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Moon Names For Dec.Christmas Moon
Long Night Moon
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Tag Archives: SeattleImage
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.
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Pine resin
- Orris root
- Rose petals
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
· 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.
Ancient Art of Splatiomancy
In times of Yore, when our ancestors needed to know something, they turned to divination. There has been much written in this paper about the systems they used, such as astrology or fire scrying, and how we can apply those systems to our lives as modern witches. One very popular technique, however, has never been written about: Entrail Reading. It is true. Oftimes, when our ancestors needed to know the future, they would kill animals, look at their insides to divine the future, and serve them up for dinner. For instance, recent scholarship has unearthed the tale of Morgana de Ravenna (Note – even in ancient times, pagans used made up names like Morgana and Raven), a mid-evil pagan witch (the mid-evil period comes in between the early-evil and the late-evil periods).
At dawn of the summer solstice, 942 years ago, Morgana was asked by the village elders to foretell what the coming year would bring. As per her requirements, they brought her a pig to slaughter. They brought it to a clearing, she killed it, let the entrails spill out, and began the Sacred Ritual of the Afore-telling. For hours she danced around pig under the hot sun. After the Afore play was finished, she went over to the pig, got down on her knees, sorted through the entrails and smelled the meat. Then she raised herself up and uttered the prediction: “A Plague of Salmon will soon strike the village” (translated from the original Arabic phrasing: “Salmon El-La”).
The villager elders liked the sound of this, for the fish are good to eat. They took the sacred pig back to the village, cooked it up, and served it for dinner. Sure enough, that very evening, everyone became sick, and many people died. The aforetelling was true, and the people learned never to wake Morgana before noon.
The question is how can we adapt this ancient and powerful art of entrail reading to modern times. Splatiomancy is the answer. Splatiomancy is defined as “the Art of Telling the Future by Interpreting Insect Entrails on the Windshield” (from 1,001 Useless Forms of Divination for the Modern Pagan).
This family tradition is handed down from Mother-in-Law to Mother-in-Law, smiting hapless husbands along the way. It originated in the Detroit area, the ancestral home of the Way of the Horseless Carriage. As my own mother-in-law is from Detroit, and a high priestess of the Ford tradition (high priestesses have owned at least three different models of Ford vehicles), she has initiated me in its ways. To this day, she occasionally tests me with the ritual phrasing: “Aren’t You Ever Going To Get This Thing Washed?” when she wants me to do a reading.
Before you can begin divining, you must prepare your tools. Splatiomancy has just one tool, your “horseless carriage,” or car as we now call it. You must cleanse your car, front and back. Do not forget the roof and undercarriage because “as above, so below.” While a “drive though” car wash is acceptable, a personal cleansing is preferable.
A patient seeker will find that some of the fueling shrines of the carriage are equipped with wondrous wands that aid greatly in the invocation of water. These will multiply the effectiveness of your cleansing at least until the buzzer announces that your time is almost up.
Pay special attention to the windshield, for it is here that you will read the secrets of the entrails. If this area is not spotless, your reading will be muddled with the omens of drives long past.
At its heart, Splatiomancy is a local art. The insects you drive through are local, and thus must your reading be based on local signs. Make a map of your local area. Divide the map into regions, and figure out the energies of each of those regions. Above is the map I created for the Seattle area.
Take your map and copy the regions from it to your windshield. I find lipstick works well for this. If you live in a vertically oriented area, as we do, you may find it easier to use east for the top of the map. All maps used to have the orient (which was east) on top, hence the word “orientation.”
I have divided the Seattle area into 12 regions called “garages”. They are, with their energies:
Contented Cows: A peaceful, quiet garage where chewing your cud all day seems like a good idea. Not thinking about things.
Microsoft: The high tech garage. All things electronica reside here.
Boeing: The garage of war and strife. If your energies are destructive, this garage is for you.
Bellevue: The garage of greed and calculation. Trapped between the garages of Microsoft and Boeing, who are constantly warring for capitalist supremacy, Bellevue is about exploiting your situation for your personal ends. If you are successful, you move to…
Billionia: The garage of the super-rich. A region of idols and the idle.
Amazonia: Not the garage of Amazons, but of Amazon.com. A place where knowledge comes at a price, but shipping and handling is free with an upgrade code.
Capital Hill: This is the garage of has-been. Like the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, this garage may once have been a cool counter-culture area. Now it is the domain of over-priced yuppie stores pretending that time has not passed them by.
U of W: The garage of the real counter-culture, in all its smelly dread-locked glory. It may be dirty, but at least it is honest. The university also adds an air of learning, without the fees of Amazonia.
Suburbia: The garage of people, houses, and everyday life. Strong in the energy of doing things behind closed doors that you hope your neighbors will never find out about (unless, of course, you can talk them into joining you…)
The Zoo: This is where the wild things are. If you like animals or nature, this is your garage.
Stadium Heaven: The garage of sports and recreation for the masses. Or the garage of a fool and his money, depending on your perspective on professional sports and stadiums.
Sea-Tac: This is the garage of the air and of getting away from it all.
Now that the car is prepared, begin your ritual. Take up your keys and go out to your car. Circle your car three times widdershins, for widdershins is the direction the wheels roll. Use the following invocations to the Lord and Lady:
Asphaltia, Goddess of the Highways and By-Ways, come to us. Great lady of the Crossroads and all other Intersections, guide us so that we do not go astray. Asphaltia, guard and protect us from the highway patrol.
Spacius, Great God of Parking, come to us. Lord of the Open Road and the Open Spot, bring us to your sacred space, that we may always have room to park. Protect us from the vultures of the lots and from the scourge of the meter maid.
Next you must call the little folk, the flying ones to be part of your rite:
Flying ones, buzzing ones, come to us. Sprites of the air, you who sting or drink blood, join us. Your lives will bring us the sacred knowledge. You who are about to die, we salute you.
Now enter the sacred carriage and drive. Play some pagan music, and focus your mind on the future. The rite is best performed by the last light of the setting sun, and with your headlights shining as a beckon. The winged spirits abound at this time. After a few miles, you will find your entrails are ready to be interpreted.
There are three factors to consider in your entrails: Color, Placement, and Legs.
Color is the Signifier in Splatiomancy. It defines to whom the scrying applies. Look at your splat. What color is it? The color yellow is the color of the sun, of the center. It represents you. Red is the color of love, and thus represents a significant other. Green is the color of trees, standing together, and represents your friends. And blue is the color of the Big Blue Marble, representing the world as a whole.
Next look at where the splat is on your windshield. Check what garage it is in and think about the energies of that garage. If you are local to Seattle, you can use the associations listed above.
And finally, how many legs and/or wings can you see in the sacred splat. These do not need to be distinct, in fact they rarely are. Just look at it and count in your mind. The number of legs and wings is the Sign of your scrying and tells how the splat is to be interpreted. Zero is the Sign of Abstinence. Never had it, never will. One is the Sign of Masturbation. It represents enough to get you through the night, but nothing more. Two is the Sign of the Couple. It is balanced, and enough to go around, but it can get stale. A good sign for stability. Three is the Sign of the Three-Way. It is wild, unstable, and more than people need. This sign can represent hidden desires. And four (or more) is the Sign of the Orgy. This is a crazy level of abundance and can represent too much of a good thing.
Now do your scrying. Look at the Sacred Splat. In April, I did a scrying and got a yellow splat in the Garage of Billionia. There were no surviving legs or wings so the Sign was zero. Personal abstinence in the garage of the super rich. So I sold my Microsoft stock. Now look at it, off by 35% from where I sold. Thank you Splatiomancy. Note that the splat was not in the house of Mircosoft. That would have meant my computer was going to die.
Let’s do another example. Say you get a blue splat with two legs and two wing pieces in the Garage of Boeing. Blue is the global color. Boeing is the Garage of War. Two legs and two wing pieces (remember, just count them all) is the Sign of the Orgy. Pack your bags and head for the survivalist bunker, we are talking World War III. If you also get a yellow, zero-legged, Billionia that means you should liquidate your assets before going to the bunker. I’m sure this paper can get you a good deal for any assets you care to liquidate. After all, you will need seeds much more than a car after the Blue Bug hits.
A final example, more complicated this time. Last fall, I got a green splat (friends) with three legs (three-way = wild) in the Garage of the U of W (smelly, counterculture). I also got a two-legged (couple = stability) blue splat (global) in the Garage of the Contented Cow (unthinking). It also had a five-legged (orgy), green (local) splat in the Garage of Boeing (War). Unbalanced counterculture, global unthinking, and local war. That was the WTO protests.
Splatiomancy is an ancient, venerated art. Before there were cars, splatiomancers would draw diagrams on their servants, and look at where the bugs bit them and were splattered. Go out and divine with pride knowing you are following the Way of the Horseless Carriage. If you wish to begin an initiation in the Way, the author is available for personal lessons. Rates are reasonable; you pay for the sacred gas, of course. Lessons are in my garage in Bellevue…