriate. For example,  if I were creating a moon incense with  oil of jasmine that came out smelling  bland, I might tap in a few more drops  of oil, as jasmine is an ingredient that  I like and that feels very moon to me.

    Once you’ve got your incense  smelling as you want it, it’s time to add  the base oil. Add it in small amounts —  you don’t want the incense wet. Add  till you get a sticky or tacky feel, till  the powder sticks a little to your hand.

    The base oil gives your incense a  longer life, but it makes the mixture  produce a heavy, burnt-smelling  smoke in the short term. If you must  burn the incense right away, leave out  the base oil. After you add the oil, incense takes a week to ten days to set,  and it’s not till after that period that  you’ll be rid of excess smokiness.  Check your incense while it’s setting —  if the smoke continues heavy, you can  leave the container open to let the in-cense  breathe a bit.

    When I’m done adding base oil to  an incense, I raise energy and consecrate  the incense to the purpose for  which I devised it. This step is essential  if yours is to be a magickal incense.

    Now, sit back! You’ve made incense.  Be proud of yourself. You have  a new ritual tool that will heighten your  every working. And you’ve brought  some scents into the world.

    Special thanks to Sylvana  SilverWitch and her incense classes, from  which I learned much of the preceding.

    Sample Recipes

    Full Moon incense

    2 parts frankincense 2 parts myrrh 2 parts sandalwood 1/ 2 part rose petals Jasmine oil

    The smell is powdery and sweet,  very moony and watery.

    Hecate incense

    4 parts sandalwood 2 parts peppermint 2 parts myrrh Cypress oil

    As you might guess, the sandalwood  is very forward in this recipe.  Wortcunning also makes a stellar Hecate  incense based on information in ancient  magickal texts. However, that incense  strikes me as better burned outdoors.  Use the preceding to gently honor Her in  your hermetically sealed ritual room.

    Hermes incense

    1 part cinnamon 1 part frankincense 1 part lavender

    This is not my own recipe; I’m afraid  I forget where I got it. But it’s great! Use  it also for spells of communication,  travel protection and the like — anything  ruled by Hermes.

    Lammas incense

    2 parts frankincense 2 parts sandalwood 1 part pine resin 1/ 2 part bay 1/ 2 part cinnamon 1/ 2 part coriander 1/ 2 part meadowsweet 1/ 2 part oregano 1/ 2 part rosemary A few drops rose oil Slightly less oak moss oil Very little patchouli oil (start with one drop)

    Meditation and divination incense

    2 parts benzoin 2 parts lavender 2 parts myrrh 2 parts sandalwood 1 part orange peel 1/ 2 part mugwort

    Equal amounts eucalyptus, patchouli oils  This mixture is very floaty and psychically  oriented. If you have trouble  grounding, ground before you burn. The  sandalwood and eucalyptus come to the  fore.

Categories: Articles, Incense | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heating Up Litha With a Bonfire

by C. Cheek

Is there anyone who doesn’t associate bonfires with pagan festivities? Fire is the element of Midsummer, when the Sun King is at his highest. Sweet herbs laid upon coals purify the air, and the smoke from burned prayers or offerings rises to the heavens. Some revelers dance around the fire to infuse the night with life and laughter and lust, others gaze into the flickering light to see what the future holds. What could be wilder, more carnal, more appropriate to the Dionysian festival of Litha than a huge, roaring bonfire? All you need is a little planning and forethought, and you too can set the night aflame.

Location

Most people want to host Midsummer on their own property or in a public park. Keep in mind that not all parks allow fires. In Seattle, for example, only Alki Beach and Golden Gardens allow fires at all. If you’re in a national forest or state park, fires are generally allowed except on no-burn days. You can call the park warden to find out the conditions in advance.

If you’re having a celebration on your own property, you’ll be restricted by your city’s backyard burning rules. Most cities allow small fires, as long as you’re not burning garbage. Call the fire department to find out if a burn ban is in effect, or check your city fire department’s Web site.

Safety

The safest place to have a fire is in a permanent brick or stone fireplace. Second safest is in a covered fire barrel with mesh sides, over a concrete or other non-flammable surface. You have to admit that this doesn’t have the allure of a fire built in a more primitive setting, but safety is still important. You don’t want to chance having the wind or a careless guest spreading the fire. If you have the fire pit on the ground, remove any grass underneath, and replace peat or bark mulch with sand or stones. Make sure there are no trees, bushes, buildings, picnic tables or other flammable objects near your pit.

No matter where you put your fire, you’ll need something ready to put it out. A fire extinguisher is good for emergencies, but you won’t want to use a fire extinguisher every time. Not only are they expensive to purchase and recharge, but some of them contain toxic chemicals. For a campfire, water is best. A single gallon isn’t enough. Have a hose or several large buckets of water ready. It may seem like a good idea to put sand or earth on a fire instead, but earth or sand can bank the coals, keeping them dormant until the wind stokes them up again. Every year, people who fail to completely extinguish their campfires start forest fires. Don’t be one of those people. If you leave a fire unattended, your karma will get so bad, you’ll be audited yearly for life.

Fuel

Bonfires are communal events, so your best bet is to make everyone bring a little bit of wood — like a flammable potluck. That way everyone has contributed to the event, and the burden of gathering or buying wood isn’t all on the host.

Many people like to use Duralogs, firewood made from compressed paper. These are good because they burn cleanly and are made from recycled materials. Duralogs can help you start the flames, but cost about a dollar an hour per log to burn. They also aren’t structurally sound once they start burning, and you won’t be able to stack them very high.

Cordwood is a good choice, because most wood sold for fires has been well dried and comes from ecologically sustainable forests. Places that sell camping goods often sell small bags of firewood, but you’re paying for the convenience. Like many things, wood is cheaper in bulk. Depending on the type of wood you get and where you live, it will cost $100 – $200 per cord. (A cord is a stack of wood that measures 4′ x 4′ x 8′) Check the classifieds, or visit www.firewoodcenter.com for a list of dealers near you. The disadvantage of buying cordwood is that you usually have to buy at least half a cord, and you may need to pay delivery fees as well.

Another option is to use gathered branches. If you are having a fire in a national or state park, you are not allowed to gather wood for fires. If you are on private land, you can do it as long as you respect the wishes of the owner.  Don’t cut down living trees. Not only is it bad karma, the wood will remain green and wet for far too long. Gather only dead branches. Dead wood is free and removing it helps the tree grow better. You’ll know it’s dead when it snaps off sharply. If it bends, it’s still too green.

If you’re on the beach or near a river you can gather driftwood. It burns much hotter than normal cordwood, and is generally free of rot and insects. Driftwood from a river will gather on the banks, especially on a curve, after floods. Don’t count on finding all the wood you need at one time or in one place. Plan ahead, and pick up a little at a time. It will add up.

If you are willing to invest the time you can get free wood in your city. It’s too late for this Midsummer’s bonfire, but next autumn, walk around your neighborhood, especially on days when trash collectors pick up yard waste. With a saw or a pair of loppers cut pruned branches into manageable sized pieces (one to two feet) and store them in a dry location, such as a garage or carport. In a few months, your yard waste will be burnable timber. The advantage of gathering the wood yourself is that it’s free, you can get to know your neighbors better and you can choose woods that have magical or emotional importance. Also, since you put more foresight and work into your fuel, the fire will have more meaning. Meeting the tree, cutting the lumber, and anticipating your fire for months and months is very different from picking up a couple of Duralogs at Circle K on the way to the park.

Don’t burn broken furniture, cardboard boxes, or other trash. Most city laws prohibit burning garbage, and with good reason. Plastic, varnished wood and even some papers release harmful gasses when burned. If you have mementos or items of spellwork that you want to burn for ceremonial reasons, either make sure they’re clean and free of chemicals, or use only a tiny portion.

Firebuilding

A fire needs fuel and air. Place the fuel in such a way so that the air can get to the flames without extinguishing them. If you have patience, you can start with just kindling. Light a match under grass and slowly add small twigs. When you’ve got a decent flame, but before the fuel turns to ash, add larger thumb-thick sticks to the pile. When those sticks have lit, you can gently teepee or stack the larger logs on top. That’s how experienced campers do it. The rest of us use an entire box of matches, curse at everyone nearby and blame the damp earth and the wind for our failure.

If you’re one of those, try the cheater’s way. Clean and prepare your fire pit, whether metal or a hole in the earth, and pour in a pile of charcoal briquettes. Douse them with lighter fluid and toss a match on top. When the coals have been burning for a while and glow red, stack logs on top and fan the coals till the wood catches. If you do this well before your guests arrive, you can tell everyone you started the fire by rubbing sticks together. Hide the briquette bag and they’ll never know.

Once you’ve got your fire going, what to do with it? An old German tradition is to burn Sun wheels: everyone would bring a handful of straw, tie it to a wheel, and set it on fire. The men would roll it down the hill, past cheering women. Your local fire warden will not approve of this. An even older tradition (decried by the Romans) is to cage condemned men and women in a wicker effigy and burn them alive. This is also a bad idea.

Instead, give everyone an unlit torch. The leader begins a prayer, then lights each torch as they pass in procession. The torchbearer joins in the prayer as soon as his or her torch is lit. As the firelight rises, the chanting will grow louder. Once everyone holds lit torches, use them to light the bonfire simultaneously. As the bonfire burns, have everyone join hands and dance a simple grapevine step in a circle. Your coven leader can sing out couplets for all to repeat, other members can offer songs of their own, or people can simply sing whatever nonsense is on their mind. The important thing is to make some noise and loosen up. There’s nothing like the flickering glow and heat, the communal voices rising like sparks to the sky and the warm grip of palms on either side to make anyone feel fiery and sensual.

Some people might want to jump over the bonfire, but unless it’s very small, discourage them. Loose clothing and open flames don’t mix! I once had a cloak catch on fire while I was wearing it. Cotton lights quickly, hair burns faster than paper and synthetic fabrics melt and stick to skin. This is not fun.

Another ritual that’s great for bonfires involves preparation. Ask the guests to prepare a sacrifice (homemade incense works well) as an offering. Say whom the offering is for as you toss it into the fire. Conversely, you can invite your guests to burn that which they don’t want anymore: mementos of an ex, their pink slip, strands of pre-diet clothes. As they toss it into the flames, they ask the gods to remove it (and its implications) from their life.

Once the party gets going and the mead starts flowing, people might feel inspired to toss clothing too. As long as they don’t toss stinky polyester into the fire, why not? Hey, it’s Midsummer! What better time to go sky clad?

Enjoy your bonfire!

 

Safety Checklist

·                     Have the fire only in designated areas, and keep flammable materials away from your fire pit.

·                     If your wood has been stored outside, wear gloves and watch for wildlife. Snakes and spiders love woodpiles, and they might bite you for disturbing their home. Also, build and burn your fire on the same day so that you don’t unwittingly kill innocent creatures.

·                     Make sure you have a sufficiency of water and/or a fire extinguisher. It’s easy for a fire to get out of control.

·                     Don’t have fires on windy days, or when the land has a lot of dry brush. Sparks can fly.

·                     Keep children away from the fire. Watch the adults too. There’s often a joker who thinks he’s invincible, especially when he’s had a few beers.

·                     Don’t have fires under trees or other flammable structures.

·                     Don’t pour lighter fluid or any other flammable liquid onto an open flame. Flames can travel back to the source of the fuel, causing explosions. Also, never ever use gasoline to start a fire unless you want to see the inside of a burn unit firsthand.

·                     Keep the fire attended at all times.

·                     Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave. A cold puddle of ash is good. A smoking heap of coals is not.

Categories: Articles, The Sabbats | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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